Rutgers Football: Signing Day Wasn’t About Rankings

Posted by jeff kalafa on February-5-2011 Add Comments

Scout has the Rutgers 2011 recruiting class at no. 31 in the country, five spots better than Louisville. Rivals ranks it at no. 32, two spots behind Louisville, and ESPN has Rutgers unranked and puts Louisville at no. 19.

By now most of us have learned that these numbers and the number of stars given to the players in each school’s recruiting class don’t mean as much as the recruiting services want us to believe.

As for the best players to play football for Greg Schiano, most of them only had two or three stars. Hardly any had four or five stars next to their names ( Brian Leonard 3-star, Ray Rice 3-star, Kenny Britt 3-star and Devin McCourtey 2-star).

And what about all those top ten recruiting classes Charlie Weiss recruited while at Notre Dame? Did any of them go on to finish in the top 25 regular season rankings?

We’ll know just how good this Rutgers recruiting class is in a couple of years.

But for the Scarlet Knights, this latest recruiting class is hardly about national rankings.  What it’s about is filling needs and solidifying its prowess in New Jersey.

Rutgers gets high rankings for meeting these two objectives, and it gets high rankings for bringing in so many quality players after a disappointing 4-8 record in 2010.

As for filling needs, Rutgers addressed the pressing need for depth at quarterback, offensive line and at running back.

Two talented quarterbacks (Gary Nova of Don Bosco and Mike Bimonte of Manalapan) are part of this class. One of them will probably be asked to play next year and become Chas Dodd’s back up.

Three large highly sought after offensive lineman are part of this class and will all get a shot to play next year and help solve the problems Rutgers had with the offensive line the past two years.

Keith Lumpkin (6’8″, 290 lbs) had offers from North Carolina and Wisconsin, Kaleb Johnson (6’4″, 285 lbs) had offers from Arkansas and South Carolina, and Dallas Hendrikson (6’1″ 290 lbs) comes highly recommended form Iowa Western JC.

The Scarlet Knights have signed four new running backs: The 5-star 190 lb Savon Huggins, 3-star Ben Martin and Charles Davis, and 2-star Paul Canevari. Huggins, Martin and Davis all run 4.5 or better. Canevari is a fullback type.

But as much as addressing needs, this class represents just how dominant Rutgers football can and has to be in the state of New Jersey.

The Scarlet Knights showed they could land the No. 1, 3, and 4 players in the state and 10 of the top 28. The importance of this kind of production in its own state, something that hasn’t been consistent over the years, can’t be measured in an ESPN ranking.

Rutgers opened up pipelines with two of the state’s biggest football powers—St. Peter’s of Jersey City and Don Bosco in Ramsey.

This is huge! Nova and Canevari were teammates at Don Bosco, and Huggins ran behind Lumpkin at St. Peters.

Only three years ago Rutgers lost a heated recruiting fight with Florida for St. Peter’s Will Hill, the No. 5 player in the country.

If these four players can become visible and contribute there’s no telling how fruitful the relationships with these two schools can become for the success of the Rutgers program.

But it’s also about an attitude: With the help of Miles Shuler, the first big name to commit to this class, Rutgers became looked upon with more state pride than ever before by most of the state’s finest prospects.

Shuler spent hours on the phone selling his vision of Rutgers football to any prospect he could reach.

When one looks at a solid football state like Alabama, they’ll see that 10 of the state’s best 12 football players committed to either Alabama or Auburn in 2011.

In the football rich state of Georgia, seven of the top 10 players remained home to play for the University of Georgia, and in Florida, the richest football state in the country, 10 of the top 16 best players will remain home and play for a Florida school.

This is the plan that head coach Grep Schiano envisioned in 2001 when he accepted the Rutgers job.

If this recruiting class can be the catalyst for the kind of state loyalty that states like Florida and Alabama get from their in-state players, the potential for Rutgers to be a perennial top ranked team is real.

New Jersey has a lot of good high school football players and unlike so many other states, Rutgers is the state’s only major college football program.

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