Rutgers Football kicks off the 2021 regular season September 2 against Temple, so we hope to blend the past, present, and future in my biggest undertaking in a while to get geared up for the season.
A funny thing happened on my way to the transfer portal....while procrastinating from work at my real job. I found myself looking at updates on the destinations of those who departed the Rutgers Football program recently, subsequently attempting to recall what we thought about those players when they joined the Scarlet Knights. But why stop there?
Why not re-rank the positive impact of the young men brought in during the last five recruiting classes? To aid in this unofficial calculation, fuzzy math on how many years a player started and was on the two-deep is included for reference. (I expect plenty of constructive criticism on how I arrived at these values.) This mini-series has a number of past incarnations, so if you’d like to ensure avoidance of revisionist history check out the links at the bottom of this article.
We begin with Chris Ash’s first recruiting class as head coach since earning the job to replace Kyle Flood. After being hired on December 7, 2015, a day that will live in infamy, Ash had only 58 days before signing day on February 3, 2016. Many of these players had already been contacted by Rutgers via the Flood staff and/or by Ash and his staff at their previous coaching posts, but it was still a pretty impressive effort in the short window to be ranked in the low 60s nationally. Despite the short timeline, this class produced its fair share of starters and contributors mixed in with the usual swing and misses.
Astonishingly, four players remain on the Rutgers roster courtesy of the blanket extra year of eligibility, so this book still has one final chapter depending on what additional contributions they can provide in 2021.
Final* power rankings after five autumns on the banks.
1. Damon Hayes - CB, Dr. Henry Wise, Upper Marlboro, MD
2016 State (MD) Overall Ranking: 37 National CB Ranking: 141 (RU ranking: 10)
Seasons on the banks: 4, Starter: 4, Two-deep: 4
Hayes takes the top spot on this list because he started all four years he was on the banks at slot corner (twice), safety, then outside corner. Fans were critical of him in 2019 as he did earn his fair share of holding penalties, but obviously the team had to sell out for the run yet generated zero pass rush. I’ll add that now that Rutgers can throw the ball themselves we see how difficult playing DB is and that everyone gets flagged, even the best corners. Damon was a playmaker especially at slot corner and his body of work speaks for itself, particularly when the team was better and there were legit B1G starters around him in the secondary. He finished his career with 47 career games, six interceptions (one returned for touchdown), 164 tackles (7.0 for loss including 2.5 sacks), 31 passes defended, and one fumble recovery. He was most recently with the BC Lions of the CFL, but is not currently listed on their roster.
2. Nick Krimin - OL, St. Joseph, Metuchen, NJ
2016 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 17 National OT Ranking: 61 (RU: 3rd)
Seasons on the banks: 6, Starter: 4*, Two-deep: 5*
Originally recruited by Kyle Flood, Rutgers was committed to getting Krimin 5-10 snaps per game as a redshirt freshman. It worked as he became a dependable starter for the next three seasons, after shifting from guard to center in 2020 out of necessity. With 40 career games (31 starts) he can challenge for some career participation records with the bonus 6th year. With another strong season, there is a chance he could play on Sundays if he chooses to.
3. Julius Turner - DT, Meridian, Meridian, MS
2016 State (MS) Overall Ranking: 50 National DT Ranking: 139 (RU ranking: 15th)
Seasons on the banks: 6, Starter: 4*, two-deep: 4*
Turner was an unheralded recruit and the staff questioned his commitment as a true freshman. After that he just got better and better, culminating in the notoriety he received with the new coaching staff in 2020 shifting his stance to maximize his disruptive quickness. Though he may never be an unquestioned starter despite 45 career games (31 starts), Turner will have a place in the rotation bringing energy earning him 137 career tackles (15.5 for loss including 3.5 sacks) with more to come.
4. Tyreek Maddox-Williams - SLB, Timber Creek, Sicklerville, NJ
2016 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 35 National OLB Ranking: 86 (RU: 17th)
Seasons on the banks: 6, Starter: 3.5, Two-deep: 5*
Tyreek was one of the few bright spots in 2016 after moving up from third-string to be a starter at linebacker as a true freshman. After an injury sidelined him for all of 2017, he returned as the team’s starter in 2018 and 2019 at strong-side linebacker, also serving a team captain in 2019. He had the best game possibly of his career in the 2020 finale against Nebraska with 12 tackles. With all the returning depth and talent, he is probably not going to start full-time in 2021 following Olakunle Fatukasi’s decision to return for his own final season, but will surely add to his 179 career tackle figure.
