2021 OL Nolan Rucci Talks Top 9, Wisconsin
Last week, 2021 offensive lineman Nolan Rucci dropped his list of top nine programs. According to the Lititz, Pa. (Warwick) standout -- who is rated a five-star recruit by 247Sports composite rankings — he felt like he was ready for it.
“With everything with the recruiting and stuff where I was getting a ton of text and stuff like that, I was ready to move on," Rucci told AllBadgers.com on April 22. "Even though it's not like the greatest timing as far as when I would have liked to do my visits and everything, you sometimes just got to work with what you got. Obviously, these are strange times with not being able to take spring visits so it's kind of shifting a timeline a little bit.”
The week prior, however, he announced via social media that he would take a break from recruiting to focus on family and schoolwork. It gave him an opportunity to sit back and relax from the FaceTime calls, Zoom meetings and texts he received.
Rucci also took the time to contact those schools not in his top list who had offered him and thanked them for the opportunity, but that he was also moving on.
"I called every single program that had offered me and was not in my top nine just to let them know," Rucci said. "I think it was a good process even though they're tough phone calls to have, and it's a lot of them to do. But I think at the end of the day, it was definitely a really good experience for me to have just to say man-to-man, to those coaches who had recruited me for so long, just thank them for everything they've done.”
Rucci spoke with AllBadgers.com about his top schools, what stood out about them and why he placed them in this group. [Ed. note: We discussed each program starting from the top row of the graphic from left to right just for simplicity's sake.]
With Wisconsin, the prep lineman has obvious connections with his older brother, tight end Hayden, about to start his second year in Madison. As he described it, he is also "pretty tight with the coaching staff," including offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Joe Rudolph.
"Coach Rudy’s such a great guy and has been recruiting me pretty hard over these last few months so it was kind of like a no brainer for the top nine just because of how much of a personal connection I have up there," Rucci said. "Obviously, Wisconsin was my first offer. I think all those things now, it's just helped me make that decision.”
With Alabama, Rucci noted that he liked offensive line coach Kyle Flood, but he also has learned more about the school than just the football program.
"I got a chance over the past few weeks to get on calls with him -- and not only him -- but also the Dean of Engineering at Alabama and a few of the players there as well," Rucci said. "I think just having those experiences helped me learn a lot more about their program. I was actually pleasantly surprised with the academic portion of their school and how well they handle it and talking to Coach Saban just about how they develop their guys and everything like that. So Alabama is definitely a top program football-wise and academically.”
For LSU, Rucci has been speaking with offensive line coach James Cregg for a long time. The lineman noted the assistant has been up to his high school, and they have been developing the relationship with phone calls.
"Probably one of my favorite calls of the week is when I get to sit down, talk with ‘Coach O’ (head coach Ed Orgeron)," Rucci said. "He’s such a personality, a great guy to talk to you so those conversations that we have are always fun. They’re a program I’d really like to get my eyes on and get down there hopefully sometime this summer.”
Before the COVID-19 pandemic halted his plans for trips elsewhere this spring, Rucci made a trip to Clemson in March. He believes he received a good look at the the school's academic program "and everything that has to offer as far as engineering goes."
"I think just having those conversations with Coach (Dabo) Sweeney and sitting down with my family I thought was really meaningful to me," Rucci said. "(Offensive line) Coach (Robbie) Caldwell and I have been texting back and forth the past week or so, and I got all the great things to say about Clemson just as a program. They have a beautiful campus and everything like that so I’m obviously really interested in Clemson.”
With Michigan, Rucci called out that the university has one of the top aerospace engineering schools in the country, which stands out to him. On the field, he also noted the background of offensive line coach Ed Warriner.
“Actually was just on FaceTime with him and Coach (Jim) Harbaugh yesterday (on Tuesday the 21st), so I think we've been having great conversations over the past few days, texting and FaceTiming and everything like that. Just how well I fit in their program there." Rucci said. "I think just talking to academic persons have been really helpful.”
Across state borders in the Big Ten, Rucci mentioned the great relationship with Ohio State head coach Ryan Day. He has had contact with Day and offensive line coach Greg Studrawa via FaceTime.
"I think their football piece is kind of unquestionable as far as the success they've been able to have over the past few years," Rucci said. "It's been really impressive to me and just that portion of it. "
"We were going to go down for I believe, a spring game sometime this spring. Obviously, that kind of got shifted so I'm really looking to get over there some time this summer."
In the case of Stanford, Rucci mentioned the Pac-12 university's track record as one of the top schools for engineering -- along with how it can maintain the high-level of academics and its play on the field.
"It was actually pretty cool, I got to do a campus tour with a few of the coaches," Rucci said. "They just kind of virtually kind of took me around the campus, I think on like a golf cart or something like that. That was really cool. Even though you're not there in person, you're still kind of getting a feel for the place and what it looks like on an everyday basis, and so I've had a lot of great experiences with Stanford over the past week or so.”
Rucci's parents Stacy and Todd went to Penn State and played field hockey and football, respectively, for the Nittany Lions. He grew up a fan, but with the recruiting process, he stated it "kind of made me impartial."
That being said, he stated he had "great talks" with head coach James Franklin and praised the new assistant coach at his position group.
"I think with a new (offensive line coach) hire with Coach Trautwein, he is such a great dude," Rucci said. "I think just talking with his players -- actually had a chance to go on a Zoom call with them today as well -- they're really excited for obviously his knowledge and level of play that they're hopefully going to be at with his talent and knowledge of the game.
"I'm excited for how they’re going to look this year and I think the players are, too.”
Rucci told AllBadgers.com in February that he was planning to go to Notre Dame in March, but that was scrapped due to the pandemic.
Like some of the other programs discussed before, he complimented the university's academics and called out the Fighting Irish's history of developing offensive linemen like current San Francisco 49ers tackle Mike McGlinchey.
“That stuff is very attractive as an o-line prospect looking at a school," Rucci said. "So Notre Dame, as well as (offensive line) Coach (Jeff) Quinn -- who obviously recruited me really hard over these past two months -- is a great spot. I've been there before, but I think the next step for me is I really want to get a chance to go there, kind of sit down with maybe some of the players and just watch practice, watch film, stuff like that."
In early February, Rucci hoped he would be able to take his official visits in the spring and make a decision by the end of June. With the COVID-19 pandemic and the subsequent alterations in his scheduling, he now ideally hopes to take all of his visits during the summer and have a decision by the season.
In terms of whom receives those visits, Rucci said it's pretty up in the air as of the 22nd.
"As far as out of those nine, I feel like all the schools have a pretty high level of athletics and academics, and that's obviously why they're in that list," Rucci said. "So I'm just excited to keep in contact with the coaches, get a chance to talk to players and keep up the recruiting.”
In February, Rucci also appeared to indicate that Wisconsin was in line for one of those five designated visits. When asked last week if he was still thinking that he would take an official there, he said he would "really like to."
"Obviously, my older brother’s up there, and I think it would just be a great experience for me just to kind of get where I’m able to get a good look at the program, even from an insider like my brother who's been with them for a while. So I think getting that portion would be really helpful.”