What's going on in Piscataway, N.J., these days?
Everyone knows Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is a tremendous recruiter and that the job he has done in taking a perennial loser to the brink of a BCS bid has been outstanding. But he has done it for the most part by focusing on New Jersey, New York and south Florida when it comes to recruiting.
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This year is different – much different.
With Wednesday's commitment from running back Desmond Scott of Durham (N.C.) Hillside, the Scarlet Knights are branching out into new areas when it comes to recruiting. The top two commitments in the class of 2009 for Rutgers are from out of state – and neither is from New York or Florida.
Springfield (Pa.) Cardinal O'Hara quarterback Tom Savage surprised a lot of people when he committed to Rutgers over offers from Penn State, Miami, Georgia, Tennessee, Florida State and others. Scott's offer list of Florida, Alabama, Georgia, Auburn, Tennessee, Clemson and others was equally as impressive.
Throw in tight end Paul Carrezola from Langhorne (Pa.) Neshaminy - who had offers from Boston College, Pitt, Iowa, North Carolina State and others - and three of Rutgers' first seven commitments are from recruiting areas normally owned by other programs.
In 2008, Schiano was able to pull three-star athlete Morgan Carter out of Virginia and quarterback Wayne Warren from Maryland. But neither had nearly as many options as Savage, a Rivals100 quarterback, and Scott, a Rivals250 all-purpose back.
When Penn State desperately needs a quarterback and a player such as Savage (a 6-foot-3, 231-pounder with a rocket arm) is in eastern Pennsylvania, you expect the Nittany Lions to win the recruiting race. They did that a few years ago with Pat Devlin, who originally had committed to Miami. Can Penn State steal Savage away from Rutgers as they did with Devlin and Miami?
"Only if Greg Schiano were to become the new head coach at Penn State," was Savage's answer following his commitment.
Savage loves Rutgers' offense and coaching staff and the opportunity to compete to play in a BCS bowl for a local team.
As for Scott, the 5-9, 185-pounder could have jumped on earlier offers and was highly coveted in the middle of ACC country. He decided to take visits to West Virginia and Rutgers. In the end, he chose between those two programs, picking Rutgers in small part because former Scarlet Knights standout Ray Rice showed that a smaller, muscled-up back who can do many things out of the backfield can indeed be the man who carries the load.
So the combination of a dynamic coach and an aggressive staff, the chance to compete for a BCS bid each season in the Big East and an exciting offensive system has led to two of the biggest and most surprising commitments in Rutgers history.
Let's not confuse Rutgers with programs such as USC, Florida, Michigan, Ohio State and others that can recruit nationally, but the Scarlet Knights certainly are branching out into new territory. And that's bad news for some other programs.