Kyle Flood: “Good afternoon, guys. Today is going to be a day where we transition some people into some different roles. I want to start the press conference today by thanking coach Friedgen for spending a year with us as offensive coordinator, and I'm looking forward to coach Friedgen staying on our staff as special assistant to the head coach. He's been very valuable to us over the last year, and there's no doubt that he'll be valuable to the program going forward.
Ben McDaniels is going to transition into the position of offensive coordinator. He'll coach the quarterbacks. Phil Galiano will transition from the recruiting office onto the field as our special teams coordinator and tight end coach, and Anthony Campanile will transition from tight ends to wide receivers.
Kyle, can you just talk about what Ralph brought to the program and then also what you expect from Ben?
Flood: “I think when we brought Ralph in last year, I said something to this effect, and I would reiterate it. There's no question it played out. Coach Friedgen has a lot of experience as an offensive coordinator, a lot of time spent with really explosive offenses. He was somebody who had the same belief system that we did offensively, and I thought he did a tremendous job of using the pieces we had in place to score points with it, and there's no doubt that he spent 10 years doing my job at a very high level, and it was very valuable to me to have somebody in the program who had been faced with the same questions on a day to day basis that I'm faced with and have the opportunity to exchange ideas with him and gain from the knowledge of it.
Kyle, could you talk about what you saw from Ben McDaniels in the last year, obviously, to promote him to such an important role after just one year in college coaching?
Flood: Yeah, I've got tremendous, tremendous confidence in Ben. I had the opportunity to sit in on a lot of the offensive meetings, be on the headset on game day, and listen to him, watch him teach, watch him go through the game planning portion with the rest of the offensive coaches, and I have complete confidence in him that he'll do a great job going forward as our coordinator.”
What will Fridge be doing now working with you, and how often will he still be around?
Flood: “We're still working through the details of what the calendar will look like, but I think he's somebody who in every phase of the program has some really good insights for me as the head coach, and to have that kind of person, whether he's here physically in the building with us or on the other side of a phone call, I don't know what you can't put a value on that. That type of thing is priceless to a head coach.”
Obviously with Fridge, I'm sure this isn't a surprise. Can you take us through the process of when you knew this was a reality and landing on Ben instead of looking outside, or how that all went down?
Flood: Yeah, I don't know if I agree with the way you started the question. I don't know if I would say it that way. But Ralph and I had decided that we were going to sit down after signing day and just really take stock of the situation and have a conversation about what would be the best thing to do going forward. As we had that conversation, my thoughts turned to who would be who I thought would be the best person to lead our offense into the future, and it did not take me too long to decide that that would be Ben.
What about the recruiting coordinator position, and do you have any other coaching changes that you expect?
Flood: “We do have some people in mind, and hopefully going to get that position filled as soon as possible, but right now it's not filled.”
Since Charlie Noonan left, how about the graduate assistant coach opening? We've heard Scott Vallone's name linked to it. Is there anything you can tell us about that?
Flood: “You are correct. Scott Vallone will be with us this spring as our defensive graduate assistant. He'll fill Charlie's role.”
Just curious why it's historically been difficult to keep coordinators at Rutgers? This is the sixth in six years for offense. Defense has had, until this year, has had four in the span of a turnover each year. What do you think the reason is that that has been a problem?
Flood: “You describe it as a problem, but I think some of the guys we've had here as coordinators have left for some pretty good reasons, and when you hire talented people, there's always a chance that they're going to have the opportunity to go somewhere and get promoted. A guy like Frank Cignetti goes to the NFL, and I saw Frank just got named offensive coordinator of the St. Louis Rams; Dave Brock gets an opportunity to be a head coach, something that was a dream of his. I couldn't be more excited that Dave got that opportunity, even though it was only after a year. I would like to have had Dave back, but he had an opportunity to do something special for his family, and I wanted that for him.
And then Ron Prince, the same thing. Ron gets an opportunity to go to the Detroit Lions as the assistant head coach and be the assistant head coach of one of only 32 teams that exist in the NFL, an opportunity that he was excited about for his family.
So I was excited about that for him, and coach Friedgen's situation like all of those is unique, and it's exciting for me to have the opportunity for the first time since I've been the head coach to promote the offensive coordinator from within, so we're fortunate to have Ben on staff, and I think that's really going to help as we go forward with this transition.
We know Ralph admitted he wasn't as involved as other coaches in recruiting. How will Ben help as a recruiter obviously being a young guy and with his last name?
Flood: “Yeah, I don't think it's about his last name. Just like I didn't think about it was Ronnie James' last name in terms of why we recruited him. I think it's about who Ben is as a person first and foremost. He's the right type of person that you want your son to play for. He's the right type of football coach that you want your son to play for, and he'll be a dynamic recruiter out there on the road. I've seen that already with some of the players he interacted with last year.
