Rutgers gets down to business

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- The speakers strategically placed around the Rutgers practice field usually pump in crowd noise during simulated 2-minute drills, to help players prepare for game situations.

Not Tuesday morning.

Hip-hop music blared as players began their pre-practice warm-ups, one of the subtle changes new coach Kyle Flood has made to the practice routine. The music only plays Tuesdays, but so far it has been a bit hit.

"I just think it's a good way to start the week," Flood said. "We had a little music in the meeting room as the players were coming in. I think they enjoy it. I told them everything we play comes off my personal iPod. ... I think they were a little surprised when they came out for the first time, but it's been good."

Just ask running back Savon Huggins.

"He wants us to be alive before practice," Huggins said. "It definitely boosts the offense and defense up. We go out there to have fun. We walk into the team meeting room and he plays music. It's 7 in the morning, and you're getting pumped up for practice."

Another change has been the way black jerseys are used. Under former coach Greg Schiano, injured players wore black. But Flood has now designated one period in practice where the black jersey is up for grabs. The unit that wins the competition gets to wear the black jerseys for the next practice. So far, the defense has won the black jersey three of four times.

"I know they like the black jerseys, but I also thought it creates a little friendly competition during practice as well, " Flood said.

There is a definite difference in coaching style. When most players are asked to pick one change between Flood and Schiano, they respond that Flood is "not a screamer." But that does not make him more laid back. Neither does the music blaring from the loudspeakers.

It is simply a different approach to the job, with a new leader in charge for the first time in 12 seasons.

"I wouldn't use the word laid-back because I think our players are very intense and practice very hard," Flood said. "I think the program now is at a different stage than it was before. We've proven we can win games, we've proven we can win bowl games, so I think everybody understands the expectation level is a little higher for us now. And I also think the confidence level has risen. They think we have a good football team. I think we have a good football team."

There are still some questions that must be sorted out. Flood says the defense is a ahead of the offense, and there is good reason for that. Though several key players are sitting out this spring with injuries, the defense was the strongest part of the team last season. Plus, there are more positions up for grabs on offense, including quarterback and running back.

Flood has no timetable for making a decision at either spot. He expects either Chas Dodd or Gary Nova to separate himself at quarterback, whether it is between now and the end of spring, or during fall practice. At running back, he expects to rely on Jawan Jamison and Savon Huggins, regardless of who is designated the starter.

Answering those questions are the first challenges Flood must face.