Throughout the day Wednesday, we provided OTB readers updates on players formally committing to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football program. The early signing period allows commits to sign a national letter of intent (NLI) from Dec 19 - 21 for high school players. (JUCOs: Dec 19 - Jan 15) 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 1 for Division 1 programs.
When most fans attempted to go to sleep Tuesday night, Rutgers had 13 verbal commits, but not all would commit Wednesday, perhaps not this week at all. The buzz was that the number might be as low as eight, so the New Jersey pessimism of a worst case was probably more like six. Luckily, not only did Rutgers secure 12 of those 13, they added four other three-star commits, setting themselves up quite well for the 2019 class even if no one else signs in December. Position group grades and recap below:
Signed: Cole Snyder
Targets: Zamar Wise (current verbal commit), Knox Kadum
It’s good that Snyder has improved from his junior to senior season to demonstrate he continues to grow as a signal caller since he is expected to enroll early and may be the backup by the end of spring practice. Wise is still verbally committed and expected to sign with Rutgers in February. Zamar is a local product who is the 17th best dual threat quarterback prospect in this class, though he could end up at receiver. Knox Kadum out of Georgia also is on the radar, though if the Bulldogs offer him he probably goes there.
This grade is a “C+” based on circumstances alone. I do like Snyder and most programs only take one quarterback per class. The reality though is that Rutgers has no depth with the departures of Gio Rescigno (graduated), Jalen Chatman (transfer), and Johnathan Lewis (Tight End). Quarterback play has been below average at best the past four years, so anyone who is good will play, even over former four-star recruit Art Sitkowski, the only returning scholarship QB. Rutgers needs Wise, if not he and another scholarship veteran (Former Bergen Catholic QB Johnny Langan is reportedly transferring in from Boston College per Brian Dohn of 247 Sports), or perhaps a grad transfer also.
Running Back (A)
Targets: Only four or five stars out of left field.
Adams isn’t as thick in his lower body as a Jawan Jamison or Jacki Crooks but with Kenny Parker’s strength program it is possible he grows into that body type. Young is a complete steal from Michigan State at the 11th hour, with an assist from Raheem Blackshear who did the same thing. Aaron joins his brother Avery, an impact freshman in 2018.
Running backs always have a chance to contribute early no matter how full the room looks hence the “A” as Adams and Young are the two-top rated signees per the 247 composite for Rutgers. There is a chance the staff adds another running back, but only if he can also play on defense OR is a borderline five-star recruit.
Wide Receiver (D)
Signed: Isaiah Washington
Targets: Charles Njoku, Stanley King
Marlyn Johnson (absolute beast) decommitted as did Jaaron Hayek months ago. The staff was able to secure Isaiah Washington, but missed out on Jerrod Means. I gave the staff a “D” rather than an “F” because Wide Receiver is the one position on this team that does not need bodies, it needs superstar talent. King and Njoku are both 6’5”, the type of players RU does not have on the current roster though both of them are younger brothers of former RU decommits oddly enough.
King is out of Camden and also is busy with basketball so there’s a chance he joins this week as well, though Louisville is strongly in the mix. Njoku was believed to choose Missouri in recent days but also is still in play. Wide Receiver is always odd in recruiting because some players projected on defense may end up there. In a state with so many high school football teams, Rutgers should be able to hone in on a difference maker or two heading into February. If not, they might add one more player like Monterio Hunt, Yusuf Terry, or Mohamed Toure from Irvington, another cousin of both Kemoko and the linebacker of the same name who signed today.
Tight End (F)
Targets: Tyler Davis (grad)
Tyler DeVera decommitted some time ago and Dylan Deveney flipped to Georgia Tech this week. In the meantime, Tyler Davis a UConn graduate transfer is in the mix as a stopgap to replace the production of Jerome Washington. I was tempted to give an incomplete, but with the decommits the position gets an “F”. The staff can probably take an “F” at Tight End more than any other position because they have Travis Vokolek, Daevon Robinson, and Nakia Griffin-Stewart all back in 2019. They could find a diamond in the rough like a Vokolek before February.
Offensive Line (C+)
Targets: Christian Mahogany, Tim Weaver
Hanson 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. Oskarsson is a virtual unknown out of Sweden, though fellow countryman Sam Vretman started a game as a true sophomore so he could be a gem. Cooper should arrive in January despite just committing today and as a JUCO could be ready to play.
There was some rumors that Weaver could be in the picture, especially if Mahogany signed with Pitt. The grade is a “C+” because only Cooper really can be expected to play in 2019 and even then, it’s no guarantee he starts. Like receiver, Rutgers has a lot of linemen who have not yet developed so they need upgrades, not just depth. Ash and AJ Blazek didn’t sign an Anthony Davis which would have gotten them an easy “B” or a class like the 2012 with three four-star guys and two others that ultimately resulted in three two year starters. Rarely can Offensive Line get an “A” because of the development time. There have been rumblings the staff might only take three linemen, so expect they push hard for four-star talent only heading into February unless there is attrition from the current roster.
