In his short time back as head coach of the Rutgers football program, Greg Schiano has instilled a renewed sense of optimism to Scarlet Knights fans across New Jersey. Schiano has accomplished this in-part due to his ability to recruit talented players to the program through the transfer portal, just look at how last year’s transfers of Noah Vedral, Aron Cruickshank and Michael Dwumfour panned out for the program. With this in mind, here are three recent Scarlet Knight transfers who have the potential to make a major impact in 2021:
Joshua Youngblood- WR #83 transfer from Kansas State:
If you are ranking the big-play ability of all the players brought into the Rutgers football program in 2021, Youngblood would have to at the top or near the top of your list. The Kansas State transfer had a stellar true freshman season for the Wildcats in 2019. Primarily doing his damage as a kick returner, Youngblood returned three touchdowns off kickoffs and averaged 35.9 yards-per-return, both of which led the nation. This was good enough for Youngblood to earn first team All-American honors by ESPN and the Big 12 Special Teams player of the year by the league’s coaches, among other accolades. Youngblood was the first Kansas State true freshman to earn first or second-team All America honors since Tyler Lockett in 2011.
Despite his stellar play in his freshman season, last season, Youngblood only appeared in two of Kansas State’s first four games and entered the transfer portal in October of last year. He committed to Schiano and the Scarlet Knights the next month. Youngblood spoke with NJ.com about his various connections to Rutgers that preceded his decision to transfer.
“I just know so many coaches at Rutgers. I know Schiano personally. I got to know coach (Tiquan Underwood) really well. The strength coach there (Jay Butler) was my strength coach my freshman year of high school and that kind of played a big role in it,” Youngblood said. Schiano was the defensive coordinator during Youngblood’s freshman season at Berkley Prep in Tampa, Florida. “I was committed to Temple for a long time. And some of those coaches are now on the Rutgers staff, so I’ve known them for a couple years. So there are a lot of connections I have on that staff. Those are people I can really trust.”
With Youngblood in a comfortable situation in Piscataway and now fully healthy, the redshirt-sophomore should contribute in a big way for the Scarlet Knights in 2021 as a return man alongside Cruickshank. While Youngblood’s returning prowess is well-established, there is ample room for him to grow as a weapon on offense similar to how Cruickshank has developed as a deep threat and speedster. As it is seen in his highlight video above, Youngblood was able to make an impact on offense even in the limited opportunities he received with the Wildcats. With a 4.45 40 yard dash time (although he told NJ.com that his 40 time may be lower nowadays), Youngblood has the speed to make an impact everywhere on the field for Rutgers as he searches for a strong bounce back season in 2021.
Patrice Rene- DB #24 transfer from North Carolina:
The former Rutgers commit has come full circle to the Scarlet Knights and figures to make a substantial impact for the Rutgers secondary this season.
Five years ago, Rene committed to Rutgers as part of Kyle Flood’s 2016 recruiting class, choosing the Scarlet Knights over the likes of Auburn and Oklahoma. The problem came when Flood was fired prior to Rene’s arrival on campus. The top recruit in the class at the time then decommitted from Rutgers and eventually committed to play at North Carolina. In five seasons with the Tar Heels, Rene played in 45 games, 26 of which were starts, where he totaled 103 tackles, one forced fumble and two interceptions, both of which coming in the 2018 season.
Standing at 6’2”, 205lb, the Ottawa, ON. native offers size, length, athleticism and veteran experience to a Scarlet Knights secondary that let up the fourth-most passing yards per game in the Big Ten last season but also tied for fourth in total interceptions with eight on the year. He joins fellow defensive backs Christian Izien, Avery Young, Tre Avery and Max Melton in the secondary. While addressing Rene’s commitment, Schiano emphasized his excitement to have Rene apart of the program.
“I think he’s going to be a great addition to our (defensive back) room,” Schiano said. “We have a lot of young corners, a lot of young secondary players... to have (Rene) as another elder statesmen in there is really going to help us.”
With plenty of returning talent plus the addition of the veteran Rene, expect the Rutgers secondary to improve in 2021.
Ifeanyi Maijeh- DL #88 transfer from Temple:
When Ifeanyi Maijeh takes the field for the first time as a Rutgers Scarlet Knight on September 2nd, he will have the task of defeating his former team.
Maijeh comes to Piscataway after playing three seasons at Temple, with his best season coming as a junior in 2019. That season, the 6’2”, 285lb defensive lineman from Far Rockaway, N.Y. had 51 total tackles, 5.5 sacks and one forced fumble. His efforts earned him first-team All-American Athletic Conference honors as well as being named to several preseason watch lists for the 2020 season. Among those preseason watch lists, Maijeh was named the Bednarik Award watch list, an award which is given to the best defensive player in college football. In 2020, while being hampered by injuries, Maijeh totaled 15 tackles and one forced fumble in seven games.
With former starter Michael Dwumfour now fighting for a New York Jets roster spot, the opportunity is there for Maijeh to step in and become a starter for the Scarlet Knights on the defensive line. He is competing with Mayan Ahanotu and Jamree Kromah for the open starter spot on the defensive line left in Dwumfour’s absence. Despite reportedly dealing with a lower body injury, Maijeh has already made an impression on Schiano and the coaching staff.
“(Maijeh) has been an exciting guy,” Schiano said. ”He’s a 280-plus pound man and he’s got some explosiveness.”
It’s hard to argue on Schiano’s assessment when considering the potential impact Maijeh could have for the Rutgers defense. If Maijeh can come anywhere close to the production that he put forth in 2019, the Scarlet Knights will have a force on the defensive line.