Head Coach Chris Ash
COACH ASH: Thank you guys for coming. We're very excited about our first signing here as a staff at Rutgers University. As you look around the country, National Signing Day is a very exciting day for college football, for fans and staffs are extra excited here because of the hard work that our staff put in and sports staff and the people around this university put in to help us get to this day. I'll go through several thank-yous before I get too far into it.
When you look at the recruiting process, Some years it's very smooth. Some years it's very eventful. This year we had a very eventful process. We had a new staff and a new area. We had a blizzard to deal with.
But I'm really excited about how it all came together and how we got to this point and the young men that we are going to bring into this program to help us build this program the way that we want it built.
Like to thank our players to start. We had a 6 a.m. workout this morning with our guys, and to see the progress that they have made in the short time that we have been here with Coach Parker and his staff down in the weight room has been phenomenal.
I've met with every one of our players the last two days, and the positive attitude that they have, the morale of the team, really excites myself and the rest of the staff. They have bought in extremely fast and really excited about the direction that we are going in the development of them physically and mentally and emotionally here within our program.
The other part of that with our players, when I first got hired here at Rutgers, I talked about the importance of our players in the recruiting process. We educated our players on that process and their role in the recruitment of student athletes here and they have done an outstanding job for us in the two official visit weekends that we had. They came in and hosted the players. They did an extremely great job of selling what we're trying to build here, and the way that we are doing business here at Rutgers, and I can't thank those guys enough.
We don't have great relationships with them yet, but to see them interact with the recruits and their parents and talk about the future and how excited they are, I can't thank them enough. That's going to be the case moving forward, too, our players are going to be very important in this process. They work extremely hard. And the players, especially that sit here in the front row in this room, the older guys, want to leave a lasting legacy and what that means is they help bring other outstanding student athletes into the program and again I'd like to thank them for doing that.
I'd like to thank the coaching staff. A lot of them are here in the room. They came and joined myself here at Rutgers. They hit the ground running. Again, new staff, new area, a lot of the guys didn't know each other. But to watch them hit the ground running, evaluate the players that we thought that would fit what we wanted to build here, and watch them go out and recruit and try to build relationships with high school coaches, recruits and parents, was very impressive and I'm extremely happy and proud that these guys have joined me here and to watch them work and see this come together today is very exciting. So I thank them for everything that they did.
I'd also like to thank the support staff here. Adam Caltury, our director of recruiting operations did an outstanding job of putting together first-class weekends for these guys. It was again short time frame between when we got here and the time of our first weekend.
Adam, just like us, was in a new area trying to learn the university and trying to put together an outstanding weekend, a great experience for these student athletes coming on our campus with their families and he did a great job, especially the very first weekend when we had the blizzard. He didn't flinch.
The rest of the support staff with the director of operations with his staff and the rest of the recruiting staff, none of them flinched. They went out with shovels and salt and cleared walkways and made sure it was a good experience and safe experience for all the recruits and their families.
Like to thank the staff and faculty here at the university. A number of them, we were able to reach out to and ask for their help and support in our recruiting efforts from an academic standpoint and they did an outstanding job of selling the type of education that you can get here at Rutgers and we all know that education is so important to the kids in this process. The faculty here has been outstanding, was here in the short time frame that we were here and they will play a big role in our recruiting success down the road.
I'd also like to thank AD, Pat Hobbs. He's here in the room. Pat has been outstanding here in our short time together. I think we're going to have a great relationship moving forward. But Pat came and gave his time on each of the weekends that we had. He came over and spoke with each recruit, spoke with parents, gave his vision and presentation for what he wants this athletic department to be and specifically, this football program. Not a lot of ADs are willing to do that and I appreciate Pat's willingness to do that.
The other part of it is the financial support Pat gave. We wanted to put together great weekends and feed the recruits some outstanding meals, and it costs money. And Pat gave us the financial resources to make sure that we provide the best weekend experience that we can possibly do.
