Rutgers Readying for B1G 2014 Season

For the first time, Rutgers played a role in the spring football teleconference run by the Big Ten conference. Rutgers coach Kyle Flood and junior defensive tackle Darius Hamilton joined the call, and discussed a variety of big-picture topics with the national media.

The Big Ten news for Rutgers came almost two years ago, but the moment when everything changes is about to arrive.

The Scarlet Knights officially join the Big Ten this summer, and area already experiencing the boosts and excitement of the move.

"I think it impacts recruiting in a couple of ways," said coach Kyle Flood. "It continues to allow us to recruit the best players in the country because, I think, high school players are looking for access to the national championship. When you play in the Big Ten conference … you get to foresee yourself in the final four."

Rutgers expanded its recruiting footprint in 2014, and is already working to do the same in the 2015 class.

"Because of the history and tradition of some of the programs in the Big Ten, it's opened up some access to some non-traditional areas," Flood said. "… Those are places in the past that we didn't really good to, and I'm not so sure that those players would have wanted to play in a conference that was solely based on the east coast."

The feeling for players already in the program is also extremely positive.

Former five-star defensive end Darius Hamilton took a chance on Rutgers when conference affiliation with the Big East was serious recruiting ammunition against Rutgers.

"It's great," Hamilton said. "Just to be able to play with some of the best teams in the country means a lot not only to me but a lot of guys on the team. To go from the Big East to the AAC and now I finally have a home in the Big Ten, it's a great conference with a lot of great teams and a lot of great energy."

Budding Rivalry?

The inevitable Penn State and Rutgers question came early in coach James Franklin's time with the media. Franklin discussed both the recruiting battles in the region and a potential rivalry forming when the two kick off at Rutgers this season.

"We're committed to doing a great job and keeping the players within six hours from campus," Franklin said. "…I'm excited for what Rutgers brings to the table. I'm excited for coach Flood. However this thing plays out, great."

Flood echoed similar statements on the call by naming regional ties to Maryland and Penn State as draws for the fan base.

"College football is really at its best when it's regional," Flood said. "… I think just naturally those types of rivalries will develop. The last piece of that puzzle, I think, is the games. I think the more competitive the games are, the more that rivalry will build."

The players see the same budding rivalry, and area eager to host Penn State.

"It's definitely a rival game," Hamilton said. "… It's big games that you want to be able to play in and your family and friends and everyone are going to be there. It's going to be a great time."

New Schedule

A challenge in a new conference is so many first-time opponents. For Rutgers, that means the preparation has to start earlier. Flood and his staff traditionally begin studying in June, but will now get it going in May after the end of spring practice.

"It's a challenge," Flood said. "It really is a challenge because you have spring practice, and you have such a limited time of the year in football where you get to really work with your players. … What we're going to do, because of all of the new teams that are on our schedule to make sure that we have the kind of familiarity that we need, is we're going to push up some of our offseason studies a month. We generally have done most of that in June, but we're going to have to do some of that in May."

James Getting Better

Running back Paul James is one of the most visible players on the active roster, and was the subject of questions from the national media. James remains out for spring camp, but is working hard in meetings to make sure he is ready after offseason surgery.

"He had surgery after the season was over, so he has not participated in the spring, but I think he's done a really good job in the classroom," Flood said. "[He comes] out for the second part of practice so that he can see the install periods and really get all of the finer points of the coaching."

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