Friedgen: “I would like to say a year ago I came here and really didn't know anybody, and the Rutgers family from coach Flood to the assistant coaches to the players to the graduate assistants, the GAs, the fans, it's just been really an unbelievable experience, and I've enjoyed every moment of it. I've enjoyed working with some really great kids. It's been some of the best of my whole career. I'm surely going to miss that. Same as the coaches; some really, really fantastic coaches here, and Ben is very, very capable of being an outstanding offensive coordinator.”
“He's one of the bright young minds that I've come across, and I have no hesitation in knowing that he'll carry on and do a great job, and I think what helps with having so many coordinators that they can help him with the transition, and I think that'll be very important.”
“You know, I've been doing this this would have been my 45th year of coaching, and contrary to some of the reports that have come out, which I really don't appreciate because I'm not on my deathbed, you know. I'm not leaving for health reasons. And all you do is worry my family and my friends about that. I think it's kind of irresponsible to put that out.
“But what got hard for me was getting up at 4:30 every morning and working 18 hours a day for 15 weeks of the year and saying, while I do have my health, can I go on and enjoy two homes that I own that I never get to visit. I have just become a grandfather for the first time. And really when I had my sabbatical, so to speak, I got to see that there's other things other than coaching. So yeah, will I miss the players? You bet. Will I miss the coaches and the game planning? Yes, very much. Will I miss game day? Very, very much.
“But there's a lot of things I won't miss, either. I think it's time for me to smell the roses, and what Coach Flood has given me an opportunity to do which I think is very unique is still be in a support role and be able to contribute to Rutgers football, which has been unbelievably good to me, and still be able to do the things that I want to do, and I feel very fortunate that I have that opportunity.”
Could you just talk, what do you know about what you're going to be doing? Will you be up here? Will you be how exactly involved will you be with coach Flood?
Friedgen: “Well, I'm always going to be there for Coach Flood if he ever has something he wants to pass along to me or ask me my opinion, which he's done in the past, and it just gives him another point of view. He probably very rarely said what I did would have done. I think we're different in a lot of respects, but at least he gets another side of things.
“But I'll be up here as much as he needs me. Right now I'm planning on coming back up for spring practice. I'll definitely be here during two a days for a stretch, and we'll see what the future brings, how often he would like me up here.”
This is a follow up. Do you think that would include game day in some role?
Friedgen: “I don't know about that. I may be up for a game or two, but I don't think I'll be involved in game day. Again, that's up to coach Flood.”
Ralph, how different is this for you this time? Obviously we know the Maryland departure was hard for you. This time going into a second retirement or sabbatical, how different is your peace of mind this time than three years ago?
Friedgen: “Well, there's some things that are better about it, and one thing is kind of leaving on your own terms. Both are probably difficult because I leave some great kids and great experiences I had with them, and that's to me what I was in coaching for.”
But I don't feel like I'm really leaving, I'm just being here and working as much as I have in the past. I think this is probably a little bit easier. Like my wife said, you're leaving on your terms. Getting her to go along with it was the big thing.
How much did you work with Ben this year, and what are your thoughts on him taking over?
Friedgen: “Ben and I worked very close. Ben did 3rd downs for me, and in the passing game we were talking all the time. You know, one thing that has impressed me about Ben and really what I look for in a coordinator is how in tune is that guy to every aspect of the offense. Does he know the running game? Does he know the passing game? Does he know protections? Ben is well versed on all of that. When we're in staff meetings, I look for guys who are invested in the whole game plan, not just their individual position, and Ben was a tremendous contributor in all phases of the offensive game plan, and he and I were in direct communication during game day. So he was me on the sidelines. He was talking to Gary, relaying my messages and offering his own evaluations of things.
“I would think Ben was a major part of our success this year, as were all of our other coaches. I was very blessed; didn't know a coach when I got in here and find out what outstanding coaches they were. It made my job a whole lot easier.”
McDaniels: “I'm obviously really excited about the opportunity that coach Flood has given me. It's been a privilege for me to be here over the past year working on this staff, working for coach Flood, working with coach Friedgen. It's been a really rewarding year for me from a football perspective to be on a staff that has as much talent and as many good people on it, so it's obviously a great privilege for me to accept the role that Coach has offered me. It's something that as a coach I think you think about for a long time leading up to this, so it's an opportunity that's really exciting for me going forward.”
How would you describe your play call style? How different is it from what Ralph did?
McDaniels: “Well, I'll let you know in September at our first game how different I'll call it from him. But I would say is I've learned a lot from a lot of different coordinators and a lot of different systems I've been in over the years. I've certainly learned a lot from coach Friedgen this year. I think it's definitely one of his strengths as a coach. I was extremely impressed to work with a guy that has the ability to call the game the way he does.”
“But I'll be excited to call it coming up this fall, but how different it'll be, you'll have to tell me what you think the difference is when you watch it in the fall.”
Kyle said that this all kind of came about after signing day. Just curious from your end, when did you realize that this was going to be open, and how exciting was it to have this opportunity to step up?
McDaniels: “Yeah, I mean, the timeline of it, to me I always kind of just do my job that I currently have as best I can while I have it, and then as opportunities come, you think about them and take them on as they come. But as far as when this played out and all that stuff, I guess I'm always prepared for a great opportunity, and when coach and I had some discussions, I was obviously really excited about it.”
