PISCATAWAY – He wasn’t the first choice and he has no head coaching experience.
But Kyle Flood doesn’t need either for the first test, which comes tomorrow on national signing day.
And really, there was no more idoneous head coaching candidate to hold onto what’s projected to be the best class in school history than Flood. As the offensive line coach, he’d already forged a strong bond with all the recruits. And anyone new wouldn’t have any connection to the 17 and 18-year-olds that sign their national letters of intent tomorrow.
“Continuity was a big piece of the criteria. Somebody who believed in the core values of this program was a big piece of the criteria. Relationships in the state of Rutgers — the tristate area — in recruiting was a critical part of the criteria,” Athletic Director Tim Pernetti said. “We found all those things in Kyle Flood. The most important thing we found in Kyle Flood was probably the most important part of this search which is character.”
With the unsuspected and sudden departure of 11-year head coach Greg Schiano, Rutgers was on the verge of losing its top recruiting class in school history.
With Flood — who is one of the program's top recruiters — Rutgers is on the cusp of being able to keep most of the class together.
“The response from the high school coaches in New Jersey, the community and the State of Rutgers, has been just outstanding. That was a key piece of my evaluation for him, outside of meeting him for several hours, was his relationships,” Pernetti said. “And the relationships are, not only are they there, they're deep and they've gone back a long time.”
Flood’s continuity with the area's fertile recruiting ground is something that will be one of his strengths.
“Consistency is the most important thing in any program,” Flood said. “Consistency of relationships in recruiting has allowed us to advance our recruiting every year. As we go forward, consistency in coaching is going to allow our players to be trained in the same manner year after year.”
With players ready to sign their national letters of intent, Flood is confident that his staff was able to hold together the class. Primarily because he thinks the coaching staff will mainly be the same that is was with Schiano.
And the current players wanted someone they arleady knew.
Khaseem Greene — who held a team meeting the morning after Schiano left — was one of the first to hear from Flood himself. Flood gave his weak side linebacker a call to let him know he was appointed to the position.
“I was really excited,” Greene said. “I just let out a sigh of relief and knew that this is the right guy for the job.”
“He’s been around here. He knows what it takes and at the same time, the way it all unraveled — the rumors about it being another guy and then it being coach Flood —the whole sequence of how he was picked to be the coach, it just shows you that this is the right guy,” Greene said. “It happened for a reason.”
Teammate D.C. Jefferson reiterated Greene’s thoughts.
“Our same core values will stay the same,” the tight end said. "We’ll still have the same comradery with each other around here.”
And the happiness with the hire doesn’t stop at the current players. Flood noted that several former players — including Ray Rice and Anthony Davis — told their former coach that he was the right man for the job.
Former All-American tight end and NFL player Marco Battaglia couldn’t have been happier about the hire. As a teammate of Flood at St. Francis Prep High School, Battaglia knows Flood better than most.
Aside from his admiration for Flood as a person, Battaglia sees his most important attribute being what Pernetti and his players thought. The continuity he brings.
“Nothing’s different. There’s a different guy at the helm, but there’s not much to fix here. You’re going to get a character guy,” Battaglia said. “It’s going to look very similar. I don’t know what people want to see, but they’re gonna see pretty much the same because there’s nothing here that’s broke.”