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November 21, 2012Kyle Flood had his work cutout for him.
After spending 19 seasons as an offensive line coach, Flood was tasked with taking over a Rutgers program following the unexpected departure of Greg Schiano to the NFL. It was a formidable task for any coach, especially for a career assistant like Flood.
However, Flood has made the transition a smooth, both keeping together the 2012 recruiting class and leading No. 21 Rutgers to a perfect 5-0 Big East record and 9-1 overall mark.
"I felt from the very beginning that my job was not to come in and change things," the first-year head coach said on the Big East media conference call. "It was to take what was here and just find ways to make it a little bit better. I think we've found ways to do that. I think the results have shown that.
The first problem Flood faced upon taking the job was finishing up the 2012 recruiting class.
After 11 seasons at the helm, Schiano agreed to take the Tampa Bay Buccaneers coaching job on Jan. 26, 2012, exactly six days before National Signing Day. The exit left doubt in Rutgers ability to keep the class together.
Credit the Rutgers administration with moving quick and hiring Flood, also the assistant head coach under Schiano, just five days after Schiano's exit. By hiring an assistant, Rutgers maintained some semblance of continuity despite most of the coaching staff leaving.
Flood kept four-star prospects Leonte Carroo, Quanzell Lambert, Chris Muller and J.J. Denman in the fold. Then, he added Rutgers' biggest get in the 2012 recruiting class, five-star defensive end and No. 11 national player Darius Hamilton.
The Scarlet Knights finished with the No. 24 recruiting class nationally and the best haul in the Big East.
"I think the recruiting class question to me was very simple," Flood said. "I think that the recruits and players in that class would tell you the same thing. They knew that if I was named the head coach, all the reasons why they had decided to commit to Rutgers were still going to be there for them. They believed in that, and they believed in me. I will never forget them for that. That certainly has worked out that way."
Having success on the field would be a bit more of a challenge. It was widely expected that Rutgers would have one of the top defenses in the conference, but there was a number of question marks entering the season.
However, he wasn't re-inventing the wheel. Schiano laid a solid foundation for a program that was formerly the laughing stock of the Big East. Flood didn't want to make a complete overhaul, but simply made simple improvements to maximize his players strengths.
Flood's biggest adjustment came from the different responsibilities of being a head coach. However, he's handled them well, allowing his team to focus solely on football.
"I think the biggest difference when you become a head coach is the interaction you have with every piece of the program every day," Flood said. "Even things as subtle as this press conference every Monday, but these are things you don't do as an assistant coach. The interaction with the officials on game day, you don't do those as an assistant coach.
"You're really involved in a lot more directions as a head coach where as for 19 years as an offensive line coach, I take my players, go into a meeting room and coach a very specific group on the team all the time. This is a different deal."
In this different deal, Flood has the opportunity to do what Schiano could never accomplish in his 11 seasons at the helm: Win a Big East championship.
With a win over Pitt Saturday, Rutgers can clinch at least a share of the conference crown, which would be its first in school history. The Scarlet Knights had an opportunity to do it last year, but the team fell short against Connecticut in the regular-season finale.
Flood believes this team benefits from last season's experience and even use it as motivation. He wants his players to seize the opportunity of winning a Big East title.
"It is something that I addressed with the team [Sunday]," Flood said. "I think anytime you have an opportunity as a program to do something that's never been done in the history of your program - and we're playing and coaching at a university that's been doing it as long as anybody - it's a very special opportunity. You had better take advantage of those opportunities when you get them.
"So this is a very important game for us. It's important for a lot of reasons. It's the only one we play this week, so it's important by that nature. But it's a Big East championship game, and we're going to approach it like that. It's not going to change the way we prepare or how we game plan or any of those things, but we're certainly aware of it."