Rutgers football seniors Darius Hamilton, Julian Pinnix-Odrick, and Andre Patton attended Big Ten Media Day with head coach Chris Ash in Chicago, Illinois today. All three sat down with Dave Revsine of the Big Ten Network to discuss the program and the upcoming season. There were a few notable comments made by the players and they seemed ready to get training camp underway.
When they were asked about Ash as their new head coach, all three spoke glowingly of him. JPO had this to say:
“It’s the foundation of culture, I think coach Ash really harps on making a foundation of leadership. As many coaches say that, he really follows through on it. We have had hour long meetings talking about leadership. No film, no X’s & O’s. That’s the foundation that coach Ash and coach Parker are really stressing to bring to the team and I think it’s really working.”
Revsine asked the players what has changed the most since Ash’s arrival to the program and Darius Hamilton said:
“I think excitement. I think that ever since coach Ash has gotten here up to this point, this team has been excited day in and day out to come in and go to work. And I don’t see it dying down anytime soon. We work extremely hard and we are all really excited about what the season has coming up for us.”
When asked about past behavioral issues within the program, JPO answered:
“I think understanding what we represent, you have the name on the back of your jersey which is your family, you have the name on the front which is Rutgers, and representing both of those things to your highest capabilities is something we should be trying to do, something we should be trying to do 24/7. Character being what are you doing when people aren’t looking, make that into who you are and not just something you step through the doors to the football building. I think we are starting to get that.”
Darius Hamilton was asked about his health and gave an encouraging answer for Rutgers fans:
The best I’ve felt since (the injury). I’ve gained a lot of weight. The last time I played football I weighed 248, I’m now 286. I’ve been conditioning the right way with coach Parker. We’ve been doing a lot of things, both on and off the field. I’ve got a great support system, from friend to family, who have been there every step of the way. Without them I couldn’t have gotten this far.”
The fact that Hamilton has gained almost 40 pounds since he last played a game is remarkable. It appears most, if not all, has been muscle added. That is an exciting prospect for the defense and Hamilton’s senior season. He has been named to the preseason watch lists for the Bednarik Award and the Outland Trophy.
Revsine asked the players how they can get the defense to a level that they compete in the Big Ten and JPO answered:
“Just understanding who we are, what we do best, the basics of our defense, helping all the young guys get caught up and as guys that have played a lot of football, helping them to understand what it will be like on gameday before it gets here, so when gameday comes, it’s not a big surprise. I think when everyone is on the same page and the defense has a mentality and identity, we work together a lot better. We are working on that now and I can’t wait to get into camp, simply to keep it going.”
Hamilton stepped in to say this:
“The one thing I would like to add is with that, just working with coach Ash these past couple months, when you say he is a defensive mind, I don’t think people really understand what you mean. This guy is a genius, and the things he focuses on, he focuses on the smallest of things, because as you know, and people who have played football know, the smallest things can become the biggest things, and big things can cost you a game. The fact that he is able to harp on those little things, and get the younger guys who is there first time playing real ball to understand those things, man it really blows my mind sometimes.”
When asked about the new spread offense and if Patton was ready to put up Leonte Carroo numbers, he responded:
“Absolutely. I feel like with coach Ash bringing in Drew Mehringer with the spread offense, it’s definitely going to give me and the rest of the receivers a lot of opportunities to touch the ball and make big plays.”
The players also talked to Revsine about Rutgers needing to keep the best recruits in New Jersey home, life after football, and Patton specifically spoke about what he learned from Carroo the last couple of seasons. All three players were well spoken and seemed genuinely excited for the season ahead. They represented the program and the school very well today and fans should be proud and excited that these three players are leaders of the team. Watch the entire interview here. Training camp begins in less than two weeks!