KF: -- I think as a program we're disappointed. As the head coach, I'm disappointed. We have high expectations for our program. Going to eight bowl games in the last nine years, we're disappointed that we weren't able to be 1-0 in the bowl game. Looking forward to all the work we have to do in the offseason to get ready for our inaugural season in the Big Ten.
Q: Now that you guys have shifted focus to the Big Ten, what are someof the things you're going to focus on to get ready?
KF: -- I think for us to get ready for the Big Ten we have to first get ready for the spring. I think certainly getting a consistent level of play at the quarterback position – a consistent level of high play, I don't think a consistent level of average play is going to be good enough. We need more consistency of play up front on the offensive line. We need to continue to grow up (in) our young secondary. We need to figure out who are the four defensive linemen who can help us get pressure on the quarterback without pressure. And we've got some positions where we really need to build some depth. At the tight end position. At the linebacker position. And then on the offensive line. We need more players than we have right now so we've really got to develop some depth.
Q: Will you open up the quarterback battle this spring?
KF: -- We've got a lot of quarterbacks on our roster right now and every one of them is going to get more than enough snaps this spring so that we can figure out who the starting quarterback will be as we go into next season.
Q: Have you spoken to Kaleb Johnson about the NFL?
KF -- I haven't spoken to Kaleb. I did speak to Kaleb's mom. I think what Kaleb is doing and what some of our other draft eligible players are doing is they are still waiting to get their grades back from the NFL. The way that works is you submit three or four games to the NFL advisory committee and then they come back and give you a projected grade of where they think you might be taken in the draft. Once they have that back they'll be able to make some final decisions.
Q: What other players have put in for evaluations?
KF: -- I don't know if I'm going to divulge that. I think the players do that one-on-one. I know you guys interviewed Kaleb and he talked about it openly so I'm comfortable doing that. But any player who has been out of high school for three years can submit their name.
Q: How do you hope to improve this defense?
KF: -- I think the first thing that improves the defense will be experience. When you lose six players to the NFL and on top of it a guy like Scott Vallone who started every game of his career, those guys aren't easy to replace. Some of the struggles of this year and some of the things that weren't always so pleasant to the eye to watch defensively are some of the growing pains that we needed to go through with the players we have on our roster and the age of the players on our roster. Now going forward we have that experience and we have something we can build on and try to inject some of these other players who haven't played yet. Guys like Sebastian Joseph, Bryant Gross-Armiento, Kemoko Turay, some younger players who didn't play this year. You put all those things together and I think that's how you improve on defense.
Q: Is there any timetable on the defensive coordinator search and are there any updates?
KF: -- I think sooner is always better than later but I don't think you ever want to put a timetable on getting the right person. There is no deadline so to speak.
Q: What criteria are you looking at in terms of your new coordinator?
KF: -- I think we're fortunate as a Big Ten football program. We have a great destination for a really talented football coach who is a really good person and a quality recruiter. There really is no limitations on who that person can be. We have recruited a certain style of defensive player where we've always valued speed, change of direction and explosion over size. So certainly it will have to be somebody who has the same core values and core beliefs in terms of the type of player we want to play with on defense but other than that I wouldn't limit myself in any way.
Q: Are any former Tampa Bay Buccaneers assistants in consideration?
KF: -- I wouldn't limit myself in any way. Would that include that group of people (from Tampa Bay)? Certainly it would. Would it be exclusive to that group of people? No it wouldn't. Those guys are talented football coaches and I'm sure they're going to have opportunities in multiple places.
Q: What was your reaction to Greg Schiano's firing?
KF: -- I was disappointed. It's hard to turn something around in the amount of time that he was given. But that's part of that league right now. I think there was another coach in that league who got let go after one year. It seems to be less and less time to turn those things around.
Q: Do you anticipate any roster changes or transfers for spring practice?
KF: -- There are always going to be players who are looking for a friendlier depth chart. Right now, I don't have any names but I think it would be naïve to think it will be zero. I think there are always going to be some of those when you play football at the highest level. Guys who see two or three guys ahead of them on the depth chart and are looking for a place where maybe they can get a little more playing time.
Q: What happens at punter this spring without Nick Marsh?
KF: -- I'm excited about what I've seen Joe Roth do. He's on our roster and that's exciting to me because a year ago we didn't have that guy in place. I'm excited about what he's done in practice. Now this spring he'll have an opportunity to show us he can be the guy.
Q: Will you step back and examine changes with the amount of injuries Rutgers had this year?
KF: -- I think it's something that you evaluate every year, and what we'll do is we'll try to do some type of study on what the injuries were this year, when they occurred, how much time was lost, and then compare that to years in the past and see if we can come up with a plan to try to prevent it. But some things aren't as preventable. And I can tell you we probably had more ankle sprains this year than I can remember. We'll go back and look at the numbers and see if that's completely accurate. But I think every year, you try to examine everything in the program to see if there's a way you can just get a little bit better in each area, and I think if we can improve a little bit in each area, the sum of those things will make us a better football program.
