Pre-Season Interview with Coach Schiano - Part I

On July 23, 2003, I had the opportunity to interview Coach Schiano. We discussed the Rutgers defense, changes to the offense, recruiting, the incoming freshmen class, the program's progress, and various other topics. It is interesting reading...

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On July 23, 2003, I had the opportunity to interview Coach Schiano. We discussed the Rutgers defense, changes to the offense, the incoming freshmen class, and various other interesting topics.


Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: At the end of the 2002 season, you made a number of changes. Can you comment on the change to the offensive line coach and offensive philosophy?
Coach Greg Schiano: I do not think that we made a number of changes. We changed our offensive coordinator and flipped-flopped our offensive line and Tight End coaches. I thought that this was what was needed at the time. They are all good coaches and I am real excited about our coaching staff going forward.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: What differences in philosophies does Coach Cristobal provide vs. Coach Susan?
Coach Greg Schiano: I am not sure about the differences in philosophy or not. I felt that we needed to "shake it up" a little bit and that is what we did. Obviously, we have a new offensive coordinator and there will be some changes in philosophies. I have known Craig VerSteeg for a while, since our days in Chicago (NFL Chicago Bears). I am very comfortable with what we are doing and with him and I am very excited about where we are going.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Over the last two years, the Rutgers offense was more deceptive (five WR sets, throwing to an OT, etc). What are some of the differences that we can expect to see from last year's offense?
Coach Greg Schiano: Everyone will have to wait and see. However, if you listen to Craig (VerSteeg) describe his offense; you will hear him describe a power running game with a timing passing game. That is really a summation of what we will be on offense. As the year unfolds, you will see more and more what that means.

Frankly, the throwback to the tackle was something I saw Craig (VerSteeg at Utah) do against BYU. And that was something that Craig saw BYU do the year before in their bowl game. So, I stole it from Craig before he even got here. Basically, everyone borrows from each other.

Craig is a very creative guy and we will have some creative stuff. The key is the beginning phase of it and defining what you are. And we are a power running game with a timing passing game.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: The key to the season, or what everyone seems to think, is the offensive line. Beyond the coaching change, what will make the offensive line a better unit for 2003?
Coach Greg Schiano: I think that we are getting an infusion of players that can be very good. Right now, it is all potential and none of this is proven performance. The addition of John Glass, who was with us last year and unable to practice, and Ron Green provide us with some true potential. You never know what will happen when they put on the pads and play for Rutgers. But I like their potential and athleticism. Another player is Marty Pyszczmuka, who should be healthy to play. Those three things alone give me an upbeat feeling on the offensive line.

Then you get into players like Rich McManus, who has done an incredible job getting himself in position to compete. We also have other players like Mike Williamson and Clint Dato (JUCO transfer), which gives us many more options. It is not solidified where they will all end up but we will find out in camp. Hopefully, a couple of weeks into camp, we can solidify the line and have a good 10 or 12 day period getting ready for Buffalo.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Another key position is Quarterback. Obviously, Ryan Hart will be the starter. But how are you positioning the backups?
Coach Greg Schiano: Coming out of the spring, it was clear that Ryan Hart was the starter and Ted Trump is the backup. They distinguished and separated themselves from the rest of the quarterbacks. From then, we will have to see. I think Anthony Cali worked extremely hard and have some fine athletic ability but needs to break some bad habits - technique wise. Of the incoming freshmen, Terrence Shawell is a gifted young guy but is young and will need to learn, while he gets adjusted to college football. I think that we have some good depth and we will continue to build that depth.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: On defense, last year, you had a solid year and have not lost a lot of players from that unit. Did you make any changes there to improve the unit beyond getting a better offense?
Coach Greg Schiano: When you look at the defensive front, they will be a year more mature. Raheem Orr has played 17 football games. Now he is getting to be a legitimate junior player, as far as experience; although he is a senior. He is a guy that I think should really start to flourish. God willing that he stay healthy, he should be a force.

Looking at the interior (which he views as an important component to the unit), players like Luis Rivas and Gary Gibson; who I thought really come on strong. I think Piana Lukabu will be a really fine player. We are also counting on Alfred Peterson, then we have wildcards like Ryan Neil - if he will be able to play or not. The guy I think that will impress us is David Harley. He is a big stout defensive tackle, who should make things happen inside for us.

Then we have the linebacker corp, which is young. But the key word there is potential. William Beckford has not played for us but I feel that he will be a good player. Then we have the senior leadership of Brian Bender. We have Berkeley Hutchinson, who has made himself eligible. So we have some depth at the position. We even have depth among the third team guys, who are some pretty good football players. This is a big change from when we initially arrived, where these guys (the third teamers) are as good as those starters.

In our secondary, we have some senior players in the starting roles but we quickly get young. How fast we can build that depth will be a key to how good the unit will be as a whole. I think that we have some real fine athletes in the incoming class, especially at CB - where we signed four.

Potentially, we have the makings of a "defense". It is a race against the clock, if we can get good enough fast enough, with the young players, to make us a good defense. Or will it take a whole year for us to be a good defense? I do not know. We are up against the clock, not really an opponent we are up against ourselves.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes:
Mike and the Big Dog LLC


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