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Rutgers Football Recruiting Update For 2019 Class

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Class is not complete but has six guys who easily could start by 2020.

NCAA Football: Northwestern at Rutgers
Young has impressed week over week as a freshman.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Last Friday, Rutgers football secured a verbal commitment from Malachi Burby. Let’s recap how the recruiting process works with the new early signing period and the current commits who have given a non-binding verbal commitment to the Rutgers Football coaching staff.

  1. Teams cannot have more than 85 scholarship players at any given time, but can have up to 25 in a particular recruiting class. Teams have a little wiggle room with the 25 as early enrollees can count toward the previous or next class and as we saw with Eddie Lewis, occasionally grayshirt. Since Rutgers is not graduating 25 players, they may not have room for 25 this cycle depending on other attrition.
  2. The early signing period introduced in 2017 for football allows commits to sign a national letter of intent (NLI) from Dec 19 - 21 for high school players. Dec 19 - Jan 15 remains the first phase for JUCOs.
  3. The next official window high school prospects can sign an NLI begins the first Wednesday in February. So in 2019, that is February 6 through April 1st for Division 1 programs.

The Rutgers twelve total verbal commits thus far each have a 3-star rating in the latest 247 composite rankings. The current class is ranked 65th nationally and 12th in the Big Ten per 247 Sports.

Commits

Zukudo Igwenagu - OLB, Worcester Academy, Worcester, MA

247: State (MA) Overall Ranking: 2 National OLB Ranking: 51 (0.8646)

Igwenagu is an absolute monster listed by some sources as a linebacker and others at safety. Despite his height, he lined up a lot at cornerback in high school and quarterbacks learned quickly that he has the quickness anyway to make plays at that spot. Zuk makes some plays at wideout also so there is a chance he is the next Mohamed Sanu and the staff simply has to play him there even if he would make a good defensive player. How he is not rated higher is only based on the fact that he plays high school ball in Massachusetts, and the step up in competition is the only reason he would not play on this RU defense right away in some capacity.

Floor: Jamal Merrell

Most likely: Quentin Gause

Potential: Khaseem Greene / Mohamed Sanu

Zamar Wise - DUAL QB, Barringer, Newark, NJ

247: State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 15 National DUAL Ranking: 17 (0.8608)

Wise is a local product who is the 17th best dual threat quarterback prospect in this class. When throwing the ball to his primary receiver he shows tremendous accuracy, especially deep down the sideline. By hitting receivers in stride 30 or even 40 yards downfield, it opens up quick hitters, especially slants. He can scramble, but is primarily a passer with the ability to run, not the other way around. Let’s hope the coaches can unlock this talent as we may end up with a Bryan Fortay-Ray Lucas situation on our hands. Seriously, how many parallels are there to 26 years ago?

Floor: Jabu Lovelace

Most likely: less powerful, more accurate Ray Lucas

Potential: Mike McMahon

Donovan Bunch - CB, Winslow Twp, Atco, NJ

247: State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 19 National CB Ranking: 89 (0.8560)

Bunch has incredible straight line speed with or without the ball. He’s a faster, though not as thick version of Rashad Knight, but runs a lower risk of being a bust because he seems to have some of Kiy Hester’s instincts. Crank up the hype machine as Bunch has a chance to step into a rotational cornerback role right out of the gate. The reason he wouldn’t is only if he needs to work on his initial footwork in coverage because he possesses elite athleticism that prevents him from needing perfect technique in high school.

Floor: Rashad Knight

Most likely: Kiy Hester

Potential: Marcus Cooper

Mohamed Toure - ILB, Pleasantville, Pleasantville, NJ

247: State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 22 National ILB Ranking: 47 (0.8516)

At times, Mohamed looks like a man among boys delivering punishment to those who try to block him and engulfing ball carriers. Toure isn’t as tall or first step explosive as his cousin, former Scarlet Knight Kemoko Turay, but has some unique ball skills. Watching Mohamed’s high school film you can’t help the comparison to Steve Longa who emerged ready to go as a true freshman but was held back for a redshirt only because three NFL-caliber players were in the starting lineup. I really hope we see Toure and Brian Ugwu (who the staff is recruiting hard) grow into a tandem like Longa and Quentin Gause did on the banks. Hopefully you have not confused him with the Newark area wide receiver of the same name, also a FBS prospect in this 2019 class.

Floor: Brandon Russell

Most likely: Antonio Lowery

Potential: Steve Longa

Kay’Ron Adams - RB, Warren G Harding, Warren, OH

247: State (OH) Overall Ranking: 45 National RB Ranking: 72 (0.8498)

The first thing that sticks out is on many plays he doesn’t seem to be running that fast, yet defensive players can’t catch up to him hence the Kordell Young comparison. The plays he breaks for long runs aren’t just to the perimeter, much of the time he is finding running lanes through the inside before making his own space. Adams isn’t as thick in his lower body as a Jawan Jamison or Jacki Crooks but with Kenny Parker’s strength program is it possible he grows into that body type. Running backs always have a chance to contribute early no matter how full the room looks.

