RUTGERS COACH CHRIS ASH
Just address the injury update, many of you guys already know about Janarion Grant and Quanzell Lambert suffering season-ending injuries last Saturday. Just thoughts, prayers, go out to those two players, great human beings, great teammates, have worked extremely hard to be the best that they could be. You know, in this program, were off to great starts to the season and obviously are going to be sorely missed not only in the field but in the locker room and just around every single day. They come to work with a great attitude and a smile on their face and always a pleasure to be around.
Just a quick recap of Iowa last week. Again it was a tough loss. One that, really proud of our kids effort and the way they prepared and the way they went out and played. We definitely improved. You look at where we were at to week one to where we are at in week four, I think there's significant improvements in a lot of areas with the football team that we are happy about.
We've just got to continue to go on that trend. You talk about the four stages of a football team, we talked about this yesterday with the team, you've got to teach and learn how to compete. Then you've got to learn how to win. You've got to learn about winning championships and then you've got to learn how to handle success and handle winning.
We're still in Stage I. I think we are competing. I think we're a football team that will compete against anybody that we play. We'll fight and we won't quit. We have to learn how to win games. So like the one that we were in last Saturday, and that's everybody in the organization; it comes down to details in a lot of areas, but that's the next stage that we need to be able to conquer and move forward with as we go week-to-week into the season.
Some things that I thought we did well. We ran the ball well. I thought we played good defense for the most part. I thought overall our special teams were decent, we have to throw and catch the ball better on offense, we have to be more consistent in stopping the run on defense.
We did a decent job Saturday but there's too many explosive plays that come up that at the end of the day your total yardage doesn't look good, and we have to cut those things out.
Now special teams, we've got to get our kickoff cover fixed. We're not very good in our kickoff game, so we've got to get it fixed. We have to coach it better, teach it, practice it better, because what I watched on film was not pretty and I we've got to get it fixed.
Moving on to this week, going to get ready to play another great opponent, Ohio State, is playing exceptionally well through three weeks of the season. Going to be a great challenge for us going into a hostile environment like the Horseshoe and playing a football team like Ohio State. It's another opportunity for us to continue to improve, keep working each week and go out and compete. Our guys are excited about doing that, and we had a great practice yesterday and I'm sure we'll have great practices as we have the last few weeks. So go ahead and open up to questions from there.
Q. How does your familiarity with their defensive talent help, and I guess the follow-up would be, any emotions going back there?
COACH ASH: I mean, I know the players, but it's not about me knowing the players. It's about our players knowing the players and going out and making plays. I can know the players all I want, doesn't matter, our players have to know the players and matchups and the guys that they are going to go against. They are going to have to go out and execute the call in all three phases. That's what matters.
Q. You lose two starters, including one who meant so much. Do you have a message to the team?
COACH ASH: Both starters meant a lot to the team and there wasn't any one more important than another. They are both really important. Just next man in, it's football in general and injuries are part of the game, we all know that. And it's next man in. We'll move on, the next guy will step up and we'll go out and play productive football for us and we're excited to see who that is.
Q. With Grant being out, does it change what you're doing on offense?
COACH ASH: It doesn't change anything. We have an offensive system we believe in. We are not going to change offensive systems. This is the blueprint of what we want the football team to look like. We are going to be a running offense, an attacking defense, we are going to have special teams the way we are.
Are there certain things we may not be able to do if certain individuals are not in there? Yeah, absolutely. But to think we are going to go change our offensive system or defensive system because of injury, that's not going to happen.
Q. Obviously you lose two great playmakers and guys who are leaders, as well. Do you have to watch the team and make sure there's not any kind of emotional letdown or anything with injuries like this?
COACH ASH: I think we have a tremendous group of leaders. Our captains are out standing. They provide a ton of leadership for us and so I have no concerns about emotional letdowns or letdowns in general based on injury, so we teach our team how to respond to these type of things all the time. We talk about them all the time, and if yesterday's practice was any indication of how they are going to respond, I'm pleased by what I saw.
Again, it gets back to just the leadership and all the units that we have and our four captains that we have, and really the coaching staff to work with the players within those units to make sure they respond the right way to events like this, nobody had a letdown on Saturday during the game when it happened and I don't expect it moving forward.
Q. May be too early to think about this, but particularly with Janarion, because he played half the game, looking at a potential extra year, is there zero shot of that --
COACH ASH: I don't know. I'm not the NCAA. Other people make those decisions. Obviously we'll try to petition for one but I don't know.
Q. Do you make that decision towards the end of the year?
COACH ASH: There's no decision I make to try to do it. We'll do it but someone else has to make the decision whether they are going to allow it to happen or not based on all the criteria. It's not up to me, the AD or anybody here at Rutgers. We'll submit the necessary documents to try to petition for it, but it's up to somebody else to make that decision. And you know, you see it all the time in college football, some people get it, some people don't. You're never really sure.
Q. You're shorthanded both places but Dacoven Bailey, would he go back to receiver now?
COACH ASH: Dacoven has been at receiver the whole time. We put him on defense because he had a cast on and he couldn't catch a ball, so he's no good doing that. He's back at receiver. He's got a different style of cast on and he can catch balls. That was all that that was about.
There's no reason to have a kid standing on the sideline that's a talented kid like Dacoven because he had a cast on. It's changed. It's a different cast expect catch balls, so we'll let him play what he was recruited to play.
Q. I know you have so much you're dealing with this week and I know you've coached many different places but you are going back to where you last worked and with your own team. Can you envision what the emotions are going to be for you personally just walking in there as the opposing coach?
