For the past several years, Jeff Hafley had to coax New Jersey high school players into coming to school at Pittsburgh. And he was awfully good at it.
Now, Hafley has to change his pitch. The former Pitt defensive backs coach was hired as a Rutgers assistant last week.
"It's a different dynamic," he said Thursday. "I was trying to convince them to come six hours away from their home, and that's not easy to do. Now I just have to convince them to stay home in the the state they live in. It should be easier."
Hafley knows the area well as a Montvale, N.J., native who recruited the state extensively and successfully at Pitt. He proudly calls himself a "Jersey guy" and said he was excited to be back home. New Pittsburgh coach Mike Haywood reportedly offered Hafley a chance to stay on staff with the Panthers. Here's what Hafley had to say about that:
"When we got dismissed and I had the opportunity to come to Rutgers, there was never any hesitation," he said. "This is the right place for me to be at the right time, and I'll just leave it at that."
Hafley has not yet been assigned a specific role on the Scarlet Knights staff and said he and Greg Schiano have spent all their time together so far talking about recruiting. Hafley will hit the ground running, and his contacts in the area should help him in the final six weeks before signing day. I asked him if he would go after some of the prospects who have decommitted from Pitt since Dave Wannstedt was fired.
"I've talked to some of them, and I'll talk to Coach Schiano to see if there are guys we want," he said.
Hafley said he thought New Jersey players were some of the best-coached prospects in the country, and he said if Rutgers can keep all the major talent home, "I think we can win not just a Big East championship, but a national championship."
Sounds like his new sales pitch is ready to go.