Rutgers Coach Chris Ash Previews Michigan

PISCATAWAY, N.J. -- Rutgers coach Chris Ash looks ahead to Saturday's clash with Michigan and reviews what went wrong in the blowout loss to Ohio State.

COACH ASH: We're happy to be back here at home this weekend. Another great opponent coming into town with Michigan Wolverines. First night game of the year for us. Really excited to see the atmosphere that's created here with Stripe the Birthplace and the first night game of the season.

A know a lot of coverings about injury, update, just a quick one on Greg Jones. He's fine. He was fine after the game. He was walking around on the sideline. Felt good. They are doing some evaluations on him. Not sure of his availability for this week or when he'll be back, but he's fine and will be back at some point. Hopefully it's this week but not sure on that today.

Couple things from Saturday, obviously wasn't the day that we wanted, after watching the videotape, that's a very good football team that we played but just disappointed in our play and the team that showed up. We've got to do a better job especially against outstanding teams like that on the road. We will move on.

Had meetings yesterday. Got through a lot of corrections and conversations about the game and how we played, and how we continue to get better and move forward. So we'll move on and learn from it and keep getting better and keep developing players as we go.

This Saturday, obviously Michigan comes to town, another Top-5 team that we've played but a very good football team. Offensively they are multiple; they are physical, on the offensive line, they run the ball exceptionally well. Got good skill on the outside and they are scoring a lot of points. They have been over 40 points in every one of their games except this one last Saturday against Wisconsin.

Defensively they are big and physical on the defensive line. They are an attacking defense and like to bring a lot of pressure. Getting a lot of sacks right now, putting a lot of stress on offenses. They are very good in the secondary. They have out standing corners and obviously the nickel is an outstanding player. Special teams-wise, very well-coached and again dynamic in the return game with Peppers back there.

Another big challenge for us and another opportunity for us to go out and continue to try to improve and measure where we are at against one of the nation's top teams.

Q. Do you know Coach Harbaugh at all?
COACH ASH: Yeah, when he was at Stanford, he actually interviewed me for a job at Stanford, years ago. I can't remember what year it was. I was at San Diego State at the time, 2007 maybe, something like that. That's the only time I've had really a conversation with him. Guy I have a lot of respect for, followed his career. He started his head coaching career in the Pioneer Football League at the University of San Diego and that's where I cut my teeth in coaching, at Drake. San Diego and Drake played each other. Anytime you have a guy like Jim Harbaugh starting off in the pioneer league, that's a big deal and followed his career and the success that he had there and as he moved on to Stanford and the great job that he did there.

But in terms of having a personal relationship or anything like that, I don't, but other than a time that I interviewed with him at Stanford.

Q. You mentioned Peppers. You have 20 years of experience. How versatile a kid is he, whether he's playing offense, special teams, linebacker?
COACH ASH: He's as good as there's been. He can do it all. He's obviously got good size, freak-ish athletic ability, good ball skills. He's tough, not afraid to hit you, when he's on offense, runs the ball, he runs it hard. He can make you miss, run through you. My years of coaching, he's as good as there is.

Q. You obviously weren't happy after the game the other day for obvious reasons. Are you contemplating any personnel changes in the starting lineup on either side of the ball or is it a matter of the guys executing better?
COACH ASH: No, I mean, if we felt there were individuals that could help us win games, we would put them out there. We've had a long time to evaluate our personnel, all the way back from last spring through the summer and training camp, and we have a pretty good feel of who gives us the best chance to go out and have success and that's who we are playing with right now.

Again we played an outstanding football team. That team is second-ranked team in the nation for a reason, and any time you play really good football teams, they have a say in how you look as a football team, and they had a lot to say in how we looked Saturday.

Did we play well in our own eyes? No, we didn't. We had a lot of mental mistakes that we made in that game but again that team had a lot to do with that.

