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Evaluating current state of Rutgers’ 2023 recruiting class

Nine prospects have committed in June and this group is taking shape.

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Illinois Ron Johnson-USA TODAY Sports

Rutgers football has seen its 2023 recruiting class more than double in size over the last two weeks with five commitments coming since Sunday. Greg Schiano and the coaching staff have been busy and the class is taking shape. Here is a rundown of every recruit who has committed in June so far.

Jason Duclona

The 3-star defensive back from Florida committed on Tuesday morning. For a full rundown and the over two dozen offers he held, click here.

Dominic Rivera

The 3-star offensive tackle from Olmsted Falls, Ohio committed on Monday night. The 6’7”, 310 pound Rivera was one of c over a dozen recruits to take an official visit to Rutgers this past weekend. He holds offers from Iowa State, Boston College, Syracuse and UConn as well as several MAC schools. Rivera is ranked the 26th best recruit in Ohio and has a 3-star composite rating from 247 Sports. He has the size and strength to develop into a starter on the offensive line for the program.

Dante Barone

The 6’3”, 245 pounder from Colts Neck joined his teammate at the Hun School, fellow tight end Logan Blake who committed in late May, in announcing his pledge to Rutgers on June 1. While they play the same position, they have different skill sets and will likely have a chance to serve different roles at the collegiate level. Barone is projected in the H-back role, which is a role that Johnny Langan and Matt Alaimo are in. It allows them to play out of the slot and in Langan’s case, the backfield at times. Blake is projected as a more traditional tight end.

The Rutgers offense utilizes both positions currently. Along with incoming freshman Jacob Allen, the top recruit in New Jersey in the 2022 class, Rutgers is set to add three players from Hun over the last two classes. This is a significant development with the program not typically having success in recruiting players from the prestigious prep school.

Barone along with Rivera and Duclona are the only commits of the nine to pledge this month to be rated a 3-star prospect by both 247Sports and in their composite rankings. He is listed as the No. 24 recruit in New Jersey and holds power five offers from Illinois, Boston College as well as Syracuse. Barone will have a chance to make an impact in the future as a replacement for Langan and is an intriguing addition.

Dylan Braithwaite

The 5’10”, 175 pound wide receiver is from Hicksville, New York and committed on June 2. Braithwaite also holds offers from Army and Navy. The speedy playmaker is rated a 3-star recruit by 247 Sports but doesn’t have a composite ranking. His standout performance at CHOP Elite skills camp previously at Rutgers earned him an offer and he quickly committed.

Ian Strong

The 6’4”, 190 pound safety from Long Island City, New York also made a positive impression at the same camp as Braithwaite. He also decided to make Rutgers his home after receiving an offer. His physicality and ability to overpower opposing players make him a promising addition. He projects as a strong safety but could potentially play linebacker if he bulks up enough. 247 Sports has him ranked as a 3-star prospect and No. 2 recruit in New York State, but he has no composite ranking overall. The only other FBS offers he holds is from Army and Kent State.

Vilay Nakkoun

The Florida athlete announced his commitment to Rutgers on June 8 roughly a month after being offered. He brings versatility and speed to the program with the potential to play on either side of the ball. Nakkoun plays quarterback at Orlando’s Christian Prep in Florida and is taking his official visit to Rutgers later this month. While Duke, Boston College and Syracuse have expressed interest, RU is the only power five program to offer Nakkoun. He does hold offers from USF and Appalachian State. The 5’11” prospect is unranked but the coaching staff obviously see the potential for him to contribute down the road. Per Todderick Hunt, Nakkoun has some impressive stats in running a 4.46 time in the 40 yard dash along with a 39-inch vertical, a 10-2 broad jump as well as a time of 4.31 in a pro agility speed drill.

Jesse Ofurie

Ofurie was one of three recruits to announced their commitment to the program on Sunday after taking an official visit to Rutgers. He is from Nigeria and is raw but recently had a strong performance at the ESPN 300 camp in Hackensack in May. Ofurie also has a lot of speed and considered a good route runner despite his lack of experience. The 6’2”, 195 pound receiver from Danvers, Massachusetts held over a dozen offers but the only FBS schools to do so were Temple, UMass, UConn, Army and Air Force. He could end up in the secondary long term as well.

Abram Wright

The 6’2” linebacker recently ran a 4.58 time in the 40 yard dash at Wake Forest’s camp, so speed remains a common thread with this recent group of commits. He held an offer from Duke, but committed to Rutgers at the end of his official visit this past weekend. The Fleming Island, Florida native is rated a 3-star prospect by 247 Sports but does not have a composite ranking.

