Scarlet Report linked up with Scout director of recruiting Brandon Huffman after the Rutgers recruiting surge in June. The Scarlet Knights sit at No. 18 in the Scout 2017 team rankings 19 commits and two four-star members of the class.
Take a look at Huffman's analysis on Chris Ash's powerful start in recruiting or listen to the full interview above as a part of our week's Rutgers Scoutcast.
Question: What are your thoughts on the recruiting push by Rutgers and Ash?
Huffman: “I don't know that you necessarily expect that from a coach in his first year or six months on the job. But you always kind of have that hope that when a new coach comes in and a coach who's got a good reputation for evaluation, a good reputation for identifying talent, and then does a good job of recruiting, you always kind of hope that he can carry that momentum. I think that Rutgers fans are certainly seeing what Chris Ash is able to do. More importantly, [seeing] how big the buy-in is becoming in the state of New Jersey in terms of the prospects they're targeting.”
Question: Can this momentum keep more top New Jersey talent home?
Huffman: “The big key is going to be – you have to win. Not only do you have to win, you have to put guys into the NFL. Really, those become two of the most significant factors in a school when you're trying to recruit. If you can win and you can put guys into the next level, you're going to be that much more attractive to the recruits that you're targeting. They want to win and they want to have a chance to play professionally when their college days are done. If you're doing one of the two, that helps. If you're doing both, that really helps. When you look at some of the schools in states where their top players seem to make an exodus out the door in February, they don't want to stay in state, those are the programs that tend to struggle. If you can't keep your own backyard covered, you're going to have a hard time recruiting nationally. You don't want to lose those same players in-state to in-conference rivals.
“Obviously there was not enough time for Rashan Gary to really make a case. With guys like Gary and [Jabrill] Peppers, yeah, you're going to lose those guys. You know what? Georgia and Florida and California and Texas, in-state schools lose top players in state yearly. The thing is, you've got to be able to get that next tier of guys. You've got to get the majority of the next available guys to stay in state. If you're going to strike out on Peppers and Gary, that's fine. Yes, you want to keep them in state, but it's those guys after them that you really have to focus on keeping them close to home. If you can do that, you're going to sustain that momentum for a long time.”
Question: How does Rutgers keep this class committed until National Signing Day?
Huffman: “I think there are a couple of things at play. One, you have to stay on those guys no matter what. I think there becomes a lull with coaches in general when they get a kid committed, they almost feel like 'OK I've got that kid under my belt and now I can go focus on the next one.' Nowadays in 2016, recruiting is so much different. These kids need to 'feel the love.' They need to feel like they're being recruited. Just because you have a kid's commitment doesn't mean you can't keep recruiting him. You have to keep recruiting him so he feels the love. The second thing is, you have to really hammer home the point with recruits that this isn't going to get turned around immediately.
“We need you to buy in. When you say long-term plan, it's long term with regards to college football which means two to three years rather than the old days where you use to get a five-year plan. You've got to really emphasis that we may not be able to get this team right immediately but because of players like you, we're going to be that much closer to doing it. If you don't have the successful season that you hope the first year, you're at least getting the point home that we're just a couple of pieces of the puzzle away. You are one of those pieces, so stick with us.”
Question: Is it a surprise how quickly Chris Ash changed things?
Huffman: “It's not, and I think part of that is you saw previously what they could do when Greg Schiano was the coach there. You saw what Rutgers was capable of doing, getting guys like Anthony Davis to stay in state. That's what Rutgers needs to do and it's been done before. You look at states that didn't have talent, maybe they had top-end talent but the depth isn't there because of population or high-school football isn't key in that region. Maybe it's basketball. That's the alpha dog. Look at some of these states where maybe you just need to keep a couple of these guys in state. … It's easy to do those at the bigger schools but when you have a school that maybe doesn't have a long-term history, doesn't have a ton of in-state talent, it still can be done. More importantly, it's not just about recruiting. It's about player development. It's about getting the most out of that talent that you inherited and I think Rutgers has shown 10, 12 years ago that it can be done. I think with Ash having been a part of the Meyer program and been a part of that renaissance at Ohio State and winning a national championship, I think it's going to be that much easier to be done.
Question: How do creative hires like director of high school relations Rick Mantz help repair relationships?
Huffman: “Typically what happens when you have a program that's – I don't want to say Rutgers was a train wreck although you hinted at that earlier – when you have a program that's somewhat of a train wreck, that's not exclusive to Rutgers. That's a lot of programs across the country that had it. What they need to do is go back and get into their local roots. Go back into those local schools. Usually the last bastion of hope for a program is 'at least the local kids are still going to come here.' You may strike out on national recruits. You make strike out on bigger regional recruiting but you at least can always count on the local kids coming there. Well, once you stop getting the local kids, then that means there's a major problem in the program. What do you have to do to remedy that? Well you make creative hires.
“You bring in a coach who's got ties to local programs, in-state programs that knows which schools are the ones you really need to key on. They know which high school coaches you have to treat a certain way, talk to a certain way to identify with them. When you have a coach who isn't an alum or doesn't have strong ties to the school or the region, you bring in someone who does have strong ties to the school or strong ties to the region. You see that with a lot of schools that will hire an ex-NFL coach. These guys know football but they don't really know the recruiting game. They don't know which schools you've got to recruit, so they bring in somebody who's got those local ties. Where do I need to be? Where's the first school I need to recruit? Where's the first school that I need to have my face seen? … Now you've got a rejuvenated high school coach with all of these great ties who's in a position that a lot of these high school coaches aspire to be in. Now you have a perfect marriage that benefits the high schools and also benefits the university.”