Q. How was the attitude of the team getting back here and just starting a new week and getting back into meetings and practices?
COACH ASH: Well, we had meetings yesterday and obviously it's a somber feeling when you go through a game like that. Any time you lose it's tough when you've invested a lot. When we lost the Iowa game it was a very quiet Sunday in here because guys had worked really hard and felt like we had a chance to win that game.

So yesterday was no different. The guys are disappointed. They are down. We went through and evaluated the film like we always do. We didn't go on the practice field yesterday. We've just been going a long time through training camp with no bye week and we've had a really physical last couple games. We just needed to get their minds and bodies right, so we gave them off from going out on the field in the effort of trying to come back and be a little fresher on Tuesday.

Q. Your thoughts on Tylin's progress, and is he getting closer to being ready to run the offense?
COACH ASH: You guys saw him out there Saturday. It's obvious he's not ready. If he was, he would be out there full-time. He's not. He's got a long way to go. We're trying to bring him a long but he's got a long way to go.

The quarterback position is a position that we've been struggling at but that's not the only position. We've got a lot of positions that we've struggled at when we've played really good teams.

Q. Traditionally some of Rutgers biggest efforts have come on night games. You were on the other side of it. How much of an impact can that have on a game like this and just can you expand on the Stripe the Birthplace?
COACH ASH: Sometimes night games, you maybe give the players a little extra incentive or adrenaline when the game starts but at the end of the day, whether it's an afternoon game, at noon or a night game, we have to go out and execute our offense, defense and special teams.

Hopefully it's a great atmosphere and a lot of fans show up. It will be cool if we Stripe the Birthplace the way we want it to be done. The administration has worked hard to make this a really cool atmosphere and I'm excited to see what turns out.

But I'm more worried about our football team and our ability to go out and execute on offense, defense and special teams. Anything else -- and again, I don't really care when the ball is kicked off, but we have to play better.

Q. What is your opinion of Michigan as a recruiting rival for Rutgers? And how have you found the balance of recruiting --
COACH ASH: I can't say anyone is a rival with us yet. We haven't won a Big Ten game. Until you win a Big Ten game, it's hard to say anyone is a rival. They do an outstanding job of recruiting nationwide. They always have; the university has like Ohio State, they are two of the premiere universities in college football and they recruit outstanding every year.

Since Coach Harbaugh as been there, he's taken it to another level. He's very creative, thinks outside the box. Finds new ways to get his brand out there and give him a lot of credit, he's done an outstanding job. That whole staff has done an outstanding job. So to sit here and say they are a rival -- but my hat is off to them for the job he has been able to do and the classes they have put together.

For us, we have a weekly schedule that balances out our opponent preparation time, our practice time, our film evaluation time and our recruiting time. We recruit as a staff throughout the week on certain times whether it's film evaluation, it's phone calls, it's contacts with recruits or coaches or parents. But that's all laid out throughout the week. If you don't do it that way, then what usually gets pushed aside this time of year is recruiting and we don't want that to happen. It's built into our weekly schedule and everybody knows that football stops and we're going to recruit.

Q. You had Josh -- inaudible -- will he be the returner against Michigan on Saturday?
COACH ASH: Janarion Grant wasn't here, so someone had to do it, and Harris is doing a lot of things and we couldn't have him do something else.

I can't say that he did great or bad. When you look at Ohio State's kickoff structure, they do a great job. It's what we would like to be able to do here. They give excellent kicks. They are not a team that wants to get touchbacks. They want to kick the ball as close to the goal line as possible and have much hang time as possible and get the players out and make space for the returner. When you look at Saturday's game, they did a great job in doing that. That's a big factor in what happened in the first half. Their ability to change field position with the kickoff team was a big deal, in the last six minutes, we are down 9-0, just over six minutes to go in the second quarter, we go in the locker room down 30-0 and a lot had to do with what they did on their kickoff team and Josh didn't have a chance to get going.

Q. Where you only see one player catch three passes -- you talk about press coverage, can that be fixed in the span of a week going into Michigan?
COACH ASH: There's a lot of things that go into that. When teams are talented like Ohio State and they can press you and smoother you and then they can rush the passer with four guys, that's a challenging combination.

