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Impact of the Rutgers Football Recruiting Class of 2014

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Some players continued to show growth even in year four.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Rutgers
Wharton was at the center of the play of the season.
Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

With the news that Alan Lucy has elected to move on from the program after four solid years, it makes sense to continue this series after a long hiatus (some of it intentional, some not). Last Wednesday marked only four weeks until the annual football “normal” signing day on February 7.

This regular segment focused on how each of the last five recruiting classes have performed and their outlook for the future. We continue with the Class of 2014 after doing transfers/walk-ons, Class of 2017, Class of 2016, and Class of 2015. Check out last year’s review here of the Class of 2014.

Usually it takes years to truly give fair grades to a recruiting class, so this group can now be graded even more fairly as those who remain have either a year of eligibility left. Several have elected to move on for their 5th year, including long-snapper Lucy mentioned above.

Most contributions in the last four seasons:

1. Tariq Cole - LT, Long Beach, Long Beach, NY

State (NY) Overall Ranking: 7 National OT Ranking: 84

Spot last year: #3. Cole has until January 15 to decide if he will be an early entrant to the 2018 NFL Draft. It has not been confirmed 100% either way, but with reported new offensive coordinator John McNulty in the fold, it seems likely Tariq will return for one more season. His return is huge literally (though he is smaller than his 400 pound high school playing weight) and figuratively as the team already needs to break in two new starters at guard with the graduation of Dorian Miller and Marcus Applefield electing to complete his eligibility elsewhere. The two year starter Cole protecting the blind side is a key reason that no RU quarterback has missed game action with a major injury the last two seasons.

Spring projection: Starting LT. Holding my breath for the next 36 hours.

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 12 Rutgers at Michigan State
Cole has been arguably the team’s most important player the last two seasons.
Photo by Adam Ruff/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

2. Kevin Wilkins - DT, St. Joseph’s, Montvale, NJ

State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 30 National OG Ranking: 57

Spot last year: #6. Wilkins made as big a jump as any player on the roster in 2017. His versatility allowed the defensive coaching staff to play him at end or tackle, depending on situations. I predicted he would move alongside Joseph and battle Bateky for the starting DT spot, but all three players ended up playing a lot of effective snaps. If he can improve just a tad, he should be drafted in 2019. In fact, like Cole, he might even get a call if he decided to go this year. Hopefully not though, and we can see him in Scarlet for another season.

Spring projection: Starter at DE. Playing inside on passing downs.

3. Isaiah Wharton, CB - Gateway, Kissimmee, FL

State (FL) Overall Ranking: 368 National CB Ranking: 218

Spot last year: #4. Wharton continues to make everyone wonder how he was ranked so low as a recruit in hindsight. After starting for his third season at corner, he could be a rare four year starting cornerback as a redshirt senior in 2018. He faces stiff competition within his position group as star Blessuan Austin is hoping to return from injury and Damon Hayes has cemented himself in the lineup as well. Regardless of who are the starters, all three will be counted on against the plethora of spread offenses Rutgers faces this season. Wharton himself has not been a “star” per se, but remains a steady contributor that any Big Ten team would like to have on their roster.

Spring projection: Starting CB.

4. Robert Martin - RB, Harrisburg, Harrisburg, PA

State (PA) Overall Ranking: 12 National RB Ranking: 34

Spot last year: #1. This is where the rankings start to get interesting. I put Martin in this spot due to his body of work for the entire four years. He did not have a disappointing senior year by any means, and moved into the top 10 all-time at Rutgers in career rushing yards, finishing with 2,256. That said, he served as the backup running back to Gus Edwards and was supplanted by Raheem Blackshear in several special packages. To his credit, at no point in his Rutgers career would the running back viewed as a weakness of the team, and his 18 career rushing touchdowns leaves him just outside the top 10. It would have been nice to see how much more effective he would have been if the team had any sort of passing attack his final three years. Indiana won’t miss him though as he had two career three touchdown games against the Hoosiers.

Spring projection: Graduation. Hoping for a shot at the next level.

5. Giovanni Rescigno - QB, De La Salle, Warren, MI

State (MI) Overall Ranking: 38 National QB Ranking: 85

Spot last year: #8. He’s the starting quarterback today, again. Though the Scarlet Knights will hope to find a more accurate throwing signal caller, the truth is that Gio has been their best quarterback for each of the past two seasons and did state he would use his final year of eligibility on the banks. The same holds true as a season ago: when he can run; the offense can move. When he can’t; the offense is unwatchable. With development of the younger receivers and perhaps a more downfield minded coach like McNulty, Gio could get even better as he hopes to stave off challenges from a number of other candidates. If not, he will return as a reliable game manager.

Spring projection: Starting QB.

