Pre-Season Interview with Coach Schiano - Part II

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: With the status of Jvonne Parker and Davon Clark "up in the air", what is the state of the internal defensive line?
Coach Greg Schiano: I think that we will be all right. When you look at players like Joe Henley and Joe Giacobbe, who are getting better, we will be fine. Are they ready to be full time players? Probably not, but they are probably ready to give 10 or 15 plays a game. They will go in there and battle their guts out. I also like the looks of Gary Gibson, Luis Rivas, and David Harley. Harley is a 22 year old young man and is not a freshman but a junior college transfer who has seen action beyond the high school level. That rotation should be solid. When I arrived here I did not even think of a eight man rotation. Now we want to have four tackles and four ends. This would be an ideal situation. We refer to this as a pair and a spare. We may not be in that position from the beginning but this is much better than we have been. At this position, we have some good quality players. If there was a position of concern depth wise, it would be this position. However, it is still better than where we have been in the past.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Are there any possibilities of a surprise addition before the season?
Coach Greg Schiano: Probably not. But I should never say no. We are always looking and recruiting until the very end. We are always looking to uncover someone that is academically capable and able to keep at this level. However, we did not have any hot prospects on the radar screen.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: One of the biggest new items of the off-season was the addition of Miami and Virginia Tech to the ACC. How do you think that this change will affect the Big East and Rutgers recruiting?
Coach Greg Schiano: First of all, I must say that an institution must do what is in the best interested of the institution and that is why you are paid by that institution. Frank Breamer and Larry Coker had very little to do with this decision, so there is no uncomfortableness there.

I had very little apprehension about what was going on. I did not pay much attention to it beyond reading the paper like a normal fan.

In my opinion, at Rutgers right now, if we care of what we need to take care of, we will be in great position. What I mean by great position is playing in bowl games and to win championships. We have a situation where we have a great academic institution which is located in the New York media area. I think we will quickly show why we are on the rise. We have a great facility with the expansion going on, which will be incredible.

There are many positive things going on not only in the football program but throughout the whole university. President McCormick is a real aggressive and on the edge thinker, who will take this university to another level. I think in the next five to ten years you will see this place really explode and not just football. Moving forward, Rutgers will be a big player in the Big East.

