COACH FLOOD: Good afternoon. Good to be back home again. Excellent opponent coming into town in Eastern Michigan.
But I think before we even talk about the game, probably appropriate that we talk a little bit about the ceremony for Eric LeGrand. As everybody knows, we are going to retire his jersey this weekend. We have got quite a few things in store for him, and I know he's excited about it; I'm excited about it and I think it's something that Eric deserves. He's been so inspirational to our program, both before and after his accident and hasalways stayed a part of our program. He is going to come by and speak to the team tomorrow.
We will do the ceremony at half-time and we will have a ceremony on the field. We will present Eric and his family with something, and we have a little surprise in store for him, as well, that we'll present to him at half-time.
I know there's going to be a couple things going on at the beginning of the game. I know Eric is going to be there early. I know there's a limited quantity of 52 signs for the folks that come into the stadium first to have mand I'm sure people will make their signs, as well, and I know everybody is going to be excited to see Eric on the field; I know I am, and I'm looking forward to a great day with Eric as he continues to be a huge part of our program.
Our opponent, Eastern Michigan, you know, Ron English comes in here, and we have some familiarity with Coach English as a defensive coordinator at one time. He was at Louisville before that. He's spent quite a few years at Michigan and he is as good as there is in the country. He calls the defense himself.
They are similar to what we do on defense. They are a 4-3 configuration defense. They like to pressure. They play football the way you would think a defensive coordinator's team would play football. They are very physical. They do a great job of taking care of the ball. They have got a nice turnover margin right now.
On defense last week they scored a touchdown on defense blitzing the quarterback, picking up a fumble, scooping and scoring. On offense, they challenge you, not just with their physicality, but with the way they line up. They play the game with multiple tight ends on the line, off the line, motions and shifts.
So it will be an excellent challenge for us as a football team this Saturday to be 1-0.
Q. Can you talk about Eric LeGrand and him being around this program and what it means to him, what it means to you as a program? You have some players here now who have been coming in who were not here when he was here; it was one thing when it was all of his teammates the year after, but now with new guys in the program, what is that like having him around for them?
COACH FLOOD: Yeah, I think you're right. Quite a few players on our team, they only know Eric as a celebrity. They see him on the ESPYs or on a commercial or doing the radio show or play-by-play.
The most important message or the most important thing I try to say about Eric when people ask me questions about him is, Eric was every bit as inspirational, before anything happened. He was one of the first players who committed to his year in the recruiting class, and from the moment he stepped on our campus, he was a huge part of the athletic department, not just the football team. You would see him at soccer games; you would see him at lacrosse games, and certainly when he was playing football, he played with tremendous enthusiasm before the game.
And all those characteristics about Eric, he's continued to have them, even now. And that, to me, is really the best thing I can tell people, because it's not something that just started that day in Giants Stadium.
Q. With the half-time ceremony, will you be able to be out there for it?
COACH FLOOD: I'm going to be out there for the beginning of it. It takes the team a couple minutes to get into the locker room and the coordinators get them from there. I'll be able to be out there for the first couple minutes of it and congratulate him, and then I'll get back to work and the rest of the department will take it from there.
Q. Did Eric have two numbers here, when he played offense and fullback --
COACH FLOOD: I believe it was -- might have been 46 or 48. I'm not sure which one it is.
But as I've said to Eric on many occasions, to say that he played fullback is a very loose interpretation ofthat expression. And we tried him there, I want to say, it was the North Carolina game, I can't remember exactly which game it was.
But it was a short stay on offense for Eric. He was born to be a defense tackle and a nose guard, and that's where he fit best.
Q. Given what's happened, would this be another game where you would try to be formidable in the run game, not that you don't usually, but you were last week; it was the highest run total in seven years. Given Eastern Michigan has struggled so much against the run; is that something you'll try to establish early and often?
COACH FLOOD: I think it's something we'll try to establish early, but more so because it's our personality than anything else.
When you have success running the football early in the game, it certainly leads to more runs in the game, like last week, and sometimes when you don't have as much success as you'd like to have running the football early in the game, it could lead to opening up the passing game, and I believe that, and that's the way we play here.
We've been able to generate some points and move the ball now in two games, doing both, and last week, I think some of the positives we had in the run game early and the way we played defense, allowed us to continue to run the ball a little more so, maybe than we have in recent games.
Q. How have you evaluated your pass rush, given the scheme that you face in your first game and last game, you didn't really see many pass attempts?
COACH FLOOD: Yeah, I evaluate it for what it is. I think your pass rush works in a couple different ways. Certainly if you get sacks, that's what you would love to have. That would be the perfect end.
But if you play against a team that alters the way they play to get rid of the ball more quickly, well, then you've had an effect on them. If you have a quarterback who maybe is not going through his second, third and fourth read because he knows the rush is coming, then you've had an effect on the game.
Sometimes those effects are tangible and sometimes they are not. So we are going to put our best pass rushers out there, and sometimes we'll rush withfour and then sometimes we'll bring pressures in and rush with five or six.
Q. You can watch Eastern Michigan on film, but you have a player in your program in Toler who played them I think the last three years. Is that an added resource, something that the coaches can go to him and get a feel for what they actually do on the fieldmore so than just on film?
COACH FLOOD: I'm sure the defensive coaches and Coach Wilson will ask him maybe about some of the personnel at receiver or possibly about the quarterback but probably not much beyond that.
Q. When you watched film what Savon was able to do in the second game, was there any differences you saw compared to what he did in the first game?