Ben, could you talk about the influence that obviously your dad as a great high school coach and the success your brother has had? Can you talk about the influence they've had on making you the football mind that you are?
McDaniels: “Sure. I mean, I joke with people and tell people I've been coaching probably for, I don't know, 26, 28 years of my 34 years of life because I've been around the game since I was just a little boy, so my father has had a significant influence on all of us, and I'm obviously really proud of Josh's successes in New England. He's had a great career, and it's really fun for me to see his success.
“I had a really good opportunity to work with Josh, obviously, in Denver for a couple years, and definitely learned a lot from it. He's as talented as there is at calling an offense. I learned a methodology to building a game plan, and that's going to be real valuable for me.
“It was really valuable for me to kind of get and be around him from his vast experience in that organization and all the things that he takes from it in the attempt to create a winning culture. I think that that's a big piece of the success that has come in New England.
“I was exposed to some of that, and it was really rewarding, obviously.”
I'm wondering, you know this personnel on the offensive side. What do you see kind of being the strengths? I know you've got to go through spring ball, choose a quarterback, all that stuff, but personnel wise, what do you see as the strength of the offense moving forward?
McDaniels: “Yeah, I think it's so early into the off season that I think we'd be jumping ahead to go ahead and speak on too much of that. As a staff I think you evaluate the roster as the current team that we have right now, and that's part of what we do through January and February and heading into spring ball, and we'll find out a lot about our team during the spring and new faces and the guys that are competing for different roles.
“I know obviously we have some starters back in some different spots, and you always make the assumption that that's a good thing, and there would be some strengths there, but our strengths and our weaknesses will be defined over the next several months leading up to the fall.”
How much did you gain from your experience last year working alongside Ralph, and like he was saying, being the guy on the sidelines that was the go between him and the players and offering your opinions, obviously?
McDaniels: “Being around coach Friedgen, it's overly impressive to see his vast knowledge of really every position on the field. He can coach every spot with technique, with understanding of how everyone is impacted in a game plan. He has an awesome way of being able to understand all positions, and obviously that experience is just hugely rewarding for me, especially heading into this role.
But on game days, having him up in the box and then me communicating with the quarterbacks and having to drive some of that on the field, game day is the best for all of us. For a lot of us that's our favorite part of the job, and it was an awesome part of the week every week to be kind of a go between with coach Friedgen and the quarterbacks on the field but then also to have an opportunity to kind of feed the quarterbacks some of my feelings on the game and as it was playing out on the field.
You've been able to see this sport from the highest level and from the high school level with your father. I'm curious, what are your own career goals? What do you want to be in football?
McDaniels: “I want to be the coordinator of Rutgers right now, and I want to coach the quarterbacks really well. I learned a long time ago from people smarter than me you just do your job really, really well, and as opportunities come along, you can entertain those opportunities. I couldn't be more excited for the opportunity I have right now. Where it goes and beyond what I'm doing right now, I'll let that play out. But to be honest, I don't give a lot of thought that way. I'm just trying to do my job that I have right now as best I can.”
There's obviously a long way to go before the opening game, but just your impression right now from one season of kind of communicating with them, your impression of Laviano and Rettig and how big the spring is for those two guys?
McDaniels: “Definitely will be a fun spring to spend around them. I think they're good kids and they're working hard. I think that's all we can ask them to do right now during the spring is come in and work hard and put the time in and see what kind of competition develops as the spring goes on and as fall camp rolls along.”
“They're working hard, and that's what we're asking from them.”
Phil, how excited are you, I guess, to get back on the field after what you were doing all last year?
Galiano: “I'm very excited about it. I think as a football coach that's one of the things you get to enjoy is actually being on the field and coaching and teaching and the interaction with the players and the interaction during game day, so I'm super excited about it.”
You obviously have experience coaching both the tight ends and special teams coordinator. Do you expect to use that experience on the field, and just talk a little bit about what you expect from those two areas.
Galiano: “Well, yeah. I expect to be able to use those. I think from coaching the tight ends, I think that Coach Campy has done an excellent job with those guys so far, and I think what we'll do offensively, the whole staff, all that'll tie into what we're going to do offensively with the tight ends, and then from a special teams standpoint, I think that the staple of Rutgers for a lot of years has always been excellent on special teams. To be a part of that in the past and then getting the opportunity to go and do it at the NFL and learn some new things and ideas and being able to try to come in and implement some new ideas here, I'm extremely excited about, and getting back to us being able to really rely like we always have and just carry out that tradition of being able to win games on special teams.”
Can you just talk a little bit about your recruiting responsibilities now as an assistant?
Galiano: “You know, as you know, as an assistant, you're always going to have a recruiting area, and your positions and that sort of thing, but we're still working through as a staff what's going to happen with the recruiting areas. I think one of the huge advantages of being in the role I was in last year was just being able to build a relationship with all these 2016s, so I think that's going to be a huge help.”