MOUNTAINSIDE, N.J. - In order to fully take advantage of the bevy of talent within the boundaries of New Jersey, Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano needs to continue to land the players who could play for any school in the country but want to stay home and build up the Scarlet Knight program.
Saturday evening, he landed just such a talent in Don Bosco wide receiver Leonte Carroo. Carroo, who held double-digit offers, spurned out-of-state schools such as Cal, Penn State, Boston College, Wisconsin and Michigan in the process of becoming a Scarlet Knight.
"Just a great family atmosphere, great communication with the coaches. I felt like I was very welcomed by them, very loved," said Carroo regarding his reasons for choosing Rutgers. "I actually committed July 4th. They (the Rutgers coaches) already pretty much knew, they just kept it a secret. They were just as excited as I was. I'm pretty sure they're excited now. I feel like I got a big weight off my shoulders and I'm very happy with my decision."
As happy as he is with his decision, the evening did not go without Carroo adding an air of suspense to the proceedings. When guests arrived at L'Affaire Fine Catering, they were greeted by tables decorated with blue and gold napkins, an unwelcome sight for the scarlet nation.
"Well Cal was my second choice," Carroo revealed. "I figured if I put in blue and gold, a lot of reporters, they kind of knew where I was going. A lot of them were typing to me 'Oh, you're definitely going to Rutgers.' I had to do something to throw them off, so I brought in a blue and yellow napkin just to throw them off."
At the end of the day, one coach in particular may have tipped the scales in Rutgers' favor: former Pitt assistant turned Scarlet Knights' secondary coach Jeff Hafley.
"Any time I talked to Coach Hafley, he never talked to me about football or tried to recruit me," Carroo said. "He always asked me how my day is going, how's my family, how's my mom, how's my grandma. That is very important to me, to see a coach that is recruiting me talk about nothing but how I'm doing. I thought that was very important."
Now the 14th member of a close-knit recruiting class, Carroo was not without the adulation of his peers on Saturday night. Rutgers commits from throughout North Jersey stopped in to show support for their future teammate and continue to strengthen the bonds between the New Jersey products.
"I'm great friends with all those guys: Ruhann Peele, Steve (Longa), Carlton (Agudosi)," Carroo explained. "They were talking to me about this a lot. I'm great friends with them, I feel like they influenced me a lot. So did Paulie (Canevari) and Gary (Nova). I'm just happy with the decision I made.
"This class is going to do big things. Hopefully, I can convince other teammates to join in this moment with me."
With the addition of Carroo, Rutgers continues to stockpile diverse offensive weapons in its 2012 arsenal. Carroo joins wide receivers Carlton Agudosi and Ruhann Peele as well as tight end Michael Giacone to form a quartet of receivers that could pose a problem for BIG EAST defenses down the line.
"I know Carlton he brings great size, Ruhann, he brings that swag and cockiness, he's a confident player," Carroo said. "Giacone, he's a big kid and a good player. Me, I think I just bring a winning attitude and confident attitude. I think I bring speed and athletic ability."
An explosive and dangerous deep threat, Carroo could find the field early with his ability to stretch defenses. However, that has not stopped him from trying to hone his craft as a complete wide receiver.
"Everyone knows me as a deep threat; a lot of teams play 10, 15, 20 yards back on me," he said. "I just want to focus on catching the short ball, a lot of dig routes, underneath routes and use my athletic ability to get up the field and things like that."
With his college commitment firmly and finally out of the way, Carroo can now attend to his next immediate order of business: helping Don Bosco live up to its No.1 preseason billing.
"It definitely gives us more confidence (being ranked No.1), but that doesn't stop us from working hard," Carroo explained. "We're number 1 in the country, but that doesn't stop us from pushing every day and going out there and getting better. A lot of our guys this year that were there from last year, I noticed, they're very focused. We know we got a main target on our back and we just want to go out there and work hard every day."
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