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B1G 2021: Rutgers Coaching Rundown

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Why it Matters, Telemetry and Eggplant Parms as Coach Retention Drivers?

Syndication: The Record Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC

It’s summer here in Jersey. Time to go to the shore, argue about something with our hands, and complain about yet another promising Offensive Coordinator leaving—

*checks notes*

Hold up, is Sean Gleeson still here? Are Robb Smith and Greg Schiano still coaching defense? We still have Adam Scheier?

Yes folks, it’s a new day on the banks. With big funding from the Big Ten (and a B1G loan against future revenue) Rutgers Football can finally afford to attract top-tier coaches and retain them to build for the future. Let’s take a look at where we are with each coach, why it matters ‘round the B1G, and what the telemetry looks like for the future.

Greg Schiano

Syndication: NorthJersey Chris Pedota, NorthJersey.com via Imagn Content Services, LLC

Admit it - we all wondered if Greg would come in and be successful the second time around.

This isn’t the post-Miami, post-Virginia Tech Big East. Ohio State isn’t Cincinnati. Penn State isn’t Pitt. Illinois is basically UConn, but the point is that there weren’t going to be many mid-majors for Greg’s uber-aggressive defense to feast on this time around.

David Anderson summed up the feelings of some folks eloquently over on OTE’s sister site On the Banks:

I think there are likely better candidates for this job on paper. There is justifiable debate as to whether Rutgers is the worst coaching job in the Power Five, but the type of personality that it takes to win at a place like Rutgers is one that embraces the type of challenge...Regardless of who is hired to lead the program into the next decade, I will support that individual; if it is Greg Schiano or not.

Wow. That article really paints a picture of where Rutgers Football and Greg Schiano were a year ago.

Rutgers was coming out of the absolute black hole that was the Chris Ash era, highlighted by countless sub-100 yard passing games, which had been preceded by the slightly more competent but below-average-secret-agent-antics-tainted tenure of Kyle Flood. The battle for “Worst Power 5 Program” was on.

Schiano had just been fired from Ohio State and backed out of coaching for the Patriots, not to mention being railroaded out of a job by Tennessee fans who thought they could do better (narrator: “but they could not”). Who knew if he still had the magic?

You know who knew? We knew.

Why should you support our bizarre deification of Greg Schiano? Well, you either believe he’s a good coach or not. If you believe he’s a good coach, then that’s great for the Big Ten, because we all know our presence in the conference over the past few years hasn’t done anything to help your respective strength of schedules. If you believe he’s not, then all the better for you! Illinutgers will continue to be the pinnacle of sporting. Maybe you just disagree with Chris Christie on principle and want to see him proven wrong...Maybe you just want to watch the internet burn.

I’m fairly certain the only reason Greg is back coaching at Rutgers is the efforts of you Off Tackle Emperors being the straw that stirs that drink. If you’d like to relive the absolute shenanigans, head to last year’s Rutgers Week Coaching Article and give it a read. It’s even more wild than you remember (bet you forgot about the Ride or Die Pig).

Why It Matters to the B1G

Greg has proven his doubters wrong and proven his supporters so, so right. He’s brought a top-10 recruiting class to Rutgers that will likely land in the top-20 when all the chips are on the table. He’s hired and retained top-tier coordinators and worked hand-in-hand with Pat Hobbs to secure the resources to make Rutgers a premiere power 5 coaching gig. He won more games in the B1G in one pandemic-shortened season than all of the Chris Ash tenure (3 to 1...oof).

To every Big Ten team - especially those in the Big East - it means that Rutgers is no longer an easy out. Skeptical? Just ask Michigan State, Purdue, and Maryland, who all fell to the Year 1 Greg Schiano Scarlet Knights, or Illinois, Michigan or Nebraska, victors by a one-score margin. This team might not be ready to challenge for Big Ten titles yet, but it’s now going to be an annual trap game for the bluebloods, and a rock fight for the rest.

What Does the Telemetry Look Like?

We have an in-depth recruiting piece coming later this week, but let’s take a peak at the ledger while we’re talking about the direction of the program.

As of Sunday, Rutgers has the 8th-ranked recruiting class after a big commitment from Davidson Igbinosun.

Not the 8th-ranked class in the B1G. The 8th-ranked class nationally.

That number is sure to come down slightly as the last few blue chippers make their commitments, but it represents a significant trend away from the mid-40’s ratings for Kyle Flood and the mid-60’s ratings for Chris Ash. While recruiting isn’t everything, it shows a clear trend in the positive direction for Schiano, with an engaged staff led by Philly super recruiter Fran Brown building a roster largely from New Jersey and Pennsylvania, unlike their previous Florida-based approach.

