The hallmark of the Rutgers defense under Greg Schiano was its aggressive, attacking nature.
That will not change now that he is gone. Coach Kyle Flood reiterated those comments Tuesday when he introduced Robb Smith as his new defensive coordinator. Smith spent the last three seasons on the Rutgers defensive staff and earned the promotion, Flood said. Smith has a keen understanding of what it will take to continue the Rutgers tradition of staunch defense.
"It's critical to me to keep our defensive system in place," Flood said. "The way Rutgers has played defense the last seven years has been as good as anybody in the country and I believe we will keep that tradition alive."
Rutgers returns nearly all of its starters on defense, which should bode well for its Big East championship hopes. Last season, Schiano began tinkering with player positions during the spring, switching around many key players to emphasize team speed. This year, everything seems to be in place.
"We're going to look at the big picture and make sure we're sound in everything we do," Smith said. "We'll continue to evaluate through the winter program, but we're happy with the players we have. We have key players at every level and those things will shake themselves out before we come to camp in the fall."
What also helps is that there will not be a huge transition for the players with Schiano gone. He may have called the plays, but Smith doesn't plan wholesale scheme changes.
Flood also pointed to the hire of Dave Cohen as linebackers coach as a big help on the defense as well. Not only does Cohen have head coaching experience, he served as defensive coordinator the last two seasons at Western Michigan. Phil Galiano, also promoted to special teams coordinator, has experience as a coordinator as well.
Flood still has one defensive staff position open, one he hopes to have filled in the next few days.
A few other notes from the call:
Flood wasn't quite ready to give an injury report ahead of spring practice, which opens at the end of March. One player with a question mark around his status is linebacker Khaseem Greene, who broke his ankle in the bowl game. Flood said Greene continues in his rehab.
On new strength and conditioning coach Jeremy Cole: "I learned a long time ago enthusiasm is contagious and he brings it every day from the moment you're in the room with him until you're done with the workout."
The promotion of Galiano to special teams coordinator also is a nod to the way Rutgers has played in this area under Schiano, where blocked punts and field goals became the norm.