While fellow first-year head coach D.J. Durkin stocked up on head coaches for his first Maryland staff, Ash focused on the young and hungry.
“I did not ever once consider it,” Ash said when asked about hiring established head coaches to his staff. “I was given some advice, actually by Urban [Meyer], when I first went to Ohio State. Staff alignment is so important. Organizational alignment is so important. I have a way that I want business to be done.”
A lesson from Meyer, Ash wants coaches not afraid to challenge him.
“I don't want 'yes men' in our program,” he said. “I want guys who have thoughts in our program and help me learn and grow also. I do want them to do things a certain way.”
Ash's staff includes many coaches in first-time positions including Drew Mehringer, AJ Blazek and Aaron Henry.
Henry, assistant defensive backs coach, is in his first full-time coaching position after work as a graduate assistant at Arkansas. Mehringer, offensive coordinator, and Blazek, offensive line coach, are in their respective roles at the BCS level for the first time.
“I feel when you hire younger guys, energetic guys that aren't set in their ways, it's easier to get that alignment than it is hiring older, experienced guys, especially head coaches,” Ash said. “Can you gain value from those guys? Absolutely. But everybody manages their organization differently and that's the way we decided to go.”
With so many conference ties, one of Ash's most-important hires makes for a unique storyline this season.
Defensive coordinator Jay Niemann has two Iowa Hawkeye sons in linebackers Ben and Nick Niemann. The Hawkeyes travel to Piscataway Sept. 24.
“He wants his sons to have a great experience at Iowa getting developed with a chance to win football games,” Ash said. “I know there's one game when they come to visit us that he's not going to want them to win. That's part of the family. His wife will have to make a decision on who he's going to cheer for that day. He's from Iowa also. When his sons had an opportunity to go play at Iowa he was at Northern Illinois and it was a great opportunity for them and he'll wish them nothing but the best of luck.”