By Tom Luicci
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (Aug. 9, 2014) – This probably isn’t quite what Rutgers University officials had in mind when they coined the slogan “Jersey Roots, Global Reach,” but it works for head football coach Kyle Flood.
Recruiting in the State of Rutgers has gone Down Under.
Looking for experience at punter, Flood got exactly that less than three weeks before the start of the season by officially announcing the addition of Tim Gleeson to the roster today.
The 6-2, 195-pound Gleeson comes to Rutgers via Santa Barbara (Calif.) Junior College, the University of Wyoming and Australia, where he hails from.
Gleeson took part in his first Rutgers practice today and will be thrown into the punting competition beginning with Monday’s scrimmage, Flood said. Gleeson, whose brother Will Gleeson punts for the University of Mississippi, has two years of eligibility and a redshirt year.
“He is going to enter our competition at punter and we’re excited to see what he can do,” Flood said. “We kind of let him get out there and get his bearings today. Starting on Monday we’re going to turn him loose to see what he’s got.”
Until Gleeson’s arrival, junior Joe Roth had been the frontrunner to win the starting job. Roth has yet to kick in a major college game.
“It was an area that we felt like we needed more depth in. So I really have to credit coach (Bob) Fraser and the recruiting staff for continuing to search and being really diligent about it,” Flood said. “He’s a young man who started his career in Wyoming and then junior college and has a brother who is punting in the SEC.
“Our guys do a great job of continuing to search and look. When we got in touch with him we had to see if academically it would work and then we had to see if it would work with him as a person. We’re excited to have him on campus, excited to see what he can do with the team.”
Gleeson punted for Wyoming as a freshman in 2012 and for Santa Barbara in 2013. He is the second roster addition in as many days, with defensive lineman Kevin Wilkins joining the team on Friday after being given the green light by the NCAA Clearinghouse.
A crowd estimated at 2,000 turned out to watch preseason practice No. 10 on Fan Appreciation Day, filling the bleachers and packing the perimeter of the north end zone of the F-3 facility to watch a session that was held in shells and did not feature contact.
“It was a great atmosphere out there for practice,” Flood said. “A lot fans came out to see it, we had a lot of recruits at practice today. I thought it was a good practice. We were only in shells, so we didn’t tackle today, but I thought we got a lot done. We got two-minute (drill) in, which is really the last situation to put in for us, and we cleaned some stuff up.”
The players appreciated the show of support on a day they needed a lift, since many had their sights set on Sunday’s first day off of camp.
“It’s good to have people come out to see you practice,” middle linebacker Kevin Snyder said. “For us, we have to realize – and I think we did a good job of it – we can’t use that as a distraction not to execute. You’ve been practicing without any people or TV cameras and now you have people there.
“You can’t let it become a distraction. But I think we used it to get our energy up today. It was tough. I think having the fans there helped a lot. We had a solid practice.”
Center Betim Bujari said the fans’ presence helped him stay focused.
“It was great having the fans out there, although you try not to let it be a distraction, especially when you see people you know,” he said.
Wide receiver Leonte Carroo had a scheduled day off and did not practice, while cornerback Nadir Barnwell is sidelined indefinitely with an ankle sprain, Flood said.
“He’ll be out for a little bit. I expect to have him for the first game,” Flood said of Barnwell.
Two newcomers continue to impress – quarterback Hayden Rettig, a transfer from LSU who is sitting out this season, and true freshman cornerback Dre Boggs.
“I think Hayden is a talented player. I think he’s handling this situation really well,” Flood said. “This is a very difficult situation for a player when they want to come and they want to contribute and they want to help the football team but really the only way for this year he’s going to be able to help the football team is by helping us practice.
“So for the competitor that he is that’s not the easiest thing to handle. I think he’s handling it very well. I think he’s done a really good job of it.”
Flood said the 6-3, 205-pound Rettig is embracing his role this season as the scout team quarterback, preparing Rutgers’ defense for the opposing quarterbacks the unit will face each week.
“It’s one of the things I talked to him about on the way in. I said `hey you’re going to be the highest-paid scout team quarterback in the country,’ ” Flood joked. “I think he’s excited about the opportunity to be the guys that we’re going to play against. There are some good ones on our schedule so we need a good one throwing it in practice.”
The 5-11, 175-pound Boggs, meanwhile, has shown playmaking ability throughout preseason camp, even though he only started playing cornerback last year in prep school.
“Dre is an exciting guy. He’s still learning. He’s only in his first year in the system but he’s a guy that’s going to play this year,” Flood said. “He’s going to help us win football games. We’re going to continue to force feed him every rep we can here in training camp so that he’s as ready he can be game one. He’s a guy, whether he goes out with the first team has yet to be determined, I wouldn’t rule it out yet, but he’s somebody who is going to play for us.”
Flood said Boggs’ inexperience at the position occasionally surfaces but that he makes up for it with his athleticism.
“The techniques don’t necessarily come naturally,” said Flood. “But he’s a tremendous natural athlete. I used to say when I coached the offensive line `the better the clay the better the sculpture.’ He’s got a lot of really, really exciting physical tools for those guys to work with in the secondary. So even though it may not be natural at first he picks it up pretty quick.”