Ash made that much clear Monday when he confirmed the injuries.
“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,” he said .“You know, in this program, (Grant and Lambert) 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.”
Grant blossomed as a focal point in all facets of the Rutgers offense. The senior speedster did it all for a unit that struggled in its transition in schemes throughout the first four games. He did it by way of the receptions, carries and even passes.
Offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer knows how much of a void the absence of Grant creates in terms of production. But the true impact extends beyond the numbers, into the mentality of the huddle and the locker room.
“Obviously, it hurts,” Mehringer said. “Not only, I think, just from a schematic standpoint that you’re most dynamic playmaker’s out for the season. But like I’ve said a few times, that kid was an emotional leader for our offense. He was a phenomenal kid with a phenomenal competitor. I can’t say enough great things about Janarion Grant.”
Wide receiver Jawuan Harris, the expected replacement in all facets of the offense and multiple special teams roles, takes what he learned from Grant as his role now increases.
But the promotion comes at a bittersweet time for Harris, who said he learned a lot under Grant.
“It’s very emotional,” Harris said. “Sometimes you don’t think about how quick or how easy it can be just gone from you like that. I remember seeing Janarion when I came on my official (visit). Andre Patton and Janarion were kind of like the people who took me over on my official.
“So it’s been a long road. I’ve kind of known him for so long and I’ve worked with him for so long. So it’s kind of definitely emotional to see that happen, but he’ll be fine, he’ll be ready … when he’s done with (recovery).”
Lambert, in his third year as a starter at defensive end, was often referred to as an unsung hero on the Rutgers defense.
Junior walk-on Darnell Davis takes what he learned behind Lambert into his first career start as he fills in at defensive end.
More importantly, Davis said it was how Lambert conducted himself off the field that stood out the most.
“Quanzell’s a guy — he’s an unsung hero,” Davis said. “Like, he might not see the things he do, but he’s a great player. … He does his job, he’s on time to meetings, he does everything right, coaches love him, we love him — he’s just one of our brothers. To see him go down, it was heartbreaking. But the next man has to step up in football. I’ll be happy to do his job. He’s a great player.”
Team captain and fellow fifth-year senior Darius Hamilton entered a part of the same recruiting class as Lambert. Hamilton, who missed the remainder of the 2015 season around the same time last year, said knows what Lambert is going through.
“I know what kind of warrior Quanzell is,” Hamilton said. “He’s the kind of guy that goes to work everyday, keeps his mouth shut. … He’s been hurting for a long time. Sometimes when it’s your time, it’s your time. I know he’ll continue to fight and I know he’ll continue to rehab, and I know playing in the NFL is something that he wants to do. So I’m sure he’ll chase that when it’s all said and done.”
While the losses of Grant and Lambert make for an emotional time around the team, no one expects it to get in the way of the business that goes down on the gridiron.
“I think we have a tremendous group of leaders,” Ash said. “Our captains are outstanding. 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 (Sunday’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.”