When you look at the Northeast as a region, it contains tough hard nose people and tough universities. We will rebuild this conference and make it a great league. Our governance will identify and obtain the membership of good programs. In the long run, it will be a good thing.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: How will it affect Rutgers' recruiting in Florida? It is widely considered that the southern Florida players, who were not recruited by Miami are looking to playing against them for that fact.
Coach Greg Schiano: If this happened in year one of us being here, it would have had a significant effect. However, this training camp will have 22 players from south Florida. That is already showing that kids are going back to saying what a great place this is, they take care of you, and you will have an opportunity to obtain a great education. I think that we have established ourselves as a major player in the recruiting game in that area. Will there be one kid, who may not come because he may not have the opportunity to play against Miami? Maybe. But, when you get past the big three (Miami, Florida, and Florida State), the kids will want to attend the school that provides them the best situation for them. I think that we have a good situation for them and I think that they have a slice of home here for them.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: This is year three. In past interviews, you have stated that it takes 2 to 2 1/2 years to have to weight program make an impact. We are now that the 21/2 year mark. Has the weight program start to "kick in", do you see the results, and will we see it on the field?
Coach Greg Schiano: Yes, it has begun to "kick in" and I see it more team wide than individually. However, you have to remember that there have only been a few guys that have been with the program to entire time. So when I make that statement, referring to Miami, we had our talent base filled, the pipeline was full - from freshman to senior, basically four full years of talent. It is a little different here that we are phrasing guys into the program. Without question, we see a huge improvement in us as a physical team and this will only continue to get better. As we interject the freshmen into the program, they will get better. When you start with a more talented kid, they progress much more. The same reason they are a more talented athletes are the same reason why they will progress better. I am excited where we are headed there. Jay Butler and his staff has done a great job.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Again, this is year three. You now have your philosophy spread throughout the program and you now have three recruiting classes. Do you feel more pressure to win this year?
Coach Greg Schiano: I have said all along that this is a marathon, not a sprint. Do I want to win every game? Yes. Do I die when we lose? Yes. When you look that the programs similar to Rutgers like the Northwesterns and the Kansas States of the world. The on the field turn around does not always happen in the third year, it might be the fourth or fifth year. Does that mean that it will not happen this year? I do not know. I think our biggest race is against the clock, not an opponent. How fast can our young kids get good and get comfortable with what we are doing? That to me is the key. Regardless of our win-loss record, people should come away feeling that this is a different looking team. There are more playmakers and it is more of an exciting brand of football. This will be just because of the players, not the plays. There are players that can make more plays. Eventually, that should add up to a better win-loss record. I want it to be this year because I think that these kids deserve it. But we will stay the course on what we are doing here. I do see the progress that we are making.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Who has been the most impressive player on offense and defense in the spring?
Coach Greg Schiano: That is always a tough question. But one player that has been impressive was Brian Leonard. He is a tremendous athlete, who has bulked himself up and became a grown man. I am looking forward to seeing him play this year. Defensively, I would say William Beckford. He has a chance to be a special guy.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Which player in the Fall do you think will provided the biggest impact?
Coach Greg Schiano: That is hard to say. Hopefully the two guys that I mentioned should be key factors. But they are young guys, who have not played in a college football game in their lives. There will be some situations that they are not accustomed to. The way that they deal with those situations will shape their seasons.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Going into the 2003 season, what do you think will be the biggest key to success?
Coach Greg Schiano: Our biggest thing will be maintaining a level of consistency, focus, and mental toughness. We have to be careful. As a young team, you have a tendency of over reacting to the good stuff or the bad stuff. We need to stay the course. This is a job of the coaches as much as anyone.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: One of the most highly regarded players to attend Rutgers university in years is Berkeley Hutchinson. Can you talk about his development?
Coach Greg Schiano: He has worked hard academically and made himself eligible by the end of the second semester. He is ready to go. I am not allowed to watch him workout but he looks good when he comes to visit me. Therefore, he seems to be working hard in the weightroom. Last year, we had an opportunity to see him in the first few days of camp before he was ruled ineligible. Although he was raw, he was physically very impressive. It is important that he gets put into the fire early. We will try to help him figure everything out. He should be able to provide us with some substantial playing time. But this is all potential. Which is a dangerous word for players and ever more dangerous for coaches. However, I am confident that these kids will realize their potential. They are good kids and love the game of football and love being together. They are really starting to become a team.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Can you provide me with a two sentence comment on the following players.
Coach Greg Schiano:
Nate Jones - Needs to use last season as a jump start into this year.
Justice Hairston - One of those guys with a lot of potential.
Ron Green - Dito
Brian Leonard - Has the makings to be a special football player. Another guy with a lot of potential and I have every reason to believe that, like William Beckford, that he can be as good as there is. God willing that he stays healthy.
Clark Harris - a very gifted guy. He is 240lbs and is very lean. He has the potential to be a 260lbs player.
Val Barnaby - a talented guy physically and needs to build on his experiences from last year.
Brian Bender - Plays very hard. I wished that he can add some more weight on but he gives it all he can give of his 235lbs.
David Harley - very strong and stout guy with potential. We will need to see how he performs in a Rutgers uniform.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: After 2004, will Rutgers continue to play Virginia Tech, Miami, and Temple?
Coach Greg Schiano: These are being worked on right now and I can not tell you yes or no. This is simply because we do not know what effect that this will have on our schedule. There are so many variables right now. Bob Mulcahy and I are on top of it.

Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Do you think that the Big East will retain their BCS bid?
Coach Greg Schiano: I am not privy to any information. But, being in college football as long as I have, I think that we will. There are a couple of reasons. First, at the end of the 2005 season, the Big East give a different appearance. Teams like Rutgers and some others will be playing at a high level of football. Finally, looking at the business side of it, I do not think that you can leave the Northeast out of the mix. That is a lot of television sets in a lot of homes.

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


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