KINGSTON, R.I. - Rhode Island head coach Jim Fleming announced a number of coaching staff changes, including the promotion of longtime assistant Mike Flanagan to associate head coach.
In addition to Flanagan's promotion, Fleming announced the hire of assistant coaches Tyler Loftus, Chris Lorenti and Umberto Di Meo. Christina Ball was promoted to director of football operations, while Donovan Varner and Troy Gilmer were given additional responsibilities. In addition to these moves, Fleming had announced earlier in the offseason that Patrick Murphy was the team's new offensive coordinator and Jack Cooper was now the defensive coordinator.
"This has been an offseason with significant change, and I am very excited about the new staff that has come together," Fleming said. "After researching a huge number of qualified candidates, I am thrilled to announce these new hires. They all possess the qualities I value from an assistant. They are all clear communicators with great knowledge of the game. Most importantly, they are great people who are committed to guiding the young men we coach to reaching their fullest potential in all areas of their lives."
Flanagan - a Rhode Island native - will enter his sixth season on Fleming's staff in 2020. He has worked his way up the ladder, coaching in several different areas with the Rams, including both sides of the ball. Flanagan also has made a significant impact in recruiting. This year, HeroSports.com ranked URI's incoming class 25th in the nation. The Rams signed the No. 3 overall recruit in defensive lineman Westley Neal and the No. 30 overall recruit in wide receiver Zion Jackson.
"Mike has excelled in every role has has handled for the program through the years," Fleming said. "His knowledge of the game and his ability to relate to players provides a strong combination that has produced significant results. He has earned this promotion the old-fashion way. He is a proven coach and recruiter and with the additional role of associate head coach he will be counted on to handle more administrative tasks that will help guide URI football into the future."
Varner - who coached All-American Aaron Parker and All-CAA Isaiah Coulter last season - will now serve as the team's pro liaison, while Gilmer will add special teams coordinator to his duties as the outside linebackers coach.
In Loftus, Lorenti and Di Meo, Fleming is adding three new coaches. Loftus will handle the tight ends, Lorenti will coach the inside linebacker and Di Meo will handle the defensive linemen.
Loftus came to Rhode Island from Holy Cross, where he spent 2019 as the quarterbacks coach. The Crusaders led the Patriot League in scoring offense, total offense, rushing offense, pass efficiency, third-down conversions, yards per play, yards per completion and yards per pass attempt in his season there. Quarterback Connor Degenhardt was a second-team All-Patriot League selection and a two-time Offensive Player of the Week under Loftus' tutelage.
Lorenti came to Rhode Island after 12 seasons on the staff at Southern Connecticut State. He served as the Owls' defensive coordinator from 2015-19. He was the offensive line coach and special teams coordinator in 2014, and before that spent seven seasons coaching the inside linebackers. During his time at Southern Connecticut, he coached two All-Americans and nine All-Conference selections.
Di Meo spent the 2018 and 2019 seasons as a defensive graduate assistant coach at Boston College, where he worked with defensive line, secondary and linebacker positions. In 2018, he coached third-round NFL draft pick Zach Allen and Wyatt Ray, who signed with the New York Jets. In 2019, Di Meo coached second-team All-ACC linebacker Max Richardson.
Ball spent 2019 as the volunteer coordinator of football operations. In her new role, she will assist Fleming with on-campus duties related to recruiting, lodging, meals, transportation, and compliance documents. She also handles travel arrangements, team meals, on-site transportation and pre- and post-game meals. Ball recruits, hires and manages interns, volunteers, and team managers, among other duties.