Will Coaching Changes Doom Rutgers' Transition to Big Ten Football?

Andrew Coppens@@andycoppensContributor IJanuary 22, 2014

PISCATAWAY, NJ - SEPTEMBER 21: Savon Huggins #28, head coach Kyle Flood and Jamil Merrell #92 of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights celebrate their 28-24 victory over the Arkansas Razorbacks in a game at High Point Solutions Stadium on September 21, 2013 in Piscataway, New Jersey. (Photo by Rich Schultz /Getty Images)
Rich Schultz/Getty Images

Monday was yet another mark of progress in the Rutgers Scarlet Knights' transition to the Big Ten, as it got the B1G logo put on High Point Solutions Stadium field for the first time. Yet, it's not the only transition going on for Rutgers, as Kyle Flood must replace both of his coordinators. 

Former defensive coordinator Dave Cohen was fired after the season, and on Monday it was announced that offensive coordinator Ron Prince was off to the NFL as a tight ends coach for the Detroit Lions, according to a Lions press release via Tim Twentyman.  

The writing may have been on the wall for Prince to leave as soon as Jim Caldwell was named the Lions head coach, given their three years coaching together in the NFL. But that was the risk Flood took in hiring a guy who had spent the last three years coaching in the NFL in the first place.

According to NJ.com's Tom Luicci, Prince's offense wasn't much to write home about in year one: 

Under Prince, Rutgers averaged 26.5 points per game and 365.2 yardsbut the unit tailed off over the final seven games of the season, with starting quarterback Gary Nova eventually getting benched for the final three games.

In the grand scheme of things, the loss of Prince may not end up being that huge on the field.

As for the firing of Cohen? There's little doubt that Flood made the right decision in letting him go.

Under Cohen's leadership, the 2013 Rutgers defense gave up a school-record 3,737 yards passing and allowed opponents to score 29.8 points per game (81st ranked in the nation). In the five games opponents scored 40-plus points, four were Scarlet Knight losses.

Disappointing results or not, RU's coaching staff needs to be heading in the same direction as its new life in the Big Ten begins. 

These changes leave fourth-year head coach Kyle Flood and the Rutgers program in a state of flux, and it isn't the first time, either. This is the fourth straight offensive coordinator to leave the Scarlet Knights after just one season.

It brings up one very important question, is Rutgers not doing something right to keep its coordinators or attract more stable options? 

On the plus side, Rutgers is entering the cash-rich Big Ten, and the bump in money could solve a few of the issues that are going on in Piscataway, N.J. 

A transition in coaching is nothing new, but winning programs find some semblance of continuity for a period of time. Even if it's just for three or four years, it allows a team to find an identity and establish itself to fans, boosters andmost importantlyrecruits. 

If you're a recruit, that kind of timeline doesn't give you confidence that the coach who's talking to you in March will be the same one wearing a red "R" on his chest the next March—let alone the next four years of your college career.

For some, the fact that this group has been through a coaching change before could be seen as an advantage. But transitioning a staff and keeping recruiting classes together in the Big East or The American Athletic Conference are very different things than doing so heading into the Big Ten. 

Pardon the cliche, but everything is bigger in the Big Ten, and building a winner in the conference requires getting the right coaches in the right positions quickly and keeping them around for a while, too.

At some point, the continued loss of offensive coordinators and a lack of continuity on the staff takes its toll on the players and the lifeblood of college football—recruiting. 

Other Big Ten teams have already started sniffing around some of the bigger commits on Rutgers' board. Andre Boggs, a 3-star cornerback, is set to visit Wisconsin this weekend (subscription required), while the most important name in the class, 4-star wide receiver Saeed Blacknall, visited Penn State and was offered this past weekend

Losing those two in this transition class would be significant blows, but those two situations are perfect examples of what happens when a coaching staff can't stay together for any significant period of time. Players have to assess options, and that means other teams come sniffing around committed players. 

The next offensive and defensive coordinators need to be guys Flood and Rutgers can trust will help them build a life in the Big Ten. It means finding guys who won't be jumping ship for the next opportunity right away.

At some point, Flood needs to find continuity in the staff, or it will be himself getting the notice that he will not be back at the helm of the Scarlet Knights. 

*Andy Coppens is the Big Ten football lead writer. You can follow him on Twitter: @ andycoppens


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