I appreciate everybody making themselves available today – a couple of announcements before we get started here. I just had a meeting with Tyler Kroft and his dad a little while ago. Tyler is going to declare for the NFL Draft. We couldn't be more excited for him. We thank him for all of his contributions and everything that he's added to our program over the last four years. He's got 12 credits left to graduate, which he should be able to get that done this spring. We're looking forward to him having a great career in the NFL going forward.
One other announcement, I think is one that you guys are already aware of. Savon Huggins is going to play his last year of eligibility somewhere else, and he’s already graduated in three-and-a-half years. Savon has been a tremendous contributor to this program from day one. He really has represented himself, our program, his family, his high school at a very high level at everything he’s done. We wish him the best in whatever comes next for him, and we’ll do everything we can to help him find the place that he thinks is the right fit for him.”
Can you just kind of talk about what advice or what the discussion was like with Tyler?
It’s not about advice. I think it’s just about information. You try to gather as much information as you can for him and his family and then ultimately it becomes a personal decision and a family decision. I think that’s what it was.”
Where does that, you have a couple of months to figure it out obviously, but where is your comfort level with the tight ends now that your starter is gone?
He’s certainly a guy who has been very productive for us, but it’s a room where we’ve got some guys that we’re very excited about – Nick Arcidiacono, Matt Flanagan. We’ll get [Logan] Lister back, which will be good to get him back and [Charles] Scarff will be a year older and [George] Behr will be coming off of injury. We get him back this spring.
It’s a room where we’ve got a lot of people, but I think going take a lot of people to replace the production that Kroft has given us over the last two years. But we’ve got talented people in that room. This is a part of college football. As I said to you guys before the game, the minute that game ends, the team is going to change. Part of that change happens to be with Tyler moving on.
Now that Gary is gone, how do you view the quarterback situation? Do you feel like you have a guy who’s ahead of the curve in Laviano or does everybody enter the spring on even footing? How do you imagine that going?
We’ll get some of those things sorted out here as we go through the offseason, but I think, when you say even footing, I think the difference will be in experience. Chris has got the advantage of having been the backup quarterback this year and going through the game plans and taking the reps in practice, playing a little bit in the games. I think that always gives you a little bit of an advantage, but I’m excited to see what Hayden [Rettig] can do. I’m excited to see what Gio [Rescigno] can do. … When we add another quarterback in the summer, we’ll be excited to see what he can do.”
I guess you probably would have announced it if there were any others you know of, but it is the time of year where there is transfers. Do you expect any more or do you kind of not know at this point?
I don’t have anything that I’m aware of at this point. Could that change before spring or after spring? It certainly could. It’s a part of college football.”
I wanted to ask about Savon. He said yesterday that you were instrumental in helping him through this process. Can you talk a little bit about him and what he’s done for the program?
I think Savon has done everything we’ve asked of him from day one. As a student, as an athlete, he was a big part of a lot of wins here at Rutgers, and he thought it was the right time for him to move on and do something different. If that’s the way he feels, then I’m going to support him in every way I can all the way down to helping him, in whatever way I can, find the right program for him so he can have another great experience next year.
You’ve been through a lot of these in your 10 years at Rutgers, whether it’s Mike and Ryan competing or Chas and Gary competing or whomever else, Tom and Chas competing. What is the key when these guys are battling for the same job but also trying to help each other get better. What’s the key to having a quarterback competition go smoothly?
I am not sure exactly what smoothly would be to be very honest with you. I think one of the things about having a competition like this is that these players, in all of the cases that you describe, I think every one of those players realized that the competition made them better. The competition brought out the best in them because they had somebody else who was pushing them every step of the way. I think that will be the case this spring.
Daryl Stephenson said he’s kind of up in the air about coming back and needed to speak with you. Have you guys had that conversation yet?
No we haven’t. I spoke to Daryl a little bit after seeing what I had put on social media. I said, ‘Daryl, this time of year is probably the hardest time of year to make decisions because it’s such an emotional time of the year.’ Everybody gets fatigued from going really seven days a week since August. I said you need to take a little bit of time and really think about what you’re saying and then we’ll sit down over the next couple of weeks here and figure out exactly where his heart is.”
Your reaction when you saw the news of Harbaugh going to Michigan and what that means for another division rival for you?
I think it’s exciting for the conference. I don’t know Jim Harbaugh, but I certainly am aware of what he’s accomplished in his career as a head football coach. He brings a very strong resume to the table, and I’m sure he’ll build a really fine program there at Michigan.
Have you made any decisions regarding Ruhann Peele?
No I haven’t had the chance to sit down with Ruhann yet. That will probably happen sometime next week.
Now that you’ve done a Big Ten season, this is kind of a general question but anything you come away with saying we need to focus more on this or maybe we should do this instead of this? Obviously you were very successful this season, but in terms of offseason training or recruiting, what is the take away from the first Big Ten season?
