PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Rutgers' final recruiting class for the Big East Conference filled a major need in the secondary and added depth at running back, the defensive line and quarterback, and even included a foray into Big 10 territory.
Coach Kyle Flood announced the signing of 23 players on Wednesday, including five who already have enrolled in classes and will be eligible for spring practice.
In keeping with the tradition started by former coach Greg Schiano, the majority of players came from New Jersey with the rest coming from New York, Pennsylvania, Delaware and Florida. The new venture was signing a linebacker from Michigan.
"As the head coach, I feel very comfortable saying that it filled all of our needs," Flood said at a press conference. "I think if I rewind myself to when I was a position coach, you always want more. I think if you polled the assistant coaches, you'd find they all want more. That's just the nature of the job, but I feel very good that we have filled all of the needs that I set out to get before we got into this class. What I'm most excited about is I feel like we have a bigger, faster team going forward."
Flood didn't seem to sign a can't-miss star for Rutgers, which went 9-4 last season, finishing tied for the conference title. However, he believed he snared players who will fit well into the program.
The key need was in the secondary, which lost five of the six players who saw time.
Defensive backs Nadir Barnwell of Piscataway High, Anthony Cioffi of Jonathan Drayton, Bryant Gross-Armiento of American Heritage in Florida, Delon Stephenson, who spent last year at Milford Academy, and T.J. Taylor of South Brunswick all will be joining the Scarlet Knights.
Barnwell was rated the eighth-best player in New Jersey this past season and might be the best of the bunch.
"We feel he is someone who can come in immediately and help us in the secondary," Flood said. "He will have an opportunity to do that. Now he did have a shoulder surgery after the season ended that will allow him to participate in spring, but in a non-contact fashion. He will do a lot of excellent learning and really get accumulated to the types of drills we do here. But the contact portion he will not get until the fall. That's when he will really get the opportunity to compete."
With Jawan Jamison's decision to enter the NFL Draft, Savon Huggins was the only tested running back on the roster.
Dontea Ayres of Wicomico High in Delaware, Devan Carter of Brighton High in Rochester, N.Y. and Justin Goodwin of Madison (N.J.) will get a chance to play next season.
While quarterbacks Gary Nova and Chas Dodd are back, Flood has hopes for Chris Laviano, a four-year starter for Holy Trinity on Long Island. Flood, after all, played in the same league as a youth.
"I am very familiar with the league Chris played in and because of that, it did not take long for people from there to tell me that we needed to recruit this young man," Flood said. "That started at a young age and Chris led Holy Trinity to the Catholic League championship game as a freshman. I don't know if that feat has been repeated or has been done before. He is a special football player."
Rutgers secured a plethora of defensive linemen, including tackle Josh Klecko, the son of former Jets' great, Joe Klecko.
Other linemen signed included defensive ends Nick Internicola of The University School in Florida; Kemoko Turay of Barrington in Newark, Eric Wiafe of Egg Harbor Township and defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph of Stroudsburg (Pa.) High.
Turay might be the most interesting signee. He did not play as a sophomore or junior and then led the state with 19 sacks as a senior.
"I think he is a dynamic athlete and an explosive athlete," Flood said. "He spent most of his career in high school playing basketball and then came back this year to play football. I am really excited about what he is going to be. He is somebody that when he reaches his full potential, I think he could be a tremendous pass rusher and somebody that will be able to change the game at the defensive end position."
Lester Liston of Grand Blanc, Mich., is a linebacker who spent last season at Hargrave (Va.) Military Academy. He was rated the No. 16 prep school player in the nation and the No. 3 prep school linebacker by Rivals.com.
The one area Rutgers came up short was on the offensive line, signing only Dorian Miller of Metuchen.
"He is physical, aggressive, strong and an inside player," Flood said. "From looking at him from a strength perspective now, he is someone that should be able to come in an add depth at an early age.
"I think that position is tough to play early, but we have had a couple."