I've said this week-after-week, how do we throw the ball better; we have to protect better is one. Two, we have to be able to get open. Three, we have to be able to set our feet and throw with the proper fundamentals and the fourth one we are not doing very good at is catching the ball also.

When you look at Saturday's game, there were some guys that were open at times and we didn't catch the ball the right way. There were some guys that were open and we didn't hit them. There were some guys that were open and we had pressure on the quarterback. Right now our ability to get those four things done consistently, it's not where it needs to be, so it's a work-in-progress. It's something that we emphasize weekly in all those areas and it's got to get better if we want to have the balance that we want on offense.

Q. Chris Laviano takes the brunt of criticism from the fan base. Can you safely or definitively say the passing issues are not his fault and how much is tied to Chris?
COACH ASH: I mean, it's the nature of the beast. When things go well on offense, who usually gets a lot of credit? The quarterback. When things don't do well, who usually gets a lot of the criticism? Quarterbacks. Everybody talks about a football teams's quarterback. That's just the nature of the business. If you don't want to be in that coverings, don't be a quarterback.

Can some of our passing issues be contributed to Chris? Absolutely. Are they all contributed to Chris? Not at all. Again, it's offensive line. It's route running. It's catching. It is throwing. It is proper mechanics. It's decision making, so there's a lot that goes into it.

But Chris has improved and I know some people will look at the stats from last Saturday and say, no, he hasn't. Well I'm just telling you, that's a pretty good defensive secondary in front that we played against. We probably need to be a little more creative on how we can get guys off of press with, whether it be motions or certain alignments that allow us to do that so we are not pressed all the time.

But there's a lot that goes into it. It's no did I know than a run game. Just because we run the ball well doesn't mean it's just the offensive line. The receivers, the tight ends, the quarterbacks have got to make the right decisions. Running back has to make the right read, so there's a lot that goes into it.

Q. As important as this game is just for now, for this season, for this team, is it possible to not think about ramifications in terms of recruiting? Is it possible to ignore that there is kind of a bigger ripple effect potentially?
COACH ASH: No, every time we go out and lineup, there's a ripple effect for everything.

I've said this openly, you know, I'm not overly concerned at the end of the season how many wins and losses we have. I'm concerned, are we playing our best football at the end of the season; have we established an identity on offense, defense and special teams, and do we feel like we're playing and executing our jobs and competing to the best of our ability as we go through the season.

That's what I'm concerned about. Because if we don't, there's a ripple effect for a lot of things. There's a ripple effect for recruiting, fund-raising, all that stuff. Right now with us and recruiting, we have talked to our recruits about the foundation we have laid and the direction we are going and how they fit into our future plans and I don't think anybody has second guessed that or wavered based off of last Saturday's game.

Coming out of the Iowa game, a lot of people were excited about the progress that we've made, the direction they felt like we were going. One setback is not going to hurt that but we have to play better, we have to be competitive, we need to be well-coached and we need to be well prepared because nobody wants to be a part of a program that's not.

Q. Ross Douglas, where is he at in learning to play defensive back and being able to help your secondary? Does it help to have somebody who knows their personnel and was on the inside there just last year?
COACH ASH: No, I talked to you guys about that last year -- nobody had more knowledge about personnel and schemes than I did for Ohio State. There will never be a situation probably like that for me again. But it's not about what one individual knows. It's about going out and doing your job and your players versus their players. That's what that is about.

So just like I told you last week, there was no advantage of my knowledge of Ohio State. There's not an advantage of anybody else in our program on any knowledge they may have on Michigan. That's not what this is about. It's about us trying to go out and play better and play the best that we can play against another out standing football team, and that's all that really matters.

You know, Ross had been injured, got hurt in the Howard game. But he's not 100 percent, but we slowly got him back last week and he was able to do a couple things on special teams. Knowledge and football IQ is not an issue for Ross at all. It's just being able to go out and play.

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