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Rutgers football in good position to build off strong start to 2021 recruiting class

Although its early, head coach Greg Schiano has added legit Big Ten talent and is poised to add a lot more talent as the cycle progresses.

Indiana v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

UPDATE: 4-star linebacker Khayri Banton committed to Rutgers one day after this story originally posted. To read more on his pledge to the program, click here. The 2021 class is now ranked 12th in the nation and 5th in the Big Ten with Banton becoming the 8th member and highest rated commit to date.

UPDATE #2: 3-star defensive prospect Keshon Griffin committed on Friday, story here.

Original Story:

Despite recruiting visits not being an option right now as the nation has slowed to a screeching halt down due to Covid-19, the Rutgers football program continues to add talent to the 2021 class. After receiving verbal commitments from 3-star prospects Al-Shadee Salaam and Shaquan Loyal last Thursday, Cam’Ron Stewart and Jordan Thompson pledged to the program on last Friday.

Stewart is a 6’4” defensive lineman from Reading, Pennsylvania is an athletic prospect with burst off the line. His offer list included Syracuse, Temple, and a slew of MAC schools including Buffalo, Toledo, Bowling Green, and Kent State. Instead of waiting announced his commitment to Rutgers on Twitter here. While he doesn’t have a composite ranking, 247 Sports lists him as a 3-star recruit and ranks him the 35th best prospect in Pennsylvania in the 2021 class. You can watch his junior season highlights here:

Thompson is a 6’3” athlete who will likely play somewhere along the defensive line at Rutgers. He is from Parsippany and his mother ran track and graduated from RU in the 90’s. His other offers were from UMass, Kent State and Buffalo. In his commitment announcement on Twitter, Thompson included head coach Greg Schiano, offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson and defensive line coach Jim Panagos. While he doesn’t have a composite ranking, 247 Sports lists him as a 3-star recruit and ranks him 16th in New Jersey in the 2021 class. Here are his junior season highlights:

After adding four commitments to the 2021 class in the past week, Rutgers is ranked 15th nationally and 5th in the Big Ten for this cycle per 247 Sports. In addition, there are several major recruits still undecided that are trending Rutgers’ way.

Another intriguing prospect is 4-star outside linebacker Khayri Banton from West Side Newark. The 6’2” prospect was recently predicted to land at Rutgers by two recruiting analysts, including by Steve Wiltfong, the director of football recruiting for 247 Sports. The composite rankings list the local talent as the 7th best prospect in New Jersey and 23rd best linebacker nationally in the 2021 class. Banton’s recruitment is being led by assistant coaches Fran Brown and Augie Hoffman. His other offers include Tennessee, Purdue, Miami, Boston College, Syracuse, and Virginia Tech. Landing Banton would be a great win for Schiano and the staff as well. (Editor’s note: Banton committed one day after this story posted, click here to read more.

247 Sports’ Brian Dohn made a crystal ball prediction that 4-star running back Audric Estime from St. Joseph’s in Montvale will end up a Scarlet Knight. His composite ranking lists him the 6th best prospect in the state and 14th best running back nationally. Of course, his former head coach Augie Hoffman is now coaching that position on the banks and gives RU a natural advantage in his recruitment. He holds over a dozen power five offers, including Minnesota, Maryland and Nebraska from the Big Ten.

3-star defensive lineman Keshon Griffin is also predicted to commit to Rutgers. 247 Sports composite rankings list Griffin as the 8th best prospect in New Jersey and 25th best weakside defensive end in the nation. He has almost a dozen power five offers including Nebraska, Miami, Tennessee, Virginia Tech, and West Virginia.

The most significant recruiting battle that Rutgers is involved in is with Tywone Malone, who is a 4-star defensive tackle from Bergen Catholic with great potential. The 6’5” prospect is the top recruit in New Jersey in the 2021 class, as well as the 7th highest rated at his position and 53rd nationally overall per 247 Sports composite rankings. Ohio State, Ole Miss, and Texas A&M are the other schools thought to be pursuing Malone the most among his over two dozen power five offers. Landing Malone would be a huge addition to the roster for Schiano and his staff, as well as make a major statement on the recruiting trail.

One 3-star recruit that Rutgers appears to be in strong position for is 6’3” defensive tackle Elijah Fuentes from Cardinal Hayes in the Bronx. He is rated the 5th best NY prospect and 58th at his position nationally. 247 Sports’ Brian Dohn predicts he will ultimately choose the Scarlet Knights.

Other notable 3-star prospects that Rutgers is pursuing and in recruiting battles for include 6’2” outside linebacker Mikai Gbayor. 247 Sports composite rankings list him the 17th best prospect in NJ and 40th best linebacker nationally. Ole Miss and West Virginia appear to be the biggest competition for him as of now. Gbayor’s teammate, 6’4” defensive tackle Zaire Angoy from Irvington list him as the 33rd best prospect from the garden state and 53th best at his position per 247 Sports composite rankings. He is being recruited by Indiana, Maryland, Syracuse and Pitt, among others. Also, Union athlete Desmond Igbinosun is rated the 26th highest prospect in New Jersey and is being targeted by Rutgers, Temple and Syracuse. Mike Jarvis Shawnee is rated the 27th best prospect in N.J. and 60th best strongside defensive end in the nation per 247 Sports. Virginia and Rutgers appear to be the two competing the hardest for his services.

Outside of New Jersey, other targets include Jeffrey Davis Jr. He is the 2nd highest rated recruit in Connecticut and 39th best defensive back nationally per 247 Sports. It appears to be a recruiting battle between Michigan, Penn State and Rutgers as of now. 6’3” Andre Porter is rated the 6th best prospect out of Washington D.C. and 45th best strongside defensive end in the country by 247 Sports. Maryland, Pitt, Rutgers, Temple and Boston College are in the mix for his services. Another strongside defensive end, 6’6” Robert Jackson from Archbishop Wood in Pennsylvania is ranked the 17th best prospect in his state and one spot behind Porter nationally. Fran Brown is leading his recruitment for RU and is competing against Arizona State, Syracuse, Boston College, and Pitt among others.

The bottom line is Greg Schiano and arguably the best coaching staff Rutgers has ever assembled is off to a very good start with the 2021 recruiting class. In addition, they are positioned well to continue to add talent to the program, especially on the defensive side of the ball. Who new offensive coordinator Sean Gleason ultimately adds in this class will be very important as well in shaping his unit for the future.

While it’s still early in the 2021 recruiting cycle, it’s encouraging to see Rutgers competing for so many highly ranked prospects. Where the class is ultimately ranked remains to be seen, but a Top 30 class nationally is certainly possible at this stage. It’s a big change from recent years and another sign that Schiano is grinding out his recruiting plan the way he did in his first tenure. With his added experience, more seasoned approach and 2018 Big Ten recruiter of the year pedigree, as well as Rutgers being in arguably the best conference in the country, the potential to turn things around quicker than in his first go around seem to be a very possible.