NCF On The Trail: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Early Offer: Sunderland a key get for OU 

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
10:15
PM ET
Oklahoma landed two high-profile recruits this weekend, but scoring a pledge from ESPN 300 safety Will Sunderland Jr. is about as big as it gets. Plus, Boston College will be able to use its victory over then top-10 USC as a big selling point on the recruiting trail.

Best of the visits: Big Ten

September, 14, 2014
Sep 14
12:46
PM ET
Rutgers and Penn State played in what turned out to be an exciting game, right down to the wire. There were a few other big home games for Big Ten teams, which means there were important recruits on campus as well.

Here is a look through social media as to how those visits went.

Rutgers vs. Penn State:

It was a packed house and an exciting atmosphere for Rutgers first Big Ten game. There were a ton of local prospects including No. 5 ranked 2016 target Kareem Walker.


He and the other visiting prospects had good seats to take in the contest, and fellow ESPN Jr. 300 tight end Naseir Upshur gave the fans a look at their view.

This was a big game for both teams, as Penn State heavily recruits the East Coast and New Jersey. The targets for both teams said they are watching closely as to how the programs compete with a new coach at Penn State and a new conference for the Scarlet Knights.

Going into the visit a lot of the recruits said they were hoping to see an exciting game and they got just that.
Maryland vs. West Virginia:

Rutgers wasn’t the only Big Ten team hosting important prospects. Maryland had a handful of big time recruits for the game against the Mountaineers.

While the outcome on the field wasn’t what Maryland was hoping for, getting ESPN 300 athlete Ryan Davis and No. 2 ranked Byron Cowart is a huge win for the program.
Michigan vs Miami (Ohio):

The Wolverines came away with a win on Saturday, and while it wasn’t a huge visit weekend, Michigan did still have visitors on campus.

A few of the commits, including Tyree Kinnel, Darrin Kirkland Jr. and Alex Malzone were able to reconnect on the visit and spend some time at their future home.

Malzone took some video of the trip and gave the fans a look at what it’s like to walk out of Michigan’s tunnel as a recruit on game day.
New Jersey has produced 32 ESPN 300 prospects since the 2013 class, so it’s hardly a coincidence that college coaches from all over have made the state a priority on the recruiting trail.

Those elite prospects don’t always stay local, either, as 14 schools have benefited from the wealth of talent. While recruiters will always go where the talent is, college coaches believe the prospects from the Garden State come well prepared, for a variety of reasons.

Rutgers coach Kyle Flood has recruited the area for years and believes the high school coaches in his home state are a big reason there is a continuous stream of talent.

“I think there’s a value placed on the high school football coaches in New Jersey and as I travel around, recruiting these schools for a long time, you go into a New Jersey high school, you can sense in the community how important that position is. We’ve got some of the best high school coaches in the country right here in New Jersey,” Flood said. “There might be other places in the country with talent, but I’m not sure how important football is in the community. I think in New Jersey, football is very important and that all leads to why high schools are recruited the way they are.”

Flood doesn’t believe there has been more competition, necessarily, for New Jersey prospects recently, but that there might be more coverage since Rutgers has joined the Big Ten. What used to be battles with out-of-conference programs are now Big Ten battles.

Programs such as Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Wisconsin, which landed ESPN 300 prospects in the last four classes from the state, know how valuable to the state is in recruiting and make it a priority.

Penn State, for example, has placed three of its coaches in the state, dividing the areas up strategically between receivers coach Josh Gattis, quarterbacks coach Ricky Rahne and offensive coordinator John Donovan.

“We do a really good job making sure we’re splitting up the territory in the state. It’s really easy for us because it’s just a three-hour drive to New Jersey,” Gattis said. “We consider the region very important to us, and that’s the state of Pennsylvania, the state of New Jersey, Virginia, Maryland and D.C. It’s a great state with a number of talented athletes. They play great football and we have a huge Penn State support within the state, so it’s important to us.”

The Nittany Lions have landed 10 New Jersey prospects in the past two classes, including five ESPN 300 prospects.

