Rutgers in Change - Part 1 of a Series

Rutgers Defensive Coordinator Paul Ferraro and two Assistant Coaches have recently departed the Banks. This is probably the most critical of several changes that are expected to shake up Greg Schiano's team. reviews the losses and considers the future in this ongoing series on the changes at Rutgers.

Recently, announcements have been made of several coaches leaving Rutgers and a demotion. Almost every football team has some coaching turnover every year. Some members of the print media have leveled criticism at Rutgers for having a large turnover the past two years and some fans feel that Schiano drives out good coaches by with an overly dominating management style, but it may be that these changes are simply necessary for Rutgers to improve. In this case, it would appear that these departures were normal, and reflected new opportunities for the coaches.

The departures of the Defensive Coordinator and Defensive Line Coach will provide the fans a real chance to see if Schiano can really improve the team in an area that was expected to be the team's biggest strength, but all too often failed the Scarlet Knights over the past four seasons.

The loss of Program Coordinator Mike Miello is particularly notable due to the close relationship that he and Schiano have, dating back to Schiano's days as a Linebacker at Ramapo High School.

Paul Ferraro has been Schiano's only Defensive Coordinator, serving since 2001. Before joining Rutgers, Ferraro coached the Defensive Backs and Linebackers at Georgia Tech and was Assistant Head Coach and Defensive Coordinator at Bowling Green.

Unfortunately, even with excellent recruiting and some good statistics, the Rutgers defense has not met expectations. In the past year the defense was largely responsible for several of the Rutgers losses, particularly the humiliating 35-24 loss to New Hampshire and a 54-21 loss to Navy. In previous years there are similar examples of bad losses by the defense. Even with the influx of talented defensive players, Rutgers has been unable to come up with a winning defensive game plan on a consistent basis, and frequently players did not display a good grasp of the fundamentals such as tackling. After the past season, Berkeley Hutchison, Charles Timbers and Orlando Kane, defensive players who were formerly considered promising left the team with poor records.

The lack of success is somewhat surprising when you consider that Rutgers led the Big East in sacks and third-down defense in 2004. Some sources close to the program have alleged that Schiano is the primary "brains" behind the defense and that Ferraro had little say. With this change, we will get to see if the defense improves significantly with a new staff or remains the same under Schiano's ultimate control.

Ferraro is taking a position as an assistant to the Special Teams and Strength & Conditioning Coaches with the Carolina Panthers, working under Head Coach (and former Giants Defensive Coordinator) John Fox. The Panthers hired Ferraro last week, but did not announce his position until Monday. This will be Ferraro's first NFL job after 23 years as a college coach.

Mike Miello was hired in 2001 by his former protégé Greg Schiano as Running Backs coach and Recruiting Coordinator. In 2002, Joe Susan became Recruiting Coordinator, Darren Rizzi took on coaching of the Running Backs and Miello became Program Coordinator in a mini-shakeup of the coaching staff. Miello was responsible for recruiting and player evaluation.  Miello was one of Schiano's original assistants, but has been primarily responsible for off-field duties for the past three seasons.

Before joining Rutgers he had been Head Coach at Ramapo High School for 23 seasons where he won four state championships and coached both Chris Simms and Schiano who would later work as one of his assistant coaches. During this time, Miello also did some scouting evaluations for the New York Giants. Miello also was head coach at Hackensack High School for seven years where he won a state championship in 1971. Miello was an assistant coach at Hackensack High School, Columbia University and the University of Rhode Island where he also played tight end.

Miello is going on to become Head Coach at Division III William Paterson. This will be his first College Head Coaching position.

Randy Melvin has been Rutgers Defensive Line Coach since 2002. Prior to Rutgers, Melvin served as an assistant coach at Eastern Illinois, Wyoming and Purdue. He also served with the New England Patriots as Defensive Line Coach in 2000 and 2001.

Melvin came to Rutgers with much fanfare as a wearer of a Super Bowl Ring, but was never able to develop the Defensive Line into the feared front that many thought it should be. He had excellent players to work with as some of the most significant recruits during this period were defensive line players. The defensive line was better than 2-deep for the entire 2004 season. However, the production of the Defensive Line has been one of the most glaring weaknesses during his tenure. The defensive lineman managed to put up a good pass rush, leading the Big East in sacks, but only one player, Ryan Neill was among the team's top ten tacklers. Frequently the defensive linemen were confused by option offenses and abused by running quarterbacks as the ends lost containment and the tackles too often let runners escape into the secondary.

Perhaps the failings of the entire defense, but particularly the line is exemplified by Navy Fullback Kyle Eckel who rumbled 78 yards up the middle virtually untouched for a touchdown on November 20.

Coach Melvin originally accepted a job with Ron Zook's Illinois staff as an assistant coach, but a few days later he changed his mind, and agreed to join his old buddy Romeo Crennel as Defensive Line coach on the Cleveland Browns. Melvin served as the DL coach at the New England Patriots when Crennel was Defensive Coordinator.

Meanwhile, even before getting to spring practice, new Illinois coach Ron Zook so far has had to contend with the departures of five assistant coaches. Even Schiano has not lost five assistants in one year.

Most recently, Greg Schiano announced the surprise hiring of highly regarded Delaware Assistant Head Coach Kyle Flood as the Scarlet Knights Offensive Line Coach. We will have more information on Flood in a future article. Flood is replacing Rod Holder who joined the team last year. According to Rutgers sources, Holder's status with the team is being evaluated, but for the meantime, he has been demoted to "Assistant Coach" without any position. Sources have indicated that Holder is under contract with Rutgers, so it appears that he will remain with the team for the immediate future.

The Offensive Line is also a position of disappointment for Rutgers fans.  Until recently, Schiano has not been able to successfully recruit players for the line, and has been forced to fill in with Junior College recruits several times. Several promising players, including Pedro Sosa and William Vogt have not participated, and the line is left this year with significant holes with several players graduating.

The new coach has several promising players on the Roster including last year's recruiting jewel, Jeremy Zuttah and some impressive 2005 recruits, Darnell Stapleton (JUCO), Ryan Blaszczyk, Kevin Haslam, and Top-100 ranked Dave McClain. With so many scholarships being given to talented young linemen, it was probably a good time for Rutgers to update the coaching of the position.

Holder was a center with the Miami Hurricanes before becoming a coach. He has coached since 1997, holding positions with Northeastern, Bentley, Miami and Western Illinois in addition to the Chicago Enforcers of the defunct XFL.

With these departures and other departures last year, the Rutgers defensive coaching staff will be completely rebuilt. The only remaining defensive staff are Linebackers coach Phil Galiano, Defensive Backs coach Chris Demarest and Graduate Assistant Chris Hewitt, all of whom have just completed their first season in their current positions at Rutgers.

The offense is still under the leadership of Coordinator Craig Ver Steeg who came to the Banks in 2003 from Utah. The departure of Miello and the arrival of Flood are the only changes to the offense this year.

There are no announcements from Rutgers of who might be selected to replace these three coaches, but with the spring game scheduled for April 9th, it is expected that an announcement will be made shortly. It is likely that the incoming Defensive Coordinator will assist in the selection of a Defensive Line Assistant. It is unlikely that any of the remaining assistants will be replaced this year. It is possible that Schiano may not hire all three open positions, but may promote from within or ask some staff to take on additional responsibilities in some cases.

We will continue to keep you informed of the changes at Rutgers as we await the start of the 2005 football season.

Mike and the Big Dog's LLC

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