After securing a commitment from Marlyn Johnson Saturday, Rutgers anxiously awaited the decision of St. Joseph’s (Montvale) three-star safety Connor Grieco on Sunday. The program received good news that another three-star prospect has verbally committed to the 2019 Rutgers Football recruiting class.
Grieco attends the same high school as several former Rutgers greats including the McCourty twins and Ron Girault, as well as current starting defensive lineman Kevin Wilkins. Connor holds offers from thirteen schools per 247sports. In the Power Five, Virginia, Syracuse, Iowa State, and West Virginia have offered as well as several high achieving Group of Five teams like Air Force and the Naval Academy. Grieco is also receiving interest from Boston College, but perhaps other schools that have deprioritized him after 247 reported on June 24 that Connor was down to Rutgers and Army.
At 6’3” and 198 pounds, Connor is another solid three-star prospect, the 40th best in New Jersey for the 2019 class according to the 247 composite. The first thing that jumps out from his highlights is how quickly Grieco closes ground. For a taller safety, it’s more difficult to accelerate to plug up a space quickly, but Connor has no problem. He uses his height to catch glimpses of where the play is going, then even with a lot of bodies obstructing view he plays angles really well to prevent a ball carrier from reaching open space.
Once he gets to the ball, Connor has a wide variety of tackling moves, which probably has a more correct technical term. When he has time he will square up to make proper rugby tackles, for smaller ball carriers he can engulf their shoulder pads, and also flashes the ability to tackle low when the situation requires it. For a lot of high school players, they are like Ronda Rousey and try to force the opponent into a situation before using a go-to move, but Grieco shows skills to adjust to situations when he can’t dictate the terms.
The jury is out on Grieco in pass coverage at the college level. He seems to get to plays just in time at the high school level, which in the faster paced Big Ten may not be “in time”. That said, plenty of other Rutgers players seemed to always be there at the last possible moment without overwhelming speed, like Courtney Greene or Aaron Brady, so perhaps Connor translates his play-making ability, too. It should not go unnoticed that Grieco forces a lot of fumbles, dropped passes, blocked kicks, etc with his long arms and excellent body control. If his body fills out, it’s possible he could become a linebacker down the line.
If there is one thing Kyle Flood (I know what you’re thinking) understood, it’s that you need to fill your program with as many solid three star guys as possible and then find a few difference makers, basically the old Michigan State philosophy. Unfortunately Flood didn’t succeed in his pursuit often enough, though the concept was correct. Grieco is at worst a solid three-star prospect who will compete hard in practice and provide depth like a Billy Anderson. He most likely will be able to contribute on the field later in career as a role player hybrid linebacker/safety type like another former St. Joe’s alum, Patrick Kivlehan. Best case scenario is his closing speed and strength translates so well he becomes a three-year starting tackling machine in the mold of Lorenzo Waters or Courtney Greene.
I like the pickup because despite a solid offer list, Grieco a month ago was down to Rutgers and Army. Reviewing his offer list, it is very strongly geared toward schools in the Northeast which indicates to me he has a pretty good idea geographically where he wants to play and Rutgers fits right in. In addition, a certain academic prestige would be associated with his destination and Rutgers again fits the profile. I can’t speak to Grieco’s academic achievements at all, but what this does tell me is that he is going through this process with a plan. Plus, more than any other position on the field other than maybe quarterback, safeties need to anticipate and react. The highlights show he can react between the lines.
This verbal commitment is important for the coaching staff at the macro level because Rutgers will graduate a lot of defensive backfield depth after the 2018 season. They need to stock the cupboard with as many defensive backs as possible to try and offset that. Chris Ash and his staff need to thrive in building strong defensive backfields because that is their backgrounds. If a Chris Ash team doesn’t have strong DBs, why should they be trusted in other areas?
Grieco is the second player listed as a safety in the 2019 class joining Donald Williams, though Williams might be able to play corner. The twelve total verbal commits thus far each have a 3-star rating in the latest 247 composite rankings. The current class is ranked 60th nationally and 13th in the Big Ten per 247 Sports. Hopefully Chris Ash and his staff can keep the momentum going heading into the September 1 season opener against Texas State.
Here are Grieco’s junior year highlights.
Welcome to the banks Connor!
Bonus points if any readers can confirm if Girault also wore jersey #4 at St. Joseph’s.