On the night before the 2021 season began, it was reported that prized recruit Gavin Wimsatt was shockingly ending his senior season at Owensboro high school in Kentucky after three games to join Rutgers earlier than expected. The top 100 recruit in the class of 2022 was expected to enroll early in January, but instead will start classes on campus on Monday.
A reported six figure name, image and likeness deal is considered a motivating factor for his change of course. The top recruit in the nation in the class of 2022, Ohio State quarterback commit Quinn Ewers, recently decided to forego his senior season of high school to explore marketing opportunities for his brand. He ultimately signed a $1.4 million NIL deal last month before even playing a snap of college ball.
Head coach Greg Schiano was asked about Wimsatt’s decision after the season opening 61-14 victory over Temple. He explained the move by Ewers opened up the possibility for Wimsatt to explore the same option.
“Well, the way it came to be is we know what happened at Ohio State, and I think the family saw that and they asked, really, just curiously, could we do that,” said Schiano. “We said, well, we could look into it if you want to. And we did, and it was a possibility because he’s done a good job academically.”
There have been questions as to how Wimsatt was able to enroll this fall after still being a high school senior. Schiano explained, “He took some classes to get it accelerated, and so he played in his third game last night. And now he’ll be coming to Rutgers, I think he’s supposed to arrive Sunday sometime. We’ll get him started in classes on Monday.”
James Kratch of NJ Advance Media reported that the expedited classes allowed Wimsatt to graduate high school this past week so he could meet next week’s semester deadline at Rutgers.
When asked how Schiano felt about the change in Wimsatt’s plan to join the program earlier than expected, he explained his ability as a coach to adapt to change as a key in the process.
“After doing this 33 years, I’m probably more of a traditionalist,” Schiano said. “But I’m learning every single day that you’ve got to be moving with the times. Otherwise the times just pass you by.”
He continued by giving other examples of how recruiting has changed previously. Recruits leaving high school early to enroll mid-year wasn’t very common for a long time, but Schiano pointed out, “now we had twice as many of our class start in January as started in June. So that’s become the norm, not the exception.”
Another example is national signing day, which traditionally was in February before the early signing period began a few years ago in December. “The early signing date, we call it the early signing date. That is the signing date,” Schiano said. “If you want to call it something else, you call it the late signing date in February.”
Now that Ewers and Wimsatt have made the move to skip their senior seasons to enroll a year early to capitalize on NIL deals, Schiano confidently stated, “This is where college football is heading.”
As for the importance of being flexible and proactive in dealing with changes in recruiting, Schiano was clear in saying, “Things are changing quickly in college athletics and we’re going to have to learn and we’re going to have to navigate for sure. But you’ve got to keep moving forward. I think if you sit back and just kind of meander around, you’ll get left in the dust.”
The bigger question now is how will Schiano and offensive coordinator Sean Gleason handle the quarterback room now that Wimsatt will be part of it this season.
Second year starting quarterback Noah Vedral struggled in the opener against Temple. He went 15-for-27 for 138 yards and led the team with 58 rushing yards. However, Vedral missed several throws and never looked in sync with the offense. With Wimsatt now joining the program early, the idea that Wimsatt could take the reigns at quarterback this season has become at least physically possible.
Of course, this idea also discounts quarterbacks Cole Snyder and Evan Simon, who have been competing for the backup role all summer and have been with the program multiple years. They were listed equally on the depth chart with Schiano not declaring either the official backup, but Snyder warmed up with the second team before the Temple game on Saturday.
On how Schiano reacted to the news breaking publicly that Wimsatt was coming early in respect to how he communicated that to the other quarterbacks, he said, “As soon as it happened I grabbed the quarterbacks and I just explained to them, hey, this is what’s happening.”
As to what he specifically told Vedral, Schiano stated bluntly, “I don’t think pep talk — like I told him, when this thing broke last night, I didn’t think it would break till he got here, but really, did I — who the heck knows, you know, the way it is.”
Despite the surprise news of Wimsatt’s early arrival and the change in dynamic for the quarterbacks on the roster, Schiano doesn’t expect any issues to arise.
“Our program, everything is about competition and every guy knows that,” said Schiano. “There’s no misunderstanding that anybody owns anything, right. We work every single day to earn it, present company included. So I think our guys, really, it doesn’t faze them. I know one thing, they have got a great quarterback room and they will accept him and help him grow and learn. That’s what I fully — I don’t expect it to happen. I know it will happen.”
As to whether Schiano would actually consider Wimsatt as an option in the quarterback equation on the field this season, he was clear in ramping down expectations.
“His role, look, he’s playing in a high school game Friday night, so I’m not going to put the cart before the horse here,” Schiano said. “We’ll just get him here and get him acclimated. It will be a great opportunity to learn our culture, get exposed to the scheme, learn about being a college football player. It will be good to have him here. As long as this was his thing and he wanted to do it, I think it’s great.”
Rutgers fans agree. The potential program changing prospect is set to be on the practice field this week. While the sentiment to see Wimsatt play this season likely grew after the offense was unimpressive in the season opener, expecting that to be the case is unreasonable. After all, it was just one game and Vedral has a much more thorough understanding of Gleeson’s system. The Big Ten is unforgiving and throwing Wimsatt out too early could be detrimental to his career. Patience is key and managing his development has become a major key to Schiano’s rebuilding of the program ever since Wimsatt committed.
The major positive to the surprise news is having Wimsatt on the team this season gives him time to learn, work on his game and develop physically earlier than expected. The beauty of Wimsatt’s decision isn’t in his availability in the present, but his potential for being better in the future because of his decision to join the program now. It’s also shown that Schiano’s willingness and ability to adapt to change is more so now than ever before.