In the latest example of offensive coordinator Jerry Kill's vision for the Rutgers offense, local superstar Elijah Barnwell of Piscataway (N.J.) Township heads across town as a power running back.
Kill and running backs coach Lester Erb made a late run at Barnwell, whose first offer came from Rutgers more than two years ago, and flipped the Buffalo commit in the final hours before National Signing Day.
“Once coach Erb got on board and became a part of the Rutgers staff, he was the first one to evaluate me,” Barnwell said. “He loved what I did on tape. He was the first to come see me. They constantly called me, every day and tried to get me to visit, and talk to me. Coach Kill feels as if I'm a good fit for his offense. He said I'm a power back and I have good vision and I would be a good fit. He emphasized how important I would be if I came to RU.”
Kill and Erb made Barnwell a target at the position after both arrived on campus as new hires. Barnwell, who committed to Buffalo while on an official visit, flipped after he spoke with the Rutgers staff during the final hours of the quiet period.
“I had a good time up at Buffalo,” Barnwell said. “I had an offer from Rutgers, but I wasn't comfortable yet. I was still thinking about it. Then I was speaking with coach Lester Erb and coach Jerry Kill and they told me how important I would be to their offense. They told me how they need a guy like me to change their offense around and how I would be in the running early. I believe them because they have two seniors and that's mostly it.”
Barnwell is perfectly aware of the past between Rutgers and his family. Barnwell's older brother, four-star cornerback Nadir Barnwell, lost his place in the Rutgers football program after well-documented issues in the final days of the former coaching staff.
“There's definitely pressure, especially after my brother went there,” Elijah Barnwell said. “I know what comes with committing to Rutgers and what you have to do to stay there. I feel like I'm a different person and I will learn from some of those mistakes. I'll be with a great coaching staff that wants to support me.”
Barnwell said his father was his strongest supporter in a flip to Rutgers. He also received support from Piscataway coach Dan Higgins with a long line of players at Rutgers during his tenure.
“It feels really good,” Barnwell said. “Coach Higgins is big on RU and big on the connection, he tries to get them to come to our school four or five times a year to recruit our guys and have us in the mix.”
Barnwell led Piscataway to an 11-2 record with 1,838 yards and 29 touchdowns on the ground.
“Rutgers fans can expect a solid, consistent run game from me,” Barnwell said. “I always lean forward. I'm always positive in my yards and the way I run the ball. Expect me to give it my all and be ready to play against the big boys.”