Assistants adopt familiar philosophy
As Kyle Flood looks around the table at his assistants with the Rutgers football team, he does not want to see nine similar opinions. The first-year head coach will at least recognize a few of them.
Flood announced Tuesday his defensive staff, which includes two holdovers and a former colleague. None of them have more responsibility now than Robb Smith, the Scarlet Knights’ new defensive coordinator.
“I couldn’t be happier he stayed on staff with us despite some pulling and tugging from some other places around the country,” Flood said. “It was critical to me that we were able to keep our defensive system in place. The way Rutgers played defense over the last seven years is as good as anybody in the country.”
Smith served as special teams coordinator last year under former head coach Greg Schiano. He spent seven seasons at Maine, where he controlled its defense.
Flood’s other hires, special teams coordinator Phil Galiano and linebackers coach Dave Cohen, also have defensive coordinator experience.
Galiano coached the defensive line a year ago and tight ends in 2010, when he arrived from Florida International. His predecessor, Smith, remains close by.
“Having Robb here to be able to lean on, we’re going to continue the tradition,” Galiano said. “Robb’s going to be a great asset to me.”
As Flood earlier promised, Galiano expects the unit’s philosophy to remain largely unchanged. He pointed to its success as a punt-block and field goal-block group and vowed to maintain the Knights’ reputation for it.
Galiano inherits a corps that blocked nine kicks last season. He also has junior Jeremy Deering, who averaged 31.2 yards per kick return a year ago and scored a touchdown.
Cohen falls into a desirable opening, as well.
The Knights return four linebackers with considerable playing experience, including the Big East Co-Defensive MVP, senior Khaseem Greene.
“I’m just trying,” Cohen said, “not to screw this thing up.”
Cohen and Flood spent three seasons together at Delaware, where Cohen served as defensive coordinator during the Blue Hens’ 2003 national championship run.
He most recently coached at Western Michigan, where he called the defensive and coached linebackers.
Flood welcomed the opportunity to reunite with Cohen, a former head coach at Hofstra.
“I always hoped at some point if I became a head coach,” Flood said, “that I’d be able to have him on staff to work with.”
Flood plans to hold a more “big picture” role with the Rutgers defense than interfering with the defensive gameplan, he said. He last coached defense in 1993-94, when he mentored the offensive and defensive lines at St. Francis Prep (N.Y.).
It is likely why he hired three former coordinators on his first staff.
“You don’t have to look at my résumé very long,” Flood said, “to know that I’ve coached on offense for 19 years.”
Flood’s focus remains on the short term. Spring practice begins in March. In between, he will spend time with Jeremy Cole, recently appointed head strength and conditioning coach.
Flood still monitors the search for a final defensive assistant. He is unwilling to narrow its scope to satisfy a position need, he said.
“I want to bring the best person here,” Flood said. “We’re going to pick the best fit for us. We have enough talent around the table that we’ll make the pieces fit wherever we need to.”
Wherever Flood pegs the hire, his last piece will have to recruit. Cohen, a Long Island native, will likely remain entrenched in North Jersey and New York, where he developed relationships at Hofstra.
“It certainly would make sense,” Flood said, “to keep him in those spots.”
Galiano and Smith, Flood’s lone returners, already have roles as recruiters.
“I don’t think in college football you can hire guys that are great football coaches that struggle in recruiting,” Flood said. “What you’ll find going forward is we have some really strong recruiters.”
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