Wednesday begins the 2021 College Football early signing period, so here’s five quick things to watch for in the coming days.
- Class mostly intact. Some of us believed that the best thing for the Rutgers Football Program long-term was for the 2020 season to be entirely canceled. This would allow Greg Schiano’s new coaching staff, filled with ace recruiters, time to build and maintain a top recruiting class. The actual games began, albeit later than usual, but Rutgers managed to win three Big Ten contests with no spring practice and no summer camp. That in turn made it more likely for what at one point was a top 10 verbal contingent to mostly stay intact. There have been just two decommits this cycle, which is amazing in a year filled with so much uncertainty. Even if a few last minute surprises decide to go elsewhere, simply keeping this group together after several years of bad football has been impressive.
- Size up front. Rutgers has gotten by with a variety of tricks this year, but in the last few weeks their lack of naturally big players has hurt. Chris Ash and Kenny Parker did their best to beef up the existing players and it worked once in a while (Willington Previlon comes to mind), though overall was not a successful approach. RU needs to find players who can be much closer to their natural weight to play on the lines next fall. Expect a focus on the offensive line, especially this week and in the coming weeks for late additions even if the defensive line gets a full stash as soon as Wednesday.
- People and Places you know. Recruiting in a pandemic was something none of the coaches around the country had done before no matter how many contingency plans they had in place. Rutgers may get a quarantined “Fence the garden” advantage because opposing programs who often poach New Jersey haven’t been able to to swoop in as often. It’s always a game of relationships when things get tough or individual kids are undecided, so expect a flurry of activity with high school coaches that are close with the RU staff already. There are also a number of gems who would have been discovered in a normal 2020 high school season that recruiting services may not have boosted. Like every topsy-turvy change, the smart coaching staffs will capitalize or at the bare minimum hold serve.
- Not a loss of focus on game week. Unlike every other year during the recent past when the early signing period began, Rutgers has a game this week. They face Nebraska to cap the regular season so the coaches will be divided between the normal game prep and the recruiting trail. Home visits as were commonplace in years’ past won’t be happening, but all those phone calls, check-ins and other love shown toward high school athletes has to be shared with the planning to go out and win a game. Expect Schiano to do a press conference and interviews on Big Ten Network to hype the class, but a lot less than usual of the public relations outside of that. Also don’t expect 11th hour Friday magic since Friday night (not Saturday) is when the game will take place.
- This class is far from complete. Especially since the staff is in the midst of game preparation and any adjusted scholarship limits in 2021 are uncertain, there will be a lot more to watch beyond the initial surge Wednesday morning. The last two years, it seemed that 90% of the final destinations were decided within the early hours of the first day of the signing period. The normal scholarship limit is 25, but with a variety of tactics including blueshirts, grayshirts, etc., Greg Schiano has been able to maximize the rules to his advantage. It would be nice for a surprise to join the next few days, but more important is to simply maintain stability during the ongoing pandemic, especially until the 2020 season concludes.
Stay with us at onthebanks.com over the next few days for live updates and coverage on the individual players themselves.