Every Rutgers player and prospect better like special teams because new coordinator Vince Okruch is serious.
An example set by Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, Rutgers’ best athletes will be on the field for special teams whenever possible.
“You ain’t going to play if you’re not on special teams,” Okruch said. “We’ll do it like Urban did.”
Rutgers built itself up as a dangerous special teams program and that continues under Okruch’s guise in 2016.
“If you’re not on two special teams, you’re not going to start on offense or defense,” he said. “Now, we’re not complete idiots. Here’s a perfect example. When I first got to Columbus, Ezekiel Elliott was our starting right guard on the punt team. Well about the fourth game, Urban said we might want to think about this.”
Okruch projects an NFL model on the Rutgers special teams units where the best players contribute wherever possible.
“We’re going to bring the same concept [as the NFL],” he said. “The beautiful thing about that is all of the other stuff takes care of itself. When their careers are done at the collegiate level, I wish I had a nickel for every draft-eligible guy that came in and said, ‘coach, you got a minute to go over special teams.’
“... If you’re in the NFL now, you better be a pass rusher, a pass thrower or a cover corner. After that, they don’t care. It’s special teams first. … If you really, truly want to play beyond here, you better master your special teams abilities. That’s what the next show is.”
With more than 35 years of coaching experience, Okruch has plenty of familiarity with NFL expectations and the role special teams play in the draft.
“When a scout comes in to do an evaluation of a guy, the first guy he talks to is the strength coach,” he said. “He wants to know his work habits. Is he a good kid? Then he talks to the head coach and then he talks to his position coach. When he watches practice, I get one of these – can he cover kicks?”
Chris Ash’s staff focused more on recruiting than film review but Okruch still built an impression on last year’s production.
“I guess, in a technical term, inconsistency,” he said. “There were some very, very impressive snaps and there were some snaps that weren’t. There’s a lot of reasons for that. Chris will develop a mindset, a mentality, a personality where special teams will be a motivator for the rest of us. It will be a high-energy rep. It will be an honor to be on special teams.”