Rutgers head coach Chris Ash discussed the 18 players who signed their National Letter of Intent on the first day of the early signing period on December 20th. He also discusses his plans in naming a new offensive coordinator.
Watch his press conference below:
A transcript of the press conference can be found below:
CHRIS ASH: How you guys doing? Just so I don't forget, Merry Christmas to everybody, Happy Holidays. Thanks for coming, guys, and covering our football team on national signing day. Really appreciate it. We all talk about this all the time. Recruiting is the lifeblood of every program, and there's a lot of different ways that people measure success in the recruiting trail. I look at it, did we get better. And I really feel like we got a lot better today. And we're right where we wanted to be. We have a couple spots still left for us to continue to go recruit in January, but we signed a really good class, in our opinion, today with 18 young man, got an opportunity here still in the next couple of days to close with one or two more that would potentially put us at 19 or 20, and then again, leave us with a couple as we go into January and close into the February signing day.
I'd first like to just put out a couple of thank yous. One, any time you sign these many players in such a short amount of time, you have to say thank you to a lot of high school coaches. We're very, very fortunate in the state and in this region there's outstanding high school coaches, and they've treated us exceptionally well, opened the doors and have helped us a lot of ways to be able to sign the guys that we've signed, not only in this year but in previous years. I'd like to thank our support staff here in Hale Center. We had a lot of people that helped in this process, when you're talking about travel plans, recruiting weekends, on official visits, official visits, a lot of people go into it, people from academics on campus that come over and meet with recruits, administration. We just got a lot of help, a lot of support, a lot of people want to see us have success and build this program in the right way, and I want to say thank you to all those individuals.
And then lastly, just thank our staff. It's an early signing day. It's different. And it's been a blur the last three weeks. The recruiting period has gone fast and furious, and you're basically trying to do all the things that you would do in a two-month time frame after the end of the season in basically three weeks. Some teams even had less that that, had two weeks. We had three weeks, and the staff has just been working really, really hard to get out and build relationships and find new recruits, evaluate them, recruit them, everything that goes into it, and they've done an outstanding job.
When I just look at our class in general, I think we've addressed a lot of our needs. First and foremost, we've got a couple of quarterbacks coming in, and they're going to be here mid year; and to be able to have them on campus to create competition and depth in our quarterback room is going to be very, very important. And we can't wait to get those guys here. You look at the secondary, we signed a lot of DBs, how many of them will help us next year, I don't know, but after next season we're going to lose a lot of DBs that are on our roster and we needed to replace those guys now and not wait till next year. I think we've got some outstanding guys coming in at that position.
Offensive skill positions, we've got three wideouts that we signed, we've got a tight end and then really ^ Daevon Robinson is an athlete that could be a wide receiver or a tight end, depending how he develops and what happens when he gets on campus. But we're really excited about all those guys. Just, again, continues to create competition and build depth at the skilled positions on offense that we desperately needed, and we gotta build those groups back up, and I think we're going to be able to do that with the group of individuals coming in.
And then the punter, we needed a punter next year and Adam is going to be here again in mid term, and we're real excited about his skill set and what we can do with him as our punter next year.
I know a lot of people ask about thoughts on early signing day. I think there's a lot of pros and cons to it. I think there's going to be great conversation after we get through today into January and the national convention on the signing day, the early signing period. Was it good, was it bad, what are things to modify it to make it better. There's a lot of it. I think the goods right now, obviously you've signed the prospects and you don't have to go baby-sit them in January and go to their homes, go to their schools every single week until the first Wednesday in February they're signed. The negatives, there's a lot of them. It crunches the recruiting process down. And the other thing I think it does it hurts the student-athlete. In this day and age when you talk about college athletics, it's all about the student-athlete, and I think we've gotta have conversations, is this what's best for the student-athlete, those prospects that maybe are not highly ranked or on everybody's radar screen after their junior year, go out and play really good football their senior year. It's tough for those guys to get evaluated and get recruited in such a small window in a short time frame. So we'll evaluate it all when it's done, I'm sure, as a coaching community and have great dialogue and discussion about it and see where it goes from here. But it is what it is. We had to deal with it, and I think again, we got better today. So with that I'll go ahead and open it up for my questions.
Q. You mentioned the quarterbacks. Can you just talk about each one and what they bring?CHRIS ASH: I'll start by really with both of them putting them in the same category. They're tremendous individuals. They've got a passion for the game of football, and that's what you want your quarterback to have is a passion for the game of football, to really be a gym rat, want to study the game, want to work the game. They provide leadership; they're outstanding leaders, and I think they're going to bring a level of leadership that's needed in that room. We've got good leadership already, but they're going to help enhance it. And then they're talented players.
