Rutgers Interim HC Nunzio Campanile Press Conference vs. Michigan State 11/18/19
COURTESY OF RUTGERS ATHLETIC MEDIA RELATIONS DEPARTMENT
Interim Head Coach/Offensive Coordinator Nunzio Campanile
NUNZIO CAMPANILE: How you doing, everybody?
Obviously had an opportunity to review Saturday's game. Obviously some goods and bad. As I said on Saturday, I was really proud of the effort of our guys. I thought they played really hard, competed for one another. Now we have an opportunity to move on.
Got a lot going on this week. Obviously last home game of the year, Senior Day. A great opportunity to honor our seniors. On top of it honoring Eric LeGrand. A lot of good things going on. Should be a great opportunity for our guys. Hopefully have a great week of practice. We're relatively healthy right now. Get an opportunity to go out there and play a great game.
Q. I don't know if you coached many of the seniors in your position room before you took over. What has your relationship been with those guys? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: I think it's been pretty good. Obviously moving into this role has definitely expanded it because you obviously get to know everybody a little bit more. You spend time every week with the leadership council. The guys on the offensive side, been with them for two years. Those guys I've gotten to know pretty well.
It's a big day for those guys. I'm sure it's emotional for them. They put a lot of work and effort into this program, into their football careers. You really want to see them finish off these last two games on a high note. It's one of those days that hopefully we can give them some lasting memories.
Q. With the way the Michigan State has struggled here over the last five or six weeks, when you look at them now, does this task seem any less daunting than maybe five or six weeks ago? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: I still think they're a really talented team. They have some injuries on the offensive side, losing the middle linebacker who is a really talented player. I think they're really good on the defensive line. Their linebackers really play hard and fast. They're a really physical team. I think the quarterback is a talented player, make plays. They have some gifted receivers.
I would say if there's anything, it's more on we've made some growth that I feel like we're ready to be more competitive than we were. We're a much better team, say, than we were when we played Indiana. So hopefully more on our end.
I think they're a talented, physical team. They obviously played a really tough schedule. It's hard to win games in this league. They beat Indiana, who is a really good team. They went right down to the wire there with Illinois. I think they're a pretty talented football team. Really hopefully we've made enough growth to be competitive and play hard and well on Saturday.
Q. Since Johnny Langan took over, in what areas have you really seen him improve upon the most? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: I think he's starting to just be a lot more comfortable in the decision making. If you watched the first couple weeks, there were times where just to get lined up, get everything organized in the huddle, there were certain mistakes, maybe wasting timeouts and things like that, where you really want to eliminate that. We have over the last few weeks.
I think he has a much better command where everybody needs to be, how it's supposed to unfold, the decision-making process. Once you understand everything, understand the big picture, then it's easier to start focusing back on fundamentals and things like that.
I think we're starting to see better fundamental football, so some better decision making because he's not swimming so much mentally. I think he has a better grasp of what's happening, where everyone is supposed to be, understanding how the protections, progressions, reads, all those things come together.
We're asking him to make decisions in everything. In the run game you have to be locked in for three and a half hours. He's done a really good job of that. I think there's definitely growth. Hopefully we see that continue not through this year only but throughout his career.
Q. I think you finally had the direct snap to Isaih for one play. Why at that moment? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: Just some things we thought we could get, kind of matchup-wise, maybe take some of the hits off of Johnny. The other thing is I guess you always want to be able to have some ways to make people think about -- the defense doesn't always get to dictate who has the ball by how they play it. Obviously we have a lot of direct runs to Isaih. In the read game, you don't want to allow them to always be able to take things away. Hopefully that creates food for thought for the defense and gives them something to prepare for. Who knows what's coming out of it.
Q. Isaih, having coached him last year, how much of a different runner is he this year from last year? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: I think he has a much better understanding of the schemes, how it should go, how it should play out. It's slowed down for him a little bit. When he runs, he's frantic. He pounds his feet into the ground, he's very physical. But I think the decision making has slowed down for him a little bit. I think Kolby (Smith) has done a great job with him. They have a great relationship. He really seems to understand where everything is supposed to go. He's done a great job in pass protection. Obviously it's a big issue for almost any freshman running back. I think he's done a great job progressing there. He's made great growth. I think it's only going to continue.
Q. Do you find this week might be a little different preparing the guys differently, guys playing with little more confidence? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: I hope so. We really haven't gotten into the week yet. We had a great day yesterday. Most importantly, they feel pretty good. Bye week came at the right time. I think they feel good about where they are as a team playing together. They're excited about the opportunity to finish the season strong.
As I mentioned, there's a lot of things going on here that are all positives for them. Senior Day, I think guys want to play hard for those guys. Eric LeGrand is obviously a big part of this program, so that whole theme should be a great deal for them, too. Last home game, last Big Ten home game. It's good.
Q. What is your relationship with Eric like? Did you talk to him more in-depth when you took over? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: Once I started doing the radio show is really -- I met him a bunch of times. Obviously he's been here to speak to the team just over the years of being around here. This year getting to do the radio show with him, got to know him a little bit.
Really a great guy. Incredibly positive person, somebody that has that type of outlook on life, is the type of person you want to be around. I think he's an extremely impressive guy.
Q. You guys haven't thrown the ball as much, Matt Alaimo, what have you seen from him beyond the stats? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: He does anything and everything he can to help the team. He's really smart. He's really prepared. He fights really hard. I think he's getting better every week. He might have the best hands on the team. Obviously we need to get him the ball more.
The one thing I tell the players, the offensive guys, every Friday night, Be unselfish; your turn is coming. He's one of those guys that does his job all the time. He'll be ready when the opportunities come. He'll make plays. Some of it is just the defense dictates it. Some of it is at times we're struggling in pass protection, the quarterback is getting out of the pocket. I guess it takes a lot. We have obviously had some games where we really struggled to throw the ball.
Hopefully these next couple weeks we can do some things and keep him involved.
Q. With two games left, what has been the biggest challenge of taking over this position, being in this role? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: I think probably, I don't know, maybe earning the trust of the players that don't really know you. It was a really tough situation that they were put in. I'm sure there's a lot of uncertainty, who is this guy, what is he going to do, how is he going to run the team.
I think that's also probably been one of the most fun parts about it, is that you get a know a lot of kids, get to have maybe an impact on their career, their life. The biggest thing we've talked about the whole time is just getting better. When December comes around, we're a better football team than we were when I was put in this role. I feel good about these guys, at least buying into each other, playing hard for each other. I think if they continue to do that throughout their careers, a lot of good things will happen for them.
Q. A personnel question. Tre Avery playing a little more with Young, is that going to continue? NUNZIO CAMPANILE: I mean, Tre has pretty much played throughout the year. They will both play a lot. Avery was a little banged up last week. We tried to save him a little bit to make sure he's healthy down the road. They'll both be out there. I think they're both really talented players, smart players. They're really valuable guys. They hopefully bring a lot to the table. At times getting three corners on the field is probably helpful for us, too.