Rayyan Buell signs with Rutgers football.
Stanley King signs with Rutgers football.
Darius Gooden signs with Rutgers football.
Brian Ugwu commits to Rutgers football.
Tomorrow (the first Wednesday in February) is the traditional college football signing day. With rule changes last year, high school players were allowed to sign National Letters of Intent (NLIs) that bind them and a school to one another sooner than February. This offseason saw even more young men sign in December, thus making for a little less drama Wednesday. Of course this is sports and outside of the New England Patriots reaching the AFC title game every year (and often Super Bowl), nothing is guaranteed.
Let’s recap a little bit of how we got here and what to expect the rest of this week.
What has happened in the last six weeks?
Since the early signing period December 19-21 there have been a number of notable happenings:
Jan 14: Wide Receiver Monterio Hunt signed a letter of intent. JUCOs had until Jan 15 to do so before a dead period.
Jan 21: Five early enrollees arrived on the banks for the spring semester: Defensive tackle Malachi Burby, offensive lineman Omari Cooper, linebackers Drew Singleton and Mohamed Toure and quarterback Cole Snyder. Linebacker Juwan Mitchell who signed a letter of intent was also expected to enroll early, but will remain at Butler Community College in Kansas for reasons that seem coursework related. There was also some disappointment in Mitchell’s camp that RU let go defensive coordinator Jay Niemann who liked Mitchell’s skill set for his scheme. Niemann was replaced by former Maryland Defensive Coordinator Andy Buh.
Jan 31: Rayyan Buell verbally commits
Feb 4: Henry Baker leaves RU for a post with the New York Giants
Feb 5: Kolby Smith has joined Ash’s staff as running backs coach per multiple reports. James Kratch indicates in this report that Nunzio Campanile is expected to shift to tight ends while Vince Okruch will switch over to coach on the defensive side of the ball.
During the December Press Conference, Ash said, “Needs moving forward, we still have some for the February signing date. We want to make sure we get another DB. We want to get another defensive lineman, another offensive lineman, up front on both sides of the ball, and then we need to get a tight end, also. So those are really kind of some of our immediate needs as we move forward into the February signing period.”
From all the reports, two defensive backs appear as possible candidates to sign Wednesday. Depending on numbers it will probably be one, with an outside chance of both. Darius Gooden is the more likely of the two out of West Side in Newark. Gooden has the length Coach Ash likes and is coming off an official visit that all accounts went well. Kenney Solomon out of Myrtle Beach has also been rumored to be a possibility and is rated slightly higher by 247 composite, but the crystal ball prediction is now Tennessee or UCF with Louisville still a strong contender. Quinyon Mitchell, an athlete from Florida took a visit, too.
With three defensive backs already signed, there’s an outside chance for a surprise. With Henry Baker leaving again that probably reduces the likelihood of a cornerback he recruited especially as it seems the rest of the staff has focused their efforts at other positions.
Rayyan Buell gave his pledge last week, and with it being so close to signing day there’s every indicator that he signs and Rutgers accepts Wednesday. Buell is a physical anomaly having played defensive line, linebacker, fullback, AND running back (not a misprint) at the high school level. He has the kind of potentially freakish upside that Rutgers did so well with under past coaching staffs to harness. Buell is the sixth ranked player in New York.
It’s entire plausible that another defensive lineman shows up tomorrow. It will probably not be Kyle Atkinson who pledged to do track and play football at Minnesota on Tuesday. The team really, really needs defensive linemen so hopefully they can land somebody in the coming months to add to the rotation.
Rutgers had met a few times with Tim Weaver, but he announced this week he will attend Indiana. Christian Mahogany of Paramus Catholic was also being looked at, but appears to have his sights set on Boston College. So that coupled with Jonah Jackson leaving means an experienced veteran like grad transfer Ryan Alexander from South Alabama could be a huge get tomorrow or this spring at some point.
Rutgers has plenty of bodies on the offensive line, but if any of them were studs, they would already be starting. The blocking has to improve for RU to win a few games.
With Matt Alaimo entering the program but uncertainty about his being eligible in 2019, there likely is opportunity for another Tight End. Don’t expect a reunion with Tyler Devera who is expected to sign with Maryland. I expect Rutgers to go for another grad transfer if possible, which makes losing Nakia Griffin-Stewart so disappointing. If they don’t, perhaps Reggie Sutton or Johnathan Lewis firms up their role as the 4th tight end though they could also be needed at their original positions. Losing Max Anthony may also force tight ends to be used as fullbacks, further adding the need for depth.