COACH FLOOD: I think he improved. That would be what I would say. I don't know if it's any one thing. I think as Savon and PJ get more opportunities to run the ball, their reactions will become quicker and that's what will make the runs look better, and I think that happened from the first game to the second game and hopefully we can make that happen again now.
Q. Through two games, what have you seen from him at safety?
COACH FLOOD: I think Darion (ph) has been very steady so far. I don't know if he's been really challenged just yet and that could happen this week.
The first week, you know, with as good a quarterback as he was and the quality of the receivers, the way theyplayed the game just didn't challenge the safeties the way it really challenged the underneath coverage and the corners. And last week, there were not a lot of opportunities really down the field where he was challenged.
But he's going to be challenged, and he's improving in practice, so we see it every day. Maybe the opportunities haven't been there in the game just yet, but he has not given me reason to believe that he won't continue to improve as the season goes on.
Q. With Nick Marsh, is he everything you expected in what you saw with him in your evaluation? How important has he been?
COACH FLOOD: He was really important in the second game. He was not consistent enough in the first.
So when you say, was he everything I expected him to be, he was in the second game. The punter in the second game was exactly what I thought we were going to get after the preseason, and I think now as he gets more and more comfortable here at Rutgers, hopefully we can continue to be that consistent. He had a hell of a day last week.
Q. You have Gareef and Toler listed or, as one of the corner spots, is that the result of one over the other in terms of their play so far, and when will you make that decision, do you think?
COACH FLOOD: I think they are very close, and even last week, I think I had it listed a little bit differently but I knew both would play and they played about the same in the game and sometimes at the same time they play.
We'll make the final decision probably after the Thursday practice, but regardless of who starts the game, I feel like we have got two guys there that can start for us and both are going to play quite a bit.
Q. What was it like to see Al Page take advantage of the playing time against Norfolk State and to finally see him healthy on the field?
COACH FLOOD: When you say take advantage, do you mean theTFLs or the off-side penalties? Which one are you referring to?
COACH FLOOD: Well, I think Al at times did a good job forus in that game, but he also realized it's not as easy as lining up, and there's a lot that goes into playing major college football.
And Al is going to play a lot of football for us, and I think he took a step in the right direction, despite the penalties. But the penalties are something can he wasn't tolerate and ultimately, if the game isn't going inthat direction, they are going to hurt you.
Q. It's a little peculiar to see a quarterback throw-12-for-21 but still be part of 38 points. Overall thoughts on Gary's performance?
COACH FLOOD: I thought given the opportunity to make someplays, he did. And just the nature of the game, I don't know if he got into the same kind of rhythm maybe that he had in the first game, but I don't think there will be any carryover.
I don't think there's any carryover from the first game to the last week, I think this week will be different scheme, different matchup, different personal, different game plan. We started a lot of the process last night and we'll really start installing the game plan tomorrow morning.
Q. Released the injury report today -- is it more if Jamil and Paul are probable, are these more nuisances at this point in terms of the personal and impact on your two-deep?
COACH FLOOD: I don't know that any of the injuries -- nuisance maybe to the players, not to me. I think for Jamil, he's been close, and then we have to make a decision that at whatever percentage of health he's at, is it in his best interests to play or is it in our best interests for him to play, and I haven't felt that that's been the case just yet. I'm more confident this week than I was last week. That's why I think I moved him to probable this week.
So I'm more confident this week that Jamil will have a role in that game and we need him to. We need his passion out there on the field, because it's not just him as a player. He has an effect -- he's one of those players on defense, and we have had quite a few of them here from Eric Foster, who is our defensive tackle.
Eric Foster was that kind of guy when I first got here. The way he played was infectious. And I always felt that Steve Beauharnais was that way; Damaso Munoz was that way to a certain degree; I thought Scott Vallone to a certain degree is that way.
There are certain players on defense and they seem to show it more in the front than anywhere that the way they play has an effect on everybody else around them because they play sideline to sideline.
Q. Is Kenneth Kirksey back and kind of resuming the role he had before the suspension?
COACH FLOOD: As of last night, Kenny is back, fully reinstated back into the program. He'll be our second team nose guard this week and we expect him to play a lot.
Q. So with Mera listed as the starter, I'm guessing that's strictly not out of injury concerns? What have you seen so far?
COACH FLOOD: I think he deserves to be listed as a starter. He's playing quite a bit for us. Without knowing exactly what Jamil's role will be yet, I don't think Jamil will be out there full-time tomorrow, we'll try to get him involved with some things, but I think Mera is taking advantage of that opportunity.
For somebody that didn't start training camp in the two-deep and was on the periphery of some of these positions, he's found a way to contribute and play good football for us.
Q. How many did you use in the game --
COACH FLOOD: I believe we used ten. I think we got all the starters out there and got an entire second group in there by the last series.
Q. Going back to Eric for a second, I know do you that radio show with him every week; how have you seen him -- now that he's in a different role besides a football player, and I know he's still around the team, but are you surprised at all with his personality how famous he has become, and how have you seen him blossom into a media guy?
COACH FLOOD: Yeah, Eric's a rock star. I'm not surprised by it at all, because Eric's the kind of person that you feel better when you're around him and that has always been the case. Not just in recent times.
From the moment that he committed to Rutgers football and became a part of the family here, he was just somebodythat he's like a people magnet and everybody is drawn to him and he's got agreat personality, and he's got a great way about him on the radio, and he's getting better and better at doing that as his career goes along.
I know Chris is in the back here and he helps with the radio show, and he's had a big part in trying to mentor Eric and bring him along in this profession, as well.
To Eric's credit, he listens, he takes the advice, but just from a talent standpoint and a personality standpoint, he was built to be out in front of things and in front of the camera.
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