Schiano's exit leaves Rutgers recruits in quandary

Greg Schiano
Greg Schiano
Posted: January 27, 2012

With prominent local recruits in "shock," Thursday's news that Greg Schiano has resigned from Rutgers University to become head coach of the NFL's Tampa Bay Buccaneers raises concerns about the future of the Scarlet Knights' program.

In 11 seasons as the football coach at New Jersey's state university, the energetic, personable Schiano turned Rutgers from a soft spot on a lot of schedules into a nationally respected team that has been to six bowl games in the last seven years and was 9-4 with a bowl victory last season.

But Schiano's decision to leave Rutgers seemed to catch prominent local recruits off guard and raised questions whether the Scarlet Knights' program will remain a prime destination for top local players at a time of upheaval in the Big East Conference.

The news was stunning for two top Rutgers local recruits, Archbishop Wood (Warminster, Pa.) running back Desmon Peoples and lineman Brandon Arcidiacono. Both were key members of the school's PIAA Class AAA state championship team. Peoples was the Inquirer's Southeastern Pennsylvania player of the year, rushing for 1,241 yards and 23 touchdowns. Arcidiacono was a first-team all Southeastern Pa. lineman.

"They were both as little shocked and upset," Archbishop Wood coach Steve Devlin said. "He [Schiano] has always been about 'family.' The kids are very comfortable with him. We just thought he was going to be there."

Devlin said he would "sit down with the families, talk about it, and take it from there."

It was also unsettling for Timber Creek (Erial, N.J.) linebacker Quanzell Lambert, perhaps Rutgers' top recruit in the class of 2012. He has not de-committed from the Scarlet Knights but was "shocked" by Schiano's departure, according to Timber Creek coach Rob Hinson.

"He's going to give it a little time before making any decisions," Hinson said of Lambert, who is scheduled to sign with Rutgers on Wednesday, which is the NCAA's National Signing Day for football recruits. Lambert was a first team all-South Jersey linebacker.

Bob Lichtenfels, East regional recruiting manager for Scout.com, said Schiano's departure could have a big effect on the Scarlet Knights' recruiting.

"The school was arguably having its best recruiting class ever," Lichtenfels said. "Now, it could be turned upside down."

Schiano's record at Rutgers was 68-67. But six of his last seven teams played in bowl games, and the Scarlet Knights have the nation's longest current winning streak in bowl games at five, including a 27-13 victory over Iowa State in the New Era Pinstripe Bowl on Dec. 30.

Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti named offensive assistant Kyle Flood as interim coach and said that an immediate search would begin for Schiano's replacement.

Pernetti noted that the new coach will need to maintain Rutgers' recruiting strength in New Jersey, Pennsylvania, and New York. That was a huge factor in Schiano's success, as 45 of the players on the current 95-man roster are from New Jersey, while 12 are from New York, and nine from Pennsylvania.

"Understanding and being able to have your arms around the culture of the tristate area I think is critical to being successful at Rutgers," Pernetti said.

Tampa Bay is counting on the 45-year-old Schiano to do a similar rebuilding job in the NFL. Schiano will replace Raheem Morris, who was fired three weeks ago following a 4-12 season.

"Coach Schiano is a bright, meticulous teacher who knows how to get the most out of his players," Tampa Bay general manager Mark Dominik said. "He built and ran a pro-style program at Rutgers, and he's a defensive-minded coach whose teams have always been characterized by toughness and a physical style of play."

The timing of the move is significant in that it is less than a week before National Signing Day as coaches around the country are seeking to lock up commitments from high school players.

Asked about his message to recruits, Pernetti said, "I think the message will be that the program that you committed to, if they are committed, or the program you are considering, is the same program that it was two days ago."


Contact staff writer Phil Anastasia at 215-817-1121, panastasia@phillynews.com Read his blog, "Jersey Side Sports," at www.philly.com/jerseysidesports

 


Inquirer staff writer Rick O'Brien contributed to this article, which contains information from t


he Associated Press


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