Head coach Kyle Flood - Opening Statement: “I appreciate you guys coming in on a Sunday. We’re very excited and honored to represent our conference in the Russell Athletic Bowl down in Orlando. A great game, from talking with some coaches who’ve been down there before and certainly a great destination, not just for our football team, but for our entire university and fan base. Orlando is a great city and a place people go for a lot of reasons in December. I think this will be one that will give our fans one more reason to go down there.
“To play a traditional power like Virginia Tech, I think it is going to be a great experience for our team and a challenge for us. Coach Beamer is the active wins leader amongst Division I football coaches. Certainly his track record speaks for itself. They’ve got a fine football team. I’m at the beginning stages of getting to know their team a little bit better, but I know they’ve got a very talented quarterback in Logan Thomas. He leads their team in both passing and rushing. And they’ve got a very fine defense that ranks 24th in the country. They do an excellent job against the run. They do an excellent job in scoring defense, as well.
“As you would expect from a Frank Beamer team, their special teams are excellent. Their kickoff returner and their punt returner, both really fine football players. Their punt returner we’re very familiar with, somebody we had a lot of interaction with during the recruiting process.
“We are very excited to get going here with the second season. The bowl season, it gives us the opportunity to do a couple different things. On a football team where we were able to redshirt 17 freshmen, it gives us another 14 practices to develop that group of players and get them ready to hopefully be contributors next season.
“And also it gives our seniors the opportunity to do something that only two teams in the history of Rutgers football have done, which is get to the double-digit wins mark. When you get to the 10-win mark, it separates your team and your year and puts you in a little bit of a different class. Great programs are sometimes defined by their 10-win seasons. I think this is an excellent opportunity for us to send our seniors out the right way, not just as the first team in history to win a share of the BIG EAST title, but one of only three 10-plus win teams in the history of our program.”
On Virginia Tech-Rutgers history: “I know they are a former member of the BIG EAST. When I got here in 2005, Virginia Tech, they were already in the ACC. I know Virginia Tech has had an excellent program for a long time. Other than that, I really don’t know much about the rivalry between those two schools.”
On Virginia Tech QB Logan Thomas comparisons, possibly to USF QB B.J. Daniels: “His skill set might be similar. Again, I haven’t watched enough film to make those kinds of comparisons. I know enough about his stature that he would be much different than B.J. He’s a six-foot six athlete. B.J.’s probably a six-foot, six-foot one athlete. I think he’s a different guy than maybe anyone we’ve seen in a long time. Until we watch the film and get into it, we haven’t even done the film exchange part of it. Until we do that, it’s tough to say.”
On team’s psyche coming out of Louisville game: “I think following the game, we were certainly disappointed. There’s no doubt, that as a football program, we were disappointed at the outcome of the game. When I got the chance to see the players today, they were excited about the opportunity that’s ahead of us. We certainly have proven over the years, the last seven years specifically, our track record in terms of getting ready for these bowl games is pretty good, whether coming off a win or coming off a loss at the end of the season. I think the bowl season is a new season, and we’ve always approached it like that. It’s got a little bit of a different format to it than the regular season, and I think our teams have done a really good job of focusing on the opponent and trying to finish off the season the right way.”
On bowl success at Rutgers: “I think going into this for the first time for me, I can only draw from the experiences as an assistant coach at Rutgers. For us, part of the success here, first of all, comes from making it a new season. And that’s what it is. When you play a game, then you don’t play another game for a month, it’s a completely different season than you were ever in during the regular season. I think part of it is certainly the training we do off the field, because you’re not going to practice every day. What goes on in the weight room and from a conditioning aspect is critical to make sure you are ready to play a football game in a month. When you finish the season, your bodies are beat up. By the time you get to the bowl game, you’d hope you’re in a little better physical condition, physical shape than you were maybe at the end of the seasons. Those are the things that jump out to me right away. Certainly, as you get closer to the game, the focus shifts from being developmental to game planning. I think you have to make that shift, not only as a coaching staff, but the team has to make that shift. The priorities have to change as you get a little bit later in the bowl season.”
On schedule leading up to the bowl game: “We’re going to have 14 practices before the game. The first of which will be this upcoming Saturday.”
