The Scarlet Knights’ new offensive coordinator and ex-Maryland Terrapins head coach is going to put a spark into the RU offense no player—not even the lightning-quick Janarion Grant—could replicate on their own. His head coaching record, a respectable 75-50, pales in comparison to the impact he can have when tasked with putting all of his effort into the offensive side of the ball.
Back in the 1980s, Friedgen helped lead Maryland to three consecutive ACC championships as the team’s offensive coordinator, even helping with the development of star QB Boomer Esiason. In 1990, he served as the OC of a Georgia Tech Yellow Jackets team that went 11-0-1 and shared the national title with the Colorado Buffaloes. From there, “The Fridge” was the man behind the 1992 San Diego Chargers offense that appeared in Super Bowl XXIX and the 1997 Georgia Tech team that shared the ACC championship and finished the season ranked in the top ten.
Now, Friedgen will get a chance at a rebirth at Rutgers, a program that could greatly use a turnaround after taking a step back, albeit a minor one, in recent seasons. Despite featuring various offensive stars that have proved their talent with early NFL success—including Ray Rice, Kenny Britt, Anthony Davis and Mohamed Sanu—Rutgers did not see enough translation into the win column. One of the biggest issues has been with instability in the offensive coordinator role, which has featured six different coaches—John McNulty, Kyle Flood and Kirk Ciarrocca (co-coordinators), Frank Cignetti Jr., Dave Brock and Ron Prince—since 2008. With those coaching changes came different offensive approaches, which have ranged from pro-style to more spread (not to mention that wildly unsuccessful brief obsession with the Wildcat).
With Friedgen, Rutgers finally has a leader capable of holding down the position and executing the pro-style offense to maximize talent, which the Scarlet Knights have enough of. While Friedgen’s impact on the human roller coaster that is senior QB Gary Nova will garner the most attention, I’m really excited to see what he can do with some of the other playmakers on Rutgers’ roster.
Tight end Tyler Kroft really stepped up as a receiving threat as a sophomore last season, hauling in 43 catches for 573 yards, but with a bigger role in this year’s offense, he could solidify his status as one of the country’s premier players at the position. With two years of eligibility left, Kroft has all the potential to really blossom under Friedgen, who coached NFL Pro Bowl tight end Vernon Davis while at Maryland. There’s also redshirt junior RB Paul James, who looked great before his injury last season, talented junior pass-catcher Leonte Carroo and the aforementioned rising true sophomore Grant, who was explosive last season as RU’s return man but could develop into a deadly slot receiver with the right coaching.
Rutgers may not be anyone’s favorite to win the Big Ten in 2014, but with “The Fridge” patrolling the sidelines and a well-stocked roster, the Scarlet Knights will not be a fun team to defend in coming seasons.