Arthur is a big, strong quarterback who can run. Jalen is a tremendous athlete, can throw the ball. So I think they're going to both be great additions to our quarterback room.
Q. You mentioned the early signing period, the pros and cons. Is there something specific that you would like to see happen with the calendar moving forward?CHRIS ASH: I don't know if it's necessarily with the calendar, but I think, you know, it was a decision that was made by non coaches, and we didn't have any input in the decision to have an early signing day, and we were kind of forced to deal with it. And it's been a conversation piece for many, many years. But it finally came to fruition, and we have to deal with it. I think we need to reevaluate how fast we're trying to do business in recruiting. We're now going to go into a spring period where we can start official visits, I think in March. It's just insane. You're going to be able to bring some -- depending on how old they are, there might be some guys that are 16, 17 years old that are going to be coming on visits here this next March, and that's really, really early. And I just don't think we need to rush it like we are. But again, I'm sure there will be great conversation after this by coaches to really look at it and see how we can modify it.
Q. Two-parter on the quarterbacks. It seems at least on paper that they're very different players. Is that something you wanted taking two quarterbacks in the same class? And then as part of that, having them here in January, does that give them a chance to participate in the fall --CHRIS ASH: Well, I'll go with the second question about being here in January. Absolutely it gives them a chance, because it's no secret, obviously we're going to have a new offensive coordinator. And I'm surprised no one's asked about that yet, but I'm leaving that to Ryan here next probably. But we're going to have a new offensive coordinator. With two quarterbacks coming in, they'll basically be on ground zero with everybody else from a learning standpoint. I think that even enhances their opportunity potentially to play. Now, I don't know what they'll do when they get here, but I think it is a definite positive for them that they're not going to be necessarily behind mentally, so to speak, from the other quarterbacks in the room because we'll have a new quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator.
They are different, so to speak, in their skill set. Arthur is a little bit bigger. Jalen is a little more athletic. They can both throw the ball well. I think they're both competitors. They're both leaders, and excited to have them both in our program. Did we necessarily by design go out and get two different styles of quarterback? Not necessarily. It's just the way it worked out. We wanted to get the best players that we could get in our program. I look at -- there's always those conversations about what system you want to run on offense. Well, it all starts -- it begins and ends with the quarterback, what can the quarterback do. And I want to make sure we have a system that fits the skill sets of our quarterbacks, whether he's a thrower, whether he's a runner, what can he do, and then we gotta go out and get the best players that we can get, and I think that's what we did at the quarterback position.
Q. Here's your first offensive coordinator question.CHRIS ASH: No. (Laughs.
Q. Do you have a rough estimate time table for when you want to have somebody in place and what are you looking for? Like what boxes does that person need to check?CHRIS ASH: You know, the same conversation that we had last year in terms of what we're looking for. First and foremost, a leader, a leader for the staff, a leader for the players, someone with great knowledge of quarterback play so we can develop the young quarterbacks that we have, continue to help the returning players in our program and then the young players develop. That's a position we have to continue to get better at in our program if we're going to move forward. And then a guy that can coach the offense and not just the quarterbacks, but a lot of positions and has knowledge of that. But that's really what we're looking for. There's not an age requirement at all. There's not years of experience. There's not a college, gotta be an NFL guy. There's none of that. It's does he have leadership, does he have confidence, does he have character, can he connect with the players, can he develop the quarterbacks, and can he put together the whole offense, the big picture and coach multiple positions, because it is just about coaching the players, but it's helping coach coaches also on how to get better. And that's what we're looking for.
Time table, I'd like to have it done sooner than later. It's not tomorrow, it's not necessarily next week, but sooner than later. In anticipation of this possibly going this way with Jerry, I've had a number of conversations with people. But as of today, I'm not in position yet to hire a guy, but getting closer and closer as we continue to move forward.
Q. And then to follow that up, you and Jerry and a couple of people have mentioned time and time again that you needed some continuity there. I know that was a big part of hiring Jerry.CHRIS ASH: Yeah.
Q. In order to develop the quarterbacks and whatnot. How important is it with this next guy that he's here for more than one year?CHRIS ASH: You know, it is important to have continuity for player development. And we're definitely going to try to find that in the next individual. But so many things happen in college football or NFL football, so many things happen. Didn't sit here a year ago and anticipate Jerry was going to have health issues. He'd been two years removed from it. But it happened. So we gotta adjust and we gotta move forward. At the end of the day I want a guy that can come and make us the best that ^ he can make us be in the time that he's here. Is it one year, is it five years? Whatever. Whatever individual can make us the best offense, the most productive offense and give us a chance to score points and win football games, that's what I want.