Floor: Charles Snorweah

Most likely: Kordell Young

Potential: Jawan Jamison

Dylan Deveney - TE, Hun School, Princeton, NJ

247: State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 26 National TE Ranking: 51 (0.8445)

With a tall frame, Deveney could eventually become a big weapon in the pass game within OC John McNulty’s offense. He should benefit from the strength and conditioning program, needing to get functionally stronger to compete in the Big Ten. Deveney is a former teammate of Daevon Robinson, which certainly helped in his recruitment and both players could end up in multiple TE sets down the line. His elite size is why he is ranked above Williams and Hanson, so if surrounded by a few playmakers he should be very reliable.

Floor: Paul Carrezola

Most likely: Sam Johnson

Potential: D.C. Jefferson

Donald Williams - S, Camden, Camden, NJ

247: State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 27 National S Ranking: 103 (0.8432)

Of all the players on this list, I had watched the least tape on Donald Williams before writing this post. Based on his ranking in the 247 composite, Williams falls on the fringe of where a player can be ranked and still have a reasonable possibility of being a superstar. More of the players in this range are high floor-type guys.

Upon digging into the footage I remembered why I spent so little time on it before. Williams stays in phase with wide receivers so well, it’s surprising quarterbacks even throw at him. The reason they do is that Donald is not big, probably not the 6’1” he is listed at. That being said, he closes ground quickly, packs a pretty good punch, and does an excellent job breaking up plays. His film reminded me a ton of Nadir Barnwell, though Nadir came in as a four-star recruit. Then again Jason McCourty was a two-star in the same mold so it’s possible scouts have trouble “sizing up” these type of players.

Floor: Eddie “Tank” Lopez

Most likely: Nadir Barnwell

Potential: Jason McCourty

Malachi Burby - DT, Cheshire Academy, Cheshire, CT

247: State (CT) Overall Ranking: 12 National DT Ranking: 90 (0.8336)

Burby does a great job defeating the initial block to get one arm free and “sitting down” in the gap to prevent a running lane. He does not possess elite explosiveness or overwhelming strength, but as a such a big, young guy could improve in both areas as he continues to grow. Overall Malachi has no glaring weaknesses which means he is unlikely to be “a bust.” Potential of Sebastian Joseph-Day may be a bit of stretch, but a steady three year starter in Jon Bateky is more appropriate as what fans can expect as a best case.

Floor: Kenneth Kirksey

Most likely: Wil Previlon

Potential: Jon Bateky

C.J. Hanson - OG, St. John Vianney, Holmdel, NJ

247: State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 33 National OG Ranking: 59 (0.8336)

Hanson re-affirmed his pledge last week and Rutgers needs it as he is one of two offensive lineman currently committed in this class. While Hanson needs some fine tuning from a technique perspective, he has the physical tools to compete early on at Rutgers. He seems to be a player with a very high floor based on his physical ability and the nature of offensive line means anybody with the size/strength can have a pretty high ceiling. Rutgers has a lot of players battling for playing time on the revolving door of an offensive line and though I don’t see him playing as a true freshman in 2019, he will be in the mix in 2020 without a doubt.

Floor: Mo Lange

Most likely: Taj Alexander

Potential: Shaun O’Hara

Cole Snyder - PRO QB, Southwestern, Jamestown, NY

247: State (NY) Overall Ranking: 10 National PRO Ranking: 60 (0.8280)

It’s good that Snyder has improved from his junior to senior season to demonstrate he continues to grow as a signal caller. Cole completes most of his passes on intermediate routes in rhythm but also recognized blitzes and scrambled if his hot read wasn’t immediately open. There’s enough deep balls that DBs can’t cheat up too much and I might be selling him a little short on his previous player comparisons, especially on a team still waiting for a savior at quarterback.

Floor: Ralph Sacca

Most likely: Brendan Edmonds

Potential: Erik Hochberg

Anton Oskarsson - OT, Sweden

247: Country (Swe) Overall Ranking: 1 National OT Ranking: 143 (0.8268)

The third Swedish “pipeline” member may be the best of the bunch even though Sam Vretman has started a game on the offensive line as a true sophomore and Robin Jutwreten already saw action as a true freshman just two weeks ago. It’s hard to gauge the level of opponents Anton faces, but Anton does look 6’5” or taller and completely overpowering when he squares up his man. From the highlights it’s difficult to tell if he should be finishing his blocks better or once his man is on the ground he is being coached to then block a linebacker at the next level. He’s definitely a pick up with huge potential

Floor: Matt McBride

Most likely: Art Forst

Potential: Howard Barbieri, maybe better

Chris Conti - ILB, DePaul Catholic, Wayne, NJ

247: State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 40 National ILB Ranking: 78 (0.8261)

Conti was not greeted with overwhelming love when he committed because Rutgers was his only Power Five offer at the time. Comments on several sites referenced how Rutgers was recruiting a bunch of guys with no other major options. Despite the criticism, Chris continues to pile up stats on the field and with the difficult season Rutgers has had in 2018, a commit like him becomes even more important for a variety of reasons. First off, the team needs to get as close to 85 scholarship three-star commits (which he is) as possible to rebuild the depth of the roster. Second, he has a very high floor and will play a role during his career wherever he ends up, hence my comparison to Eric Margolis. Third and possibly most important, Jersey kids with a reason to play with a chip on their shoulder have been the backbone of probably every rebuild in the history of Rutgers Football (and this isn’t unique to RU). With a guy like him in the linebacker room, there is a much less likely chance of hearing how guys at the position are not pushing one another enough in practice. Gary Brackett wasn’t even on scholarship and that worked out pretty well for him, Rutgers, and the Indianapolis Colts.