6. Saquan Hampton - FS, Hamilton North-Nottingham, Trenton, NJ

State (NJ) Overall: 29 National CB Ranking: 86

Spot last year: #5. Hampton is hard to rank because he missed so much time due to injury the last two seasons. When he has been healthy, he has been good. Chris Ash always has positive things to say about him and Saquan will be tested even more in 2018 now that Kiy Hester has elected to finish his career elsewhere. Hampton was one of the first players Ash mentioned when he arrived on campus as the new coach, but for him to have a shot at the next level, Saquan needs to have a monster year. He will be pressed for his starting spot potentially by Jawuan Harris if he remains with the program. Harris showed a playmaking ability that has been absent from Hampton’s game so far. The potential seems to be there, but time is running out.

Spring projection: Starting FS.

7. Josh Hicks - RB, Palmetto, Palmetto, FL

State (FL) Overall Ranking: 81 National RB Ranking: 12

Spot last year: #2. Josh gets the edge here over Applefield because the tailback has been a contributor all four years he has been on the banks. He had four 100 yard games in a Scarlet Knight uniform, but was the 4th running back in 2017. Like Martin, the team has not had to worry about the running back spot because of him for the last four years. One regret in hindsight for him personally may be whether he would have had a better career as a full-time safety. His 200 yard performance as a true freshman remains the greatest moment delivered by this class. The physical skills are there, so there is an outside chance he gets a look at the next level.

Spring projection: Graduation.

8. Marcus Applefield - OL, Weeki Wachee, Weeki Wachee, FL

State (FL) Overall Ranking: 151 National OT Ranking: 96

Spot last year: #9. Applefield also pictured in the tweet above simply shoving his man into the end zone as a lead blocker. Despite missing spring practice due to injury, Marcus impressed the staff in training camp to slot him in as the starting right guard. He started 10 games at that position, though it always seemed when the group needed a shake-up, he was the odd man out. As a result, he decided to finish his time with the Rutgers football program last semester. With one year of eligibility remaining, he could surface elsewhere as a 5th year grad transfer. It’s disappointing that some fans feel his scholarship is better served on an unproven newcomer than a good soldier who got better every year and is at worst a solid rotational offensive lineman.

Spring projection: Graduation, possibly using his last year of eligibility elsewhere.

9. Alan Lucy - LS, Dinwiddie County, Dinwiddie, VA

State (VA) Overall Ranking: 76 National LS Ranking: 12

Spot last year: #7. I understand he did not play in 2017, but for the four year career, he started three of those years, the most of anyone on this list. Had he been the long snapper as a senior, you could argue he is among the most valuable players in the class. It’s odd that long snappers get scholarships but his in hindsight was worth it. Despite that, he lost his job to a walk-on true freshman, Billy Taylor in 2017. Taylor had a solid season and Lucy decided to move on from the program. Here’s to Taylor having as good a full career as Lucy.

Spring projection: Graduation, possibly using his last year of eligibility elsewhere.

10. Jimmy Hogan - DE, Ramapo, Franklin Lakes, NJ

State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 35 National DE Ranking: 61

Spot last year: #10. The 10, 11, and 12 spots on this list are really a matter of personal preference I suppose. All three players have elected to forego their final season of eligibility at Rutgers and have the possibility of competing elsewhere as 5th year seniors. Hogan played with a strong motor, but ultimately couldn’t separate himself with a particular skill from the others. Then as the rotation was being figured out in 2017 he unfortunately was injured and struggled to crack it upon his return. A team guy who played parts of three seasons, the team will need to find serviceable players on the defensive line to replace the loss of now four players from the unit in 2017.

Spring projection: Graduation, possibly using his last year of eligibility elsewhere.

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Rutgers at Maryland
Margolis was always ready to play.
Photo by Tony Quinn/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

11. Eric Margolis - LB, Clarkstown North, New City, NY

State (NY) Overall: 42 National ILB Ranking: 160

Spot last year: #13. Margolis gets the edge here over Russell because he was a member of the linebacker rotation on the strong side with Ross Douglas for parts of 2017. Coach Niemann liked Eric in run-first situations and he proved serviceable most of the time, though he occasionally got picked on in the pass game like all the linebackers. To offset this, Niemann elected to play more of Ross Douglas in coverage and flipping run stopping responsibilities to Trevor Morris on the weak side. With the team’s success in early Big Ten action, it left Margolis with less snaps. The team will need to find trustworthy players at linebacker, but there is plenty more talent in the pipeline there than on the defensive line.

Spring projection: Graduation, possibly using his last year of eligibility elsewhere.

12. Brandon Russell - LB, University, Ft. Lauderdale, FL

State (FL) Overall Ranking: 288 National OLB Ranking: 145

Spot last year: #12. Russell was in the mix at since Day 1 as an early enrollee. In his one career start at Maryland in 2016, he led the team with 12 tackles. Unfortunately for him, the staff wanted to go with more speed on defense and special teams which saw him with a reduced role in 2017. He was a key rotational depth provider for four springs and four falls, so we wish him the best elsewhere if Brandon decides to play one more year.

