The Rutgers football coaching staff continues a busy stretch of recruiting, receiving another commit in the 2020 recruiting class. The Scarlet Knights secured a verbal commitment from Elijuwan Mack from St. Joseph’s (Montvale) on Tuesday:
Rutgers is one of six power five conference schools (ten total) to offer Elijuwan per 247sports, including Minnesota, Louisville, and Virginia Tech. At 6’0” and 185 pounds, Mack is a solid three-star prospect, the 32nd best in New Jersey and 92nd best safety nationally for the 2020 class according to the 247 composite which includes other sources.
Sometimes when you watch film of big time prospects they don’t jump out to you as much as should be expected, but Mack does. While studying his, Elijuwan’s closing speed and quickness is elite. His burst and subsequent perimeter tackling reminds me very much of three-year Rutgers starter Lorenzo Waters, though Mack does not wrap nearly as well yet. His upside in coverage is higher than Waters though, which is why best case he ends up following the same trajectory as the McCourty brothers as a corner or safety. Mack reacts well to the ball and just seems to be all over the field which is why he plays safety even though he could excel at other positions while playing at the high school level.
The reason Mack’s recruiting ranking is not higher stems from his lack of elite size and a lack of padded stats. When you watch him, it feels like he could make every tackle and would have tallied more interceptions. Also, if he played corner exclusively, that would be more highly valued as a more premium position than safety. On the interception topic, to his credit Mack does not shy away from contact hoping for tipped balls, he instead makes every effort to break a play up in a less glamorous but more long term effective way. His coverage skills though are behind where the McCourty brothers were at this point in time, but he has the physical ability to make huge strides there. This is a classic example of why some people just care about the offer list, not the numerical rating.
Mack is at worst a solid three-star prospect who will compete hard in practice and provide depth in the defensive backfield like the late Johnathan Aiken did in his career. Mack most likely will be able to contribute on special teams as a redshirt freshman and in the defensive back rotation by his redshirt sophomore season like Wayne Warren. Best case Elijuwan follows two other former St. Joseph’s alums and ends up in the NFL like Jason and Devin McCourty.
I like the pickup because Rutgers has struggled to stock their safety depth for a variety of reasons. When they have had someone playing at an elite level (at times Saquan Hampton, at times Kiy Hester) during the Ash era, you can see how much better the Scarlet defense is against mid tier Big Ten opponents. Mack particularly could become an elite pass and/or run defender, which makes his ceiling quite high and since he should at minimum be a special teams warrior, his floor isn’t very low either. The crux of his recruitment for those who get paid to determine such things is that he may not have the size or coverage skills to be a Big Ten starter, so his “most likely” scenario could cause analysts not to want to risk overhyping him. In my previous statements, the gap between Jon Aiken as a floor and Wayne Warren most likely is not very large at all, both of which ended their careers as a fringe Big Ten starting level of play. Analysts also may fear his physical approach of obliterating receivers over the middle will get him into trouble if his timing is harder to achieve at the next level. This is a classic example of why Power Five teams need to follow the Michigan State model and continue to fill out full recruiting classes with solid three star talents. One out of four Elijuwan Macks will become a star and two will at minimum help with depth at safety and special teams.
Mack is the first defensive back in this class, though Sofian Massoud is an excellent athlete and prospect at the position as well even though Rutgers recruited him at quarterback. The seven total verbal commits thus far each have a 3-star rating in the latest 247 composite rankings.
Check out some highlights:
Welcome to the banks Elijuwan!