Kyle Flood says Rutgers a perfect fit in Big Ten
Detroit — It's rare that an assistant coach gets promoted as head coach of a football program at a major conference.
But, that's exactly what happened with Kyle Flood at Rutgers. He took over the head job after Greg Schiano bolted to become head coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers following the 2011 season.
Flood, 43, has made the most of his opportunity, guiding the Scarlet Knights into the transition of joining the Big Ten Conference and earning a bowl bid during that first season.
Flood took over a 9-4 Pinstripe Bowl champion team and guided the Scarlet Knights to their first Big East championship in school history in 2012, earning Big East coach of the year honors. They had a 9-1 start before three consecutive losses to end the season, including a 13-10 double-overtime loss to Virginia Tech in the Citrus Bowl.
Rutgers was 6-6 last season before a Pinstripe Bowl loss to Notre Dame and has assured itself of a winning season this year, going 7-5, including 3-5 in the Big Ten. Flood is the first coach in school history to lead the Scarlet Knights to bowl appearances in his first two years, let alone three.
"I think it confirmed a lot of things I said before the season," he said of competing in the Big Ten. "I felt all along, from the moment we entered the Big Ten, that it really was a perfect fit. We expected to be playing in the postseason, and we are at a great location, in a bowl game that's partnered with one of the really premier NFL franchises, so we're really excited about it."
Flood, Rutgers' offensive line coach under Schiano in 2005, is thrilled to have the extra practices a bowl presents, especially since three starters on the offensive line are seniors, as is starting quarterback Gary Nova.
"We try to steal another spring out of the bowl prep and for the younger players in your program," Flood said. "There's no doubt it's invaluable."
And, it will certainly help former Warren De La Salle quarterback Giovanni Rescigno, Rutgers' 6-foot-3, 240-pound freshman scout team quarterback, who will battle for the starting spot next year.
"For a young quarterback, there's no doubt it makes a big difference," said Flood of Rescigno getting snaps in bowl preparation.
"The opportunity to work with Ralph Friedgen, our offensive coordinator, every time he gets a chance to go out there, I think it's a chance to be a better football player.
"It's the time of year where those guys will get reps. There's that time of the year where they're just working on the scout team. There's some value to that, but not nearly as much as running our offense.
"There's no doubt Giovanni will really benefit from this bowl prep and his opportunity to compete going forward. He has a good arm, but he's really athletic and really moves around a lot. He was a guy that ran around a lot more than we do in high school so he has some experience in that style of system, and I think someday it will open up some of those things to us on offense."
Flood knows a little about the importance of a strong offensive line; his '07 players up front ranked second nationally with just 10 sacks allowed, helping Rutgers become the first team in NCAA history to have a 3,000-yard passer, a 2,000-yard rusher (Ray Rice, then-Big East record 2,012 yards) and two 1,000-yard receivers in the same season.
Flood enjoys running the pro-style offense and has brought in Friedgen, the former Maryland head coach, as offensive coordinator this year.
"We're a pro-style offense and we play a lot of multiple personnel groups, so we'll do some shifts and motions and those types of things," Flood said.
Flood is happy with the opportunity to play in the Quick Lane Bowl. He feels playing in the Midwest could open up a recruiting base for Rutgers.
"Any time you play a game outside your traditional areas, I think there's an opportunity," Flood said, pointing out Rescigno and sophomore linebacker L.J. Liston (Grand Blanc) are from Michigan.
"Recruiting always begins at home for sure, and for us in New Jersey. In the New York Metropolitan area, we have a lot of really talented football players.
"But I think every year there's going to be a position where there is a little bit of a need to build your pool of candidates."