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Rutgers Treats Recruits Like Campbell’s Soup Treats Vegetables

Talent is removed and replaced with hopelessness

Cincinnati v Rutgers Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images

Welcome to the second installment of our Rutgers Potluck series. In this edition we compare the Scarlet Knights’ use of recruit talent to Cambell’s soup’s use of fresh ingredients...

Campbell’s Soup harvests more than four billion pounds of tomatoes and carrots every year...and then destroys them. Those vegetables come to New Jersey full of life and flavor. That is promptly cooked out of them and replaced with sodium and hopelessness.

That’s exactly what Rutgers does to its recruits.

Over the lsat few years, Rutgers has mandaged to pull in solid recruiting classes. Last year was its first class ranked below 10th in the B1G since 2012. In 2012, it pulled in the third best class in the conference, with fifteen four-star players.

In 2015, it took 25 commits and had the 54th class in the nation. It was solid, ranked ninth in the B1G, ahead Indiana, Northwestern, Iowa, Minnesota, and lowly Purdue.

That class of kids came from all over the U.S.:

  • Jack Shutack - a 3-star OL from La Grange Park, Illinois
  • Blessuan Austin - a 3-star DB from New Berlin, New York
  • Jarius Adams - a 3-star DB from Palm Beach Gardens, Florida
  • Anthony Folkerts - a 3-star TE from Valdost, Georgia

The true star of the class was Marques Ford, a four-star DE from Gibsonton, Florida. Dropped from Tennessee’s class just weeks before signing day, Ford found a home at Rutgers. The only four star recruit in the class. Today, Ford isn’t even on the depth chart. He transferred after the 2015 season...

“I wasn’t comfortable with the school, basically. Not from the get go, but over time I just wasn’t comfortable.”

He got out right before the pressure cooker lid came down and boiled all the talent right out of he’s playing for East Carolina.

Like the vegetables that go in Campbells’ front door, the best recruits for Rutgers seem to be squandered...lost to transfer, scandal, or injury...the just can’t seem to translate to success on the field.

Your Friend,


Question: How does recruiting translate to success or failure for your team? Do your classes meet or exceed expectations or are you left with that “what might have been” feeling?

Candystripes: Considering our usual recruiting classes consist of a bunch of 3 star and lower guys who ultimately are either decent or mediocre, I think it matches (or matched) our on-field product pretty well. When we can get some higher talented folks (Tegray Scales being the major get recently), good things happen. It’s just an unfortunately rare occurrence right now.

Jesse: Generally speaking, Nebraska probably meets expectations with most of its recruiting. We have a few transcendent players - guys like Ndamukong Suh - and we also have a lot of high 3*, low 4* kids who mostly do about as well as you’d expect. Nebraska is generally not completely bereft of talent, but we’re not matching up man-for-man with the Buckeyes.

That said, we should probably continue to look for our skills positions outside the Nebraska borders as most of our best players - especially at QB - are not from in-state. It’s imperative we recruit that position well no matter what, otherwise you have a terrible season on your hands.

Aaron: Due to his team’s mediocre performance with a highly-touted quarterback during his first two seasons at Penn State, James Franklin gained the reputation of a coach who doesn’t get the most out of his recruits. That changed a little bit when he led the Lions to a conference title last year, but I’m sure the notion will rear its ugly head again if Penn State doesn’t live up to the hype in 2017. One thing about 2016 that reminded me of the Joe Paterno era was the way Franklin and Penn State had success with a quarterback that flew under the radar as a recruit. Darryl Clark, Matt McGloin, and now Trace McSorely are the three most successful Penn State quarterbacks in the past 10 seasons, and none of them were four-star prospects. I chalk it up to the intangibles involved in the quarterback position as the reason why star ratings have not been consistent with performance under center at Penn State.

WSR: Not as much as I did under Tim Brewster, whose TREMENDOUS strategy appeared to be

  1. Find Rivals Top 250
  2. Print Rivals Top 250
  3. Recruit them, regardless of positional need
  4. ????
  5. Get hired by another school as a position coach.

