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Pat Flaherty’s experience key in developing offensive line



No. 72 Hollin Pierce has “unlimited potential” according to offensive line coach Pat Flaherty. Photo credit Rutgers Athletics

Tuesday marked the tenth practice of spring camp for Rutgers football. New offensive line coach Pat Flaherty met with the media to discuss his unit’s progress so far.

“We’re not going backwards. We’re going forward,” Flaherty said. “I’m really excited about this group. The talent level here that coach Schiano put together is really going to be exciting for Rutgers football. The offensive line group has a growth and maturity level that’s going faster than maybe they want to be, but I’ll tell you this. They’re locked in every day, and they’re giving everything they can in practice. That’s all you can ask for.”

Bringing in a veteran coach like Flaherty was needed for a position group in needing of taking more than just a step forward next season. The development of the offensive line is crucial to the offense as a whole making significant improvement in the fall. The two-time Super Bowl champion coach made it clear his approach is consistent with how he’s coached at any level. His focus remains on fundamentals this spring.

“I coach these guys like I’ve coached any player I’ve ever coached, including the Pro Bowl players. It hasn’t changed,” explained Flaherty. “The techniques that I’ve taught for 40 years are the same techniques we’ve talked about today.”

A key to stability along the line is having strong tackles and Flaherty raved about returning starter Hollin Pierce. The former walk-on has gotten a lot of reps the past two seasons. The hope is for the 6’8” lineman to emerge as an anchor for the Rutgers offense.

“Hollin has unlimited potential – it’s not been tapped yet,” Flaherty said. “When this guy gets moving, he can flip his hips and keep his hips behind his shoulders as well as I’ve seen, and I’ve seen a lot of good ones from that standpoint.”

After Saturday’s scrimmage, the first of three this spring, head coach preached patience with the offensive line’s development.

“It’s a cumulative build. We just have to keep building,” explained Schiano. “Some guys are stepping up that we haven’t heard a lot from, doing things that catch your eye. Once that happens, then that happens more and more. That’s what I’m hoping for these next two weeks.”

Like Schiano, this is not Flaherty’s first run at Rutgers. He was an offensive line assistant at RU from 1984-1991. Flaherty worked for both former head coaches Dick Anderson and Doug Graber. For such an experienced coach, Schiano appealed to Flaherty due to his similar philosophy on coaching.

“Greg is a coach that I believe in, and I believe in his program,” Flaherty said. “It was something that was a natural fit – I didn’t have to be concerned about ‘would I believe what he’s teaching?’ That’s something that really excited me. If it was anybody else here, I probably wouldn’t have done it,” Flaherty said. “Greg (Schiano) asked me to do it, so it was a no-brainer for me.”

Rutgers fans are hopeful that Flaherty can develop the offensive line into a capable unit next season. The longtime Nee York Giants coach certainly has earned the benefit of the doubt. He seems energized to have this opportunity back at RU and that’s a good sign.

You can watch coach Flaherty’s entire press conference below.

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  1. Henry Rutgers

    April 20, 2023 at 7:22 am

    Could be me and how I read the article, but I find it a little concerning that with all the portal and recruiting activity with respect to the o-line that a walk on has emerged as the o-line leader. That is not a knock against the player. We’ve had other walk-ons develop into pro material. Again, it is just the amount of recruiting and portal activity that put massive focus on this space and a walk on emerges as the lead? It says a lot for the player but not much for our coach’s ability to select portal talent and recruit.

    Coach Flaherty looks to be the right coach to bring this critical group together into a solid unit to propel RU football forward in the fall.

    • Aaron Breitman

      April 20, 2023 at 8:02 am

      I understand your concern but Pierce isn’t your typical walk-on. Physically he has the tools, but was severely underdeveloped as a player when he arrived. He’s also entering his third year as a starter. I think he’s a positive story in player development for the program. I do agree they need more talent along the line and it does speak to that deficiency in that Pierce is at the top.

      • Henry Rutgers

        April 20, 2023 at 4:22 pm

        Thank you for the clarification. I think walk-ons are great. I should have reread the article. I missed the word “former” in front of walk on.

  2. pj43

    April 21, 2023 at 3:04 pm

    For me, I think Schiano is taking the right steps in terms of turning the offense around – beginning with the OL. We now have a veteran OL coach who knows how to teach technique AND coach. Schiano has definitely focused on experience at each offensive coaching position with his coaching changes. We all know that OL development is a long process. At least now we seem to have the right coach and young players with size and potential but a lack of experience. We’ll find out this season what the level of improvement is. If we can somehow establish the run, it should take pressure off of Wimsatt and allow his development as well.

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