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Friday, May 16, 2014

Does Rutgers' Big Ten move leave recruiting Florida at crossroads?

(AP photo)
By Tyler Barto
Twitter: @Tyler_Barto

When Rutgers enters the Big Ten in less than two months, it will officially open up recruiting streams previously untapped.

But Florida, the state Rutgers has recruited second-most to New Jersey since 2002, could be most affected.

Will Rutgers still have recruiting success there even though it won't play a regular season game in Florida until 2019? How will recruits evaluate a Miami-less, USF-less conference schedule? Does the Big Ten Network matter in an area unlikely to receive it?

I'll be releasing a longform story Monday on the impact of Rutgers' move to the Big Ten on Florida, but here are some stories from players, recruiting analysts and high school coaches who have witnessed the change firsthand.

— Rivals national recruiting analyst Mike Farrell“The billboard (Greg Schiano) put down there was very interesting. He put a huge billboard up in South Florida talking about Rutgers football. That was a big deal. People would see that every day as they’d go by. It was a very creative way for people to think about Rutgers when they would otherwise never think about it in South Florida.”

“I think it’s less favorable (recruiting Florida), simply because there’s no Big Ten school down south. In the beginning of the Big East, there was Miami. Then obviously USF. I will say this: Iowa, Purdue, some of the middle-lane Big Ten programs do a good job of recruiting Florida, regardless of the fact that they don’t play any games down there."

— Rutgers defensive tackle Kenneth Kirksey“It brings back memories. I was in class. My mail got sent to my coach’s office. I had picked it up fourth period. I was in fifth period, and I opened my letter and was like, ‘Rutgers?’ It was like, ‘We would like to offer you a scholarship.’ I was like, ‘I’ve never heard of this before.’ I went straight to my coach’s. He was like, ‘Yeah, Rutgers has a good school.’ They were the first school to offer me. Then I met coach Schiano and (former) coach (Ed) Pinkham.”

— Columbus (Miami) head coach Chris Merritt“They’re going to have to branch out. Rutgers is at a different place now than it was 14 years ago — much different. … They haven’t had to take chances. But they’re in a much larger conference now and a much more stable football environment, which I think will help them out. The difference is the Big Ten teams are going to be recruiting against them in the state of Florida. They all recruit Florida, where there weren’t as many from the Big East.”

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