Schiano Signing Day Q&A

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano discusses the 2011 class and answers questions about the expectations of the freshmen, including running back Savon Huggins, as well as signing 13 players from New Jersey, the impact of the coaching staff changes and much, much more.

Rutgers coach Greg Schiano signed the Big East's top class Wednesday, a 24-player group headlined by five-star running back Savon Huggins and four-star athlete Miles Shuler, but there is so much more to it.

Rutgers filled needs on the offensive and defensive lines, got depth at quarterback and running back and also brought in speed and more speed.

Schiano went into detail on each player already. Now, here is the Q&A portion of Schiano's press conference.

Opening statement:
I'm really excited about this class that we were able to sign here. It is an accumulation of a lot of people's hard work and culmination of a lot of months, actually years of work that have gone into this. There are some really fine student-athletes that have decided to sign on board. I want to thank our staff.
I think they have done an incredible job… assistant coaches just tirelessly working. Our players did just a tremendous job. I just think that is what recruits your program best; your players and our kids did an outstanding job. I would be remised not to mention the academic oversight committee who gives up their Fridays during the recruiting period and meet with the prospective student-athletes, led by Carl Kirschner.
That committee is really special in our weekends in that our prospects have the opportunity to get an inside look at the academic programs from people that really understand Rutgers. Last but not least, (recruiting coordinator) Tariq Ahmad and his staff… Tariq heads up recruiting on-campus and he and his staff did a tremendous job really above and beyond what could be expected. His assistants just did a tremendous job as well. I can't thank them enough."

On wrapping up the 2011 recruiting class:
"I am thrilled about the young men that we are bringing here. I always say ask me how this class is a couple years from now, maybe three, but I know that I love the people we are bringing here, the people, the character and that I think we have a pretty good handle on and we are excited about the addition to our family these guys will be."

Is it surprising at all to get this kind of talent off of a tough season?
"Not really, because so much of the relationships that are going to land you a prospect or not are developed over years. When I first got into this business, you went out in the spring time and you identified juniors and then you brought tape back or got it mailed in. It was actually 16 mm at the beginning. Then, you watched it in the fall. I will never forget, Wednesdays from 1-2 you watched film and you evaluated it.
By the time you got to November, you knew who you were going to recruit and then the recruiting started. In that two month period everybody decided where they were going to go, they took their visits. Now-a-days, you are recruiting freshmen. Freshmen are on your campus and you build these relationships over time. That part of it is good because you really get to know the young man. In a year when you don't really have a great year on the field, results-wise, I think those relationships carry you through.
This group of kids, we happen to have a really good relationship with. With hiring (defensive backs coach) Jeff Hafley and (offensive coordinator) Frank Cignetti, some of their relationships came into our family and we were able to get to know some of the kids that they knew better. In the end, I thought it was a really good mix to put together this class."

How were [Jeff] Hafley and [Frank] Cignetti coming down the stretch these last few days?
"I don't know if it was just these last few days, I think again, the relationships that they built with a Gary Nova or Max Issaka. You look at the guys that were committed to Pittsburgh, some of those guys that came our way, Marquise Wright, those are guys that were headed to Pittsburgh and then when that thing went down they needed some place to go if they were going to change their mind and we were there.
Those are guys that we had relationships with as well; it wasn't like we were starting from scratch. It turned out very well."

Are you satisfied with your depth at the offensive line with what you brought in?
"You always going to want more of everything, but that is greedy. I think we had a great distribution positionally and a great distribution geographically. I can't sit here and tell you that I made that happen, you have lists and you have groups. We are never going to take a player just to fill a spot. If he can't help us win a championship, than we are not going to take him.
Certainly, you have to be able to practice, but there are ways to get around that as well. We are very selective. We identify and then decide who we are going to actively recruit maybe differently than others. We are looking for guys that are Rutgers men.
What does that mean… they are guys that love the game of football, are young men of character and can handle the academic load when they get here. We feel like this group fits that mold."

How important was it to get a junior college player on the offensive line?
"I think the fact that we did get Dallas who is a junior college player, a little bit older, I think that was critical. We certainly invested our resources there in doing everything we could to get him and we were very thrilled when he decided to come to Rutgers. Just from the early signs, it was a great decision.
I think he is going to fit in well here, even though it is different than from where he is from and I think we certainly have a need for him at the position. I am anxious to get to really practicing with him and get to working with him. I think it was good."

