Head coach Greg Schiano filled the biggest opening remaining on his coaching staff on Tuesday, as Rutgers announced Robb Smith as defensive coordinator. Smith previously coached under Schiano in his last three seasons during his first tenure as head coach, as well as the season after he left when he served as defensive coordinator under Kyle Flood. That team had one of the best defenses in school history and were co-Big East champions.
“Robb is one of the best defensive coaches I’ve had the pleasure of working with,” said Schiano. “We are fortunate to have him joining our staff. He works tirelessly to develop players and help them reach their full potential. We are excited to have him and his family back home.”
“I am excited to be back at Rutgers,” said Smith. “We had great success our first time around together and I look forward to working with coach Schiano again to accomplish our unfinished business. My family and I are glad to be back in New Jersey.”
Smith left Rutgers after the 2012 season to serve as linebackers coach under Schiano during his second and final season with the Tampa Bay Bucaneers. He then soon came back to the college game, serving as defensive coordinator at Arkansas (2014-2016) and Minnesota (2017-2018), where he was fired 8 games into his second season before serving as an defensive analyst for Texas A&M this past season.
While Smith led Arkansas to a top ten ranking in scoring defense and total defense in 2014, as well as guided Minnesota’s defense to its fewest points allowed in over a decade in 2017, the 2012 Rutgers defense was his best as a coordinator. That unit ranked fourth nationally in points allowed per game (14.2), sixth in rushing yards allowed per game (95.2), and tenth in total defense (311.6 yards per game). Rutgers opponents were held to 95.2 rushing yards per game, just the third time in school history opponents averaged under 100 yards against RU and were third nationally in only allowing six rushing touchdowns that season.
Prior to being DC in his first stint on the banks, Smith was the special teams coordinator for three seasons between 2009-2011 and Rutgers was ranked in the top ten in blocked punts each year. He also coached the secondary and linebackers throughout his four seasons at Rutgers.
While sought after Michigan assistant Anthony Campanile appears to be remaining in Ann Arbor after reportedly turning down the Rutgers DC job, it shouldn’t be surprising that Schiano turned to hiring a coordinator he has plenty of experience working with. Bringing Smith back into the fold allows this team to hit the ground running in the spring due to the familiarity that he has with Schiano and understanding of the defense he wants to run. Smith coaching in the Big Ten recently helps as well.
Schiano’s coaching staff that has officially been announced is as follows:
Sean Gleeson as offensive coordinator/QB coach, Andrew Aurich as offensive line coach, Tiquan Underwood as wide receivers coach, Augie Hoffman as an offensive assistant, Smith as defensive coordinator, Fran Brown as secondary coach, and Jim Panagos as defensive line coach. Nunzio Campanile has been announced as an assistant coach in Schiano’s first staffer hired and is expected to coach either the running backs or tight ends, but that has not been announced as of yet.
Former staff holdover Kolby Smith, who coached the running backs last season, remains with the program but has not had his long term status announced, so it’s unclear if he will remain long term.
In addition, it’s been reported that former Rutgers DC Bob Fraser will return to coach the linebackers, but that’s hasn’t been officially announced either.
Assuming Fraser does ultimately join the staff, that would leave one opening to fill for on the field coaching positions. That could be filled by Kolby Smith or someone else, including a special teams coordinator. Regardless, Schiano has hired most of his top targets and assembled what is likely the most heralded staff in program history.