Fundamentals, work ethic define new WR coach

P.J. Fleck, who was hired as Rutgers' receivers coach, is bringing a strong work ethic, an attention to detail and toughness from Northern Illinois. The 29-year-old is charged with developing a young but talented unit, led by Mohamed Sanu. He also brings an interesting resume into the recruiting game, having played in the NFL and served as the recruiting coordinator at North Illinois.

P.J. Fleck is 5-foot-10, during his playing days weighed 191 pounds and finished the 40-yard dash in a sundial-timed 4.7 seconds.

Oh, and with those physical, shall we say, gifts, he found himself in the NFL for two years.

Fleck, who was officially named as Rutgers' receivers coach Thursday, excelled because of obsessive attention to detail and strong work ethic, two of the traits the 29-year-old said he is bringing to Rutgers.

"I am a fundamentally(-based) coach,'' Fleck said. "We're going to be detailed at the little things, and I'm going to assume they know nothing and teach them everything again, and go back through the fundamentals.

"I played in the National Football League. I had no business playing in the National Football League. What got me through were technique and fundamentals, and I think sometimes we lose that art and we just let guys play with their natural ability.''

Fleck spent the last three seasons at his alma mater, Northern Illinois, where he was the receivers coach and the recruiting coordinator. His territories included the Chicago area, North Carolina, parts of South Carolina, Minnesota and San Antonio. He also dabbled in Florida recruiting.

Although his recruiting area with Rutgers is yet to be announced, he is expected to take over South Florida since the vacancy on the staff was created when Brian Jenkins, who recruited South Florida, left to become the coach at Bethune-Cookman.

"I have not really discussed that with coach (Greg) Schiano,'' said Fleck, whose immediate focus is on his current group of receivers.

Given Rutgers' youth at receiver, where sophomore Mohamed Sanu is the only accomplished pass catcher, Fleck will hit the fundamentals hard.

"We're going to be really specific with technique, especially with this young group,'' he said. "They've got to learn fundamentals and got to learn technique, and continue to grow in those categories.''

Fleck spent two seasons with the San Francisco 49ers, but was injured often and retired with five shoulder surgeries on his resume.

So, yes, not only will he demand fundamentals and work ethic from the receivers, but also toughness.

"I was an average player,'' Fleck said. "They only thing that got me by was my work ethic, and the determination to make the team, and always be that 53rd guy. I was a wedge buster on kickoffs, I was a kick returner, a punt returner. I was a holder on field goals.

"I played the game the right way and played it as hard as I possibly could. But I was an average player.''

Fleck already held individual meetings with Rutgers' receivers, and watched film on many of them.

"Mohamed is the only guy that has a ton of experience,'' Fleck said. "It's a young group that has a chance to be very good. I'm very excited about that opportunity.''

Sophomore Mark Harrison is the most ready to become a solid, reliable receiver. Senior Julian Hayes, red-shirt sophomores Keith Stroud, Marcus Cooper, Tim Wright and Eddie Poole and red-shirt freshman Aaron Hayward, as well as Quron Pratt gives Fleck plenty of options in spring practice, but he really isn't sure how good the group can be.

"I haven't watched enough just yet (to make an evaluation),'' he said. "I'd be lying if I made up something, but I have not watched enough to tell you their strength and weaknesses. All I know is we have to improve every day.''

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