Also like to take this opportunity to thank the high school coaches here in the State of New Jersey and surrounding areas. Again, new areas for us to go recruit for a lot of us. The way that they opened their doors, led us in, the time that they gave us, was outstanding, very well appreciated by me and the other staff members. But I can't thank them enough. I think that we have done a really good job of building some relationships that will pay off down the road in the recruiting process.
Little bit about our program update. Some of you guys have heard this but we made a coaching switch. We hired a new coach, Jafar Williams came over from Purdue and made a coaching switch. We are going to put Jafar to coach the wide receivers, and Zak Kuhr, who was hired here in December before we got here, will switch and go back to his natural position of running backs. That's what Zak has coached for the majority of his years in coaching, and I think that will be the best fit for our staff and players moving forward. Jafar played wide receiver, has coached wide receivers. And very excited about the switch and transition with our offensive staff there.
A little bit about the class. As we came in, there were several guys that were committed. We made the decision that we would honor those commitments if they chose to still come to Rutgers. Some of them did, some of them did not, but I believe that was the right way to do it and wouldn't do it any other way to be honest with you.
This class represents eight different states and ten of those recruits come from here in New Jersey and very excited about that. We talked about the importance of being able to recruit right here in our home state, and take New Jersey kids and build this program with those players from these programs, and I think we've done an outstanding job of identifying -- late in the process, identifying the right type of kids that will fit the culture that we want to try to build.
As we went forward and were trying to identify and evaluate recruits to come here to Rutgers, we were looking at several criteria that didn't look at ability. We wanted to bring in guys of high character. We wanted guys with intelligence. We wanted guys that could be great teammates. We wanted guys that could fit into the culture that we wanted to build here. We want guys that will compete. We want guys that are disciplined and have toughness. And then if we can get that with some great ability, it's a great combination. But those factors were very important for us moving forward; that we brought the right type of young men into this program.
We filled some needs. We had needs on the offensive line for the future. We signed four offensive linemen. We had needs, current needs and future needs at linebacker. We signed several linebackers. We had some needs at defensive back. So happy with the guys that we brought in to fill some of the immediate needs and future needs at certain positions that we had identified early in the recruiting process.
With that being said, I'd like to open it up for questions and see if you guys have any questions about the recruits or the process or anything that I can answer.
Q. Was it important to add a quarterback in this class? I see you got one. Can you maybe talk about that?
COACH ASH: It was important. It wasn't a make-or-break position for us, but it was important to find the right type of quarterback. With what we are going to do offensively, we wanted to find a quarterback that fit that system, and I think we hit a home one with that. Tylin Oden is exactly what we want in the system for the future, and Tylin is an outstanding quarterback, a talented kid that can beat you with his feet and his arm.
I think we hit a home one. If we didn't sign one, we weren't going to worry about it too much. I think there are some outstanding quarterbacks on this roster that we can go out and play some winning football with, but I think we hit a home one with Tylin.
Q. At linebacker, you have three enrolled and two more signed. What made you want to be so aggressive in recruiting that position?
COACH ASH: Well, we have immediate needs. We have needs right now for this football team going into 2016 season and we've got future needs that we're going to have to address at that position.
Some of the linebackers that we've signed are tall. They have got length. They can run. They have got growth potential that may be able to help us down the road at other positions. They are going to help us on special teams right away. When you talk about having special teams players that you can go out and win with, a lot of them are going to come from the linebacking room. We just wanted to increase the number of guys that we had in that position.
Q. The job that you didn't state, a lot of the recruits are from some of the programs that have produced a lot of the most talent, Piscataway, Don Bosco, Timber Creek, St. Peter's Prep; was that a coincidence or a focus to get some of those guys?
COACH ASH: A little bit of both. Just so happened, like you said, those are schools that usually have players and they had some players that we wanted to recruit.
But it was also about building relationships for the future and getting those players in our program that we can work with, that we can develop and coach; that can go back and say really positive things about what we're doing here and how we're doing our business and what the future looks like.
