Rutgers football’s 2022 recruiting class is the program’s best in years according to recruiting rankings. Per composite rankings from all the major recruiting services compiled by 247 Sports, the Scarlet Knights currently have the 27th best class nationally and 7th best in the Big Ten. That’s major progress in regard to increasing the talent level of the program. This class will hopefully play a significant role in elevating Rutgers football in the next few years.
Recruiting is a team effort that requires a lot of different people to make things happen. Head coach Greg Schiano said that on Wednesday when discussing the recruiting haul his staff was able to sign.
“It does take so many people to recruit a class,” said Schiano. “To recruit this type of class, it takes great effort and persistence, and I’m really proud of our people for what they’ve done. I really believe that this class is a big step forward for our program.”
With all that being said, the star recruiter for Rutgers in this class is very clearly Fran Brown. The secondary coach was a top priority for Schiano upon being hired and he brought Brown into the fold almost immediately. Hiring Brown was a huge win in and of itself based on his reputation and performance as a recruiter at Temple and Baylor. His strong South Jersey connections made him highly desirable for an area Rutgers historically struggled in. The hype for Brown was real and he has delivered.
Brown’s recruiting success both in South Jersey and overall in the past two years has been instrumental in moving the program forward. His best work so far was completed this week when five of the top six prospects to sign in the 2022 recruiting class were recruits he was directly responsible for. 247 Sports ranks Brown 32nd nationally and 8th in the Big Ten for his results in the 2022 recruiting cycle. The last time 247 Sports ranked a Rutgers recruiting assistant in the top 50 was Jeff Hafley at No. 28 in 2011.
He was the lead recruiter for three of the four 4-star recruits who signed with Rutgers. He led the recruitment for Moses Walker (LB), Anthony Johnson (LB) and Samuel Brown (RB), in addition to high 3-star recruit Kenny Fletcher (Edge). As a secondary recruiter for high 3-star Amarion Brown (WR), Brown assisted lead recruiter Tiquan Underwood and received credit for his signing as well.
Walker and Johnson are the two highest rated recruits that Brown has ever signed. His previously highest rated recruit was Gerry Bohanon, who threw for 17 touchdowns and just 6 interceptions as Baylor’s starting quarterback this past season.
When asked about Brown’s impact on recruiting the class of 2022, Schiano said, “Fran is certainly one of those guys who works incredibly hard at recruiting. Everyone says, well, Fran’s a young guy. Fran relates. Absolutely, he does all that. But what gets lost is that Fran works and works and works and works at recruiting. The best recruiters that I’ve ever been around, there’s one common denominator, hard work.”
Schiano went into detail about how Brown works beyond just his own targets.
“He’s an important part, whether he’s the primary — you know, we do something called team recruiting.” Schiano explained, “There’s a captain for each player, but we have a whole team of people that are recruiting each individual prospect. So Fran is a captain of many teams, and he’s also a member of many teams. I think that in itself says a lot about who Fran is because he’s willing to take the lead on some and be a supporting cast on others, but he’s certainly a big part of our recruiting picture.”
Rutgers fans were given pause earlier this week when Brown was reportedly a finalist for the head coaching position at Temple. Fans understand the value that Brown offers the Scarlet Knights on the recruiting trail. The fact that the news broke two days before signing day made many nervous that not only would Rutgers lose its top recruiting assistant, but that some of the top prospects in the class could leave.
Those fears were officially put to bed on Wednesday in the midst of the first day of the early signing period as Temple announced the hiring of Stan Drayton, the other finalist who was an assistant at Texas.
Brown is the highest paid assistant coach in program history, but he is earning it both in recruiting and on the field. It would be unfair to not appreciate Brown’s ability as a coach as well. He is the only full-time assistant responsible for the secondary, which isn’t always the case across college football. He coaches all the defensive backs in a system that Rutgers regularly employs five on the field at one time.
Christian Izien has developed into one of the best players on Rutgers the past two seasons. Avery Young’s transition to play alongside him in the back of the defense, moving from cornerback, was a positive one and they formed one of the best safety duos in the Big Ten this past season. Max Melton was arguably the best player on the defense at times this past season.
In addition, Kessawn Abraham is a perfect example of Brown’s ability to develop players. Abraham wasn’t even on the two deep at the start of training camp last August and ended up starting every game this past season. His game saving tackle against Illinois was a major highlight in a season in which Pro Football Focus named Abraham First Team All-Big Ten. They evaluate performance with player grades and advanced statistics. Abraham was the only Rutgers player to earn First Team honors.
The impact that Brown has made since joining Schiano at Rutgers just over two years ago has been immense in multiple ways. He proved it more than ever as a recruiter in this latest cycle.
His ability to land two of the top 12 recruits in Pennsylvania, a talent rich state, with both being from Philadelphia in Johnson and Brown, is a huge statement. Fletcher is the 7th best prospect in New Jersey and came from Delran in the southern part of the state. He also landed the top recruit in New York in Walker. His reach is growing across recruiting circles and as good as Brown has been throughout his career, this was the most successful cycle he’s ever had.
This is great news for Rutgers and Schiano. Keeping him in the fold turned out to be the surprise recruiting win on Wednesday fans were hoping for. Obviously, Brown will be linked to other head coaching jobs in the future, so he should continue to be valued and appreciated for what this program has in him both as a coach and a recruiter. The longer he is at Rutgers, the more impact he will make to elevate this program to new heights in the Big Ten.