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Rutgers Football: Nunzio Campanile offers thoughts on aerial struggles, return of Fleck’s staff ahead of Minnesota

Takeaways and transcript from interim coaches press conference for Minnesota game week.

NCAA Football: Maryland at Rutgers
Nunzio has now had a week on the job.
Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Beginning his third week on the job, interim head coach Nunzio Campanile conducted the normal weekly press conference in advance of this weekend’s game with Minnesota. He addressed a number of topics beginning with the offense’s struggles, especially through the air. With the offensive line, there were “a couple different protection issues.” On the quarterbacks, “they are learning under live bullets and at times they are maybe not entirely ready for some of the things that you’re seeing.” He didn’t rule out the possibility of Cole Snyder getting some snaps as he gets more comfortable with the playbook.

The most notable soundbite was probably in regards to a question about the one remaining 300 yard passer on the roster. Nunzio replied, “I haven’t had any indication that [Sitkowski] doesn’t want to be at Rutgers anymore.” So Campanile didn’t fully rule out the possibility of Art playing again this year or remaining with the Rutgers program in 2020. The next most interesting sequence came on follow up questions about Art and Raheem Blackshear. Campanile said he addressed the situation with the entire team, but “there’s no way I’ll discuss [the response].”

Campanile also provided two great quotes that may have been more interesting than Chris Ash’s entire three plus years on the banks; “I’m not going to turn this place into a morgue” and “we’re not going to walk around like we lost our dog.” Nunzio concluded with thoughts on the respect and familiarity he has for Minnesota Head Coach P.J. Fleck and a number of members of the Golden Gopher staff.

You can watch the presser here and full transcript follows below.

NUNZIO CAMPANILE: Obviously Saturday didn’t go anywhere close to as we planned, and some of the issues that came up in the game are things that have kind of continued to plague us, at least over the two years I’ve been here. Obviously some things that we need to continue to work and clean up. You know, when you look at the tape, you look at a lot of things that as I said have been long-term issues, things we’ve been trying to work through to improve.

But when I look at a lot of it, too, I see a lot of young players and they are making mistakes that are kind of understandable. There’s probably some guys that maybe aren’t completely ready to be out there to play, but they are out there, I think giving everything they have.

I think sometimes -- and some people maybe assume that those guys aren’t trying hard. I think they are trying really hard. I think that at times, there’s a learning curve that comes with playing when you’re young, and there’s a lot of young guys on the field and because of that, some of those mistakes, when you’re confused, sometimes it looks like you’re not going that hard, but I don’t think that’s the case.

I think we just continue to work and we continue to learn and continue to grow and continue to get better, and probably one of the No. 1 things that I’m trying to push on our players is no matter what the score of every game is, it’s an opportunity to go out and continue to improve. It’s an opportunity for our guys to continue to learn so that whether it’s this coming week, three weeks down the road or two years down the road, you’re a better football player so that Rutgers is in a better position for a chance to be a championship football team.

Obviously that wasn’t the product on the field on Saturday, but I do believe they are putting in practice and some of the mistakes we are making in the games are things that hopefully we’re learning and growing from. Now if we continue to make them in the same way, then shame on us. We have to do a much better job from a coaching standpoint.

As far as the players, they are continuing to strive to improve and some of the issues that we have are just going to be, you know, some of them are develop mental and they will take time.

Q. How do you jump start the passing attack? Assuming you are sticking with Johnny, but can you do anything up front? Can you change the wide receivers?NUNZIO CAMPANILE: You know, there are a myriad of issues of why we’ve struggled to throw the football. Some of it, as we’ve talked about a few times is consistency of scheme. So I don’t it’s trying to scrap what you’re doing. It’s trying to get better at what we’re doing. Some of the issues we ran into, three times we tried to throw the ball down the field, we got sacked that. Can’t happen. We completed five passes for one yard. That has got to be almost impossible. You know, some of the thing is just being in the right place, some of the detail. A couple screens had a chance. A couple plays we tried to throw it down the field we thought we had good matchups. We had a couple different protection issues.

I think a lot of it is just continuing to learn. I think the quarterbacks, like yesterday, went out to practice and they did a great job. You know, all three of the guys that were getting work did a great job and they are learning, but they are learning under live bullets and at times they are maybe not entirely ready for some of the things that you’re seeing.