Defensive Line (C-)
Targets: Anthony “Tank” Booker,
Joseph Appiah Darkwa, Cornelius Evans
Malachi has no glaring weaknesses which means he is unlikely to be “a bust.” Baldwin is thick yet quick and should contribute somewhere in his career. The last two recruiting classes have a combined eight players so hopefully they can enter the rotation in 2019 allowing Burby and Baldwin to redshirt.
The “C-” is based on the fact that Rutgers needs better defensive line play and often it’s a position where quantity can turn into quality as players grow into men. Another big guy who can play nose is a huge priority, though some linebackers could move to defensive end eventually. The staff really wants Darkwa, but if he doesn’t sign this week the vultures from the rest of the Power Five will be circling. (Darkwa reportedly signed with Georgia Tech). The staff may only want three defensive linemen, but adding to this group is the most important priority heading into February other than another quarterback.
Target: Brian Ugwu
Igwenagu is an absolute monster who may finally be the hybrid slot linebacker the staff has not found since they arrived at RU. Toure looks like a man among boys delivering punishment to those who try to block him and engulfing ball carriers. Conti is a steady tackler who will eventually be in the two-deep. Mitchell plays downhill and could be in the two-deep this spring out of the gate.
This group would get a “B+” at minimum, but adding Drew Singleton propels it into “A” territory as the former #1 prospect in New Jersey is transferring in from Michigan. Some of these players are needed to replace Trevor Morris and Deonte Roberts, and they all could end up playing special teams. The staff would only add another player if it’s Brian Ugwu or a five-star talent AND has available scholarships.
Defensive Backs (B)
Target: Darius Gooden
Bunch has a chance to step into a rotational cornerback role right out of the gate. Williams closes ground quickly, packs a pretty good punch, and does an excellent job breaking up plays. Robinson is long and one of those high ceiling guys that could surprise when he shows up on campus a la Courtney Greene.
Connor Grieco decommitted, but the staff was able to keep Bunch and Williams in state despite several Power Five teams trying to flip them last minute. With three potential future starters in the group, definitely a “B”. If they do take another player it might be Darius Gooden, though with the staff’s success in their careers with DBs it’s possible they snare a four-star guy who was somehow lost in the shuffle for a major program.
Target: No scholarship players.
Debatably, Rutgers’s best three players are their punter Adam Korsak, long snapper Billy Taylor, and placekicker Justin Davidovicz. All three are sophomores, so it is not urgent to add a scholarship player at any of those spots. Only in a special case do scholarships get given to prospects at these spots anyway, but every team is always looking to add Preferred Walk-Ons. In the return game, Avery Young, Isaih Pacheco, and Raheem Blackshear all have eligibility remaining, though one of the commits could leapfrog to the top of the depth chart.
Overall Day One Grade: B+
Rutgers recruiting was in a danger zone in October as Rutgers faced four of its toughest five opponents to end a forgettable season by every stretch. Instead of getting smoked, the team played tough the final four games and the staff did an incredible job to land all the prospects they did Wednesday. The Rutgers sixteen signed commits thus far each have a 3-star rating in the latest 247 composite rankings plus Singleton who is a former borderline five star. At the time of this posting, the current class is ranked 59th nationally and 12th in the Big Ten per 247 Sports.
A few points about my grade for the FIRST DAY of the early signing period. Aaron and I were discussing yesterday the full spectrum of what could happen and today’s result was at the upper edge of what we even though was possible, never mind probable. Rutgers was 1-11 on the field this season, there’s no way to sugarcoat that, so the fact that they will end up between 8th and 13th in the Big Ten when the full 2019 class is finalized in a few months might be a Christmas miracle.
So you can call it grading on a curve, but I’m basing it on what can be reasonably be expected based on the state of the program following the season finale at Michigan State. The overall grade should be fairly evident based on individual position grades, although readers may disagree primarily because the position groups on the roster already “strong” got stronger while the biggest areas of weakness weren’t flipped into strengths. My counterpoint is that Rutgers was 1-11 so they need help everywhere and I am surprised they got this much today. The grade for today also reflects the fact that individual position grades can only go up in the next few days AND once we reach February’s regular signing period.
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. Rutgers was able to not only avoid disaster, but win some recruiting battles on signing day. Right now Rutgers has one sure gem and several other possible big time players. Since they added three-star depth, the staff can really focus on top end talent in the next few weeks.
Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.