Why Greg Schiano believes Rutgers' 2022 recruiting class is 'big step forward' for program

Chris Iseman
Rutgers sports writer

Greg Schiano's first two recruiting classes came in adverse circumstances. 

The Rutgers head coach finalized his 2020 class in a span of 11 days after returning for his second stint with the Scarlet Knights, and he and his staff were forced to primarily recruit the team's 2021 class virtually because of the pandemic. 

Finally, Schiano had the chance to recruit in more normal conditions, hosting prospects on campus and getting the chance to meet players and their families in person instead of through a computer screen. 

That all proved pivotal. 

When Rutgers locked in its 2022 recruiting class on Wednesday as the early signing period began, Schiano and the Scarlet Knights had secured one of the highest-ranked classes in the program's history. 

"I really believe this class is a big step forward for our program," Schiano said. 

Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano looks on during the second half of an NCAA college football game against Michigan State, Saturday, Oct. 9, 2021, in Piscataway, N.J. Michigan State won 31-13. (AP Photo/Adam Hunger)

247Sports ranks the class 26th in the country. Rutgers' 2012 class, which was the first one after Schiano left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, was ranked No. 23 and likely would've been much higher had Schiano stayed. 

Schiano said Wednesday he believed that class could've been the start of something "really special."

Now he's hoping the same is true for the Class of 2022. 

Rutgers signed 18 scholarship players on Wednesday, including nine from New Jersey. The Scarlet Knights landed the top-overall in-state recruit according to 247Sports' Composite rankings in Hun School offensive lineman Jacob Allen, and the No. 1 overall prospect in New York in Erasmus Hall linebacker Moses Walker. 

Freshman quarterback Gavin Wimsatt, who was originally part of the 2022 class before deciding to join Rutgers early, had been rated the top-ranked recruit in Kentucky. 

"I thought it was really special, whether the rankings are accurate or not, who's to say, but to have three top rated players in three different states," Schiano said. "That was part of what I mean when I said it's a big step."

LOOKING AHEAD:Here's what Greg Schiano sees for Rutgers football heading into 2022

Four four-star prospects

The class includes four four-star prospects (Allen, Walker, linebacker Anthony Johnson from Neumann Goretti in Philadelphia and running back Sam Brown from La Salle College High School near Philadelphia), and comprises athletes from nine different states. 

Rutgers finished its season 5-7 with two Big Ten victories. The Scarlet Knights came up one win short of a bowl bid.

That followed up Rutgers' 3-6 campaign in 2020. 

The program as a whole has taken incremental steps these last two seasons. Schiano believes the Scarlet Knights' recruiting success is a signal that the perception of the team is changing. 

"I think it shows people see Rutgers football differently — recruits, high school coaches, people in our footprint where we recruit," Schiano said. "They see culture. They see a program that is on the rise. They see one that is significant. To be able to recruit the way we did this class and to finish it up, because our season didn't finish exactly the way we would want it to, the resolve that our staff hit the road the following day and never looked up until this morning, I think what a big step."

Still, Rutgers has plenty of work to do on the field. 

The Scarlet Knights now have more young talent in the program, but the product on the field must continue to improve before they can become a consistently formidable Big Ten team. 

Rutgers' 2022 recruiting class was a step. There are still plenty more the program is hoping to take. 

"Now we find ourselves at a place where that's great, it's three classes under the roof now, but we need to do better," Schiano said. "I need to do better as a head coach, our staff needs to do better, our team does, and our fans do, we all do. If we're going to grow this thing to what everybody said they wanted two years ago, then we're all going to have to get better. But this is a really big step to be working to get better off."

Email: iseman@northjersey.com Twitter: @chrisiseman