Saying goodbye to a talented group of seniors who had provided leadership to one's program is difficult enough, but when promising underclassmen—such as Jawan Jamison and Logan Ryan—opt for the NFL as well, it can be devastating to a football team.
Whether or not Rutgers can recover from their offseason losses will be the big question facing coach Kyle Flood's team now that National Signing Day has "replenished" the cupboard for 2013.
The late-season collapse, the potentially program-stunting loss to Louisville and the flat, offense-less performance in the 2012 Russell Athletic Bowl may take its toll on Rutgers football. Had the Knights beaten Louisville on that Thursday night before a national TV audience and cemented the Big East title on their way to an Orange Bowl bid, discussion of the program having "matured" would be the order of the day.
Instead, their Nov. 24 loss to Pittsburgh, followed by the manner in which they bottomed out against the Cardinals, has fans and critics murmuring about the "same old Rutgers."
Now Rutgers enters a critical stage of its program. The necessity to build upon it's shared four-way "tie" for first place in the Big East in 2012 is tantamount, and only an outright finish in the conference's top spot in 2013 will be good enough. After this upcoming season, the Scarlet Knights will move on to the Big Ten, and the increased level of the competition will be a weekly occurrence in this conference.
Further complicating the Scarlet Knights' offseason is the fact that Rutgers has lost both of its coordinators. Offensive coordinator Dave Brock has taken a job as the head coach of Delaware, while defensive coordinator Robb Smith has migrated to the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
In the midst of this turmoil, head coach Kyle Flood has now secured his first true recruiting class—not one that was influenced by predecessor Greg Schiano. Yet concerns over which 2013 recruits would still honor their commitments intensified when highly-touted LB recruit Skai Moore de-committed from Rutgers less than two weeks after the Scarlet Knights' loss in the Russell Athletic Bowl.
Still, on Feb. 6, Kyle Flood walked up to the podium and announced that it was "an exciting day for us and our program," before announcing the names of the 22 players in the Rutgers 2013 Recruiting Class, and commenting on their talents.
Those 22 players are as follows:
Nick Arcidiacono (TE/DE): At 6'4", 245 pounds, Flood said that the 3-star prospect "is strong, tough and can also catch the ball out of the backfield."
Dontea Ayres (RB): A 3-star recruit at 5'9" and 205 pounds, he is "a big, physical, thick running back." With Savon Huggins being promoted to the first-string back, Ayres may be an important second option.
Nadir Barnwell (CB/ATH): The 5'11", 180-pound 4-star DB "is someone who can come in immediately and help us in the secondary," according to Flood.
Devan Carter (LB): Given his size at 6'2", 217 pounds, Carter's 4.52 time in the 40-yard dash may be giving Flood hope that this 2-star prospect "can evolve and do some things at the fullback position."
Anthony Cioffi (S): Coach Flood called this 6'0", 180-pound 3-star recruit "an exceptionally fast athlete with an impressive documented 100 meter time."
Justin Goodwin (RB/ATH): With the loss of 1,000-yard rusher Jawan Jamison, Flood is looking for the 5'11", 185-pound Goodwin to fill that loss. He called him, "one of the top running backs in our state, an all-state running back." Goodwin is rated as a 3-star recruit by Rivals.com.
Janarion Grant (ATH): Another 3-star recruit who may be called upon to fill this season's void in the secondary, the 5'11", 180-pound Grant was characterized as "an electric special teams player on film." Flood also added, "but that is not where his skill set stops."
Bryant Gross-Armiento (DB): The 6'0", 190-pound Florida recruit "is another player that is going to have the chance to play right away," according to Flood, especially given the fact that the 3-star recruit runs the 40-yard dash in 4.5 seconds.
Nick Internicola (LB): With the loss of Khaseem Greene, the 6'3", 220-pound Internicola is "an aggressive, physical player" whom Flood will be molding at the linebacker position. Internicola is rated as a 3-star prospect.
Sebastian Joseph (DE): Losing Scott Vallone on the defensive line will hurt the Knights, but the 3-star Joseph "is a really exciting player to watch on film." Rutgers hopes that this 6'4", 270-pound prospect can ease that aforementioned loss.
Josh Klecko (DT): The 6'2", 260-pound defensive lineman has a famous name, but he is also "an excellent addition to our team, university and is someone who is as perfectly suited to play the nose guard," according to Coach Flood. Klecko is rated as a 2-star recruit.
Chris Laviano (QB): The 3-star quarterback prospect was labeled "a special football player," by Flood, and the 6'1", 195-pound recruit may be the first starting QB of Rutgers' Big Ten era.
Lester Liston (LB): With the departure of Khaseem Greene, this 6'2", 225-pound linebacker is "a player who is not only going to have the opportunity to compete for a starting job this spring, but also to be in the rotation to play special teams." Rivals.com rates Liston as a 3-star recruit.
Taylor Marini (WR/TE): The 6'3', 255-pound 3-star receiver "has excellent hands, runs good routes and is a physical on-the-ball blocker," who may step in sooner rather than later in place of graduating senior WR Mark Harrison.
Dorian Miller (G): At 6'3", 285-pounds, Flood characterized Miller as a "physical, aggressive, strong...inside player." Miller is regarded as a 3-star recruit according to Rivals.com, but may be the best player in this class besides Barnwell.
Myles Nash (LB/ATH): As a 3-star prospect, the 6'4", 205-pound recruit "is a big athlete and is someone that we think can play Sam or outside linebacker here."
Andre Patton (WR) : As a replacement for the departed Tim Wright, Flood commented that the 3-star Patton "is an excellent football player and seems to get a little bit bigger each time I see him."
Delon Stephenson (S/ATH): At 5'11" and 170 pounds, this 3-star prospect moved Flood to comment: "We can’t wait to get to spring practice with him to see how much he can do for us and how soon he can do it"
T.J. Taylor (S/ATH): As a 6'2", 175-pound DB, Flood characterized this 3-star prospect as "an excellent player on high school film."
John Tsimis (WR): A 2-star prospect from Oradell, N.J., this 5'10", 180-pound receiver "is as good of a football player as you will see on film and an elite-level competitor"
Kemoko Turay (DE): "I am really excited about what he is going to be," said Kyle Flood about this 6'4", 202-pound defensive lineman, who is a 2-star prospect out of Newark, N.J.
Eric Wiafe (DT): A 6'4", 250-pound 2-star defensive lineman from Egg Harbor Township, N.J., Wiafe is "a big, thick, strong defensive end who runs well to the football."
With Rutgers entering its final year in the Big East Conference, this year's crop of recruits will see most of their playing time in the Big Ten starting in 2014. But Kyle Flood has already begun to add more, as the Scarlet Knights already have their first commit of 2014: running back Josh Hicks from Palmetto Florida.