Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano met with the media on Monday to preview Saturday’s game against the Michigan Wolverines. Schiano currently has the Scarlet Knights sitting at 3-0 and seeking their first 2-0 start in Big Ten play since the team joined the conference in 2014.
Schiano was complimentary of Michigan’s program, head coach Jim Harbaugh, and confident when speaking of the opportunity ahead for his young team.
“Great challenge, No. 2 team in the country. Probably could be easily ranked No. 1; they are that good. There’s absolutely no weaknesses in this team. When you look at what they have, their offensive line, two-time reigning Joe Moore Offensive Line of the Year, an experienced quarterback who can both run and throw accurately, deep, do all the things — he’s a future first-rounder at quarterback. They have two running backs that are as good as anybody’s in the country. A slew of receivers, tight ends.”
“Flip it over to defense: Their defensive line is maybe the best in the country. Big, physical, deep. Linebackers run and hit. Secondary covers well. Kicking game, they have specialists that are arguably the best in the nation. So definitely a tall order, but we need to make sure we take care of us. That’s what we need to do and that’s what we’ll do in preparation, and then great opportunity to go out to Ann Arbor and go play. So looking forward to it.”
Q. You mentioned Kyle (Monangai) being (Big Ten) Player of the Week. Seems like there’s some more eyeballs on your program after starting 3-0. Can you feel any extra excitement from your players, from the fans going into this huge game?
“You know, I know our players are excited about playing it. It’s definitely a great test for us. I think we are still kind of isolated in this building in what we do. I don’t look at stuff, so I wouldn’t know that. I don’t see very many people other than our staff, our players and my wife. So, I can’t tell you that. I’m probably the worst one in the world to ask about that. But I’m excited. So, we have a great opportunity.”
Q. First road trip of the year, going to the Big House, over 100,000 fans, very intimidating environment to play. How do you as a coach sort of prepare your players the best you can to face that kind of environment?
“I love going on the road, especially the first time when you take your 74 guys you’re allowed to bring and your staff, and it’s just you and you go on the road. Nothing like it. When you come out of that tunnel and everybody is against you and it’s just your guys, that’s a special feeling, one that I think every athlete that’s done it appreciates it and enjoys it. Again, great opportunity. Coached there many times. Excited about the chance.”
Q. Way back in your first stint, there was a lot of excitement and great times. Huge games against Louisville comes to mind. How did you know your team was ready for a moment like that, and does it feel like that at all right now?
“Well, you don’t really ever know. Coaches say, well, I knew we were — Coach Bryant, who was one of the best to ever coach the game said well into his career, “I can’t tell you if my teams are ready. We’ll see.” And if he couldn’t, and Coach Paterno and those guys couldn’t, there’s no reason I can. It’s human element. You never know. You just go out and play it.
But what you do know is how much you invested in the preparation and how much you invest all the way right through the game, not to it, but through it. Every meeting on the sideline, in between series, everything at halftime, all that stuff is critical to winning and losing. Exciting, you put yourself in position to play these games, and then you’ve got to go play them, right. You do invest a whole lot before, but then there’s that three and a half, four hours where you’ve got to go get it done, and that’s — you know, are we ready to do that? I can’t tell you that. I hope we are. But if we’re not, then we will be. We’ve just got to keep working at it. But I like this team. I like their mindset. I like the leadership. Let’s go play it.”
Q. Two-parter on Gavin (Wimsatt). How do you think he’s done as a passer through the first three games? Are you satisfied with the progress he’s made in that respect? And going on the road, biggest atmosphere he’s played in, I don’t think he played at Ohio State last year. How do you think he’ll do in an environment like that, and can he continue that progress on the road?
“I think Gavin is improving by the day. I thought did he a great job Saturday. You know, three games into the season, he’s protected the football the way we’ve asked him. He had some bad luck Saturday. He had three drops and two route errors, two route busts. So, you know, if you take those five, and maybe you call four of them completions, that really changes the complexion.”
“We didn’t throw much. We didn’t need to throw much. We were running effectively, and that was kind of game it was. Every game is different. We can throw the ball 60 times this week. You never know what it’s going to take, but you do whatever it takes to win the game, or gives you the best chance to win the game. But I’m pleased with his development. He continues to really prepare his tail off, and I think his arrow, his nose is pointed up.”
Q. Looking back, you’ve coached against Jim Harbaugh in the NFL and you’ve coached against him at the college level. What kind of relationship, if any, do you have with him?
“I have a lot of respect for Jim. He’s an excellent football coach. Knows how to get the most out of his organization. I don’t have a close relationship. It’s more professional. But ultimate respect.”