It’s always a solid day when I get to sit down and write about football in the midst of the off-season. Today marked the end of the 2018 recruiting cycle, a rather quiet one for the Rutgers Scarlet Knights. The only signing came in the form of Swedish defensive lineman Robin Jutwreten, who’s rated a three-star by ESPN. The Scarlet Knights were also able to bolster their special teams with kicker/punter Zach Sterr committing to the program as a preferred walk-on. Coach Chris Ash signed the rest of the 22-member class during the early signing period, which took place back in December. In fact, there are already nine recruits enrolled ahead of spring practices. As the day winds down, the Scarlet Knights sit at the bottom of the Big Ten in recruiting, while settling in at No. 51 in the nation. With that in mind, here are my takeaways from the 2018 Scarlet Knights recruiting cycle.
Rutgers has zero "Juice" in New Jersey
Last recruiting cycle, the Scarlet Knights were able to pull top New Jersey recruits Micah Clark and Bo Melton to the banks of the Raritan. This year, their top in-state recruit was three-star athlete Daevon Robinson, who ranked No. 10 overall in the state. This isn’t a knock on the talented Robinson, who is an intriguing prospect that has potential as a big receiver. However, after Robinson, you’ll find the next recruit is ranked No. 20. The Scarlet Knights are the only division one FBS football school in the state, which is why it’s puzzling that the highest-ranking recruits run for the border. Justin Shorter, the top-ranked recruit in the state, played his football a short drive from Rutgers at South Brunswick High School. Shorter chose Penn State over the Scarlet Knights. Ouch.
Quarterbacks, Quarterbacks, Quarterbacks
On a more positive note, the Rutgers quarterback room is oozing with talent after securing letters of intent from Artur Sitkowski and California’s Jalen Chatman. Sitkowski and Chatman, both of whom are early enrollees, will join Johnathan Lewis and Gio Rescigno in what should be a tight QB competition during spring practices. Sitkowski, an Old Bridge native, played his senior season out at IMG Academy in Florida. Originally committed to the University of Miami, Ash managed to flip the pocket passer from the Canes and bring him home. Chatman hails from California and will bring dual-threat ability to the quarterback room. Each quarterback has special individual talent, and it’d be right of Ash to welcome an all-out competition that will ultimately strengthen the quarterback position.
Helping the Culture
Trust me, I know I started these hot takes out a bit strong. The lack of recruiting ability inside Rutgers’ own state lines is horrid, but that doesn’t mean Ash isn’t bringing in a ton of talent that believes in him and this program. While consistently being able to recruit four and five-star recruits would be nice, prospects that are coming with the attitude to help turn this program around is just as good. Wisconsin’s recruiting classes never seem garner huge praise, yet the Badgers still manage to compete year-in, year-out. Stars aren’t everything and Ash and co. are still building something special here on the banks.