Media Day Notebook: The Headlines

PISCATAWAY, N.J. – The annual Rutgers football media day includes access to assistant coaches and the majority of the roster. spent a busy hour with many new faces to the program, and has the highlights inside. Look for full pieces on those inside in the coming days.

Head coach Kyle Flood’s media day press conference

Rutgers offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen spent 15 minutes in front of a podium in the recruiting lounge Sunday with Gary Nova as the trending topic with reporters.

Friedgen is the fourth offensive coordinator for Nova in as many years, and he comes to Rutgers with a resume of developing quarterbacks and powerful pro-style offenses.

“I think he has a very good football intellect, he sees things, he learns very fast and has very good vision,” Friedgen said. “What gets Gary into trouble sometimes is that he’s so confident in what he can do he lets his confidence override sometimes his decisions and he’ll force the ball in there.

Now a lot of times he wins on those horses too and everybody thinks it’s a great throw, but when he loses them it’s an interception. That’s what we want to cut down – the interceptions.”

Nova credited Friedgen and graduate assistant Mike Teel for making a mechanics adjustment in the offseason. To Friedgen, staying off his toes when throwing was an obvious adjustment.

“Once he did that, I think it took a lot of the stress off his arm but I also think it made his arm a lot stronger because he was throwing all arm before,” Friedgen said. “I don’t why nobody else recognized that but it was just something I saw.”

Newly hired recruiting coordinator Phil Galiano brings two years of NFL experience in his return to Rutgers.

“I think it helps because the youth today, they all want to play in the NFL,” Galiano said. “Some of my NFL experience is a draw. I’ve been there. I know what it takes to play there and those sorts of things. I also think that it helps because the draft is something that I was very involved in. When you coach special teams in the NFL, you’re evaluating every position.”

Wide receivers coach Ben McDaniels returns to the college ranks after a long stint as an NFL assistant in Denver and Tampa Bay. McDaniels has a young group of receivers with which to work and a top-notch understudy in graduate assistant Mike Teel.

“We’re making progress and that’s all I can ask for,” McDaniels said. “They’ve gotten better on a daily basis. I’m asking them to learn the game both physically and mentally. I’m challenging them to get better consistently.”

Teel credits McDaniels and Friedgen for help in adjusting to a new role. Returning to Rutgers after being drafted by the Seattle Seahawks in 2009, Teel said he is happier to be back in coaching after time on Wall Street.

“I missed coaching,” Teel said. “I wanted to be a coach. Wherever it was going to be, I wanted to coach football. For me, fortunately it worked out that I was able to do it here for right now. It’s exciting to be back here. It’s really exciting to be coaching football.”

Defensive line coach Jim Panagos enters his third season working with Flood, had a strong hand in recruiting many of the Florida names generating buzz in training camp.

“The biggest thing about Florida is there is spring ball, and you can really see the kid perform, see how they’re going to compete, seethe mental toughness,” Panagos said. “That’s the biggest thing with Florida, as well as some of the theatrics and other things that go on down there.”

Coaching at Rutgers this year will be special for Panagos because his son is now a Scarlet Knight – a member of the men’s golf team.

“He’s been better since day one,” Panagos said. “The first time I told him out he shot a 75 and I shot a 128.”

Heralded quarterback addition Hayden Rettig will sit out the season after transferring to LSU. He plans to use every minute to his advantage.

“I still have a lot to learn, but right now I feel like I have a good understanding of it,” he said. “…I talked to coach Flood a lot and it was a done deal within two weeks. After I took my visit, coach Flood and I sat down and I was like, ‘Coach, this is where I want to come.’”

Kansas transfer Andrew Turzilli brings much-needed depth to the position, and he is happy to be closer to his hometown of Butler, N.J.

“I’ve got my family, now they have the opportunity to come and see me play – my family and friends,” Turzilli said. “I grew up watching Rutgers football, so I’m just excited about being home.”

