Rutgers Football: Bevvy Of Coaching Changes In Big East, Schiano Shakes Up Staff

Jayson LoveCorrespondent IJanuary 3, 2011

Schiano remains a constant for RU football
Schiano remains a constant for RU footballJim McIsaac/Getty Images

Rutgers suffered through its first losing football season since 2004 when they played 4-8 football in 2010.

As the season ended, questions surrounding RU's coaching staff arose around the program and its fan-base.

From 2006-2009, Rutgers' offensive line was one of the nation's best.  Coach Kyle Flood was a highly sought after, and Rutgers seemed lucky to keep him—especially after he managed to lure and develop NFL rookie star tackle Anthony Davis.

In order to placate him and save money, along with his duties as line-coach, the university dubbed Flood as associate head coach for the past three seasons including 2010.

It seems that the double-duty has caused the line's production to slip, as he struggled to incorporate three new players on to the line this season. 

The Knights allowed a NCAA Division 1A high 61 sacks on the year, the highest total recorded by any team since the 2005 season.

The Knights also struggled to rush the football, resorting to a wildcat look more often than most teams in order to establish a running game.

This was certainly a far cry from the 2006 Knights who allowed eight sacks all season, and the 2007 Knights who allowed just 11 sacks—both lines presided over by Kyle Flood.

Taking  a lot of heat as well was Kirk Ciarrocca, the offensive coordinator brought in from University of Delaware.

Over the years, Rutgers' coaching staff has lost its share of quality coaches since it started enjoying success.

In 2008, Darren Rizzi left the staff to coach Rhode Island.  Mario Cristobal, who left with Schiano to coach at Rutgers from Miami of Florida, left to coach Florida International after Rutgers' 2006 season.

The Knights also lost a quality offensive coordinator in Craig Ver Steeg, who left to coach quarterbacks for the Baltimore Ravens in 2007.

Rutgers never replaced Ver Steeg's ability to coach quarterbacks after the 2007 season. 

With Schiano's lofty salary, it has been surmised that RU has filled out its coaching staff "on the cheap"—a fair critique when you analyze situations such as elevating a Delaware coach (Ciarrocca) to Offensive Coordinator, having Flood coach the offensive line, and having an associate head coaching title.

It is also fair to say that when you see that Rutgers doesn't have a quarterback coach.

Around the Big East, Pitt has fired its coach Dave Wannstedt, attempting to replace him with Mike Haywood.  Haywood was since fired after being charged with domestic violence last week.

West Virginia, who suffered an embarrassing bowl loss to NC State, had already fired its coach Bill Stewart and is in a strange transition phase to its next coach.  Dana Holgorsen will coordinate WVU's offense, which for some reason transitioned from a dominant spread attack to a more traditional offense, and then replace Stewart in 2012.

Randy Edsall, who led his UConn Huskies to an improbable BCS bowl appearance, bolted for the University of Maryland head coaching gig shortly after losing the Fiesta Bowl to Oklahoma 48-20.

Prior to leaving UConn, the Huskies and their fans were rewarded for their patience with Randy Edsall. 

Rutgers is hoping that a new commitment to the staff around Schiano will produce similar results. 

Rutgers is now the team with the longest tenured coach in the conference.  Schiano has piloted Rutgers since the 2001 season. 

With Pitt's coaching turmoil, Rutgers has taken advantage.  They first hired Jeff Haffley off Pitt's staff.  Haffley is from New Jersey and enjoys recruiting New Jersey defensive backs to the Pitt program.

Now, he can try to keep these guys home at the state's university.

Today, Rutgers hired former Pitt Offensive coordinator Frank Cignetti to the same position at RU.  Cignetti is another guy who brought NJ athletes to Pittsburgh and helped establish a balanced ground and air attack at Pitt over the past two seasons.

Rutgers is hoping that its patience in the top man Schiano, and the addition of these two top-level assistants rejuvenates the program.

The moves are already appearing to have an impact as Miles Shuler, who originally committed to Haffley at Pitt, de-committed and verballed to Rutgers December 18th, 2010.

A similar thing happened to Rutgers, when Syracuse fired its coach Paul Pasqualoni in 2005: Ray Rice de-committed from Syracuse to attend Rutgers, and the rest was history.

I'm not saying Shuler is that kind of player, but Rutgers can certainly hope. The kid has a 4-star rivals rating and is slated to play in the U.S. Army All-American Bowl.

One of the names to look out for in the coming weeks now that Cignetti is in the fold is highly touted quarterback Gary Nova of Don Bosco Prep in New Jersey.  Nova was originally verballed to Pitt, but has since de-committed.

Savon Huggins is a highly touted running back from St. Peter's Prep, and Cignetti can certainly point to the work he did with Dion Lewis and Ray Graham in recruiting Huggins.

Will patience and a re-commitment to top flight assistants finally pay off for Rutgers?  Can they finally take advantage of a Big East in transition? 

2011 is a big big year for the Scarlet Knights' football program.



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