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2014 Big Ten Media Festivities Wrap Up
  • Posted on July 29, 2014 12:42:24 PM
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  • Kyle Flood

    By Tom Luicci

    CHICAGO (July 29, 2014) – Two days of Big Ten football media festivities ended today in the massive ballroom at the Chicago Hilton, where all 14 league coaches and 42 players were in one setting for what is almost certainly the last time this year.

    The sense of urgency is real now: Rutgers players report back to the Hale Center on Thursday, with pre-season camp starting a day later – and the Aug. 28 opener against Washington State in Seattle quickly approaching.

    Scarlet Knights head coach Kyle Flood, who said the school’s Big Ten membership felt “more real” during Monday’s media session because of the mingling of league coaches and players, took another round of questions from the assembled media today.

    Here are the highlights of what he had to say:

    On how the carries will be split at running back:

    “I’ve always felt that when somebody shows they can dominate the game you’ve got to give them a chance to do that. Brian Leonard did that at times, Ray Rice did that at times, Jawan Jamison has done that at times, Savon Huggins did it in the Cincinnati game a couple of years ago. So when you get a guy in that situation you want to let him do it. But I would tell you this: I wouldn’t worry about the reps because all three (returning halfbacks) will have a role in our offense. Sometimes it’s going to be in the backfield, sometimes it’s going to be in other places on the field. I know Ralph (Friedgen) is really excited to get all three of those guys involved.”

    On whether Paul James can be a dominant running back:

    “I think he can. Now, there’s nothing more valuable than consistency. I heard someone say in the NFL that the most important ability is availability. So he’s got to be durable enough to get through the season. He has been working all off season to do it. I think the minor procedure we had for him in the spring also allowed him to work on some other things to hopefully build his body, because when he’s in there he’s a good football player.”

    On Rutgers’ offensive and defensive lines matching up with bigger lines in the Big Ten:

    “I think offensively we’re going to be in the same range of offensive linemen as the people we’re going to play against. Even a guy like Chris Muller, who is 305 pounds with 12 percent body fat, which is the reason why we could put more weight on him. But we don’t need to. He’s a good athlete. I think really the difference will be more on defense where people will notice the difference because of the type of player we play with. I’m not concerned about it. I think we’ll match up very well. Our defense has proven over the years that we can stop the run with the players that we utilize and the body types that we utilize.”

    Thoughts on LSU quarterback transfer Hayden Rettig:

    “It certainly adds depth to that (quarterback) room. I think everybody in football is in agreement that’s the most important position on the field. You can’t have enough good players in that room. I think what that will ultimately do is it will create a good competition going forward in the spring. Hayden is a talented guy. Now, we’ve got other talented guys in that room. I like the way he has assimilated into the team. I like the way he has gone about it. Being from California and not being able to go home on a regular basis may be the best thing for him because he’s been around the players more on the weekends when the guys have been around.”

    On the offensive line, which returns all five starters:

    “I don’t think we ended spring where we wanted to be. I think we were closer than when we started spring. I don’t think that process could have gotten finished in 15 practices. As we go through training camp the expectation level for them is very high, in my opinion, and that has been expressed to them and they share that. I think that’s a good thing. There’s a tremendous amount of experience with those first five players and that needs to come out on the field.”

    On the position flop between Steve Longa (moving from middle linebacker to the weak side) and Kevin Snyder (switching from weak side to the middle):

    “I’m very pleased. Ultimately, it was about trying to give Steve a chance to make even more plays. Steve has proven he can really make plays. Kevin is an excellent football player, a good communicator, somebody who will fit into that mike linebacker role. But in this defense the will linebacker over the years has been a guy who can really change football games. Khaseem Greene did it probably better than anybody. Steve is in that position now. I think it has been a good move for him.”

    On the depth at defensive line this season:

    “I’ve said we have eight or nine (defensive linemen). If (defensive coordinator Joe Rossi) says it’s 10, it’s a good thing. I’ve always felt if we can keep those guys fresh, (and) what that does is it allows you to run to the ball more. When you’ve got more guys running to the ball better you create turnovers. You recover turnovers. I think all of those things make your defense better. And as you get into the later times of the game, when close games are being decided, then your guys like Darius Hamilton are a little bit fresher.”

    On position battles in camp and how long they will play out:

    “I don’t know if I’d put a time line on them for this reason: In the (non-quarterback) position battles a lot of times, whether you’re the starter or the second-team guy, you’re going to play. Those guys are going to play. So those battles can go on a little bit longer, whereas at quarterback, if you’re the starter you’re going to get the bulk of the reps. If you’re the third-team guy you’re not going to get any reps or maybe you get a couple reps a day at the most. What I’m hoping is that within the first five to seven days we’ll resolve the starting quarterback situation and then take the next five to seven days and resolve the backup situation.”

    On playing a team the caliber of Washington State in the opener:

    “I don’t know that I would describe it as pressure. What I think it does, when you play a premier opponent in your first game – we did it last year with Fresno, we’ll do it this year with Washington State – I think it creates excitement within your players. I think it creates an urgency in your program. And I think all of those things are really good. There will no lack of focus on day one because we know we have a heck of a contest coming at us when we go to Seattle. For our guys on defense I know they’re looking forward to it because they want an opportunity to play against that style of offense and do it better than we did it last year.”

    On his relationship with new Penn State coach James Franklin:

    “I know this: we’re really looking forward to starting Big Ten play. James and I, because we’ve known each other for so long, we can sit down and be friendly and have conversations and certainly be professional in those meetings. It’s not just James. It’s every coach in the league you sit with. But when it comes down to recruiting and when it comes down to the actual games, which are ultimately the most important thing, there will be no lack of competitiveness on either side of the sideline.”

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