Just like life, Rutgers week is halfway over before you knew it.
The stalwart OTE EIC MNWildcat laid an extremely solid dig/praise on myself and Zuzu in our editors’ Slack chat.
“Holy shit do I love you two. Rutgers has won something like 7 conference games in 6 seasons in the Big Ten, and you two continue to make me want to read about Rutgers football.”
So before I shower us in praise any further, let’s get down to some Coach Talk.
Some X’s, O’s and P’s.
P’s you say? Well, that’s right because our Special Teams coach has a pet pig. This fact - in addition to the good chance that our best football player will be our punter - makes Rutgers the most Big Ten team in all the land.
What more can we say about this guy? To catch you up, here’s how the emotional roller-coaster went:
Jan 16, 2019 - Idiots in some flyover state are idiots. Rutgers fans are both furious and thrilled because GS is our guy but we were all secretly wishing he would come back, but secretly knowing there’s probably no chance at this point.
Feb 6, 2019 - Greg takes a job with the Pats. We’re all happy for him (but secretly super bummed).
Mar 28, 2019 - Greg quits. Could it be? No, not possible.
Sept 29, 2019 - Chris Ash is fired. Twitter erupts into a super positive, well-wishing thread and everyone not from New Jersey is confused. Secretly, Greg starts looking at his old gig at Rutgers and thinking “What if?”
Sept 30, 2019 - Zuzu is not happy and is a hard pass on Greg Schiano. Coray is out of his mind with excitement.
Nov 4, 2019 - Thump has some ideas for coaches other than Greg Schiano. Any outside the Tampa Bay area code was not terribly impressed.
Nov 24, 2019 - GS not happening. Contract offer falls apart at the 11th hour. Zuzu says everything will be okay. Coray
starts day drinking and puts on a brave face.
Nov 25, 2019 - We start seriously talking about Butch Jones as the next head coach. We are in the darkest of timelines. Coray
starts snorting ground up newspaper clippings from 2006 is deeply concerned.
Nov 26, 2019 - Literally state-wide protests over the GS deal falling apart. Governor Phil “Don’t be a Knucklehead” Murphy calls AD Hobbs to make it happen.
Pat Hobbs returns to his throne as “King Can’t Do No Wrong” with Schiano and Pikiell at his sides and Rutgers Nation goes on a 1d8 day bender.
Emotionally, that’s where we’re at. You couldn’t have written a better film adaptation - and once Greg takes this team to the promised land, you know you’re gonna be watching some movie called The Sleeping Giant and secretly loving it.
Tactically, this move makes a ton of sense. As a Football CEO, Greg has managed the byzantine structure of the Rutgers power players better than anyone in the history of the school. Quite frankly, we wouldn’t be in the Big Ten without his executive layer work a decade ago alongside fall guy and former RU AD Tim Pernetti.
This time around, this is where Greg will likely spend most of his time. He’s running a big operation and has learned over the years to effectively delegate and empower his lieutenants. The early results are promising, with high profile transfers coming in the door at a rate we haven’t seen in years and recruiting trending in the right direction.
On the field, his collaborations with Robb Smith have been excellent in the past. Greg will most likely focus on the defense and the defensive backfield again, so look for Rutgers to get back to its swarming, aggressive, fumble-forcing ways.
Will it result in some busted coverage in the early years as the pieces come together? It sure will. But it’ll be more exciting than 15-yard cushions and being crossing routed to death.
Bottom line, Greg Schiano is the best coach and the biggest hire for Rutgers Football since Greg Schiano.
Defense is likely to lead the team, so let’s pivot to Defensive Coordinator Robb Smith.
Interestingly, there isn’t quite as much to tell here. Robb and Greg have worked together at multiple stops in the NFL and college football and have a pretty clear system.
If history repeats, the core is a hybrid 3-4 alignment that puts a big, space-eating Edge on one side of the defense and an athletic pass-rushing Joker on the other side. The defense can easily flex to a pure 3-4 or 4-3 based on what the offense is showing.
In the linebackers group, Greg and Robb have adopted the “Strongside OLB who’s basically a safety” approach to counter spread offenses trying to find a mismatch. The secondary fills in with a base nickel filled with aggressive tacklers and lots of blitzes.
Again, this is all based on watching these two work historically. If the same trends hold true, Smith should oversee a unit that leads the team for the first few years as the offense finds its identity. Given that Rutgers is generally stronger in the linebacking corps and the secondary than the D-line, there is less of a learning curve here and we should see Smith moving this defense steadily up the ranks in CFB.
If the Greg and Robb show is the old Netflix classic you turn to when you don’t really want to watch something new because it might suck, Sean Gleeson is the crazy awesome documentary about something really specific that everyone at work is talking about and you hope you really like.
There’s is a lot to like about this guy. He’s Jersey through and through. He oversaw prolific spread offenses at Princeton and Oklahoma State and is regarded as one of the top young minds in his field. He even got great results with a pro style offense in 2017 when he didn’t have a mobile quarterback. This is important.
Gleeson is going to inherit and offense with loads of talent but no recent production to speak of. Further, the offense is a mismash of pro-style and spread players recruiting through a tumultuous past few years. Art Sitkowski is a QB who can throw it a mile, but without as much athleticism as you’d like to see. As we awkwardly mentioned in our Cocktail Preview, there are a host of dual-threat QBs in the competition, but none who are a sure thing.
Gleeson is going to have the dual challenge of assessing which system will work with the depth chart he has then shape the entire offense around that system. Given the number of transfers out on the offensive side of the ball and the historic inefficiency of the offense over recent years, he has his work cut out for him.
Respected Special Teams coach, will probably get back to Rutgers selling out to block kicks, Bronx guy, blah, blah, blah this is a Big Ten blog, let’s get to the good stuff.
The dude has a pet pig.
The dude has a Ride or Die pig.
The dude has a Ride or Die pig named Hameron.
The worst thing in life is REGRET.— Adam Scheier (@CoachScheier) July 8, 2020
And I regret every day since @ericascheier brought you home.
Nonetheless, you are still family
and still my Ride or Die pig.
Happy 5th Birthday Hameron. pic.twitter.com/fr1H6zqBX5
If you like the Big Ten - nay if you like good football that involves lots of punting - and I know you do, you owe it to yourself and all that is pigskin to root for this guy.
You are all now casual Rutgers fans. You now get to go on this emotional roller-coaster with us.
What started in the dark days of “Well I mean Butch Jones does put together competent offense” and ended with “Ride or Die Pig” is now part of your football fandom for 2020 and beyond*.
Welcome to the F.A.M.I.L.Y.
*probably more on the beyond side.
When not writing about knights, I write about dinosaurs and augmented reality.