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FutureStarrRutgers Football Commits AJ Surace
Rutgers football staff currently has several quarterback commits and, if all make the team, there could be some exciting developments in the coming months. Besides talent and coaching ability, there are three "Ps" used to evaluate any prospective quarterback: personnel, protection, playcaller. These criteria must all be taken into consideration when making a judgement call on who should play at which position.
Last offseason, Iowa quarterback Spencer Petras traveled to New Jersey to work with coach Tony Racioppi. He also has the privilege of coaching former Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley, Pittsburgh Steelers first-round pick Kenny Pickett and other collegiate and high school quarterbacks.
Rutgers football has added Notre Dame High School quarterback AJ Surace to its 2024 class with three commitments. 247Sports ranks him as the eighth best player in New Jersey and his offers include Boston College, Duke, Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern, Pittsburgh and Temple.
Surace is an impressive pocket passer, boasting great accuracy and the capacity to read defenses quickly. His big arm can throw the ball long or short, depending on his release speed.
The 6-foot-2, 195-pound prospect recruit possesses the physical attributes and athleticism to play at the next level. He has started for the Irish twice already and will be a senior next season.
Surace recently spoke with Rutgers Wire about his visit last month and meeting with new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca. He was highly impressed by Ciarrocca's work as Minnesota's offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach, believing it will help him become one of the top quarterbacks in the Big Ten Conference.
He also notes his relationship with coach Greg Schiano and that he's excited about attending Rutgers, due to their positive perception of both their program and leadership. Furthermore, he anticipates that the new offense Schiano and Ciarrocca plan to implement will play a significant role in making his decision.
Racioppi, a quarterback trainer, has worked with over 40 New Jersey high school quarterbacks and has mentored quarterbacks at all levels of the game. His clients include current Rutgers QB Artur Sitkowski and former Rutgers signal caller Johnathan Lewis; Pittsburgh Steelers first round draft pick Kenny Pickett; Iowa commit Marco Lainez; as well as second year pro quarterback Davis Webb of the New York Giants.
Recruiting a great quarterback is no small feat. It requires the capacity to build trust with players and an ambition to improve them. Most importantly, Coach Racioppi strives to instill consistency in each of his quarterbacks with these traits.
He begins by getting to know each player on a personal level. That means taking time out of practice time to watch each player practice, analyze their mechanics and work with them individually. Furthermore, he ensures they get enough rest and nutrition.
He also studies their film from previous opponents to determine areas for improvement and provides them with the best guidance and motivation he can, which is why he's been working closely with Petras this offseason.
In addition to his own coaching, he has also served as a mentor for many of the other quarterbacks at his school - including Surace, who is rated three-star recruit and 247Sports' eighth best player in New Jersey.
Racioppi has extensive experience coaching quarterbacks from around the country and in the NFL. He has coached numerous high school quarterbacks who went on to become top players in their classes, and he's even worked with several NFL draft picks, such as Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Kenny Pickett.
His training program aims to refine the quarterback's throwing sequence, drop-back footwork, moving in the pocket and running on bootlegs and scrambles. It all serves to make them more accurate and efficient when throwing.
He's also worked on improving his anticipation and the capacity to read defenses. These skillsets are essential in winning games and keeping opponents guessing, which are two of the most important ingredients for success.
In addition to his work at Racioppi, he attended the Manning Passing Academy this summer in Thibodaux, Louisiana. This annual event hosted by the Manning family invites college quarterbacks from all over the US to compete in a range of activities.
At the event, Petras had the unique opportunity to throw to some of America's top quarterbacks. He threw twice during showcase events and showed off his accuracy on short drop-backs and drag routes in tight red-zone scenarios.
The Hawkeyes quarterback reported positive feedback this offseason after losing seven pounds and showing improvement in his mechanics. He also has a powerful arm and is athletic enough to extend plays, something which was an issue last season.
He's also a strong leader, according to senior wide receiver Nico Ragaini and offensive lineman Kyler Schott. And it is that leadership that will enable him to succeed in the Big Ten this year.
Iowa fans are eager to see their program's next starting quarterback join the squad this year. As Iowa prepares to tackle a difficult schedule and attempts to reach the College Football Playoff for the first time since 2010, this position needs to be addressed quickly.
If the Hawkeyes find their quarterback in this class, it would be a major accomplishment for their offense. While Iowa already boasts plenty of talent at this position, they still need to add someone who can help take this unit to new heights.
Coach Racioppi, the head coach at TEST Football Academy in Martinsville, New Jersey, has had the privilege of coaching two of Iowa's top quarterbacks to date. With a long history of helping quarterbacks improve, 25 of his clients have gone on to sign with the NFL.
He's a former Division III star at Rowan University who also coaches Manning Passing Academy quarterbacks every summer. Coach Racioppi's expertise as a quarterback coach, combined with his extensive knowledge of quarterbacks, have earned him recognition as one of the nation's top quarterback coaches.
He currently believes Spencer Petras will be the starting QB for the Hawkeyes in 2022, and they've been working closely together since. He expects Petras to have a stellar year as the starter.
If he doesn't, then the Hawkeyes may need to explore other options for starting in 2022. They could search the portal for a quarterback, or they could rely on true freshman Carson May as their starter and learn the program from scratch.
No matter who starts in 2022, it will be difficult to assess their skill level until after some experience has been gained. If the coach hired prior to spring practice is objective and fair, Iowa fans will get an accurate assessment of each player's potential at this position.
Although there are plenty of outstanding players in this class, Iowa appears to have the edge at safety. The Hawkeyes boast two outstanding defensive backs in 5-star Xavier Nwankpa and 4-star Kahlil Tate, both highly rated by college coaches.
Tate is an impressive athlete with versatility who can play cornerback or receiver and excellent coverage skills. He's already visited Iowa State and could make a great addition to their class.
Though the class may be smaller than in years past, it still contains some quality pieces that can help this program progress. The Hawkeyes boast many talented players and will continue to recruit for the future. But in order to be successful, they'll need to form relationships with all players on the roster and develop them into leaders.