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New Rutgers football staffs: a historical comparison

Replacing Greg Schiano at Rutgers will obviously be a challenge, and not just in finding another head coach. Schiano had accumulated a top staff of assistant coaches at Rutgers. Things weren't always that way through; with his initial staff being quite green. How do Kyle Flood's assistants compare? Obviously a good number of them have ties to Hofstra, with Dave Brock serving as a bridge of sorts to Frank Spaziani's staff at Boston College. As odd as the concept may sound, if Flood actually was intent on reassembling an all-star Hofstra staff from the late 90s, there wouldn't be too many people complaining about bringing on Dan Quinn or Raheem Morris.

One good historical basis of comparison would be to compare the new staff with the other new regimes at Rutgers in the modern era (post-1973) of the program. All of the eras were different, with Frank Burns trying to get Rutgers up to the level of a legitimate DI program, Dick Anderson and Doug Graber seeing varying peaks and valleys, and Terry Shea, well, the less said the better. Greg Schiano obviously inherently very little, while Flood undoubtedly inherits a program in better overall shape than any of his predecessors. Something would be very wrong if he did not assemble the best initial staff in Rutgers history. The fairer analogy is probably 2011 in that respect, but for the time being, let's see where the new group stacks up.

Comparisons with the 1973 staff are difficult, as not a ton of documentation exists on the web or in online media databases. What is clear though is that Burns's first staff was very heavy on alumni, with Bob Naso (future Columbia coach) at defensive coordinator, Jim Taigia (also a former HS coach at Piscataway, Rahway, and Hillside) coaching the offensive line, Pete Savino with defensive backs, and Bill Speranza (who was the offensive coordinator at one point, and later surrendered that job to Dick Curl.) I'm not sure what groups Mike Kizis and Paul Moran coached. Ted Cottrell worked with the defensive line, later returning as defensive coordinator, and becoming a perennial candidate of sorts later on whenever the job would come open.

1973 may be when the program first started really trying, but it took until 1984 for Sonny Werblin's influence to really be felt. University president Ed Bloustein went to the New Jersey legislature seeking funds to upgrade the facilities, and Rutgers started scheduling big-time programs like Florida. Werblin, having struck out in his attempts to lure Joe Paterno from Penn State, brought in PSU offensive coordinator Dick Anderson in Paterno's stead, with a cadre of PSU lifers in tow. Anderson's son Jeff still attended Penn State (on dad's advice, no less), and he returned to Penn State as OL coach after getting the boot following the 1989 season. Anderson was a decent Xs and Os coach, but reportedly not much of a recruiter, and could not overcome limited resources. He did give Greg Schiano his first college coaching job as a graduate assistant though, with Schiano later to repay the favor by hiring Anderson's son Jeff at Rutgers.

How did Anderson's staff look? Let's run through it, position by position. (Please note: these have been cobbled together by extensive research, and are not compiled anywhere on the net in one place to my knowledge. I pre-emotively apologize for any errors, and welcome any corrections.) Unless otherwise noted, special teams duties were usually doubled up by another assistant.

OC/QB - Dick Curl. Curl was a holdover from the Frank Burns staff, having briefly left for UVA before returning near the end with Burns. He later spent the nineties in NFL Europe, before working with Herm Edwards with the Jets and Chies. Finally retired from the Rams last year. Curl's Rutgers teams usually didn't put up eye-popping numbers, with contemporary press accounts of his tenure somewhat critical.

RB - Wayne Moses. The former Bowling Green assistant went on to a long career in the Pac-10. He left Rutgers after two seasons to rejoin the former Bowling Green head coach at San Diego State. Moses's replacement was a young Craig Johnson from Army, who later coached at Northwestern, Maryland, and in the NFL.

WR - Kevin Carty. Ever think it would be a good idea for Rutgers to hire a coach from Don Bosco? Well, Anderson actually tried it, although the high school landscape was very different thirty years ago. If you want your mind to be completely blown to smithereens, a 1985 article in The Record ("LESS FOOTBALL PLAYERS TURN TO WRESTLING") said that Carty actually referred future Dallas Cowboy Tony Tolbert to the UTEP football staff. Rutgers, under Anderson, had very strict academic standards; as that guy on Rivals from Passaic who always complains about not signing Craig Heyward is always quick to point out. Carty stayed in Central Jersey as the head coach at Somerville, and later worked as an assistant for his son at Bound Brook and now Hillsborough. Another son played for Terry Shea in the late 90s.

