Postseason Notebook: Flood Looks to Spring

The focus of Rutgers coach Kyle Flood's post-season wrap-up fell on quarterback Gary Nova and the struggles of the offense in 2012. But the first-year head coach discussed a variety of topics in the 20-minute session, including the passing of his mother, position changes and replacing to NFL-bound underclassmen.

Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood lost his mother during the Russell Athletic Bowl. Flood's mother lost her battle with cancer the afternoon of Dec. 28 and that consumed the majority of Flood's time since the end of the season.

Personal distress, however, had no effect on the 0-3 finish for Big East co-champion Rutgers in 2012, Flood said.

"I don't make any excuses for that," Flood said. "I think there's a lot of people in our program who have things going on in their personal lives and certainly my mother is a very important person in my life. That really is a big reason why I am the person I am today. But for me to use that in any way, as an excuse, certainly one of the people you love that's in pain, it's on your mind. But I also know that the one thing that would have hurt my mother more than anything would be to know that she was keeping me from doing my job."

After a 7-0 start, the Scarlet Knights finished at 9-4 with blown leads in back-to-back losses at the end of the year.

"As a program we are extremely disappointed at not being able to come out on top of that bowl game," Flood said. "… I do believe that, for the players coming back to the program, that game needs to be at the front of their minds. It needs to be a motivating factor of ours as we go into the offseason."

Improving the Running Game

The poor quarterback play down the stretch came under fire more strongly in public, but the running game was equally inconsistent in Flood's eyes.

Losing leading rusher Jawan Jamison two years early to the NFL changes the look even more, but Flood said Savon Huggins is ready to be the starting running back.

"I think Savon has earned that right and I'm really excited," Flood said. "I think we all saw what Savon can do in the Cincinnati game when given that kind of reps."

Sophomores Paul James and Ben Martin and redshirt freshman Desmon Peoples will all be heavily involved in the spring to establish depth behind Huggins.

Without specifically discussing recruits, Flood added that he hopes early enrolled freshmen can contribute to the position this spring.

Dontea Ayres, from Salisbury, Md., will enroll for classes at Rutgers next week and be available in the spring coming off a torn knee ligament.

Fullback depth behind starter Michael Burton, who missed the second half of the season with a broken leg, remains a concern.

"We need to find somebody on our football team other than Michael Burton, who can play the fullback position at a high level," Flood said. "I think that becomes a point of emphasis for us and maybe it's somebody that's on our team and maybe it's somebody in this signing class. I'm not sure yet exactly what that will be, but certainly our running game lost a lot of consistency when Michael Burton was not able to play for us."

New-Look Secondary

Rutgers will have three new starters in the secondary, losing the majority of its two-deep to graduation and the NFL. Inexperienced corners Tejay Johnson and Gareef Glashen will begin the spring as starters, alongside Lorenzo Waters and likely Jeremy Deering at safety.

Deering is a wide receiver, but spent more and more time working at safety as the season progressed. The decision to move him to safety, Flood said, has not yet been made.

"If we feel like he's a guy a guy that can really be a difference maker back there, more so than on offense, then maybe that's a move we have to consider," Flood said. "We're not ready to do that yet. I really need to sit down with Jeremy 1-on-1 when he gets back from the break here and see how he feels about that as well. All along it's been something that he's been open to and, certainly, Jeremy Deering is a player we think can have a major impact on our football team, not just as a kick returner."

Redshirt freshman Ian Thomas will continue in the spring as a defensive back, moving from wide receiver during bowl practice.

"We actually saw something as he was covering the flyers on scout-team punt return," Flood said on the move. "We were really excited about the way he moved and the way he was able to react and stay in front. You know what, let's try him over there and he certainly will take a lot of reps there in the spring and that's where he'll be."

This and That

Offensive lineman Matt McBride (shoulder) is out for the spring. Fullback Sam Bergen (shoulder) and defensive tackle Isaac Holmes (wrist) will be limited.

Flood does not anticipate any staff changes going into 2013.

There have been no conversations between Flood and athletic director Tim Pernetti regarding the schedule and loss of Boise State in 2013.


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