Interview with Rutgers Head Football Coach Greg Schiano - Part 6 of 6
On June 5th, Mike Fasano and I had the pleasure of interviewing the Head Coach of Rutgers football Greg Schiano. The interview lasted approximately two hours. We had the chance to obtain his comments on his philosphy, recruiting success, how he will continue to improve the program, future of the program, improvements to the facilities, coaching additions, and how he will build a championship program at Rutgers. The interview was informative and enlightening. We hope that you enjoy the interview and obtain some insight into the program.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Do you have a framework or timetable for your bowl and national championship seasons?
Greg Schiano: I avoided creating a timetable because that leads to short cuts. We could have recruited six junior college players and there is no doubt that we could have got them. If we directed our efforts on recruiting JUCOs, we could get 21-year old man instead of 18-year old young men. We could probably win a game or two more but I did not want to get into that scenario.
I have a plan and I have articulated that plan to my staff. We believe in what we are doing, Bob (Mulcahy) believes it what we are doing along with our administration. We will carry out that plan. When you start putting timelines on it, you can get into a pinch. For example, you can be on a good path and your best player breaks his hand and can not play. That might set you back. Now if you planned by the third year to have the program at a certain level and this incident changes your forecast. You might start changing things because you must meet a certain deadline. I do not want to put myself in that position or this program. We know what we are doing is right and we will not divert from the course.
One thing that I have done in my career (playing or coaching) was to do things right and do it right all the time. It is like pounding a stone. Eventually, the stone will give way and you will get what you want. That is my personal philosophy and I try to convey that to our team. You set yourself up for failure the other way.
Mike Fasano: Do you think that fans will see a tangible improvement this season?
Greg Schiano: Yes, I saw it this spring. I think that we will be a better conditioned and stronger football team. We will look more like a Big East football team. We will be a faster football team. Although the speed will be young and you might see it on special teams.
Our young kids who played last year will be a year older and more mature along with having been in the strength/conditioning program a year. So I think that we can not help but be a little bit better.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: At the end of last season, you had a few changes in the coaching staff. How were you able to lure the two new coaches to the staff? What are their strengths and what do they bring to Rutgers?
Greg Schiano: I will start with Darren Rizzi. He was a head coach at the University of New Haven. He is a New Jersey guy, through and through. I look at Darren and see a lot of me in him. He knows and has dreamt that this place could be great. He gave up a lot to come here. He was a rising young head coach. I think sharing the vision of what can be accomplish here along with his predisposition to the belief that it is going to happen. I think it is something that he is happy about and he brings some much to the table. Not only was he a recruiter and a coach, he was a head coach. No matter what level, as a head coach you will need to make some tough decisions.
It is good for me. I very rarely make a decision without running it by, at least, some members of the staff. I really believe in these guys and I would be foolish to make a decision without them, even if it is the same decision I would have make without them. I feel better knowing that they feel the same way because I really trust them. I still see myself as one of them and we are in this thing together.
The second coach that we brought on-board was Randy Melvin. He is really a very fine defensive coach. It is really important for our football team because we have some really talented and good young defensive linemen. His experiences have been well documented between his collegian and professional experience. We are very fortunate to get Randy, as well as Darren.
One of the things that assisted us in getting Randy was the fact that Coach Hazell is a good friend of his. He was able to open the door for us when the opportunity presented itself. Coach Melvin came down from New England, visited with us, felt comfortable, and could understand the vision.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Even understanding the vision, how does a coach leave a NFL championship football team to coach in college?
Greg Schiano: Like everything in life, timing is everything. Having been in that league, I do not think that New England (their front office or any one) expected them to get to the Super Bowl or win it. When you get to the Super Bowl, all of the coaching changes are going on. The Senior Bowl is at the beginning of January and the Super Bowl is at the end of January. During the Senior Bowl, a lot of people are talking about jobs and people are hiring coaches. If you are in the NFL as a coach, you can not talk to another team on less it is a head coaches job. Previously, you could go from a position coach to a coordinator. Now you can only leave a team for one of the head coaching positions. Other than that you stay with your current employer.
New England made some moves the year before and the NFL contracts are one or two year deals. It is not an uncommon thing for an expired contract not to be renewed for one reason or another. Randy got caught as a victim of timing.
Like myself, Randy sees the impact that you can have on young people's lives in the college game. He values this impact. We are very much the beneficiaries of timing, he is committed to being here, and that is the exciting thing to me. It will not be a one-year stint and back to the NFL. That is not what he wants to do and that is very exciting to me. He has made a marked improvement to the defensive line.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: What player has been the biggest surprise on offense and defense in the spring?
Greg Schiano: I was really encouraged by Mike Williamson. He did some real good things and made some big steps. Gary Gibson has also made some big steps. (Gibson is one of Big Dog's favorite players). Those two guys made some steps in the right direction.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Which position had the most improvement, as a corp?
