A preseason interview with Rutgers Coach Greg Schiano - Part 2 of 2
Two days before the start of the 2005 pre-season football camp, Scout.com had an opportunity to interview Coach Greg Schiano and obtain his views on the team. You will find many of the comments to be refreshly candid with a sense of confidence in the program that he has taken five years to build. Judging from the interview and the consistency of the team and schedule, Rutgers might be looking at its first winning season since 1992.
Scout: Can you comment on the center position, especially Dan Mazan
and Darnell Stapleton?
Greg Schiano: Dan is not in the center mix. Darnell is one, Joe Giaccobe, and Will Vogt - those four guys will battle it out for the center position.
Scout: Can you comment on Dan Mazan and how he is doing coming off the injury.
Greg Schiano: Well, I think he's working very hard and Dan hasn't played football in a while so I think its going to be "knock off the rust" for a little bit. But I think he has some upside, we just now have to capture it.
Scout: Which position will Dan Mazan play?
Greg Schiano: He'll probably end up playing offensive guard.
Scout: Darnell Stapleton, he was part of what you found out of junior college. Can you comment on him a little bit? A lot of people have asked a number of questions about him.
Greg Schiano: I thought he was very athletic, he played tackle at times. I think his commitment level is exceptional and he transferred down from Hudson Valley and transferred to Union. Being in Union County Community College he is able to train here in our building and work out in our building. Also he is able to get trained on an effort to be ready to play this year and ready to compete. He's done the things I think he needed to do to get ready to be able to compete in this training camp for the starting center job and now all that's left is to go do it. He's a little older guy, he's been in junior college for two years and he's the guy were counting on to put in the competition right away and see what he can do.
Scout: Last question on the offensive line. McClain is one of the few early entrances as a true freshman, and he is entering in the offensive line which is not an easy position to actually play at as a true freshman. Can you talk about his progression through the program?
Greg Schiano: I think Dave coming in early was huge for him. He totally changed his body. He got rid of some excess weight and now I think he's in the stages of building himself up and making himself the size and strength of the Division 1 lineman. Will that allow him to be able to compete this year? I don't know, we'll have to see. But he's definitely benefited by coming in early and he's going to be a good football player. When that happens is mostly up to him, how he progresses.
Scout: After the Rutgers camps in Florida there were several articles one I think that was in USA today, stating that this type of thing may or may not continue. Has anything been laid out for next year in terms of this, will Rutgers be able to hold camps down there? And what are the implications if, the NCAA prohibits Rutgers from keeping their relations and pipelines to South Florida?
Greg Schiano: To answer your question I don't know if it will be changed by next year or not. There are two reasons to do it number one, our best interest is to be able to evaluate young men in South Florida, coach them for a day, and get to know them. The other reason is we have such a high percentage of our roster between 25-30 kids from south Florida. It's our way of thanking the communities down there that are doing it. It's not a huge geographic area to supply that many student athletes to one program. So it's our way to get back to those communities and say thank you. Both of those reasons I think are very good reasons. But the NCAA will decide what they decide and we will certainly obey by the rules. So we will kind of play that one by ear. I think the young men down there understand what we got going on here and we'll continue to recruit that area successfully.
Scout : The New Hampshire loss last season seemed to have a big impact
on the program from recruiting to perception of progress for the program. Can
you please comment on what might have caused the let down? What process or changes
to approach that you have enacted to guard against this occurring in the future,
and the loss's possible impact on the program?
Greg Schiano: I didn't do a good enough job getting this program feet back on the ground. I don't know what I could of done - I thought at the time that I was doing everything that I could but - as I look back at it there were some other things I'll try next time after a big victory but, I think if you ask people around here I was tough to be around that week leading up to the State game because I knew exactly what could happen if we didn't get ourselves straight. I think part of it is the experience that you gain by having success. Adversity is very hard to deal with, sometimes prosperity is harder to deal with and we didn't deal with it very well. I have ideas how to handle it better next time just like anything, you learn from mistakes you might make but, it wasn't where that surprised or shocked me. If you look back to post game press conferences I was very concerned before the game. I thought we'd be able to find a way to pull it out and we should of and some of those things we did in the game almost looked like you're trying to lose the game. I think we learned a lesson. The impact that it had overall, I'm sure it hurt recruiting and I think that when you're trying to establish the credibility as a legitimate division one contending program, when you lose, whether you lose by one point when you lose to a one AA program it does hurt your program but when you win by one point it's forgotten. Pittsburgh won in double overtime and ended up being our BCS representative. You don't hear it ever talked about. So it's all about winning and losing. When you play those games you better find a way to win them.
Scout: Do you feel even more pressure to keep kids in state with the new additions to the conference with the new Big East?
