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Friedgen tries to ready Rutgers for Big 10

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) - Ralph Friedgen can tell just by the look on Kyle Flood's face when his new boss at Rutgers is having a bad day.

Friedgen spent 10 years as head coach at Maryland before he was fired coming off a 9-4 season in 2010.

In a career that spans 42 years and took him from a national championship team (Georgia Tech, 1990) to a Super Bowl team (San Diego Chargers, 1994), the 67-year-old Friedgen has pretty much seen it all.

Flood, the 43-year-old first-time head coach heading into a pivotal third season at Rutgers, hired Friedgen as offensive coordinator to fix a quarterback, make the offense more creative and give the Scarlet Knights a chance to compete in their Big Ten debut.

As a bonus, Friedgen has also been a sounding board and sage for Flood.

''He asks me a lot of questions,'' Friedgen said recently. ''He wanted that to be part of my role.''

Flood said he wasn't looking for a mentor when he was trying to hire an offensive coordinator, but he acknowledges it's nice to tap into Friedgen's wealth of knowledge, whether it's on player issues, end of game strategy or practice schedules.

''I think it's a tremendous bonus,'' Flood said. ''Those conversations to me are invaluable.''

Friedgen had been out of the business since Maryland fired him with a 75-50 record and seven bowl appearances.

Flood first attempted to hire him after the 2012 season, one in which the Scarlet Knights were a victory away from their first conference title and BCS bid.

Friedgen wasn't up for it then. His wife was having health problems and his daughter had already set an October date for her wedding.

After going 6-7 last season and dealing with speculation he was already on the hot seat, Flood shook up his coaching staff.

On the defensive side, Joe Rossi was shifted from special teams coordinator to defensive coordinator and Bob Fraser, who worked at Rutgers with Flood under Greg Schiano, was brought back to be special teams coordinator and linebackers coach.

Rossi and Fraser have the job of rebuilding a defense that was all but helpless against the pass last season as Rutgers broke in a batch of new defensive backs.

Flood also made another run at Friedgen. This time, he got his man.

''I was probably going to turn the job down, then he kind of sweetened things up a bit,'' Friedgen said ''And my wife was on the other phone and she said you need to do this.''

Friedgen, Rutgers' fifth offensive coordinator in the past five years, brings with him a pro-style offense but that's an oversimplification.

''The thing that's most exciting to me about watching him offensively is to see the multiplicity of where he puts the pieces,'' Flood said.

''To be a really high quality pro-style offense it doesn't mean you line up with two backs in the backfield in the I the whole game. It should be a multiplicity of personnel groups. It should be a multiplicity of formations, shifts, motions.

''By the end of spring I began to see pieces of all those things.''

Friedgen's job isn't necessarily to open up the offense, it's to make it more dynamic.

''I know the answers, the question is can we implement them?'' Friedgen said.

He'll have some talent to work with at the skill positions.

Tailback Paul James, receiver Leonte Carroo and tight end Tyler Kroft have NFL potential. An experienced offensive line lacks depth, but the hope is new line coach Mitch Browning can make it Big Ten ready.

Then there is quarterback Gary Nova. Developing the mistake-prone senior is Friedgen's top priority. Rutgers has no experience behind Nova.

Facing a brutal schedule that features all the Big Ten's heavyweights, Nova (39 career interceptions) simply must be better if the Scarlet Knights have any chance to reach a bowl game and ensure a fourth season for Flood.

''Gary's decisions sometimes are too aggressive,'' Friedgen said. ''But he makes some plays because he's too aggressive, too. What you try to teach him is when to be aggressive and when not.''

Friedgen said he was reluctant to return to coaching as an assistant. Not anymore.

''I see the stuff that Kyle's got to do,'' Friedgen said. ''I walked in there one day and I saw that look on his face and I said, `Another good day, huh?' I don't miss those days.''

As Flood put it: ''He is absolutely living and coaching in the moment.''


Follow Ralph D. Russo at

The Associated Press News Service

Copyright 2016
The Associated Press
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