As had been rumored, Joe Susan was just announced as the new head football coach at Bucknell University. It's rough to lose such an important assistant, even when leaving on such good terms.
"I wanted to be a head coach again," said Susan, who is returning to the school that launched his coaching career in 1981. "You look at the average age of guys getting head jobs and the opportunities just get fewer and fewer. It's not easy leaving Rutgers. I'm so tied into the school. But this a great opportunity for me."
Turnover on coaching staffs is generally the rule, not the exception. I mean, in this story noting all the candidates who were interested in the USF HC job (which includes RU assistant Kyle Flood) includes someone like Virginia Tech defensive coordinator Bud Foster, who's synonymous with Hokie football. All there is to do at this point is tip your cap to Coach Susan for a job well done (as Schiano graciously did), thank him for his years of service, and wish him luck at Bucknell and other future endeavors. He's still from South River, NJ, and even sent his kids to Rutgers.
Just as we did with John McNulty, Mario Cristobal, Darren Rizzi, and other important assistants. Just as Rutgers eventually will with Kyle Flood and Kirk Ciarrocca (speaking of which, his wife just left Delaware). Losing staffers isn't necessarily a problem; you've got trouble if a program's so bad that no one's interested in raiding your staff. All taskmaker jokes aside, Greg Schiano would be a pretty crummy boss and person if he tried to stand in the way of what was in someone else's best interests. As long as they leave on good terms.
The inevitable question of course is who's going to replace Susan as TE coach and recruiting coordinator. I don't think the positional coach thing is necessarily that big of a deal; the latter more-s0. Schiano may be making noises about hiring a non-assistant, but we'll have to wait and see what happens on that front. Here are a few possible options:
As far as internal promotions go, incoming WR coach P.J. Fleck was NIU's recruiting coordinator, and has a reputation as an energetic young assistant. This could work, although I have qualms having a non-local do that job. Flood and Ciarrocca were probably the best recruiters on the staff along with Susan, but their plates may be too full as is sharing offensive coordinator duties. If they do bring in a non-staff RC, that could be an opportunity to bump up RB Coach Trivers from his graduate assistant role, which would let him recruit off campus, and possibly beef up RU's efforts in the Maryland area.
There are a couple interesting options out there for potential hires at TE coach and/or RC. When I heard that Susan was leaving yesterday, my very first thought was about whether or not Rutgers would make a run at Frank Verducci. He first received notoriety as Iowa's OL coach during the nineties. Verducci was a very good recruiter of New York and New Jersey for the Hawkeyes. Charlie Weis called his father and uncle coaching "icons"; pops was the coach at Seton Hall Prep, and Frank's brother is SI baseball writer Tom Verducci. He spent the next decade in the NFL coaching TEs and OL, before returning to college last year as Notre Dame's OL coach under Charlie Weis.
It would be an absolutely brilliant hire, but I question whether Verducci would be interested. The chance to come back to New Jersey may be interesting, but it seems like the family still lives in Iowa. He may have just went to Notre Dame because of his connection with Weis, their financial resources, and the unique circumstances of that situation. Knowing nothing else, I'd think that Verducci would probably want to go back into the NFL, but he absolutely has to be the first call here.
After Verducci, my second thought was to think about the other local programs like Temple, Delaware, Fordham, etc... Using that same train of thought, lots of people on the boards are championing, what a coincidence, Temple's TE coach/recruiting coordinator Ed Foley. Foley is a native of Cherry Hill, was teammates with Schiano and played under Susan at Bucknell, and now is helping Temple's resurgence by stocking their roster with New Jersey talent.
Sounds good, right? I can think of two possible strikes against him though to stop Foley from being a complete slam dunk. Rutgers fans despise his brother Glenn with the fire of a thousand suns for a disparaging comment he made about the program about two decades ago (so do Jet fans, for different reasons). Ed didn't do anything, but that's at least going to make up for an uncomfortable first few questions at his introductory press conference. Additionally, Temple's staff includes former Rutgers recruiting coordinator Mark D'Onofrio, who, unlike the assistants mentioned above, left RU on very, very bad terms several years back. Again, it's not necessarily a strike against Foley per se, but you never know who does and doesn't get along in the coaching profession.
All things being equal, Foley is a fairly obvious hire. Back when Gary Brown left last year, I thought that Randy Trivers made a good deal of sense, but nowhere near as much as Foley does now. Verducci's interest is a wild card; give Temple their due for making so much progress as of late, but you'd have to think that Foley would have to leave for a shot at a major conference program. Everything else being equal, and with no inside information, you'd have to guess that Ed Foley is the early odds-on favorite to get the job.
Other candidates? While perusing Delaware's site, Gregg Perry stood out as a decent candidate on the surface. He's from South Jersey, and recruits Eastern PA for the Blue Hens. Perry was the longtime OL coach at Delaware under Tubby Raymond, before he left coaching for a few years. Later came back at Princeton, before returning to Delaware to coach tight ends. He had children there, and seemingly has set down roots, but Flood and Ciarrocca show that RU is always mindful of local coaching staffs for talent.
I'd also look around all the turnover following this year's coaching carousel, as their are bound to be a few names out there. That was the purpose of their recent convention. I'm somewhat intrigued by Bob Price. He's from Bergen County, was Al Groh's TE coach/recruiting coordinator (that pairing isn't a coincidence, as the TE coach is probably the least important role on a staff), and a long term assistant under Groh and George Welsh. He's apparently still working for UVA under their new coach Mike London. Weirdly though, his status is still up in the air according to media reports.
Don't think we'd try to go in-conference for someone like Jeff Hafley at Pitt, although they did just fire their WR coach in Bryan Bossard. Chris White used to be the recruiting coordinator at Syracuse, and did a decent job in Maryland. Could always raid Maryland for Lee Hull, BC for Dave Brock, ECU for John Gutekunst (a former Rutgers assistant under Doug Graber), something like that. It's difficult to fathom raiding the NFL for someone like a George DeLeone or Jack Bicknell Jr.
I was also looking around the FCS ranks somewhat, and you'd figure that Hofstra's old staff is probably looking for work. Their OC Dave Patenaude followed Darren Rizzi and Tony Sparano as the HC at New Haven, before their program was dropped in 2003. He previously worked at Fordham at Columbia.
Other names to consider include local coaches on the high school level. Don't necessarily get hung up on a specific position, but there's always been buzz around former Rutgers linebacker Brian Sheridan at Union, and Don Bosco OC Nunzio Campanile. Others more familiar with the local HS football team than I am can throw out some other names there.