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Friday, August 16, 2013
The Early Offer: Rutgers ready for Big Ten

By Jeremy Crabtree

The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's latest feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today's offerings: Why Rutgers should be more than able to hold its own recruiting in the Big Ten, how we should look for even more Class of 2016 commitments, and when one of the nation’s top running backs will make his selection.

Rutgers reeling them in
Rutgers likely won’t dethrone Michigan and Ohio State from the top of the Big Ten recruiting rankings when its move is official, but the way the Scarlet Knights have been recruiting for the Class of 2014 certainly has to give fans reason for excitement.

Rutgers moved to the No. 21 spot in the RecruitingNation Class Rankings Insider after ESPN 300 receiver Saeed Blacknall (Manalapan, N.J./ Manalapan) committed last weekend. Blacknall, the nation’s No. 14 receiver, was a key in-state get, joining fellow in-state ESPN 300 prospects Kiy Hester (Wayne, N.J./DePaul Catholic) and Adonis Jennings (Erial, N.J./Timber Creek Regional). More good news came on Thursday when four-star running back Jonathan Hilliman (Jersey City, N.J./Saint Peter’s Prep) selected the Scarlet Knights over offers from 25 teams, including Big Ten rivals Ohio State, Michigan, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State.

Hilliman’s commitment gives the Knights four of the top 10 players in New Jersey, but more importantly it shows that Rutgers isn’t going to be a pushover when it comes to defending its home turf. Yes, it’s going to be tough to keep guys like Jabrill Peppers, the No. 2 overall player, at home. But Rutgers selling kids on playing in the Big Ten without mom and dad having to get on a plane is an awfully appealing lure.

Let’s also not forget that Rutgers is smack dab in the middle of the tri-state area, which is one of the largest hubs of talent in the country. Over the last five NFL drafts, South Jersey alone had 19 high schools with players selected in the top 150 picks Insider and the tri-state metro area ranked sixth in the country with 22 high schools represented. So it looks like the Scarlet Knights have positioned themselves quite well for its entrance to the Big Ten, as the 2014 class is proving.

More 2016 commits on the way?
Mack Brown
Has Mack Brown started a youth movement at Texas?
While Texas coach Mack Brown can’t comment about the recent commitment of receiver Reggie Hemphill, a Class of 2016 prospect from Manvel, Texas, he can talk about the ever-changing landscape of recruiting. And when asked Thursday if we’ll see the Horns go after younger players, Brown said he anticipates to be more active than ever before.

"We had our first 2016 commitment the other day, so that's new for us,” Brown said. “We're so far ahead with 2015 recruits. Our guys are fighting hard with 2014 recruits. I think everything is at a better place right now than it was three years ago, and I'm proud of that."

In past years, Texas has preferred to only accept commitments from prospects in the spring of their junior years. That strategy has changed dramatically in the past year, and the Longhorns already have eight pledges for their 2015 class. Now they have one for 2016, too. But they’re not the only school targeting younger prospects. Eight players have already made commitments in the 2016 class, with Florida leading the way with two pledges. And while the numbers aren’t official in any sense, more than 100 players from the class claim to have already received verbal scholarship offers. Much like it is in basketball, the trend of offering earlier and more often is here to stay.

"Things are changing, and all of us and all of our businesses are changing,” Brown said. “The ones that make it are the ones that change with it."

One of nation’s best backs sets decision date
Havelock (N.C.) High four-star running back Derrell Scott announced via Twitter on Thursday he would be making his college declaration on Oct. 25, which is also his birthday. The 5-foot-11, 184-pound Scott ranks as the No. 176 player in the ESPN 300 and is the No. 13 running back in the nation. Scott said recently that his top three schools were Florida State, NC State and South Carolina, and he might take two or three visits before he makes his announcement.