The other big positive trend for Schiano is that the older players are sticking around. In a year where transfers were easier than ever and when college players are taking more control over their athletic destiny, Rutgers got old and stayed old, as the saying goes. As Zuzu mentioned in her Cocktail Party Preview, they’ll return 20/22 starters and every member of the offensive line. That type of continuity hasn’t happened on the banks since the Kyle Flood days and - while not the end all be all - represents another easily read metric that points to the impact of Greg Schiano as program executive.

Adam Scheier - Special Teams

Bowling Green Falcons v Pittsburgh Panthers 12-26-2013 Photo by David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty Images

This is the Big Ten. We’re really here to watch a punting contest with some offense and defense sprinkled in between for pacing. Accordingly, let’s get right to special teams.

Adam Scheier oversaw a unit that realized success on returns (2 KR TDs, 1 PR TD), punting (42.27 Net YPA), and kicking (11/13). It helped that he had outstanding talent on hand in All-B1G caliber players in returner Aron Cruickshank and punter Adam Korsak, but Scheier deserves immense credit for installing a scheme with the unique challenges the pandemic provided that performed at such a high level. While offense and defense are often the focus, pulling together special teams units from contributors all over the team, often as their second responsibility is a logistical challenge in the best of conditions.

Interestingly, special team have taken on a more traditional look under Scheier. During the Greg Schiano 1.0 era, Rutgers teams were known for going heavy on kick block schemes, eschewing return yards for a better chance at blocked kicks. Likewise, starters often played on both kick block units, putting the most athleticism possible on the field for those critical plays. Scheier has brought a more traditional return game to the table, perhaps indicating that Greg Schiano 2.0 has adopted more of the Urban Meyer executive approach, than his initial run at Rutgers with more trust in Scheier to run the unit the way he wants.

Why It Matters to the B1G

The fact that Scheier is still working at Rutgers is a big deal.

In the past, Rutgers football hasn’t had the funding or organizational stability to keep top-flight coordinators in-house. While Rutgers Special Teams coaches haven’t had the bonkers streak of instability that the offensive coordinators have, keeping a rising coach like Scheier in-house for the long haul is something Scarlet Knight fans are still getting used to.

This extends beyond special teams, but we all know that punting is the backbone of every team, so it’s most important here. Given that B1G titles are won and lost based on the art of the boot, having a combination of big time talent and coaching on “teams” makes this Rutgers team even more dangerous.

What Does the Telemetry Look Like?

Not great, actually.

Cruickshank is a Junior who will be tempted by the NFL draft after a stellar return career at Rutgers and Wisconsin. Korsak is a Senior who has single-handedly won games for the Scarlet Knights and will likely explore the league as well. While the roster overall has more talent across the board, losing top-flight performers threatens a regression to the mean after what will likely be two years of excellence.

In the long haul, Rutgers special teams will reload, but this year should be the high water mark.

Robb Smith/Greg Schiano - Defense

NCAA Football: Rutgers at Maryland Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

We’re going to include Greg here, as his fingerprints are all over the Rutgers defensive scheme once again. Robb Smith worked closely with Schiano at both Rutgers and Tampa Bay, and that partnership has proven to be a good one. From the outside, it’s hard to tell where responsibilities are divided, but 2020 appeared to show Smith taking more play-calling and tactical responsibility, reflecting Schiano’s strategic approach to his second run as Rutgers Football CEO.

To a lot of Rutgers fans, the defense brought back great memories of Schiano’s first run at Rutgers. Lots of blitzing. Offset nose tackles. A focus on forced fumbles. Swarming, hustling defense.

Was it perfect? No. But it was classic Rutgers defense after years of lacking identity. Rutgers had 19 turnovers, which was the most since 2012, when the defense was coached by...Robb Smith! The team also 11th in the nation in tackles for a loss per game, which is pretty outstanding given that it was the first year installing a new defense and the sometimes-middling results of the prior era.

Why It Matters to the B1G

Rutgers found success in Greg Schiano/Robb Smith’s first run employing a defense that put underrated, undersized linemen in position to put pressure on the run and pass through clever schemes and exotic blitzes. While those wrinkles still exist (hello Julius Turner!), the implementation of this defensive philosophy with bigger, stronger, more highly rated players means Rutgers should be able to hang defensively with the best in the conference. Those chilly late-season games in Piscataway or one of the faraway wintry outposts are a great time for fumbles and Greg will have the Rutgers defense ready.