The latest freshman addition – defensive tackle Kevin Wilkins – said his late arrival “pushes me back a good amount,” but he still hopes to play this season. The waiting game with the NCAA Clearinghouse made for a stressful summer.

“I think I got a little scared after I did finish the classes, they were like, ‘We need this, this and that,’ I was like, ‘Uh-oh, here we go,’ Wilkins said.

Cornerback Dre Boggs impressed early in camp, and got reps with the ones Friday and Saturday. The big test comes Monday in the first true scrimmage.

“There are still a lot of things I have to work on,” Boggs said. “I’m picking up the defense a lot easier than I thought I would with the technique stuff.”

Junior punter Tim Gleeson was barely a Scarlet Knight for 24 hours heading into media day.

“I guess the boys back home don’t understand American football so they give me a bit of flack about (wearing pads), and say, ‘Oh, they don’t hit that hard,” he said. “They’re wearing pads.’ Some of these boys are 350 pounds, 6-foot-8, so unless you see it …the boys back home don’t understand.”

Defensive tackle Eric Wiafe enrolled early for a chance to play as a true freshman, and could get the chance inside after bulking up during a semester at prep school.

“Since I went through spring, it’s helping me go over the plays and get me more familiar with the playbook,” he said. “I definitely feel I have a chance to play, but that’s all up to the coaches.”

Senior running back Savon Huggins remains a mentor for younger guys as he rehabs wrist and shoulder injuries.

“A little bit of both is keeping me out,” he said. “I’m supposed to be re-evaluated after the Michigan game.”

Redshirting is an option.

“I always wanted to go to grad school, even before I went to college, so I want to take advantage of that,” he said.

Freshman Tariq Cole said he is excited by early opportunities on the second team, and much of that comes thanks to work in the weight room. Cole pushed 400 pounds during parts of his high school career. Committing to Rutgers as a 385-pound senior, he weighed in at 335 to being August’s training camp.

“It’s so much easier -- it makes me feel like a different lineman,” Cole said on the weight loss. “I’m able to move well, and I still feel strong with everything. … The tougher change was learning guard because I was a tackle in all of high school.”

Josh Hicks was ready to commit to Rutgers as a sophomore in high school. The way he sees it, the start of training camp marked the end of an excruciating waiting game.

“It took a lot of patience, … and it took even more hard work,” Hicks said. “It would be a dream come true to play [as a freshman]. But I have to prove a lot before I can do that.”

Long snapper Alan Lucy was the first member of the 2014 recruiting class to earn a starting spot, and he did it before his first career practice.

“It’s not a whole lot of pressure,” said Lucy, who was the No. 3 long snapper in his class according to Rubio Long Snapping. “I’m just trying to do my best and then whatever the coaches want to do, that’s up to them.”

Freshman tight end George Behr found himself on the two-deep during parts of Saturday’s open practice. With other tight ends unavailable and a limited number of scholarship players at the position, Behr is looking to make room for playing time this season.

“It’s a lot to take in,” Behr said. “We’re eight days into practice. It’s good to get reps behind Tyler [Kroft], Nick [Arcidiacono], Matt [Flanagan] … It’s tough but it’s given us a chance to get in and learn the offense.”

Defensive end Sam Blue was happy to discuss assistant Jim Panagos and the contributions made to elevate his game to a Big Ten level.

“When he was recruiting me, he was a really great guy,” Blue said. “He came to the house. You could tell he was really energized and really into what he was doing. Now that I’m actually playing for him, being in the d-line room with him, he’s so smart. He’s intelligent. He’s a perfectionist. He expects greatness from you in everything you do.”

Quarterback Giovanni Rescigno said he has a lot to learn from his peers, and would welcome the chance to contribute on the scout team while learning from the likes of Nova, Teel and Friedgen.

“I’m just playing football in the end – that’s what I love to do,” he said. “Whatever I have to do to help the team is what I’m going to do.”

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