PISCATAWAY, New Jersey — Rutgers quarterback Gary Nova is hoping one season with veteran coach Ralph Friedgen as offensive coordinator will get his game back on track.
"I wish I had him all four years," Nova said. "He's great. He's a great teacher. He's probably the best teacher I've been around, in school, anything."
And Nova has had his fair share of coaches at Rutgers. While Kyle Flood is his second head coach, the senior is on his fourth offensive coordinator in as many years.
"That is not ideal for any quarterback to have four voices in four years," Flood said. "He needed someone that was very organized, a great communicator and a great teacher. And that's what he's got in Ralph Friedgen."
Flood says Friedgen has the ability to take an idea and make it understandable in a short amount of time.
"You have to coach in sound bites, you can't coach in paragraphs," Flood said. "There's no time on the field for paragraphs. The players aren't going to understand paragraphs, they'll understand sound bites. You have to tell them what they are looking at. Tell them how to make a decision."
When things are getting too complicated for the quarterback, Friedgen will peel things back.
"He won't go too fast if we're having trouble with things. He'll explain it in every way possible until we understand it and as a quarterback we appreciate that," Nova said. "Like I said, if he sees you're having trouble with something, he'll stop and he'll explain it until you can explain it back.
"He'll make practice really stressful on you so when we get into a scrimmage-type, the drills that we've done are harder than that so he's constantly putting pressure on you in the meetings and on the field to hopefully prepare you for the games so you can relax."
Friedgen, the long-time coach at Maryland, is getting along well with his new pupil.
"From what people have told me, he can lose focus from time to time," Friedgen said. "I see that a little bit, but he's usually pretty focused. He doesn't say a lot in meetings, he takes a lot of notes. I've had quarterbacks, and I encourage them all to either take notes on their iPad or to write it down. He writes all his notes down.
"He has been very focused with me. I've had no problems with him. I think he has a very good football intellect, he sees things, he learns very fast and has very good vision."
Nova has never lacked confidence in his three seasons with the Scarlet Knights. However, that's not always been a plus, as evidenced by his 39 career interceptions.
With Rutgers entering the Big Ten Conference and the regular season set to open next week at Washington State with a Thursday night game, Nova needs to improve.
"What gets Gary into trouble sometimes is that he's so confident in what he can do he lets his confidence override sometimes his decisions and he'll force the ball in there," Friedgen said. "Now a lot of times he wins on those forces, too, and everybody thinks it's a great throw, but when he loses them it's an interception. That's what we want to cut down - the interceptions."
His teammates feel the same way. Despite losing his starting job last season, when he threw 18 touchdowns and 14 interceptions, the 28-game starter won it back this summer and was once again voted team captain.
Although he says he doesn't think about it much, Nova admits he knows his Rutgers legacy rides on this season, even though he denies feeling like he has something to prove.
Those closest to Nova understand that he does.
"Yes. Definitely," said Leonte Carroo, a fellow Don Bosco Prep product and one of Nova's favorite receiving targets. "I feel like it's his last hurrah, it's his last year. He feels like it's all or nothing for him. He feels like he has to go out and he has to go out and get a Big Ten Championship and that's the only thing that's on his mind."