New coordinators maintain team’s philosophy
Although the Rutgers football team has new coordinators, there won’t be significant philosophical changes, said head coach Kyle Flood yesterday via the coordinators’ introductory teleconference.
Offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen, whose hiring the Scarlet Knights announced Friday, emphasized rushing and passing success. But he won’t pinpoint Rutgers’ primary offensive style that he’ll operate until he gets to know his players better.
Defensive coordinator Joe Rossi said he wants to figure out how to get a defense scattered with inexperience to succeed with the same methods as Rutgers’ past defenses.
Special teams coordinator and linebackers coach Bob Fraser returns after coaching with Rutgers from 2005 to 2011. He was defensive coordinator his final year on the Banks before a two-year stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers under former head coach Greg Schiano.
Rutgers is still looking for an offensive assistant to round out its staff, Flood said.
Perhaps the most obvious early change for Rutgers will be evident when the Knights announce the new coordinators’ salaries.
Higher salaries than previous Rutgers coordinators will reflect increased desire to prevent coordinators from finding other jobs. But the Knights will not announce the coordinators’ salaries until they hire their final coach.
Here’s more on Rutgers’ new coordinators.
Flood reached out to Friedgen, who signed a two-year deal, about becoming offensive coordinator last year.
But Friedgen’s daughter unintentionally prevented it.
“I originally told him I was interested in talking to him, but then I found out my daughter was getting married during football season, which I couldn’t believe that she would do,” Friedgen said. “I said I couldn’t coach unless he had an open date on Oct. 5.”
Rutgers actually faced Southern Methodist in Dallas that day. But nothing prevented Rutgers this year from hiring Friedgen, who coordinated offenses for a Super Bowl team and a collegiate national champion — the 1994 San Diego Chargers and Georgia Tech’s 1990 team.
Flood knew a lot about Friedgen, who head coached Maryland from 2001-2010. He examined Friedgen’s double screens as Delaware assistant head coach in 2002, Flood said.
Friedgen’s offense featured several looks in the past, and he’s open to different tactics for Rutgers.
“I’ve run a lot of different offenses from option to pro, one-back, two-back,” Friedgen said. “I don’t believe in trying to do something the kids can’t do. I try to find out what they can do well and build around that.”
Balancing run and pass also doesn’t necessarily mean equal play distribution.
“Relying on a lot of our assistant coaches in assessment of our talent, I do believe in having a balance between run and pass — not so much to be equally divided but to be able to throw the ball just as well as you run the ball,” Friedgen said. “Then you take what the defense gives you.”
Flood has no timetable for the hiring of an offensive assistant, which would complete the coaching staff under Friedgen.
“Sooner’s always better than later because you’d like to get moving with your staff in its entirety,” Flood said. “But I don’t think you ever want to do something in haste at the expense of picking the best person. We’re in the process of interviewing candidates right now.”
Rossi, who earned $200,000 last season as special teams coordinator, is likely due for a raise.
He was interim defensive coordinator for the New Era Pinstripe Bowl, which Rutgers lost, 29-16, to Notre Dame.
The Knights surrendered 494 offensive yards that game, but the defense was disciplined in keeping men in front of them and rarely allowed big plays.
That culminated a year of inexperienced defense, when Rutgers allowed 412.8 offensive yards and 29.8 points per game.
Rossi said he won’t change the scheme much, since inexperience was last year’s issue.
“We’re going to look to take the things that we’ve done that were successful in the past, look to make any tweaks that may be needed for this current schedule and execute the defense and execute the fundamentals that we teach,” Rossi said.
Fraser coached Rossi at Allegheny. Frazer was an assistant coach there from 1991-1997, mostly as a positional defensive coach. Rossi graduated from there in 2001.
Fraser built a bond with Rossi and former Rutgers defensive coordinator Robb Smith at Allegheny.
“When he went with Coach Smith to Maine, we always kept a close relationship, and I have a close relationship with Coach Smith,” Fraser said. “So we’ve always been in contact there about the defense and what we do. If you took a look at their time back in Maine, they were very similar to what Rutgers was.”
Fraser kept a close eye on Rutgers while with Tampa Bay.
“I lived and died on almost every play the last two years,” Fraser said. “My kids lived and died with every play the last two years. If I was on a bus going to a game or the airport, my kids would call me or text me everything that went on.”
Taking over Rossi’s position, he must continue the success of Rutgers’ most consistent phase of the game last year with success blocking kicks, returning and punting.
He can also potentially help junior kicker Kyle Federico to a breakout season. Federico kicked field goals 12-for-18 last year, but he made a 47-yarder in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Fraser knows what he has to work with from keeping track of Rutgers.
“In a lot of way, it felt like I haven’t left,” he said.
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