On this, the most special of all days, I thought it would be interesting to take a look at RU's competition on the recruiting trail. This entry develops and expounds upon some ideas that I've expressed in the past.
Taking a look at the recruiting landscape right now in the Northeast, and comparing it to a few years ago, it's astounding how much it's changed in that short period of time. The one factor that stays constant for the most part is parochialism. It's very territorial. If you want a shot at a top player, you need an "in", typically with an assistant coach with ties to a given area. Here is a rough ranking of the coaches that are destroying America.
Notre Dame football, under Charlie Weis, is still on top of the recruiting food chain in this area. In contrast to his predecessor Ty Willingham, Weis has taken care to cultivate the region and establish deep recruiting contacts. Not only is Weis a New Jersey native, but his recruiting coordinator, Rob Ianello, is from Westchester County, NY, making clear where their priorities lie. Further compounding matters is that when ND canned ineffective OL Coach John Latina (a Western Pennsylvania native) this past year, Weis hired Frank Verducci as Latina's replacement. Verducci's father was a longtime coach at Seton Hall Prep. Verducci lured a lot of talent west while working under Hayden Fry and Bernie Wyatt at Iowa.
You can take Joe Paterno out of Brooklyn, but the Lions have been at the top for a quarter century owing in no small part to their continued success in luring talent out of the Northeast. With former Rutgers HC Dick Anderson close to retirement, Penn State doesn't focus too much on Northern and Central New Jersey any longer. However, in the Philadelphia metropolitan area, Rutgers (while making continued strides) has run into a very big problem, and his name is Ron Vanderlinden. He's not specifically assigned the region, but has done one hell of a job there. It's weird; the former Maryland HC is a midwesterner. Yet, he's a natural at the recruiting game; his success in luring away the likes of Gerald Hodges and Glenn Carson lie in translating that aptitude into an area that's still very receptive to the lure of Penn State.
If 2008 was the year where the Rutgers David finally started firing its slingshot at the Penn State Goliath, it was also when Pittsburgh emerged as our chief rival on the recruiting trail. The two schools have battled for recruits all over Eastern Pennsylvania and Delaware as of late. Dave Wannstedt was quick to hire Bryan Bossard after he was unceremoniously fired from Maryland last year, and he recruits Delaware for them in addition to the Maryland/DC area. Brian Angelichio's target areas in Northeast PA overlap a bit with ours. It's worth watching that Wannstedt promoted Jeff Hafley to secondary coach last year, with the mandate of luring talent from Northern New Jersey.
Maryland HC Ralph Friedgen and recruiting coordinator Dave Sollazzo are both from Westchester County, so it's little surprise that they pay particularly close attention to New Jersey and New York. The past few years have seen the tide finally start to turn in our favor, which is why it's vital that the Scarlet Knights avenge their 2007 loss to Maryland this coming season.
Virginia coach (and Long Island native) Al Groh seems to be always narrowly avoiding getting fired. Last year, the cost was steep, as he had to take the reins of the offense away from his son Mike, who was an effective recruiter of New Jersey. Further hurting their efforts were the recent departures of assistants Al Golden and Mark D'Onofrio to Temple. Bob Diaco (a product of that accused Iowa pipeline) has taken a couple players that we've wanted recently, but the Cavaliers have definitely fallen from their 2004 apex.
You could always count on Boston College as a major player in recruiting New Jersey and New York. As Tom O'Brien's relationship with athletic director Gene DeFilippo began to sour, BC's pitch slowly lost effectiveness near the very end of his tenure. Jeff Jagodzinski looked to try to reverse that trend with the class of 2008, but his firing a month ago and the subsequent ascension of defensive coordinator Frank Spaziani to the HC position have, without question, cast a shadow over the future of BC football. Are they willing to commit what it takes to be "big time" in the increasingly competitive college football arms race? Spaziani, a disciple of Paterno and former Navy/UVA boss George Welsh, will no doubt be keen to strengthen ties to his old New Jersey stomping grounds. With position coach Bill McGovern assuming Spaz's former role as DC, BC will undoubtedly need to hire another assistant with ties to the area if they wish to continue to lure prospects up to the heights.
