Chris Ash has made a number of splashes since arriving in Piscataway in early December. He's continued to to make bold moves early in 2016, replacing EJ Barthel, a player favorite, with Adam Caltury as the program's new director of recruiting, and hiring a key in-state piece in Rick Mantz as the program's director of high school relations.
If there's one thing that Ash has done sine arriving last month, is to cement his intentions to entirely change the face and the future of the Rutgers program. The entire coaching staff is heavily involved with recruits on social media, as well as the fan base; interacting at a high level with some of the most die-hard Rutgers fans. For the first time in what seems to feel like forever, the fans have what seems to be an open line of communication with the football program. There is hope, excitement, foundation, anticipation, anxiety, and hundreds of other adjectives that describe a program that for the last three years have been described as tumultuous, down-trodden, and lost.
Rick Mantz, Ash's hand-picked selection for the school's director of high school relations, has deep ties to the university. Mantz has both a bachelor's and a master's degree from Rutgers, and was a graduate assistant coach under Doug Garber in the early 1990's.
The "director of high school relations" is a new title for the Scarlet Knights program, but not new to Ash and his philosophy. His two prior stops, Ohio State and Arkansas, both have similar positions within their programs. Mantz will be the school's direct connection to in-state recruits, something that is desperately needed and imperative under Ash's watch that the school improves on. The 2016 recruiting class currently only holds commitments from three New Jersey products. To shine light on just how bad that is, Ohio State currently holds nine commitments from Ohio based football recruits. Clearly the mission to build the foundation of the program right in the team's own backyard is something Ash is looking to go neck deep with. The coaches have already adopted hashtags such as "fence the garden" and "Jersey come up" and it has been widely accepted by a hungry and passionate fanbase.
Mantz has been a staple in the New Jersey football community, holding a 113-69 overall career record, with two state championships under his belt at both Hillsborough and South Brunswick. Rutgers' all-time leading receiver, Mohamed Sanu, is a product of Mantz's, as well as two-time Super Bowl champion offensive lineman Shaun O'Hara. Mantz is also one of the most widely-respected coaches in the entire state, and has held a prominent role within the New Jersey Football Coaches Association for the last two decades.
It's expected that Mantz will be directly connected with local schools, and maintain a healthy state-wide presence on behalf of the Rutgers football program, by building trust and respect between Rutgers and the involved parties. Ash wants to build his legacy in Piscataway with the bricks that surround him, and Mantz's hire is a great first step in that direction.
Adam Caltury is your new director of recruiting, replacing the ever-popular EJ Barthel, who was officially relieved from his duties earlier this week. Caltury is just 25, and also a former Ohio State recruiting assistant (surprise, right?). Caltury will be tasked with turning around the 62nd ranked class in the country, and one that's hovered near the bottom of the Big Ten during the entire 2016 cycle. Caltury has been known to build great relationships with recruits, and build excitement in what he hopes will become "flipping" season just a few weeks away from National Signing Day. Caltury has already hit the ground running, getting involved in trying to land a few final premiere names to the 2016 class, while cementing commitments from top players like Patrice Rene and Anthony Russo.
The next few weeks will be both wild and exciting, and the hires Ash has made to build a solid foundation for recruiting is everything fans, and us that cover the team could ask for. There's finally an exciting feel around this program that just a few months ago felt like it couldn't get any worse. The future is bright, and the future is now...it's going to get really fun around the Banks.