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October 14, 2013

The Monday Morning Kickoff

Football is at the midway point of the season and recruiting continues to be as busy as ever for the Scarlet Knights. The Monday Morning Kickoff returns to get you caught up on all the latest news and developments in the scarlet nation.

The Inside Scoop (Rutgers recruiting)
The weekend ended on a sour note for Rutgers with the de-commitment of 2014 wide receiver pledge David Njoku. Njoku informed RU of his decision on Sunday afternoon, one day after returning from a visit to Penn State.

He had also been on campus at Alabama for a track trip last weekend.

"I think I committed too early. I feel like I didn't see everything out there," Njoku said. "I want to see what else is out there before I make the best decision."

Even after re-opening his recruitment, Njoku said he is still keeping the Scarlet Knights in consideration.

"I still want to get recruited by Rutgers. I still like the school very much," he said. "I'm just going to take it week-by-week and see how everything goes."

Rutgers, Miami, Temple, Penn State and Boston College are all options for Njoku going forward. He has yet to pick up an offer from PSU but could down the road.

Despite Njoku's de-commitment, Rutgers began the week on a high note with two commitments in two days, the first one coming on Monday from Jacksonville (Fla.) Raines cornerback Lamont Simmons. Simmons chose the Scarlet Knights over Georgia Tech, Arkansas, and Tennessee.

Simmons committed to Rutgers without having stepped foot on campus, citing his strong relationship with the coaching staff as a major reason behind his decision.

"Just talking to [offensive coordinator] Ron Prince and coach Flood, great guys, great personalities," Simmons said. "They really gave me a great understanding of the school and the type of program they're running. I love those guys."

Simmons will take his first-and official-visit to Rutgers for the Houston game on Oct 26, enabling him to get an up-close and personal look at his future program.

"I'm just looking forward to seeing the facilities and getting to know the strength coach, because I'm going to be spending a lot of time with the strength coach," Simmons said. "That's going to be a big thing with me too."

On Tuesday, St. Joseph's Regional (Montvale) defensive tackle Kevin Wilkins pledged to Rutgers while on an unofficial visit. Wilkins' decision came one week after Rutgers extended its offer, thanks in large part to them reconsidering their stance on his academic record.

The staff originally planned to wait longer to see how Wilkins was improving in the classroom, but chose to expedite the process instead.

"I got my act together [academically] and they realized it," Wilkins said. "When they finally offered me, it was like a dream come true. This was the one I was waiting for and I finally got it. Why not commit early? This was like a dream come true."

Wilkins says he is hard at work making sure his academics meet Rutgers' standards, and he also indicated that RU's academic profile and support system played a major role in his decision.

"That's exactly what I need in a school," Wilkins said. "I do very well when I'm supported. I need people to stand behind me. That's what motivates me to go and push myself. I think going there will definitely help me a lot."

A two-way starter and standout wrestler, Wilkins began his career at Don Bosco Prep, where he teamed up with a host of current Scarlet Knights. He will have the opportunity to reunite with them at Rutgers beginning in 2014.

"Darius [Hamilton] and all them, they say they love it. Razohn [Gross] says he loves it. Leonte [Carroo] and Gary [Nova], they say they love it," Wilkins said. "To have my old coach, Anthony Campanile coach there and say 'hey, we want you there and this is going to be a great fit for you' and for them to finally offer me, is awesome."

A view from the gridiron (Rutgers Football)
Rutgers has reached the halfway point of the season at a 4-2 mark with another bye week approaching. The Scarlet Knights went out to Louisville last Thursday and had their share of chances in a 24-10 loss.

"We are what our record says we are. We're a 4-2 football team," head coach Kyle Flood said last Friday. "We're 1-1 in conference play and we've got a tremendous opportunity ahead of us with the next six games. But you can't play six games at a time. You only get to play one at a time."

The secondary has experienced its share of struggles early on and it appears as though a youth movement will take place over the final six games. Senior transfer Lew Toler is out with a broken and arm. While Rutgers has not officially said that he won't return this season, Flood insinuated Toler's return seems unlikely.

That means Rutgers will turn to redshirt freshman Ian Thomas along with true freshmen Nadir Barnwell and Anthony Cioffi, who is expecting quarterbacks to go after this young bunch in the final six games.

"That's what we want, we want the competition," Cioffi said. "That will get us better and we have to rise to the occasion."

Fourth-year junior cornerback Gareef Glashen is expected to return to practice this week after missing the previous two games for an undisclosed reason.

With Thursday's loss, Rutgers starting quarterback Gary Nova is now 16-8 in games that he has started at the college level. Nova threw four interceptions and was sacked eight times against Louisville.

"We have to do a better job of protecting Gary," Flood said. "Quarterback is a difficult enough position to play when the protection is good. When the protection consistently breaks down the way it did [against Louisville] it makes nearly impossible to be an effective quarterback."

Rutgers will return to practice on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before having off for next weekend's bye. The next opponent for the Scarlet Knights is a 5-0 Houston team, which is coming off a 25-15 win over Memphis. Starting running back Paul James is also expected to return in that game on Oct 26.

Stay logged onto Scarlet Nation for the latest on James' status along with everything you need to know about Rutgers football.

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