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Flood adjusts to Schiano’s position

Coach of The Year

<p>Located on 18 Neilsen St. in downtown New Brunswick. The initiative, sponsored by Liquid Church, was organized by volunteers.</p>

Located on 18 Neilsen St. in downtown New Brunswick. The initiative, sponsored by Liquid Church, was organized by volunteers.

Rutgers head football coach Kyle Flood does not want to pretend to be somebody else.

He is not former head coach Greg Schiano. He also strays from the usual mold of a head football coach by rarely raising his voice and coming from an academic background — he taught math for four years at St. Francis (N.Y.) Prep, his former high school.

For at least his first year, The Daily Targum’s Coach of the Year only had to be himself to bring the Scarlet Knights their first share of the Big East title.

“I’ve heard people say that to me before,” Flood said of his mellowness. “I think myself and my coaching staff — we’re as competitive as anybody. But the most important thing when you lead any organization is to be yourself. If you’re forcing whatever it is, the players figure that out in a hurry.”

Rutgers ended last season on a sour note with a three-game losing streak to finish 9-4, the Knights’ record in Schiano’s final season before head coaching the Tampa Bay Buccaneers last year. But when Schiano left, consequences for Rutgers could have been much worse.

Flood was lucky to adopt so much returning talent, which included seven players drafted to the NFL and four who have signed as free agents.

But with high expectations comes more criticism.

“As a position coach or a head coach, there are always going to be criticisms,” Flood said. “If you have too acute an ear for those kinds of things, you probably won’t last too long in coaching.”

One of the most common criticisms toward the former Rutgers offensive line coach is his faith in junior quarterback Gary Nova.

Nova recorded six interceptions Oct. 27 against Kent State. He also threw 17-for-40 in the Russell Athletic Bowl.

Flood said postgame that he never considered bringing in then-junior quarterback Chas Dodd and maintained his confidence in Nova starting in the future.

Whether Nova is more successful after his 16-interception year, the quarterback said Flood’s confidence has helped him. Now 15-pounds lighter with improved accuracy and mobility in spring practice, Nova might be the answer for Rutgers.

“That’s the biggest thing. He called me after I was struggling and looked me in the eye and told me I was his guy,” Nova said. “And when your head coach tells you that, you feel great, but you also know you don’t want to let him down.”

Even though it took Rutgers barely any time to get used to Flood — he had already been an assistant coach on the Banks since 2006 — Flood said he still felt he had to engrain his new identity as head coach somehow.

That came from handling the greater responsibilities, which included overseeing recruiting and fundraising.

He chose his own coaching staff upon taking Schiano’s former position. But through the adjustment period, he wishes he did one thing differently, if he could go back.

Not spending enough time with his coaching staff had some negative effects as Flood adjusted to the position.

“I probably said yes to too many things early on,” Flood said. “I would say no a couple more times and spend more time with coaches earlier on.”

For Flood, assuming head coaching duties was a balance between staying himself and embracing the new duties.

Flood is still the same person to his offensive linemen, providing them similar coaching and advice. That made him senior offensive lineman Antwan Lowery’s ideal replacement for Schiano.

“It was all him,” Lowery said of last year’s success. “The [coaching staff] he put together, getting the players to believe in him, getting guys to buy into what he was talking about — it was him. It started with him, and he was able to get us our first share of the Big East title.”

Flood’s duty to start was carrying on what Schiano built in 2011. He did so through continuing the roster’s development and maintaining the 24th-best recruiting class nationally in 2012, according to Rivals.

Now much of the talent that led Rutgers to a successful 2012 in gone. Future seasons will be less about building off Schiano’s roster and more about being himself.

That means not getting fazed by the criticism that comes along the way, now that he is more recognizable in the public eye.

“I still live in the same house that I’ve lived in for the past seven years,” Flood said. “My son still plays in the same little league, my daughter still goes to the same dance studio. But now when I’m out in an area or maybe in a different part of the state, it’s a little bit more than it used to be for sure.”

For updates on the Rutgers football team, follow Josh Bakan on Twitter @JoshBakan. For general Rutgers sports updates, follow @TargumSports.

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