Mozell Williams

Another commit from Florida, he plays for Hawthorne high school and has a big body at 6’5” and 340 pounds. The offensive tackle is athletic and strong who can play in the trenches on the defensive end as well. He is unranked but impressed the coaching staff enough to get an offer that prompted an official visit this past weekend. He ultimately committed on Sunday before leaving.

The 2023 recruiting class now stands at 14 commitments after the recent camps and official visits that Rutgers has held. The class is supposed to be smaller in size and is expected to finish at around 20 commitments in total. Some fans have expressed concern or surprise that so many unranked recruits have been taken in June with less spots overall to fill. The 2022 class also had 20 members, but had several 4-star recruits already committed by this point in the cycle last year.

There are a few things to consider when evaluating the 2023 class so far for Rutgers.

Last year, the entire coaching staff returned for a second year and they were able to gain traction quickly with recruits they had been pursuing for an extended period of time. With many new coaches on the staff, relationships are still being formed in some cases. Former assistants Fran Brown and Tiquan Underwood were impact recruiters whose absence is also being felt.

This is the first recruiting cycle since 2019 that is proceeding normally in regard to dates, camps and ability to schedule visits. It’s fair to consider that Rutgers may have benefited some from Covid restrictions that limited evaluation camps and recruits’ ability to take visits in the 2022 class. They were able to land top local recruits that they had focused on for two years during the pandemic. That advantage no longer exists.

Another factor is that New Jersey only has two top 250 recruits in the 2023 class. Schiano and the staff do have four in-state commitments and two are ranked in the top ten with JaSire Peterson and John Stone, both offensive lineman. Hun commits Blake and Barone are 21st and 24th respectively. So the staff is landing players locally they like and rate as some of the best in the state, despite it statistically being a down year compared nationally.

The good news is that heralded 4-star recruit Chase Bisontis, the top rated prospect in New Jersey, did take an official visit this past weekend. He has included Rutgers in his top five schools as well as Texas A&M, Georgia, LSU and Michigan State. He already visited A&M and is expected to visit MSU this month as well. The offensive tackle from Don Bosco is a top 60 recruit in the 2023 class and if he does ultimately become a Scarlet Knight, perception for Rutgers recruiting this cycle would change overnight.

In addition, there are several recent commits who don’t have a composite ranking that did rate well with 247 Sports independently. Four of the commits from the last week are in this group that include Ofurie, Wright and Strong receiving player ratings of 87 and Braithwaite at 86. With the 2022 recruiting class that finished ranked No. 33, Rutgers had an average recruit rating of 87.03. Currently in the 2023 composite rankings, RU averages just 85.68 in part because those four commits don’t have a composite score to be applied. It’s still early enough in the cycle that those four players could end up getting rated by other services and thus boosting the composite score for Rutgers overall.

Nationally, the 2023 class currently ranks 30th in the 247 composite rankings and 9th in the Big Ten after Duclona committed on Tuesday. That’s a 12 spot improvement since the weekend. Roughly six or so spots in the class are still to be filled. While it would be more desirable to have higher rated recruits committed already, Rutgers has secured prospects with specific upside, most notably, speed and versatility.

The bottom line is recruiting is a process that is constantly fluctuating. Just look at Rivera and Duclona committing less than 25 hours since this article was originally published.

While fans were boasting Rutgers’ high national ranking last cycle before they inevitably fell back once blue bloods started adding the top players in the class, the reverse swing is still possible this cycle.

The transfer portal is also a key tool for building the roster and while relying on it as a primary source isn’t sustainable, Rutgers has shown the ability to add players who can plug holes. The offseason additions of wideouts Taj Harris and Sean Ryan along with four offensive lineman, led by JD DiRenzo, will be relied on to make an impact next season. This is another aspect of recruiting that is now prevalent across college football.

Rutgers is landing players this month who have few other power five offers. Is this a sign of keen evaluation by Rutgers or is the staff making too many reaches on lesser known recruits? At the end of the day, Schiano and the coaching staff deserve the benefit of the doubt.

If the rest of the 2023 class is filled out with similar under the radar talent and lightly recruited prospects, it would be fair to wonder how much this group will make an impact on the program. However, momentum can change quickly and staff evaluation is key. Taking time to make a full evaluation of the the 2023 class once it’s filled and player ratings are completed makes the most sense.