Q: Pertaining to Paul James, how important would it be to get a full season out of him?
KF: -- I think the important thing is to get production out of that position. When Paul James is in there, and he's healthy, he's proven that he can be a productive player for us. But if he's not able to be in there, then somebody else needs to be productive. We had a game where Justin Goodwin was very productive for us, but in the other games we didn't get enough production out of that position. So I think, certainly if it's Paul and he's healthy and in the game that's great. But injuries happen in this game and other guys need to be ready to step up, and as a football team we need to have enough depth that we can get the production that we need.
Q: Were you satisfied with the way Gary [Nova] handled his demotion? What do you expect from him going forward?
KF: -- I have no issues with the way Gary handled being the second-team quarterback. I thought he prepared well for the games. What I expect from him going forward is what I expect everybody at that position to do – protect the football, make good decisions, and then when you do throw it, throw it in a location where we coached to throw it. Those are the three most important things, I think, about that position and that's not just Gary. That's Gary, that's Chris Laviano, that's Mike Bimonte, Blake Rankin et cetera. I think all of those guys will be competing to do those things as well as they can do them and the guy who does them the best will be the starting quarterback.
Q: Do you expect to be fully healthy when you get to spring practice?
KF: -- I certainly wish I could be. I don't know that you ever are, and we'll get a report out to you a little bit closer to spring practice. We've had some guys who have had some offseason procedures, which is common every year. We certainly would love to be 100 percent. I don't know that we will be, but we'll get you a report as we get closer to spring.
Q: Have you thought about who will be listed as No. 1 on the depth chart at quarterback?
KF: -- I've thought about it, but we'll put out a depth chart right before spring practice.
Q: So you won't say who will take the first snap or that sort of thing?
KF: -- What I would say is that we'll put out a depth chart as we get closer to spring practice.
Q: Is there more emphasis on the experience with the quarterbacks this year?
KF: -- I will be more than comfortable playing the quarterback that does the best job protecting the football, making the right decisions that we coach them to make and then locating the football as best he can. I think experience is great as long as you're improving. Ultimately right now at the position, we need to find the quarterback on our roster who can do those three things better than the other quarterbacks.
Q: Do you have any position changes in mind?
KF: -- I don't have any right now. We didn't do anything in bowl prep like we did last year where we moved guys around. Whether or not Delon Stephenson comes back as a corner or a safety might be the closest thing to that, that we would have.
Q: Was this at all a trying year for you personally? You had kids leave. You had a losing record, everything just in general.
KF: -- I think every year is a challenge, and the job of being a college football coach is a cumbersome job in terms of the amount of hours that you spend doing it. And it's not something you could do if you only loved it when you were undefeated. The ups and downs of the season are all a part of the job to me. I embrace the challenges of all those things. There are certain challenges that come with being 5-0 and 6-0 and 7-0 and there's other challenges that come when you're 5-6 and you're going into the last game and you need to win that game to make sure you get an opportunity to go to a bowl game. So, I embrace all of those. I guess what I enjoy most about the job is working with the young people in our program and getting a chance to develop them.
Q: How would you compare the applicant pool for this coordinator opening versus the previous three?
KF: -- I've been very pleased with the candidates we've had for the job any time we've had to do one of these searches. I think now, being a Big Ten football program, really removes any limitations you would ever have on somebody being interested in the job. I think there are quite a few really qualified people that have a strong interest in the job.
Q: Have you had a chance to talk to Savon Huggins or his family about his production going down this year?
KF: -- I haven't. I haven't spoken to Savon specifically. In the last week, I've spoken to a couple of players on the phone. I texted a bunch of them for the New Year. After the bowl game, it's an opportunity for the players to get away, really the two-and-a-half week period that they get where they get a little bit of down time and get a chance to recharge and get ready for winter workouts and everything that comes up this winter and this spring. But I haven't spoken to Savon specifically. That's not unusual.
Q: Is it harder when a guy like that comes in with such a high profile and then doesn't live up to his expectations?
KF: -- You'd have to ask the player. I've said before that the way a player gets recruited, or the recruiting process to me, has no bearing when the player gets here. When the player gets here, it's about production. We've had guys who come to our program as walk ons and have earned scholarships and been some of the better players in our program. And we've had other guys that have been very highly recruited, highly touted guys who come here and had really high-quality careers. To me, the recruiting process is separate from the career.
Q: How much does it help a freshman to enroll early?
KF: -- I think it's a tremendous advantage. Does it always mean that they'll play as freshmen? I don't think it does, but I think it's a tremendous advantage. At positions like I talked about at tight end and linebacker and offensive line, where we will have a newcomer at each one of those positions. We need to build depth. This, I think, will give them a much better chance of getting involved in those competitions than when you get here in the summer.