Scarlet fans are already excited about the fact Rutgers is on pace to record one of their best recruiting year's in school history. For the 2009 class, Greg Schiano has 21 commits to date, including four four-star prospects.
On Monday, they had another reason to be excited about the future of the program. Marcus Witherspoon, who originally signed a letter of intent to play at Michigan in February, is now a member of the Scarlet Knights.
Witherspoon, from Holy Spirit High School in Absecon, N.J., was the No. 14-ranked weak side linebacker in the country in Scout.com's 2008 High School Football Rankings.
In his junior year, the four-star linebacker registered 90 tackles, 17 sacks and three interceptions leading to All-Cape and All-State honors. As a senior, he made 100 tackles, 23 sacks and returned a pick for a touchdown.
"He's a really good football player," Greg Schiano said during Monday's Press Conference. "He's our kind of kid, I really believe. He's a great player, a really fine person and I think he'll do a great job."
After Witherspoon committed to the Wolverines, Rutgers got back into the mix when former Michigan Head coach Lloyd Carr resigned and Rich Rodriguez took over. He came to the school for an official visit, which led to Schiano thinking they had a solid shot of landing the linebacker, but Witherspoon stuck to his original choice.
At Ann Arbor, things got tricky for Witherspoon when he was told to leave the team before practices began because he declared academically ineligible by the NCAA Clearinghouse. He then went to Brigham Young University to take a class, and even after acing the course, wasn't allowed back with his team.
"I took a BYU class, got an A on it, and everything was pretty good," Witherspoon said. "I went (to Michigan) and they told me I couldn't stay. My dad, my coach and I called up the Rutgers coaching staff to see if they would reach out, and I'm here."
The whole series of events that took place at Michigan a misunderstanding according to Witherspoon, and he said he chose Rutgers because it was a place where he was wanted.
"Nothing against Michigan," he said, displaying no ill-will to the school. "I've moved on. I'm ready to play for Rutgers and do what I can to help the team. Everything happens for a reason and I'm happy to be here."
If bringing in Witherspoon will help the Knights recruiting efforts in the southern part of New Jersey, Schiano said he wasn't sure. The past few years, he's had success in there with six current starters from the area: center Ryan Blaszczyk, running back Kordell Young, fullback Jack Corcoran, defensive end George Johnson, defensive tackle Alex Silvestro and middle linebacker Ryan D'Imperio.
"I really think we've done great in South Jersey the past three years," he said. "I don't care how they get here, just as long as they come. George Johnson was going to Virginia and now he's here. He's been a pretty good player for us."
Even with the ability to play defensive end at the collegiate level, the defensive standout will most likely stay at linebacker where Schiano said he likes what he's seen from him there.
Already, Witherspoon has had time to interact with the linebackers and said he fits right in.
"Pretty cool," he said about how it was meeting the linebacker core for the first time on Tuesday. "I love hanging with the guys and they welcomed me in with open arms."
Since Witherspoon is just getting acclimated to the school, Schiano's focus is on making sure he gets settled in with classes.
"He's a little behind school so we need to get him caught up there," he said. "We have to make sure he has a good first semester. He can practice, lift and train with us; so this will be his redshirt year. I'm glad he's here."
The redshirt doesn't bother Witherspoon because he said it will take him a couple of weeks to get into game shape, an sitting out a year will only help him prepare for the next four seasons.
"I have time to get better," he said. "That's what I need and I don't mind getting better."
Witherspoon Happy To Be A Scarlet Knight
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