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Rutgers Football 2022 Early Signing Period Day One Report Card

Scarlet Knights ink 19 previous verbal commits, no surprises.

Wisconsin v Rutgers
Wimsatt’s presence was a key factor in keeping the class together.
Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Throughout the day Wednesday, we provided OTB readers updates on players formally committing to the Rutgers Scarlet Knights Football program. The early signing period allows commits to sign a national letter of intent (NLI) from Dec 15 - 17 for high school players. (JUCOs: Dec 18 - Jan 15) The next official window that high school prospects can sign an NLI begins the first Wednesday in February.

When most fans attempted to go to sleep Tuesday night, Rutgers had 19 verbal commits and all would end up committed Wednesday. So far, no surprise additions have been made.

The Day One grades by position group are as follows.

Quarterback (A)

Signed: Gavin Wimsatt (enrolled September 2021)

Gavin Wimsatt is considered a member of the 2021 class by recruiting services after he enrolled a full year early. Even so, Rutgers included Wimsatt in the official release on Wednesday making it 20 member in the 2022 class. Despite playing in three games this past season, his influence as a beacon of hope for this class cannot be understated. His impact on helping to keep this class together with other top rated commits knowing he was already in the program is unquantifiable but significant just the same.

Since the staff focused their efforts on ensuring Gavin knew he was their guy, they did not put on a full court press for any other scholarship quarterback prospect. If Wimsatt is “the guy” for several years, this will just be a trivial that no one else signed today. If he’s not and/or battles injuries, depth is needed that is simply not on the current roster. Currently 6th year senior Noah Vedral, backup Evan Simon, and Wimsatt are the only scholarship quarterbacks in the program, so we could see another late addition via the transfer portal.

The counterpoint is that with the transfer portal, it’s almost impossible to keep four scholarship QBs on the roster as they seek greener pastures for playing time. Even players who are starters with Power Five programs are in the portal, so is it worth recruiting a high schooler every year at this point? Time will tell.

Running Back (A)

Signed: Samuel Brown

For the nth straight year, Rutgers does not need running backs unless they can add another dimension to the team and Samuel Brown likely fits the bill. Brown is the highest running back recruit Rutgers has had since Savon Huggins and will get an opportunity to replace some of the carries left behind by the team’s leading rusher of the past three seasons in Isaih Pacheco. Kyle Monangai, Aaron Young, and Jamier Wright-Collins all could be enough to be a serviceable unit, but Brown and redshirt freshman Al-Shadee Salaam bring a better chance for the unit to raise its ceiling.

As is true with other NFL style non-premium positions in the modern day (applies more than ever in 2022), there is no need to over allocate scholarships at the running back spot; Rutgers did not overextend itself. If Brown is the real deal, he could start right away and this grade becomes an A+ down the line.

Wide Receiver (B)

Signed: Amarion Brown, Rashad Rochelle

At one point, this class had four receiver commits but ended up with only two, Amarion Brown and Rashad Rochelle. JoJo Bermudez (Cincinnati) and Addison Copeland (Pittsburgh) were hoped to maybe rejoin the class after decommitting, but that dream scenario was on life support at best in recent weeks especially as the teams they ultimately chose both won conference championships. No one else at the high school level seemed likely as we approached signing day.

If Rutgers had the kind of playmakers they boasted a decade ago, two commits both with superstar potential would probably be in the B range. Unfortunately, depth at receiver and with playmakers in general on offense is sorely lacking. Bo Melton is out of eligibility and Aron Cruickshank’s return from injury will be tough to swallow as the team tries to improve on a mostly anemic passing attack. There are some young players who could take major strides with improved quarterback play, but the Knights need more lottery tickets to stretch the field and simply add excitement that wasn’t there at SHI Stadium in 2021.

Receiver is a position where freshmen can play especially late in the year in a niche role if they are ready so keep an eye out possibly even for one of the defensive players listed below to switch sides of the ball if they can help the team. That being said, Brown and Rochelle have big play potential and bring much needed speed to the offense.

Tight End (B-)

Signed: Mike Higgins

The scouts who studied Higgins in 2021 really see him as a potential superstar. Unfortunately, Rutgers has not been able to get production from any of its tight ends since Tyler Kroft was on the banks, so it might not be as much a problem with the players individually. The team’s most effective tight end in late 2021 was converted quarterback Johnny Langan who was learning on the fly.

Higgins is unlikely to contribute in 2022 unless he becomes an absolute mauler as a blocker overnight, but will he does replace graduated Jovani Haskins in the position group to provide depth. Players at other positions like defensive end and wide receiver could end up as tight ends as well, though it’s less likely in this class than prior years. Tight end is one of those positions where everyone who can contribute will play significant snaps so it will be interesting to see how that works out for Rutgers the next few years. Of course, tight end is a position where the portal can be quite stocked should the need arise in the next 12 months.

Offensive Line (A+)

Signed: Jacob Allen, Taj White, Joe De Croce, Nelson Monegro, Kobe Asamoah, Emir Stinette, Dantae Chin

The Rutgers Scarlet Knights gold standard for offensive line recruiting was the 23rd ranked 2012 class that boasted five players. That group ended up with one four year starter, two-two year starters, and two players who never cracked the two-deep. This 2022 group has the potential to blow that out of the water, though simply getting three multi-year starters would be considered a success. On numbers alone, the odds would indicate that should happen as all seven are three-star with Jacob Allen a four-star.

The question on everyone’s minds with Allen is if he can play as a true freshman like Anthony Davis did. The answer is probably not and one criticism of this class of seven (none of which are expected to start in 2022) is that seven is too many for a team that has other needs. To add to that, Rutgers started three underclassmen late in the season so there is not major attrition in 2022 that would require true freshman to play unless they are ready.

