It’s Monday of game week and that means head coach Chris Ash, as well as coordinators Jay Niemann and John McNulty met with the media to discuss the Texas State matchup for this Saturday’s season opener. Here is a summary of what all three coaches spoke about, as well as video of all three press conferences.
• Ash was upbeat and indicated he was pleased as to where the team is at after having what he labeled “a very productive training camp.”
• In regard to Artur Sitkowski being named starting quarterback, Ash said his talent and ability to make all of the throes, as well as being a leader, enabled him to galvanize the offense. He acknowledged mistakes will be made by the true freshman QB, but that they are asking him to protect the football and get the ball to the playmakers on offense.
• Ash also said that Gio Rescigno and Johnathan Lewis are playing their best football. He praised the attitude and leadership of Gio, who he said easily had the most votes for captain on the team. Even so, Ash said the goal is “not to have a revolving door” at the position.
• He said making a bowl game should be a realistic goal and expectation every season that he is head coach at Rutgers. Ash went on to praise the senior class and emphasize their importance in the team having success this season.
• Ash said every year is important and it’s a process in building this program. He also made the point this is the best team Ash has had since he’s been here.
• The run defense was the first topic discussed and Niemann said it’s come along well, but that you don’t really know until you are in a game setting. He did emphasize how important it is to stop the run and the impact it has on forcing takeaways and setting up long third down situations for the opponent.
• Specifically with the defensive line, Niemann said they’ve made baby steps and everyone who played last season has improved.
• He spoke on Texas State starting quarterback Willie Jones, who he called “very athletic” and expressed concern about keeping him in the pocket. Jones can run and said stopping him wasn’t going to be easy.
• Niemann was asked about what Artur Sitkowski impressed him with during training camp after coaching the defense against him this past month. The DC said Sitkowski’s poise and leadership is what has impressed him the most in camp.
• Trevor Morris and Tyshon Fogg are both dealing with minor health issues. Niemann said he will have a plan for this first game and that both will play.
• Ball security was the first question asked and McNulty talked about all the things they do on a daily basis to work on that. He did say it was hard to simulate everything because the quarterbacks aren’t getting hit like in a game.
• On Sitkowski, he said the true freshman signal caller is “an unbelievably talented player, but is still very young.” McNulty commented that Art is serious about the game and along with his physical attributes, he should have become the guy. He made the comment when looking at Sitkowski, the thought of “this is what it’s supposed to look like” comes to mind. McNulty acknowledged it won’t be all “smooth sailing”, but that Art has the right mentality to deal with all the challenges he will face. They know what he is comfortable with and not comfortable with, so that will help determine what he will be asked to do on gameday.
• Gio Rescigno impresses McNulty and said he has connected on a good amount of deep throws throughout the spring and summer camps. He also said “nothing would change” if he came in the game.
• McNulty talked about the Texas State defense, which returns 8 starters and was strong against the run last season. It is hard to prepare against them for the opener because of new defensive coordinator Chris Woods, who came from Oklahoma. Either way, Rutgers has to run the ball to have success in this game.
• McNulty will be doing the play calling from the sidelines and talked about his preference to be with the players and be in the game with them. As for not having called plays in a game since last being at Rutgers, McNulty said he is ready to go in that regard.