Recruits, assistants caught unaware
Greg Schiano was supposed to be at Don Bosco Preparatory School promptly at 8 a.m. Thursday morning to recruit some key prospects.
That never happened.
As scheduled, five Rutgers assistant coaches showed up at the Ramsey, N.J., school, which showcases several highly rated prospects each year. The coaches were focused on securing current commitment Leonte Carroo, a three-star receiver, and Darius Hamilton, a four-star defensive end who is primarily considering the Scarlet Knights and Florida.
"The coaches were kind of shocked," Don Bosco coach Greg Toal said. "They said 'Coach Schiano, he's never late for anything.' "
At first, the coaches thought Schiano might have gotten caught up in another meeting, despite the importance of the Don Bosco appointment.
"They didn't think it was any big deal," Toal said of their initial response. "They didn't know that he was in negotiations or anything like that."
Then, when reports began to surface that Schiano had accepted the head coaching job for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, the Rutgers assistants were caught unaware.
"No one knows where this is going right now," Toal said. "I'm sure it caught a lot of people off guard."
With six days before national signing day, Rutgers suddenly finds itself in an incredible time crush to secure its 2012 class.
Who will be Rutgers' next coach, but perhaps almost as importantly, how many assistants will stay at the school? Even with a new head coach, those relationships could still pay dividends in recruiting.
If Rutgers decides to go elsewhere to hire a coach, those assistants may be gone. An in-house hiring could ease the transition a bit, but it will be a challenge no matter what.
Time is definitely not on Rutgers' side with national signing day just six days away.
Toal said he had spoken to Hamilton, who was scheduled to announce his college decision Tuesday, and Carroo, who committed to Rutgers in August over several other scholarship offers. Since the news broke, Carroo has also seen his phone ringing off the hook with places like Illinois, Syracuse and Miami already reaching out.
"They're concerned," Toal said. "Both guys are real concerned. They have to be. They believed Coach Schiano was going to be their coach. ... You can't blame these kids. They want some stability and they want some answers. They want to know where this thing is going. No question."
Toal said neither prospect will wait until after signing day Feb. 1 to announce his decision, meaning they'll need a quick decision from Rutgers if the Scarlet Knights hope to stay in the hunt.
"They're not going to wait until after national signing day," Toal said. "I'll tell you that right now. They're not going to wait."
Rutgers was assembling a strong class this year. Among its 18 commitments, five were rated as four-star prospects.
"He's obviously an excellent recruiter and a very good coach," Toal said. "There's no question that he's done a good job."
Aside from Hamilton's decision on Tuesday, Rutgers was also a major player for four-star prospect Devin Fuller from Old Tappen (N.J.) Northern Valley Regional. He is scheduled to announce his decision on Sunday after he returns from a midweek visit to Arizona. Fuller, the top prospect in New Jersey, has also taken official visits to UCLA, TCU and Nebraska. He went to Rutgers last weekend.
He was one of many topflight prospects who took official visits to Rutgers. The change comes just as Rutgers was re-establishing itself as one of the top recruiting schools in the Northeast, specifically in New Jersey, where it had secured 10 commitments. Clearly, there was a perception often echoed by prospects that the Scarlet Knights were on the rise.
Tight end Mike Giacone (Westfield, N.J./St. Peter's Prep), a three-star prospect who committed to Rutgers in July, said he was stunned when he heard the news that Schiano was leaving.
"Just still in shock right now," Giacone said. "Trying to wrap my head around it."
Giacone said he was uncertain about his recruiting situation but added that he will at least consider exploring other options.
"We gotta see," he said. "I have to sit down with my coach and my parents first."
"Don't want to say too much right now, but I guess [Schiano is] doing what's best for him and his family," Peele said. "It's disappointing, but what can you do? It's part of the business. I have faith that it will all work out."
Three-star offensive tackle Ryan Brodie committed to Rutgers on Wednesday over Connecticut, West Virginia, Miami and Illinois. UConn and the Mountaineers may resurface in that race.
Four-star offensive line commitment Chris Muller said Thursday he had already been contacted by Michigan, South Carolina and Vanderbilt, but while in school he also had missed more than 30 calls and had more than 15 voicemails.
"I'm very concerned about the situation," Toal said. "It has a tremendous impact ... I don't think there's ever a good time, but this might be, possibly the worst time it could happen to be honest with you."
Dave Hooker is ESPN Recruiting's Southeast and Atlantic Coast recruiting analyst. Information from ESPN Recruiting's Roger Brown is included in this report.