Greg Schiano: The offensive and defensive line really improved. On the offensive line, it could be the result of some position changes. We put some people into some good positions this spring because we are now able to do so. This was due to the emergence of players like Sameeh MacDonald and Mike Williamson. Sameeh MacDonald is one of those players who made a marked improvement and has the ability to be a real fine player. I believe that from the day that we recruited him but I did not know that he would show those signs so soon. (it is impressive for a lineman to be showing those kind of signs going into his redshirt freshman year). He will be some tough days before he is really "good". Especially, when you have a seasoned veteran coming off the edge that he may not have seen in practice. But he has what it takes. The raw product is there, it only needs to be coached. As a coach, if they show you that they can do it once or twice, it is now your job to make them do it over and over again.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: What are some of your biggest challenges going into the season?
Greg Schiano: Our football team needs to learn how to do the little things right. Those habits will help you it the crunch time to get the job done. I never forgot reading about Michael Jordan and why is he so cool under pressure. So guys love it. But he is not just born that way. He has practiced so much that it became a habit it the crunch and he can do it without thinking about it.
Doing things right is the same thing. When you do things right, treat people the right way, and live the right way, when you need good things to happen they will. This is what we need to do.
I know that you were looking for me to say that we need to block better or kick better. We have to do all of those things but those are one of the thousand things that we must do the right way.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: What specifically you need to improve to get the program to the next level?
Greg Schiano: The number one thing is to cut down on the turnovers and negative plays on offense. We need to play at our peak level. When you played at our peak level last year, we played some good defense.
But there were times where we were unable to play at our peak level three plays in a row. Some of it was conditioning or strength but some of it was not being in the zone of doing things right over and over.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Do you think the team is stronger this year?
Greg Schiano: Yes, without a question. Coach Butler (the strength coach) has done an extraordinary job in the 16 or 18 months that he has been working with the football team. But it truly takes another twelve months to see the impact of a new strength and conditioning program, 2 to 2 ½ years.
The year before I came to Miami, Butch Davis changed the strength coach and the philosophy of the strength training. They went from being a smooth looking team to a team where their arms, butts, and thighs are popping out of their uniforms. This was not because of tighter uniforms but the fact that their body structure changed.
Jay Butler is doing that to our team now. You will see the effects team wide in another 12 months. Some kids, you will see it earlier because they have worked harder or they are generically predisposition for good muscle development. But in 12 months, you will see it team wide. In turn, our play will change. This takes time.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: What are your views on Title IX and should football be included, since there is no equivalence sport with the scholarship count?
Greg Schiano: I am not an expert on Title IX and I do not claim to be one. I have three boys but I have two sisters and I believe that they should have an opportunity.
I think you get in trouble when you create opportunity, where there is not a supply of young women to do that. I do not know that but this is my opinion.
When Title IX was written, football was not included because there was no corresponding sport. Then it was changed. In my opinion, football should not be included. People made a big mistake in misunderstanding why we need so many players to have a program. They do not understand the level of play at the top level and that freshmen are not ready, for the most part to compete. Some freshmen are in limited roles, but a lot are not. Therefore, you must eliminate twenty to twenty-five kids from your list.
Some people refer to the NFL having 53 players on the roster. But the college coaches prepared those players for four years to play at that level. We are the minor leagues for the NFL, like it or not. So we need to develop these kids. But we need to develop them in a manner that they do not kill each other. It is a physical sport. It is a collision sport and you can not do it over and over again with the same 53 guys like in the NFL.
In the NFL, you do not hit. You do not develop the fundamentals. College coaches do it for them because only the best of this pool get to that league. That is what people do not understand. They just want to compare apples and oranges.
In my opinion, we need more than 85 scholarships to run the program correctly. That probably will not happen but we can not afford to take any more hits with the scholarship limitations. When you take football out of it, it is a much better plan.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: Does your staff read the Internet sites for a competitive advantage?
Greg Schiano: Absolutely. We have people assigned to check web sites and information. I do not believe everything on the Internet is accurate. You would drive yourself crazy if you believe everything on the Internet. But you would be putting your head in the sand if you discounted it.
The people in this profession who say that they do not may not be telling the truth. I personally do not but Mark D'Onofrio and his assistance do. They are constantly checking those sites.
A recruiting service might print that a prospect said something but if you asked the prospect he might have never said that. How does that happen? You tell me but you do not want to chase ghosts either.
I do not think that any coaches give on those message boards reading some of those things that are written. As long as you stick to the recruiting information, you are fine.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: In addition to what you have already said, what would you like to convey to the readers and the fans?
Greg Schiano: Please remain patient and you are a big part of it happening. This is along with the things that I have said already, you do matter. You, being everyone.
The things coming out of your mouth in public do matter and has an effect. Taking your kids to the games, does matter. It is a voters mentality, which our country suffers from today. "If I do not vote, what is the difference? I am only one person." Every reasonable person makes a difference and it is a partnership between me, my staff, this program and the state.
I took this job because this is the state that I love and it is more than a job to me. If it was just a job, I would have taken another one. It is much more than a job to me and what you say and act does have an impact on the program.
We would like to thank Coach Schiano for his time and his comments. Mike and I would like to wish the team success this season and in the future.
Donald "Big Dog" Forbes: BigDog@Rutgersfootball.com