Rutgers football piling up Class of 2025 recruiting wins. Here's why it's happening (2024)

Not all that long ago, the idea of an elite recruit flipping his commitment from Penn State to Rutgers football would’ve seemed highly unlikely, if not impossible.

Things have changed.

The Scarlet Knights’ 2025 recruiting class proves they’ve turned a corner.

D.J. McClary’s announcement on Sunday that he had become the latest to join a class that’s garnered national attention was the latest recruiting victory for Greg Schiano and his coaching staff.

With the addition of the four-star linebacker from Snyder High School in Jersey City, Rutgers has 28 total commitments for this cycle, including nine from in-state recruits.

As long as the Scarlet Knights keep this group together and get everyone officially signed in December, it’s poised to be the strongest class in the program’s history.

Rutgers football piling up Class of 2025 recruiting wins. Here's why it's happening (2)

Rutgers’ success in this cycle is a culmination of multiple factors.

A winning season that ended with a Pinstripe Bowl win over a nationally known program like Miami went a long way toward building momentum on the recruiting trail. No longer does Schiano have to sell recruits on just a vision of progress.

He now has concrete evidence of progress.

Sending multiple players to the NFL – from running back Isiah Pacheco, a two-time Super Bowl champion with the Chiefs to most recently cornerback Max Melton, drafted in the second round by the Arizona Cardinals, showed Rutgers’ ability to develop players into legitimate pro prospects.

Rutgers' football's 'thorough' approach to building relationships

But perhaps most of all, the recruiting trail momentum came back to building strong relationships.

Since Schiano’s return, the Scarlet Knights coaching staff have made it a point to be in every high school in New Jersey when such visits are permitted.

While the public sees this recruiting class coming together now, the legwork began, in many cases, years ago.

“I think what makes Rutgers unique is the way they go about establishing a relationship with the person and the player in a systematic way, a very thorough way, from the top to the bottom," said Dave Oizerowitz, the head coach at Toms River North High School. “From Greg Schiano to the recruiting assistants to their position coaches to their high school relations, they’re just really, really thorough in terms of how they communicate with the player and the staff.”

Oizerowitz has seen it up close, most recently with Toms River North offensive lineman Jaelyne Matthews, who earlier this month committed to Rutgers after naming Georgia, Tennessee and Miami as his top-three choices.

Schiano, who was named the 2018 Recruiter of the Year by 247Sports when he was the defensive coordinator at Ohio State, and his staff laid out a clear, honest plan that resonated for Matthews.

Oizerowitz said Rutgers’ coaching staff has been “ever-present” in his school “more so than any staff that’s ever been at Rutgers.”

And he’s heard from other coaches in the state who have had the same experience.

“They’ve been mining their territory for a while now,” Oizerowitz said. “The way they recruited this year, a lot of these kids, as soon as they got the job, they’ve known these kids for a long time, and they’ve recruited them really, really hard for a long time. In the end when you establish those kinds of roots and they’re honest and you start to see kids are being developed when they go there, you start to see it through.”

Rutgers has started keeping top in-state talent home

Landing safety Kaj Sanders from Bergen Catholic in the 2024 class was a big deal for Rutgers – keeping high-level players from the North Jersey non-public powerhouses at home was always a goal for the Scarlet Knights.

It’s continued this cycle with players like Chris Vigna, an offensive lineman from Bergen Catholic, and most recently St. Joseph Regional running back John Forster.

Overall the class also includes five players from Florida, a vital pipeline that began during Schiano’s first stint, as well as four from Georgia, a state that’s filled with talent and one that Rutgers has had recent success in.

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The Scarlet Knights have recruited well since Schiano’s return.

The 2025 class is – right now – their strongest class yet, ranked 11th in the nation by 247Sports and third in the Big Ten at this early stage.

The class includes four prospects (Matthews, McClary, safety Tariq Hayer from Washington, D.C and wide receiver Michael Thomas III from Donovan Catholic) ranked in the ESPN 300, the most in program history.

Success on the field has led to more success off it. The years of building relationships in high schools around New Jersey have paid dividends now.

Rutgers has turned a corner.

“They’re an option for our kids to stay home in the Big Ten and Rutgers’ facilities have improved tremendously under Coach,” Oizerowitz said. “They’re a really, really good choice for our kids in state. The best it’s ever been for sure.”

The Scarlet Knights have a shot to make some more noise this upcoming season. Ample impact players are returning. The schedule is more favorable than it’s been in a while.

A strong campaign would fuel recruiting momentum even more.

Rutgers has plenty of it already.

Rutgers football piling up Class of 2025 recruiting wins. Here's why it's happening (2024)

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