NCF On The Trail: Rutgers Scarlet Knights

In its inaugural Big Ten season, Rutgers finished with a 7-5 record, beating Washington State, Michigan, Indiana and Maryland to close out the season. The Scarlet Knights had a winning record on the season, but finished 3-5 within the conference. The recruiting efforts going forward will dictate their future success within the Big Ten, so the 2015 class is vitally important to that effort.

The center of Bill Snyder’s program at Kansas State is local players, and K-State has done a masterful job with the 2015 class in the Sunflower State. Plus, Utah hasn’t grabbed a lot of recruiting headlines so far this season, but one Pac 12 recruiter says it should be.


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Ole Miss, Tennessee, Texas and Texas A&M are trying, but it’s going to take a lot to get Penn State defensive tackle commit Adam McLean to change his mind. Plus, James Franklin's ability to spread the Penn State brand in Washington, D.C., was on full display Monday afternoon.

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Weekend recruiting wrap: Big Ten 

October, 7, 2014
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We are in the thick of the college football season and recruiting has started to heat up. With commits taking visits, offers going out and prospects committing, there is plenty to talk about within the Big Ten.


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Best of the visits: Big Ten

October, 5, 2014
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The slate of games this weekend churned out some exciting -- and in some cases, unexpected -- results for the Big Ten. Rutgers won its first conference game, Northwestern upset Wisconsin and Michigan State made a push toward the College Football Playoff.

A few of those teams had excellent opportunities to impress visiting prospects as well, so here is a look at some of the best recruit reactions via social media.

Michigan vs. Rutgers:

Rutgers won its first Big Ten conference game Saturday against Michigan in what turned out to be an exciting game. A blocked field goal and some explosive offensive plays gave the Scarlet Knights the win in front of several big recruiting targets.

Wide receiver Lawrence Cager is still considering Rutgers and picked a good game to visit for. The recruits could sense this was going to be an exciting game beforehand, as Michigan was in town and it was a night game.

 
Cager enjoyed himself, but there is still some steep competition for the 2015 receiver as he is also considering Ohio State, Notre Dame and Alabama, among others. Either way, this was an excellent opportunity for Rutgers to get him on campus.

 
While the game itself was exciting, there was also some pre-game excitement for the Rutgers coaching staff. Linebacker Jonathan Pollock decided to commit to the Scarlet Knights while on his visit and tweeted a picture moments after.

 
Cager and Pollock were also joined by 2015 defensive end Shareef Miller, among other prospects.

 
The reaction from the recruits so far has been positive, and all have said there is some excitement around the Rutgers program right now.

Michigan State vs. Nebraska:

This was the marquee matchup in the Big Ten this week, as both teams were ranked in the Top 25.

Nebraska made the game close late in the fourth quarter, but the Spartans dominated most of the game. The win for Michigan State helped solidify what prospects think about the program right now and the direction the Spartans are headed.

One of the bigger visitors on campus was 2015 linebacker Cassius Peat, who flew in from Arizona for his official visit.

 
Peat had plenty of other recruits around him, and that included 2016 Michigan State commitment Cameron Chambers, who was trying to recruit for his future team.

 
If Michigan State can close out its season strong and make it into the College Football Playoff, there's no telling what that could do for the future of Spartans recruiting. For now, a home win against a Top 25 team will do just fine.

Maryland vs. Ohio State:

The outcome wasn’t what Maryland had hoped for in front of a sold-out crowd, but the atmosphere and opportunity was still positive.

A few local prospects made the trip, including Maryland commitment E.J. Donahue.

 
Donahue had a good opportunity to help the coaching staff recruit, as there was a good list of uncommitted 2015 and 2016 prospects in attendance. In fact, there were even a few 2017 recruits, including Keyshwan Johnson Jr.

 
The California receiver made the trip with his dad, and there might have been a few reasons to pick this game as the younger Johnson's cousin, Michael Thomas, plays for the Buckeyes.

Big Ten's top recruiting visits 

October, 3, 2014
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Maryland, Rutgers and Michigan State are all hosting big in-conference opponents, which means they will all have important recruiting visitors on campus. The three programs have the biggest games within the conference and not coincidentally, they have also have the biggest visitor lists.

Here is a look at the top recruits visiting this weekend.

Michigan State vs. Nebraska


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Early Offer: Sunderland a key get for OU 

September, 14, 2014
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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.


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Best of the visits: Big Ten

September, 14, 2014
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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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