I had a chance to catch up with Rutgers coach Kyle Flood at the end of his whirlwind week as new head coach and recruiting class savior. Here is a little of what he had to say:
You told athletic director Tim Pernetti you were the right man for the job, but did you have to prove it with the recruiting class you signed?
KF: It had to be both. The relationships we had with this recruiting class were critical. The reason for the long days was we wanted to stay in constant contact. From the very first moment we got on the phone my message was always the same. I'm the interim head coach, and I expect to be the head coach going forward, and I expect to be the head coach for a long time. For the recruits, what happened was unsettling. The only way to get them to understand that was to stay in constant contact. When you’re trying to do that with 18 signees not enrolled with us, that takes time because you’re not just talking to the recruits. You’re talking to parents, aunts and uncles, whoever the important people are in the recruits’ lives.
What did you say to Tim during your interview?
KF: I said to him at one point in the interview, we were into it for a little while, in our profession secrets are not very well kept. I know you’re going to talk to some coaches. On paper, they're good football coaches. But I can tell you this: there's nobody better for this job than me, and nobody who will care more for Rutgers football than me.
Now that you do have the job and recruiting is over, what is your first order of business?
KF: The first order of business for us is to organize our winter workouts. We have to hit the ground running, and then start working on spring practice, summer, preseason training camp. I can't wait to get going.
KF: We're very fortunate we have two guys in the program right now in Chas Dodd and Gary Nova. They’ve won very big football games for us at Rutgers. It’s a unique position to be in. I'd much rather be in that position than any other. We've got spring practice to figure out the rest.
Greg talked at length about getting the offensive line shored up, and you guys turned a corner this year under your leadership. What was the biggest change?
KF: Having just gone through the season, what really helped us was getting back to the basics of what we believe in. The style of offense, the pro-style system as an offensive line coach, that type of system is what an offensive lineman wants to play in and generally what an offensive lineman thrives in. What I've said to people is if you want to know what the Rutgers offensive line is going to look like moving forward, look at the Cincinnati game and the Iowa State game. … We have Kaleb Johnson coming back, Betim Bujari and got some great pieces to build around. You can see where we're going.
KF: Yes, Savon will be healthy for spring practice. Savon and Jawan are really talented running backs, and we've got others behind them who are excellent players as well. We have an opportunity this spring to get a good look at all of them.
What is your thought on hiring a defensive coordinator, particularly since Greg made the calls last season?
KF: The way we play defense here is not going to change. The system is going to stay intact. We are going to be a high pressure defense as long as I’m the head coach.
What will change?
KF: What I've said is the core values are going to be the same. My personality is different. I think as we go through this, I want to take the things that are really good and I want to make them great. It’s not a situation where the head coach was let go because they weren’t winning. This is a team that's won five straight bowl games in the last six years. This is a really good team and we want to advance it forward.
How do you do that?
KF: By taking the little things and making them better. It’s going to be the little things.