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Rutgers Football: News & Notes From Fourth Spring Practice

Rick Osentoski-USA TODAY Sports

Chris Ash addressed the media yesterday afternoon, discussing many aspects of the football team after the fourth of fifteen practices this spring.  Here are a few highlights:

Janarion Grant Ramping Up

As expected, it appears that Janarion Grant will be a focal point of Drew Mehringer's spread offense.  From Keith Sargeant's article regarding his practice observations, this is what he saw regarding Grant:

Another wrinkle of the power spread offense was on display during position drills. Some wide receivers, including Janarion Grant, lined up next to the quarterback in a two-back set. Grant took hand-offs like a running back from this formation. Another drill featured Grant and other receivers motioning from the slot and taking a quick pitch from the quarterback on a jet sweep. It can't be said enough: Grant should thrive in this offense.

This is not surprising but it is exciting to know for sure that the staff is making Grant a priority. It was always baffling how little Grant had been utilized on offense in the past. This season we should see Grant's abilities and potential utilized to the max.

Practice Habits

Ash cited that he is pleased with the team and the energy, intensity, attitude, and effort they have displayed so far. He said the players have worked hard and are proving to be coachable, key traits in making progress.  Ash did say the execution is not where it needs to be, but that is to be expected.  The coaching staff is focusing on the team's practice habits and effort and those are all very positive so far.  He did say he expected the execution to be at a much higher level by the end of spring practice. Ash also spoke towards the end of the presser about teaching the players visually how to do something by watching video of college and NFL players.

President Barchi Attends Practice

I don't recall Barchi addressing the players during a practice before unless there were special circumstances (Flood suspended; fired). That being said, this is a positive development and reminds the team of their importance in representing the Rutgers community as a whole.  From Keith Sargeant's article, President Barchi had this to say to the team:

"Just welcoming them to a new season and wishing them best of luck and pointing out to them how important what they're doing here is important to the university both in the public exposure of what the public sees across the country and how important it is for them to be thinking about that in their own personal behavior,'' Barchi said. "We talked a little bit about training and preparation on the field, and we talked a little bit about the academic side of things and how I would consider it a personal failure if each and every one of them don't leave here with a college degree, ready to take on a career outside of sports if that's what happens for them and that we're going to do everything we can to provide them with that opportunity. That's basically what it was.''

It's likely that athletic director Pat Hobbs, who was also in attendance at practice yesterday, has had a positive impact in getting Barchi to understand the importance of streamlining the athletic department with the university and his role in that.  Love this.

Ash Hired A Nutritionist

Allison Kreimeier worked at the University of Houston for Ash's friend and former colleague, Tom Hermann, helping them to their best season in many years in 2015.  Ash has emphasized the importance of nutrition and hydration since he has been at Rutgers, highlighted by him adding a 24 hour nutritional snack bar for players in the Hale Center. Hiring a full-time nutritionist to work with the program seems like a no brainer and another decision by Ash that embodies the full development of the players.

Position Groups That Have Stood Out

Ash was asked about which players have stood out so far and he preferred to address which position groups have stood out instead.  He said he has been most impressed by the play of both the offensive and defensive lines.  Ash referenced the talent and leadership on the defensive line is the strength of the team in regards to one position group. He also is impressed with the wide receivers and route running abilities.  Ash referenced the tempo and pace has quickened and the offensive line has adjusted well to the no huddle so far.

Temple Coaching Clinic

Ash was asked about his appearance scheduled for today at Temple's coaching clinic, which I covered here earlier this week. He mentioned how impressed he was with Temple in their game against Notre Dame this year and that he realized how many local area players they had on their roster.  He spoke of having a good relationship with Temple head coach Matt Rhule and because of their different conference affliations, he didn't necessarily consider them competition.  I liked his view that together Temple and Rutgers should work together in promoting the game of football in this area and the positives that would come from that.  Ash continues to show vision for the long term benefits that building local relationships could have.

First Scrimmage on Saturday

Ash was asked about player evaluation and he said he would reserve judgement until seeing players in action on Saturday during the first scrimmage.  This is not open to the public.  It will be very interesting to hear Ash's feedback after seeing the team in their first simulated game action during his tenure at Rutgers.