Rutgers has never been a prime destination for local recruits. In the past two decades only 10 players from area high schools signed with the Scarlet Knights. Indiana, meanwhile, has the same amount of locals on this year’s roster.
The Tampa Bay area, though, is starting to become more of a priority for Rutgers, especially with the arrival of coach Greg Schiano, who has hired for his second stint at the school this offseason.
The former Tampa Bay Buccaneers coach used his area ties to become a highly regarded recruiter during his three seasons as an assistant head coach and defensive coordinator at Ohio State (2016-18).
Two years ago, Schiano was named the Big Ten recruiter of the year by 247 Sports and finished second nationally in the site’s annual rankings. His status was due to landing top-level talent such as former Berkeley Prep standout Nicholas Petit-Frere, a five-star prospect who is projected to be a starter on the Buckeyes’ offensive line this season.
Schiano knows plenty about the players on Berkeley Prep’s roster. After all, his son played for the program and he spent two years helping out the staff following his departure with Tampa Bay.
Those connections paid off once Schiano returned to Rutgers. He fortified his defensive line through the transfer portal by adding Malik Barrow (Ohio State/UCF) and Mayan Ahanotu (Minnesota). Barrow was a former standout at Tampa Catholic and IMG whose college career has been derailed by injuries. Ahanotu, the son of former Tampa Bay defensive end Chidi Ahanotu, starred at Berkeley Prep.
The reinforcements up front continued this past weekend with the commitment of Tampa Bay Tech defensive lineman Henry Hughes. The 6-foot-6, 228 pound rising senior had 17 tackles and three sacks this past season. His stats are even better in the classroom, where he holds a 4.75 grade point average.
“Rutgers has everything I’m looking for,” said Hughes, who picked the Scarlet Knights over offers from Illinois, Minnesota, Syracuse and Western Kentucky. “I personally feel like they have all of the tools I need to be successful in life, from my dream of owning my own engineering company and to the goal of playing in the NFL”
With Hughes committing, Rutgers has landed at least one local in three straight recruiting classes. The others are Clearwater Central Catholic linebacker Jack del Rio (Class of 2020) and Riverview defensive back T.J. Robinson (Class of 2019). That marks just the second time in the past 20 years the Scarlet Knights have accomplished that feat.
That trend should continue with Rutgers already extending offers to several area underclassmen, mostly from Berkeley Prep.
Rutgers’ area recruits the past 20 years
Class of 2021
DL Henry Hughes, Tampa Bay Tech
Class of 2020
LB Jack del Rio, Clearwater Central Catholic
DL Wesley Bailey, Clearwater Academy
DL Mayan Ahanotu, Minnesota/Berkeley Prep
DL Malik Barrow, Ohio State/UCF/IMG/Tampa Catholic
Class of 2019
DB T.J. Robinson, Riverview
Class of 2015
DL Marques Ford, East Bay
Class of 2014
OL Marcus Applefield, Weeki Wachee
Class of 2013
Ath Janarion Grant, Pasco
Class of 2010
WR/DB Jeremy Deering, Leto
LB Fred Overstreet, Jefferson
Class of 2004
DB Robert Baham, Jefferson