With a large 2020 class already lined up, Geoff Collins and his staff have gotten a head start on next year’s recruiting cycle. Malik Rutherford, a Class of 2021 wide receiver prospect from Hialeah, FL in the Greater Miami area, announced his commitment to Tech via Twitter on Sunday.
With his commitment, Rutherford becomes the first member of Tech’s 2021 recruiting class. He had offers from Nebraska, Indiana, Syracuse, and several Group of Five and FCS schools, according to Rivals and 247Sports. He has not yet been rated by either recruiting service.
Rutherford is listed at 5-foot-9 and 165 pounds and projects as a slot receiver for Tech. Here is his junior film:
Speed is the biggest priority for a prospective slot receiver in Tech’s offense, and Rutherford fits the bill. His top-end speed isn’t quite on Ahmarean Brown’s level, but he’s fast enough to make an impact at the position, and he’s a very shifty runner who is adept at making guys miss after the catch. One of his more impressive traits is his catching ability: he always puts his hands out to make a catch instead of letting the ball come to him, and he’s remarkably good at winning jump balls for a player of his size—though the latter will be tested as he goes up against bigger and more talented defensive backs at the college level.
Rutherford’s film also shows a few blocking clips. Blocking ability isn’t quite the priority for a Tech receiver that it was during the Paul Johnson era, but it’s still a valuable skill, and it’s good to see that Rutherford is able to drive back opposing defensive backs.
With Brown entrenched as the starting slot receiver, backup Josh Blancato returning next year, and 2020 commit Nate McCollum in the pipeline, Rutherford may not see a ton of playing time right out of the gate and has a good chance to redshirt. He’s an interesting prospect, though, and should find his way onto the field one way or another before long. It would not be surprising if he works his way into the rotation in four-wide and five-wide sets early on, and his ability to avoid would-be tacklers would make him an intriguing choice as a punt returner.
It’s possible that Tech also gives him a look at cornerback, but it’s unlikely. Per 247Sports, his primary recruiter was wide receivers coach Kerry Dixon, and the team has emphasized length at the cornerback position. Rutherford’s future with the team will be at receiver.