PISCATAWAY — For the third time in three seasons in Piscataway, Rutgers head coach Chris Ash is on the market for a coordinator to run his offense — and as always, he’s prepared.
Jerry Kill announced his retirement as the Scarlet Knights offensive coordinator earlier this week due to health concerns, but the decision was made at least a week ago, when the players on the roster were informed of the decision, according to 247Sports’ Sam Hellman.
Ash said he’s had “a number of conversations with people” in anticipation of the possibility of Kill not returning for a second season, but added he is not yet in position to hire someone yet. Ash said he’d like to have it done “sooner than later,” and that he is “getting closer and closer as we move forward” but wouldn’t commit to a timetable.
When it comes to the kind of guy he looks to hire, the criteria remains the same as his previous two offensive coordinator searches, Ash said.
“First and foremost, a leader, a leader for the staff, a leader for the players,” Ash said. “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.
“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.”
As far as quarterbacks go, the next Scarlet Knights offensive coordinator is in better position than Kill was when he took the job last December.
Last spring camp, Rutgers had just one scholarship quarterback at its disposal, with walk-on Troy Anthony subbing in as the second quarterback in the Scarlet-White Spring game before he became a student assistant in his final season on the Banks.
Ash’s next hire has four scholarship quarterbacks available when he takes the reigns this spring, each with differing levels of experience. Incumbent starter Giovanni Rescigno returns to Rutgers with seven starts under his belt, by far the most of any player in his room. Johnathan Lewis saw some time on the field as a freshman last season, taking snaps in seven games, but few of them were significant.
Then comes the new blood.
Incoming freshman Artur Sitkowski and Jalen Chatman, who signed for the Scarlet Knights on Wednesday, each bring different skillsets into the mix. At 6-foot-5, Sitkowski thrives as a pocket passer thanks to his prototypical quarterback size, whereas the 6-foot Chatman provides a dual-threat look thanks to his high-level athleticism and play-making ability.
Both bring leadership qualities needed from the position, Ash said.
When evaluating candidates for the next offensive coordinator, Ash said an ability to build on the strengths of the quarterbacks is a crucial quality.
“(We’re looking for) 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,” Ash said. “That's a position we have to continue to get better at in our program if we're going to move forward.”
Before moving forward, Ash reflected on what Kill provided him, his staff and his players in his short stay in Piscataway.
1998 - Recruited by Emporia State— AJ Blazek (@CoachBlaz) December 20, 2017
2007 - Interview w/ Southern Illinois
2013 - Coach against Minnesota
2017 - Loved every minute of the time I had coaching with JERRY KILL!I’m a better husband, father, coach, & man from my time with this ‘ole cowboy!! - Thanks Coach pic.twitter.com/dFXJQMe5qP
“Oh, boy. He brought a lot,” Ash said. “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.”