It has been official for a week now. Kirk Ciarrocca is the new offensive coordinator at Rutgers.
The board approved Ciarrocca’s salary at $1.4 million per year, making him the highest-paid assistant in program history. Ciarrocca is an experienced offensive mind in the Big Ten, previously working with Penn State and Minnesota. Of course, this is not his first time in Piscataway and will reunite with Greg Schiano.
There are many holes in Rutgers’ offense and it was among the worst in the nation this past season. Now that there has been time to digest the hiring, let’s take a look at some of the discussions surrounding Ciarrocca.
4. Good (maybe) but could it be great?
It all begins with the first impression of the hire. Did you like it? Did you not? Are you still trying to process what it means?
Rutgers added an experienced offensive coordinator in the Big Ten but the fact is, it might not be the right person — or maybe it is. Ciarrocca is entering the program with his work cut out for him with a program that needs to find its way back to relevance.
3. Was let go by Greg Schiano
Ciarrocca has been well-traveled over the course of his career and Piscataway was a previous stop on the journey. Usually, when a coach and coordinator have worked together before, it is a good thing. Does that apply if the coordinator was previously let go by the coach?
While this might not be a big issue to some, it is still an interesting development. Ciarrocca worked as the co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach for Rutgers from 2008-2010, during Schiano’s first tenure as head coach. Ciarrocca was let go following the 2010 season after the Scarlet Knights finished 4-8 and the offense was ranked 114th out of 120 teams.
The positive here is that Ciarrocca will know what to expect when working with a coach like Schiano. In terms of this being a make-or-break hire, it is interesting that Schiano and the Scarlet Knights decided to turn back the clock 12 years to a coordinator that was let go. No, this does not mean that Rutgers should have avoided Ciarrocca all together but is something to keep in the back of your mind, especially if the offense goes south once again.
2. Play-calling, play-calling, play-calling
It is no secret that the play-calling for Rutgers was uninspired and predictable this season. This was one of the main reasons that the program decided to move on from Sean Gleeson. Yes, playmakers and options were limited but at some point, there had to be some changes made.
Enter an experience play-caller that has had success at many schools. Ciarrocca called plays for Rutgers during his first tenure. He also took the duties at Western Michigan, Delaware, and Minnesota. It is clear that Schiano wanted to bring someone in that could add some rhythm and explosiveness to the offense.
If Ciarrocca can develop the young talent, especially the quarterback position, it has a chance to be a new-look offense. This might not be a one-year fix but there has to be some improvements off last season.
1. Quarterback Developer
Rutgers has many holes on the football field but the glaring one is at the most important position — quarterback.
Gavin Wimsatt will likely enter the 2023 season as the starting quarterback for Rutgers. Immediately, this benefits the Scarlet Knights and their young quarterback because there will be no thought of a competition. All of the focus can be put in one place. For Ciarrocca, this gives him another young player to develop.
Most recently, Ciarrocca had a hand in the progression of Tanner Morgan at Minnesota. Morgan was not a top-tier recruit and put together a strong career with the Gophers. In 2019, Minnesota went 11-2 during Morgan’s breakout year. This season, Morgan continued to show that he benefited from the presence of Ciarrocca.
Prior to Minnesota, Ciarrocca had a hand in developing Joe Flacco during his time at Delaware. Initially a backup, Flacco turned into a first-round pick and eventual Super Bowl winning quarterback for the Baltimore Ravens. Ciarrocca was also present at Western Michigan when Zach Terrell totaled 3,400 yards in each of his final three seasons.
Schiano is taking a big swing by bringing Ciarrocca onto his staff once again. If he is able to develop Wimsatt and bring consistency at the position for Rutgers, it will look like a home run hire.