Q. How does the upcoming tenth coach, how does that affect what you're looking at at OC? Do you want an OC and quarterback coach?CHRIS ASH: It doesn't have any effect. We have a plan for the tenth coach that I'm not going to release or discuss here. But it has no bearing on what we do with the offensive coordinator position. Right now, today with the way we're set up, you know, we're going to have a coordinator that coaches quarterbacks. Is there a chance, you know, that that could change? There's always a chance, but right now, today I don't foresee that.
Q. Just back to the recruiting stuff, when you and your staff were out on the road with the short time table, did you at all get a sense that kids were maybe under more pressure to either make a decision or leave a scholarship on the table?CHRIS ASH: Absolutely. Honestly, I was just talking about this earlier today with some guys. There was -- when this whole rule came about, the new signing thing came about, there was theory and then there's reality of actually what happened. The theory behind it was when guys commit, they've been committed for a long time, let them go ahead and sign. They know where they want to go. They're comfortable with where they want to go, get those guys signed. Reality, what happened was this became national signing day. And there was a tremendous amount of pressure, which there always is, for coaches to go sign the best players that they can sign today. I know there's a signing period between today, Thursday and Friday. I don't think anyone was looking at it being a period. It was, this is signing day. And that's what it became. And there will still be players signed in February, but I think when you look at it, the pressure for coaches to go get the best players they can today, that happened. That was created over the course of time. That wasn't the theory behind having an early signing period. And I do think from a student-athlete standpoint there were a number of players that felt pressure to take the bird in hand and sign with somebody today or run the risk of not having a scholarship or ending up somewhere where they really don't want to be. I felt that a lot in this process, and again, I don't think that was the intention of the early signing period, but that's in reality what happened.
Q. Coach, Daevon Robinson comes in at 6'4, immediately becomes the tallest, biggest guy in the wide receiver room. What kind of element does he --CHRIS ASH: We're not sure where he's going to end up yet.
Q. Fair point. I'll move on to my next question. Adam Korsak, the punter, committed recently early in the process. How important was it to get that out of the way knowing that Ryan Anderson was only here for a year?CHRIS ASH: Yeah. A punter was very important for this class because we knew Ryan was gone. Michael Cintron, his future was in doubt on what he wanted to do, but no matter what, it was important to get another punter in our program. And I think we got a really good one. I'm excited about his skill set. It's different. He's an Australian punter, and what he can do and what he's been trained to do is a little bit different than a traditional punter, and I'm excited to get him on campus and let him show us what he can do in person and then figure it out from there.
Q. Are you expecting to get any more letters of intent today or in the next couple of days?CHRIS ASH: Yeah, there's an opportunity. Yeah. And again, I can't comment on those, but there definitely is a really good chance that we're going to get one and maybe two.
Q. Specifically, Raiqwon O'Neal, a guy from South Carolina, I think, and then obviously Chatman is from California. How hard is it to stay on top of those guys who are further away rather than New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and I guess -- and then talk a little bit about what Raiqwon brings specifically.CHRIS ASH: Yeah, the further a recruit gets away from home, the harder it is to build a relationship with them because it's hard for them to come on your campus as many times as it is for a local guy. And in recruiting there's so many people to talk to these recruits. The further away they are, in an area that we don't necessarily spend a lot of time in, it's hard to find out who is actually talking to the recruits and influencing their decisions and things like that. So yeah, it is more difficult. You have to work at building that relationship, that level of trust that much harder and get to know the right people that surround that individual, who's in his circle. So it is more challenging. It's a challenge to recruit anywhere you go. We've got challenges right here, you know, locally. They are different than going to recruit players from out of state, but there's still challenges.
I think your second question was what does Raiqwon specifically bring. I think he brings a big, athletic hard-nosed offensive lineman. He's a guy that could, quite honestly, probably play either side of the ball because of his athletic ability, but we're really excited about him being an offensive lineman. I think he's got a chance to be a really big, physical, athletic lineman for us. And he's a great kid, just walks around with a smile on his face all the time and loves football and is going to work really hard.
