After another hot day of practice, Chris Ash met with the media on Wednesday afternoon to provide many updates on the team’s progress this Summer.
Ash first mentioned that there were no real changes on the depth chart since the scrimmage. However, he did offer some insight as to why Zack Heeman moved up to starting right tackle. Ash said there is nothing permanent but he feels like he has three good starting tackles when you throw Tariq Cole into the mix. This leads me to believe that Heeman earned the move up to starter and not so much JJ Denman losing his starting job. It is also refreshing to know that Ash is confident in three tackles on the team, meaning if someone went down with an injury, there wouldn’t be a huge gap in quality of play.
Additionally, Ash noted that Josh Hicks has really picked it up the last few days after being jumped by Justin Goodwin on the depth chart. Ash said running backs coach Zak Kuhr has done a good job with Hicks and the motivation tactic on Ash’s part has paid off.
The Dog Days of Camp
Last week, the players had to deal with extreme heat including heat indexes above 110 degrees. When asked about the offensive line, Ash said it is difficult for guys who are out of shape but that they are prepared. He is confident that their bodies have been properly molded for what he wants out of them. He also noted that it has been difficult to follow the schedule of practice, meetings, practice, meetings, and sleep. Despite this, Ash praised the players for buying in to what the coaching staff tells them and how that is important in determining long-term success.
Ash also noted how it was important to have a guy like Darius Hamilton on the team. However, he noted that a guy like Hamilton is just as valuable to a first-year or a fifteenth-year coach because of how good he is. It always helps to have a leader like Hamilton who makes a coach’s job easier. With that being said, Ash also made sure to mention that the rest of the team didn’t need Hamilton to get them to buy into the coaching staff. Ash also said that he never got a sense that Hamilton did not want to return after having the opportunity to transfer without penalty following 2015.
Experience in the trenches
The last thing Chris Ash talked about the experience that Rutgers has on both the offensive and defensive line. This includes redshirt seniors Derrick Nelson, Chris Muller, Darius Hamilton, Quanzell Lambert, and Julian Pinnix-Odrick. This is so important to Ash because he wants this team to be line-oriented. It is no secret that the defensive line is the strength of the defense. Additionally, the offensive line can be one of the stronger units. When rebuilding a team like Ash is, the offensive and defensive lines are two of the places where you want more experience.