Rutgers coach Chris Ash was one of the consensus positives of Big Ten media day among Scout publishers. His debut in front of the national media as a head coach, Ash offered prepared and honest responses to everything.
From the seriousness of rebuilding Rutgers to the fun of Ash's own college career, Scarlet Report looks at the best of Chris Ash.
The Past Rutgers Culture and How to Change it...
“Did I dive in and try to do some research? Yeah, I did. I'm confident enough in our plan and the way we're going to do business so that we can create the type of culture that we want. I wasn't worried about looking back. I knew we had to get a buy in from the players. I knew how we were going to do it and I think that we've been able to do it in a short time. … What's happened in the locker room with the players in the past, that doesn't have to be in place. I knew we have a structured system. We have a system of accountability. We have a system of discipline. It was going to take some time to get it where we wanted to get to get to but we're working closer to that. The things that happened in the past are gone. We keep moving forward.”
How to Balance Lessons Learned from Urban Meyer with Being an Individual...
“I did have a very successful experience for my two years at Ohio State. I can't thank coach Meyer and the rest of the players enough for the opportunity I was given and the opportunity I was given to come to Rutgers because of that experience. He's not the only coach that I've coached under. I've coached under a lot of other, what I would consider, great coaches. I take bits and pieces from all of them. What I found at the end of the day is to take the advice of be your own man. Believe in what you believe in. The good thing is, of all the coaches I worked for, a lot of them believe in the same things. Urban was probably just at a different level because of the years of experience that he had. He knows it probably a little bit better than everybody else does because of those years.”
Offensive Line Coach AJ Blazek is a Rising Star...
“I've watched his career, and I watched him grow and develop and continue to rise in the coaching field. Through my research and talking to people that he has worked with, I think he's a rising star. That's really the profile I was looking for when I was creating the staff at Rutgers. I wanted high-energy, high-level guys that were going to be able to connect and relate to the players and get the most out of them. AJ has done that.”
On an extra Big Ten Conference game...
“At the end of the day, I've got a job to do and it's to coach a football team regardless of who's on the schedule whether it's 12 Big Ten games or six. I really don't care. It is what it is and we have to go out and build a team that can compete.”
On Awareness of how Rutgers Fans Feel about Penn State…
“Yeah, I’m well aware of it and it’s like anything else — got great respect for Penn State’s program and everything that they’ve done, the sustained success that they’ve had there for a long, long time. We’re just trying to be the best that we can be and hopefully when we do that, that we’ll create rivalries with a lot of people.”
On Balancing the Desire to Create a Rivalry with a Particular School Over What the Fans Want…
“Well, at the end of the day, the fans hate everybody — and they should. But through our play and the way we build our program, hopefully we’re going to build rivals with other teams because we have competitive games, we win some, they win some, they’re consistent battles, year in and year out. The fans are always going to hate certain teams more than others — and that’s great and love it, that means you have a passionate fan base about your program and that’s what we want — but at the end of the day, we’ve got a job to do to build a football team that could compete with anybody and with that, hopefully in turn we create some rivalries within the league.”
Gap between Ohio State and Rutgers
“Well there's a gap there. There's a gap in facilities. There's a gap in just depth on the football team. We have some outstanding, talented football players that can play on any team in this league but what we probably don't have is some of the depth that the top teams have in key areas, especially when you talk o-line and d-line. Those are some of the things that are different.
On how long it will take to get there...
“We have to recruit at a high level for a few years. We've got to develop. Everybody talks about recruiting is so important, and it is, but player development is just as important if not more important. Just because you have talented players doesn't ensure that you're going to win. You have to do a great job at developing and coaching them. We've got to go out and just keep recruiting.
“We've got to do a great job of developing players in our program. Everybody talks about Ohio State and Michigan when they talk about the Big Ten but there are 12 other teams in this league and I look at Michigan State, I look at Wisconsin, I look at Iowa as models for us to try to achieve what they have. They're not necessarily doing it with top-10 recruiting classes every year. They're recruiting players that fit their program.
“They're doing a great job of developing those players. They're playing with a lot of fourth- and fifth-year players in their program that have played a lot of football. If we can do those things, we'll have a chance to compete with everybody.”
"We're excited to see him have an opportunity to do that. [Leonte] Carroo was a great player. He made a ton of great plays at Rutgers. If development has been the right way with Andre, it's his time to go out and try to be that type of player and time will tell. We're excited about the path that he's on and what he's done so far in a short amount of time to show us what he can do."
Linebacker Goes from a Mess to Progress
“Linebacker is a work in progress. When you look at our positions on our football team, there's probably one position from January to where we're at today that's made the most improvement and it's our linebackers. I could go through the player weights of those three guys that are on the first depth right now. Najee Clayton was 207 pounds, he's 227 now. Deonte Roberts was 214, he's 237 pounds now. Trevor Morris was 202 pounds, he's 224 pounds now. They have changed their bodies. They're becoming better football players. We'll see how much better they can become throughout training camp but that group, when you talk about competition for spots, they're wide open. Those three individuals have completely committed themselves to being the best they can be and their bodies have changed drastically in the last six months.”
Playing at Drake
“Probably about my junior year [I knew I wanted to coach]. I wasn't a very good player, and I knew it. To my credit, I recognized that early on but I really loved the game. I love to compete. For me to stay in this game, I knew I was going to have to go coach. My senior year, I had an ACL injury at the beginning of the season in training camp, and I became a student assistant and went into the football office to help coaches in there with game-planning and things like that. I just grew a love for the game and it kind of took off from there.”
Rutgers Commitment to Winning
“At the end of the day, you have to win. That's what everybody is measured on. For us, it's about how do we win and how we win. We're going to do it a certain way. We know that we have to win. You've got to do that to become relevant and be considered rivals with other teams in this league.”