Q. Coach, going back to the concept of early signing period, early signing day, you've mentioned that you don't have to follow up as much with the kids, kind of baby-sit and all that. But give a little more detail. How does it change now the next couple of months, because there used to be that long marathon. Now it's kind of a sprint, and what do the next few months like that? What kind of kid do you go after there?CHRIS ASH: To be honest with you, I think there's -- no coach can really forecast what January is going to look like, because we've never done this before. It's unknown. And I look at it, if you've signed all of your class or the majority of your class today, I look as January as being more like spring recruiting. You're going to look toward 2019, talk to coaches and start to identify that next class. I think if you're not out on the road trying to sign 25 players in your class in January, it also gives you an opportunity to be back on your campus and be around your own players. So to sit here and say I know exactly what it's going to look like, I can't tell you that yet. I think a lot of it's going to depend on how many scholarships you have left and what you have to go get to fill your whole class before February. But I look at our situation. We're going to obviously have a couple spots left. We'll still go recruit. We're also going to spend a lot of time trying to work on the next class. And then we'll find some opportunities to be on campus with our own players more so than we would have been able to in the past.
Q. (No microphone)?CHRIS ASH: Absolutely. I mean no matter whether they're committed or not, I mean it was go, go, go, go, go in January, and it was a flurry to the end. Obviously we did that now. We went through the Sprint right now, and probably January will be a little bit easier, you know, a little less tense, so to speak, maybe, but we'll see.
Q. Chris, do you think that this will be your quarterback room now or is there a chance you'll add another player through grad transfer?CHRIS ASH: No. Right now, today there's no thoughts of a grad transfer. That doesn't mean that something could change but right now, no, that is not something that's crossed my mind. It's not something we've had conversations about. A lot of it -- we need to get the quarterbacks that are here and the new ones coming in developed. We need to get them with a new quarterback coach, a new offensive coordinator and give him an opportunity to evaluate what we've got and what we can do with what we have. But I feel really confident the players that are going to be in that room right now in January. I think we're going to have a good mix of talent and intelligence and leadership. They just have to be coached and be developed. It's part of the process. We go out there and we play with three true freshmen and wide receivers this last year. They've gotta be coached and they've gotta be developed, and I think the quarterback room is the same way. Gio is going to be the one older guy coming back. He still needs to be developed. So that's really what our focus is right now, filling the room up with competition and getting them with the new coach and continue to develop them to be the best that they can be. And if at the end, you know, in the spring, if we felt like there was a need, you know, and there was a scholarship, then maybe. But right now I don't anticipate us, one, having a scholarship for a kid to do that, and two, I don't anticipate us needing to do that because of what's in that room right now.
Q. Broader point for grad transfers, is that across the board? You used a lot of them last year?CHRIS ASH: Yeah. Last year was a different deal. We knew that we were going to be young in a lot of positions. And whether the grad transfer from last year, whatever position played a lot or played a little, they played a role in our improvement. And I think this year is a completely different year. We have a lot of players coming back. We did not a year ago. We have a lot coming back. Our focus is to develop those individuals. Last year there was a gap and we needed to try to fill that gap a little bit and let guys mature, and I think it worked to a certain extent. We didn't hit on everybody, but I think most of those individuals did contribute to our football team, whether it be special teams or offense, they made a difference somehow, some way. But I just look at this as a different situation, a different team and we've got more guys coming back with experience. I don't feel like we need to go that route this year. I really would rather not have to moving forward, but this last year was a different situation.
Q. Recruiting New York, Erasmus, you had some success this year with two kids, and obviously Deonte has had some success in this program. What do you like about Erasmus Hall and recruiting New York as a whole?CHRIS ASH: I think it starts with Danny Landberg the head coach does an outstanding job with those guys. Again, I started this off thinking the high school coaches in this area we're really blessed to have outstanding high school football here in our state and the surrounding states. We've got great coaches. I think in the state of New York there are outstanding coaches and I think Danny Landberg has done a great job with that program and he's built them up to be a consistent winner. He's developed the players, and we're fortunate that we've been able to get some of them. And I think he does a great job, just like so many other coaches in our area.
Q. Chris, we flipped it forward on O.C., but if we could look back, I know you sent out a statement on Jerry, but the opportunity to work with Jerry and what he brought to this program?CHRIS ASH: Oh, boy. He brought a lot. He obviously brought a wealth of experience and knowledge. He'd been a head coach for, I don't know, 20 some years and provided us a tremendous amount of leadership for our offensive staff, our players, our support staff. His contributions runway deeper than what a scoreboard says. And I know we all would like to play better offense and score more points. I get that, but Jerry's contributions go way, way deeper than that. Just an outstanding individual. His wife, Rebecca is just an awesome football wife. She's great with people, helped in the recruiting process. And just can't thank them enough. Unfortunately his time with us was cut short, and it is what it is. But I love Jerry, love his wife, and they're just awesome people to be around. You know, he helped me in a lot of ways, you know. Just the way he looked at things. And I knew I could go to sleep with him handling the offensive staff a certain way.