Video: Chris Ash Rutgers Media Day Press Conference

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers coach Chris Ash meets the press for the school's annual media day.

COACH ASH: Welcome to our first media day. Media Day 2016, Rutgers football. Really appreciate you guys showing interest in our program. I know many of you were out at our first scrimmage, open scrimmage, last night braving the heat. Really appreciate your support of what we're doing here.

You guys have given us great coverage. There have been a lot of positive articles out here that have helped excite the fans, excite supporters, and help us in recruiting. So I really appreciate that you guys have, again, taken an interest in our program and have been so supportive with the coverage and the information about what we're doing here in our program and getting it out there. So I thank you for that.

I want to start and just go through a couple roster updates. Three scholarship players. Ronnie James is not in the 105. Had groin surgery over the summer and is recovering. He should be healthy here sometime late August, early September.

Malachi Moore is not with us anymore. He had a preexisting medical condition, and between his family, himself, and the doctors, they just made a decision it was probably best that he doesn't continue to play football. Thankfully, he's got a degree already, and he's ready to go on. Very intelligent kid, high character kid. He's ready to go on to the next chapter of his life and get into the real world. Wish him nothing but the best.

And then Ahmed Bah's not with us right now. Hopefully, he'll be with us shortly. Just had some paperwork stuff with citizenship things and making sure he is eligible to be admitted to the university. Not from an academic standpoint, just some citizenship work that needs to be completed. But he will be joining us relatively soon. We do plan on him being part of our team, and hopefully that happens, if not this week, next week. Those are the quick roster updates that we've had.

Quick training camp update. Some of you guys have been out there to practice on the few opportunities you've had. It's been a very productive start to training camp. The first week is up. We've had seven practices. It's been tough. It's been a hard training camp for these guys. We wanted to make it that way on purpose. It's been a physical training camp. The heat, obviously, has played a factor in making a more challenging training camp, but our players have embraced it. They've worked extremely hard out there.

We've had long practices, and we've gotten a lot done. Really happy with the way the players have embraced the whole condition of practice, the new location, the elements, the physicality, the way that we've been pushing them, the length of practices, and everything. We've had no distractions, and we've gotten better because of it.

The players keep giving us everything that we ask of them. They're working extremely hard, showing up. They're early to everything, not questioning one thing we're asking them to do, and I really appreciate that, and it's making our job easier.

We've got a long way to go to develop these guys to be the type of football players that we want them to be, but they're asking -- what we're asking them to do, they're doing, and it's been a fun process, and I really like where this team is at mentally and physically right now. In the next few weeks, we must, as a football staff, starting with myself, help develop these guys to be the best football players that they can be.

With that, I'll go ahead and open it up for questions and answer any of them that you have.

Q. Your thoughts on the scrimmage yesterday, particularly the quarterbacks, how they performed, and if anybody stepped ahead in the first week.
COACH ASH: Obviously, I'll go ahead and just address the quarterback situation right away. Start with the scrimmage evaluation from yesterday. I thought it was a lot of really good work. It was our first two-a-day practice. It was hot on the turf. It was hot everywhere, but it was extra hot on the turf.

I first want to thank the fans for coming out, the ones that did. It helped create the type of environment we wanted, with our players able to perform with other eyes on them, and give us the type of evaluation that you don't get with just a normal practice.

But overall, I thought the scrimmage was great work. We got in a lot of situations. I purposely wanted the quarterbacks to throw the ball more in the scrimmage yesterday. I wanted Coach Mehringer to call more pass plays. One of the areas of concern right now is our ability to throw and catch the ball consistently, and I wanted to see if we could do that yesterday in that scrimmage and help us further evaluate our quarterbacks and our pass game.

With the quarterbacks, specifically, through the first seven practices, I like the way the overall group is working, and when I say the overall group, it's not just one and two or one through four, it's the whole group, including freshman Tylin Oden. They're all working hard, and they're all learning the offense and continue to improve.

We obviously have a long way to go at that position. Yesterday there were goods, and there were bads. There were a couple of long passes that we were able to complete for touchdowns in certain situations. There were some passes that we left out on the field, that they were either good throws and they were not caught by tight ends and receivers, or they were just slightly off the mark from the quarterback standpoint.

So if you were looking at stats, which I know most of you guys do, statistically, it wasn't an outstanding day. Now, there's a couple things to that, I think. The coverages we play on defense, the fact that we press our corners as much as we can contributes to that. We are a pattern match defense, and I think that we force the quarterback to make almost perfect throws at times. When you're playing off or looser coverage, sometimes those throws are made, and there's more completions against that type of a style of defense.

So I think it's not just, hey, it's a quarterback-wide receiver thing, I think it's also the fact that we're playing tighter coverage on defense and forcing the quarterbacks to make more consistent, accurate throws when we're out there.

