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Rutgers making progress among local recruits under Greg Schiano

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Henry Hughes

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.

RELATED: Local list of 2021 football commits

“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

Transfers

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

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College Football

Former PHU/UCF star Jacob Harris goes to Rams in 4th round

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Jacob Harris, a former star at Palm Harbor University and Central Florida, was taken in the fourth round by the Los Angeles Rams.

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft.

He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns.

Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns.

With the Rams, Harris will join former East Lake star Tyler Higbee in a group of tight ends that features plenty of locals.  

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College Football

The local list of potential NFL picks

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The NFL Draft concludes Saturday. Plenty of locals have the potential to be picked. Below is the list of former area stars who could hear their name called. All were either on mock drafts or were selected to an all-star game or NFL Combine. 

Photos courtesy of UCF Athletics

TE Jacob Harris, Palm Harbor University/UCF

Harris, a former soccer standout who did not start playing organized football until senior year at Palm Harbor University, has gone through a meteoric rise to become a sleeper pick in this year’s draft. He started off as a walk-on at Western Kentucky before transferring to UCF. For the past two seasons, Harris was a dependable receiver for the Knights. As a senior, he had 30 catches for 539 yards and eight touchdowns. Harris’ most memorable game came against USF this past season when he had five catches for 110 yards and three touchdowns. 

OL Shane McGough, Gaither/Florida International

The younger brother of former Gaither and FIU quarterback Alex McGough redshirted as a freshman before becoming a consistent starter on the Panthers’ offensive line. He was an all-Conference USA honorable mention selection in 2018 and 2020. This past season, McGough started in four of FIU’s five games as a center.  

WR Antonio Nunn, Jefferson/Buffalo

Nunn, a dynamic deep threat at Jefferson, redshirted his first season at Buffalo before rocketing up the depth chart. He started every game the past two seasons, finishing with a combined 86 catches for 1,271 yards and eight touchdowns. Nunn was a third-team all-MAC selection in 2019 and second-team selection this past season. 

Photo courtesy of Indiana University Athletics

WR Whop Philyor, Plant/Indiana

A first-team, all-state selection at Plant, Philyor became Indiana’s most dependable receiving target during his college career. He finished with 2,316 all-purpose yards (2,067 receiving, 134 rushing, 66 kick return, 49 punt return) in 38 games (22 starts).Philyor also is the Hoosiers’ s all-time leader in double-digit catch games (7), ranks fourth in receptions (180), fourth in 100-yard games (7), ninth in yardage (2,067) and is tied for 16th in touchdowns (12). He capped off his career by setting a Big Ten bowl and Outback Bowl record with 18 receptions for 81 yards. 

DL Justus Reed, CCC/Virginia Tech

A first-team, all-state selection, Reed led Clearwater Central Catholic to its only state final appearance as a senior in 2013. He started out at Florida before spending three seasons at Youngstown State. This past season, Reed transferred to Virginia Tech as a graduate student. He started in 10 of the Hokies’ 11 games, finishing with 28 tackles and 6.5 sacks.  

Photo courtesy of USF Athletics

DB K.J. Sails, East Bay/USF

A highly touted high school recruit, Sails spent his first three years in college at North Carolina before transferring to USF. As a junior, he led the Bulls in interceptions with three and recorded 22 tackles this past season. Sails gained notoriety this past summer when he organized a unity walk during the social justice movement that was attended by about 400 teammates, coaches, administrators and community members.  

Oregon's Jordon Scott/Photo credit: Oregon Athletics
Photo courtesy of Oregon Athletics

DL Jordon Scott, Pinellas Park/Oregon

The three-star high school prospect originally committed to Florida before signing with Oregon. He immediately became a force on the Ducks’ defensive line, earning FWAA freshman all-America honors in 2017. Scott opted to return to Oregon as a senior rather than turn pro and helped the Ducks reach the Pac-12 title game for the second straight season. 

Photo courtesy of TCU Athletics Communications

TE Pro Wells, Hollins/Texas Christian

As a senior at Hollins, Wells had a breakout season, finishing with 31 catches for 952 yards and five touchdowns. He played at Milford Academy and Northwest Mississippi Community College, where he became the No. 4 JUCO tight end in the nation. After redshirting in 2018 at Texas Christian, Wells turned a reliable red-zone target and led the team in touchdown receptions each of the past two seasons. 

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College Football

Tre McKitty goes to Chargers in the third round

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Georgia tight end Tre McKitty, who spent time at Wesley Chapel and Tampa Catholic before transferring to IMG Academy, was selected at the end of the third with the Los Angeles Chargers’ compensatory pick (97th overall). 

He becomes the first player with area ties taken in this year’s draft. 

A three-star recruit at IMG, McKitty started his college career at Florida State, where he played in 35 games and caught 50 passes for 520 yards and a pair of touchdowns. 

McKitty (photo above courtesy of UGA Athletic Association) went to Georgia as a graduate assistant this past season. He finished with six catches for 108 yards and a touchdown. 

The Chargers have a knack for bringing in local talent. Former Admiral Farragut standout Rayshawn Jenkins was selected in the fourth by the Chargers in 2017. Sean Culkin (Indian Rocks Christian/Missouri) and Artavis Scott (East Lake/Clemson) spent time with team as undrafted free agents.  

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