OL - Warren Koegel. Everything I can find on Koegel says he was the offensive line coach. Did he split duties with Flaherty, ala PSU with Anderson and Bill Kenney the past few years? Koegel, by the way, was hired from Wyoming. After Rutgers, he stayed in the Penn State satellite alumni network by landing at UConn under Tom Jackson. Now a FCS athletic director.

OL - Pat Flaherty. Unproven PSU assistant would later go on to fame as OL coach with the New York Giants under Tom Coughlin. Not entirely sure how to explain this discrepancy.

DC - Otto Kneidinger. A legendary Penn State lineman who was previously head coach at West Chester. Finished up his career as a linebackers coach at Delaware.

DL - Jerry Petercuskie. A Frank Burns holdover (too bad they didn't also keep George DeLeone, who haunted the Rutgers program for years at Syracuse) who found a second act to his career in the George Welsh/Tom O'Brien coaching tree.

LB - Ed O'Neil. Former PSU All-American left Indiana to join Anderson's staff. Later coached in NFL Europe and CFL.

DB - Bob Slowik. Hired from Drake, and also had some experience at Florida (possibly as a GA?) Went on to become a long-time NFL assistant.

Anderson didn't make any big splashes, generally sticking to the familiar through the big Penn State network, and keeping a few Frank Burns coaches. Slowik and Flaherty clearly were finds as relative diamonds in the rough. This was a respectable staff given relevant context, as Anderson could have hardly been expected to go all out with the resources he had to work with.

1990 saw big changes for Rutgers, with Doug Graber hired from Tampa Bay following a 2-7-2 debacle in 1989. Graber hailed from the Midwest, and that was reflected with a number of his hires. Again, my apologies if there are any errors here.

OC/QB - Stan Parrish. Head of ill-fated Kansas State squad before Bill Snyder showed up. Later was respectable assistant at Michigan and Ball State.

RB - Frank D'Alonzo. Hiring the former Pitt DL coach was considered a coup at the time, as he recruited numerous NJ players (Craig Heyward, Tony Siragusa, Tony Woods, etc..) to Pitt in the late 80s. Graber fired D'Alonzo after a season with him facing numerous allegations of misconduct while at Pitt. Dick Jamieson took over this spot in 1992 before later leaving for the Philadelphia Eagles.

WR - Mose Rison. Official bio says he was at Navy until 1991, but an article from 1990 says otherwise. Has subsequently bounced around many different levels of football (New York Jets, FCS, etc..)

TE - Scott Lustig. Departed after a year, and then strangely replaced Mark Deal as OL coach at VMI, who had left for Rutgers 1991.

OL - Pat Flaherty. Stuck around before getting replaced by Deal in 1991.

DC - Rich Rachel. Parrish's defensive coordinator at KSU. Shaky defenses led to him moving to TE coach and ceding control of the defense to former Minnesota John Gutekunst in 1994, who fared little better. Rachel later resurfaced on Jim Leavitt's USF staff.

DL - Arnold Jeter. Had a decent resume built up at Wisconsin (albeit, pre-Barry Alvarez) and Arizona. Replaced by Mike Nelson following an embarrassing off-the-field incident.

LB - Ed O'Neil. Holdover from the Dick Anderson regime. Moved to tight ends in 1991, with Phil Zacharias joining as OLB coach. O'Neil later coached in the CFL.

DB - Marty Barrett. Moved to an administrative recruiting role after a year. Not sure who was the DB coach after that, but Steve Spagnuolo was in '94-'95. Barrett is one of the few coaches I can find very little on.

Some of these staffers came in with decent resumes, and a few like Parrish found long careers later on. This group does not compare favorably to Anderson's or Schiano's first hires though. Here's what's weird though: it looks bad in comparison to even Terry Shea's.


Assistant QB/Recruiting coordinator - Mario Verduzco. The Shea loyalist was supposed to bring ties to California junior colleges. Promoted to QB coach in 2000. Has been at Northern Iowa for a while now.

RB - Wally Gaskins. Another Shea guy from San Jose State, who actually went back to the Spartans after a year. Jim Saxon was his replacement, who actually turned into a respected position coach in the NFL. Saxon, Darrell Wilson, and Shawn Simms were a more than respectable trio here.

WR - Jim Benedict. Rutgers alum who was a former high school coach at Summit and Westfield. Later went back to coaching at Watchung Hills.

TE - Mike Gibson. Former Temple assistant, who spent the past decade in the CFL.

OL - Bill Laveroni. Strangely enough, had a very successful run as offensive line coach with the Seattle Seahawks under Mike Holmgren. You can give the Bill Walsh tree that, they do know how to network.

DC - Rod Sharpless. Virginia Tech linebackers coach jumped at a promotion, but was demoted for Dennis Creehan in 1998. Out of football after getting in trouble as a Maryland assistant under Ralph Friedgen.

