Going into the first day of the early signing period, Rutgers had five players from the state of Florida on its roster. Greg Schiano and company almost doubled that number by the time the day was over.
Rutgers received a letter of intent from four future Scarlet Knights who played their high school ball in the Sunshine State—including Joshua Youngblood, the transfer from Kansas State.
This shouldn’t be a huge surprise to anyone who has followed Schiano’s career, as he was never shy to pluck kids from one of the most talent-rich states in the country. Schiano was the defensive coordinator for the Miami Hurricanes for two years immediately prior to taking over as Rutgers’ head coach in 2001. He was able to keep his connections from that time and siphon players from the South Florida area such as Eric Foster, Tim Brown, Antonio and Antwan Lowery, Justin Francis, Jonathan Freeny and Marcus Thompson.
Rutgers had players from all over the state of Florida, from Jacksonville to Miami, but they really focused on South Florida in the 2000s.
Schiano then became the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2012 and the Florida pipeline slowly trickled away. He was later a volunteer coach at the high school his sons attended, Berkeley Prep in Tampa. Now it seems Schiano’s time in Tampa (which, contrary to the name of the University of South Florida, isn’t South Florida) has led him to another area of the state to corral players from. But there is no lack of capable players in any part of the state.
Last season, defensive line coach, and primary Florida recruiter, Jim Panagos was able to secure a commitment from Wesley Bailey on the last day of the early signing period. Bailey hails from Ottawa, Ontario, Canada but played his senior season of high school at Clearwater Academy International, which is approximately a 25-minute drive from Berkeley Prep.
The other player on the 2020 roster from Florida that Schiano and company brought along is former Minnesota transfer Mayan Ahanotu. Ahanotu had ties to three Scarlet Knights coaches before transferring. He played for Panagos in 2019 at Minnesota and defensive coordinator Robb Smith held the same position for the Golden Gophers during Ahanotu’s redshirt season. Schiano also spent time with Ahanotu at Berkeley Prep in Tampa.
On the first day of the early signing period yesterday, Rutgers added two more from Berkeley Prep. Austin Dean is a hard-hitting, physical linebacker, and Youngblood, the speedy return specialist also went to school at Berkeley Prep. The Scarlet Knights plucked another Tampa native in Henry Hughes, a long defensive end still growing on the gridiron after playing basketball his first two years of high school. Hughes is from Tampa Bay Tech, another school about 25 minutes from Berekely Prep.
Carnell Davis is the fourth signee from Florida for Rutgers during the early signing period. Davis is proof the staff at Rutgers will still travel the whole state to find talent. Eau Gallie is located in Melbourne, which is two hours across the state from Tampa. Davis may be the most exciting prospect the Scarlet Knights snatched from Florida this cycle, as our own David Anderson sees Tiquan Underwood potential in Davis. Yes, former Scarlet Knight star receiver, former NFL receiver, current wide receiver coach Tiquan Underwood.
The haul from Florida could’ve been even better if it weren’t for two de-commitments. Albert Reese from Clearwater Academy International and Steffon Johnson from Venice High School were both at one time pledged to Rutgers, but have signed elsewhere.
Florida has been good to Rutgers in the past. Schiano and company seemed to have a handful of players commit from the state each cycle. Though they aren’t grabbing the top talent from the state, it runs so deep they are still able to sign quality football players. Florida is especially known for its speedy skill players and physical front seven defenders, two things this coaching staff has made a key point of focus early this tenure.
Former coach Chris Ash went away from recruiting Florida heavily and focused on more of what he knew, the Midwest. But if Schiano’s first full recruiting cycle is any indication, the pipeline to the state is being brought back to the State of Rutgers.