Kirk Ciarrocca, Joe Harasymiak speak to media at Rutgers football's spring practice
As spring training begins for the Rutgers football team ahead of the 2023 season, new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca and second-year defensive coordinator Joe Harasymiak are looking forward to working with their respective units.
Ciarrocca, who was hired in January as the offensive coordinator, was also hired as the quarterback's coach. The former Minnesota offensive coordinator has previously had the opportunity to work with junior quarterback Gavin Wimsatt, who, with a full year under his belt, will likely be selected as the team's starting passer for next season.
"Gavin's working really hard at it. I can see that. He's obviously a very talented young man. He's got really good physical skills, but I just love his work ethic, his energy," Ciarrocca said.
The Scarlet Knights (4-8, 1-8) were 13 out of 14 in Big Ten points per game (PPG) last season with 17.4 PPG. The offense only scored 25 total touchdowns and put up more than 200 total points. With a new offensive coordinator, the hope is that the team will put more points on the board, for which Ciarrocca laid out crucial plans.
"Nobody has a crystal ball. But I know this. If we take care of the ball, we execute and we're violent ... those things are going to give us the best chance to score points, and that's what we got to do," he said.
Ciarrocca said that he admires the energy, commitment and accountability that each player on the offense has with each other.
"We have a great culture here. Their work ethic has been great," Ciarrocca said. "All we're worried about is being better tomorrow than we were today."
In addition, he said that he knows the importance of patience when allowing his young wide receiver room to develop and grow every day in spring practice.
"With guys that young that really haven't played, I'm not going to rush the evaluation process," Ciarrocca said. "Coach (Dave) Brock, we're blessed to have him. We got a guy who's trained NFL wide receivers, who's an unbelievable teacher and who's developed guys at the highest level."
Ciarrocca also said he is very pleased with the running back room and their experience on the football field.
"The running back room, based on playing time and productivity, that might be our deepest area that we have right now," he said. "I love the way they're working. I love the way they are picking up the system. You can tell they have a little bit more experience with their poise out there on the field. They've been in the battle."
Harasymiak is looking forward to getting back in the groove of the game and staying in the moment as the defensive play caller. Just before his second season as the defensive coordinator on the Banks, Harasymiak signed a two-year extension in the offseason.
"It means everything to me and my family. Coach (Greg) Schiano has done everything for us and given us this opportunity, and I'm Jersey," Harasymiak said. "My family loves being here, and I couldn't be happier to be here. Now we just got to get it done."
He said that he believes that the next step for the defensive unit is consistency. The Knights' early successful 3-0 start was fueled by strong performance on defense. In their third win of the season against Temple, a pick six from junior defensive back Shaquan Loyal turned out to make all the difference for the team. After those initial three games, the defense struggled against conference opponents, letting up at least 27 points in 7 of the team's last 9 games of the season.
One thing that will help push Rutgers over the edge on the defensive side of the ball is its veteran presence. Harasymiak said he is impressed by the overall communication level of his defense through the walkthroughs to practice. Veterans helping is the standard for the team now, and it's something that he said he loves to see.
"We talk about leadership leading here, and I think on defense for us, those guys like (senior linebacker Mohamed Toure), (junior linebacker Tyreem Powell), (senior linebacker Deion Jennings),(senior defensive lineman Mayan Ahanotu) … there's the coaches and then there's the second level coaches and that's kind of them," Harasymiak said.
The defense has a lot of familiar coaches staying put in their roles, including defensive line coach Marquise Watson and cornerbacks coach Mark Orphey. Harasymiak said he is pleased with the stability of his staff and their trust in the players.
"We have some, I believe, excellent coaches, top-notch. Everybody is after (the players) always," he said. "It's just so great walking in the room and not … going back and starting from step one."
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