Yes, I am a glass half-full kind of guy, always have been. Now that I have removed my scarlet colored glasses let me explain why I am so excited about the 2017 class and why you should be also.
Aaron Breitman asked fans to grade the new class which finished with a 247 Composite Ranking of 42nd nationally & 9th in the Big-Ten coming off a season where the Scarlet Knights finished 2-10. The majority of fans voted between B+ and B-; 29% of fans voted the class B+, 34% B, and 16% B-. Additionally 13% of fans voted C+ or worse. Personally, I am extremely excited by this class and think it is underrated, I am not the only one:
Excited about our early enrollees:
First let’s talk about Rutgers four early enrollees and how they compared versus the rest of the conference. The Scarlet Knights landed four early enrollees with an average star rating of 3.25 ranking 7th in the Big-Ten, including the second-best recruit in New Jersey per 247Sports Micah Clark. Clark has a very good chance of making an early impact due to his size, speed, and athleticism. Additionally, as an early enrollee his college career has already started giving him a leg up on the rest of the incoming class.
Big Ten Network analyst Howard Griffith spoke highly of Micah Clark:
“I think you talk about upside in a player he’s the type of player that’s going to be able to give them that. Down the road I think he’s going to continue to build that body which is going to be important when you talk about an offensive lineman, but he does a good job keeping his hands inside and that’s what you want to see technique wise.
Keeping Jersey’s Best Home #FenceTheGarden:
In addition to Micah Clark, Rutgers landed a second top-5 NJ recruit Bo Melton. Both Melton and Clark had very strong offer lists with each having 30 plus offers. Coach Ash and staff landed an additional nine recruits ranked inside the top 40 in New Jersey.
- Micah Clark OT NJ #2
- Bo Melton WR NJ #5
- Eddie Lewis WR NJ #18
- Johnathan Lewis QB NJ #19
- Mike Tverdov WDE NJ #24
- Owen Bowles OG NJ #25
- Edwin Lopez S NJ #26
- Everett Wormley WR NJ #30
- Jamaal Beaty OG NJ #31
- C.J. Onyechi OLB NJ #32
- Naijee Jones CB NJ #33
The 2016 class consisted of only 5 commitments from New Jersey’s top 40. The 2015 class consisted of only 6 commitments from New Jersey’s top 40 as did the 2014 class. The last time Rutgers had as many top 40 NJ commits was Greg Schiano’s 2012 class which included Darius Hamilton and Leonte Carroo.
Consistent Improvement (per 247 rankings):
Let’s be honest, the former regime left the Rutgers program in dire straights. Recruiting rankings consistently got worse, as did on the field results, and not to mention all of the off the field shenanigans which eventually led to an NCAA investigation. All of the above, as well as a 2-10 record in 2016, and Coach Ash and staff were able to secure a National Composite Ranking of 42, the best class since Greg Schiano’s 2012 class. Yes, Kyle Flood was the head coach on National Signing Day, but I cannot give him credit for that class.
2013 National Composite Ranking = 50
2014 National Composite Ranking = 53
2015 National Composite Ranking = 56
2016 National Composite Ranking = 61
Teams that hit a 5-year HIGH in recruiting class rank:— Pick Six Previews (@PickSixPreviews) February 2, 2017
Rutgers Lands its Top Quarterback:
Coach Ash was able to land his top quarterback Johnathan Lewis, a true dual threat quarterback with multiple P5 offers; Boston College, Georgia, Iowa, Temple, and Wake Forest. Our own Mike Voza broke down his tape:
“The East Orange resident has the prototypical frame and structure of the modern day quarterback with the size to take the hits that come with being a dual-threat QB. Lewis can run down hill like a tailback and punish unsuspecting defenders in order to pick up first downs and keep drives alive. His feet are quick and nifty which allow him to sidestep pass rushers in order to deliver the ball down field. Scarlet Knight fans and opponents should not be misled into thinking he is a running back playing QB for he has the arm strength to make all the throws required of a pocket passer. Lewis stands tall in the pocket and can rifle the ball across the far hash on out-routes and can air it out deep to pick up chunk plays. He has the skill set to roll out to his left or right equally and flip his hips in order to be in a good throwing position.”
Former Ohio State Buckeye quarterback and Big Ten Network analyst Stanley Jackson was on BTN Live reviewing film of Johnathan Lewis and compared him to Cardale Jones:
Major Upgrades to Skill Positions:
Chris Ash made an emphasis to target skill positions, bringing in top tier talent to increase speed as well as add much needed depth, both of which the staff successfully accomplished.
Coach Ash: "There was a huge emphasis on skill positions. We’ve increased our overall team speed and addressed our team depth.' #RUK17IGHTED— Rutgers Athletics (@RUAthletics) February 1, 2017
The Wide Receiver corp is officially stocked with the addition of Bo Melton, Duwop Mitchell, Eddie Lewis, Shameen Jones, Everett Wormley, and Hunter Hayek.
The Scarlet Knights added needed depth at the Tight-End position with the signing of Travis Vokolek.
Improvement to Special Teams:
Ash has always emphasized the importance of special teams, and this off season the staff was sure to make upgrades on special teams, especially the kicking game. The staff was able to sign two-time Division 3 All-American Ryan Anderson as a graduate transfer.
“In addition to being named a two-time Division 3 All-American, Anderson holds the NCAA Division 3 single season record averaging 46.2 yards per punt. Of his 47 punts, nine went for touchbacks, 18 of his punts went for 50 yards or more (long of 65 yards). Additionally, he pinned his opponents inside the twenty yard-line 15 times.”
The staff also added PWO place-kicker Justin Davidovicz:
“Justin is the top kicking prospect in the northeast for the class of 2016 and projects as a D1 scholarship signee. He has a very fast leg that generates outstanding lift and distance. 60 yard field goal range off the ground. Excellent kickoffs with 65 yards, 4.0+ hang the norm. Solid punter as well. Top performer at many STS events since 9th grade, most recently took FG and KO honors at the summer 2016 University of Delaware Specialist camp. Took home top field goal and kickoff honors at the 2016 College Exposure Camp, securing his ranking as the northeast’s best kicking prospect.”
The staff added solid defensive ends Brendan Bordner, Jaohne Duggan, Mike Tverdov, and Tijaun Mason. The staff also added three very good linebackers Olakunle Fatukasi and C.J. Onyechi, as well as highly regarded Tyshon Fogg.