5. Michael Maietti - C, Don Bosco Prep, Ramsey, NJ
2016 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 62 National OC Ranking: 18 (RU: 17th)
Seasons on the banks: 4, Starter: 3, Two-deep: 3
As a two-star recruit, Maietti surprised many when he became a starter at center in the middle of his redshirt freshman year then maintained the spot even after future 3rd round NFL draft pick Jonah Jackson returned from injury. After starting for three years (33 games), he decided to graduate transfer around the time Greg Schiano was named head coach, landing in the Power Five at Missouri. As the Tigers center Maietti was nominated for the Rimington trophy, also being one of the top centers in the nation according to Pro Football Focus.
6. Elorm Lumor - DE, Milford Academy, New Berlin, NY
2016 POST Rankings- State (NY) Overall: 2 National OLB Ranking: 1 National: 4 (RU: 5th)
Seasons on the banks: 5, Starter: 3.5, Two-deep: 4
Lumor was viewed as a Kemoko Turay light, with his athleticism and raw potential, though was rather unimpressive playing opposite the Dragon until late in the 2017 season. He made 107 career tackles (15 for loss including 9.5 sacks) as a three plus year starter. After declaring for the 2020 NFL draft he returned to the banks upon receiving a special waiver, starting three games in 2020, though losing playing time as the season wore on. He joined Towson as a graduate transfer in 2021.
7. Mike Lonsdorf - OT, Immaculata, Sommerville, NJ
2016 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 45 National OT Ranking: 149 (RU ranking: 11th)
Seasons on the banks: 4, Starter: 1, Two-deep: 3
Lonsdorf was billed as a left tackle project, but by 2017 was already the team’s “swing tackle.” He played in 22 career games with 12 starts before becoming the team’s highest profile opt-out in the 2020 season. His career has to be viewed as outpacing his recruiting ranking, being a serviceable member of a premium position group, while also being named Academic All-Big Ten three times. He is no longer on the roster after graduating in 2020.
8. Mo Jabbie, WR - South Brunswick, Monmouth Junction, NJ
2016 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 46 National WR Ranking: 251 (RU ranking: 12th)
Seasons on the banks: 4, Starter: 1, Two-deep: 2
Jabbie was a fan favorite from day one, being the nephew of RU legend Mohamed Sanu. After impressing on special teams, Mo ultimately started 12 of his 27 career games. Though Jabbie possessed the versatility and blocking skills of his family, he never blossomed as a receiver, registering 18 catches for 182 yards in his Rutgers career with one memorable touchdown against Illinois. As a graduate transfer, he moved on to Albany catching 11 passes for 71 yards and one TD last season.
9. Rashawn Battle, OLB - Wallenpaupack Area, Hawley, PA
2016 State (PA) Overall Ranking: 24 National OLB Ranking: 80 (RU ranking: 9th)
Seasons on the banks: 6, Starter: 0, Two-deep: 4*
Battle may have deserved a higher position on this list, though with his final year upcoming in 2021 he has ample opportunity to jump at least two spots. In 33 games he has 79 tackles, 8.5 for loss including three sacks, also adding an interception and forced fumble. He only has three career starts, but has been in the two-deep for three years already, likely four when all is said and done. Battle has at least met if not surpassed the expectations when he arrived at Rutgers as a more than capable multi-year two-deep member with adequate size, quickness, blitzing, and cover skills.
10. Trey Sneed - RB, Fleming Island, Orange Park, FL
2016 State (FL) Overall Ranking: 80 National RB Ranking: 32 (RU ranking: 4th)
Seasons on the banks: 3, Starter: 0, Two-deep: 1
Once ranking as high as #3 on this list, Sneed was physical as a running back and on special teams as a true freshman, but was redshirted in 2017 and never cracked the regular rotation again, though he did start one career game. He remained a good solider before leaving for Fordham after the 2018 season. With the Rams he earned second team all conference as a redshirt junior followed by first team All-Patriot League in the abbreviated 2020-2021 campaign. Most Rutgers fans are happy to see him get playing time and succeed elsewhere.