The counterpoints to that are 1. offensive linemen are in short supply and for a program like Rutgers, it’s not an ideal portal destination yet especially without a proven commodity at QB. 2. Rutgers had to hedge against injury and decommitment. What if they had four guys, Joe De Croce got injured (which he did) and one other guy moved on? It was absolutely critical to fill the ranks with numbers.

If they get seven guys who could start out of this class by 2024, they will be going to a New Year’s Six Bowl and no one will be complaining.

Defensive Line (B)

Signed: Kenny Fletcher, Q’yaeir Price, DJ Allen

Defensive line was the biggest area where Rutgers could have used another body and the grade reflects that. With the scholarship crunch in 2022, something had to give and with so many defensive linemen brought in the last two classes this might not end up being a problem. Of course defensive line may be the hardest position to recruit of any (yes harder than QB, cornerback, and definitely offensive line) so only getting three may be a little light in retrospect.

The players Rutgers did bring in all have high upside with Allen and Fletcher the exact body types they covet to pass rush off the edge. Price was just too good to pass up though his destination along the line is harder to predict in the scheme Rutgers is currently running. The biggest concern is that the Knights need defensive tackles for their defense to function and none of these guys are sure space eaters. Couple that with the fact that Troy Rainey and Ireland Brown who were defensive tackles are now on offense and this could be the linchpin that sets the entire defense back. Or maybe by the time these guys are upperclassmen, the scheme will be different. More on that soon.

Linebackers (A)

Signed: Moses Walker, Anthony Johnson

Two four-star linebackers gets an A. Getting any more in the NIL, transfer portal era is filling up roster spots that are likely needed for more premium positions. Greg Schiano, Robb Smith, and Bob Fraser did what they needed (with some help from Fran Brown as usual) to probably lock in two multi-year starters with All-American upside.

Unlike some other spots listed above, finding linebackers in the transfer portal is doable even after Colby Reeder chose Iowa State over RU. We love the story of a Brandon Renkert as a walk-on and we’ll get more of those but Kevin Malast or Eric Margolis would likely have started at a lesser program before a potential transfer to Rutgers in this new world. Seeing linebackers play college ball, even FCS is just a lot easier to hat guessing based on their high school competition.

Defensive Backs (B-)

Signed: Zilan Williams, Thomas Amankwaa

The key here is that Rutgers has a plethora of young defensive backs that showed signs of promise in 2021. As a result, they added just two players thus far, neither of which is expected to be in the two-deep as a true freshman. Once again the scholarship crunch is real.

The big fish is still on the market in Davison Igbinosun who will decide in January as to whether he chooses to join his brother at Rutgers or head to SEC country. Davison is the top player in New Jersey according to some sources at this point so if he arrives the grade will jump to a B+ with the possibility of completely outplaying that mark in a few years. This grade is the riskiest to plummet if injuries take a toll.

Specialists (B)

Signed: Jai Patel (PWO)

While thinking this through I spent a lot of time trying to piece together what effect the early signing period and transfer portal will have on specialists. My initial conclusion is that teams will only give scholarships in the early period if they absolutely are in desperate need of a certain spot. If not, they will wait things out to secure a preferred walk-on or transfer portal addition who had success at a lower level.

With the return of Adam Korsak and Zach Taylor stepping in at long snapper to replace his brother, Rutgers would really handcuff itself using another scholarship on a placekicker at this time. However, with the struggles in the kicking game despite what seemed to be a very solid group as recently as 2020, it was great they brought in Patel as a preferred walk-on who was the best kicker on the local camp circuit from what we have been told. Then if he becomes a critical starter, locking him in with a scholarship that he might not be able to replicate on the open market should be enough at this position.

Overall Day One Grade: A

Despite missing out on a bowl trip, Rutgers managed to keep together a recruiting class that was in the top 10 by every single entity who measures earlier in the year, even top five by at least one source at its very peak in the spring. To compete in the Big Ten, even a composite ranking of 27th nationally from 247 Sports currently only puts them 6th in the East division and 7th in the conference overall. And the one East foe they are ahead of in Maryland is just one spot behind them and lower than they typically have been in recent years.

A few points about my grade for the FIRST DAY of the early signing period. The result was mostly what was expected. The overall grade should be fairly evident based on individual position grades, although the difference compared to last year is that Rutgers really targeted and succeeded at the positions of need (other than defensive line) and was very strategic in adding to the strengths they already have (i.e running back, linebacker).

With the early signing period being the norm now, it is absolutely paramount to have a dozen or so solid three-star players commit for the mid-December date and Rutgers did well above that this time around.

On scheme fit, that is an interesting angle that will be covered in a subsequent post, though I’m fine getting good players and worrying about that later.

Looking for late stars and good pieces in the transfer portal is what this staff will do since they already are in a scholarship crunch as the NCAA reduces the limit to 85 in 2022. If Rutgers can find someone who can start in the next two years at any position, they will find a way for him to join the program. Otherwise this is probably more or less it until next year.

This grade was not given on a curve at all, as Rutgers really did accomplish what they needed to on paper. Time will tell if that translates on the field. Most of this would be a moot point if the offense remains anemic, especially if there is subpar quarterback play. However, in the modern era simply building the rest of your team up to attract a top tier signal caller is easier than ever. With the season they had and abnormal conditions off the field, Rutgers could not have done much better in recruiting. The program appears to be on the trajectory personnel wise that probably only Greg Schiano could have pulled off this quickly.

Check back for more updates at our signing day headquarters for all of our recruiting coverage this week. Let us know your thoughts in the comments section.