Rutgers football coach Chris Ash indicated early on after he took over that he planned to make developing relationships with New Jersey high school coaches a priority. Hosting coaching clinics is one way to do that in offering an opportunity for those coaches to attend sessions with guest speakers and get a behind the scenes look at the host football program. Ash is already putting that plan into action, as he is hosting a coaching clinic at Rutgers next weekend. In addition, Ash is speaking at another coaching clinic hosted by a program that battles Rutgers for some of the same players on the recruiting trail.
Temple head coach Matt Rhule is hosting a coaching clinic this weekend, headlined by New York Jets head coach Todd Bowles. However, Ash is also speaking which seems like a bit of a surprise. Already in Ash's short tenure, both Temple and Rutgers had a player once committed to them that ended up signing with the other school.
Once the prized recruit for the class of 2016 when Kyle Flood was head coach, Elite 11 quarterback Anthony Russo flipped his commitment to Temple once Ash was hired and announced the offense was switching from a pro style to a spread. That was to be expected, as Russo is a traditional pocket passer whose skill set projects best in a pro style offense. Russo quickly pledged his commitment to Temple.
Soon after, Rutgers flipped Temple commit Elorm Lumor the week before he was set to enroll early for Rhule and the Owls back in January. Lumor is from Piscataway and once Ash came on board and offered him, he had a change of heart and decided to stay home. Ash has made it clear part of his recruiting strategy is to recruit players until they officially sign at another school and it paid immediate dividends with Lumor. The fact that Lumor flipped at the same time Temple was wooing a player that no longer fit Rutgers plans, made it even sweeter.
It is commonplace for recruiting battles to take place until the letter of intent is signed, but it also wouldn't have been unreasonable to think Rutgers flipping Lumor would have rubbed Temple coach Matt Rhule the wrong way. Of course, Temple has long been rumored to have negatively recruited against Rutgers dating back to when Al Golden was head coach. Regardless, the two current head coaches are obviously on good enough terms for Rhule to ask Ash to speak at his coaching clinic. Ash seems to take the long term view on most things and him speaking at Temple's clinic alongside two NFL coaches seems like a smart move.
RU Football Clinic- Register now! Awesome line up of top HS, College and RU coaches + Barry Alvarez- April 8-9 pic.twitter.com/qdZr5jbW2O— Rick Mantz (@rickmantz) March 22, 2016
As for Ash's own coaching clinic at Rutgers, he landed a big fish to headline in Wisconsin legend Barry Alvarez. Of course, the former football coach and current athletic director for the Big Ten school is also a part of the same coaching tree as Ash, originating under Hayden Frye. In fact, Board of Governors Chairman Greg Brown spoke with Alvarez during last season and sat in his suite during the Rutgers-Wisconsin game on Halloween. Alvarez had very positive things to say about Ash, who was the defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator under Bret Bielema at Wisconsin from 2010-2012. Ash tapped into his relationship with Alvarez and is immediately bringing value to his first coaching clinic that he is offering to local area high school coaches.
What also caught my eye though was one of the high school coaches that Ash asked to speak at the clinic, Bergen Catholic head coach Nunzio Campanile. Two decisions in the past few months since Ash took over at Rutgers made it seem like a feud could be brewing being the two coaches and programs.
First, Ash fired Nunzio's brother, Anthony, the former wide receivers coach at Rutgers under Flood. Anthony was a popular assistant known as a good recruiter and a "Jersey guy". Ash wanted to clean house and hire his own staff of assistant coaches but offered Anthony a support role in the recruiting department. He declined and landed an assistant coaching position at Boston College.
Second, Bergen Catholic tight end Korab Idrizi committed to Rutgers the second to last weekend before national signing day in January. However, Idrizi infamously flipped his commitment the following weekend on his visit to Boston College, posting a tweet announcing that "this is where I belong". It was speculated that this move was an intentional set up by the Campanile brothers to make Ash look bad and as payback for not retaining Anthony.
Now I am not trying to throw fuel to the fire and am only pointing it out that perhaps both moves can be chalked up to the reality of college football and the business it entails. Perhaps there is no bad blood and Idrizi acted like an 18 year old kid, changing his mind because in his heart he felt he belonged at Boston College. That wasn't the first time it has happened in college football recruiting and it certainly won't be the last time.
Either way, Ash is taking the high road and inviting Nunzio Campanile to speak at his first coaching clinic is a smart move. He is one of six high school coaches speaking within the two days, in which four of them are from New Jersey. Ash has put together a solid schedule for the clinic and it is another opportunity for him and his staff to build relationships with many local coaches.
Based on him taking part in the Temple clinic and having Campanile at his own, it's obvious Ash believes in the "don't ever burn bridges' philosophy. Ash is practicing what he preaches to his players early on in his tenure, setting a positive example and creating positive actions for the long term . That is a major step in the right direction for the Rutgers football program.