11. KJ Gray - S, Jersey, City, NJ
2016 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 24 National ATH Ranking: 66 (RU ranking: 6th)
Seasons on the banks: 2, Starter: 1, Two-deep: 1
Gray flashed as a freshman before starting at free safety in 2017, leading the secondary with 58 tackles in a group that included multiple future pros. After that, things spiraled out of control beginning with a traffic stop followed by his involvement in the credit card scheme that resulted in his dismissal from the program. He had a nice season for Sam Houston State in 2019, adding 31 tackles.
12. Dacoven Bailey - WR/CB, Pilot Point, Pilot Point, TX
2016 State (TX) Overall Ranking: 341 National WR Ranking: 363 (RU ranking: 16th)
Seasons on the banks: 2, Starter: 1, Two-deep: 1
Ranking as high as #2 on a this list, Bailey was a 2017 opening day starter and like Gray showed the physical attributes required to compete in the Big Ten. As a starter totaling nine catches for 122 yards, Bailey only scored one receiving touchdown, but that was 50% of the entire position group’s output in 2017. He was also the team’s best punt team gunner and helped out at cornerback adding 11 tackles. He was dismissed from the program after criminal charges were filed in his home state of Texas.
13. Sam Howson - OL, Pope John XXIII, Sparta, NJ
2016 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 64 National OG Ranking: 151 (RU ranking: 18th)
Seasons on the banks: 4, Starter: 0, Two-deep: 1
Despite a lack of overall recruiting interest, Howson climbed to the backup center spot at one point, then maintained his spot for an extended period. He played in four career games before heading to LIU as a graduate transfer.
14. Kobe Marfo - DB, Reedley College, Alexandria, VA
2016 POST Rankings- State (CA) Overall: 33 National CB Ranking: 11 (RU ranking: 7th)
Seasons on the banks: 4, Starter: 0, Two-deep: 1
Marfo probably was the biggest disappointment of 2018 because the team was dying for defensive backfield depth after the credit scandal. However, he only played three total games in his entire career despite various appearances on the two-deep. Kobe finished on a high note with three tackles on senior day, plus in this day and age we should be happy if not shocked when a player remains on the roster for four years.
15. Tylin Oden - QB, Spring Hill, Columbia, TN
2016 State (TN) Overall Ranking: 19 National QB Ranking: 31 (RU ranking, 2nd)
Seasons on the banks: 1
When Ash’s staff was hired they had three targets for a dual-threat QB, settling on Oden. He was a good runner in space but could not throw the ball with velocity or accuracy. After Ash personally laid out a plan for Tylin to succeed on and off the field, Oden did not hold up his end of the bargain and was dismissed from the team in spring practice. Later at Garden City CC (KS) he played in two games, failing to record any stats.
16. Solomon Manning - OLB, Colonia, Colonia, NJ
2016 State (NJ) Overall Ranking: 15 National OLB Ranking: 43 (RU ranking, 1st)
Seasons on the banks: 2
Originally a Flood recruit, Manning enrolled early as the top player signed by Ash. He seemed fast tracked as the staff was trying to play its younger players sooner than later, but never got game action at either linebacker or fullback. He transferred to Monmouth late 2017, playing all 25 games over a two-year period as a backup and on special teams.
17. Ahmed Bah - WR, Grand Street, Brooklyn, NY
2016 State (NY) Overall Ranking: 11 National WR Ranking: 241 (RU ranking: 14th)
Seasons on the banks: 1
Bah got a ton of action in spring with a depleted wide receiver corps, but after no action in the fall, he left RU for North Carolina A & T. In three seasons at NCA&T he played 18 games with 3 starts, 5 catches, and 58 yards.
18. Jon Pollock - LB, Dr. Phillips, Orlando, FL
2016 State (FL) Overall Ranking: 155 National OLB Ranking: 75 (RU ranking, 8th)
Seasons on the banks: 0.5 (one spring)
Early enrollee Pollock got caught in a logjam and moved on to Youngstown State before his true freshman season at RU. he played two years there before becoming a coach at Kings College.
