Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, April 30, 2015
By many measuring sticks, Rutgers? Big Ten debut was a success in 2014. Credit coach Kyle Flood.
The fourth-year boss of the Scarlet Knights guided the program to an 8-5 overall record and a 3-5 Big Ten mark that saw Rutgers beat Washington State, Navy, Michigan, Maryland and North Carolina, among others, en route to taking RU to a bowl for the third season in a row.
The 44-year-old Flood has a 23-16 mark as the coach of the Scarlet Knights as he looks to push the program up the pecking order in the rugged Big Ten East, where RU finished tied for fourth with Michigan and ahead of Penn State.
I caught up with Flood this week to get his views on how his program did in spring drills and what to expect moving forward. We also talked a little pro wrestling.
Q: What pleased you about spring ball?
A: I thought we moved the needle at quarterback even though we didn?t make a decision. I was pleased with how (Chris) Laviano and (Hayden) Rettig were operating toward the end of spring. I think that gives us a chance. We probably will make a decision (on who will start) around the 10th day of training camp.
Q: What young players caught your eye this spring?
A: Everyone knows about (DE Kemoko) Turay. He made enough plays last year. (DE) Julian Pinnix-Odrick is one to watch. Last year, he was coming off an ACL and played for us. He started to play on another level this spring. That was really good for us. We need that. He?s a bigger guy. The more depth we have on the defensive line the better. Corner Darian Dailey was a redshirt who had a good spring. He?s gonna play a lot of football for us next year. Receiver Carlton Agudosi, who is going into this third year, has played a lot for us in the past and he made some plays for us in the spring.
Q: Quarterback needs to develop, but are there any other areas on offense that need to improve?
A: Absolutely the offensive line, no doubt. We lost three starters who played a lot of football for us-Taj Alexander, Betim Bujari and Kaleb Johnson ? I think they started every game the previous two years. That?s a lot of starts we have to replace. We will replace them with guys like J.J. Denman, Marcus Applefield, Derrick Nelson, Dorian Miller and Tariq Cole. I thought they had a good spring. But when you are replacing that many starts, we know how much work we have to do to get ready.
Q: On defense, what area needs development?
A: Linebacker. We just don?t have enough depth. And we lost TJ Taylor to an ACL. He was coming on and started spring well. We lost him in a non-contact situation. We will get him back a year from now. We took a junior college guy in Isaiah Johnson and have a one-year guy in Kaiwan Lewis from South Carolina. They will help.
Q: Do you think Rutgers? Big Ten debut was a success?
A: What I said from the beginning was I felt it was important for us to make a good first impression. I think first impressions in life matter. I thought we did make a good first impression. I thought we represented the conference extremely well in our out-of-conference games and our bowl game. We beat teams like Washington State, Navy and North Carolina. Those were quality wins as viewed nationally. And I thought our first year in the conference was a success. I was pleased we were able to win our first Big Ten game at home vs. Michigan and our first Big Ten road game at Maryland. We are looking forward to Year Two for sure.
Q: What is your view on the hot-button issues of satellite camps?
A: We do them. We have done them in Florida and Texas, Pennsylvania. As long as it is allowed, we will continue to do it. I am curious how much longer they will be allowed. If you are allowed to do it and your competitors are doing it, you better be doing it or you are at a competitive disadvantage.
Q: How long have done these camps?
A: We started years ago when Greg (Schiano) was here. We were the first to do it down in Florida. Back then, we ran the Rutgers Football Camp in Florida at a couple of different high schools. And then they made the rule you couldn?t do that. We have done (satellite) camps the last two years.
Q: What will be Ralph Friedgen?s role?
A: Ralph has been a tremendous asset. It was great to have him here for a year. To keep him as a special consultant has been very valuable this spring. He was here for one of the four weeks of spring practice and will be back for a good portion of the time in training camp. With technology, he sees every practice, every day. We get his comments, his thoughts, his ideas, not just on schemes, but on personnel and things he would consider doing. Ralph has an iPad like the players. We can upload anything we want to him. He can email or call us with any comments he has. I think (new offensive coordinator) Ben (McDaniels) has done a good job having an open dialogue with Ralph and at the same time making sure the offense on the field is his because he is the one coaching it on a daily basis.
Q: What will Friedgen do on game days?
A: He won?t be with us on game days. Ralph?s role will be with preparation, not on game days.
Q: I saw your photo on Twitter and Facebook earlier this year with ex-WWF star Sgt. Slaughter, so you must be a wrestling fan. Who is your favorite grappler from back in the day?
A: Dusty Rhodes, the American Dream. Jimmy Snuka. Those are probably my two childhood favorites back when I was watching in the late 1970s and early 1980s. I had a bunch of old wrestling magazines as a kid and at some point boxed them up. Now I have a 12-year-old son who gets a kick out of it and has been watching wresting the last couple years. I sit and watch with him, and you see some of the guys wrestling today who are the sons of the guys who wrestled when we were kids. My son is always curious to hear about that. I didn?t anticipate sharing my wrestling experience with my son when I had a son. We went to Wrestlemania when it was at Giants Stadium two years ago. They put on a great show.
And what is personally satisfying for me is they have taken a major role in Special Olympics. I have as big a role as I can with Special Olympics in New Jersey. I am the honorary head coach and have a sister with special needs who grew up going to Special Olympics events. We had the World Games in New Jersey last year and Big Show was there at opening ceremonies with me.
|About Tom Dienhart
|BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.
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