As Rutgers coach Kyle Flood put together his first recruiting class as a member of the Big Ten, he had to walk a fine line. Flood doesn't want to change the emphasis of speed over size that has defined Rutgers' mostly successful defenses in recent years. But it's impossible to ignore that the competition in the new league will feature more size and physicality than Rutgers has faced in the past. The result: A total of 10 linemen – four on offense, six on defense – filling a variety of body types in the incoming class. "I think somebody before earlier in the day asked: What was one of the goals of this class? And I think, in college, when you're recruiting a class that's this big, it's going to have a little bit of everything," Flood said. "But certainly we were not naive to the fact that we felt we needed linemen. We needed to build depth up front on both sides of the ball. And the opportunity to sign six defensive linemen and four offensive linemen, I feel we've done that." The biggest of the bunch are offensive tackle Tariq Cole (6-foot-6, 350 pounds), offensive tackle Jacquis Webb (6-5, 310), defensive tackle Kevin Wilkins (6-3, 290) and offensive tackle Marcus Applefield (6-6, 285). Flood singled out Applefield and defensive tackle Eric Wiafe (6-5, 265) as two freshmen who could make an immediate impact. Both enrolled early so they'll have all spring to work out under the supervision of Rutgers' strength and conditioning staff. "We have gotten bigger over the last couple of years because I think we've had access in recruiting to some bigger guys, but we have not sacrificed athleticism," Flood said. "And I think that is the key to everything. If you just go out with the mindset you're going to get bigger, you can get bigger and get less athletic and ultimately it's not going to be a positive." The added size doesn't just relate to the wide bodies in the trenches. Flood also landed a number of bigger defensive backs, which should help combat some of the premier athletes Rutgers will face. Cornerbacks Saquan Hampton and Isaiah Wharton are 6-foot-1, and Flood described 5-foot-11 corner Darian Dailey as a "long arm guy." Lengthy defensive backs are in style after the Super Bowl champion Seattle Seahawks featured a dominant secondary filled with big, physical players. Flood plans to pick the brain of Seahawks defensive coordinator Dan Quinn this offseason. They served together as assistants at Hofstra from 1997-200.. "I know a lot of people have talked about it out a lot in Seattle," Flood said of bigger defensive backs. "I'm going to talk to Dan a little bit about that in the offseason because he was coordinating that defense. I'm looking forward to that. But I think if you're going to play against big, tall physical receivers, you better have physical corners."
Rutgers gets bigger — and it hopes better — with recruiting class
Newark Star-Ledger | Feb 7