Rutgers coach Greg Schiano is a realist. Last season was as much of a disappointment to him as it was to everyone, and he is eager to quickly get his program back to a bowl game.
But has going 4-8 increased his sense of urgency?
"I always have an intense sense of urgency," Schiano said in a recent phone interview. "My whole thing is we try to be the best that we can be. As I often say, ‘If I have something else extra to give you now, then you should have fired me five years ago because hopefully I have given you everything I've got and my players, too. We have a talented team that's a little green in some spots but not any more than other teams. We've just got to go out and get better and perform."
It is no secret the Scarlet Knights struggled on offense last season, and were devastated when Eric LeGrand was paralyzed making a tackle against Army. Rutgers did not win a game following the injury, and the team seemed in disarray at times. The offense ranked No. 114 in the nation and had no identity. The offensive line gave up a nation-worst 61 sacks. Schiano made changes to his staff, hiring Frank Cignetti as offensive coordinator.
Rutgers will get back to being a pro-style offense behind quarterback Chas Dodd. Schiano was pleased with the transition following spring practice, saying, "Chas is comfortable with what we're doing, although it's different than what he's done in the past. He looked very proficient in what he was doing, and we also ran the ball better than we have."
There is plenty of talent at the skill positions, though the starting running back job is still up in the air. But the biggest question of them all is the offensive line. Rutgers took a big hit when junior college transfer Dallas Hendrickson was lost for the season after getting hurt in spring practice. Schiano said the line did show improvement, and noted that there were changes to the scheme to help out.
Antwan Lowery, Desmond Wynn, Desmond Stapleton and Andre Civil earned praise from Schiano, and so did David Osei, who is bigger and stronger. "He really hit his stride," Schiano said of Osei.
"Those guys should be really improved," Schiano said. "Really, it's consistency. As a group we weren't consistent, but we were more consistent this spring than any time last year. Does that mean we're going to be world beaters? I don't think we're going to get out of it overnight, but I anticipate we'll be a lot better."
Schiano was happy with the position changes that were made in the spring, but said there may be more coming in the fall. Some players may be moved back to their original positions. The coaches are going to spend the next month going over the roster to potentially make more changes. But Khaseem Greene, David Rowe, Manny Abreu and Jeremy Deering are solid at their new spots. "We're going to try to start training camp with guys in the right place," Schiano said.
Schiano definitely has a plan for getting Rutgers back into position to contend for a league championship. Some fans are getting restless because he has been at Rutgers for 10 seasons without a league title. But consider where Rutgers was when he took over and where the program is now. Add in his excellent track record in graduating players, and Schiano has done plenty to make everyone proud.
"We had a tough year last year for a lot of reasons, but we've been to five straight bowl games. We've been consistent," Schiano said. "We'll be fine. We just have to work hard and be the best we can be. The next few years are going to be fun around here, I can tell you that."