Is the class complete, do anticipate everybody making it?
"I think the class is complete although you never know. There are always opportunities out there. As far as everybody making it, it is hard to tell at this time. I hope so but there is some guys that have some work to do before the academic year ends. As always, we will try to help them and guide them.
If it doesn't work, we always have a plan B in place because we wouldn't have recruited these guys if we didn't want to eventually get them on our campus. That is always the goal"

Can you talk about establishing a pipe line at Don Bosco Prep and Saint Peter's Prep?
"Certainly, we are thrilled to have two guys from each school. And then you throw in another player from Paramus Catholic and we have had players from Saint Joseph's, the North Jersey parochial schools… I think it is critical. They have played great football there and they have great talent in all those programs. It is a big positive without a doubt."

How pleased are you that Kenneth [Kirksey] and Djwany [Mera] were able to qualify this time around?
"I love it. I love the fact that they are here now and they are working. I think it was a good experience with what they went through in the last six months before getting to Rutgers. Is it ultimately what I wanted, no, I wanted to get them here for summer school and keep them here, but I think they grew up some when they went away. They were forced to.
I think it makes it easier now for them to jump into the structure of our program with a transitional period between high school and college. It is great to have them here and ready to go this spring."

Do you anticipate a large part of this group to be able to contribute immediately?
"Every year I answer that one the same. It is awfully hard to know. Other than the five guys that started midyear, I think that gives them a clear leg up. They get over the homesickness, they get over the things that can de-rail them. Certainly, we have plenty of guys that are athletically talented enough to help and contribute next year, but as I have always said… you never know. I was homesick when I went to college and it really makes everything else feel unimportant.
If you have that feeling in your gut, it is hard to focus on anything else, Xs and Os, practice and schoolwork. That is a big part of what you are up against as a college football coach. For everyone player that you see a superstar freshman out there that is lighting up on ESPN, they don't show the picture of the guy that is struggling a little bit because he is homesick. I hesitate to put that kind of pressure on any of the freshmen.
The five that are here now came here with a purpose. Some of them are a half-year removed from high school. It gives them a much better chance. Then there is some really talented guys we will see how it plays out. Everybody starts at the bottom and they work their way up. Hopefully some can, that would be great."

Is this the most success, visibly, you have had with New Jersey kids?
"I think so. Your word is visible, When people say highly-ranked I always hesitate because the only ranking I care about is the ranking that we do. I know that it is a great thing because it creates great fan excitement but the only stars that I am concerned with are the ones up in the sky when we do our recruiting. I am very excited about the players that we recruited.
You are right that I am excited about them as people, as players, and they are highly visible which is a good thing when you are trying to promote your program within a geographic region like we are. We call it the State of Rutgers. Jason game me a thing, New Jersey-13, Pennsylvania-3, New York-3… that is the area that is the state of Rutgers, New Jersey and everything that touches it.
We stretched it a little bit to Iowa, but that's ok and then we always recruit Florida, we had four guys from the state of Florida. I really like the geographic breakdown, but like I said I wish I could tell you that is by design. We recruit those areas and that is the way the numbers shook out. I am thrilled that we are back; we continue to back to those same areas because I think you make fewer mistakes.
When you have relationships with the high school coach, the guidance counselor, the janitors in the school, the lunch people. When you have those people year in and year out and you get to know them, security guards, you get the inside skinny on the young person and that is critical. You are never going to be 100 percent but you really want to know as much as you can about the individual because it is a great investment on everybody's part, on the student-athlete's on their families on our part, on the university's part it is a huge investment so you we try and do everything we can to make sure we are getting the right young men for Rutgers."

Do you expect Savon [Huggins] to come in right away and compete for a starting job?
"That is what he wants to do and we have talked about that quite a bit and I think that that job is wide open. I wouldn't say that there is anybody that has been locking it down. I think we will have a great competition at the tailback spot we will see. Even though Savon is only 30-40 minutes from home, I don't know how he is going to respond to being a college student. That has yet to be seen.
I got a funny feeling I know how, he is a mature guy who is very focus on what he wants so I think he could do it. you have to come in and do it. I am confident that he will compete, that is for sure and go on and get after it. We will let those cards unfold as they do."

Closing Statement
"I am thrilled about these guys and I am thrilled about the process. I think the process works here at Rutgers and that is something that is very important to me."

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