Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano held a virtual press conference on Monday and touched on many different topics ahead of Friday’s Gator Bowl against No. 17 Wake Forest. Here is a summary of the most important things Schiano said on the team’s preparation and outlook regarding this unexpected opportunity.
On Covid Protocols
“We are doing the right thing, making sure everybody is healthy. But we never put that second to anything. The players’ health and well-being are the most important thing. The doctors and the trainers are doing an incredible job. Everybody’s being careful. We’re going to get on that plane and get down there and make it official.”
On the process of getting the team ready
“There’s always these curveballs that come up but I told our staff, ‘Look: We are not going to get bent out of shape. We’re built to do this. Let’s just roll with the punches. Whatever comes down the pike we’ll adjust and let’s see if we can get down there and play a game and have a lot of fun doing it.’ For the guys who were playing, they thought they were done playing or they thought they were going to another league to play and now they’re back with their buddies and they’re practicing. So it’s really an exciting thing for us.’’
On logistics of getting to Florida
“It’s going to be a huge challenge (playing Wake Forest), but we’re fired up about it. We’re going to head down as soon as we can confirm we have a plane. Hopefully that’s tomorrow. We’ll get down to Florida and we’ll go play. We’re going to find a plane. Even if you have to fly it. We’ll get there.”
On who is calling the defense
“I will probably call it. But we are going to do it together. It’s not going to be very complicated. I think anybody could call it, it’s just going to be a matter of somebody saying it over the headset. If I need to go do something with the offense or special teams, Fran [Brown] or coach [Bob] Fraser or whoever can take it over. And I’ll go do what I gotta do. I think anyone of us could call it.”
On which players who declared for NFL Draft will play
“Those are really good questions and you know I wouldn’t touch them with a 10-foot pole. I’d rather show up Friday with our team and let it rip.”
On the plan to utilize the roster
“I think we’re gonna have to play a lot of guys. It’s gonna be 80 degrees. People say well, you only have four or five practices to get ready. That’s really more of the problem than the issue, because while we trained, we didn’t play football. I don’t care if you’re lifting and running, the change of direction, the sudden explosive movements, those are the things that make you sore. We really eased them into it yesterday. Even so, our guys are sore a little bit which is natural. We’re going inside and we’re heating it up so that helps get us ready for going down there and also for being loose and fluid. But we’re going to really adjust how we practice. I don’t think it’s realistic to strain them the way we do during a regular game week and we can expect to have anything left on on Friday. It’s a unique approach. They’ve been awesome. For the guys that are playing, they thought they were done playing or they thought they were going to another league to play and now they’re back with their buddies and they’re practicing and it’s really an exciting thing for us.”
On any advantage Rutgers has
“If there’s such a way to make an advantage, I know (Wake Forest’s) Dave (Clawson) and he’s as thorough of a coach as there is in America. But they just found out they were playing us too. They’re in better physical condition and they’ve had more practice so they’re going to be more prepared than us that way. We both have the same amount of time to get ready for each other, although they had a game-plan for Texas A&M and Texas A&M’s defense is similar to ours. I wish that wasn’t the case.”
On the mental approach to playing unexpectedly
“We brought them back Christmas night so everybody could enjoy Christmas with their family. And really all they had to do is get back here and sleep in their bed here Christmas night. We gave a suggested time, but we had guys rolling in all night. But starting on Sunday we really are spending a little more time in meetings. We got an extra walkthrough in. It’s not physically taxing, but it allows us to prepare mentally. They’ve been really locked in. They know that we’re at a disadvantage and they’re trying to do everything they can to even the playing field. I appreciate that. I said this from the very beginning and I commented coach (Chris) Ash left us team that knew how to work and they’ve only gotten better at that. That’s never been the issue at our place. I just got to make sure that we got some juice in our legs when we hit the field Friday. That’s the balancing act.”
On the game being a no lose situation
“You know me I think pretty well. If we’re gonna play a game and they’re keeping score, we’re going to try and win. There’s no such thing as no-lose because if our number is smaller than their number, we definitely lose, and it’s gonna hurt a lot. And I’ve told you guys, when you lose, you mourn that. Our coaches have made an unbelievable effort. They’re up to 3 a.m. getting the game plans ready and getting everything ready. The players have done everything we’ve asked of them. So yeah, it’ll hurt a lot if we don’t win.”
We’ll probably all have to wait until Friday to find out if Bo Melton, Isaih Pacheco, Olakunle Fatukasi and others will play in the Gator Bowl. It’s obviously a huge question mark and if most are absent, it will only make the game an even greater challenge.
Another note is that the status of Adam Korsak is unknown as well as he reportedly was back in Australia last week. Schiano did not give an update on the Ray Guy finalist either.
Rutgers doesn’t have much of an advantage heading into this matchup, so it makes sense Schiano is going to try to find one by not giving roster updates.
Schiano’s hands on approach to the defense with DC Robb Smith no longer with the program is only a good thing under such difficult circumstances.
As for everything else, Schiano is grounded in reality and knows what a difficult task this is going to be for his team. They’re approaching this with all hands on deck and have a positive mental approach. They’re doing the best they can to perform as well as possible against Wake Forest.
The Gator Bowl kicks off on Friday, December 31 at 11:00 a.m. on ESPN. Stay tuned for more coverage all week here at On The Banks.