If you haven’t heard by now, longtime Rutgers assistant coaches Nunzio Campanile and Augie Hoffmann have confirmed they are no longer with the program. Campanile tweeted on Tuesday afternoon while Pat Lanni spoke to Hoffmann about his departure on Monday. The news comes a few days after head coach Greg Schiano hired Kirk Ciarrocca as offensive coordinator.
Campanile leaves after five seasons and Hoffmann after three years. Both served multiple roles on the offensive side of the ball. I liked them both. They deserve respect for their hard work through the years.
Nunzio in particular led the program with class during difficult times as the interim head coach after Chris Ash was fired four games into the 2019 season. He was thrown into another tough spot as interim offensive coordinator this past season. He’ll be a better coach for having the experiences he had at Rutgers. I’m sure he and Hoffmann will both land on their feet in a good spot soon.
With that being said, Schiano should reflect on their tenures as examples as to why a change in philosophy is needed.
New Jersey has always been the focal point of recruiting with Rutgers football. And many, many coaches have been unsuccessful in landing enough talent from the garden state to make a major impact on the program.
The most successful coach to recruit New Jersey for Rutgers has been Greg Schiano. There was hope in his return was that he would be able to generate the same traction at home that he did at the end of his first tenure.
In his last recruiting cycle back with the 2012 class, Rutgers signed five of the top ten ranked recruits in the state. That took over a decade to accomplish by building up the program with success on the field. And then Schiano was gone for the NFL and things went backwards.
In coming back to Rutgers, he has had to essentially start from scratch. That was likely part of the thought process in retaining Campanile and hiring Hoffman in the first place. They were thought of as being potential catalysts to jump start local recruiting.
However, it’s time to recognize the reality of the situation.
Both Campanile and Hoffmann were very successful high school coaches in New Jersey with each winning multiple state titles. They had local connections and credibility in recruiting circles. The Campanile family and its name is iconic in North Jersey. Hoffmann was a First Team All-Big East guard at Boston College and was with the New Orleans Saints for three years on their practice squad. And yet neither was particularly successful in bringing in top talent from the state as was expected based on their backgrounds.
Per 247 Sports, Nunzio’s top rated recruit was 3-star Jordan Thompson from Parsippany Hills. He did play in all 12 games last season as a reserve and could still develop into a key contributor. The most successful name is Desmond Igbinosun of Union, who has played well for Rutgers early in his career and has a bright future. However, after five years on the staff, it’s surprising Campanile didn’t have a bigger impact on the roster as a recruiter.
Hoffmann is credited by 247 Sports with recruiting former 4-star recruits Khayri Banton from Newark and Samuel Brown from Philadelphia. Banton didn’t work out with injuries a factor and he is now in the transfer portal. However, signing Brown could end up going down as arguably the biggest recruiting win in the Schiano era so far. He also signed the top recruit in the 2023 class in 3-star lineman JaSire Peterson of Union City. Even so, one notable recruit per class isn’t enough.
I’m not trying to be overly critical of Campanile and Hoffmann. More so, I think their tenures prove something from a big picture perspective.
Recruiting New Jersey is an important part of improving the program, but it’s also unrealistic to expect major success within the state as things currently stand. North Jersey in particular has been a hot spot for national blue bloods to poach top talent for decades. Unfortunately, that’s not changing any time soon.
Rutgers has long wanted to win by keeping the top New Jersey talent home. However, if Campanile and Hoffmann couldn’t recruit New Jersey at a high level and were unable to make a major impact, it’s unlikely anyone can right now. Recruiting the northern part of the state specifically has always been a bit of a cat and mouse game. Until RU takes a significant step forward on the field, expecting multiple top recruits from the state to sign up seems unrealistic.
Don’t misunderstand my point. Rutgers absolutely should continue to make New Jersey a priority. However, it should be among several others as well.
A more national recruiting approach is needed. I’m not saying that Schiano and his staff have put all their eggs in one basket by only focusing on New Jersey. They haven’t. But I do think it’s time to take a few eggs out of that basket and spread them around more.