When you look at the individuals at the quarterback position, again, it's an open competition that we're continuing to evaluate. I would say right now that Chris Laviano and Zach Allen have probably gained a slight edge over the other ones and will probably receive more of the reps with the ones and twos throughout this next week of practice.

It's getting to the point where, if we want to develop our first and second team quarterback, we have to start to give them more reps, and right now those two guys have probably been the most consistent and earned the trust of others around them slightly more than the others.

It's still a competition. Four guys will still get reps, but those guys right now through the first seven practices have earned the right to get a few more reps. As we go forward, that rep count will probably increase.

Q. Could you foresee a scenario where you make the decision this week on the quarterback? And then just overall depth chart, the entire roster, you expect that chart changes based off that scrimmage?
COACH ASH: Today as a staff -- we have not done it yet. I have evaluated the scrimmage on film. We have not had a chance to get together as a staff and go through position by position the evaluations and talk about the potential depth chart changes. There may be a few. It's probably not necessarily because someone on the first line did anything wrong. I think there are some younger guys that maybe deserve an opportunity to get some more reps and create some competition.

In terms of the quarterback position, when we hope to determine who will be the starter, I doubt it is this week. We'll probably go through this week and through another scrimmage next Saturday, and hopefully coming out of that scrimmage, we'll have a clearer picture of who's going to be our starter. I'd like to get a starter named, where we've got a couple weeks out from the game where we're getting some consistency with the first group.

But, again, if someone had separated themselves clearly from the pack a good distance right now, I'd feel comfortable doing it today, but I just can't say that someone has done that yet.

But just getting back to Laviano and Zach Allen, they probably have separated themselves together a little bit more than the other two.

Q. Chris, can this kind of heat work to your advantage as a coach in terms of you're trying to assess these players now and maybe see them in adverse situations with a little adversity, so to speak, on the practice field?
COACH ASH: Absolutely. It can be a good or bad. For our football team right now with where we're at, I think it's been a positive thing to have these elements. I was thinking about this yesterday after we just kind of finished up a three-day run of really hot weather.

I go back to, when we first got here and we went through the Rutgers football boot camp on the first week, we put the football team through some adversity. We challenged them. We put them through shared suffering, and it was, you know, for a reason -- to see about the leadership, to see about the commitment, the toughness, and the things that we've had so we had, as we're walking in here, to help us devise a plan as a team moving forward.

I'm actually very thankful we had the weather we did this first week because, again, it puts the team to a test. How are we with our leadership, our toughness, our commitment, helping each other through the tough times? And I would say our team right now passed that test. And a lot of it goes back to, I was telling the team, we have trained them for these moments, through the work that Kenny Parker and our strength and conditioning staff has done, our nutrition staff, our new trainer Brandon Armstrong and his staff, what they have done for this football team to get them ready for any type of conditions and for these challenge situations.

They passed it. Our injury list is very small. We had very few players that are not out there practicing every day throughout the full practice. So I can tell you that our plan up to this point and the way they've been trained through the spring and summer has worked.

Q. On the leadership aspect, what are you looking for from your team captains this year, and how do you see that selection process going?
COACH ASH: I'm looking for new guys that will lead the team, guys that the others will look up to. I want captains that will be out on the field playing because, if you've got captains that are on the sideline or injured, it's tough for them to lead. It's tough for others to follow them when they're not out there. So I want them to be some of our better players. I want them to live their life right away from here, socially the right way. I want to make sure they're good students.

We have a leadership council that we voted on before. It was a player selected council. Those characteristics in our council will be the same thing we're looking for in our captains. We will vote on our captains probably next week. That, again, is on purpose so we can go through summer workouts and a majority of training camp and let everybody get a good feel of who our true leaders are.

I'm more concerned about our unit leadership at each position rather than having four captains for the whole football team. We worked hard to try to get the leadership in those units the right way.

Q. Coach, I have kind of a unique understanding of the last school that you were an assistant coach.
COACH ASH: What's that?

Q. I have kind of a unique understanding of the school that you just came from, the expectations that you had when you got there, but now you're here at this school. I want to know how you tempered the folks who understand what you can do and what you can't do so the expectations don't get out of whack and the fans think, because you're here, it's going to change automatically?
COACH ASH: Yeah, everyone's got to realize this whole athletic department's gone through massive changes. You've got a new football coach, new athletic director, new basketball coach, and everybody wants the same thing. We want a high performing organization from top down, and the whole athletic department as well as in the football program. Those things don't happen overnight just because a new leader shows up and I've got a new title next to my name.

It takes time to build any organization, whether it's in business or in sports. For us, we have to have a plan. I think we have a plan. We've got to have the right people on board, and I think we have the right people on board.

But it's just like physically transforming the bodies of the players. It took us seven months to transform the players' bodies the way that they look right now, and I think our team looks pretty good physically, but it took seven months to make that happen. We're not going to all of a sudden just build a football team overnight. We're not going to change their performance on the field overnight. It is a process.

