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Schiano's new coordinators provide opportunity for progress

On Dec. 3, head football coach Greg Schiano was officially named as the next person to usher in the newest era of Rutgers football.

The previous one, which began with the hiring of former head coach Chris Ash, ended with the then-tight ends coach Nunzio Campanile taking over for the Scarlet Knights (2-10) after an 8-32 overall record under Ash was capped off with a 52-0 defeat to Michigan.

It will forever be remembered as a blemish on the program’s history books after the considerable amount of success that was built up by its strong performing teams at the onset of the millennium came crashing down to the bottom of the national rankings in a little over three seasons. 

Schiano, who was responsible for generating the optimism, will seek to recoup the amount of success that was had during his tenure at Rutgers with the hiring of a staff that has had its members witness it throughout their respective careers.

New offensive coordinator Sean Gleeson is one of the few new coaches to the Knights who was around to take notice of the success while also establishing some of his own with different institutions. Starting out at Delbarton School in 2007, Gleeson eventually worked his way up to the collegiate level, where he secured a job as the offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Fairleigh Dickinson in 2011. 

From there, Gleeson transitioned into the Ivy League where he became the running backs coach for Princeton beginning in 2013. After adding the title of special teams coordinator in 2016, Gleeson ultimately became the Tigers’ offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach in 2017, where he held the positions for one more season before accepting a job at Oklahoma State with the same titles for the 2019 season.

During his time at the head of the offensive units from 2017-19, a number of players both at Princeton and with the Cowboys received All-Ivy League and All-Big 12 honors. Gleeson also helped secure multiple national rankings for both the Tigers and Oklahoma State in various offensive categories.

As the offensive coordinator for Rutgers, though, Gleeson will certainly have his work cut out for him.

The Knights currently rank 129th out of 130 teams in the FBS for total offense, according to NCAA.com. They accumulated just 3,277 total yards last season and averaged approximately 273 yards per game.

Though the numbers assuredly cannot get much worse in the offensive categories, Rutgers doesn’t look much better on the defensive side of the ball, either. The Knights come in at 98th, having allowed 5,203 total yards with approximately 434 yards given up per game in 2019.

While the addition of Gleeson certainly presents an opportunity for Rutgers to grow offensively, new defensive coordinator Robb Smith will need to bring the Knights’ defense back to what it was in his last time with the unit if the program in its entirety seeks to progress nationally.

From 2009-2011, Smith held the title of special teams coordinator under Schiano. In that timespan, Rutgers’ unit ranked first in blocked kicks and in the top ten each season for blocked punts. As a result of his success, Smith was promoted to defensive coordinator in 2012, where he guided the Knights to a No. 10 ranking for total defense. The unit allowed only 4,051 total yards and approximately 312 yards per game that season.

While it would be unreasonable to say that, based on these numbers, the defense for Rutgers under Smith will undergo a massive transformation into one of the best in the nation next season, it is not out of the question to believe that, given a few years, the Knights have the ability to gain a considerable amount of traction in the national rankings with his addition.

The next few years for the team will continue to be a growing period for Smith and Gleeson despite their successful track records, though. The team being inherited is one of the worst in program history. Yet, due to the additions that have been made, the end result has the opportunity to look vastly different from what many thought were possible at the onset of this past season and even the previous era itself.

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