Coaching staff shuffles across board for Rutgers
When head coach Kyle Flood announced the hire of Ralph Friedgen for the offensive coordinator position roughly one year ago on Jan. 31, things finally seemed to have been settled.
After a three-year hiatus from college football, the offensive guru was convinced out of retirement and agreed to man a shaky Scarlet Knights’ offense plagued by inconsistency.
The results merited a successful makeover.
With an 8-5 overall record highlighted by the reconstruction of an oft-embattled pupil in former senior quarterback Gary Nova, Friedgen worked wonders in his first season as the mastermind behind the Knights’ offense.
But that term ended as fast as it began — to a degree.
After social media whispers of Friedgen’s resignation began to swirl on Monday, Flood clarified the matter in a teleconference with reporters on Tuesday, eventually revealing a series of shuffles across the board.
It began with the anticipated announcement of Friedgen stepping down to special assistant to the head coach, followed by the promotion of Ben McDaniels sliding into the role of offensive coordinator.
“I’m not leaving for health reasons,” Friedgen said on the teleconference after reports from Monday assumed the 67-year-old’s well being was declining. “… But what got hard for me was getting up at 4:30 every morning and working 18 hours a day for 15 weeks of the year and saying, while I do have my health, can I go on and enjoy two homes I never get to visit.”
Lured out of retirement by Flood after a month-long search for the next offensive coordinator, speculations began after Rutgers’ season-changing 41-38 triumph at Maryland in the regular season finale on whether or not Friedgen would be returning for his second year.
Capturing the largest comeback in program history — and a win over the school that employed him for 10 years before an abrupt firing in 2010 — no one can blame Friedgen if the end to the season satisfied his desire to redeem himself with one year back in the coaching booth.
But with Friedgen’s decision, the revolving door at the offensive coordinator position reaches its sixth spin. Since John McNulty fled for the NFL at the end of the 2008 season, after three years behind the offensive schemes, Rutgers has not had a coach to man the position for more than one year.
When it came to filling the void for the sixth consecutive year, Flood had no doubts over who to turn to after discussing the opening with Friedgen.
“As we had that conversation, my thoughts turned to … who I thought would be the best person to lead our offense in the future,” Flood said, “and it did not take me long to decide that it would be Ben.”
For the former wide receivers coach, the year spent under the guidance of a man as savvy on offense as Friedgen can only help.
After bouncing around at coaching stops beginning with high school to the NFL with his brother, Josh — now offensive coordinator of the Super Bowl 49 Champion New England Patriots — he reaches his first gig handling the duties of quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator since he held the two positions at Columbia University in 2012.
“Being around Coach Friedgen, it’s overly impressive to see his vast knowledge of really every position on the field,” McDaniels said. “He can coach every spot with technique, with understanding of how everyone is impacted in a game plan. It was an awesome part of the week every week to be kind of a go-between with Coach Friedgen and the quarterbacks on the field.”
As Friedgen likes to put it, McDaniels essentially was an extension of him on the sidelines. While Friedgen held the title and handled the bulk of the work, he said McDaniels handled some offensive personnel from time to time, including play calls on third downs.
“You know, one thing that has impressed me about Ben and really what I look for in a coordinator is how in tune is that guy to every aspect of the offense. Does he know the running game? Does he know the passing game? Does he know protections?” Friedgen said. “… When we’re in staff meetings, I look for guys who are invested in the whole game plan, not just their individual position, and Ben was a tremendous contributor in all phases of the game plan.”
Friedgen wasn’t the only one whose role was altered after one year.
Just one week after addressing the media on National Signing Day as the program’s Director of Recruiting Operations, Phil Galiano swapped to coach special teams and tight ends.
He returns to the field overseeing the same position he held for two years under Greg Schiano as special teams coach of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers.
“I’m very excited about it,” Galiano said. “I think as a football coach, one of the things you get to enjoy is actually being on the field and coaching and teaching and the interaction with the players and the interaction during game day.”
In terms of recruitment moving forward, the Knights have no timeline on naming Galiano’s successor.
But based on the progress made to this point, he expects to continue to have an impact.
“As an assistant, you’re always going to have a recruiting area,” Galiano said. “… I think one of the huge advantages of being in the role I was in last year was just being able to build a relationship with the 2016s [recruits], so I think that’s going to be a huge help.”
With Galiano’s move to coach the tight ends, Anthony Campanile transitioned to wide receivers coach. Campanile’s slide rounds out the movement regarding internal changes for the Knights.
But on the defensive side of the ball, an opening created when former defensive end and two-year graduate assistant Charlie Noonan left on Feb. 4 to take the next step in his coaching career as the defensive line coach at Holy Cross.
As soon as he stepped out, another former Rutgers trench man stepped right back in.
Presented with the question speculating the possible move in Tuesday’s teleconference, Flood confirmed the hiring of former defensive tackle Scott Vallone.
“You are correct,” Flood said to the reporter. “Scott Vallone will be with us in the spring as our defensive graduate assistant. He’ll fill Charlie’s role.”
During his time at Rutgers from 2008-12, Vallone was a co-captain. Known for his gritty play and use at nose tackle late in his career, he set a program record with 53 starts.
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