This Class is LEGENDARY
– via Daily News –
When new Rutgers coach Kyle Flood looks back at this year’s heralded recruiting class, he can thank 6-4, 245-pound defensive end Darius Hamilton from Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey, N.J. for giving him the stamp of approval needed to hold this special group together.
Hamilton, a five-star prospect according to Rivals.com and whose father Keith played in the NFL for 12 years, is the best player to sign with the Scarlet Knights since tackle Anthony Davis of Piscataway in 2007. He could have gone elsewhere after Greg Schiano left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He visited Miami last weekend and also had Florida on his radar. But in the end, he stayed close to home, making it easier for some of the best players in the state such as defensive back Davon Jacobs from Paterson, linebacker Steve Longa of Saddlebrook, offensive lineman Ryan Brodie of Long Branch and linebacker Quanzell Lambert of Sicklerville to stick with their verbals.
Rutgers wound up with 18 signees, including one five-star recruit and five four-stars. The Scarlet Knights also picked up tackle T.J. Dill, a transfer from Maryland. Dill is a fifth-year eligible graduate who was a three-year starter for the Terps.
Rivals.com ranked Rutgers as the 23rd-best class in the country and the best in the Big East. 24/7, another scouting service, had the Knights ranked even higher at 20, while Scout had them at 33. “This is as exciting a day as we’ve had in Rutgers’ history,” Flood said.
This recruiting class showed the wisdom of Rutgers AD Tim Pernetti in hiring Flood, an internal candidate, just two days before signing day. Flood was the offensive line coach on Schiano’s staff for the past seven years and the assistant head coach the past four. His popularity with the influential North Jersey high school coaches and the fact he knew that area so well provided him with the sales pitch he needed to make this happen.
“It has been a great testament to what I’ve always believed about recruiting,” Flood said. “If you recruit good people and deal with them honestly, you can get through any situation.
“We didn’t have anything to hide. One of the best things we did was bring Tim with us on the road. It was a little tricky. We had to deal with questions you usually don’t. We’ve been recruiting this class for over two years. It wasn’t an eight-month thing.”
The strength of this class is the offensive line. “It’s going to be hard for me not to coach those guys,” Flood said. “I believe this is the top offensive line recruiting class in the country.”
Had the timing been better and Flood had been in place earlier, Rutgers might have had a shot at quarterback Devin Fuller of Old Tappan, N.J., the best prospect in the state who chose UCLA and mentioned the instability in the Rutgers’ coaching situation as a factor. The Knights lost only one non-binding verbal commitment — tight end Michael Giacone of St. Peter’s, who flipped to Boston College. However, the Knights got two unexpected prospects on signing day — wide receiver Ian Thomas from Baltimore and cornerback Javon Tyree from South Brunswick, the cousin of Giants Super Bowl hero David Tyree.
The Knights made a huge impact in Eastern Pennsylvania, signing four players — offensive lineman J.J. Denman, offensive lineman Chris Muller, center Brandon Arcidiacono and cornerback Desmon Peoples — who might have ordinarily considered Penn State before the Jerry Sandusky scandal and the ensuing prolonged coaching search after Joe Paterno’s dismissal back on Nov. 9.
Unlike Rutgers, the fact that Penn State took so long to find a coach and felt it had to hire outside the family in order to turn the page hurt the Nittany Lions’ recruiting efforts badly. New coach Bill O’Brien, the offensive coordinator of the Patriots, may be coaching in a Super Bowl, but he was nowhere to be found in State College during the recruiting process, leaving retained assistants Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden to scramble.
The Nittany Lions lost their top three recruits and wound up with 18 signees.
On a teleconference from Indianapolis, O’Brien said, “Whether we’re ranked 50th or first, I couldn’t care less. We feel very good about the players we brought in.”
Penn State’s biggest need in this class was quarterback. The Lions had an early commitment from Skyler Mornhinweg from in Philadelphia. But Mornhinweg, the son of Eagles offensive coordinator Marty Mornhinweg and the best prospect at his position in the state, flipped to Florida. The Lions did pick up Steve Bench, a three-star prospect from Cairo, Ga., to fill the void, but most of the news surrounding Penn State was about the players who either de-committed or got away. Offensive lineman Joey O’Connor from Windsor, Colo. and defensive tackle Tommy Schutt of Glenn Elyn, Ill., who originally committed to Penn State, both signed with Ohio State, as did defensive end Noah Spence from Harrisburg, Pa., the best prospect in that state.
Alabama and Florida State were generally regarded as having the top two classes, with Texas, Georgia and Florida rounding out the top five.
But in the metropolitan area, the buzz was all about Rutgers.