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B1G 2020, Rutgers Potluck #3: Looking for Magic Bullets, Fixing Campuses

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Does Greg Schiano have the tools to create a competitive linebacking corps—and thus defense—at Rutgers? Plus, asking what the ONE BIG THING is that would fix your Big Ten campus.

Rutgers Introduces Greg Schiano Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Boy, right when I think we’re hitting a smooth schedule for B1G 2020...wheels falling off, and it’s only Wednesday. Or Thursday.

Whatever day it is, today we’re talking the “magic bullet” to fix the Rutgers defense, and the One Big Thing you’d change about your college’s campus.

Read on!

The Football

So...that Rutgers defense.

Look, as with most things for Greg Schiano in Year One, there’s really nowhere to go but up. And, as usual with college football, there’s a Connelly tweet for that.

Those numbers are damning, but they provide Rutgers fans some hope:

  • Rutgers’ avg. def SP+ rank (2006-12): 38.1 (four top-30s)
  • Avg. def SP+ rank since: 86.6

Flip those numbers to tell the story of what Schiano did once, and there’s reason to believe that Greg Schiano can work his magic again. With some added heft and P5 experience on the D-line in DT Michael Dwomfour from Michigan and in the secondary from Ohio State transfer S Brendon White, Rutgers gets some respite for a promising secondary of the Averys (CBs Tre Avery and Avery Young)—though a defense that registered just 18 sacks in 2019 will need some work.

A rumored (or maybe documented if we read it on two more blogs) switch to a 3-4 defensive front might give Schiano a little flexibility to use a linebacking corps that lost no one from the 2019 squad and that On The Banks rates as the Knights’ most promising defensive corps. And Schiano certainly has his past results at Rutgers to fall back on.

There’s the question, though, of the Rutgers defensive coordinator, who led the Knights to their 2012 Big East Championship in his first season on the job but struggled in his only Big Ten tenure.

You see, some of us might be skeptical of Robb Smith on the job.

So tell us, writers:

(1) Is it really as simple as “stop the run” for the Knights in 2020, or will Smith’s struggles and the Knights’ weak front be a multi-year rebuild. Give us your hottest 3-4/4-3 takes, if you want, and
(2) Who is your school’s most memorable “Intra-B1G Mercenary” a la Schiano at Ohio State or Smith at Minnesota?

BMan31: Let’s just simply start with “stop anything.” I don’t see how this isn’t a full blown scorched Earth approach (JFC, I cna’t type worth shit today).

Thumpasaurus: Unlike Maryland, a 2019 Illinois approach might work for Rutgers: key in on stopping the kind of plays Big Ten teams run when they’re way ahead and trying to eat clock. This approach defeated Wisconsin and nearly facilitated a huge comeback on Michigan. Lull the opponent into a false complacency. In all seriousness, if you can only stop one thing, stop the run to force your opponent to call plays they perceive as high risk...just don’t expect to be as competent covering the pass.p

Jesse: Look, this year is about being better than awful. Stop something at some point and give yourselves some hope for the future. Only switch defenses if you have some sense of a NT and don’t, for the life of you, think you’re playing a tight game with Ohio State.

And our favorite intra-B1G mercenary is definitely Cosgrove. Lots of B1G fans just got sad remembering him.

Beez: Jesse has appropriately set what should be Rutgers’s expectations for this year. Just don’t be so terrible that nobody wants to watch more than five minutes of your games. I fully endorse the switch to a 3-4, as I think it’s a much easier and more effective defense to recruit for and run in college.

But the short answer: There’s no magic bullet, sorry.

Zuzu: It's as simple as stopping the run given that teems bled right through us these past few seasons if we want to stop having _embarrassing_ losses. But if we want to win, we need a much spicier playmaking defense. Hit em hard, get those fumbles, make interceptions. I think our defensive transfer talent and our upperclass defensive players under a coach like Schiano are gonna be impressive.

Chris Ash was a mercenary alright. He killed our entire program. Damn you Ohio State.

MNW: Honest to gods, who wrote these shit questions? How many days until he’s done and we don’t have to listen to him anymore?

I think it’s got to be “stop the run” with Rutgers, though, specifically because (as Jesse says) the Knights need to win their crossover games to start building some momentum. The crossovers in 2020 are Illinois, Purdue, and Nebraska. Now, the latter two can toss it a little bit and are more dynamic at the QB slot. But force Illinois to beat you in the air. Force Jack Plummer or Aidan O’Connell to beat you through the air. Force Phea Shatterson or whatever is quarterbacking Michigan now to beat you through the air. Slog out enough 17-15 games with Northwestern or Michigan State or whomever, and eventually you’re going to come up on the right side of one of them.

And I think, to bring a little optimism into it, that Greg Schiano gets that. He’s seen at least a little of what works and doesn’t around the Big Ten over the last couple years, and while Rutgers is a bigger project, a 3-4 could allow him to be creative with linebackers and whatever they call the LB/S hybrid role. Maybe it works. Maybe Rutgers wins at Northwestern in 2021. I already started drinking; it’s fine.

