Greg Schiano was positive and optimistic as expected on the first day of training camp.
“It’s the strongest team we’ve ever had here going forward,” Schiano said the first practice of the 2023 season. “They worked really hard this summer, and it showed.”
A major key to the team taking a step forward this offseason has been the coaching staff. Schiano was able to keep his entire defensive staff together. Of the three key hires Schiano did make, all three have worked with him previously and are veteran coaches. They include offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, wide receivers coach Dave Brock and offensive line coach Pat Flaherty.
Schiano emphasized that the continuity and experience of the staff has Rutgers in a good spot entering training camps.
“I’ve really seen that since spring,” Schiano said. “I love the chemistry that the defensive staff has amongst themselves and the players. They all stayed intact. We got a great administration here, great board, great president and an AD who supports us. So we were able to retain that defensive staff and then go out and hire an offensive staff that I’m really pleased with.”
As for the players, the expectations and standards aren’t just in place entering Schiano’s fourth season. They’re embraced and reinforced by the veteran leaders of the team.
“The reality is now we have a player-led team,” Schiano said. “We had a situation last night. They immediately called me. I love that. We’ve never had that. That to me is what you need — a player-led team.”
There was a lot of work that Schiano had to do to get the program back to the shape internally he had developed during his first tenure. He explained how important it is to have things back to that level.
“If there’s something or if they have a question, they come to me with it otherwise they run the team,” explained Schiano. “That allows me to do my job. It allows our assistant coaches to do their job. It reminds me a little bit of the first go around when (Brian) Leonard and those guys started to take over the team. I’ve never been part of a winning team that wasn’t player-led.”
Building a strong culture and thriving in a strong culture are two different things. Schiano gave hope that Rutgers is moving into the latter category three plus years into his second tenure.
That being said, Schiano was also realistic in how far the team needs to go in order to have a successful 2023 season.
“We need to make huge improvements. I’ve expressed that to the team,” stated Schiano. “Today is step one.”
Training camp began exactly one month out from the season opener against Northwestern on Sunday, September 3 at SHI Stadium. Obviously, this time is critical for Rutgers to improve and lay the groundwork for the best campaign since Schiano returned.
“We got a lot of work ahead of us for the next 24 practices. To me, training camp is the time when you make the most progress,” Schiano said. “There are no other distractions. There’s no school. There are no girlfriends to worry about. It’s all football so as coaches, it’s the best time of the year.”
The complete focus of time and energy during camp is something Schiano said was paramount in making progress, both as a player and the team overall.
“I told them ‘to take it one step at a time,’ and they did that today,” Schiano said. “So now we go into meetings. What you see is practice, but the meetings are critical. To be able to watch what you just did on video and being coached. That’s the secret.”
Schiano is a master planner and maximizing the time the coaching staff has with the team this month. It might be the first day of camp, the team’s schedule is already in high gear.
“Tonight, we’ll be able to come out and have a walk-through, which lasts for about an hour, and then they go to bed and go to practice again,” explained Schiano. “How do you not get better when you do it, see it, walk through it and then come out and do it again? You just do that now, which is why training camp is tough. Training camp is supposed to be tough. I’ve never been on a team that had a bad training camp and went out and had a great season. It just doesn’t happen.”
Rutgers Football is back. The 2023 season is rapidly approaching but the process towards getting better remains the same. Schiano will have this team chopping one day at a time during training camp. Let’s hope the ax this team swings only sharpens in the days and weeks ahead this season.
Watch Schiano’s full press conference following the first practice below.
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