One of the things I took away from it, I think a lot of the advice I got ended up being pretty accurate. You’ve got to have enough bodies up front. I’m going to say the same thing I said last year because we’re kind of in the same situation now with Taj [Alexander], Betim [Bujari] and Kaleb [Johnson] all moving on, not only do we have to sort out who the starters will be on the offensive line, we’ll start that process in the spring, but we need to continue to build depth. That’s the one position right now on the team I just don’t feel that we’ve got enough depth. We’re building it. We’re building it as fast as we can. We’re going to take a couple more in recruiting this year, so that’s going to help us. I think that position, we’ve got to continue to really build depth to go through the rigors of a Big Ten season. I think we’ve got good depth on the defensive line coming back, and I think we’ve got good depth in a lot of the other position groups. That one is one where we’re still maybe a year away from feeling comfortable with the amount of depth that we have.
Obviously you were competitive with the teams that kind of finished around you, but there was that other kind of level that was already a step above the league this year. What do you have to do to close that gap by next fall, or start to close the gap?
I don’t look at it like that. To me, as I said in the past, at the end of the year people ask you how many not how. We’re an eight-win, bowl-championship football team. That’s what last season was. Next year we’ll be a completely different team. We’ll be a different team and the teams we play against will be different teams. When we play them, the game will start 0-0. We need to make sure that we’re going one step at a time here at Rutgers building the best possible football team we can build here and make sure that everybody in the program from the coaches to the staff to the players are all trying to get better one day at a time.
At this point, do you still see the entire coaching staff coming back
How significant is that to get a whole coaching staff back
I think it’s significant. I think it’s uncommon. I think most staffs around the country from year-to-year have some turnover. At this point today, I don’t anticipate any. Could that change? Certainly it could change. That’s the nature of this business. I think it would be significant. I think it would be a real positive for us if it happened.
How about the chance to have the same offensive coordinator two years in a row
That would be a positive for our program. Like I said, I anticipate Ralph [Friedgen] coming back next year and having Ralph here over the last whatever months it’s been has really helped our program in a lot of ways. I think if we had him for another year, it certainly would help us going forward.
There are things on social media with Boggs and James. It was out there that they had some surgeries. How did those go? Was there any setback with PJ?
Here’s what I’ll say in terms of the health of the team. This time of year, there’s always going to be some procedures that are getting done. Some guys who have played in the last game and some guys who have been out for other reasons. This is kind of the time of year where those things happen. We try to get them done as quickly as possible to give the players the maximum amount of recovery time. As we get closer to spring, we’ll give you an idea of who’s going to be participating and what capacity they’re going to be participating in.
In terms of running backs you mentioned some positions where you have depth, I would think that’s probably at the top. How comfortable are you with the depth at running back Because you have so much of it, could we anticipate any position changes or anything you’ll tinker with for any of those guys?
Those will be conversations we’ll have over the next couple of weeks. I like the depth we have in that room. As it turned out this year, we needed every bit of it by the end of the season. We really needed all of those guys to help us, even through the last game you see Robert Martin pull his hamstring in the bowl game. We needed every one of those guys this year. I’m excited that we’re going to bring them all back next year.
Do you foresee any position changes or is it too soon to talk about that?
Somebody asked me about that before. I think those are discussions we’ll have over the next couple of weeks.
This is kind of big picture too, but defensively obviously the last six quarters you guys were really strong but overall for the season a lot of yards allowed for the second straight season. I think one and two in school history. Yards allowed, is that a concern because of the numbers or is football so different now because of the rules that it’s not fair to compare defenses to years ago or even decades ago?
I don’t know that I would compare them to me. I think we made significant improvements this year defensively from the year before. I thought we were able to do things this year that, a year ago, certainly plays we didn’t make. Can we be better? Sure. And that’s our job at every position on the team, try to make every position group better, make every side of the ball better. I think the nature of college football right now, if you’re asking kind of the broad stroke question, it’s bent a little bit to the offensive side. I think you see that everywhere where teams are scoring more points, gaining more yards, giving up more yards, however you want to look at it. I think that’s kind of the way college football has gone recently. I think the two seasons were significantly different. I feel that we made significant improvements this year on defense.
Now that the offseason is here, how do you think the switch of Steve Longa to weakside linebacker went? Do you see that being kind of his home going forward?
I thought he was really productive and I think that’s a good thing. To really know how I think it went, I think we’re going to have to go back and look at all of the cut ups. That’s what we’ll do. We’ll start the process this week because of the recruiting calendar, but then we’ll be on the road again and we’ll pick it up after signing day. What we’ll do going forward, that will be a little bit based on what the personnel is around him. It’s not a decision that you make in a vacuum. You have to look at everybody in that position group and who are the best three guys to get on the field and how we’re going to get them on the field.
Maybe we should have led with this. We said a couple of times a successful first Big Ten season, how do you sum up the first? Would you call it a success? I know you want to win every game, but maybe at this time last year would you have judged this as a successful season?
I would go back again to what I said from the beginning. I think first impressions in life matter, and I feel like in our first season in the Big Ten we made a good first impression. … Happy New Year. Thank you.