Greg Schiano: I want to have the best players that we can get to play in our program, along with the best people. I love for them to be all from NJ, but I don't know that that will ever happen. As we get better and better we're going to keep more and more of our top players. If you look at NJ, it averages between 40 and 60 division one players a year. The top 10 in NJ are as good as anyone's top 10 in the country. But NJ iss recruited much too heavily for only 40-60 division one prospects. You have almost every school in the country coming into NJ, certainly the elite top 20 programs come to recruit those top ten kids but when you fly in it's so easy to get to see all those kids and then they end up recruiting more. That's good, that's good for our kids, it gets them more exposure, its good for the state of NJ for the high school football players. We just need to do our job and take care of business both in recruiting and on the field. We'll get the players from NJ that we need to get to continue to build this program. I'm a Jersey kid so I understand probably better then anybody, what the issues are for a NJ kid and what the benefits are for a NJ kid coming to Rutgers. I think it's a work in progress continually chopping away, and it's not in any one area. You have to do it in all areas and take care of business in all areas and have to work.
Scout: Can you comment on the four late signees like, Nate Nurse, Jackman Green, Peter Tverdov?
Greg Schiano: I think they're all great additions to our football program or we wouldn't have signed them. Each of them brings a different and special talent to this team and I'm really excited to have all four of them. One of the things I mentioned before when I came here is, it's been my experience that you never ever stop recruiting, never stop recruiting for next year or this year. Some of the greatest players at the University of Miami were signed well after signing date at the end of the spring and summer, whether you're talking about Edwin James, Nate Webster or Ray Lewis. Guys were signed after the signing date. I think you can always keep your ears open and always keep working at it and I think you continue to get better all year round.
Scout: Can you comment on each of these players with one sentence?
Greg Schiano: Jackman is a very athletic skilled player. Green is a year out of high school and went to prep school, and is a big physical backup safety. Verdoff is a classic tough defensive player that runs well and I think that is really going to fit our system well. Nate Nurse is a guy that I am really glad that we have coming. I think he's a big athletic offensive lineman that I think improved from his junior year to his senior year. We didn't have a chance to recruit him as a senior because he committed so early to Wisconsin. We're grateful to have the opportunity however late it might have been. Glad to have him coming.
Scout: I know you don't like to put pressure on your freshman coming in or any new- comers but could you comment on which one of the new players do u see as having some impact on the team?
Greg Schiano: Other then Darnell, who is an older kid we brought in for a specific purpose, I'm going to refrain from that question. I don't do that with the freshman and I'll say it every year. I don't think it's fair to place those expectations when they're going through so many changes. If it was just football I think I could make a better estimation but when you're dealing with going away from home, dealing with being away from mom, being away from your girlfriend and academics. Just not the football improves for most kids the academics improves immensely too. Just the competition of the students they're competing with here at Rutgers, as one of the elite public state research institutions. You're competing in the classroom as being alone with some really, really bright people. So there is a lot going on for a freshman at any institution but especially here at Rutgers. I don't think it's fair to put that kind of pressure on them.
Scout: Brian Leonard has been a big part of the offense, how do you plan on stopping your opponents from focusing on him and the run?
Greg Schiano: I think we have several weapons offensively. Like I said our strength of our football team is our skill guys on offense. I think there will be plenty of people to get the ball to. Brian will again continue to lead the league and all purpose yards. But he is still having a great deal of success so were going to keep feeding him the football - but like I said there are other guys and as we develop a better running game, the true tail back position can get more yardage and more touches as well.
Scout: Two years ago Justice Hairston played decent amount of time on offense. He actually fell off a little bit, what role will he play this year, TB or FB?
Greg Schiano: That's all up to Justice, as I said before that's totally up to the player himself. It's all on how he performs and that will determine how much opportunity he gets.
Scout : Just want to get 1 sentence on about 6 players if you could? Carl Howard?
Greg Schiano: There is a lot of upside.
Scout: Jeremy Zuttah?
Greg Schiano: Great.
Scout: Mike Fladell?
Greg Schiano: Work in progress.
Scout: Pedro Sosa?
Greg Schiano: Glad he's back to being Pedro.
Scout: Eric Foster?
Greg Schiano : Relentless.
Scout: Will he play defensive tackle or defensive end?
Greg Schiano: Defensive end.
Scout: John Glass?
Greg Schiano: Will have a big year.
Scout: Can you comment on the senior class on the kids that were here from the very beginning, when there was no foundation built when the Hale Center was a shade of what it is now, how you seen them transformed from when they first stepped in here into and how the program has come along?
Greg Schiano: It is a good feeling as head coach to see your guys grow up not necessarily on the football field but grow up as men. When you have an opportunity to be around these guys and they're grown men its fun to, we understand each other so well, they know what is expected, I know what's expected and its fun to have mature relationships with guys that play for you. I have not really been afforded that luxury on too many cases. There's been a few but not the way it's now with a group of seniors that - I think we have 17 seniors - I believe and trust in all those guys and that's nice.
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