Q. You've got a couple graduate transfers in. Can you talk about those guys and their role for the upcoming season?
COACH ASH: We did, Ross Douglas and Malachi Moore we took, both are graduate transfers. Why did we take them? Again, positions of need. I think they can provide depth, they can provide competition at certain spots. They are guys that have gone through programs before and they know what it takes to be successful.
They graduated, so they have demonstrated the ability to be successful in the classroom, and I think they are great character kids that can help the culture in the locker room.
Q. What was the biggest challenge of having such a short period of time to put this class together?
COACH ASH: I think that's the biggest challenge is short period of time to be honest with you. We are trying to take a recruiting process that usually can go from one to two years long and cram it into basically a four-week time period. That's very challenging, for me personally as a head coach; when you get one opportunity to go out and visit a prospect in a home or in a school, the opportunity to get to know these guys is very limited, and it's tough. Talk to them on the phone and things like that all the time, but to be able to actually get to build a relationship where you truly know them and feel good about what you're bringing into the program, it's tough to doin four weeks what you've got one visit.
Q. It seemed like you guys were not afraid to go after kids who had made verbal commitments elsewhere, and I know that happens both ways. Just talk about being aggressive there, and then going after kids who had actually committed elsewhere.
COACH ASH: Yeah, you may call it aggressive recruiting. I just call it recruiting.
It's not over until it's over, and that's our job as a staff to go out and recruit the best players that we can that fit our systems and fit our culture. And until they sign a national letter of intent, that's recruiting. We'll go all the way up until the end and that's the way I've been brought up in this profession and that's the way I want the coaches here on the staff to recruit.
Q. Unless you follow really closely, sometimes tough to tell. What is the breakdown the guys whose commitments you wanted and guys you got into later in the process?
COACH ASH: It's hard to go back. I haven't really thought about the guys that we wanted that we didn't get to be honest with you. One thing you'll find out about me, I'm not really concerned about the guys that are not here in this program or are not coming to join us. I'm cop concerned about the guys that are here and the guys that we signed.
To give you a breakdown, it would be hard to do that, unless I went back and studied the numbers. Were there guys that we wanted that we didn't get? Absolutely. Are there guys that we recruited or found late in the process that we got? Absolutely. But to give you a specific number, I couldn't do that.
Q. And those that were already committed, in terms of will they fit, will they find a way to fit; how will they work with what you want to do if they might not have been guys you targeted initially?
COACH ASH: Again, go back, we made the decision to honor guys that committed here. But with a few stipulations. One, they had to have great character, they had to have good grades. Guys that maybe they didn't necessarily fit in what we're doing but our system on offense and defense and special teams will be flexible enough to put people in the right spots.
But there are some guys that were committed that we've got and maybe some guys that we didn't feel were the right fit or they didn't feel they were the right fit that went elsewhere.
Q. I know it's crazy early to ask this, but any idea when you look at this, names that jump out that you say, yeah, this kid is ready to play as a freshman?
COACH ASH: I'll never make a comment that a guy is ready to play or not until they get on our campus. I'll never go into a home and promise a recruit that you're going to start or be in the two-deep.
The only thing I'm going to promise recruits, every single one of them that comes in this program, that you're going to have a chance to compete for playing time. You're going to have an opportunity to go take somebody's job, and that's part of the competitive environment that we want to create here in this program. I'll never go and say a kid is game ready or going to have an opportunity to help us or start. It's all about the opportunity to compete.
I'll say this: The players in our program understand that now, that they are going to have to compete for the jobs going into the 2016 season. The existing or -- the assigning class that we just put together, every one of them have been told that we are now getting into the preparation phase, which means they are signed, they are ours, get prepared to come here and take somebody's job and get ready to compete that way.
And the recruits down the road in the future will know that this is going to be a highly competitive program. It's not going to be for everybody. Not everybody wants to compete. So many guys want things handed to them. We are not going to hands anything to anybody, not our current roster, or our incoming recruits or recruits down the road, and that's the type of kid that we want here in this program.
Q. Do you consider this class complete now, or will you look to add more kids down the road, kicker or some other positions?
