Rutgers football coach Chris Ash has made many changes to the program since his arrival last December. The most obvious change from a coaching perspective so far has been his focus on making every activity the players experience into a competition. The players are constantly tracked, pushed, and motivated towards competing to the best of their abilities in whatever they are doing in that moment. The philosophy has flipped from the previous coaching regime, where looking over your shoulder in fighting for a spot on the depth chart is preferred. A prime example of that is Ash adding graduate transfer quarterback Zach Allen to the roster this week. The season is less than three months away, but Ash is always looking to add players who he feels can help the team. No player's position on the depth chart is ever safe. They must compete every day in everything they do to keep getting better and continue to earn their spot.
The pace of change this offseason for the players and the coaches has been rapid. There was little time for the coaches and the players to learn about each other outside the context of a meeting room, weight room, or practice field. There were no prior relationships built between the players and the coaches in the recruiting process, and it happened instead during a major transition period within the program. One thing that has stuck out is how only a handful of players have decided to transfer out of the program. Almost all of the players have bought into the new culture that Ash and his staff have worked to build in such a short period of time.
At the same time, the staff has shown this week an ability to combine competition with fun for the players. We have seen the player gauntlet's and one on one competitions at the end of winter workouts and spring practices. However, those activities were still part of practice. This week, as players where in their third week of summer workouts, some non-football competitions took place that were preceded by fun.
Arm Wrestling Competition
Basketball Shoot-Out During A Team Meeting
This morning's shoot off competition https://t.co/32UgNg8JhP— Chris Ash (@CoachChrisAsh) June 17, 2016
Position Group Hangouts
The coaches have needed to be demanding the first few months in overhauling the culture of the Rutgers football program. Competition is the underlying component in everything the players do. However, the coaches are also able to use competition as an outlet in making a true effort to build relationships with the players. They are also showing that players can have fun while still competing. This is something they can take with them on the field as well.
The college football season is a long grind and the coaches have to be fiercely demanding. In order to be as effective as possible, the players must believe in them as coaches and trust everything they are being told to do. With the coaches showing their personalities as people and allowing the players to get to know them better, it will ultimately make the team better. The camaraderie being built now will translate into a more unified and focused team come the fall. Whether that translates into more wins remains to be seen. However, the coaching staff have proven early on that making constant competition the driving force of the program's culture doesn't preclude them from caring about the players as people. The Hunt continues.
Happy Father's Day pic.twitter.com/2vJIsCQG1i— Chris Ash (@CoachChrisAsh) June 19, 2016