With the 2012 season getting ready to start, the Rutgers Scarlet Knights are looking to climb back to the Big East prominence they were at a few years ago. It seems like it was ages, but it was only five years ago that the Knights and superstar running back Ray Rice took the college football landscape by storm.
While the offseason has been generally quiet for the Knights players,—always a good sign—there still have been some major shake-ups for the team heading into this season.
This is a move that could end up devastating Rutgers football for years. Say what you want about Greg Schiano—in 11 years the guy took a program that had fallen into complete and utter obscurity in the landscape of a conference that is pretty obscure to the landscape of college football, and he completely turned it around.
In those 11 seasons, Schiano went 68-67 overall and 5-1 in bowl games, with the lone bowl loss being to Arizona State in Rutgers' first bowl game since 1978.
I know that 68-67 doesn't exactly jump out at you, but when you consider that in his first two seasons the Knights went 3-20 with Terry Shea's players, the record becomes 65-47, a far more impressive mark. Plus, from 1990-2001, Rutgers went 40-80-1.
Losing Schiano was a huge blow to the program.
Schiano signed on to be the head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Jan. 26, 2012. Rutgers replaced him with assistant Kyle Flood on Jan. 31, 2012. This is good for a few reasons.
One, they were able to find a candidate they liked from within, which is always helpful. His ability may not be the same, but he's been a part of the program, and has had time to get to know these players and their strengths and weaknesses.
Not to mention he's familiar with Rutgers football. That means he's familiar with the standards and the conduct that the school and the program like to comport themselves with.
You don't think that matters? How'd Charlie Weis do at Notre Dame?
Two, they did it quickly, so they avoided any serious downtime where they were searching for a replacement and the players were blindly spending time working out with no real idea of where the program was headed.
He may not end up being the best coach on the planet, but the process Rutgers hired Flood through was flawless for the Knights.
Losing Mohamed Sanu also will leave the Knights with a huge hole in the offense.
In his three seasons at Rutgers, Sanu tallied 210 receptions for 2,263 yards and 12 touchdowns, including 115 receptions, 1,206 yards and seven touchdowns last season. He was also used as a Wildcat back, rushing 125 times for 653 yards and nine touchdowns.
That is a ton of production to be replacing, and as I have said before, I don't think think they'll try to replace him with one guy. They'll probably have a platoon of receivers trying to get that production back.
One thing that is always scary for a school when its coach leaves—especially a high-profile coach like Schiano at a lower-profile school like Rutgers—is that whatever recruiting he did would all go to waste. Most players get convinced by a coach to come to their school, and if he isn't there anymore, what's the point?
That didn't happen for Rutgers. The gems of this year's recruiting class all stuck with Rutgers. Five-star defensive end Darius Hamilton (pictured), 4-star receiver Leonte Carroo and 4-star offensive lineman J.J. Denman decided to stick it out.
I know this doesn't have a whole lot of impact on the actual football of the program beyond the PR, but how could this not be one of the best moments for them?
I think the ESPYs are a total waste of time for the most part, but moments like Jimmy Valvano's famous "Never Give Up" speech and LeGrand's appearance make it totally worth it.
If you weren't moved by LeGrand's vow to never give up and to work until he could walk on his own again, you don't have a heart. As we saw after the Pinstripe Bowl last year, LeGrand's story has been a rallying cry for Rutgers for a while now, and I think that as long as he is making good on his vow to never give up, the Knights will use that to motivate themselves to do the same.