After practice Wednesday, Saeed Blacknall recalled when he and Saquon Barkley were once committed to Rutgers. Although they didn’t know each other at the time, they still joke about playing in Scarlet Knight red sometimes.
Before committing to Penn State, Blacknall, of Manalapan, New Jersey, withdrew his commitment from Rutgers about a week prior to signing day, leaving tension with former teammates from his home state.
“If we look back and see how they turned out,” the senior wide receiver said, “obviously this was the best choice.”
Saeed Blacknall on choosing Penn State over Rutgers pic.twitter.com/ZEaM4cyOfu
— Jill Beckman (@_jillbeckman) November 9, 2017
In terms of winning, he’s not wrong. In the past three years, Rutgers has gone 14-23, with one bowl appearance and no conference wins last season.
But the program is making progress. In Chris Ash’s second year at the helm, the Scarlet Knights have won three of their last four games to improve their conference record to 3-3 on the season.
Blacknall is still friendly with a decent number of players from Rutgers, which he said is 25 minutes from his front door. But with other players, there were hurt feelings after the withdrawn commitment.
“So some of them didn’t like me,” he said. “Obviously, a lot of them who I was friends with said, ‘You’re doing what’s best for you.’ But there is an edge they have.”
Blacknall said the noon matchup Saturday in Beaver Stadium will feel like a throwback to high school, with some players on both teams familiar with how one another plays.
At the time of the withdrawn commitment, Blacknall didn’t want to let down his teammates or then-coach Kyle Flood. But looking back, he knows he made the right decision.
“It was tough,” he said, “but I saw what they had going on here, even with what happened with the sanctions, and I still felt like it would be a better fit to come here than to just stay home.
“And my mom said, ‘You can stay home if you want, but it’s best if you go somewhere else.’”