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Ron Prince and Dave Cohen leading names in search
Note: the signing day recap is coming, but had to be delayed for this news.
That didn't take long. Hours after reports came out that Greg Schiano is taking yet another coach from Rutgers, this time being Robb Smith, Tom Luicci is reporting that Smith's leading replacement possibility is an internal promotion for Dave Cohen. At the same time, Luicci pours gasoline on reports that Ron Prince had interviewed for the offensive coordinator job, deeming Prince the favorite. Smith was previously a fantastic special teams coach, and had one largely successful season as the defensive coordinator before leaving. It's unclear how much of his effectiveness was due to inheriting Greg Schiano's schemes and personnel, although it should be said that Smith seemed to be blitz far less often than Schiano did, while at the same time ramping down a bit Schiano's overwhelming desire to sacrifice size for athleticism.
Let's talk Cohen first. When the story first broke, most observers' thoughts immediately turned to Cohen, who has a long history with Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood, coordinator experience at multiple stops, head coaching experience, and even left a DC job at Western Michigan last season to come to Rutgers. There was even some speculation out of Delaware that Dave Brock was trying very hard to lure Cohen back to Newark. I started looking at other possibilities in hopes of compiling a list, but was not able to finish before the promotion report came out. I hadn't finished looking over last season's NFL coaching staffs, but there actually are a good number of prominent college defensive coordinators currently out of a job. Moreso than OC, it looks like there would be a number of respectable options available if going for an external hire was a possibility.
Among the bigger names seemingly on the market are former Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley (who many see as too close to Joe Paterno), and former Boston College defensive coordinator and head coach Frank Spaziani. Both seemingly would be candidates for big/ger openings, but presumably would listen. Spaziani is a New Jersey native (and unfortunately, another PSU alum), but he does have his BC contract to fall back on, and his read and react scheme is a far cry from Greg Schiano's attacking scheme. Other conceivable options include Chuck Heater (Marshall DC, formerly of Temple), Jim Reid (pretty good UVA DC who was unfairly the fall guy for 2012), Tyrone Nix (MTSU and had a few SEC jobs), and Mike Archer (canned from NC State.) Chris Cosh (ex-USF) didn't seem like a great choice due to a lot of bad qualitative reviews. One bit of trivia you probably didn't know? Lou Tepper (older Rutgers alum who used to be the Illinois coach) actually returned to Buffalo this year after years of coaching at the DII level.
If Cohen is the hire, then that still leaves a few outstanding questions left on the defensive side of the ball. Robb Smith was also the defensive backs coach, and the staff is overall down one full time defensive assistant. Luicci suggests that the solution is to promote graduate assistant Anthony Campanile after one year's apprenticeship. Promoting Campanile certainly would do a world of good for Rutgers's recruiting in North and Central Jersey. The notion brings to mind what Dave Wannstedt did a few years ago with Jeff Hafley, in promoting a young up and comer who can really connect with high school prospects. That part of it would be great, but the downside with Hafley was also that he was pretty green as position coach owing to his youth, so it's a double edged sword.
Luicci's wording implies, but doesn't explicitly state, that Camp wouldn't be a GA anymore, but that's far from clear, as Rutgers has had GA position coaches in the past. Leaving Camp a GA would be strange if only because you want him out on the road recruiting ASAP, as that really is the biggest difference between graduate assistants and full assistants. Another possibility would be to bring in someone else, like make a run at Darrell Wilson (current DB coach/former LB coach) at Iowa, who has strong ties in South Jersey, and has made recent inroads in Maryland. There's been some speculation about that, but I don't have a clue if there was anything to it. Regardless, another question that has to be cleared up is whether or not Cohen will keep his positional coach duties as well.
As for Prince, give him this, he did have a respectable record at UVA, and is arguably far more qualified for the job than Dave Brock was. He was a mediocre HC, sure, but far from an unmitigated disaster or anything, and recruiting Josh Freeman to Kansas State did give him a strong reputation as a recruiter (even though most - not all - coordinators don't do much recruiting.) I think he's more than capable of being effective. The issue more is that it really would have been great to pull in a more passing-oriented candidate, someone with a reputation of developing quarterbacks; which probably would have meant no more Rob Spence. That, and the fact that Prince's background is as an OL coach (one of FOUR now on the staff in Prince, Flood, Wilson (RB coach), and Wrobo (the actual OL coach) scares you into thinking that Flood wanted Prince to call a run-heavy gameplan and just double down on 2012's excessive conservatism on offense.
At UVA, Prince called plays effectively for Matt Schaub and Marques Hagens. Mike Groh was QB coach at UVA, and the offense really went into the ground after Groh took over the clip board. The setup would be nothing new for Prince then, although it's an open question about who will coach receivers (which Dave Brock handled last season) if he is the hire. Overall, he's less risky than Norries Wilson because UVA competed at a higher level than UConn did and was able to sustain success longer. It is true though that UVA also had more to work with, and UConn saw bigger highs. Prince, if hired, wouldn't be a disaster, and hardly worthy of the derision that his internet meme-dom will inspire, but isn't the direction I would have gone down. Rutgers is going to live and die with Gary Nova the next two years, and the offense showed in 2012 that it worked the best with an aggressive, pass-first identity. If Rutgers sticks with a conservative attack, the scheme style still won't match the personnel, and the worry that a better version of 2012's offense will still be fundamentally wrong-headed about what exactly it should be trying to accomplish from drive to drive.