PISCATAWAY — On Oct. 17, during his weekly radio show, Chris Ash entered a discussion focusing on junior college recruiting at Rutgers, and expressed a willingness to pursue players from two-year colleges, under the right circumstances.
On Monday, Ash met reporters for his normal beginning-of-the-week press conference as the Scarlet Knights ready to travel to Wisconsin on Saturday (Noon, Big Ten Network).¬†The topic of junior college recruiting came up again. The actual question zeroed in on Rutgers’ iffy history with getting JUCO kids to step in and play right away, and what has Ash thinking this is a good idea for 2019.¬†
“I look at junior college recruiting for this program and places that I’ve been as a need-based option,” Ash said. “If you have a need and you can fulfill that need through a potential junior college transfer, an older kid¬†that fits your culture, fits your university, fits your style, then great.
“We are not just going to go sign a junior college player just because he’s a junior college player. It has to, one, fill a need that we may have, which we have some, especially on the offensive side of the ball, but he’s also got to fit the culture of our program and he’s got to fit our university academically. There’s a lot that goes into it.”
That part about culture that Ash referenced? That looked pretty bad on Tuesday.¬†
Late Tuesday afternoon, the Middlesex County Prosecutor’s Office announced that Izaia Bullock, a redshirt junior linebacker who saw action in one game this season, has been charged with two counts each of attempted murder and conspiracy to commit murder. Within 10 minutes of the news hitting the internet, Bullock had been dismissed from the team, his bio removed from the Rutgers website.¬†
We heard the screams from social media and the message boards on Tuesday evening.¬†
“Is this kid even on scholarship?”
That last question? Funny you should ask. No, he isn’t after landing on the roster via walk-on tryout in 2017. A Linden native, Bullock played with the Gattaca Football Club of Mercer County, a¬†private¬†junior college-like program¬†that assists high school graduates in getting recruited by Division I and II programs.¬†
Bullock is not the first junior college transfer to find trouble at Rutgers this season. Kobe Marfo (Reedley College) and Malik Dixon (Eastern Arizona College) were two of eight players charged in August for their role in a credit card fraud scheme. For what it’s worth, Marfo and Dixon were both on scholarship.¬†
In fairness to Ash, the third-year head coach has tried diligently to clean up the disciplinary and academic mess left to him by former head coach Kyle Flood. With Bullock’s charges standing as the most serious, nine recent arrests offer pause as to how far the disciplinary end of things has really come.¬†
Within those nine arrests are three junior college kids. Of those three, two are on scholarship, which leads us back to Ash’s notion that any junior college transfer would have to fit the culture at Rutgers.
If Ash and his staff are actively looking for plug-and-play linemen after what has gone on with some of their JUCO kids, the question begs, what is the vetting process on these matters? Kids don’t end up at junior colleges because they’re bad at football. They end up there, in many cases, because of financial reasons or don’t want to go to school far from home, or they have baggage, whether that be academic or disciplinary.¬†¬†
Marfo and Dixon were one thing, but Bullock’s arrest in the wake of Ash’s comments on junior college players will guarantee that any future recruitment of a JUCO kid, let alone a high-profile one, will be done under a microscope.¬†
That’s bound to happen when you whiff on three other guys.¬†
Staff writer Josh Newman: email@example.com; @Joshua_Newman