The classic saying goes, “If you love something, set it free. If it comes back, it’s yours. If it doesn’t, it was never meant to be.”
Rutgers was forced to set longtime head coach Greg Schiano free in 2012 when he accepted the head coaching gig with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. After more than eight years, Rutgers fans got proof that Schiano was theirs when he returned to the school.
In Schiano’s first tenure with Scarlet Knights, he became a beloved figure within the school and the state of New Jersey as a whole. He turned around a program that had not been to a bowl game in over 20 years to a team that participated in bowl games nearly every season.
The highlight of Schiano’s tenure came in 2006 when the Scarlet Knights finished 11-2 and ranked 12th in the nation.
Since Schiano left Rutgers, the team developed into the laughingstock of College Football by earning a record of 36-63 with a record of 21-52 since joining the Big Ten.
The downfall of Rutgers has been most prevalent in recruiting. The Scarlet Knights, who consistently had a top 40 recruiting class in the nation under Schiano, have not seen once since his departure.
In fact, according to 247Sports, Rutgers had the twenty third best recruiting class in the Nation in Schiano’s last season. The following season that ranking dropped to forty-eighth in the nation.
Rutgers has had only one top ten recruiting class in the Big Ten since joining the conference despite being located in New Jersey; which regularly develops some of the best recruits in the nation.
Even when Rutgers was in the Big East or the American Athletic Conference(AAC), Schiano always knew how to recruit, especially in New Jersey.
Schiano landed some of the state’s most prized recruits of the 21st century including offensive tackle Anthony Davis, running back Savon Huggins, and defensive tackle Darius Hamilton. Even when Schiano missed out on local recruits, he always seemed to be in the mix.
In the Kyle Flood and Chris Ash years, there was a clear drop off in New Jersey recruiting. The only year this seemed to change was in 2017 when Ash placed a clear emphasis on keeping players at home by bringing in 21 players from New Jersey including offensive guard Micah Clark and wide receiver Bo Melton who were arguably two of the top five players in the state.
That was also Rutgers best ranked recruiting class since Schiano’s departure.
With Schiano back in town, it seems he has reverted back to his successful philosophy of recruiting at home. Rutgers currently has 16 commitments with 10 being from the Garden State.
Many of these players may have committed before Schiano’s hire, but he was the favorite for the job from the moment it was opened, and recruits seem to have responded well to his hire.
Rutgers does not have an exceptional recruiting class, but one of New Jersey’s best prospects, running back Jalen Berger, is announcing his commitment during the All-American Game and is expected to commit to Rutgers.
Berger is the best running back from New Jersey and the eleventh best in the nation according to 247Sports. Berger is an all-purpose back who is about to graduate from high school football powerhouse Don Bosco Prep and was a huge part of their success this season.
As of right now, Berger has a top five of Rutgers, LSU, Wisconsin, Penn State and UCLA. To put this in context, Rutgers is in competition with two of the most successful schools in their conference, the potential National Champion, and UCLA who is coached by a former National Champion, Chip Kelly.
When Ash was coaching Rutgers, they often failed to get the sexy recruit that would make other recruits take notice, but with Schiano back, Berger’s commitment would be a colossal step to returning Rutgers to the team it was during his first tenure.