Say what you will about Head Coach Chris Ash, he does not shy away from the truth. In the first 30 seconds at the podium this morning, he described his 2-10 rookie season as “...awful, but we’ve moved on, it’s behind us, and we’re a better football team because of what we went through a year ago.” It’s good to hear the Rutgers head coach verbalize what we all felt, as well as not shy away from the elephant in the room.
His next point was to discuss the nearly-completed Marco Battaglia Practice Facility, which he hopes will not only help with player development, but recruiting as well. Following those two introductory points, Ash opened the floor for questions. Among the interesting points in the Q&A were:
- The hiring of Offensive Coordinator Jerry Kill was about leadership and the proper fit for the program. Something that many among the Scarlet Knight faithful were hoping for is an OC that builds and offense around the skill set of the players on hand, not forcing players to play in a scheme for which they have no experience. That was a charge many made against for OC Drew Mehringer, and the staff seems to have learned from this error.
- The inclusion of nine transfer players has brought in a new excitement, and Coach Ash views it as a “completely different different football team and roster from last year...” He sees it as increasing the level of competition among the players.
- His first lesson in going 2-10 was that it “wasn’t fun, and you don’t want to do it again.”
- The strength of the team was and will be the secondary for 2017. However, he knows for the defense to be effective, the D-line needs to improve. He stressed the growth of the pass defense in 2016. However, not mentioned (and it wasn’t necessary to mention) was the fact that the #17 ranking of the pass defense was as much a part of the inability of the defense to stop the running game of their opposition as it was the skill of the secondary against the pass.
- He acknowledged the challenge of attempting to build a program in the Big Ten East, which he described as one of the best in college football. While a challenge, he closed by saying, “...that’s why we’re here. We embrace those challenges, we embrace those difficulties, and we think we can build a program, build a football team that can compete with anyone in our league, and that’s what we’re trying to do.”
Below is the complete press conference with Coach Ash: