Continued from page 1

Tampa Bay went 17-31 under Morris, who served as his own defensive coordinator. The Bucs allowed a franchise-record 494 points in 2011, including 31 of more in seven of the last eight games.

In addition to fixing a defense that’s been rebuilt over the past two drafts, getting young quarterback Josh Freeman back on track will be a priority this offseason.

Freeman threw for 25 touchdowns and just six interceptions in 2010, his second year in the league and his first as a full-time starter. The 24-year-old passed for 16 TDs vs. 22 interceptions this season.

The timing of the move could put Rutgers in a bind with national signing day less than a week away. This is a pivotal time in the recruiting process, with coaches locking up commitments from high school prospects who make those agreements official by signing national letters of intent starting Wednesday.

Schiano’s contract with Rutgers runs through 2016 and pays him around $2.35 million per year.

He played linebacker at Bucknell, but never in the NFL. His first big break in coaching came at Penn State, where Joe Paterno hired him to coach defensive backs in 1991. He was at Penn State through 1995, before being hired by the Bears.

Because of his success at Rutgers, there had often been speculation for years about Schiano possibly replacing Paterno when the Hall of Famer was done coaching. But when Penn State was looking for a replacement after firing Paterno amid a child sex-abuse scandal involving one of his former longtime assistants, the school hired Patriots offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien.

Schiano has been courted by several other colleges during his time at Rutgers, most notably Miami in 2006 and Michigan in 2007.

“I’ve had several opportunities over the years and none of them felt right,” Schiano told The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J., as he left Rutgers‘ football facility Thursday night “This time, this one felt right.”

Schiano’s first four seasons at Rutgers produced losing seasons, but the program he took over was practically at rock bottom in major college football. Before he was hired, the Scarlet Knights played in only one bowl game in their history.

Schiano brought structure and discipline to a program that sorely lacked both on every level. Not only has Rutgers become a consistent winner in the Big East, but the Scarlet Knights have regularly been among the top teams in the country when it comes to graduating players. He also encouraged the school to secure funding for multimillion dollar upgrades to Rutgers‘ facilities, including a major stadium renovation.

In 2005, Rutgers went 7-5 and the next season the Scarlet Knights were 11-2. They played in six bowls under Schiano, winning five, including a victory over Iowa state in the Pinstripe Bowl to cap a 9-4 season in 2011.

___

AP College Football Writer Ralph Russo in New York contributed to this report.