Malachi Moore - DE, Pope John XXIII, Sparta, NJ (Boston College)
The grad transfer Moore had a career ending injury and never played a game.
Ahmir Mitchell - WR, Cedar Creek, NJ (Michigan)
Technically, 247 Sports listed him with this recruiting class despite enrolling at Michigan initially. After being let go by the Wolverines, he joined his brother Damon on the banks. Ahmir had to sit out due to transfer rules (remember those?) but impressed so much the team was hoping he could be their #1 receiver in 2017. Instead he tore his ACL in spring practice and never played a game having been dismissed from the team in October 2017. Later he played five games on special teams for Fort Scott Community College.
Aslan Pugh - Three time Academic All- Big Ten returns for his 6th season having played 21 career games on special teams.
Prince Taylor - Wide Receiver played 31 career games on special teams.
Jason Griggs - Space eater DL appeared on the two-deep at least once.
Matt Sportelli - Long Snapper who backed up All-American Billy Taylor.
1. Previous observation: lack of specialists. This problem was temporarily solved with two grad transfers and a walk-on freshman kicker in 2017. So this point becomes moot with decommit Alex Barbir not starting at Penn State either. Update: This ended up not mattering at all. The team has been strong at kicker, punter, and long snapper for the last four years.
2. Previous observation: Several decommitments hurt the numbers in this class. The jury is still out though on the 14 guys who remain, as they all have the possibility to contribute. Update: I can barely remember the decommits and those should be expected with the coaching turnover. We have seen bad football for most of this group’s careers though so there surely was some impact.
3. Previous observation: Low on line potential. This class was again likely bailed out by the 2017 class which had a full complement of linemen, several of which enrolled early. Maietti has already exceeded expectations. Krimin, Lonsdorf, and Howson all seem further along than most redshirt freshman are on the offensive line. Turner might not be a star but he played as a RFr. Overall, this is less of a concern now with the X-factor being a pass rusher emerging. Update: Turner’s development coupled with Battle’s impact as a pass rusher plus Lumor as a multi-year starter is below average on the defensive side, though still closer to a bogey than a double bogey. On the offensive line, you got eight combined years of starts between three players only one of which was a highly regarded prospect so that is par for the course at worst. The real disappointment is not having Maietti for what would have turned out to be two more years, thus allowing Krimin to stay at guard which would have considerably strengthened the OL in 2020 and probably 2021.
4. Previous observation: If Marfo would have been able to step in to join Gray and Hayes, this group would have gotten all you can ask for out of an individual recruiting class in the secondary. As of now, they are average. Update: Only five combined years of starts at DB, four courtesy of Hayes, is frankly embarrassing when the previous coaching staff was stocked with secondary “experts.”
5. Previous observation: There are several guys who could really improve how this class looks down the line. The biggest two are probably Bailey and Sneed. Bailey was a two-star prospect who this staff gambled on. It’s great if he can be a special teams warrior and contribute on D, but this team needs someone to emerge as a stud receiver. Sneed also is a consummate team player and if he can have a career at or better than that of Josh Hicks, the team will have serviceable running backs for the next three seasons. Update: This did not age well. Though Sneed was actually decent, but playing behind legit RBs at RU, while Bailey and Gray flamed out at the worst possible time for Chris Ash’s trajectory as head coach.
Handcuffed by a compressed cycle following a losing season and potential sanctions from the Flood era, this class was passable though not nearly enough to move the needle for the program. In hindsight Ash did the right thing by adding offensive linemen, even two-star guys as potential diamonds in the rough late. The other late flips were high risk, high reward rolls of the dice that were the right idea at the time. Ultimately, the majority of this class never fully developed on the field for a variety of reasons.
We will cover more in the 2017 class up next about how the 2016-2017 classes were more of a two-year plan so when you look at them in aggregate, the position groups are a lot more balanced from a numbers and ceiling standpoint. So all told it was not enough to sink the ship, but the class didn’t have enough true impact players to add style points, highlights, or other positives that generates new fans and revenue.
The opinions expressed above are my own and feel free to place yours in the comments section.
NOTES: For the rankings in this article, I arbitrarily chose the 247 Sports composite.
Previous articles on the 2016 recruiting class: