Rutgers and new coach Chris Ash want a bigger and stronger presence in the trenches and that meant a scholarship offer for Westerville (Ohio) North three-star defensive tackle Antonio Shelton.
Shelton, who committed to Illinois during the camp season last summer, spent the weekend reflecting on new schools in the mix and remains unsure of visit plans before National Signing Day. Shelton visited Illinois in December but may see other schools like Rutgers, Iowa State and Toledo.
“I still don’t know about other officials and stuff,” Shelton said. “I still have to talk things over with my mom. I don’t really know. It would be cool [to take visits] but I really don’t know.”
Ash offered Shelton last week and quickly stressed the importance of an athletic defensive tackle in his first recruiting class. The 6-foot-3, 275-pounder fits what Ash and position coach Shane Burnham want.
“I was just driving home one day and I got a phone call so I answered it and it was coach Ash.” Shelton said. “So I talked to him and I talked to coach Burnham and they seemed excited about the new staff about bringing change to the program. They said, upfront is a really high priority for them and they extended the offer. … They really aren’t playing around.”
Rutgers could receive an official visit Jan. 22 or Jan. 29 if Shelton decides to see other schools.
“All I know is that it’s in New Jersey and they came into the Big Ten with Maryland,” he said. “Coach Ash is there now and he’s got a bunch of old coaches from Ohio State.”
Shelton initially committed to Tim Beckman at Illinois, and stayed solid with his decision after the transition to Bill Cubit.
“I’m cool right now with Illinois and coach Cubit and all of my coaches,” he said. “I’m cool on them. [My official visit] was really fun. It was great.”
Shelton did not expect the increase in college exposure, and credits both trainer Chuck Gresham and St. Louis Rams defensive tackle Doug Worthington for help along the way in addition to his high-school coaches.
“My tape was 10 times better,” Shelton said. “… [Gresham] got me to a whole new playing field. My season was the next step, I guess. … I understand the game a lot better. Basically my first three years I was just running around trying to figure stuff out. I didn’t really understand how defenses and offenses work.
“My hands have gotten better, my get-off has gotten better, I’m totally improved as a player. I was selected as a captain of the team, one of three captains, I had to change my mental state and I can’t let my emotions show. People looked to me as a sense of maturity almost.”