The 2021 recruiting class for the Scarlet Knights is going to be a good one. This is not just because of the incoming freshmen class. Greg Schiano was busy recruiting some key transfers as well.
It began when Temple defensive lineman Ifeanyi Maijeh decided to join the Scarlet Knights. It continued with announcements from Temple offensive lineman David Nwaogwugwu and North Carolina defensive back Patrice Rene. These are positions that Schiano has focused on greatly during his career.
Perhaps the biggest addition was Rene in the secondary. Rene was a Rutgers commit before Kyle Flood was let go. Now, he will have a chance to start in the secondary for a team that saw Brendon White declare for the NFL Draft.
At North Carolina, Rene made eight starts over his first two seasons before breaking out as a junior. In 2018, he started 11 games and finished with 31 tackles, five passes defended, and two interceptions. Rene started six games in 2020 after missing most of 2019 with an injury.
“First and foremost, Patrice is a long athletic corner, which you guys know I really like,” Schiano said. “But more importantly, or as importantly, that alone would not have been the reason. But coach Fraser had recruited Patrice when he was here at Rutgers before when I wasn’t here, and has a tremendous relationship with him.”
Linebackers’ coach Bob Fraser had a big hand in recruiting Rene the first time around and that was clear once again.
“When he became available, Bob got on the table and said, ‘Look, I stand by this kid. Forget what you see on tape, this kid is a special kid and he’s a cultural fit,’” Schiano said. “I think he’s gonna be a great addition to our room. We have a lot of young corners, a lot of young secondary players that want to play. I mean they’re going to get the opportunity to play, but to have Patrice in there, another elder statesman in there, is really going to help us.”
In the Big Ten, it is important to have playmakers and depth all over the field. This is especially true in the trenches. The additions of Maijeh and Nwaogwugwu will help — and it will have to be earned.
“You’re talking about Ifeanyi and David and David plays O-line and Ifeanyi plays D-line. I think it’s critical because we need to develop more depth on both of those units,” Greg Schiano said during his news conference on Wednesday. “In my 32 years I never promised a player if you come here you’re going to start. I don’t do that, because a guy may lay around and eat bon-bons for six months and show up and think he’s going to start. You’ve got to do the things that have made you a great player.”
Nwaogwugwu is a 6-5, 310-pound right tackle who will compete for a starting spot right away. He has three years of eligibility left and can be a player that helps the Scarlet Knights for years to come.
Maijeh was a force during his time at Temple. In 2019, he was named First-Team All-American Athletic Conference after finishing with 52 tackles, 10 tackles-for-loss, and 6.5 sacks. In 2020, Maijeh started seven games and was named to the to Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy, and Outland Trophy watch lists.
Schiano has keyed in on players who will help immediately but also have some control left.
“We evaluated these guys when they went into the portal and we think they can really help our football team,” Schiano said. “In David’s case, he has three years remaining so that that’s kind of promising as well. Same thing with Josh (Youngblood). Josh has some time on his clock which you like. That’s a way to have a guy in your program for a while.”
Kansas State transfer Joshua Youngblood will join Aron Cruickshank on special teams for the Scarlet Knights giving them one of the most dangerous return tandems in the nation.
Whether it is incoming freshmen or transfers, we are seeing the impact that Schiano has had on the program in a short time. There was a visible difference on the field from 2019 to 2020 and expect the same from 2020 to 2021.