Seven days from now, the Ash Era is in full swing when Rutgers begins training camp.
The cultivation of the Scarlet Knights’ football program has been a work in progress, and next week provides the first glimpse of summer changes with the season-opener countdown at Washington nearing the one-month mark.
Rutgers coach Chris Ash dissected some of the changes at Big Ten Media Days last week, starting with an update on the progress of the weight room and its impact outside of the program.
“We hope to be [ready for training camp],” he said of the $1.25 million renovation. “We hope to put the final touches on our weight room in the next week or two. Hopefully by the time, we start practice on Aug. 8 it will be ready to go. It's making a huge impact in recruiting right now – 45-pound weights are 45-pound weights whether it's in a really nice weight room or in a dungeon like we're in right now. It does have an impact in recruiting knowing that they can go and work out in a top-notch facility.”
The temporary relocation of the weight room up until camp — underneath the south bleachers at High Point Solutions Stadium — isn’t the only new territory for football workouts.
Ash moved training camp from the practice fields adjacent to the Hale Center, where the Scarlet Knights prepared every August for more than a decade. He moved practices across Route 18 to Livingston Campus, more specifically the open grass field between Bainton Field and the RU Softball Complex.
Ash reasoned that he didn’t want the team practicing exclusively on turf, adding in the fact that the lone grass field on Busch Campus isn’t in good shape after spring ball and the recent summer camp circuit.
“We wanted to move to a different environment for their bodies, for the safety and care of the current fields that we have,” he said. “We wanted to move to a different environment for their bodies, for the safety and care of the current fields that we have. Then we'll move back over, hopefully our practices fields are in great shape and they're ready to roll. … We'll bus them back and forth.”
The new location is exclusive only to practices, keeping all other training camp operations back on Busch Campus. Media availability is included for six of the 29 practices, but will also take place after practice at the Hale Center.
“We're only going over [Livingston Campus] to practice,” Ash said. “We'll get on a bus in the Hale Center, we'll go over to practice, we'll practice and we'll come back on the bus. Business as usual. Only difference is we're getting on a bus to the practice field instead of walking. It's a little bit different than what they've done but that's stuff that I've done at other places.”
What else comes of training camp remains to be seen. The biggest question is an obvious one at quarterback, but Ash pointed to other position battles that will get underway when practices start up.
“We have to still see who's going to be the starting running back,” he said. “We've got offensive line battles that we have to get settled. We came out of spring with a two-deep, but there's some guys that were injured like Chris Muller that didn't get an opportunity to show what he can do. We have to solidify our offensive line positions.”