Floor: Eric Margolis

Most likely: Dax Strohmeyer

Potential: Kevin Malast

Decommits

Marlyn Johnson - WR, The Peddie School, Ambler, PA

247: State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 23 National WR Ranking: 115 (0.8506)

Of the decommits thus far, Johnson is by far the biggest loss. Teams need to fill out their recruiting classes with three-star players to build depth, but scoring a few potential superstars like Johnson is what can elevate a program more quickly. Rutgers needs a receiver like this, unless all of a sudden they have an awesome QB to open things up for the other receivers and space for the run game. Marlyn has eleven reported Power Five offers and will be the subject of a heated battle to secure his services over the next few weeks.

Whether on offense or defense in high school, Marlyn shows an ability to win 50-50 balls with one or two hands. He looks like a basketball player (a la Andre Patton) demonstrating elite body control. Johnson doesn’t show many moves once he has the ball, but that may be because his speed allows him to run away from people.

Connor Grieco - S, St. Joseph’s, Montvale, NJ

247: State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 30 National S Ranking: 114 (0.8391)

Grieco was greeted by the fan base including the readers of this site more lukewarm than anything else when he selected Rutgers over Army. Then when he decommitted on October 22, it was if the current Rutgers staff was terrible at recruiting even though many of those fans did not love him in the first place. Based on everything that was said about Connor’s reasons for selecting Rutgers, none of the infrastructure or academics has changed even though the losses have piled up. For this reason, and no overwhelming favorite for him to switch to, it’s possible he still ends up in Scarlet at some point.

To recap what he brings to the table, Connor has no problem accelerating to the hole despite his height to prevent a ball carrier from reaching open space. The jury is out on Grieco in pass coverage at the college level, but he forces a lot of fumbles, dropped passes, blocked kicks, etc with his long arms, excellent body control, and willingness to stick his nose in there. If his body fills out, it’s possible he could become a linebacker down the line.

Jaaron Hayek - ATH, Wayne, Wayne Hills, NJ

247: State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 32 National ATH Ranking: 115 (0.8343)

Jaaron’s initial commitment in November 2017 was somewhat expected as his twin older brothers, Tyler and Hunter, were on the current Rutgers roster. Since then despite Rutgers ineptitude in the passing game, Tyler has not gotten a major look on game day and Hunter’s role has actually decreased since last season. On the high school level, Jaaron has had a steady, though not yet off the charts season. He decommitted on September 30 and like Grieco per 247 is not strongly linked with any program at this point. I expect the Hayek family will all have a serious discussion after the Rutgers season ends and therefore Jaaron might not commit anywhere during the early signing period.

Tyler DeVera - TE, Bergen Catholic, Oradell, NJ

247: State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 54 National TE Ranking: 89 (0.8004)

Tyler is in a compromising situation. The 3-star tight end from Bergen Catholic was set to be reunited with his brother Brendan, as well as his former high school coach, Nunzio Campanile, who is now the running backs coach at Rutgers. However, it’s not surprising that Tyler would want to explore other options after his brother was let go from the team even though word was Rutgers still wanted him to join the fold. It’s probably best for both sides that he moved on.

Final thoughts

Rutgers recruiting is in a danger zone right now. So far there have been five decommits, though C.J. Hanson has re-upped his pledge. As we saw during the 2013 season, once things start to fall apart, the group unravels in a hurry even if a star like Saeed Blacknall hangs on as long as he can. Commits have built relationship and trust with one another so it’s a good sign this group has held together for the most part at this point. It’s unclear who the leader in keeping this recruiting class together like Nakia Griffin-Stewart, Darius Hamilton, and Bo Melton/Micah Clark were in theirs, but hopefully we never have to find out.

For Power Five teams who do not qualify for Bowl games, the early returns on the process seem favorable because they have the resources and time that successful Group of Five schools don’t. With the new early signing period it is absolutely paramount to have a dozen or so solid three-star players commit so the coaching staff can focus on filling out the class with positions of need while also going all-in for some game changing uncommitted prospects. Right now Rutgers has one sure gem and several other possible big time players with a need to add as many three-star guys as they can to continue to add depth. If they can hold on through the early period and sign 12-16 prospects, perhaps Ash and co. can find a guy or two ready to contribute early like a Raheem Blackshear before the first Wednesday in February.

On the other hand, if Rutgers gets pounded the final four games, this could get even uglier in the box scores and on the recruiting trail. Let’s hope it doesn’t, regardless of the fate of the coaching staff. If there are no changes made at season’s end, does this finally give the staff enough pieces across four recruiting classes to have some semblance of a roster that can move the program forward?

Let us know if you agree with our comparisons in the comments section or why you do not.