Continuing the training camp rotation of every position coach meeting the press, this time it was Vince Okruch. He has a variety of experiences in his career most notably stops as the defensive coordinator at Colorado and later Illinois. At Rutgers, he was the first assistant to join Chris Ash’s staff when Ash took the job in December 2015. For the second consecutive year, Okruch coaches the special teams as well as the tight ends / fullbacks.
Coach Okruch stated transfer Ryan Anderson will handle punts and true freshman walk-on Justin Davidovicz the kickoff role. On the other hand, placekicker is still wide open between another transfer, Andrew Harte, Davidovicz, and returning starter David Bonagura. Assessing the placekickers specifically, they are “basically a percentage point or two apart. Coach [Ash] has created a lot of pressure situations and no one has been consistent enough to be named the starter.” “The deciding factor is when ... they gotta run out there in a middle of practice and convert a field goal.” “Sometimes they do, sometimes they don’t.” “I don’t know which guy it will be.”
Okruch was asked if it’s a possibility to use two players in a game which he responded with one of his best soundbites, “Gosh I hate to approach that but that’s always a possibilty. Anytime you are in a competitive environment if you aren’t performing they way you want to perform, you have to look at the next guy.” “You don’t want a two kicker deal.”
With the punters, Okruch explained why graduate transfer Anderson has earned the starting job. “Ryan has greater distance. He kicks a deeper ball, seven to ten yards further.” Okruch indicated Cintron has improved as fall camp has done on and their “hang time is similar”, but Anderson was an All-American at Olivet College last season for a reason.
The conversation naturally shifted to kick coverage which has been a point of emphasis. “That’s the method to the madness. The more athletic you are, the better you will be on your coverage units.” Specifically pressed on whether true freshman will see time on these units, Okruch smirked, “Could be, I’m not sure if I’m allowed to tell you or not.”
Previously mentioned by Coach Baker’s interview a few days earlier, Eddie “Tank” Lopez came up in this vein. “He’s a young man who runs very fast, he has no fear, and he’s a solid tackler. So he’s a guy who can play special teams early.” “If you are a gunner on punt team you have one thing to do.”
Long snapper is a battle too. Alan Lucy, a rare scholarship long snapper has held the job since he arrived in Piscataway. He has some competition and not in the form of Matthew Sportelli, but rather “Billy Taylor [who] just showed up for camp this fall.”
Moving on to #1, “I’ve been doing this almost 40 years and [Janarion] is one of the best I have been around. I don’t know if people see Janarion the way we see him. He’s competitive and demands excellence out of his teammates.” “He can change a game single-handedly on returns.” For those new here or if you want to feel good about being a Rutgers fan for a minute, check out the video above by OTB contributor RutgersNation86.
Okruch’s other responsibilities were highlighted when questioned about how the tight ends pecking order is shaping up. Okruch put his hand way above his head and said, “Washington here”, then returned it back to eye level and remarked, “depends on what we are doing.” He has "all the confidence in the world” in in Myles Nash who came over from defense because “we needed him to do it.” “You need more than two to play two.” “Nakia needs to get more consistent, he has good days then he has average days.”
When pressed why there was optimism in more production out of the tight end group tight end group, he replied, "there a combination. Jerome's ability as an athlete and a pass-catcher," Okruch continued, "and also the offense is more tight end-friendly. We're willing to throw the 4-6-yard route, let them catch it, get what they can get (and) move the chains that way.", he replied, "there a combination. Jerome's ability as an athlete and a pass-catcher," Okruch continued, "the offense is more tight end-friendly. We're willing to throw the 4-6-yard route, let them catch it, get what they can get (and) move the chains that way."
Okruch had some insight into how Chris Ash has learned going into year two, especially after a rough year one. “A year of experience is a tremendous asset.” “The fact that it was a difficult year.” We got a little more gray and a little more wrinkled.” Chris’s schedule is “meticulous” including to coaches and players rest.
The H-back discussion mentioned “Max Anthony would get reps, Solomon Manning to learn the position and Jim Brady has gotten reps.” “We are very comfortable playing with a fullback. We are very comfortable playing with a second tight end.” “This early in the season let the defense figure out what we are going to do.” “That’s for us to know and them to figure out.”
- Ryan Anderson should be an excellent punter and the staff feels more confident in Cintron than a year ago.
- Field goals may be an adventure again, but kickoffs should be more stable.
- Not sure how much Alan Lucy is being pushed for his job, but why not have competition?
- Janarion Grant should get return opportunities, despite coming off the injury.
- Jerome Washington is as impressive as we thought in practice. Now we get to see him in games.
- This offense will truly be multiple, which is probably the best thing for this offense.
- Interesting to know Solomon Manning moved over to offense, as that completely came out of left field. Linebacker was thought to be a deep spot especially with freshmen, but if DeVera is still at LB and now a defensive end is moving over, the staff are continuing to work to find the best way to utilize its personnel.