I already talked a bit about Iowa above; carrying the torch for them presently is Darrell Wilson. The former head coach at Camden's Woodrow Wilson High School is a tremendous recruiter in South Jersey (who was briefly at Rutgers for a spell in 1999). And while it's only on the periphery of the State of Rutgers, they do have Ken O'Keefe mining New England for sleepers.
One of the bigger stories on the recruiting trail of 2008 was the emergence of West Virginia as a destination school. Most of the credit for that development has justly gone to assistants Doc Holliday (Florida), and Chris Beatty (Tidewater VA), who thankfully don't cross paths very much with the Rutgers coaching staff. Dave Lockwood and Bill Kirelawich seem to be our top competition in Eastern PA and South Jersey. Lockwood previously made a fair bit of bit of mischief working under Glen Mason at Minnesota.
The Florida Gators will always appeal to players from all four corners of the United States. Dan Mullen's departure to Mississippi State resulted in Urban Meyer promoting Steve Addazio to be Mullen's replacement at offensive coordinator. Addazio will be on the road less, replaced on staff by former Wisconsin/Syracuse OC Brian White. White will now be tasked with bringing in the requisite 1 or 2 Northern blue chippers per year to Gainesville.
It's debatable where exactly Syracuse ranks in this hierarchy. Under Paul Pasqualoni (and assistants like George DeLeone, Steve Addazio, Jeff Stoutland, and Kevin Rogers), the Cuse regularly lured players from across the East Coast to campus. While they were in obvious decline at the start of this decade, the Syracuse staff was still a major force to be reckoned with. The disastrous hire of West Coast native/lameduck/good-natured imbecile Greg Robinson significantly retarded Syracuse's efforts to bring in quality football players.
With the hiring of Bronx-native and Syracuse alum Doug Marrone, you can't fault them for trying to go the exact opposite route, bringing in his polar opposite. In contrast to GRob's Motley Crew staff that largely consisted of unproven hires, washouts, and FCS veterans, Marrone has assembled a quality group on paper. He kept Derrick Jackson on staff, who was Robinson's pointman in New Jersey. Compounding those efforts will be former Nassau CC coach John Anselmo. If just to reiterate that he's eying downstate NY, Marrone brought in Rob Spence as his offensive coordinator. Actually, looking over their staff, conspicuously absent are assistants with ties Eastern PA and New England. With several openings remaining to be filled, presumably Marrone will look towards those two areas.
The truth is that, while Rutgers has recently been a potent force in southern Florida, it couldn't really ever hope to compete with Miami or the rest of the Big Three down there. Sure, we could hang with everyone else, but it was only through the overwhelming gross incompetency of Larry Coker (and some poor administrative decisions), that Rutgers was able to sprint away the likes of Timmy Brown and Antonio Lowery. Under Randy Shannon, Miami doesn't really play around with Coker's wandering eye; they're back to the core "State of Miami" strategy originally developed under Howard Schnellenberger, in which their primary efforts are focused on Dade, Palm Beach, and Broward counties. After all, it worked so well that Greg Schiano was happy to help himself to the blueprint when he set out north for Rutgers. However, line coach Jeff Stoutland is still on the Hurricane staff, who was effective in previous stops at Syracuse and Michigan State.
Scott Lakatos at UConn was at Rutgers for the start of Schiano's tenure from '01 to '03. The entire UConn staff is not big on chasing hyped stars.
Darrell Hazell at Ohio State was another departed assistant from the start of Schiano's tenure. He lured away Malcolm Jenkins and almost landed Anthony Davis, so we're fortunate that the Buckeyes have been looking elsewhere as of late.
Lou Anarumo at Purdue gets a couple players from the Northeast each year. To be candid though, that's all they've been getting lately. Along with the Cuse, they're one of the schools that has suffered the most from RU's ascent. John Palermo and Bernie Wyatt leaving Wisconsin were huge in this regard too, as was Steve Szabo being canned with the rest of Lloyd Carr's staff at Michigan.
No look at New Jersey recruiting is complete without a tip of the hat to Al Golden and Mark D'Onofrio at Temple. Rutgers fans may hate D'Onofrio's guts, but the pair can no doubt bring in their share of players to help turn around the fledging MAC program.
We've been fortunate over the past few years. The bricks are going up, but they're not all there yet. Until then, these are the coaches that are destroying America.