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Rutgers Football: Who Will Replace Bill Busch?

With the departure of the highly regarded defensive backs coach, we look at potential candidates to fill the spot

NCAA Football: Maryland at Rutgers Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

Following the hiring of Nunzio Campanile as running backs coach last Wednesday, it was soon after reported by a Boston College site on Friday night that his brother, former Rutgers coach and current Boston College defensive backs coach, Anthony Campanile, was also returning to the Scarlet Knights. The recent departure of co-defensive coordinator and defensive backs coach Bill Busch created another opening for head coach Chris Ash.

However, with no one on the Rutgers side indicating this was true, later that night the tweet below seemed to further indicate that a Campanile brotherly reunion was not happening:

A replacement for former coach Bill Busch leaves a hole, no doubt, as he was one of the best recruiters on the staff. Just last season, Busch was named Co-Defensive Coordinator, in addition to his role with the defensive backs. I used some space on this site at the time to denote why this was a great move by Chris Ash. The replacement hire is an important one, as the critical nature of the position of defensive backs has been shown too clearly in recent history with Rutgers and Busch did a great job with this group.

However, with the announcement of Busch’s departure for LSU and the SEC, who Ash turns to as his replacement remains to be seen. These hires are often done quietly until they are complete, so these names are based upon educated guesses, using past history to connect the dots for those who logically could be contacted. Here are capsule biographies of potential candidates.

Fran Brown- Baylor

Brown is currently the assistant head coach and defensive backs coach for Baylor University. Brown followed Matt Rhule when he left Temple after the 2016 season. At Temple, Brown was the cornerbacks coach, and for his final season with the Owls, he was also the associate head coach.

Fran is a former South Jersey guy, having graduated from Camden High School, and following his collegiate career at Western Carolina (where Rhule was his head coach), he had a brief story with the Cincinnati Bengals, and then coached defensive backs at Paul VI High School in Haddonfield.

Brown will give immediate access to many more South Jersey student-athletes, and would be a logical choice were he to move back to NJ. Salary may be an issue in this hire, however.

Matt Hewitt- Rutgers

Currently a recruiting assistant at Rutgers, Hewitt first met Rutgers head coach Chris Ash while playing at Arkansas. A safety, he played there when Ash was defensive coordinator for the Razorbacks. An Englewood, NJ native, he has been with Ash and Rutgers since soon after Ash’s arrival here. Ash already promoted one internal staffer this offseason by adding Toby Neinas as the tenth assistant, as he will coach the outside linebackers and work with the specialists. Perhaps Ash makes a similar move by staying in-house with Hewitt.

Ben Strickland

Wisconsin v Ohio State Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Strickland is a Wisconsin alum, and played under Chris Ash during Ash’s tenure as an assistant under former head coach Brett Bielema. Following graduation, Strickland served on the Badgers staff as a defensive graduate assistant and defensive backs coach. Following the arrival of current Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst, he stayed on for a year as the on-campus recruiter before moving on the Florida Atlantic as the assistant coach for defensive backs. With the arrival of Lane Kiffin at FAU last season, Strickland was not retained, but is well respected, and comes from Ash’s coaching tree, as he worked for his friend Charlie Partridge.

Cory Robinson- Temple

Currently the cornerbacks coach at Temple, Robinson formerly was director of player personnel at Maryland, and also coached at Calvert Hall (MD) high school, which has been fertile recruiting ground for Rutgers lately. Also having coached at IMG Academy in Bradenton FL, he has roots in the heavily recruited Sunshine State.

DeMontie Cross

A former player for Missouri in the 1990s, Cross also started his coaching career as the outside linebackers coach after graduation. He returned to the Tigers in 2015 when hired to be their Defensive Coordinator/Linebackers coach. He was let go during the 2017 season. In between, Cross has had an extensive coaching career, having coached in the NFL for the Buffalo Bills, as well as college at Sam Houston State, Iowa State, Wisconsin, Kansas, and Texas Christian prior to his arrival at Missouri. Cross has also previously coached with Chris Ash while at Wisconsin, where Cross was special teams coordinator and safeties coach at Wisconsin in 2011.

The Waiting Game

With the second National Signing Day period past, the staff is now actively preparing for the 2018 season. Next up of course is the Spring practice and game, which begins soon. Before that occurs, Ash and company will want to complete this hire. It is expected to be completed shortly. Whether it is one of the candidates listed above, or a dark horse not named is yet to be seen. Coach Ash has done that before, so it would not be surprising to see a name not being discussed come to the forefront, similar to the way Coach Jerry Kill was hired last season as offensive coordinator.

Let us know YOUR thoughts!


Who will Rutgers hire as defensive backs coach?

This poll is closed

  • 12%
    Fran Brown
    (65 votes)
  • 10%
    Matt Hewitt
    (57 votes)
  • 4%
    Ben Strickland
    (22 votes)
  • 12%
    Cory Robinson
    (65 votes)
  • 1%
    DeMontie Cross
    (9 votes)
  • 38%
    I still think it’ll be Anthony Campanile
    (204 votes)
  • 20%
    Ash will pull another rabbit out of the hat as he did with Coach Kill!
    (107 votes)
529 votes total Vote Now