The recruits themselves have even noticed how many programs come through their state. Running back Kareem Walker, the No. 5 prospect in the Class of 2016, hails from New Jersey and has already seen his interest from college programs spike through the roof.

Walker holds offers from Alabama, Florida, Florida State, Michigan, Michigan State, Notre Dame, Ohio State, Penn State, Rutgers and more.

The ESPN Junior 300 prospect understands his ability has attracted the offers, but believes his home state has something to do with the interest from schools out of the region.

“I think the schools in the South know, without a doubt in their mind, that guys from Jersey can compete. We’re just as fast, and just as strong as a guy that’s from their hometown state,” Walker said. “I think Jersey guys can be just as strong and as fast as the Southern guys and it’s not a problem trying to adapt at those schools. I definitely think that’s why they come up and recruit guys from Jersey.”
Notre Dame coach Brian Kelly has put together a top 15 recruiting class that should only get better as we head toward signing day, and Rutgers has a real chance to slow down Penn State’s recruiting momentum in New Jersey this weekend.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting news across the country.

Today’s offerings: Four-star receiver Trent Irwin’s offer list isn’t going to blow you away like some other elite receivers, but his ability to flat-out catch the football has him in the middle of one of the most intense recruiting battles in the Pac-12. Plus, has Oklahoma made up ground in the battle to land in-state four-star offensive guard Joshua Wariboko? And we continue our tour of the top recruiting happenings on social media.


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Maryland and Rutgers are entering their first season as members of the Big Ten Conference, and there are plenty of challenges ahead of both programs on the field. Joining the conference also means there will be new roadblocks on the recruiting trail.

Both programs have dealt with Big Ten schools invading their home states, but now that they are conference foes it becomes imperative they land their in-state recruiting targets.

Being able to fight off the competition means knowing who the competition is and the landscape for both programs. Here is a look at what Maryland and Rutgers are up against.


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Neither Maryland nor Rutgers has ever had a recruiting class ranked in the top 20 by ESPN.com. Both programs, however, believe they can boost their recruiting fortunes as Big Ten members.

Geographically, both universities have talent-rich areas surrounding them that produce top prospects year after year. The states in close proximity to Rutgers and Maryland were home to 25 ESPN 300 prospects in 2014 and have 21 in the 2015 class.

There has always been a selling point to local prospects to stay close to home, but now with a new conference, Maryland coach Randy Edsall believes it’s an even bigger draw.


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Where’s Olivia Pope when you need her? Washington D.C.’s top fixers would have a hard time repairing the damage that has been done to the Rutgers brand over the last 13 months.

It started with a messy transition in basketball where the school fired Mike Rice after videos surfaced showing him shoving, grabbing and throwing balls at players, and then failed to fully vet new coach Eddie Jordan.

[+] EnlargeKyle Flood
AP Photo/John RaouxCoach Kyle Flood and Rutgers had the No. 56-ranked recruiting class in 2014.
It continued recently when new athletic director Julie Hermann declared that it "would be great" if the state's largest newspaper, The Star-Ledger, went ahead and died. The school then took another major PR dagger over the weekend when it rescinded a commencement speaker offer to Eric LeGrand, the former Rutgers’ football player who was paralyzed during a game in 2010. (LeGrand will speak at the school).

Outside of a disappointing 6-7 season in 2013, the Rutgers football program has not been a part of any of the negatives that have touched the university over the last year. But many in the New Jersey high school community agree the university’s issues have impacted the football program’s success on the recruiting trail.

“I think the football program has been unfortunately painted with the same brush so to speak,” Erial (N.J.) Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson said. “All the football recruits see is all the negative stuff going on with the school. I think it definitely has hurt them with all the things that are going on. Coach [Kyle] Flood and those guys have had to face the brunt of something that was everybody else's mess. It’s made it awfully difficult for them on the recruiting trail.”