What Does the Telemetry Look Like?

Given Schiano’s natural focus on the defense, especially the secondary, and Smith’s comfort in serving as a top lieutenant for Schiano, this defense should continue on its upward trend as the staff settles in. Over the 2-3 years as higher rated recruits start populating key positions on the defense, this unit should start to put some exceptional performances together.

While depth is a concern as the roster is still being built, look for the defense to once again be the hallmark of Rutgers football in 2021 and beyond.

Sean Gleeson

COLLEGE FOOTBALL: NOV 17 Penn at Princeton Photo by Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

No one embodies the intensity and instant success of the Greg Schiano 2.0 era more than Princeton import and true Jersey guy Sean Gleeson. Before we get to the X’s and O’s, this is my absolute favorite quote from the guy:

“I think the first day I was here coach served up an eggplant parm for lunch,” Gleeson said. “I hadn’t seen an eggplant parm for like 12 months. I was fired up to be back home. I’m raising my family here and we’re really happy.”

I mean, we’re talking about one of the top up-and-coming offensive coordinators in the country and we’ve got him locked in because of our sandwich artistry? Is there anything more OTE than that?

On the field, Gleeson brought a fresh offensive identity that was a radical departure from the pro sets of Greg Schiano 1.0 and Kyle Flood, and the highly multiple...”offense”...that the Chris Ash era offered. Gleeson’s fast-paced spread concepts, honed at Princeton and Oklahoma State, not only put immediate sideline-to-sideline pressure on opposing defenses, but also utilized the skillsets of a diverse set of quarterbacks to great effect.

Why It Matters to the B1G

For the past two decades it seems, Rutgers has predominantly been in the stone age offensively. Pro style, “three yards and a cloud of dust” offense that packed the box and hoped for big plays over the top seemed to ignore the modern trends of college football, much to the chagrin of the Scarlet Faithful. While Ash did try to pivot to a more modern offensive approach with various coordinators, Gleeson’s system has finally brought Rutgers successfully into the modern era.

Greg Schiano’s Rutgers teams of the past generation were hit or miss on offense, with big splash plays from receivers and backs like Kenny Britt, Tiquan Underwood and Brian Leonard complemented by a grinding rushing attack when it worked. When it didn’t, there were too many games where the offense was unable to adapt to what the defense was doing, ultimately running into scheme limitations against teams with more raw talent. Looking at what Gleeson was able to do in winning with a dual-threat quarterback in Noah Vedral, a big-armed statue like Art Sitkowski, and a power runner in Johnny Langan based on injury and availability suggests that this offense will be able to flex based on the diverse defensive offerings we see across the Big Ten.

What Does the Telemetry Look Like?

Fantastic.

For the first time in a decade (see Ciarrocca, Kirk, circa 2010), it looks like Gleeson will be bringing stability to the Rutgers offense. Given the astronomical improvement in year 1 of Gleeson’s fast-paced offense on a pandemic-shortened install period, the future is looking bright for the Rutgers offense. A sampling:

  • 20 points in 8 Big Ten games (5 times in previous 4 seasons)
  • +13.4 points per game difference
  • 300 yards of offense per Big Ten game (234 prior year)

With the addition of Elite 11 quarterback Gavin Wimsatt and a rising tide of talent across the board, Rutgers has high expectations on offense moving forward. With Pat Hobbs and Greg Schiano continuing to build infrastructure around the program, elite coaches like Sean Gleeson will be able to make Rutgers a long-term home, instead of just a stop along the way to something bigger and better.

Plus, them eggplant parms.

Poll

Which Rutgers coach would you steal for your team if you could?

This poll is closed

  • 13%
    Greg Schiano
    (19 votes)
  • 2%
    Robb Smith
    (3 votes)
  • 8%
    Adam Scheier
    (12 votes)
  • 65%
    Sean Gleeson
    (90 votes)
  • 10%
    I’m not certain I’ve ever seen Greg Schiano and Robb Smith at the same time, so both.
    (14 votes)
138 votes total Vote Now

Poll

What do you think was the determining factor in getting Greg Schiano to come back to Rutgers?

This poll is closed

  • 44%
    Tennessee lol
    (70 votes)
  • 24%
    Money money money moneyyyyyy
    (39 votes)
  • 9%
    THE Off Tackle Empire
    (15 votes)
  • 21%
    None of the above, rant in comments
    (34 votes)
158 votes total Vote Now