Five, count’em five, players from Rutgers are headed to the Super Bowl in two Sundays, a program on the wrong end of so many headlines for 148 years of college football now has something to celebrate and point to. The five representatives from Rutgers are the most of any college football program in the nation.
That four members of the New England Patriots and one Atlanta Falcon who all at one time donned scarlet will square-off in two weeks time in Houston is something not lost in the college football world, a place where Rutgers endured a 49-0 loss last year and it was just their third worst shutout of the season. But this program that started college football in 1869 with a win over Princeton has something to finally cheer about again and it is a point that can resonate as they close out the recruiting cycle.
All five players hail from the ‘State of Rutgers’ – that mythical recruiting turf birthed by former head coach Greg Schiano as he tried to fend off the likes of Penn State, Boston College, Syracuse and Miami from raiding the Garden State for top talent. This geographic turf coined by Schiano extended beyond New Jersey’s borders to include parts of New York (both city and state) as well as southeeastern Pennsylvania, Delaware and Florida.
The New England Patriots four representatives from Rutgers: Safety Duron Harmon (Delaware), cornerback Devin McCourty (Nyack, New York), cornerback Logan Ryan (south Jersey) and linebacker Jonathan Freeny (south Florida) represent the touchstones for this program’s recruiting success over the years. That the Atlanta Falcons wide receiver Mohamed Sanu, who had five catches and a touchdown in helping his team get to the Super Bowl, hails just minutes away from Rutgers in central New Jersey underscores that the program can be a national contender if the best from the state stays home.
And herein lies the formula for head coach Chris Ash as he enters his second year with the program.
Rutgers can win some Big Ten games and consistently make bowl appearances by recruiting this ‘State of Rutgers.’ Some of the best high school talent in the nation plays in New Jersey, not to mention the surrounding areas that comprised the core of Schiano’s recruiting turf. Win the recruiting war in this area and they can start winning some games.
But selling Rutgers football this year for a program that finished 2-8 hasn’t been easy and Ash has seen a few decommittments after a strong start to the recruiting season. There is, however, reason for hope.
According to NJVarsity.com, a Rivals.com affiliate site, Rutgers has grabbed 10 of the top 35 players in New Jersey including an impressive four of the top 10 players. They potentially could be adding another player or two or maybe three from this list when it is all said and done, a recruiting class that is currently No. 39 in the nation and could close out strong over the next two wees until National Signing Day. The vast majority of these blue-chippers come from Schiano’s ‘State of Rutgers.’
All of which means that there might be no letting up in Rutgers sending players to the Super Bowl. In fact, it might start becoming a tradition.