Chris Ash, naturally, sees plenty of room for improvement on both sides of the ball. The first scrimmage of the spring last weekend served as a barometer to find out the Scarlet Knights’ early strengths and weaknesses in a live setting.
“The things that stood out, we played really fast on defense,” Ash said. “We tackled exceptionally well. We did create a lot of takeaways in our scrimmage, so I was really pleased with that, what I really liked.
“Offensively, it wasn’t a really good scrimmage because of what the defense did, how they played but they bounced back with a great Tuesday practice and really got after the defense. So I like the team going back and forth like that, but the scrimmage is no different from almost every practice. We’re cleaner, we play faster, guys communicate better because they know what they’re doing more, they’re more confident in themselves. … The good thing is that the offense responded and Tuesday, they had a really good practice and got after the defense.”
If good football starts at the line of scrimmage, that might explain for the offensive struggles last week. In the midst of effort to replace three starters on the offensive line, Ash noted that the group struggled in the scrimmage but responded with a strong week of practice.
“Offensive line had the best practice on Tuesday,” Ash said. “They came out with a different attitude, different approach. The offensive staff did a good job of getting them fired up and getting them focused on what we need to improve on. We had our best day of running the football on Tuesday. It continued a little bit (Thursday).
“It was back and forth and more balanced (Thursday) with the offense having some plays and the defense having some plays, but I like the way the one offensive line is playing right now. They’re playing with good pad level, they’re using their hands, they’re having a better attitude … more of a nasty attitude to the approach of their job and getting their job done the way we want it to get done.”
Whether it comes in the scrimmages or in practices, Rutgers works in plenty of 11-on-11 action. Ash said he sees the progress starting to fall into place overall with the team.
“We got a lot of 11-on-11 football in right now,” he said. “Our guys continue to show up and compete every single day. Really like the brotherhood that we have on this football team right now. The chemistry is really strong and guys are hanging out together, they’re working out together, they’re practicing really hard for each other. Really happy about where we’re at from that standpoint right now.”
Position battles rarely find winners in spring. Right guard (Zach Venesky vs Zack Heeman vs Marcus Applefield) and defensive tackle (Kevin Wilkins vs Jon Bateky vs Wilington Previlon) are the spots to watch in Saturday's action.