Last Wednesday you voted on what former Rutgers Football player exploded onto the scene most dramatically after he arrived on the banks. Here are the results with some thoughts below. If votes and my thoughts aren’t enough ...
Who surprised the most as a true freshman for RU Football?
This poll is closed
... keep the discussion going in the comments below! This was my favorite poll to write of the entire series this summer because it had two equally important variables. On one hand, many players especially from last week’s poll came in with such high expectations that they didn’t surprise at all. On the flip side, it’s difficult in the internet age to surprise people about anything these days, even if a player is a middle of the pack three-star recruit like Connor Grieso perhaps. So it was interesting to see how our readers would handle the two constraints.
Gold: Mohamed Sanu. 39% of the vote.
When I wrote the list, I had less confidence in who would win this one than any other poll up to this point. Sanu as a freshman was one of the best players on the 2009 team overall, a group that contained several players who would take their talents to the NFL like Anthony Davis, Devin McCourty, Tom Savage, and about ten other members of the defense. So the question with Sanu really was, how good of a prospect did people expect him to be?
Sanu was not eligible to play during his final year of high school, but still was considered the 22nd best prospect in New Jersey per 247composite. On the flip side, he was only the 11th best Rutgers player in the 2009 class, ranked 29th nationally. At the end of the day, his versatility of being big, strong, and fast enough carried him to the top of this poll. Of course after his breakout freshman season, he blew that out of the water as a junior.
Silver: Janarion Grant. 30% of the vote.
Football for fans is about entertainment. I was at Fresno State for Grant’s first career game, but sadly my wife (first college football game) and I (a lot more than that) had not gotten to our seats yet in the 97 degree heat to see Janarion’s first career touch go 100 yards for a touchdown. The more the votes piled up for Grant, the more it made sense that his ability to turn the momentum of a game (like Arkansas) trumped any detractions about not playing wide receiver.
Many players come in expected to be dynamic in the return game, Raheem Blackshear and Christian Izien as recent examples. But could anyone possibly have expected a player to be as explosive as Grant, a three-star prospect from Florida who escaped the grasp of every program down there? No, because no one ever was in the return game when he eventually tied the all-time FBS return touchdown record. Perhaps more than anyone else on this list he impacted games in single moments. He might be finally healthy and surprise more than just the Baltimore Raven faithful this season.
Bronze: Courtney Greene. 8% of the vote.
Greene edged Jeremy Ito by just two votes and you have to wonder if any of our younger fans may have blurred memories of Courtney and Khaseem Greene, no relation. Even if they had, Courtney Greene deserves a medal as much as anyone else on this list. From an expectations standpoint, did anyone expect anything from Greene at any point in his career? He wasn’t even the top safety from his high school team to enroll at RU! (Glen Lee)
What impressed me most about Courtney as a freshman was that Rutgers was a program trying to rise from nothing so there were plenty of bumps in the road. Instead of pointing fingers when a ball carrier broke through and had to be taken down by he or Ron Girault as the last line of defense, Greene casually made the tackle as if it were no big deal. It’s usually a bad sign when a safety has to lead the team in tackles because often that means too many of the aforementioned examples are piling up, but Greene was so efficient he had 116 tackles on a team that went to a bowl game. And he was no flash in the pan, either.
Notable: Kaleb Johnson only got 8 votes, good for 3%. Some posters on Rutgers blogs today are being critical of the Grieso verbal (.8204) when Johnson was a (.8388) per 247. Johnson was the starting right tackle as a true freshman on the 2011 team that won a bowl game!
Missing in action: TrollsDestroyedNJcom made an excellent point about Josh Hicks and Robert Martin who I did consider. The reason for my omission is that in the 2014 recruiting class, Martin and Hicks were the two highest rated prospects per 247 composite. In addition to that, running back is considered one of the easiest positions to contribute as a true freshman. So yes the duo of Martin and Hicks did exceed my expectations in 2014, there is no doubt, but I felt like the guys who I did select in the poll had at least a reason to be considered as well.
mjtortoise made solid points about Ray Lucas and Brian Sheridan who joined the Scarlet Knights right around the time I became a fan. Sheridan is a tough one because I do always remember him being good, other than when he had to take a medical redshirt, and liked him as a player. Though I am not remembering for certain if he played as a true freshman from Union County, Brian’s first year was 1993 when Rutgers grossly underachieved at 4-7 and he played linebacker, a position especially in those days was easier to play as a freshman.
Ray Lucas was a super tough one for me to rate, so I purposely omitted redshirt freshmen even though in some cases I may have omitted medical redshirts that made immediate impressions. Another reason I chose not to go back to the early 90s with anyone on this list is because it’s tough to even be sure how big a prospect Lucas was. Even if we knew, the media wasn’t as crazy as it is today to hype people up. Ray had size, speed, and arm strength but was still battling the “black quarterback” stereotype and Harrison was not a large high school. Then he got playing time with a struggling Bryan Fortay and did well enough, but not incredible. If Lucas was a high school senior in 2018, he’d probably be heralded as the next Michael Vick at at least better than Greg Ward. I’d really love to hear more people’s thoughts on Lucas as a recruit.
Thanks for participating and look for another opportunity to vote this Wednesday in what will likely be the final poll in this series as training camp is just around the corner. The category this week remains a mystery, but we might be willing to accept a recommendation or two. The hint for this week’s movie theme is, “Nukem! Get them before they get you.”
For all those who continue to vote, but are too scared to comment ...