On if there is a number of practices allowed before the bowl game: “There really is no number that you’re allowed. I think people come up with (15) because a lot of times coaches refer to bowl season as an extra spring. I think people make the association of it being 15. With the academic requirements of our team and our university, I don’t think it would be in our best interest to have more than 14. I think 14 will give us an opportunity to do both, to develop our younger players and then make sure that the game planning part of it, we’re ready to go. It’s very much in line with what we have done in the past.”
On when the team wants to be in Orlando: “We’re going to get there the Sunday prior to the game. When we travel that Sunday, because the game is on a Friday, essentially, that will put us through a normal game week. We would travel on (Dec.) 23rd and play on the 28th.”
On when the first practice would be: “(Dec.) 24th.”
On if the full week off for the players is more mental or physical: “It’s physical. It’s a week off from football practice, but it’s not a week off from training. We will be doing stuff from a strength standpoint and from a conditioning standpoint in the weight room, but this is also a critical time for our players academically. We’re reaching the end of the semester, so there are papers that are coming due, there are final exams to prepare for, so it will be a full week for our players even without going on the football field until Saturday.”
On how much of a new experience this will be with the bowl and academics for the freshmen: “It is. It’s a tremendous change. The players have gone through a longer season than they have ever gone through, and now they’re about to go through another season. They’ll have this week off the field, but we’re still going to train through it. From an academic standpoint, it’s a little bit different than anything they’ve experienced because they’re going through college courses for the first time. There definitely is a transitional phase to bowl season for those freshmen and I think we try to stay very in-tune to that with the position coaches and the academic support, etcetera, to make sure we get them through the right way.”
On whether it’s difficult to balance the fun and business aspect of it: “It never has been for me. I really believe if you’re doing something that you enjoy, you should be able to work really hard at it but really enjoy it while you do it. That’s something I’ve always enjoyed about the different places that I’ve coached, even when we get to these situations where we’re getting ready for the game and the outcome of the game has consequences. For us, there is a tremendously positive consequence for these seniors of being able to go out with a 10-win season, something that separates them from a lot of football teams here at Rutgers. We’re going to take that very seriously. I think while you do that, you should be able to enjoy it and enjoy the experience. We’ve used the expression here in the past, ‘When it’s time to work, it’s time to work.’ When that part of the day is over, then you get to enjoy some of the benefits of being a bowl-eligible team and going to a great place like Orlando.”
On how CB Brandon Jones is coming out of the Louisville game and if there are any guys who were out that may be able to return for the bowl game: “To answer the second part, really the one guy would be (kicker) Kyle Federico. We have to see, really with four weeks between the last game and the bowl game; we’ll get a little bit of an idea of where he’ll be. Brandon Jones, my information today, we were more optimistic today than we were at the end of the (Louisville) game. Without getting into the specifics of the injury, it’s going to be a very tight timeline for him. He’s really going to be kind of on the bubble until we get to about game week and then we’re going to have to make a decision.”
On how similar Rutgers and Virginia Tech are based on their defensive and special teams philosophies: “I’ve never met Coach Beamer, but I certainly know enough about him from being in this business to know how he values special teams and how his football teams embrace special teams. I would like to think that we do that here as well at Rutgers. Defensively, I know what they used to be because there were a lot of teams locally that ran the Virginia Tech 4-2-5 system. I don’t know that that’s what they still do because I haven’t looked at them on film yet, but I know that they’ve got a great tradition of playing good defense, having some really fine defensive linemen while they were doing it and then as we get into the film, be able to have an little bit of an idea of what the similarities may be. I don’t think structurally there are a lot of similarities, but again I haven’t studied them yet.”
On if he got feedback about fans getting down to the game: “I have not discussed specifically what it would, but I know we’ve been fortunate to go to some great cities with these bowl trips. Orlando certainly is as great a destination as there could be for a bowl game, late December, between the game itself and then Disney and the surrounding opportunities you have in that city. We’ve had very good turnouts in the past for these games. I have no reason to believe we won’t have the best turnout we’ve ever had for this one.
On what playing in Florida does for recruiting: “It certainly doesn’t hurt. It certainly is nice for the players on our team that are from Florida. It gives their families a chance of maybe family members or former teammates or former coaches who haven’t been able to get up here to see a game, it gives them an opportunity in their home state to get out and see their guys play locally. Certainly, when you go to a bowl game in an area that you recruit, there is no negative to it. It can only be a positive.”