Freshman defensive end Marques Ford, a four-star prospect in the 2015 recruiting class, will transfer from Rutgers.
“I wasn’t comfortable with the school, basically,” Ford said in a phone interview with NJ Advance Media on Sunday. “Not from the get go, but over time I just wasn’t comfortable.”
Ford said he made the final decision two weeks ago after former coach Kyle Flood was fired. The 6-foot-4, 220-pound Riverview, Fla., native said he did not speak with new coach Chris Ash about his decision to transfer. But the coaching change wasn’t the driving factor behind Ford’s decision.
“That just added onto to how uncomfortable I was,” Ford said. “It all came down to me just being uncomfortable there. Being that far away from home — not saying I’m homesick, but being that far away from home, it just wasn’t a good feeling.”
Ford said he received a full release from Rutgers, but he doesn’t know where he’ll go next, although he’ll probably stay closer to home.
“I don’t know, honestly. I can’t really say right now,” Ford said. “I’m just weighing my options right now and seeing what I can do.”
Of the 15 Florida natives Rutgers has landed in the past three recruiting classes, six have transferred and one was kicked off the team.
Ford was pursued by dozens of power conference programs while starring at East Bay High. He initially committed to Tennessee, but his scholarship was pulled two weeks before national signing day because the Volunteers had accepted more verbal commitments than they had available scholarships.
Rutgers defensive line coach Jim Panagos acted swiftly, flying to Florida to meet with Ford the next morning. Panagos and Ford had maintained a close relationship through the recruiting process and Ford decided to sign with Rutgers.
Ford said the fact that Panagos is unlikely to be retained by Ash “had an impact” on his decision.
Ford, who needed to add weight to his frame, redshirted during this past season.
“I took my role,” Ford said. “I just accepted it, really. I couldn’t really do much about it. I wasn’t mad about it or anything. I just did what I had to do. I did what they said, worked out when I had to, extra when I could.”
Ford is the first player to transfer since Ash took over on Dec. 5. Three commits in the 2016 recruiting class have decommitted since Ash was hired.
Ford was a rare four-star recruit landed by Flood. Ford was the only four-star prospect in the 2015 recruiting class, there were no four-star recruits in the 2014 class and cornerback Nadir Barnwell was the only four-star prospect in the 2013 class. Barnwell was kicked off the team before the season following his arrest on an assault charge.
There are three four-star and one five-star players remaining on the roster from the 2012 class that was recruited by Greg Schiano and signed by Flood. Defensive back Patrice Rene is the lone four-star commit in the 2016 recruiting class.