Greg Schiano: 'Rapid antigen testing is a game changer'
Early Wednesday, the Big Ten announced its return of college football starting on Oct. 24.
In order to keep that on track and for games and practices to go on, testing for COVID-19 will be daily to make sure everyone involved can stay as safe as possible.
“I think the rapid antigen testing is a game changer. I really do,” Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano said. “And when it came out, it became a real point of topic of discussion for everyone in our league.”
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Schiano, who last revealed last month that the team was hit by a 2-by-4 regarding 30 positive cases, mentioned the team has had more cases since then, but nothing as big and of concern.
“We have had a few more positives since we last spoke, but not a runaway issue or anything like that,” Schiano said. “Going forward I'm going to hesitate to really make too many comments on it as we get into the competitive season.”
A new schedule will be put together and released in the coming days, but it is known a team will have eight games during the regular season and one more coinciding with the Big Ten Championship game. The ninth game will feature a crossover based on standings in the two divisions.
Until the first game, the Scarlet Knights will practice and prepare.
“We're gonna have to take the different contingency plans that we have and mesh them together,” Schiano said. “And some of that has not yet trickled down to us like what is going to be legal, how much time and how many hours a week do we get to prepare football teams. So there's a lot of unique challenges that are going to come about as a result of when the season is. One of the things that I truly have learned over 32 years of coaching, training camp is the only time - especially in college football -- it's the only time where your team is solely dedicated to football. There's nothing else, we're all together, we sleep, everything is together, and you make your largest advancements in that period of about a month's time. With the absence of training camp, it's going to be a unique challenge. I think every bit of experience that this staff has is going to be called upon to be able to prepare our football team for a game which essentially is in five weeks.”
Rutgers went without spring practice due to the coronavirus and held only workouts during the summer and did some on-field work the last couple of weeks. But now, it will be able to put the pads on and tackle, something Schiano has yet to see his team do since being re-hired in December.
“It's a challenge. We're going to get ready to play a game here. They're in school, they have tutors, they have everything that college athletes go through, and we didn't have training camp, but that's the way it is, Schiano said. “So figure out a plan to get your team most ready that you can. And that's what we're going to do. We're gonna try to have him as ready as we can for that first game.”
As mentioned by Schiano and his assistants the last six months, the players all got clean slates and a fresh start. That means there’s not really a depth chart, but that should shape up within the next five weeks.
“I think in some ways we do and in a lot of ways we don't,” Schiano said on knowing exactly what he has to work with. “I think there's some players that you look at whether it was in winter conditioning, or whether it was when we came back at different points during the summer, or even now since we've been working out and doing some work together as a team, with certain guys, you can just tell like they got it and we're gonna count on them. But there's a lot more where I don't know. And the thing is we have not tackled or blocked, which is a big part of our game, that's what kind of makes football different - the contact element of it. We haven't done that here at Rutgers since November 26, 2019. I wasn't here November 26, 2019. So I have never seen these guys block or tackle live. So I can't wait to see that. And then I can start to draw some conclusion or start to move towards some decisions.”
After a rollercoaster of the last few months, football is indeed back for the Scarlet Knights, and Schiano, the players, and the staff are pumped.
“Overall, guys, I'm excited,” Schiano said. “I know our program, our players, our coaches, everybody has a renewed energy and we're gonna go to work.”
Follow Chris Nalwasky on Twitter @ChrisWasky.