Ryan Blaszczyk, a 6-foot-4, 285-pound junior center, was a question mark at the start of the season. As winter turns to spring, this former high school star from Medford Lakes is now a Rutgers team leader:
Three weeks before the team's 2007 season opener against Buffalo, Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said of Blaszczyk "He ain't there yet, though, I can promise you that."
Schiano was singing a different tune after the second day of spring practice on Thursday.
"He went from being a question mark at this time last year to being one of our two returning starters," Schiano said. "So I think it's a pretty significant change."
He's big, he's strong, and he could stay close to home:
Sean Pearson, a 6-foot-5, 290-pound offensive guard from St. Peter’s Prep in Jersey City, N.J., has already taken visits to Pittsburgh, and Syracuse and has plans to go to Penn State and West Virginia over the new few weeks for junior days.
“I liked it a lot at Rutgers and there was nothing negative about the trip to speak of at all,” Pearson said. “Head Coach Greg Schiano was pretty cool and they definitely had the nicest facilities I’ve seen so far. Rutgers is close to home which is nice and like I said, I really like everything about them.”
Vivian Stringer is making the rounds talking about her new book, "Standing Tall." Football players and fans -- at RU and elsewhere -- can learn many lessons from this classy coach who is pushing hard with her Rutgers team for another strong season finish. A lot of the attention is not on this year -- it is on the future of the Stringer program, and Coach Stringer has five more reasons to stand tall: a recruiting class that includes Brooklyn Pope of Fort Worth, Texas, and April Sykes of Mississippi. The group includes a total of five All Americans. As Harvey Araton put it in The Times this morning: Thank you Don Imus.
“He pretty much put Rutgers on the map,” said Janice Pope, the mother of Brooklyn.
Not to suggest that Rutgers wasn’t a national power and nearly a national champion before the uproar caused by Imus last April. Not to say that Stringer had not always landed players from afar, just not at the magnetic level of Connecticut and Tennessee.
If the projections for the Rutgers freshman class of 2008-9 are accurate, Auriemma and Pat Summitt may no longer be in a recruiting league of their own. “Basically, we were hoping to get three,” said Carlene Mitchell, Stringer’s assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. “The chips just fell.”
The blue chips, she meant.
Stringer did a video interview for Forbes.com. Asked what she tells new players about the Imus episode, Coach Stringer said: "We define who we are....these young ladies are great students...they presented themselves in a poised, a class way ... how could I not be proud and extremely happy because they stood so tall."
An extra honor that comes with winning a wrestling title in New Jersey: a call from Coach Schiano:
In 2006, St. Joseph's Jack Corcoran won the state title at 215 before moving on to Rutgers, where he spent the last year blocking for Ray Rice, one of the top backs in the country.
In 2007, Paulsboro's Alex Silvestro beat everyone on his way to the title. This year, Silvestro spent eight games as a freshman rushing the quarterback from his defensive end position.
Recruiting wrestlers is a trend Schiano says he plans to continue.
"It has made us happy," Schiano said. "Those kids do well."
So who looks like a champion this year? Glenn Carson, from Southern Regional.
So who looks like a champion this year? Glenn Carson, from Southern Regional.
"This is what the whole season is hyped up for, this is it," Carson said of the trip to States. "The Beast of the East is an amazing accomplishment, but this is it. This is what I want."
Carson said he has never felt better.
"I don't know why, but I've never been as excited to step on the mat as I have been recently," he said.
A big happy birthday to Jeremy Ito, who turns 22 today. Thanks for all your hard work.
Will Rutgers play Wisconsin? There is a chance that 2008 will see a Knights-Badgers series. Go RU! Here is a Wisconsin report on the chances of a 2008 schedule for Rutgers and Wisconsin.
Madison - Wisconsin officials appear to be close to filling out their 2008 football schedule and although no official announcement has been made one school that appears to be in the running is Rutgers of the Big East Conference.
Phone messages left with officials at both schools Wednesday were not immediately returned.
However, Rutgers like UW is still working to schedule a 12th regular-season game for 2008. A home-and-home series between the schools, perhaps beginning this season, would be attractive to both programs.
Many New Jersey prospects did slip out of state, but as realfootball365.com notes, one Florida quarterback will be headed to New Brunswick:
Greg Schiano and his staff did pick up two other four-star recruits besides Forst -- defensive lineman Scott Vallone from Central Islip, N.Y., and WR Keith Stroud from Fork Union Military Academy in Virginia, and an imposing physical specimen of a quarterback in 6-6, 230-pound D.C. Jefferson of Winter Haven, Fla.
"When you look down the street and see him," Schiano said of Jefferson, "you'd think he was with some pro franchise."
He was almost with LSU -- not surprisingly, considering Jefferson has been compared to JaMarcus Russell and Rohan Davey in both playing and body style. But after decommitting to Rutgers and flirting with the Bayou Bengals, Jefferson decided to sign with the Scarlet Knights, after all. With Mike Teel returning for his senior season, Jefferson should have a year to ease in gradually.
Check out the D.C. Jefferson highlight reel embedded in this post (thanks YouTube!).
The Courier-Post has studied Rutgers salaries, and guess who comes out on top? Greg Schiano, who has done more to change attitudes about the state university than almost anyone else in recent years. From the salary survey:
Schiano, who is the highest paid public employee in the state, has a base salary of $450,000 and guaranteed incentives that will push the gross to $1.6 million through June 30, 2009. The contract could be worth as much as $2.1 million by the time it expires in 2016, if he meets each incentive.
Perks include a car, a country club membership, and an $800,000 interest-free home loan that will be paid for by the university if he remains the coach through 2016. The loan was used to build a 5,000-square-foot home on land Schiano purchased near Rutgers Stadium in the fall of 2006.
Schiano, in his eighth year at Rutgers, received a contract extension in early 2007, two months after he turned down an offer to coach at the University of Miami.
In December, Schiano spurned an offer to coach at the University of Michigan.
Including bonuses, Schiano grossed nearly $1.8 million in 2007, which ranked 22nd nationally and second among Big East coaches last season.
The Star-Ledger is talking about some coaching retirements:
According to someone with knowledge of the situation, wide receivers coach Robert Jackson and defensive line coach Cary Godette are both considering retirement.
The person requested anonymity because neither assistant has officially made a decision.
We do know about the announcements: Ed Pinkham as defensive assistant and Chris Rippon as the special teams coordinator. From the Ledger:
Pinkham, who hails from Clark, has spent the past 12 years as Colgate's defensive coordinator, earning a promotion to associate head coach as well in 2005.
Rippon, from Lincoln Park, spent the past three years as special teams coordinator and defensive backs coach at Mississippi. He spent 12 years as an assistant at Syracuse, serving as the defensive coordinator there from 1999-2003.
"Ed is a well-respected defensive coach. He brings another sharp mind to the defensive side," said Schiano, who will officially retain the title of defensive coordinator but may yield some of the responsibilities this season. "Chris has been a defensive coordinator and has been successful in the Big East and the SEC. He brings a wealth of experience."
From The Courier News:
"The opportunity to come back to New Jersey and work for a coach like Greg," Rippon said, "was a great one."
That report also added some details to what we know about the 2008 schedule:
Rutgers will host the North Carolina Tar Heels in an ESPN Thursday night game on Sept. 11, according to the schedule released by North Carolina on Friday.
While Rutgers isn't expected to release its schedule until next week, dates against Navy and Army are set. The Scarlet Knights will travel to Annapolis, Md., to face the Midshipmen on Sept. 20, and will host Army on Nov. 22.