COACH ASH: There's always a chance to add more recruits down the road. We have a couple open scholarships and that was really, some of them were by design here as we ended the process. There are always guys that pop up late in the last day or two that you really don't know a whole lot about.
It would have been very easy to go out and just take a guy just to take a guy, but we weren't going to do that. That was the plan from the start. If we didn't know them, we didn't feel good about them, we weren't going to take them just to fill up a scholarship.
Will there be a chance to sign somebody else later down the road? Absolutely. But it's got to fit the criteria of what we're looking for.
Q. Number-wise, is 16 what you wanted? Were you looking to bring in more or was this simply what you ended up with?
COACH ASH: There was no target number. We said it from the start: It's not about numbers. It's not about filling all the scholarships. It's about finding the right individuals to come here. We are trying to change a culture. We are trying to change an attitude and a mind-set here and we wanted to make sure that the incoming recruits that we brought here fit that, and that was the most important thing.
We weren't worried about chasing stars. We weren't worried about 40 times and vertical jumps and all that. All that is great and do we want that stuff, absolutely. But there were other factors that were more important at this point in our tenure here that we wanted to try to bring to this program. And there was no number set that we had to try to get, 15, 16, 22 at all. It was the right group of guys that fit what we wanted to try to do.
Q. What was the biggest difference recruiting as a head coach, as opposed to an assistant?
COACH ASH: The one-time visit. As an assistant, you can go visit recruits every week. You have a chance to have more face time with them. The challenge still for an assistant coach is the amount of time that we had, basically two and a half weeks to go out and visit guys.
With a head coach, to go visit one time in that short amount of a period, having not really been in front of these guys on campus visits, unofficially or for games, that made it a real challenge.
Q. Kind of a big picture question. Not just here, but nationally it seems like there's more and more flipped commitments every year. There's talk of early signing period like in football. Are you in favor of that or anything to knock that down, or just the way it is works?
COACH ASH: Well, I think there's always room for discussion about how to improve the system. Is there an early signing period; or is it when a guy wants to commit, you can give him a piece of paper and see if he actually want to commit and sign it right then. I can't tell you I'm in favor of one or the other yet.
But I think there has been a lot of discussion in the last few years about early signing periods and ways to change the process. I think those discussions need to continue. Is the system broke? No, I wouldn't say it's broke. But I think we can always find ways to make it better and maybe alleviate some of those situations.
Q. It seems like recruiting has become show time now. You saw what happened at Michigan and Urban can lure people to Ohio State. Do you have to change your approach? Do coaches now have to sleep over and things like that?
COACH ASH: I don't think so. I think it's situational-based. I think it's based on the individual.
There are some players where that stuff is important, the glitz and the glamour and thinking outside of the box and doing something off the wall. That fits certain individuals. Some of them, it doesn't. It really depends on the individual.
I think as a coach, as you go through this process, and you build a relationship with a young man, you know what it's going to take, and if it takes something off the wall to go get a kid, then you've got to be willing to do that. But if it doesn't and you do that, it may turn the kid off, also.
But I think you can't try to be something that you're not. You need to be honest, straightforward and you need to go sell the things that you're going to be able to provide for them and your program, but I do think that you have to be somewhat flexible and be able to attract the type of kid that you want in a certain way if that's required.
Q. What do you see in Jabbie and T.J. Taylor coming back, who was out for a year?
COACH ASH: Jabbie, I think he's a great fit in our offense. He's quick. He's got great hands. He's got great blood lines and very excited to get him in our program. He's a tremendous worker, high-character kid, intelligent kid and I think he's, again, a kid that fits our culture, fits our offense and all the things that we want in our players.
T.J. Taylor, honestly, today was the first day that I got a chance to really watch him move around. I met with him this week. Very fine young man and very excited about him. He walks in and he's a big, physical-looking guy. He's been injured, and to be honest with you, more than that, I can't really comment, because I don't know a whole lot other than the coverings that he and I have had and the chance to watch him run around today a little bit.
Thank you guys for coming.