COACH ASH: No, I mean, I've been there before as an opposing coach. They will say -- there's no secret that I had great relationships there, have great relationships with a lot of people there, coaches, players, support staff, just people in the community.
We had a great two-year run there. It's not about me. It's not about the other people in this program that have been at Ohio State. It's about us preparing our football team to continue to get better and go play against a great opponent. That's all I'm worried about.
Yeah, it's great that we're going back to Ohio State. It's a tremendous place. Love a lot of people there. But we are focused on getting our football team to get to play as good as it possibly can be and that's it.
Q. It was interesting to hear you talk about those phases of building a program all the up to handling success. What is the challenge when you are just going into a place where they are at the very top of that pyramid that you described?
COACH ASH: It's no different than any week than we go play. We went out and played a Washington team that's pretty darned good, too, and they are in the Top-10 in the country, also.
You know, we teach our players how to handle hostile environments, what to expect going into the stadium. They watch film on the players that we play and we've got to prepare them and motivate them to go out and play the best that they can play. It's even more so when you're playing a very talented football team on the road. You have to focus on the details and be locked in and be ready to play as best you possibly can when you're going into that type of environment, because the smallest mistakes can become huge issues against a talented football team.
Q. With Quanzell out, just how ready do you feel Darnell Davis is to kind of step into an increased role now?
COACH ASH: Well, there's several options there. We haven't decided on what the options are going to be. Darnell has played several snaps of football already. He's played outstanding snaps of football already and maybe not as many as Quanzell but not far off and we didn't lose anything when Darnell was in there.
Q. Are they much different schematically under Greg Schiano and what has he really brought to the defense?
COACH ASH: He and Kerry Coombs both work in the secondary and they have done a great job with the young players. Gareon Conley is the only returning DB that played, and so they have three new starters back there. And between Greg and Kerry Coombs, they have done a great job of getting the young players to play exceptionally well this early in the season.
But schematically, both sides of the ball, Ohio State is doing what they do. That has not changed. But again, great job of coaching in my opinion on all phases of that football team. You look at what they are doing offensively with a bunch of new players, what they are doing defensively with a bunch of new players and the kicking game with guys that are covering kicks, they do an outstanding job of coaching young players to be game ready in such a short amount of time. That's what's impressive about it.
Everyone says they have got talent. Yeah, they have got talent but that doesn't mean they are going to be any good. Between Coach Meyer and all the coaches there on that staff, they have done an outstanding job of getting that team game ready, and to be where they are at after three weeks into the season, coming out of a bye week, they have done an outstanding job.
Q. When you talk about the different places that you've been, obviously Ohio State being one of them, what about that place made you the type of coach that you are today? What did you take from there?
COACH ASH: A lot of things. I was fortunate to go there at a time in Coach Meyers career where he experienced a lot of things as a head coach. I think he's really probably settled in on what he truly believes in and how he wants to see the program run in all areas. You talk about program alignment, everybody is aligned to work together for a common goal, which is to be the best that they can be as an organization, and it's impressive when you're in there to watch how it all works.
You know, that's probably the No. 1 thing is about just the organizational alignment that they have there and that doesn't come easy. It doesn't come overnight. It didn't happen just because Coach Meyer got there the first year. It took a couple years to get that done, but that's why they have been successful.
Q. Kirk Ferentz, from a former offensive line coach point sounded off, the new chop block rule from the NCAA. How do you feel that rule is going and that play is the one where Darius ended up limping off. Do you have any problems with that play?
COACH ASH: No, there's no problems with that play. Just got blocked. They called it. I'm not sure exactly what Kirk had said about it but there's conversations about a lot of rules and how they are interpreted from game-to-game with crew to crew, and there was a cut block, and you know, an official saw it as an illegal cut block and he threw the flag.
I can't say I disagree with Kirk on rules interpretations from crew to crew or league to league. At times that happens and he must have felt like that was a situation where somebody saw it differently than him.
Q. Turay dressed the last two weeks, how is his progress coming along? Could he conceivably help out?
COACH ASH: He got a snap last week. He's still a ways away from contributing significant snaps in a game.
Q. We ask you so many questions about the challenge of going in there, as a visiting team. On the flipside, can you just describe what it was like to have that advantage? What does the Ohio State program believe that advantage is, and how did it work to the team's advantage when you were there?
COACH ASH: Any time you've got a venue like they have, the Horseshoe is an impressive venue and when it's filled to capacity, which it is every Saturday, regardless of the opponent, it can be an intimidating venue for opponents to walk into. You're talking about 18- to 22-year-old kids that they have never been in that environment before. A lot of times that venue can beat you regardless of what the home team does.
And that happens to teams. You know, they get intimidated by just the size of the stadium and the history and the tradition and all the things that Ohio State has, and a lot of times teams are beat before the foot even hits the ball.
Q. Do you think your experience there, and knowing that what you just said, helps you communicate that to your team?
COACH ASH: Yeah, I talk about it but again, it's not about me. It's about the players. They still have to be the ones to show up to make plays. But can I talk to them about that? Yeah, absolutely. I've been there. I've watched it happen and we'll have those conversations.
Q. Urban Meyer, I think he's won 19 straight off bye weeks, what makes him so good at coming off a bye?
COACH ASH: I don't think it has anything to do with a bye week. You just look at his record overall. It has nothing to do with a bye week. He's won a lot of games. He's won a lot of games at home, a lot of games on the road, a lot of games coming out of bye weeks.
So it's not about a bye week. It's just about his method, his process, his attention to detail and the preparation and the players that he has. There's a lot that goes into it. But I mean, he's a great coach. He's been a great coach. He's proven that year after year, at place after place, and you know, week five of 2016 season is not going to be any different.