DL - Dave Steckel. Toledo DL coach. Landed on his feet with old boss Gary Pinkel after the staff was dismissed, eventually working his way up to Missouri's defensive coordinator.

LB - Bill Thompson. Former BC assistant and player who grew up in New Jersey. Later left coaching and now works in fnance.

DB - Mike Gillhamer. Nevada DB coach was replaced by Charlie West after a season, leaving for a job with the New York Giants.

In terms of resumes, having quality assistants wasn't really the problem here. In fact, current Cincinnati offensive coordinator Mike Bajakian was a grad assistant in this era too. Considering the records on the field, a lot of these coaches are shockingly otherwise competent, to a shocking and perplexing extent.

Okay, so what about Schiano's staff then?

OC/QB - Bill Cubit. Veteran coach was let go following two seasons in favor of Craig Ver Steeg. Has been a moderately successful head coach in the MAC. In retrospect, Cubit was probably an unfair scapegoat the following year for a very young team that was close to seeing rapid improvement.

RB - Mike Miello. New Jersey high school legend helped Schiano build credibility on the recruiting trail. This would be the equivalent if Flood had hired, say, Greg Toal as an assistant this year. Miello moved into an administrative role the following year after Darren Rizzi joined the staff.

WR - Darrell Hazell. Middling veteran swept up at West Virginia in the transition from Don Nehlen to Rich Rodriguez. Hazell's career started to blossom at Rutgers, which he was able to parlay into a job with Ohio State.

TE - Mario Cristobal. Miami graduate assistant came north with Schiano to Rutgers, ultimately helping him on the path to a head coaching job at Florida International.

OL - Joe Susan. Veteran FCS coach was a stalwart local recruiter throughout most of Schiano's tenure. Quickly switched jobs with Cristobal, and took over as primary NJ recruiter following departures of Miello and D'Onofrio.

DC - Paul Ferraro. Schiano took over the defense after a disastrous 2004 season. Went on to coach special teams for the Minnesota Vikings, and linebackers for the St. Louis Rams on the staff of his college friend Steve Spagnuolo. Hiring George O'Leary's defensive backs coach from Georgia Tech was a perfectly respectable grab at the time.

DL - Ben Albert. Went back to FCS a year later when Randy Melvin became available.

LB - Mark D'Onofrio. Georgia GA who got his first big break from Schiano, only to stab Greg in the back a few years later for a bigger offer from UVA. Ultimately hitched his meal ticket to college buddy Al Golden. Currently the embattled defensive coordinator at Miami.

DB - Scott Lakatos. The former Maine defensive coordinator was a solid technique coach, but ultimately lost his job to a better recruiter in Chris Demarest. Lakatos was a better fit at UConn, and is now at Georgia. Fun fact: other former Maine defensive coordinators include Robb Smith and Steve Spagnuolo.

There were a few misfires, but Schiano took a chance on multiple unproven coaches, and a good number of them paid off. Flood isn't targeting hungry GAs looking for a promotion (quite the opposite, actually), with his hires mostly standing in stark contrast to this green bunch. If rumors are correct, all but two assistants on next year's staff will be college football veterans, with Darnell Dinkins and Damian Wroblewski the two unproven hires.

In researching this piece, one big overlying theme at Rutgers before Schiano's hire was roster attrition, with a lack of a strong foundation in place to keep players on the field. Seemingly every other article from the 90s would be mentioning someone losing eligibility More than anything else, that's where Schiano transformed Rutgers football. There has always been enough local talent in New Jersey to win, but that did not do much good when Graber's heralded recruiting classes kept getting thinned by grades. Current Rutgers athletic director Tim Pernetti was in the locker room during that time, and hence, knows this fact better than anyone. Regardless of who Flood decided to hire, it was beyond essential to keep the program's strong framework of academic support in place. There is little cause for concern there, with Pernetti seemingly emphasizing continuity in all respects by hiring Flood.

In terms of experience, the new staff is right up there with any incoming regime at Rutgers. Circumstances have varied over time, but Rutgers has never been a football factory with the budget or prestige to bring in murderer's row. Therefore, one's opinion of the hires really depends on what is being used for a basis of comparison. The page has turned on 2011. Most of those coaches are in the NFL now, and a few of the holdovers probably could have left too if they were so inclined. Comparisons with the old staff are inevitable, but the only fair rubric is what these coaches will accomplish moving forward. Kyle Flood isn't exactly making Nick Saban quake in his boots, but the evidence is clear that he takes over in as good a position to succeed as any of his predecessors did.