Visiting each N.J. High School an RU Must

Rutgers' coaching staff is on the recruiting trail for the spring evaluation, and that means a member of the Scarlet Knights staff will be at every high school in New Jersey this month. Coach Greg Schiano talks about why he instituted the policy, and how it helps the Scarlet Knights when it comes to recruiting in the home state.

Sure, everyone in the nation knows about St. Peter's Prep of Jersey City five-star running back Savon Huggins, but how many schools know about class of 2013 center Marquise Watson?

By now, Rutgers does. And by the end of the month, the Scarlet Knights coaching staff will know about every player in New Jersey through the class of 2013.

For Rutgers, the spring evaluation process began Monday and will conclude later this month. During the process, in which seven assistant coaches are allowed out at a time and can be out for 20 days, Rutgers may visit upwards of 1,000 high schools. But a vital aspect of the spring recruiting calendar is the decision to visit every high school in New Jersey.

Scarlet Knights coach Greg Schiano implemented the plan when he arrived at Rutgers, and it remains a key component to the recruitment of the home state.

"It keeps you abreast of all four years of kids at a school,'' Schiano said. "As I tell our coaches all the time, unless someone new moves into the district, we should know about every kid in the state of New Jersey – freshmen, sophomores, juniors and seniors.

"So, we're a little bit of a pain to the coaches because we ask them about all those years because we want to be able to attract the kids in our state.''

In New Jersey, the Scarlet Knights already handed out 21 written offers for the a highly-talented class of 2011, which is already more than it distributed to the 2010 recruiting class, which was a down year in the Garden State.

NCAA rules prohibit Schiano from speaking specifically about recruitable athletes. Rules also prohibit the head coach of programs to visit high schools in the spring, but Schiano can talk about the philosophy of recruiting throuhgout the state.

Because Rutgers' staff built a strong relationship with New Jersey's high school coaches, it gained insight into the hottest recruits and top players in the 2011 class, as well as potential sleepers, long before other programs knew about those players. Consequently, it allows Rutgers to develop relationships and bonds with such players over a longer period of time.

"It helps because you're tracking all the kids, but you still have to make decisions, still have to make the right decisions,'' Schiano said. "There's still a lot of things that go into it, and we recruit other places than New Jersey.

"But we make sure we're in every New Jersey school because we are the state university of New Jersey. We're going to make sure that there's not a kid in our state, who we feel fits our program, that we're not going recruit heavily.''

And as Rutgers hit the road Monday, that meant travelling to the edges of the state and seemingly everywhere between because Rutgers assistants were everywhere.

According to high school coaches, administrators and players throughout the state, Rutgers assistants stretched from Don Bosco Prep in Ramsey to see quarterback Gary Nova and Absegami High of Absecon to check in on running back Ben Martin.

They were along the Jersey Shore to see Long Branch athlete Miles Shuler and Neptune running back Charles Davis, and at St. Peter's Prep, where Rutgers offerees Huggins, safety Sheldon Royster and offensive lineman Keith Lumpkin play, as well as dozens upon dozens of other schools.

Schiano said he came up with the idea of visiting every high school as a as a way to unite the state's prep coaches and Rutgers.

"I thought it was something we needed to do when we got here because of the feeling in the state,'' Schiano said. "As I've said many times, we're going to have to agree to disagree whether certain people are right for our program or not, but ultimately it's got to be our decision because it's our jobs that are on the line.

"But it's never going to be from a lack of communication, or (not) being aware, and I think guys can appreciate that. They don't always agree with what we decide, but they can appreciate that we were there and made the effort to know about their kid.''

Schiano said the tactic doesn't necessarily mean Rutgers landed a specific recruit during his 10-year tenure, but it puts the Scarlet Knights in better position to close the borders of New Jersey to other schools.

"I don't think just going to a school does it,'' Schiano said. "When we got here, we said to all the coaches, ‘This is all your program. New Jersey, this is our program. We're going to need your help. This is your place, feel free to come here.'

"We've always had an open-door policy about learning. We have a clinic, and we've done everything we can to open the doors to the coaches of the state, and I think they've reciprocated.

"They really helped us a lot by giving us heads-up on kids, and have done a great job when kids have committed and locking it down, and saying, ‘That's it. They're going to Rutgers. You can't see them.' That stuff you appreciate. That's what it's supposed to be like in a state when you're the state university.''

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