Big Ten Conference Football Media Days

Tuesday July 25, 2017

Chris Ash

Rutgers

THE MODERATOR: We're joined by Rutgers head coach Chris Ash.

CHRIS ASH: Good morning. It's a great event. It's an awesome time to be here and see a lot of media from not just New Jersey but different areas of the Big Ten that we have had the opportunity to work with. And this is a great event.

Obviously it's the end of summer, start of training camp here for the 2017 season. And based on when this event takes place, it truly is the start of college football. So it's an exciting time.

Honored to be here for my second year here to represent Rutgers University and the state of New Jersey. It's obviously, 2016 wasn't a great season. I'll talk about that in a second.

But it's truly an honor to be back here. Excited about where I work, who I work with. And we've got great support, great administrators, and really love our team right now.

We brought three of those players with us here today. If you get a chance to visit with them later I encourage you to do so. They're outstanding young men. Senior Dorian Miller, offensive lineman. Senior defensive lineman Sebastian Joseph. And junior defensive back Blessaun Austin. Great representatives of our team.

Just a little bit about our football team mentioned 2016, it wasn't fun. Been asked a lot about it. It was awful. But we've moved on. It's behind us and we're a lot better football team today because of what we went through a year ago. We went through a lot of adversity a lot of tough times, a lot of challenges. Brought our football team closer together.

What we did is push the reset button in December when the season was over. We are a very committed football team right now. Highly invested football team right now. Again a very close football team right now.

We're all very excited about starting training camp here at the end of the week. Couple other things going on in our program. Facilities is obviously something that's very important to a lot of programs. We have a new facility that's being opened here on August 6th. Brand new practice facility. Marco Battaglia Practice Facility. I think it will be one of the best in the country.

It's going to be two-fold: One, help us in recruiting but also in player development. And we continue to build and make our program better. And very excited about that new facility.

With that I'll go ahead and just open it up for questions.

Q. Hiring Jerry Kill, what has he brought that to your program and what immediately have you noticed from him?
CHRIS ASH: When we went through the process of hiring Jerry, first thing was just about leadership. It needed to be the right fit. And when Jerry and I started having conversations, it didn't take very long into those conversations to know this was going to be a good fit and it's what our football team needed at that time, specifically our offense really needed at that time.

But he's brought leadership. He's brought confidence. He's brought a head coach's view to the offensive side of the ball. His flexibility in terms of using our personnel and devising a scheme and system that fits what we have right now and what we can recruit every single year is really what he's brought to the table. And it's been a lot of fun in the few months we've been together, and excited to get on the football field with him here in a couple of weeks.

Q. You've brought in a lot of transfers this offseason, how do you expect that to help you take the next step or have an immediate impact on this season?
CHRIS ASH: Yeah, we did, I think we've brought in nine transfers here recently in to our program. And when I talk about excitement for the 2017 season those guys are bringing excitement. This is a completely different football team and roster from last year. It's a new staff, like we just mentioned with Jerry Kill.

Really what we wanted to get from the transfers is competition. We wanted to bring in some guys that have come from four-year programs. They've gone through strength and conditioning programs and offseason workouts and training camps.

A lot have had successful experiences from the places that they've been at and they've provided tremendous competition, renewed energy, excitement as we go into training camp. And those battles for positions are going to be really exciting to watch with those guys being part of our team.

Q. You mentioned how tough last year was. But being a first-year head coach, what were the lessons you learned from going through that?
CHRIS ASH: Not much fun, that's the first lesson. You don't want to do it again. But as a first-year head coach you learn so much. The first thing I learned, I tell people, is I learned I can't do everything.

And to be able to trust the staff that you've hired and let them do the job that you've hired them to do. The other thing is you just know your players better in year two. Our culture is established, our standards are established.

The players have bought into those, and going into year two I think we can focus on just making guys better football players. First year there was so much that we needed to focus on just developing the culture that we wanted, the standards, the work ethic, how we practice, how we train, how they take care of their body, and all that's established now. And now it's about trying to make them better football players.

But there are a lot of other lessons we learned. But, again, history doesn't determine what your future success or failures are. We've learned from them. We've moved on, and they're in the back of everybody's head. And, again, we've pressed the reset button and it's a new team, new focus, new commitment, new energy and excited to get going.

Q. With four juniors in your secondary you have 64 career starts already entering their junior year. And your background as a secondary coach, how good can that secondary be this year?
CHRIS ASH: I think last year the strength of our football team was our secondary, and I would say it's probably going to continue to be the strength of our football team. We do have a lot of guys back that have played a lot of games and had a lot of production.

I think we went from like 115th in pass defense to 17th or 18th in the country. We made huge improvements in that area in one year. And we want to continue to improve that.

But for us to be a really good secondary, it all starts up front. We have to improve our defensive line. Their ability to not only stop the run but put pressure on the quarterback and that makes a successful secondary. But I do really like the guys coming back. Blessaun Austin is here today, one of those guys that has a chance to be one of the better corners in the league.

Q. You've been in the Big Ten East for a while. How daunting a task is it to bring a program up to the level of some of the schools and how they operate in that division?
CHRIS ASH: The Big Ten East right now I think is one of the best divisions in college football. You've got great venues. You've got great coaches. You've got tremendous history. A lot of recent success on the field for a lot of football teams. And it doesn't matter where you're at, what the logo is on your jersey, what the uniform colors are, everybody's got a challenge, everybody's got a task. It's difficult. But 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 anybody in our league and that's what we're trying to do.

But we embrace it. There are challenges, but we look at them more as opportunities and that's what's in front of us, a lot of opportunities to go out and continue to get better.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #1 by #188 at 2017-07-25 14:36:00 GMT

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