ATLANTIC CITY - Rutgers University football coach Kyle Flood presented Atlantic City Mayor Lorenzo Langford on Friday with a Scarlet Knights jersey worn last month during their annual spring game - players' jerseys featured the names of towns affected by Hurricane Sandy - and then visited the new Margaritaville complex at Resorts Hotel Casino.
He hopes be make more southbound trips in the future.
Flood, who is entering his second season as Rutgers' head coach, wants to turn the Garden State Parkway into a pipeline in order to stop South Jersey's top prospects from choosing out-of-state programs.
"You're always going to have those players that want to leave home," Flood said Friday at City Hall. "But we regard South Jersey as a huge recruiting area for us. We've always managed to get our fair share of players from that area, like (former Scarlet Knights) Gary Brackett (Glassboro High School), Clark Harris (Southern Regional) and Jack Corcoran (St. Joseph's). But we want to get more."
Two recent events may help keep more local standouts in-state.
Rutgers just hired Darrell Wilson to be the Scarlet Knights' defensive backs coach. Wilson, who spent the previous 11 seasons at the University of Iowa, is a Pennsauken native who coached Camden's Woodrow Wilson High School from 1988-95 and has maintained strong ties to South Jersey.
And in 2014, the Scarlet Knights will move to the Big Ten Conference.
"I remember watching (Overbrook Regional grad) Ron Dayne playing for Wisconsin and I always used to lament about our best players (from South Jersey) going elsewhere," Langford said. "But now that we're in the big, or I should say bigger, time, I'm very optimistic and pretty confident Rutgers will be able to attract and keep our young talent. And with the coaching they're going to receive, I think the future is very bright for Rutgers football. I can't wait."
Rutgers went 9-4, including a 13-10 overtime loss to Virginia Tech in the Russell Athletic Bowl, it its first season under Flood. The Scarlet Knights will open their 2013 season Aug. 29 at Fresno State.
Rutgers' incoming freshmen football class includes two players from Cape-Atlantic League high schools: Timber Creek linebacker Myles Nash and Egg Harbor Township defensive end Eric Wiafe. They will join list of South Jersey players that already includes running back Paul James (Glassboro), defensive back Tejay Johnson (EHT), linebacker Quanzell Lambert (Timber Creek), fullback Kevin Marquez (EHT) and defensive back Vance Matthews (Lower Cape May Regional).
Johnson, a rising junior, is a contender to start at cornerback or safety this coming season.
"Some people only judge a players' progress on whether or not they start, but that's not accurate," Flood said. "We use so many different packages on defense that Tejay's going to be playing a lot of football for us either way. And he's also probably one of the most valuable special teams players we have here."
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