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Flood’s subtle hints point to tweak in ‘O’ formula

Knight notebook

From Head Coach Kyle Flood’s public engagements since the end of the 2012 season, few details have emerged about the look of the Rutgers football team’s offense under new offensive coordinator Ron Prince.

But Flood has made one thing clear: it will revolve around game-changing plays.

“The guys that start to emerge as the better playmakers, you’re going to start to see the offense move in their direction,” Flood said yesterday during his pre-spring practice press conference. “All the really good offenses do that.”

Any of Flood’s revelations about the Scarlet Knights’ offense have been cryptic.

The second-year head coach said he will play to the unit’s strengths, and that could involve using less traditional two-back sets. With a staple of proven receivers returning and only junior Savon Huggins at running back, it could prompt Flood and Prince to be more creative.

Flood’s word choice is likely calculated.

He probably wants to distance himself from gimmicks that plagued the 2010 season — one in which he served as co-offensive coordinator — namely the Wildcat package. But given a largely untested backfield, the Knights will likely turn to more high-percentage passes and finding ways to get their playmakers in space.

The responsibility again returns to junior quarterback Gary Nova, who started all 13 games last season. It was the first time a Rutgers quarterback accomplished the feat since 2008.

Prince serves as Nova’s third play-caller in as many seasons and Rutgers’ fifth in five years. Flood admitted it is less than ideal, but he said the same system and terminology will serve the team’s five scholarship-quarterbacks well. Flood plans to have the entire offense installed by the end of spring practice.

Flood said Nova must learn how to minimize underperforming games in Year 2 as a full-time starter.

“The biggest jump I’d like to see Gary make would be to still have the highs and the great moments, but maybe some of the other games, if we could move them up, then you have a higher level of play,” Flood said. “If we can avoid the lows and keep the highs, we have a chance to be better.”

Fifteen spring practices will likely outline how Prince manages to do so.

Of Flood’s offseason assistant hirings, none has a bigger undertaking than Darrell Wilson, who will oversee a new-look secondary.

Hired after 11 seasons at Iowa, Wilson will work with three new starters, including senior Jeremy Deering, penciled in at free safety after spending the last three seasons on offense.

“[Wilson] has adapted in a short period of time to our system,” Flood said. “They will all benefit from his experience of coaching on the backend of the defense.”

Junior Gareef Glashen and sophomore Tejay Johnson, tops on the depth chart at cornerback, appeared in a combined 26 games last season — but with few reps on defense. Johnson subbed in sparingly during the team’s season finale because of injury.

Rutgers dealt with a similar turnover in 2011, when three new starters emerged and the lone returner moved to a new position.

Flood unveiled the team’s “R” Strong helmets for its April 27 Scarlet-White Game at High Point Solutions Stadium. The helmet features the phrase “R” Strong, which emerged in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, along with the state of New Jersey in front of a red background.

Names of affected towns from Hurricane Sandy will replace players’ last names on the back of the Knights’ jerseys, which will temporarily return to their traditional look.

Rutgers Athletics, which raised $150,000 toward relief efforts according to a press release, will offer venues for donations to New Jersey’s Hurricane Sandy Relief Fund at the Scarlet-White Game.

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Tyler Barto on Twitter @Tyler_Barto.

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