Q. You’ve got a guy roster who threw for 300 yards a couple weeks ago. Any talk to Art to reconsider? Anything changed with him?NUNZIO CAMPANILE: As I’ve said a few times, it’s a brave new world. I’m still coaching him and I think he’s working hard to get better and maybe there’s a point where he feels comfortable enough in what we’re doing he wants to play. I haven’t had any indication that he doesn’t want to be at Rutgers anymore. You know, we’ll handle that as we go but I’ve been happy with his work ethic and the way he’s gone out to practice.

Q. Besides Art and Raheem, has anybody come to you thinking they might want to redshirt?NUNZIO CAMPANILE: Not other than the freshman that have been planning or the sophomores that have been planning to all along. Most of the guys are past even the ability to -- yeah and those are guys that we probably planned on redshirting, anyway. Just it will really depend on some of the young guys, if they want to play, but if not, then we are going to manage. We are not going to put their career -- we are not going to make them lose a year of their career.

Q. Have you addressed the issue of Art and Raheem with the best of the team?NUNZIO CAMPANILE: Sure.

Q. What was the response --NUNZIO CAMPANILE: There’s no way I’ll discuss that.

Q. Raheem was billed as your best player on the roster. Does he want to come back? We haven’t talked to him. That’s the only I’m going to press you -- the NFL, because he’s a junior? What’s his motivation?NUNZIO CAMPANILE: I don’t know if that’s been decided yet to be honest. Maybe he’s trying to wait to see what the situation becomes here in six or seven weeks. But I’ve not gotten any indication that he intends to transfer, either, from what he said.

Q. You’ve been a coach at a lot of big north Jersey programs in high school and we talked about the transition for you as a coach. A star player on a team that does really well -- for a lot of them, this is the first experience they have had losing at this level and consistently. How have they dealt with that and how do you address that?NUNZIO CAMPANILE: One of the biggest things I said to them yesterday, came in, said, I’m not going to turn this place into a morgue. I mean, we have an opportunity to go out and play football. We are not going to hang our heads every day. We are going to try to find a way better and try to wipe the slate clean and try to get to 1-0 every week. We have a great opportunity though play this week against a really good football team that’s playing great football in our own building. You know, it’s a great opportunity. To me, if you love football and you love your team, you’re going to go out and play hard every day.

Believe me, I understand the frustration, and the players are frustrated. They want better results. You know, the biggest thing is we have to focus ongoing out and trying to get better every day. I know that sounds cliché but there’s really no other way to go about. It we’re not going to walk around like we lost our dog.

Q. Now that you’ve had a couple days to absorb what went on Saturday, at some point do you throw Cole out there and see what he has? Obviously he has four games to work with and he can still redshirt. At some point do you go to him to see what he can do?NUNZIO CAMPANILE: I guess that’s a possibility. Like I said the other day, that would have been totally unfair to him and I still think it would be totally unfair to him. We’re already playing a guy -- I told the quarterbacks the other day, when Peyton Manning was a rookie, he set the NFL interception record. Freshmen should not be playing in the Big Ten on developmental teams. I don’t care what anybody says. I don’t care if it’s Art Sitkowski, Johnny Langan or Cole, doesn’t matter. And so to keep changing is not really the answer. The answer is to keep developing.

Now, Cole is doing a great job in practice but he’s basically been a scout team player for the last nine weeks. So to ask him to go out and play in a game, and honestly, Johnny has pretty much been in that same role up until two weeks ago. To ask those guys to go out and perform like a senior -- I watch some of these guys play that are great players that have been playing for three for our years having a tough time against some of these defenses. I mean, we did the same thing last year when we went to Maryland. It was a very similar day, seven yards we threw for, and five interceptions.

We knew that last year with Art, that he was in a tough spot. I think that we’ll continue to work these guys through it. I just don’t think that the answer is to play musical chairs at quarterback. The answer is for us to coach him better and put him in a position where they just can have a little success moving the football. Two weeks ago, we had some of that and last week we had none of it. I guess that’s on me.

