Sam Hellman / Scarlet Report

Chris Ash Explains Recruiting Overhaul in First Offseason

Rutgers is back to 20 commitments after the ballad of Darius Stills ended in a verbal commitment to his father's alma mater. Those 20 commitments, however, are strong ones for the Scarlet Knights as one of the highest-rated classes in the Big Ten. Scarlet Report examines the path to a recruiting rebuild with commentary from Chris Ash.

So much can change in a year. For Rutgers football, that can be applied directly to the results on the recruiting trail.

With Chris Ash in command, the first-year head coach of the Scarlet Knights wasted no time getting the ball rolling with recruitment.

“The first thing is we’re a part of the Big Ten,” he said on an uptick in recruiting for Rutgers. “Back when coach [Greg] Schiano was there, he got some really good players. He struggled to keep some players. If a player wanted to go play at the highest level possible, they left. … Now Rutgers is in the Big Ten. If you want to play in the best conference in college football, you don’t have to leave your home state.”

Playing up the allure of the Big Ten is one pro, but restructuring the environment around the locker room and players put Ash’s recruitment over the top for a No. 22 class of 2017 that features 20 verbal commits.

“The second part of that is the culture you create in your building,” Ash said. “Why do players want to go to a certain program? Because they know they’re going to get developed. They know they’re going to be taken care of. There’s going to be a chance to have success on the field, off the field in life after football. If we can create those things, why not do it in front of your friends and your family?”

Despite the recent flip for Fairmont (W.V.) decommit Darius Stills after a Monday offer from his home-state West Virginia Mountaineers, Ash’s class remains in solid shape.

To accompany six out-of-state commits, Rutgers stepped its game up the Garden State with 14 pledges from New Jersey. Of that number, eight of the local commits come from South Jersey, where Ash’s staff kept the same approach as it does recruiting everywhere else.

“We don’t sit around and say, ‘We have to attack this area differently,’” Ash said. “… Whether you’re from South Jersey, North Jersey, California, [prospects] all want the same thing. They want coaches they have a relationship with, they want a program that’s gonna develop them the right way and that’s what we’ve tried to create and I think slowly people in the state of New Jersey are seeing that. And I think the players, the more they come around, they feel it. It’s not just something we’re saying, it’s something that they’re seeing and they wanna be a part of it.”

Relationships have not materialized exclusively with recruits, where the new coaching staff has related to the younger generation on social media in particular.

Beyond the prospects, Rutgers went the extra mile to get familiar with local coaches, doing so despite the new staff’s lack of New Jersey background.

“I think we’ve been able to establish really good relationships with the high school coaches in New Jersey,” Ash said. “We’ve gone out and had coaches’ socials around the state. We’ve brought coaches on our campus several times to help establish relationships with them.”

The results accumulated in the top offensive tackle, center, running back and wide receiver in the state on the commit list after Saturday’s barbecue recruiting event.

And with more big fish remaining in the local pond, plus a long way to go before Signing Day, that number has the chance to grow.

“I think the thing that’s helped us the most, just like in recruiting, what’s helped us the most in relationships with high school coaches is how we’re developing their players,” Ash said. “Their players show up into our building, they get coached really hard, their bodies are changing and they’re having fun. When that happens, they go out and they talk in their schools. They talk to their coaches. They talk to the recruits. The coaches, whether they wanted to support you or not are like, ‘what’s going on at Rutgers? Let’s go check it out.’ And they’re liking what they’re seeing so far.”

NR DE 92 6'3.5" 231
Union, NJ
NR OLB 43 6'1.5" 209
NR DT 6'2" 268
Bethlehem, PA
NR WR 6'2" 171
Bronx, NY
NR RB 93 6'1" 190
Marlton, NJ
161 OLB 10 6'2" 235 4.81
Baltimore, MD
NR WR 6'4" 180
Wayne, NJ
NR OLB 6'2" 208
West Orange, NJ
NR C 9 6'3" 280
Egg Harbor City, NJ
NR CB 53 6'0" 180
Camden, NJ
NR OT 76 6'6" 295
Cheshire, CT
NR ATH 56 6'1" 170
Staten Island, NY
NR RB 41 5'11" 208 4.42
Salem, NJ
NR QB 38 6'3.5" 228
NR WR 123 6'1" 175
Burlington, NJ
42 OT 8 6'5" 255
NR OG 6'4" 270
NR WR 72 5'11" 180
Egg Harbor City, NJ
NR CB 72 6'0" 165
NR CB 58 6'0.5" 180
Sicklerville, NJ

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