How much is Rutgers Football struggling? After coming off a 2-10 season, the recruiting class for 2020 is currently ranked 96th in the country according to 247 Sports. That’s dead last in the Big 10 by a significant margin. Illinois is 84th, Indiana is 58th. Hell, Rutgers would only be better than Connecticut and Houston in the conference they left, the AAC. And here’s an eye-opener, at this point in the recruiting process, both Liberty and UMass, the two teams RU beat are actually ahead of Rutgers! I know it’s early and the program is reeling after the Ash firing, but the kind of recruiting we have seen since Rutgers joined the Big 10 is death in a Power 5 conference. Recruiting has simply been a disaster with Kyle Flood and Chris Ash.
You can argue Greg Schiano’s merits. Yes, he was just slightly over .500 in his first go-around with Rutgers, but the guy is a proven recruiter and that is the most crucial detail to getting the program back on its feet again. Keep in mind, the first year Rutgers joined the Big 10, Kyle Flood led the team to an 8-5 record and a bowl win with Schiano’s players. He has credibility with New Jersey high school coaches and he understands how to sell a program to top recruits even if the program is down. I expect the recruiting to improve immediately under Schiano, with Rutgers’ ranking climbing out of the Big 10 basement.
There are other factors to Schiano’s return. He spent three years as defensive coordinator in the Big 10 under Urban Meyer at Ohio State, so he saw first hand what it takes to compete in the conference. Fact is, if Schiano says they need additional facilities to be competitive in the conference then Rutgers has to make plans to get them. He’s just letting the school know what he’s seen with his own eyes. His record of putting players in the pros is exceptional. Four of his former players are on the defending Super Bowl Champion Patriots. That fact and his connection to Bill Belichek gives him instant credibility with top-level recruits. And there’s the bowl record. He not only went to them, he won them. No other coach in the history of Rutgers football was able to do that with any consistency.
There are concerns. The big win against Louisville in 2006 aside, he did have his share of disappointing losses and he struggled against the Big East elite. Forget about West Virginia who he couldn’t beat, he’ll now face Ohio State, Michigan and Penn State every year. He left in a flash, on the eve of national signing day for a job in the NFL that did not work out. You can’t blame him for taking the opportunity regardless of the timing, but if he sees greener pastures would he leave again? Also, what did happen in New England? He took a job and then walked away to spend more time with family? No big deal I suppose, but I sure hope he got enough family time in before taking on this enormous challenge with an eight-year contract attached. He’ll likely need every bit of those eight years to turn this burning barge around.
Greg Schiano is what the program needed. A few notable names surfaced as possible candidates when talks broke down. And while many of those names would have been good with the X’s and O’s, their ability to recruit in New Jersey and beyond was only wishful thinking. That will not be the case with Schiano. He’s proven he can go out and get players. Now go get ‘em. Welcome back coach!