Q. On Twitter last night, Scott Goodale offered some support and said the negativity is brutal and doesn’t help anyone. Fans are frustrated, not with you, per se, but just the state of the program in general. Do you have a message for the fans and do you agree with that?NUNZIO CAMPANILE: I understand the frustration for sure. I mean, everybody wants to win. But you know, we’re in this situation we’re in right now. So the negativity doesn’t help anybody. Certainly doesn’t help these kids because if somebody thinks that they don’t want to win, you know, they are sadly mistaken. Those guys are out there and they are trying really hard, and if they get to practice, we would see a lot of guys are working really hard.

As Scott said, he’s a hundred percent right. Doesn’t really help anybody. Obviously there is some change coming down the road here, but when that comes, that’s a whole separate issue, and really has nothing to do with me. I’m going to go out and coach this team every day and try and put them in a position to be successful.

I think that those guys should support these kids. If they are not happy with what’s going on -- clearly, there’s been a lot of change here. There will continue to be change. I actually think it’s silly. I don’t know what they could possibly be talking about. They have already made change and more change will come. As that comes, the team is going to have to grow and develop and what I want for our players is, you know, when they get to that point in December, you know, this team is turned over to someone else, that we are a little bit better then than we are now and hopefully those guys are a little bit closer to being the type of team that we want to be, and that’s not going to happen overnight. It’s going to happen over, you know, time.

Q. Do you ever model what you want to do as a program after what Scott Goodale has done?NUNZIO CAMPANILE: As a high school coach, he’s like an idol to me probably. But the truth is that, yeah, I think that what he did in building that program is incredibly remarkable, but it also took tremendous patience. I think he’s been here 10 or 11 years, and the work that he put in to his team, that now competes at the highest possible level in college wrestling, and you know, this -- we’re not going to turn into a team that’s a top-five team in the country overnight. It’s going to take time. That’s going to take development.

But the state clearly has enough good players and the region on has enough good players. There’s so many things that Rutgers has to offer, and you know, just really seems to me like working together is a lot better way to get there than for people to be negative all the time.

Q. The first game with Johnny you only had a few days to install the new offensive system, have you been able to dig deeper into that playbook?NUNZIO CAMPANILE: I think it’s more a matter of figuring out what our players can do. It’s a great question because you have to be careful that you’re not putting too much on their plates; that they are overwhelmed. As I’ve said all along, it’s really the same plays, a lot of the same things. Just maybe, you know, a little different bells and whistles on them. But I do think that’s really important for us to get to the things that we, you know, think give our kids a chance to be successful.

Some of the things -- we did not really run a lot of plays the other day in the game and because of that, we left a lot of plays on the play sheet. Hopefully getting an extra week of practice, get them called in the game and create some plays out of it. We never really got started. We talked halftime week about staying on schedule and we were way off schedule the whole day. The third-down situations were -- I mean, couldn’t be worse on third down than we were.

Q. Your impressions of them, unbeaten team, a lot of Rutgers guys. What kind of Minnesota program do you expect to come on Saturday?NUNZIO CAMPANILE: One, I’m super impressed with the job they have done. You talk about building a program, they have really done a great job of developing their team, even over the course of the year. You see them getting better. They play very hard, they are very disciplined and very well-coached and do a lot of things well in all three phases of the game. Obviously I know a lot of the guys that coach there. There are a lot of great guys there. I think that they will continue to be those things. They seem to get a little bit better every week, and they are a really solid football team. They are impressive.

Q. So you know P.J.? You probably dealt with him back in the day? How well do you know him? Your impressions of him?NUNZIO CAMPANILE: I think he’s been really impressive. I first came to practice and watched him. I was like, wow, this guy, he’s a thousand miles an hour. Can’t be real. I guess as I got to know him, seems to be exactly who he is. He’s exactly -- he seems to bring that energy every day. I haven’t been around him a lot in the last five or six years but when he was here, I was super-impressed every time I came to practice that he was able to be that energetic, that positive and that competitive at all times, and obviously in the two programs he’s had the opportunity to coach, he’s done a great job of instilling that culture, and he clearly, that is what they are building their team on.

But you see it on the field. You see it in how they play. So I think that it’s been pretty impressive what he’s done at both schools.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

Let us know your thoughts and find the link to Defensive Coordinator Andy Buh’s comments as well: