The new Rutgers football coaching staff is furiously putting work on the recruiting trail heading into the early signing period next week and received their tenth commit of the 2020 recruiting class. The Scarlet Knights secured a verbal commitment from Victor Konopka of Blair Academy on Sunday:
Rutgers was the 2nd power five conference school (after Virginia) to offer Victor per 247sports this fall, but Penn State also showed strong interest. At 6’7” and 245 pounds, Konopka is a solid three-star prospect, the 37th best in New Jersey and 96th best strong-side defensive end nationally for the 2020 class according to the 247 composite which includes other sources.
Victor is an intriguing prospect because he originally committed out of Don Bosco to play basketball at Army (West Point). After passing basic training, he ended up doing a semester at Blair Academy on the gridiron and therefore will be an early enrollee on the banks in January. So he hasn’t played much football in his life compared to other prospects. For this reason it’s possible he can more quickly acclimate as a defensive end, though the plan is for him to play tight end since RU lacks depth there. At tight end, it will be a steep learning curve for the blocking aspect, though he has good strength once he gets his hands on someone. One notable thing from the film is how often he lines up as a flexed tight end at times a wide receiver, able to use his arm length to block smaller corners, using the jam to his advantage when blocking or quick punch to break free into his route. As a receiver, he has natural hands to win jump balls thrown his way, though his route tree does not appear overly sophisticated.
Konopka is the embodiment of the old adage, “You can’t teach size.” He has a long body and his wingspan is just massive. Of course you don’t want to rely on arm tackling, but on defense he disrupts plays at times simply by being the area with his arms in the vicinity of the quarterback. You can tell he needs work firing out of his stance and just being more comfortable at the snap. That said once the play begins he is a fluid athlete with surprising speed for his size. He reads plays much better than I expected for a neophyte.
Konopka is at worst a solid three-star prospect who will compete hard in practice and provide depth at tight end and defensive end like Myles Nash did in his career. Victor most likely will be able to contribute in the tight end rotation sub packages by his redshirt sophomore season like Sam Johnson with hopefully more receiving opportunities. Best case Victor is a serious threat as a receiver, credible enough as a blocker like James Jenkins and go to the NFL even as more of a short yardage guy.
I like the pickup because Rutgers had just one healthy scholarship tight end at times last year, Matt Alaimo. With Johnathan Lewis still recovering from injury and Daevon Robinson having entered the transfer portal, there are reps there for the taking for incoming freshmen, transfers, or walk-ons. Greg Schiano hinted in his press conference that Rutgers plans to force teams to defend the whole field. We don’t know exactly what style offense RU plans to run, but tight ends likely are a critical part of any of them, even a spread. This is the type of lottery ticket player that could end up being a huge steal with very low risk because at worst he provides Big Ten size on the scout team.
Konopka is the second Tight End in this class (after Shawn Collins), joining a quarterback, tackle, and a wide receiver on the offensive side of the ball. The ten total verbal commits thus far each have a 3-star rating in the latest 247 composite rankings. With so little time and few scholarships this cycle, it’s obvious the coaching staff knows that to get better they need to prioritize the passing game.
Check out some highlights:
Welcome to the banks Victor!