But I'm not going to make any excuses or change our expectations that we're here to build a program, not just a team, but we want a program that is successful and is competitive and has a chance to win every game that we play. I'm not going to say it's going to be year three or year four or year five. It's not fair to the players. It's not fair to the university or the fans, but it is a process, and it's going to take a little bit of time to make sure that we get where we want to be.

Now, again, maybe we can get that done in two weeks. I hope we can, and we're ready to go out and play once we play that first game, and we're going to keep swinging as hard as we can. The players are all in. The staff is all in. I'm really excited about where this team is at right now.

But it is a process to get them to be where they need to be as football players out on that field.

Q. Coach, going back to the quarterback situation, you talk about your top two right now. Obviously, Chris has had the experience with a lot of these teammates from a year ago. What has Zach done in the short amount of time that he's been here to be thrown into that mix and to elevate himself into the top half of that group?
COACH ASH: Well, I think it starts with just who Zach is. Zach is a high character individual. He's very intelligent. He's easy to get along with. He's fit in well with the rest of the team. He's a likable individual, and he's got a comfort level of playing in a spread offense. This isn't a completely different offense for him. So his comfort level with the offense is a little bit different than the other players.

Is our offense different than what he was a part of at TCU? Yeah, it is, but it's still some of the concepts are the same. So his comfort level, his understanding of it is slightly different than what the other guys' are. But I think it gets back to who he is as an individual, the type of person he is, and the players have drawn to him, and he's been drawn to them.

I think it's been a really good relationship with not only the quarterbacks, but with Zach and the rest of the offensive players in particular.

Q. One week in with Darius. How much have you seen from him, and just how important is his recovery from the injury and his success for the defense as a whole?
COACH ASH: I've seen a lot from Darius. Darius is ready to play. I know a lot of people ask why Darius didn't scrimmage yesterday, because I'm not nuts. He's one of our best players. I'm not going to get him hurt before we get to a game.

We go through, before any live situation, and we're going to look and talk about players that may need to be limited or held out so they don't get injured, and we want to get our horses to the race. He's one of our best horses, and we want to make sure he's there on game day.

But he's practicing at a very high level. He feels great. He's not 100 percent. He's not going to be 100 percent. But he feels as good as he's felt in a long time, and he's practicing a lot, and he looks pretty good when he's out there. He's physical. He's got great hands.

I know this. I look at the offensive linemen that line up against him in practice, and I'm not seeing a lot of guys that have a lot of confidence in beating Darius right now. And that's not to take away anything from the offensive line. I really like the way our offensive line is playing, but I think Darius, his play is at another level, and he's feeling really good. He's practicing extremely well.

But I'm not going to put him in a position where he's potentially going to get injured before we play a game.

Q. Does it say something about Justin Goodwin that over the course of three years, his role within the offense has lessened, but he opted to stay here and stay the course and he didn't try to transfer to somewhere else for a bigger role? Does that say something about him?
COACH ASH: Yeah, I'll be honest with you. I can't comment on what's happened over the last three years. I have no idea. I haven't gone back to look at how many carries Justin's had in the past or what he's done in the past. All I know is that Justin seems like a great charactered individual since we've been here. He's done nothing but work extremely hard, and he has a great attitude. He's done a good job for us.

He's a guy that we talk a lot about on the offense and on special teams, making a difference for the football team this fall. So what's happened in the past is in the past. He's here. He's a part of our team, and I'm glad he is.

Q. We've seen Kemoko Turay wreak havoc on a game, really change a game. How close is he to getting back to that point? What are your expectations for Kemoko Turay?
COACH ASH: I don't know how far along he is. Since we've been here, he's been limited from two postseason surgeries last year, both of them on his shoulders, left and right shoulder got repaired. It's tough to recover from one, let alone two.

There will be a time here this fall that he'll be 100 percent, but he's not there yet. He's not cleared to do a lot of things yet. He is doing some D-line drills. So to say he's game ready, he's not close. To say he could be a guy that's going to be a difference maker or a game changer, will affect a quarterback, it's hard for me to say that right now.

Q. Chris, we heard you say the other day that you'll be involved with the defense and special teams since that's your background, but have you almost had to learn the offense like the players have had to learn it? Because, obviously, one of the things with defensive coaches is you're going to be calling the time-outs, you're going to be doing the game management. Drew's not going to be doing all that. How has it been for you to learn the offense?
COACH ASH: Well, I knew the offense. This offense is one that I've been around for quite a while. Tom Herman and I were together at Iowa State, and a lot of the concepts that we run are part of his offense that he had back when he was at Rice and Iowa State.

Obviously, being at Ohio State the last couple of years, a lot of concepts that were taken from Ohio State's offense.

So the biggest thing for me, maybe the little terminology is different. Drew's called it different stuff from what we called it at Ohio State, so a little bit of that. But in terms of the concepts, the formations, the plays, the pass concepts, that's nothing new, and that's why I hired him because I was familiar with the offense and had a pretty good idea of what I wanted that picture to look like.


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