Big East Week: One Big Question for Rutgers, How Much Changes from Schiano to Flood?


Seven of the eight Big East coaches had a combined six years of experience at their then-present programs prior to the 2011 season. That was four fewer than Greg Schiano had at Rutgers. Now RU joins its conference brethren on the coaching carousel, but university administration did not stray far for a replacement.

Kyle Flood coached the Scarlet Knight offensive line through its successful half-decade. Considering Schiano’s tenure was RU’s only period of sustained success in modern times, tabbing one of his assistants only made sense. Yet almost immediately, headlines read that RU administration was settling; after all, Flood has no head coaching experience, and FIU front man Mario Cristobal had been rumored for the gig.

There was no shortage of those who thought Flood’s quick ascension from interim to permanent head coach was a reaction to the Scarlet Knights’ losing a four star recruit. Local product Devin Fuller was pursued to play quarterback at RU, yet opted for secondary across the continent at UCLA. The stability of a full-time head coach might prevent other decommitments, particularly a staffer of Schiano’s.

And indeed, RU landed a top 25 class that included five star defensive end Darius Hamilton. So a stellar crop of a 2012 freshmen made for the first notch in Flood’s ledger, though that corps is attributable to Schiano. Flood maintained the status quo. That would seemingly be the case across the board.

While other programs welcoming new head coaches gear up for widescale change, hold the course seems to be RU’s tactic. The new defensive coordinator is Robb Smith, who spent the previous three seasons coaching special teams, cornerbacks and outside linebackers. Smith is no stranger to the Scarlet Knights’ tough defense, which ranked No. 8 nationally in points allowed. His secondary features one of the best defensive backs in college football, Duron Harmon.

Harmon intercepted five passes and made 49 tackles.

The RU defense also returns linebacker Steve Beauharnais, a versatile player who made three interceptions and five sacks last season, and leading tackler Khaseem Greene. The aforementioned Hamilton could plug into the line immediately to amplify the pass rush. Expect no drop-off in defensive productivity this season.

Offense is more of a mystery. The ace of last year’s recruiting was running back Savon Huggins, who is back in the fold but coming off a disappointing debut. He was second on the team in touchdowns with five, but rushed for just 2.6 yards per attempt. Jawan Jamison emerged as the No. 1 back, and he returns. The key loss from the backfield is Joe Martinek, a consummate team guy who converted to fullback. His presence was minimal in terms of yards (he averaged less than 10 per game), but he created pathways for his fellow Scarlet Knight.

And then there’s quarterback play. Coaching change could yield consistency at QB. Schiano had a revolving door going the last two seasons, starting Tom Savage, then Chas Dodd, then Gary Nova, and back to Chas Dodd. Savage left the program despite a solid freshman showing in 2009. Dodd and Nova return.

One of Flood’s challenges is clearly defining a starter. RU lacked the stability of a clear No. 1 quarterback in recent seasons, and its been detrimental in its Big East title pursuit. Coincidentally, Scarlet Knight quarterback struggles are largely contingent on the play of Flood’s old unit, the offensive line.

RU gave up over 60 sacks in 2010, most in the nation. It improved tremendously in 2011, down to 30 total, but that still ranked in the bottom third of all teams. The Scarlet Knight line is rich in experience this season, but also among the smallest of any BCS conference team — particular for one that does not use a spread option offense.

Giving Dodd (or Nova) time to throw, and opening holes for Jamison and Huggins is key because the offense will no longer be able to rely on do-it-all receiver Mohamed Sanu creating scoring opportunities. The Swiss Army Knife wide out is gone for the NFL, taking with him 21 touchdowns and nearly 3000 yards in his three campaigns at RU.