Signing of Schiano brings next era of Rutgers football
Greg Schiano is back on the Banks.
After taking one of the worst teams in college football to six bowl games between 2005 and 2011, Schiano established himself as an immortal figure among a long-suffering Rutgers football team fanbase and a respected coach in the world of college football. When he left Piscataway in 2011, he had just inked the first top-25 recruiting class in University history.
With that being said, everything Schiano had built on the Banks would fall apart under his successor Kyle Flood, who was fired in 2015 after being plagued by scandals and NCAA investigations. Chris Ash came in to replace him after winning the national championship as co-defensive coordinator at Ohio State and finished with an 8-32 record.
Now Schiano is tasked with starting from scratch all over again, as the Scarlet Knights (2-10, 0-9) have just three wins in the last two years – none of which came against Big Ten teams. The 2020 recruiting class is currently ranked dead last in the conference and in the 90s overall, behind the likes of UMass.
But, player development is what Schiano made his name on the first time around, and he emphasized that mentality again.
“(Devin McCourty) wasn't a five-star. He was a two-star and didn't have a bunch of offers," Schiano said. "I don't know if he had any Division I offers.”
Getting top recruits to stay in New Jersey has been Rutgers’ Achilles' heel for every coach except for Schiano, but he’ll have the manpower to get it done again. While the Knights have a long way to go to be competitive against the best of the Big Ten, Schiano’s already had a positive impact on recruiting. Most notably, the general consensus among recruiting services is that the second-best prospect in the state, running back Jalen Berger, is likely to commit to Rutgers.
He also managed to convince sophomore quarterback Artur Sitkowski, who showed signs of improvement before preserving his eligibility, to stay with the Knights just a week after he officially entered the transfer portal. Sitkowski was a four-star quarterback and has all the physical tools to be a Big Ten-caliber passer with three years of eligibility remaining.
Not only does he command the respect of high school coaches all over the state, but he’ll also be supported by former Bergen Catholic head coach Nunzio Campanile. Campanile has the respect and connections to get the attention of top private school prospects, especially in North Jersey.
Nunzio also has a history with Rutgers quarterbacks – former Knights quarterbacks Mike Teel and Gary Nova both played under his leadership at Don Bosco before they starred on the Banks.
Although there are a lot of similarities between Rutgers football in 2019 and the program from 2000, there’s plenty of reason to believe that the second build could be more of an uphill climb. For one thing, the Knights now find themselves in arguably the toughest division in college football, facing annual matchups with Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.
That being said, Schiano also has the added advantage of a resource pool that he didn’t have before. Most importantly, Rutgers agreed at the time of his new contract that the University will provide half of the $150 million needed for a new football-only practice facility.
He’s definitely not cavalier about the challenge the program faces.
“It's going to take everybody in this state, everybody who cares about Rutgers and who cares about New Jersey, to pick up the axe, look at the spot and just start chopping, and don't worry about what happens next,” Schiano said.
While we won’t be able to judge the success of the next Schiano era for the next few years, one thing is already clear: The fanbase has been re-energized.
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