Those days are dead and long gone. First they were replaced by Jerry Kill and his solid work of knowing how to unearth solid football players and develop them at most positions (It’s ok. You don’t need a good QB, Rutgers) and the lackadaisical approach of Tracy Claeys to recruiting using the same style. Find guys who can play football, have been overlooked for one reason or another, and never ever get into a recruiting battle. It works great if you have a set level you want to get to, but the risk associated with just a bit of failure is catastrophic (look at Minnesota’s OL and DL depth charts). These approaches are all dead and buried, and I look forward to actually paying attention to recruiting again. I don’t think anyone will argue with my assessment that PJ Fleck is a bit of an energetic recruiter. But the difference between Fleck and Brewster is that one of them knows what it takes to build a program and one of them is a piece of shit that’s employed by Florida State. While he’s been quite adamant about chasing higher-level talent than we’ve had in a while, there’s a method to his madness. He’s targeting guys that’ll fit his system on offense, and has a definite type on defense as well. He’s aggressively going after these guys and doing pretty well at landing them right now (PLEASE NOTE: It’s still a loooooong time until signing day) And it doesn’t help that Jerry Kill’s talent evaluator is still here. I’m excited to see what he can do, even if deep down in the back of my head I know this could be a long process because of just how bady Tracy Claeys did in his 16 months in charge of the program. The “what might have been” of Brewster’s era might be coming back, but that’s so much more entertaining than guessing which gem gets polished next that we’ve been doing for the past few years.

MNW: I don’t think “???” goes at (4), WSR. You know full damn well what happened. Anyways, congrats on #Play4Brew v2.0!

The only couple “what could have beens” I have off the top of my head in the last couple years are the injury-prone Parrker Westphal (that’s not a typo) and QB Matt Alviti, who’s been the “running changeup” to Trevor Siemian and Clayton Thorson but has never really stuck.

Northwestern enjoys being lauded for its “old-school, relationship-driven” approach to the ‘crootin. I personally don’t give a shit as long as they Win, Graduate, and Do It the Right Way--but I am long on the record as accepting mediocrity out of my football team. (See my thoughts on Pat Fitzgerald’s extension to 2024-25, which is effectively worthless since we will all die somehow by then.)

But this got me thinking: What does Northwestern’s average ‘crootin ranking say about its wins per season? So of course I made a table and a graph. Note that for each of Pat Fitzgerald’s classes, I skipped the year they joined the program, as something like 98.6%* of freshmen at Northwestern redshirt. Do with this information what you will.


Year Avg B1G Nat'l 3* 4* 5* W/S L/S W L Bowls
Year Avg B1G Nat'l 3* 4* 5* W/S L/S W L Bowls
2007 0.8189 10 53 16 0 lol 7.5 5.5 30 22 4
2008 0.7987 13 nice 11 0 lol 7.8 5.3 31 21 4
2009 0.8235 11 61 17 0 lol 7 5.8 28 23 3
2010 0.8398 13 66 17 0 lol 6.5 6 26 24 2
2011 0.8314 13 61 15 0 lol 7.5 5 30 20 2
2012 0.8288 10 55 17 1 lol 6.8 5.8 27 23 2
2013 0.8409 11 52 17 1 lol 7.3 5.3 22 16 2
2014 0.8577 8 47 10 4 lol 8.5 4.5 17 9 2
2015 0.84 10 54 19 0 lol 7 6 7 6 1
2016 0.8445 10 52 20 0 lol - - - - -

*Yes, I made this up. Yes, that is the average temp of the human body. Fuck off.

Stew: There seems to be an air of mystique surrounding Ferentz and recruiting. That recruiting just doesn't matter. That's bullshit. I'll get in trouble with some Iowa fans for saying that, but it's true. Now Ferentz does consistently out perform the rankings, but, relatively speaking, they are still highly correlated with performance. The better rated players still have a better chance of becoming impact players. It's also that Iowa can turn 2-3* fits into NFL players.