- Jared Shanker, ESPN Staff Writer
If Rutgers becomes a contender in the Big Ten in the next few years, the summer of 2013 could be looked upon as the reason why.
The 2014 class in New Jersey is one of the strongest it has been recently with 13 prospects with a Scout Grade of 81 or higher. Ten are ESPN 300 prospects. During the spring as Michigan and Notre Dame raided the state and several other prospects were looking elsewhere, it looked like 2014 was going to be a repeat of 2013 in state for Rutgers. In the 2013 class, Rutgers signed just two of the state’s top 15 players.
But on Thursday, ESPN 300 running back Jonathan Hilliman (Jersey City, N.J./St. Peter’s Prep), continued the summer trend of Rutgers landing the top players from New Jersey, turning the Jersey Shore into the Red Sea. Since June, Rutgers has landed in-state ESPN 300 prospects Saeed Blacknall, Kiy Hester, Hilliman and Adonis Jennings.
Hilliman adds to an already talented future backfield that includes four-star quarterback Tyler Wiegers and three-star running backs Rob Martin and Joshua Hicks. Blacknall and Jennings are weapons on the outside.
The 2014 in-state commitments even exceed Rutgers’ 2012 class, which had seven of the state’s top 15 prospects. In 2012, the average Scout Grade of their top four in-state commits was 79.5. The average in 2014 is 82.75, and the Knights could still add four-star athlete Noah Brown.
The commitment of Hilliman will have an impact in 2015, too. He comes from storied St. Peter’s Prep, and 2015 ESPN Junior 300 prospects Minkah Fitzpatrick and Brandon Wimbush are his teammates. Both have national offers already just as Hilliman did.