Training camp began on Wednesday for Rutgers and spirits are high with the fans, players, and head coach Greg Schiano.
“I can see the excitement in the building,” Schiano said during a press conference on Tuesday. “They’re all jacked up. A couple of guys have already come into see me and just ready to go so that’s fun. The energy, you can just really feel it.”
The Scarlet Knights are coming off a 3-6 season in 2020 that saw great improvements in all three phases of the game. Heading into 2021, Rutgers returns 92% of its production from last season, which is the most in the Big Ten and 11th nationally. There are plenty of reasons to feel optimistic about this season and it begins with the return of core players.
This is something that is important in any season but coming off a strange year dominated by COVID-19, Rutgers could benefit from this. There is a bit of normalcy this offseason but it is not complete back to normal just yet.
“Our guys have not been in a training camp,” Schiano said. “Last year, I told them, that wasn’t training camp. That was going to school and practicing and getting ready for a season. It was getting ready for an opponent but it still wasn’t training camp. This will be a little different and different than they’re accustomed too. We’re staying on campus and in a dormitory and all fun stuff like that.”
This is where experience can come into play. Veterans like Noah Vedral, Bo Melton, and Olakunle Fatukasi, just to name a few, can take over as leaders and be mentors for the younger players — not to mention perform at a high level on game day.
“The way camp is set up by the rules, and there's some rule changes this year with what you can and can’t do during certain days,” Schiano said. “For us, we practice in the morning and meet in the afternoon then walks through at night. They get a good rest during the day, which is equally as important to all the work we do.”
With camp underway, it is time to fully focus on the upcoming season. The 2020 campaign is in the book. So let’s turn the page and ask, where does the excitement come from?
First things first, Schiano is entering his second year of his second stint in Piscataway. The plan it to have fans back in SHI Stadium for the home opener on Sept. 2 against Temple and Schiano is hoping that this will be the case.
“As far as i’ve been told, that’s where we are,” Schiano said. “I’m like everybody else, I do kind of live in a cave this time of year. I’m aware of the delta variant and what’s going on. Just saying our prayers and do things right around here.”
Non-conference games are back. Rutgers won three games during an all-Big Ten schedule in 2020 and they can build off that this year. It takes six victories to qualify for a bowl and the Scarlet Knights open the year with three winnable games right at the top — Temple, Syracuse, and Delaware.
Finally, let’s not look too far into the future, but Rutgers features strong recruiting classes for the upcoming years. This has been a major topic of conversation during the offseason and will always be a thought going forward.
Returning experience, Schiano, potentially, in front of full stadiums, non-conference games, recruiting. The Scarlet Knights seem to check all the boxes heading into camp. One thing that is for sure is that Rutgers is beginning to build for the future and this season could be a springboard.