We are in the midst of the holiday season, but there has been plenty of action for the Rutgers football program. In an effort to get you caught up on everything that has happened, here is some news, notes, and links.
Griffin has a summary of hires that head coach Chris Ash had made prior to last week. Since then, Ash hired A.J. Blazek as the new offensive line coach and Zak Kuhr as the new wide receivers coach. Both coaches come from FCS schools, although both have Big Ten connections. Blazek was an all-conference center at Iowa and served as a graduate assistant there for four seasons. Kuhr was an intern for two seasons as Ohio State and worked under former Buckeye defensive coordinator Everett Withers at James Madison. He also worked one season under new offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer at JMU.
Today, Rutgers announced that Ash has hired Aaron Henry as assistant defensive backs coach. Henry played under Ash at Wisconsin and has been a graduate assistant at Arkansas under former Rutgers defensive coordinator Robb Smith. He was an all-conference player at Wisconsin and was a central figure for a team that won three consecutive Big Ten titles.
Departures & Decommits
Former 4-star recruit Marques Ford announced last week that he was transferring from the program. That was followed by three year starting linebacker Steve Longa announcing that he was leaving early for the NFL draft. Longa's departure leaves a gaping hole in the middle of the Rutgers defense for next season. The starting linebacker contingent of Longa, Quentin Gause, and Kaiwan Lewis will all need to be replaced by Ash. The veteran threesome led the team in tackles and were the strength of the defense. The one area this group struggled with was pass coverage. Here is a way too early depth chart projection for next season. Deonte Roberts figures to have the first crack at replacing Longa.
I can confirm it was RU OL coach AJ Blazek who offered Dylan Powell, the '16 #Purdue pledge. Powell tells me he's "definitely interested"— Chris Dougherty (@DoughertyCFB) December 28, 2015
Powell did tell me that he is still committed to Purdue, and is currently in the process of discussing all options with his family.— Chris Dougherty (@DoughertyCFB) December 28, 2015
Rutgers made offers to offensive line recruits Trystan Castillo and Dylan Powell yesterday, both rated 3 stars by most services. Castillo is a Missouri pledge and Powell is committed to Purdue. Our recruiting guru, Chris Dougherty, spoke to Powell and confirmed he is interested in Rutgers. Ash and his new staff have a lot of ground to make up before national signing day on February 3rd. More to come from Chris on the recruiting front in the coming days. No word on the new coaching staff's thoughts on recruiting Florida.
Ash Coaching Fiesta Bowl
It has been a hot button for some Rutgers fans, but a friendly reminder our head coach is finishing up his duties as the defensive coordinator at Ohio State this week. Ash will call the defensive plays Friday as the Buckeyes take on Notre Dame. While it's not ideal that Ash is absent from campus this week, there is no doubt he is still putting work in on the Rutgers side of things. Here is an update from Dan Duggan on what the assistants are up to during the bowl season.
Don't Forget One Month Ago Today
Things will never be perfect within the Rutgers program and there will always be something to complain about. The current state of the 2016 recruiting class, the lack of big names being hired as assistant coaches, and Ash still working for Ohio State are the popular complaints these days. However, I am here to remind you that things were far worse only one month ago today. Rutgers blew a 21 point lead to Maryland and lost on senior day. And then, President Barchi executed a plan to change the direction of Rutgers athletics. The very next day athletic director Julie Hermann and head coach Kyle Flood were fired. Later that same day, Patrick Hobbs was named the new athletic director. A week later, Chris Ash was named the new football coach. Better days are ahead, but patience is needed. Regardless, Rutgers is far better positioned today in both football and with the entire athletic department, than it was one month ago today! For that, we should all be thankful!