Hinson is right. The Class of 2015 has gotten off to a disastrous start in-state for the Scarlet Knights. After ESPN 300 quarterback Brandon Wimbush committed to Penn State on Tuesday, it means Rutgers likely won't land any of the top four players in New Jersey. The only top-10 player in the state to commit to Rutgers at this point is three-star quarterback Michael Dare, while Penn State has already landed four in the top 10.

The 2014 class wasn’t much better as Rutgers signed only one of the top 15 players in the state and future Big Ten rivals Michigan, Northwestern, Michigan State, Maryland, Ohio State and Penn State raided New Jersey for talent. Rutgers’ 2014 class also made national headlines when it lost 12 decommitments during the final push to signing day.

"I know Rutgers is a really special place, because I graduated from Rutgers, my wife graduated from there, my brother-in-law graduated from there and my father-in-law was a three-sport letter winner there," Hinson said. "But all the stuff that's been floating around about Rutgers has made a lot of recruits sour on them. It has nothing to do with football, it's just recruits hearing folks asking all the time 'What's going on up at Rutgers.' For one reason or another, they’ve not been able to fix some of the PR issues that they’ve faced and it’s really hurt them with recruits."

Penn State was faced with similar challenges, albeit on a much grander scale after the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal that rocked college football in 2011. When Bill O’Brien was hired he had an impossible job of putting together a recruiting class in the wake of NCAA sanctions.

But the players, the university and the community rallied behind the program, helping O’Brien land a serviceable 2011 class and even better 2012 and 2013 classes. It set the table for James Franklin, who was hired in January. Penn State finished with a top-25 class in 2014 and the 2015 class ranks as the nation’s fourth best and got stronger Tuesday with the additional of Wimbush and Sterling Jenkins, the top-ranked prospect in Pennsylvania.

Instead of trending downward, the Nittany Lions are now one of the hottest recruiting programs in the country, and many observers believe they’ve been able to rebound from scandal better than Rutgers because of that support from the community and fan base.

“When you get rocked like they got rocked, but you're able to still manage a commitment from the university, and more importantly from the fan base, the students and the community, it certainly can change how things are viewed by recruits,” Piscataway (N.J.) High coach Dan Higgins said.

“When you can fill the stadium each week it sends a big signal to everybody. You can't tear that place down, it doesn't matter what happens. The place is still special, and I felt it myself when I was there for the Wisconsin game. It was chilling to be there and understand that it's a lot bigger than just a scandal or a football team. That helped them survive with dignity and class, and there's no question that has impacted the athletes that have had Penn State on the mind the last few classes.”

Juwan Johnson, one of the Nittany Lions’ top commits in New Jersey and the No. 3 prospect in the state, agrees with Higgins. He said prospects all over New Jersey are aware of what’s happened at Rutgers because of the nonstop media coverage and he believes the way Penn State handled things has made it easier to buy into future success.

“I wasn’t bothered by the Penn State scandal because I knew they had rebounded from it really well from it and the school had more to offer me than Rutgers and other schools,” said Johnson, who picked the Nittany Lions over offers from Alabama, Boston College, Georgia Tech and Michigan State, among others. “I just don’t think Rutgers can compete with Penn State now with all that’s going on.”

Hinson, Higgins and a number of other high school coaches in New Jersey believe Rutgers’ transition to the Big Ten will eventually pay off on the recruiting trail. There are still other quality 2015 in-state recruits on the board like linebacker Manny Bowen, athlete Daiquan Kelly, safety Ronnie James, tight end Jake Pickard and others who list Rutgers among their favorites, plus all of the coaches were unanimous in support of Flood and his staff.

“He’s a very personable guy that can relate to coaches in New Jersey,” Higgins said. “He’s a former offensive line coach that worked his way up the ladder through hard work. Everybody here respects that, and I know there are a lot of people hoping he can fix things, push past all the other stuff that’s hurting the university and start keeping New Jersey kids at home.”
CLIFTON, Va. -- Five-star defensive tackle Tim Settle, No. 10 in the ESPN 300, will not be making an early commitment, that much has been known from the start. What is also known about Settle is that he intends to go through the entire process and take all five of his official visits.

