The Scarlet Knights added another member of St. Joe's Tuesday evening in the form of defensive tackle Kevin Wilkins, and his head coach Tony Karcich is happy to have another player headed to Piscataway, N.J.
"We've had kids go down there and all of them seem to have found success," Karcich said. "Rutgers has been good to our kids and I think our kids have been good for Rutgers. It's a nice relationship. I think highly of Kyle Flood, who I knew well before he was the head coach. He's a good man. He cares about the kids."
Wilkins made the call after meeting with Flood and the staff today at the Rutgers football facilities. Choosing the Scarlet Knights over offensive line offers from Maryland, Boston College, Connecticut and UCF, Wilkins is a better fit on defense in the eyes of his coach.
"I think he's got a chance to be a great defensive player," said Karcich, who also coached Rutgers greats Beauharnais and the McCourty twins. "He's the kind of kid that's so athletic he can have an impact by himself. He's got great hands. He runs pretty well. I think, looking at his body type and his athleticism, he's going to be a great defensive tackle. He has the ability to change direction and be explosive coming off the ball."
Wilkins comes from a wrestling background dating back to his time at Ramsey (N.J.) Don Bosco Prep. As a wrestler, the leverage and strength skills developed project well in defensive linemen, Karcich said.
"Being a former wrestler myself, learning how to use your hands and protect your lower body in wrestling from takedowns and all that, those skills apply themselves more on the defensive side in football," he said. "I think that's another reason why I like him as a defensive player."
Rutgers quickly rose as a leader for Wilkins after the offer came through at the start of October. Wilkins was a major force in a dominant St. Joe's victory over Oradell (N.J.) Bergen Catholic and his reward was an offer two days later.
Karcich said schools were hesitant to initially recruit Wilkins because of grade concerns, but he stepped up his game in a big way going into his senior year.
"He needs support and Rutgers is going to give him that," Karcich said. " … From a lot of different perspectives, a light has come on for him personally. … I think Kevin is still in that process. I really can say that he's starting to think about the future. He's starting to think about the consequences of decisions you make now.
"That's part of the maturity process, thinking about the future and learning. I've seen a marked improvement from where he was two years ago. If he continues on this trend, there's no reason he's not going to be highly successful."
St. Joseph is off to a 4-0 start with wins over Hyattsville (Md.) Dematha and Bergen Catholic. The Green Knights won a state championship last year with Wilkins and Rutgers commit Kiy Hester, and rank in the Scout.com top 10 nationally.
"[Wilkins] has been a big part of our success, no question," Karcich said. "His work ethic, I'm happy to say, I've seen a lot of improvement in that area. I think if he had a weakness, it was his focus and maintaining a level of intensity. He got by on his talent, but this year, especially now, his level really picked up in terms of preparation. I think he's upped his maturity too. I think he's starting to mature."