During the 11-2 season of 2006, Rutgers had the luxury of two highly regarded veteran tight ends. One was Clark Harris, a great receiver who was drafted by the Green Bay Packers and the other was Sam Johnson, a bruising blocker. The two were used almost exclusively during that magic season, and no one else had received quality playing time. During the 2007 spring practice, the RU staff coached and trained the returnees just waiting for one or two of them to stand up and be noticed. None did. Some were young but the candidates were mainly inexperienced. None of the current players had a single reception during 2006. They were accustomed to playing on the scout team. Now suddenly the pressure was on to fill a starting position. The 2007 summer practices came and went with much the same result. The coaches ultimately decided the position would be filled by committee. There were even times when a young walk-on linemen donned a tight end jersey and played in games. Our situation at tight end will be far improved for 2008 as some of these candidates have game experience and the young recruits will all be one year older.
Chris Rudanovic 6’5” 260 The third of the Rudanovic brothers to play for Rutgers out of High Point NJ, Chris was used mainly as a blocker for the Scarlet Knights. Chris had three good seasons at Indiana prior to his transfer to Rutgers, but was now being asked to step up from the Big10 to the Big East, for his final year of eligibility. He was a consistent blocker, while recording one reception on the year.
Jessie Cisco 6’4” 245 A young recruit from Morristown NJ, Jessie had all the tools to become an outstanding collegiate tight end. He unfortunately suffered a career ending injury and will no longer play the game.
Kevin Brock 6’5” 258 SR Kevin was originally a 190lb walk-on candidate from Hackensack NJ. He began his career as a tall, gangly wide receiver who had been more of a basketball star rather than football star while in high school. Kevin was asked to move to tight end and hit the weight room. As an underclassman, through steadfast determination, he began to see some action on special teams and during short yardage situations. Kevin started out slowly during 2007, but had become another offensive weapon as the season wound to a close. During the course of the year, he became comfortable in his role and his confidence soared. He played in all 12 games, recorded 21 catches for 221 yards and 2 touchdowns. His average per catch was 10.6 yards. He should be a big contributor next season as he strengthens himself, asserts himself as a blocker and continues with his clutch receptions.
Shamar Graves 6’3” 244 JR Recruited as a 6’3” 205lb wide receiver, Shamar was another athlete asked to switch to TE following his first year in the program. Coming out of Woodbridge HS, he was the #34 wide receiver prospect nationally and named the #11 prospect overall in New Jersey. During 2007 he appeared in 8 games, recording 3 catches for 21 yards and a touchdown. Relatively new to the TE position, he needs to overcome his anxiety and work on his concentration. It’ll come with time. He is a hard as nails player with good speed and athleticism. I expect him to improve greatly year on year.
Craig McGovern 6’3” 255 SR Coming out of the Hun School, Craig was named a SuperPrep All American and was ranked as the #5 or #6 tight end prospect in the country. He originally signed with Michigan State where he redshirted his first year and started 4 games as a redshirt freshman. Obviously disappointed with the level of competition of the Big10, Craig decided to transfer home to Rutgers. Per NCAA rules, he sat out the 2006 season. Craig has battled against injuries since then which has cost him any opportunity to contribute to the team. He has all of 2007 to rise to the challenge and become the player he was projected to be. Don’t forget about him, he could be a tremendous surprise.
Jeff Minemyer 6’7” 267 rsFR An intriguing youngster from Bishop Carroll HS of Hastings, Pa, Jeff was rated a top 30 tight end prospect nationally and was a Pennsylvania All State gridder as a senior. Jeff was redshirted his first year on the banks but showed great hands, elusive speed, and ran beautiful routes while asserting his presence on the field during the 2007 spring game. Jeff sat out all of the 2007 regular season while fighting off the affects of an undisclosed illness. Let’s hope he is ready to go during the spring of 2008. He could be a star contributor very soon.
Fabian Ruiz 6’4” 245 rsFR Another top player from the State of Florida, Fabian was looked upon as having similar tools to that of Marco Battaglia when leaving high school. He redshirted in 2007, but I’m told he is an athletic player with a rock hard attitude on the field. He has superior blocking skills who can also run well with the ball. I can’t wait to see what he can do next year.
Tom Lang 6’3” 230 rsSO A highly touted quarterback recruit from Concord Mass., Tom was a Massachusetts All State player who also garnered All New England and All League honors. A very smart, athletic player Tom has been asked to switch positions and focus on the tight end spot.
Evan Lampert 6’3” 247 walk-on SO A recruited walk-on prospect, Evan was a 3 year starter for Pascack Hills HS, catching 25 passes for 450 yards as a senior. He was also a standout on the basketball court, a 4 year starter scoring over 1,000 points in his career. Rutgers has had great success with previous walk on players. Evan could be a hidden gem.
Marquis Hamm 6’4” 220 recruit A 3 star recruit from local New Brunswick HS, Marquis was named as a 2nd team All State player. A vicious, tough running, snot busting hard core player, he has been told he will play TE for Rutgers. Of his seven receptions as a senior, 5 went for touchdowns. An exciting prospect, Marquis is a great recruit for the Scarlet Knights. He will be a good one.
Don’t be overly concerned. This list represents eight quality candidates for Coach Joe Susan, who has been the tight ends coach since 2003. He developed both Clark Harris and Sam Johnson and has the talent available to do it again. As a matter of policy, don’t be surprised if the coaching staff experiments with a former fullback, linebacker, defensive end or even OL Howard Barbieri at this position during spring practice. The tight ends will once again become an integral part of the Rutgers offense in 2008 and I’m quite comfortable with who we have and I’m very excited about their abilities.
Post Script: I apologize for the omission of departing players Dan Mazan and Corey Hyman. Two tough kids who had injury plagued careers but gave their all as offensive lineman while on the banks. I also apologize for overlooking DE Jonathan Pierre-Etienne, an impressive prospect who has battled severe injuries during his career and who may remain uncertain regarding his future.
Coming Next: Wide Receivers