Chris Long’s high level of play at Willingboro is one reason he’ll be continuing his football career at Rutgers. Another is getting the chance to stay in New Jersey, something that Greg Schiano wants his current and future players to take pride in.
“Staying in New Jersey, representing your home state, it’s a big thing," Long told The Inquirer earlier this month after being named South Jersey’s player of the year. "Florida boys, they stay in Florida. Texas boys stay in Texas. Cali boys stay in Cali. We can’t have Jersey guys leaving Jersey. So I look forward to helping to turn that around.”
Schiano is entering his second stint as head coach of the Scarlet Knights and has made it a goal of his to get players to stay home and play at Rutgers. Long’s move was just the beginning, as 10 of Wednesday’s 18 national signing day additions are from Jersey. A cornerback, Long also represents one of three South Jersey signees who flipped their out-of-state commitments to join Schiano and his staff just over a week after he was announced as head coach on Dec. 4.
“It’s not just because they’re from Jersey, it’s because they are great players and people from Jersey,” Schiano said. “That’s the important thing. The pride and the passion that people have in the state of New Jersey has just been waiting for a reason to get back on the bandwagon. We did some great things here our first go-around, but we didn’t accomplish our goals. We had success, but the success we had was not a completion of our goals.”
Long withdrew his commitment from Temple on Dec. 9, just two days after Temple co-defensive coordinator and cornerbacks coach Fran Brown left the school to join Rutgers as its secondary coach. Long committed the next day. Cedar Creek cornerback Malachi Melton flipped his commitment from Purdue to Rutgers on Dec. 11. Vineland athlete Tyreem Powell, New Jersey’s 19th-ranked recruit according to 247Sports, switched from Virginia Tech to Rutgers on Dec. 12 and will join former Fighting Clan teammates Nihym Anderson and Isaih Pacheco.
Brown helped direct a 2019 Temple defense that was No. 4 in the nation in red zone defense (27 scores in 43 trips) and was top 15 in sacks (37), defensive touchdowns (3), tackles for losses (94), and fumble recoveries (11).
“He has such great relationships with the coaches and with the prospects and the families down in South Jersey," Schiano said. “That really gave us a shot in the arm in South Jersey. We were able to get involved with some players that I know are going to help our football team."
“He’s an excellent defensive football coach and I can’t wait to work with him,” Schiano continued. "... He has done a tremendous job building his own brand down there as a football coach, recruiter and a man. It has already paid big, big dividends for Rutgers.”
Schiano has doubled the amount of recruits he had just days into taking the head coaching job, inheriting 10 but losing two who withdrew their commitments shortly after.
“We have to start over," Schiano said. "It’s been eight years since we’ve been here, but I’m encouraged. I think immediately we had credibility in the state. Immediately we raised the energy level in the state about football. And, with a whole year to recruit this next class, I can’t wait to see what we can do.”
DL Malik Barrow, 6-3, 257, Tampa, Fla./UCF*
ATH Shawn Collins, 6-5, 205, Montclair, N.J./Montclair
LB Jack Del Rio, 6-3, 215, Palm Harbor, Fla./Clearwater Central Catholic
OL Tunde Fatukasi, 6-4, 295, Far Rockaway, NY/Erasmus Hall
OL Bryan Felter, 6-3, 300, Westfield, N.J./Bergen Catholic
TE Victor Konopka, 6-7, 255, Kinnelon, N.J./Blair Academy
CB Chris Long, 6-1, 175, Willingboro, N.J./Willingboro
WR Robert Longerbeam, 6-0, 160, Alexandria, Va./T.C. Williams
S Elijuwan Mack, 6-0, 185, Newark, N.J./St. Joseph Regional (Montvale)
CB Max Melton, 6-0, 170, Mays Landing, N.J./Cedar Creek
RB Kyle Monangai, 5-10, 200, Roseland, N.J./Don Bosco Prep
OL Cedrice Paillant, 6-5, 305, New Rochelle, NY/Monroe College*
OLB Tyreem Powell, 6-4, 205, Vineland, N.J./Vineland South
DT Troy Rainey, 6-5, 305, Bridgeport, Conn./Harding
WR Ahmirr Robinson, 6-2, 195, Vauxhall, N.J./Union
QB Evan Simon, 6-3, 200, Mount Joy, Pa./Manheim Central
OL Isaiah Wright, 6-5, 275, North Plainfield, N.J./St. Peter’s Prep
ATH Peyton Powell, 6-2, 187, Odessa, Tx./Baylor*