One of the important subplots from this weekend's game is that Syracuse is still looking to break back into New Jersey recruiting.
"I think we have to do a better job of recruiting in New Jersey," he said. "I think we haven't done a very good job in years past since Coach Pasqualoni and Coach DeLeone left because they had such a good foundation and good relationships in New Jersey. We've been fighting to get back that foundation. We have three coaches now in the state of New Jersey and we all go in there and we all have parts of it."
That's...a very diplomatic way of throwing Greg Robinson under the bus.
Marrone, of course, ruffled a few feathers in New Jersey with the departures of Lamar Middleton, Mike Mele, and Chaz Cervino. Syracuse football currently has eight NJ players on their roster. During the program's last winning season in 2001, they had seventeen. Mele was their last NJ recruit ranked by Rivals as one of the top 30 in the state, although Newark's Taj Smith was a pretty good JUCO find for the Orange. In fact, Syracuse has not enrolled a New Jerseyan holding a Rutgers offer since J.J. Bedle in 2004. (Robinson did secure a letter of intent from Camden receiver Andrey Baskin in 2006, but that was largely for show as Baskin was already certain not to qualify.)
Marrone's new measured approach, as opposed to past staff bravado, reflects as such.
"It doesn't happen overnight. We've done a lot of clinics, we've spent a lot of time within the state and we're doing the best we can to rebuild the relationships, looking for it to pay benefits down the road for us. But to say you're going to go in right away and have that area and get kids that you shouldn't get, that's not going to happen."
The Syracuse program is deservedly getting a lot of positive press right now, and can start thinking about making in-roads here in 2012 with a win this weekend. Marrone and staff have impacted Rutgers by pulling away a few NYC-area signees like Andrew Tiller and Malcolm Cater, and both programs are among the countless staffs dueling it out in Florida. As far as Syracuse's home turf in upstate New York goes, Rutgers signed athlete Jordan Thomas from Endicott last year, and has a verbal commitment from Rochester LB Quentin Gause for 2011.
Still, when you look at each team's signee lists, there hasn't really been much overlap to this point. For all the bluster about "taking back" New York City, Marrone's staff has a fair deal of geographic diversity. Assistants John Anselmo and and Rob Moore are from Long Island, but two other coaches from the area in Rob Spence and Derrick Jackson got the boot last year. For now, Rutgers fans are left to debate the merits of Pittsburgh.
That's a far cry from the halcyon days of McNabb and Pasqualoni in 1998. George DeLeone (a former assistant to Frank Burns at Rutgers) may have had more pull in New Jersey than anyone, and his efforts were joined by five NJ/NYC natives in Kevin Rogers, Jeff Stoutland, Steve Addazio, Dennis Goldman, and Chris Rippon. After some staff turnover, Coach P brought in the likes of Steve Bush and Jerry Azzinaro. While Syracuse certainly pays a great deal of attention to the area, Marrone has been wise not to put all of his eggs into one basket. In this sense, Rutgers and Syracuse can be seen as analogous to Cal and Stanford, with the Orange casting a wider net for talent.