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The Gang's All Here: Ash Introduces Staff

Chris Ash has assembled his staff, and they were formally introduced to the media today at the Hale Center.

Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports

The confetti has been swept off the field of University of Phoenix Stadium.

The crowds have all gone home.

A new champion has been crowned.

And now we enter the long, unforgiving offseason of college football, with nearly eight months separating us from the next game.

But there has been very little down time on the banks of the old Raritan, as Rutgers has hit the ground running. On Tuesday, the first day of the college football offseason, the local media gathered in the meeting room of the Hale Center. Chris Ash was ready to show off his shiny new coaches.

"I had a detailed plan of how I wanted to go about building this program," Ash said. "No. 1 on my list was to surround myself with great people."

"Very excited about the group of men that I put together to help us do great things here at Rutgers."

Ash outlined what he was looking for during his search. The most important thing he said he looked for was character, coaches that can build connections with and care for the players. He also looked for competent coaches that are knowledgeable at their position and know how to coach and recruit at this level.

He added that he looked for compatibility. He wanted coaches that are not only compatible with Ash's vision of the program, but are also compatible with one another. Ash also tasked himself with finding coaches with successful backgrounds, loyalty and high energy.

That's certainly a lot of qualifiers.

And yet, after about a month, Ash found the guys he was looking for. A staff so far defined by its widespread roots, its enthusiastic presence on social media, and its blend of young up-and-comers and older, more experienced scholars of pigskin.

No two coaches demonstrate that blend more than offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer and defensive coordinator Jay Niemann.

After Ash spoke, Mehringer took to the podium, looking less like someone who should be coordinating the offense and more like someone who should be putting on the pads and preparing to take the field right next door at High Point Solutions Stadium.

Indeed, a lot has been made of Mehringer's youth since his hiring (he's just 28), but he showed both youthful energy and mature poise and confidence when speaking about next year's offense.

"We're going to be an offense that's exciting to watch," Mehringer said.

Mehringer's Q&A with the media essentially confirmed we will be seeing more of a pass-happy spread offense at Rutgers next year, something both new and exciting as well as nerve-wracking for Rutgers fans.

"We plan to use to the entire field and all 11 people on it."

Okay, cool. The spread offense is exciting to watch and has gotten results at other programs. But what about Rutgers? How do we know this coaching staff will put the right 11 people on the field, after Kyle Flood received so much criticism for his refusal to switch up personnel, especially at quarterback?

"You reach out to Chris, being the starter from this past year...I talked about the expectations we have," Mehringer said.

"When you address Hayden, I hope you didn't come in here to be the backup...It's open competition. All the way back down to even Gio and those guys. It's open for all of those guys at every single position.

If you didn't come here to compete and win, your position, or game for that matter, you don't really belong here."

It's clear Mehringer is interested in putting the best players out there, no matter who they are. Competition is healthy, and it looks like we'll see plenty of it during the spring and summer.

Following Mehringer's energetic presser, it was time for one of the elder statesmen of the staff, defensive coordinator Jay Niemann, to speak. He began by expressing his optimism for the future of Rutgers football.

"We're in a very good location from a recruiting perspective," he said. "We're in a program that, in my opinion, isn't that far away from being able to turn the corner and get back to being successful again."

While the new-look Rutgers defense will likely mostly reflect the vision of Ash, Niemann plays a big role in how this defense will stand up to the rest of the Big Ten. What is he looking for?

"Well, first thing we want to be is tough, we want to be aggressive, we want to be physical. We want to be a defense that's fundamentally sound. We want to be a defense that doesn't give up big plays because we're fundamentally sound. Sound on our technique, we want to be a group that plays together with a lot of pride."

That has to be music to Rutgers faithful's ears after the past two years have provided two of the worst defenses in program history. The defense was often criticized for not being tough, or aggressive, or physical, and definitely was not fundamentally sound.

Niemann, who had a lot of success coordinating the defense at Northern Illinois, may be the man to turn things around for this team defensively.

All in all, it was a nice way for Rutgers fans to kick off the college football offseason. While many point out how jovial and down-to-earth former coach Kyle Flood was in interviews, many were critical of his ability to use a lot of words to say very little when it came to football. Ash, on the other hand, has a lot to say and has no problem saying it.

He did a great job bringing fans behind the curtain and detailing what he looked for during his coaching search. His words should instill confidence in fans that he and his staff are the right men for the job. He was even able to generate some laughs with a joke, recalling how he played under Niemann at Drake.

"He actually was my coach in college. Didn't do a very good job because I sucked," he said with a smile.

The #AshEra is upon us, and now we finally got to acquaint ourselves with the men we hope will right the ship.