Rutgers landed a high-priority commitment this afternoon when Salisbury (Md.) Wicomico High School running back Dontea Ayres, the top ballcarrier on their board, offered a verbal commitment. The 5-foot-9, 205-pound Ayres became the third player in the class of 2013 to pledge to Rutgers, and the first out-of-state commit.
Ayres, who chose RU over offers from Duke, Navy, N.C. State, Northwestern and West Virginia. After visiting Piscataway for a spring practice in April, he declared the Scarlet Knights his leader and never wavered from that stance. He becomes the second Wicomico product to commit to Rutgers in the last four years, joining current safety Wayne Warren.
He broke the news this afternoon over the phone to head coach Kyle Flood.
"He told me. 'Man, you just made my weekend,'" Ayres said. "He told me how excited he was and we had a 1-on-1 conversation. He was as happy as I am.
"I really felt in my heart this is where I want to go. Everything I want is there. The staff is unbelievable; Coach Wrobo, Coach Brock, Coach Flood, they're all great coaches. It has what I want academically. I want to help Rutgers win a national championship. I think it's a great decision."
As a junior, Ayres rushed for 1,471 yards on 124 carries (11.9 avg) and scored 26 touchdowns for a 10-2 Indians squad. He cracked the 100-yard barrier on nine occasions and gained a season-high 237 yards in a 37-7 win over Berlin (Md.) Decatur on Oct 28. A weapon out of the backfield as well, Ayres caught 13 passes for 215 yards (16.5 avg) and two touchdowns.
Ayres is a big fan of the Rutgers Pro Style attack and feels his ability to be multi-dimensional will allow for him to thrive in it.
"I feel like I can benefit from this offense," he said. "I can fit well and achieve a lot in it. I'm diverse; I'm good at pass protection, I have good speed, good strength and I'm not a selfish player. I'll work well in this offense."
It wasn't just the scheme that attracted Ayres to Rutgers. The large--in size and in numbers--contingent of offensive linemen coming in for 2012 was a big selling point, particularly after Ayres bonded with them on a recent visit.
"The offensive linemen coming in 2012, it is crazy," he said "They thought a lot about me, I thought a lot of them. We should be able to work well together, and help Rutgers to a national championship."
Football was not the only aspect of Rutgers that enticed Ayres. The program's academic reputation helped solidify his decision, as did his relationship with Warren.
"Their APR and graduation rates are great," he explained. "They make sure they graduate their players. It's awesome man, that's all I have to say."
On his familiarity with Warren, with whom he was going to spend the rest of the afternoon, Ayres said he "didn't think it would play a factor at first but it is a big factor."
"Wayne is my big brother," Ayres said. "He enjoyed it up there, so I think it is the place for me as well."
Known for his compact, muscle-bound physique, Ayres trains five days a week on lifting, speed and agility. He says his build is a combination of hard work and genetics.
"I've always been a big kid," he explained. "My dad is big, my uncles are big. As I got older, I kept putting on more and more size."
Now, he will take that size to Rutgers, and the excitement in his voice was apparent this afternoon.
"I'm excited about this decision, excited to become a part of this family," he iterated. "Hopefully I can help take them to a national championship."