As for the mercenary, I wouldn’t call Kevin Wilson a mercenary, but he and Randy Walker did learn the spread run with RichRod down at Clemson. There’s also the checkered Garrick McGee, Pat Fitzgerald’s first Northwestern OC who left after a DUI in 2007, then resurfaced at Illinois after a few other stops. Also, in honor of Maryland Week, Ron Vanderlinden went from Northwestern DC to Maryland HC to Penn State LBs (and just retired this year. Congrats, Ron)!

WSR: **sees Robb Smith is Rutgers Defensive Coordinator**

**twitches uncontrollably right out of his chair**

Oh my God. When I said on Monday that I didn’t see how Rutgers defense couldn’t help but improve, I had clearly blocked all memory of Robb Smith from my brain (thankfully I have a great therapist and we can start repressing this memory again very quickly). It doesn’t matter how amazing your talent is if your players are hopelessly doomed when an opponent uses such trickery as “pre-snap motion” or “pulling linemen.” Go back and take a look at 2018 Minnesota against Maryland, Nebraska, and Illinois. The last two are two of the five worst performances in terms of yards allowed in the history of Gopher football, and the Maryland game was “only” 432 yards, including 315 on the ground at 8.5 a pop. When you’re that hopelessly overmatched against a simple wrinkle like that, you should probably find a nice financial securities shop to go work in and never venture near a sideline again for fear of flashbacks or imposter syndrome (which isn’t really a thing when you’re actually an imposter), not return to the B1G at Rutgers.

Holy fuck Rutgers, now I’m really feeling bad for you. I’m going to need a sympathy Grain Belt here.

Poll

The Rutgers defense in 2020 will...

This poll is closed

  • 6%
    Leap forward; middle-of-the-pack in the Big Ten, actively wins the Knights some games.
    (6 votes)
  • 51%
    Show signs of progress, maybe even steal one against Illinois or Purdue.
    (45 votes)
  • 41%
    Exist.
    (36 votes)
87 votes total Vote Now

The Campus?

Speaking of the magic bullet, when doing some research for a different project that never got off the ground, I asked Zuzu to solicit thoughts on how I could not find a single brewery in the Rutgers/Piscataway area, save for one brewery in New Brunswick that, well, was underwhelming for Rutgers fans:

Now, we won’t get into the brewing scene at Rutgers, nor suggest that it’s particularly what the campus needs.

But if you were to suggest ONE fix for your campus and its surrounding area, writers, what would you add? Some more bars? A park? More affordable housing? Give us the solution to improve your campus environ.

BMan31: One of the things my fatass always enjoyed about Purdue was how compact the main campus is. Our rivals point and laugh at the lack of green space but I’ve never seen the downside (until COVID) of efficiency.

Now, to fix the surrounding area, bring back the bars. From the time I started at Purdue until graduation, I saw several campus bars close. Pete’s, TA Toms, Rowdy’s, and a couple of other classy joints were gone before I ever got to legally partake and for this, I am saddened. Bring back the bars and that beer buzz at 3 PM on a Tuesday afternoon.

Thumpasaurus: Fewer luxury lofts on/around Green Street, more bars. Daniel Street has no more bars now that KAM’S was demolished for yet another high-rise luxury apartment building. Put that shit in downtown Champaign, where the upscale bars are.

Zuzu: Over the the top answer is a monorail to better connect the sprawling campuses and two cities of Piscataway and New Brunswick. The more realistic answer is... you know, this may be my blind love speaking, but it is really so perfect. It has a bougie downtown area (George Street) and a trashy <3 street with restaurants and bars that cater to students (Easton Ave). Housing is reflective of any college town. Apartment complexes of varying levels, and charming homes trashed by decades of being lived in by 20 year olds. I love it. (This all referring to the College Ave & Cook/Douglass part of Rutgers, the main college parts in New Brunswick. The Piscataway parts are in non-college-y suburbs)

Jesse: I’m not the person to be asking as I don’t know enough about that campus anymore, but honestly? It’s not bad down there. Lincoln sets up that campus nicely with generally good access to everything a college student or fan could want. I’ll let someone tell you I’m insane but it’s a good layout.

Beez: I haven’t been to Wisconsin’s campus in at least a decade, but I think the campus would benefit from some sort of giant funnel or slip and slide that makes it impossible for students to show up midway through the second quarter. Maybe turn the entire campus into one of those labyrinth things with the knobs you turn to try to keep the marble from falling in the hole, but designed to slide students to the stadium by, say, 10:45 on early gamedays.

MNW: Much like Bman and Thump, Northwestern—well, really the city of Evanston and the Communist Dictator Liz Tisdahl—ran off all the bars. Allllll the bars. 1800 Club, the Keg (RIPTKOE), and now even Bar Louie and Nevin’s have fallen victim to the rapacious “high rise and boutique” approach to building a shitty downtown in Evanston. There are no doubt other bars I’m forgetting, but it’s fine. Really. I’m over it.

You suck, Lis Tisdahl. And I totally lived in a brothel. What the fuck are you gonna do about it now?

WSR: Gather together all of the developers who have been gentrifying the everloving hell out of the University of Minnesota campus over the past decade, bind them together, and have a Texas A&M-style bonfire. It’d serve as a great community event (provided that everyone socially distanced themselves around the towering inferno of shitbags) and also serve as a warning for the next group of assholes that want to put up an apartment building with a coffee shop, yoga studio, and ethnic food restaurant in the 1st floor that looks just like the last 17 of them.