After Rutgers lost to Maryland 31-13 in the last game of the season, head coach Chris Ash addressed the media yesterday. He made a point to thank the senior class, who sadly end their careers on a 9 game losing streak and without a conference victory this season.
Ash spoke about how special teams play has been a major problem, both in this game and the entire season. In yesterday’s game, Rutgers allowed a punt return for a touchdown and also gave up another long return, as well as having an extra point blocked for a miss and David Bonagura missing a field goal.
He talked about holding a team meeting on Monday and getting started on their offseason plans, in order to get better as a program. Recruiting will obviously be a major focus now and Ash did emphasize the need to upgrade speed across the board. Ash elaborated on the positive changes made during his first year as head coach at Rutgers and that he likes the foundation built so far. He specified areas that have improved and what is next for the players this offseason:
When you talk about the way we train, investing in the players, in recovery, in nutrition, the other is really about social behavior. We want a football team that makes good decisions and I think we’ve demonstrated that we have a team of individuals that does that. Obviously we want to be able to get better on offense, defense and special teams out on the field on Saturdays. That’s what we need to do, but I do like the foundation we’ve laid this offseason. Last offseason was extremely hard for them. but this offseason will be hard also. Mentally, they’ll have an idea of what to expect and hopefully they’ll go out and attack it this offseason rather than be nervous or afraid of what’s coming.
Ash recognized the importance of both lines improving, but singled out the linebackers as a group that needs a lot of improvement. In terms of player development, Ash said:
Every day is critical. Every day that we come in is critical, but we have to able to go out and recruit. We have to be able to go out and create competition at each spot on the football team. We have to get guys that come in and push each other to be better every single day. Every day over the next seven, eight, nine months is critical. That we come in every day and attack workouts the right way. As a staff, we will attack recruiting the right way. That makes the program better.
There is no doubt this is an incredibly important offseason for Ash, both in recruiting and player development. There were only glimpses of improvement on the field this season and overall, the team was worse than last season. The talent and depth of the roster needs a major upgrade, but Ash needs to evaluate every aspect of the program, including his coaching staff. It will be interesting to see if any personnel changes are made in the coming weeks.
For now, the book on a 2-10 season is officially closed. Let the offseason begin and hopefully the core of the class of 2017 commits make it on the banks for national signing day. Many recruits in the incoming class will have a chance to play right away next season and are critical to improving this program.
Here is Ash’s full press conference. We will have plenty of coverage here at On The Banks in the days and weeks to come.