These changes should start with how they replace Campanile and Hoffmann.
I hope Schiano and Ciarrocca target assistant coaches with a different profile. New Jersey is and will always be important to recruiting. However, I think finding assistants with experience recruiting and coaching in the Big Ten or another power five conference should be prioritized.
Ciarrocca’s own recruiting background will help. While not a top recruiter, his highest rated recruits at Minnesota were from Illinois, California and Texas. His presence expands the footprint, but more is needed.
If Rutgers is ever going to become a winning program in the Big Ten, it needs to recruit better in Big Ten regions and national territories. With at least two offensive assistants set to be hired, I hope Schiano and Ciarrocca move in that direction.
Rutgers already has a strong New Jersey presence on the coaching staff. There is defensive coordinator Joe Harasymiak, safeties coach Drew Luscari, and defensive line coach Marquise Watson. Ciarrocca is a local coach too with Philadelphia roots and wide receivers coach is from Chester, PA just over the NJ border. That’s a strong local presence on the staff already. And of course, you have the closer in Schiano.
The offense badly needs an increase in talent and depth. A national approach to finding both is needed. Relying on local high school talent and the transfer portal isn’t enough.
Schiano has always done a good job of making Florida a focus with recruiting. It’s a talent rich state and he has many relationships there dating back to when he was the defensive coordinator at Miami and then following his job with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Rutgers signed five recruits from Florida in the 2023 class, although none were Top 100 prospects in the state. Continuing to make the Sunshine state a priority on the recruiting trail makes sense.
Rutgers now needs more territories in which they can pull multiple recruits from. Ohio and Illinois are two states that Schiano has signed multiple recruits from in his second tenure. He obviously has relationships in Ohio from working at Ohio State. It’s another state that has a deep talent pool and finding an assistant with experience recruiting there would make a lot of sense. Expanding into Illinois even more would be positive too.
Of course, Pennsylvania has always been on the recruiting radar. Signing Davoun Fuse from near Pittsburgh in the 2023 class could end up proving to be a major addition to the program. Penn State is always going to get the pick of the litter in the Keystone state. However, it’s always a talent rich state that Rutgers could tap into more than it has. Samuel Brown and Anthony Johnson are former 4-star recruits that RU signed in the 2022 class. Expanding from the east part of the state into the west with a seasoned recruiter could be very beneficial.
For years and years, the idea that Rutgers will some day break through as a program by landing a good portion of top recruits in New Jersey has been a goal. Schiano made progress during his first tenure. However, he still made his bones without having a lot of success early on with top recruits in the garden state. Replicating that success is even harder in his second tenure with competing in the Big Ten, NIL and the transfer portal.
Entering year four since his return, I hope Schiano fills the two open assistant jobs differently. Adding coaches who can bring new recruiting regions to the Rutgers table with proven success in those areas would add real value. Also bringing in coaches who have had success with current regions that could be prioritized even more like Florida, Ohio and Pennsylvania.
Relying so heavily on New Jersey and the tri-state area feels like trying to fit a square peg into a round hole. It’s not going to work. At least with the current state of things. The needs are too great.
While hiring Ciarrocca as offensive coordinator was critical, so is finding two assistants at a minimum to work under him. Of course, you need proven assistants who can develop players. But you also need assistants who can raise the program’s recruiting ceiling. That’s why finding an experienced Big Ten assistant is ideal. A power five coach from another conference is still desirable as they would have a similar background.
It would be great if Rutgers football took as step forward in the Big Ten with as many New Jersey players as possible. Schiano has had success getting players to return home through the transfer portal. He’s also brought in a good amount of local recruits. But most of the top talent isn’t staying home to become Scarlet Knights. It’s looking more and more like a pipe dream that it will change anytime soon. The tenures of Campanile and Hoffmann provide recent evidence that it remains true.
To really move the program forward, I think Rutgers needs to expand their recruiting footprint. Whether they bring in assistants with national profiles or not, they still need to consider that approach. But if they are able to add experienced coaches with a proven track record on the recruiting trail in areas that Rutgers hasn’t had success before, it would be a way to maximize these hires.
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