Sam Hellman / Scarlet Report

Audio: Rutgers Staff Members Rick Mantz, Shane Burnham

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Scarlet Report sits down for insightful conversation with Rutgers director of high school relations Rick Mantz. We also speak with defensive line coach Shane Burnham about Darius Hamilton's reps and players that stand out.

Listen to both interviews via the above player, or simply peruse the transcripts below.

Rutgers Director of High School Operations Rick Mantz

On the transition to Rutgers...

I couldn't wait for the opportunity. I was excited, obviously, hearing that this guy Chris Ash is coming on board. You've got a guy from a Big Ten program who's won a national championship. I was intrigued. I've always loved Rutgers. This has always been kind of a dream. I was here in '90 and '91 when Doug Graber was here as a graduate assistant. I did the high school thing and I was very fortunate, as you know, coached some great kids. It was exciting and I wanted to be a part of it and I got a call from Chris Ash. He was saying Shaun O'Hara had recommended you, can you come in and talk? I was chomping at the bit. The more that I talked to Chris and, more importantly, the way I listened, everything that I've ever believed in my whole coaching career is part of who he is and how he does things and when you can get an opportunity to work with him and this staff, you feed off of his energy and his enthusiasm. There's absolutely no doubt in my mind that this place is going to be special.”

On Rutgers perception and recruiting...

I don't know if it was that big of a challenge to be very honest with you. When coach Ash was at Ohio State, there was a guy named Greg Gillum on board. He was the director of high school relations there. Coach basically said he felt it was important that they had a guy at Ohio State that they had a high school coach that guys knew that they could contact if they needed anything. He just felt that it opened up a whole different set of communication lines. That's really what he wanted here, especially with the fact that none of the guys on staff had really recruited New Jersey before. For me it was basically reaching out to high school brothers and saying, 'look this is a guy that you've got to trust. You've got to believe. You've got to get on campus. Get your kids on campus.' The biggest change with me being here – the old stories were 'hey Rick, I'd reach out to Rutgers. I'd send them information about a kid and for whatever reason, nobody would follow up.' [That was] especially from the South Jersey guys. I don't know why but there was a lot of lack of following up. There's a lot of guys that ended up at Ohio State or they ended up at Michigan or Wisconsin. [There is] a Shawnee kid playing for Oregon right now. He should be playing here. All of a sudden, now coaches in the state will call me and say, 'Rick I got a guy.' And I can make sure that guy gets to the people that need to see him. I feel very comfortable in saying that. I don't think a kid is going to come out of the state that we're not on top of, where that we think he's a scholarship player or not, at least we're aware of him and we'll get that kid on campus and the coaches will feel like their kid got a look.”

On successes in South Jersey...

I think we've had success everywhere. If you look geographically, we spread it all out. South Jersey has always been an issue and I really can't speak as to why it wasn't successful in the past. This much I can tell you. The first weeks of Chris being here, he called every single one of those guys in South Jersey that had players. Our coaches saturated South Jersey. We had two socials where we had South Jersey coaches involved. We went down there to Villari's in Sicklerville and we had 150 South Jersey guys. We went to all the NIKE clinics in the state in Jersey, the Atlantic City clinics. We brought our whole staff down there and the coaches all commented, 'this is the first time we've seen Rutgers guys.' This is the first time Rutgers guys came to this particular clinic. This is the first time a Rutgers coach has been in my building. I had a guy call me up saying, 'Rick I've had coaches in my building three times between the winter and the spring. Rutgers hasn't been here in six years. I think they're feeling love. We've gotten all of these guys to bring their guys on campus to meet Chris, to meet the staff, to see Kenny Parker, to watch practice. The spring was amazing. We had two junior recruiting weekends right after Signing Day. We had 100-and-something kids at each of those. It was off the charts. Chris said even at Ohio State, they weren't bringing in the kinds of kids that we brought in those first two weekends. I think there's an excitement that's been generated and the kids want to be part of it.”

On when he started thinking about working at Rutgers...

It was always a pipe dream. We'd love to be involved. I'd talked to Greg [Schiano] when Greg first came on board. I actually was hired for about 15 minutes. I took a job and I resigned because, at that time when Greg first got here, he was going through operations guys like socks. The job at that time was a mess if you remember. We all hoped that Greg could and sure enough he did. I remind Chris and the rest of these guys after the the fact of what Greg had to do to get it here. You obviously dream about something like this and, hey, I'm not an overly-religious guy but it was meant to be. I'm grateful I'm here.”

Successful career as a high school coach...

I don't know wins and losses. I guess, I assume, I won enough games to earn guys' respect but not enough games to tick people off. There's some other guys that are probably a lot more successful than me. I'd like to think that I'm respected because I've always been a guy that if anybody needs anything, I've been a guy with the state association, membership for years. I've got everybody's cell phone. One of the things that was interesting when we got on board here, the first staff meeting, we're asking about a kid. While we're still in that meeting, I'm texting his high school coach. I'm getting his backstory. I can find out why he's at a particular place, why he's not here. Matter of fact, we got a kid that was actually heading to Philadelphia the first meeting, January 4, and I got a hold of his high school coach and we got in touch with this kid and that kid was in our office by 5 o'clock that night. I think just being able to reach out to high-school coaches, being able to have those contacts, they trust me. I like to think they respect me. They know, 'if I need something at Rutgers, I can call up Rick.'”

Rutgers Defensive Line Coach Shane Burnham...

On Darius Hamilton's recovery...

There's no doubt he's a good player. He's shown it in this league for the three years he was healthy. The biggest thing with Darius is we've got to manage his reps much like we did in the spring. Even from the spring, I can tell he's more comfortable in the way he moves, with the lower half stronger, rehab is further along. I'm really comfortable with him. He's had experience. He's got great hands. He's one of the best guys I've been around as far as playing with his hands up front. He's extremely quick and violent off the ball. I'm very comfortable with where Darius is at. He's a difference maker for us.”

On Hamilton bulking up...

I think he sees the benefit of it. When you talk about maybe some of the health issues he's had, I think you're going to try and play between two 300-pound guys at the weight he played at previously, I think that might have led to some of the problems he has now to be perfectly honest in my opinion. I think he sees the benefit of adding weight, help him anchor in and help him have a little more pop, a little more lead in his pencil. He carries it well. It went on slowly since we've been here. I think he's done a good job putting it on the right way. He carries it well.”

On Kevin Wilkins...

Kevin had a good summer. I can tell Kevin has got a lot of ability and I do believe athletically when you talk about some of the things you're looking for, explosiveness, being able to stay in a bent-knee position, good hips, good feet, he has all of those things you look for. I still think Kevin's got a long ways to go to become the player he can become. It's just every day consistency. It's such a grind. As the series goes, you cannot take your foot off the gas. I've been pleased that he's improved but I still think there's a lot of improvement left to do if Kevin wants to become the player he can become.”

On early camp standouts...

I think JPO (Julian Pinnix-Odrick) has had an outstanding camp. I really do. I told him late in the scrimmage, he has in my mind, much like Darius you can see with the weight gain and the way he moves and his explosiveness, athletically he looks much better than he did in the spring. I think he's had an excellent camp and he stands out to me now.”


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