Last year, Colin Ferrell spent the offseason studying Rutgers football. Now, he is their defensive line coach

PISCATAWAY, N.J. — Last spring, Colin Ferrell took a deep dive into the Rutgers football defense, preparing a report on how the system works and operates. Fast forward a year later and Ferrell is in his second month as the Rutgers defensive line coach.

Ferrell, who played his high school football in New Jersey at Steinert High School (Hamilton), arrives at Rutgers having spent 11 seasons at Kent State. His deep dive into Rutgers began well before the interview process this offseason.

With Kent State switching last season to a defense that was similar to the Rutgers base Ferrell took time last offseason to deep dive into the Scarlet Knights unit.

He spent time talking with Marquise Watson, the Rutgers defensive line coach, to learn the ins and outs of the scheme.

“It was more so (that) we had a shift and we were going to a new defense. So we’re going to basically a similar scheme and we were studying different things,” Ferrell said on Thursday.

“So I actually reached out last year to ask some questions on why they do this and why they do that. So with that, you come – you just see kids that pop off the tape. You know what I’m going to click this, I’m going to click that. Next. I got four clips on 71. You got a couple more of 48 – you know what I mean? And you’re like ‘OK, these guys are good players’.”

“And so at the time, we don’t know what the future holds, right? So you’re just kind of like putting in plays to show your current players. And then you know, things happening like holy smokes! Like, there’s some familiarity with what they can do. There’s some understanding of what they do well, what we need to work on… opportunities for growth. So that part of it has made the transition a little more seamless, but few transitions are completely seamless.”

The uncertain “future” for Ferrell this time a year ago landed him back in his home state. He admits that the job opening at Rutgers wasn’t on his radar.

In fact, he wasn’t aware that Rutgers was looking for a new defensive line coach.

Watson, the Rutgers defensive line coach for the past two years, was sidelined for the entirety of the 2023 season with a medical issue. This offseason, Rutgers hired Ferrell along with Julian Campenni (defensive ends) to invigorate the unit.

The process for the hire had begun late last fall when contact was first made between Ferrell and Rutgers.

Defensive coordinator, Joe Harasymiak, reached out to Ferrell towards the end of the season to touch base about the opening. Then Harasymiak reached out again after Rutgers beat Miami in the Bad Boy Mowers Pinstripe Bowl.

In hindsight, the situation seems surreal. Here was Ferrell, having spent significant time last offseason studying in depth the Rutgers defense…and then, mere months later, he had the opportunity to pursue a job on their staff.

It is a homecoming of sorts for Ferrell, who gets to return to New Jersey.

Following his high school career, Ferrell spent four years at Kent State where he was an All-MAC selection as a senior. He was signed by the Indianapolis Colts after the NFL draft in 2008.

After his playing career was over, Ferrell returned to New Jersey where he coached high school football for four years before returning to Kent State and working on their staff.

The opening at Rutgers made for a unique synergy for Ferrell given his time spent studying the program’s defense.

In fact, Ferrell’s time spent studying the Rutgers defense made for some interesting preparation for the interview process.

“Almost like you have the answer to the test. Like I know what drills I had to use to get my guys to execute, right?” Ferrell said.

“And at the end of the day, it’s about getting the guys to execute. So did that help me prep for the interview? That did. I mean, In terms of just the terminology, in terms of what’s important, what needs to be focused on what’s hard to get done. And there’s things that we do that we ask these kids to do that aren’t easy. And so I think that kind of helped in the decision process.”

Story originally appeared on Rutgers Wire