Rutgers has often been referred to as a “sleeping giant,” and soon this sleeping giant may be awakening.
In November, Rutgers along with Maryland, announced that they will be joining the Big Ten conference. The move could be the wake up call that Rutgers needed.
The State University of New Jersey is surrounded by an abundance of football talent. The only problem is that Rutgers has had trouble keeping talent in the state until recent years, and now that the school is heading to one of the most prestigious intercollegiate athletic conferences, more talent should remain local.
If you were to go undefeated in the Big East (Now the AAC) you are still not playing for a National Championship. If you go undefeated in the Big Ten you will almost undoubtedly have your shot in the title game and soon the college football playoffs. There is an added benefit when you could tell local talent that they don’t have to leave their home state to get the opportunity to compete for championships and to receive the exposure that they dream of. This is what the Big Ten provides and joining the conference is a huge step forward for a program that was once considered the doormat of college football.
The progress will be slow, but if the Knights are able to put competitive teams on the field during their first few years in the Big Ten, local talent will take notice. Even though Rutgers is by no means a football powerhouse, the school possesses the potential to eventually become one and much of that is due to the school’s location.
Not every school has the football talent surrounding itself that Rutgers does, and generally speaking, Rutgers is only competing against themselves for talent amongst other New Jersey Universities. Seton Hall and Princeton are not taking away any football talent from the Knights, leaving Rutgers in a class by themselves. It is only a matter of time before the Knights are not only able to keep their talent in state, but to be able to tap into other local areas filled with football talent such as Pennsylvania.
To see just how far Rutgers has come look no further than this year’s recruiting season, to a player who actually committed elsewhere. That player is cornerback Jabrill Peppers, who was the top rated player in the state of New Jersey and the number two rated high school prospect nationally by ESPN.
Unfortunately for the Scarlet Knights, Peppers committed to soon to be rival Michigan, yet Peppers was said to give strong consideration and even reconsideration to Rutgers once he made his decision. Now I personally am not big on moral victories, but for this program I look at this situation as a big step forward. How often would the second ranked national prospect have even considered Rutgers in previous years? The answer is never and just by being considered, the Knights showed how far they have come.
The Big Ten is what the Knights need to get them over the next hump. They have been able to land top prospects such as Savon Huggins and Darius Hamilton in the past several years, but the Big Ten will allow them to consistently land players that are not only top prospects in the Jersey area, but top talent nationally.
The next 10 years will either be the time when Rutgers makes its mark on collegiate football, or when the school settles back into mediocrity. The Big Ten is an alarm clock, and Rutgers is slowly starting to wake up. They just can’t hit the snooze button and miss the opportunity.