What wasn’t known is that Settle has started to think about what schools will make the cut.

“I’m going to trim it down in August to 14,” said Settle, who earned an invitation to The Opening Saturday after a stellar performance at the Nike Football Training Camp at Centreville High School in Clifton, Va. “The reason I’m going to trim it down in August is two-a-days and getting ready for the season. I don’t want a lot of pressure on me. I just want to play and have fun my senior season.


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ASHBURN, Va. -- If there was an award given out for the most physically gifted quarterback at Friday’s Elite 11 regional camp at the Washington Redskins' practice facility, Brandon Wimbush would undoubtedly be a runaway winner.

The No. 107-ranked prospect in the ESPN 300 showed impressive arm power, a strong frame that can carry 225 pounds, and the feet and balance that have earned him offers from the likes of Penn State, Virginia Tech, Miami, Ohio State, LSU and a host of others. The news of the day Friday was the offer list might soon be growing, and one could be a game-changer.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a dose of recruiting in the mornings. Today’s offerings: Despite a shortage of top quarterbacks in the East in the 2015 class, the Elite 11 regional Friday in Washington, D.C., will allow top underclassmen to shine. Plus, the recruiting world will get to see whether or not a 2018 quarterback prospect who already has early attention truly has the goods.


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The Early Offer is RecruitingNation's regular feature, giving you a daily dose of recruiting in the mornings. Monday’s offerings: After a few weeks to recover from the holiday that was signing day, it’s always interesting to analyze the data to get a better understanding of what really happened. This past Friday, I took a look at the teams that saw the biggest gains from 2013 to 2014. But what were some of the teams that were on the other end of the spectrum?

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Now that the 2014 class is in the books it’s time to take a look at which teams need to make a big splash in recruiting for the 2015 class. Below are five teams we feel have to perform well in recruiting to move forward and re-establish their programs among the college football elite. There are always peaks and valleys in recruiting, but there’s also an expectation level that some programs no matter what will always perform to a high standard and that’s not always realistic.

For these programs, it won’t just be about how good the players are that they sign in 2015; it will also be about what type of person that player is to represent the program and establish a new chemistry. These programs are laying down a new foundation, and it will be this class that will be looked back upon as one that got the ball rolling. These programs need to make the Tennessee-type splash of 2014. Just ask Ole Miss about its 2013 class and what one recruiting cycle can do to reenergize a program. We’ve closed the door on the 2014 class now, here’s to opening the door for the 2015 class. Let’s get off to a fast start shall we?


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Biggest flips: Big Ten 

February, 3, 2014
Feb 3
10:30
AM ET
The 2014 class has seen a very high number of commitment switches during this recruiting cycle. With so many flips throughout the process, here is a look at some of the biggest in the Big Ten.


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If James Franklin wanted to make a statement on the recruiting trail at Penn State, he has done just that. Franklin and his staff flipped athlete Koa Farmer (Sherman Oaks, Calif./Notre Dame High School) from Cal while on a visit on Saturday, then flipped another prospect to Penn State on Sunday.

ESPN 300 wide receiver Saeed Blacknall (Manapalan, N.J./Manalapan) switched his commitment from Rutgers to Penn State. He gives the Nittany Lions three ESPN 300 receivers in the 2014 class.



The No. 118-ranked prospect took a visit to Penn State on Jan. 17 and had been thinking about making the switch ever since.

At 6-foot-3, 205 pounds, Blacknall will complement De’Andre Thompkins and Chris Godwin, the two other ESPN 300 receiver commitments in this class. Both Godwin and Blacknall are bigger, physical receivers whereas Thompkins is a more athletic player who could even be a wildcat quarterback in certain plays.

Blacknall hails from New Jersey, which is an area Franklin and his staff are going to make a priority. This was a good commitment to start with for the new staff as Blacknall is now the second highest ranked commit in the class.

The ESPN 300 receiver gives the Nittany Lions 23 commitments for 2014 and some outstanding options at receiver going forward.

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