Two weeks ago, 3-Star Wide Receiver Amad Anderson de-committed from Rutgers University, citing on Twitter that he will be looking for “the best fit for [him] with academics, athletics, and atmosphere…”.
Anderson was marked as the crowning jewel of the Rutgers’ 2018 football recruiting class — as his ability to fight for the ball, his position versatility (able to play WR and DB), and his high football IQ made him one of the most valued prospects in the tristate area.
Recruiting pundits saw this as a major blow for the Scarlet Knights, as the team is not exactly known for their explosive receiving core. According to Sports-Reference.com, Rutgers’ receivers have only put up 1,036 total receiving yards, with only five touchdowns to show for it. Their leading receiver, junior tight end Jerome Washington, leads the team with 21 receptions for 196 yards and a touchdown.
Now granted, Rutgers football operates within the Big Ten, a conference-best known for their punishing rushing games and stout defenses. And while Rutgers does have an adequate rushing game and a ball-hawking secondary, it has not been enough to get them over the hump against the elite teams like Ohio State, Wisconsin, and Michigan. An improved passing game would surely help Rutgers get an edge over these Big Ten powerhouses, but to that, they are going to need a receiving core that is tough, agile and a natural athletic phoneme.
Introducing Zihir Lacewell.
The 6’3, 190-pounder has flown under the radar in terms of his recruitment here at Rutgers, which is truly a crime considering how he has shown to be just as talented and relentless of a football player as Anderson, if not better. Lacewell plays on all three facets of the game for the Tottenville High School Pirates, proving to be a major contributor in every way.
In an interview with NJ.com, head coach Brian Neville was head over heels for Lacewell, saying “The way he runs, he can jump, he can catch, and when he plays defense he looks to knock your head off. So, I mean, he’s just a freak athlete.”
Looking through Lacewell’s game tape, one would be stumped to find a position where he has not been a playmaker. On offense, he can go head to head with would-be tacklers as a ball carrier. Whether it is trucking them to the ground, eluding them with a killer special move, or throwing in a good stiff arm, Lacewell’s toughness and stamina make him hungry for extra yardage, refusing to go down without a fight.
The same thing can be said about his receiving skills. When going against a defensive back, Lacewell’s frame allows him to out jump any defender for a contested ball. He also has the speed to outrun any defender for long gains (or even a score). In a 35-6 thrashing against Fort Hamilton High School on 10/8, Lacewell caught a beautiful pass from quarterback Jason Feldman for a speedy twenty-yard touchdown. How’s that for a skills player?
On defense, it is a similar story. Coach Neville has put Lacewell in almost every defensive position. Whether he is on the field as an edge rusher, a middle linebacker, or a defensive back, Lacewell always seems to be at the right place at the right time, making a game-changing play. He delivers hard-hitting throws against unlucky ball carriers, being able to read offenses and discern where the ball was going to be. to In a game against Susan Wagner High School on October 1, Lacewell “…recorded a fumble recovery in the second quarter, and the Pirates sealed the shutout with a fourth-down stand with the Falcons on the four-yard line.”
On special teams, Lacewell is not a typical punt/kick returner that one would expect a wide receiver to be. Instead, Lacewell’s impact is as a kick return blocker, paving the way for his return men by taking out any wannabe tacklers. In the punting game, Lacewell does an exceptional job breaking through protection and cause mishaps for opposing punters; either blocking their kicks or distorting them in some way. It may not be a glamorous job, but Lacewell does it with a consistency and toughness that can change games.
Overall, Lacewell is an exceptional football player. He can make an impact on any part of the field, which makes him a dangerous weapon for Rutgers Head Coach Chris Ash to unleash onto opposing Big Ten teams.
Rutgers should do well to make him their new “Crown Jewel” of their 2018 recruiting class. He surely deserves it.
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