Spring projection: Graduation, possibly using his last year of eligibility elsewhere.

NCAA FOOTBALL: NOV 26 Rutgers at Maryland
Russell led the team with 12 tackles against Maryland in 2016.
Photo by Mark Goldman/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

13. Zach Heeman, OT - Mt. Olive, Flanders, NJ

State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 32 National OT Ranking: 106

Spot last year: #15. In 2016, Heeman overtook multi-year starter J.J. Denman, for a starting spot in early August before losing it to Kamaal Seymour permanently midseason. After that, Zach has seen action mostly in late game running situations like Illinois in 2017. With so many younger guys battling for time, it’s good to have veterans in the locker room like Heeman who is a good citizen off the field as well. The thing with offensive lineman is that they do get better every year, so it’s possible Zach earns time at one of the vacated guard spots in 2018.

Spring projection: Fighting for a spot in the two-deep.

14. Eric Wiafe - DT, Milford Academy, New Berlin, NY

POST rankings: State (NY) Overall Ranking: 4 Overall DT Ranking: 1

Spot last year: #11. The massive Wiafe initially committed a year earlier but went to prep school. He got some playing time on special teams in 2016 and was getting a look in 2017 training camp especially as injuries hit several defensive linemen. He ended up leaving the team for personal reasons in September and seems unlikely to return. On the other hand, he hasn’t appeared to land anywhere else yet.

Spring projection: Unlikely to return.

15. George Behr, TE - East Ridge, St. Paul, MN

State (MN) Overall Ranking: 9 National TE Ranking: 96

Spot last year: #14. Behr was determined to have a career ending injury in 2017. It’s unfortunate because the tight end returned to being a huge part of the Rutgers offense a season ago.

Spring projection: Graduation.

Previously departed from the program:

Andre Boggs - CB, Avon Old Farms, Avon, CT

State (CT) Overall Ranking: 3 National CB Ranking: 64

He is head and shoulders above the rest of the players who are gone from this class, starting as a true freshman at cornerback.

Kam Lott- CB, First Coast, Jacksonville, FL

State (FL) Overall Ranking: 144 National CB Ranking: 72

Another early enrollee, Lott wrote a heart felt letter explaining how he was leaving on good terms but needed to leave for family reasons. He emerged at Georgia Military then ended up at Mercer.

Jacquis Webb - OL, Gates Chili, Rochester, NY

State (NY) Overall Ranking: 8 National OG Ranking: 47

He transferred to Buffalo and was on the two-deep at left tackle in 2017.

Logan Lister - TE, Katy, Katy, TX

State (TX) Overall Ranking: 180 National OG Ranking: 71

Lister was moved on to the Naval Academy where is listed on the offensive line and not tight end.

Jacob Kraut - FB, Duncan U. Fletcher, Neptune Beach, FL

State (FL) Overall Ranking: 169 National FB Ranking: 6

Had he stayed, maybe he’d be the starter at h-back. Instead he’s at Florida International.

Darian Dailey - CB, Manatee, Bradenton, FL

State (FL) Overall Ranking: 378 National CB Ranking: 233

A spring practice 2016 starter, he started 13 games at Akron in 2017.

Donald Bedell - DE, Rumson, Rumson, NJ

State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 43 National SDE Ranking: 70

Bedell played at Montana in 2016, but did not appear on their 2017 roster.

Sam Blue - DE, Millbrook, Raleigh, NC

State (NC) Overall Ranking: 82 National OLB Ranking: 214

At NC A&T he played more each season, having solid stats in 2017 (6.5 sacks).

Rutgers v Michigan
Wilkins often demands double teams like this one.

20/20 Hindsight:

1. 2016 observation: What went right initially was the number of guys in this group. Only one of the eight no longer with the program actually produced on the field before departing and there was little attrition since. Several players left without playing their 5th year but all provided depth for 4 years so you can’t argue with it.

2. 2016 observation: Had it not for the decommits, this section might be rather short. Instead, this class lacked speed and playmakers. Ironically two of the biggest playmakers, Hester (since departed) and Jon Hilliman made their way back to Rutgers.

3. Question for 2017: Gio did improve, but did not become a star quarterback by any means. He has one more season to be remembered for the big wins rather than the overall body of work.

4. Question for 2017: Linemen development. Cole stayed steady and Applefield also started on the offensive line. Heeman could still get better, so on the offensive side this is at least an average class when it comes to offensive linemen considering the depth in classes behind them. Defensive line is a little more disappointing. Wilkins is a star in the making but Hogan and Wiafe never reached the rotation in high leverage situations, while Bedell and Blue contributed at other programs. The lack of depth on the defensive line may catch up with the Scarlet Knights in an even bigger way in 2018.

5. Question for 2018: Can Cole, Wilkins, or Hampton truly vault himself into superstar status? If so, the team may finally have some star power it has lacked since Leonte Carroo graduated.

NOTE: For the rankings in this article I arbitrarily chose 247 rankings.