It goes without saying that a team like Rutgers will always look to add playmakers. They were able to secure Aaron Young and Kay’Ron Adams on offense which was critical alongside Wide Receiver Isaiah Washington who could be one on the perimeter. Defensively, Zukudo Igwenagu and transfer Drew Singleton were huge additions. The team needs more.
Though Ash didn’t say it during December, everyone who follows the program knows that they need another big wide receiver. Monterio Hunt signed, but he projects more as a possession type than a real X factor in games. Rutgers kicked the tires on possibly bringing Marlyn Johnson who decommitted back into the fold and Charles Njoku appears destined for UCLA.
So on offense that leads to All-State performer and Army All-American Stanley King. King has the height at 6’6” and led the state in several receiving categories but after some confusion between Rutgers and his brother a year ago, this marriage was obviously not smooth sailing. Louisville has long been a challenger for his services, but Rutgers seems to have a slight edge heading to Wednesday. Western Michigan is also making a push for him to be a big fish in a smaller pond. If King does not elect to come to Rutgers, Mohamed Toure, another cousin with the same name as the committed linebacker, may be in the mix although his last official visit was to Toledo.
On the defensive side, Brian Ugwu is still floating out there. His film makes him look like a beast and with Mitchell not enrolling, RU could add another linebacker. One monkey wrench here is that in recent weeks teams have asked Ugwu if he would play running back for them. Ugwu also has the size of a C.J. Onyechi, who was able to contribute as a defensive end as a freshman.
Another possibility is RU could wait for Mohamad Kamara who signed with Temple but was granted a release after they changed head coaches for the second time in a month. That process will take some time as he had officially signed, but the playmaking linebacker out of Newark could be on the radar.
Johnny Langan is transferring in from Boston College though the Scarlet Knights do not know if he will be able to play in 2019. Cooper Heisey committed as a preferred walk-on, but those commitments are not binding. Cole Snyder enrolled early and is basically the front runner for backup to Art Sitkowski unless Johnathan Lewis returns to the position.
Originally the first commit in this 2019 class was Zamar Wise who did not sign in December and is expected to sign tomorrow. Word on the street is that Rutgers may hold off on announcing his addition until later on, perhaps another compliance situation. The dark horse candidate who I loved, Knox Kadum, verbally committed to Virginia Tech, so no one else is likely to challenge Wise for this spot. Wise is very athletic (24th ranked dual-threat QB in the nation) and could end up somewhere other than quarterback, but he flashed ability to complete passes deep down the sideline that your typical athlete playing quarterback can’t complete. It’s weird to think about, but he actually committed BEFORE Art Sitkowski did.
The current class ranking is enough to build depth, but far from truly clawing out of the bottom of the Big Ten yet. To move up in the B1G, winning battles against the conference is critical and RU won a few in December. Aaron Young flipped from Michigan St, was able to hold off Big Ten West powers Wisconsin for Mohamed Toure (the linebacker) & Iowa for Kay’Ron Adams, plus T.J. Robinson decomitted from Minnesota before signing with Rutgers.
Can Rutgers pull off anything like this Wednesday? Rumor has it that there will be one surprise which often is a common tactic to ensure a rival doesn’t get wind of it and throw the kitchen sink at the 11th hour. That information has been very hush hush, so hopefully we can get excited tomorrow.
Though neither is a position of need, linebacker Chris Smith from Dacula, GA (super close to my house) and running back Willie Matthews out of Montclair who is an absolute tank are guys who may show up tomorrow with high upside.
The graduate transfer market will heat up as evidenced by the three players who already announced their departures from the program. One thing to keep in mind is that someone else may commit and even fax an NLI, but Rutgers may hold off on announcing until all paperwork has been signed off on. Otherwise it’s on to spring practice before you know it!
Chris Ash does do a pretty good job trying to address issues his program faces. Sometimes he overcompensates and the pendulum ends up swinging back and forth to extremes (i.e. quarterback depth), and would also note that when there are so many issues to address less attention has to be paid to whether you “should” make changes. He deserves credit for always trying to move onward and upward across the entire organization knowing significant improvement is needed everywhere.
The full early signing press conference to recap December is below: