Rutgers offensive line commit Sam Howson is not a day-one starter, nor is he a 30-offer prospect.
Howson, who committed Sunday after the end of his official visit, instead brings exactly what Rutgers coach Chris Ash wants – effort and discipline.
“I’ve been the head coach here for five years and I just think coach Ash is doing the right thing,” said Pope John coach Brian Carlson, a former Kean head coach. “They’re looking at kids that a year or two down the road, they’re going to be there. They’re going to do everything right. They’re going to do everything in the classroom, and in two years or so, they’re ready.”
Howson was a late bloomer. He added more than 60 pounds to his 6-foot-4 frame since the end of a junior season that included limited exposure because of his size. Howson, however, became battle-hardened after faceoffs with linemen like five-star Rashan Gary and elevated himself as a senior.
“You watch tape, yeah he’s a 220-pounder going against Rashan Gary that’s hanging on for his life and getting thrown around, but guess what? No sacks,” Carlson said. “He held his own. Now, he’s heavier, the kid’s a pitbull. He fights. All of a sudden, wow, he’s 285 and he’s the same fighter. He’s going to get even bigger.”
Rutgers head coach Chris Ash, offensive line coach AJ Blazek and defensive line coach Shane Burnham all visited Pope John since recruiting went live Jan. 14. With 2017 defensive lineman Dalyn Wade-Perry as a driving factor, Rutgers quickly shifted focus to a 280-pound center prospect.
Rutgers visited Howson in his home Wednesday.
“[Blazek] said ‘Coach, I’m going to call you right back,’ He called me right back and said they were going to offer him,” Carlson said. “Right there, it’s a no-brainer. That, to me, is huge with my relationship with Rutgers. We’re on a time crunch, they say they’ll call back with an answer and then they’re right there.”
The new Rutgers staff continues to build on the job and spoke in detail with Carlson about a vision for the program.
“My feedback to the coaches was, ‘you’ve got to keep guys that coaches are really promoting,’” Carlson said. “We’re not pushing kids that can’t play. We’re talking about kids that will do well for you. We’re building relationships down the road. Sam will do well for you. You’ll love him. He’s a tough kid. His bends and flexibility, we’ve got to work on. This is a kid that’s a four-year deal, five if you red-shirt him, and he’s going to make you a better football team.
“Just like Iowa’s doing it, just like Michigan State did it, what did they do? They took two- and three-star kids and developed them and the next thing you know, they’re 8-4, getting close, and the next-level kid jumps in because of his relationships there. Michigan wasn’t getting these guys five years ago. They were developing their kids.”
While Wade-Perry’s exposure spreads nationally as a top New Jersey underclassman, Ash starts off on good standing with Pope John.
“You know what I like about Ash? No entourage. He showed up and it’s just him and a car driver because obviously he needs one being on the phone the whole drive,” Carlson said. “There was no army. He was down to earth. He told me, ‘coach, I’ve been doing this for 20 years, I don’t need anyone showing me around.’ If he keeps that mentality, he’s going to get hard-working Jersey kids there.”