Big Ten Conference Football Media Days

Monday July 25, 2016

Chris Ash

Rutgers

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

COACH ASH: Good afternoon. Great to see everybody here. I'd like to follow up by echoing the coaches comments to give the best to the players and the fans of Nebraska and Michigan State with the loss of Sam and Mike. Tremendous individuals from what I've heard, and I know it's a tough loss for those two programs. It's never easy when you lose one of your own and part of your family. We'd like to give our best to those guys and those programs.

It's my first time here. I've been part of the Big Ten for a while. Never had a chance to come to media days. It's a great event. I love the energy and excitement as everybody gets ready for college football. Truly honored to be here as the head football coach at Rutgers get a chance to represent our team, our university and the state of New Jersey here at Big Ten media days.

I'd like to give a quick thank you to our athletic director, Pat Hobbs, and our university president Dr. Barchi for giving me this opportunity. I'm very excited about what we can do and the chances for success here at Rutgers and moving forward with our players in our program.

This is my third Big Ten school that I've had a chance to work at. I've been fortunate to work with a lot of great coaches, players and coaching a lot of really big games in this conference.

I truly believe Big Ten brand and football is at a all-time high right now. I'm excited to be a part of it and I know Rutgers and New Jersey are excited to be a part of it, too.

Brought three young men with us today. And the reason we brought these three young men -- Darius Hamilton, Julian Pinnix-Odrick and Andre Patton -- is because they demonstrate the characteristics that we want of the players in our locker room. They bought in to what we are trying to do. They have committed themselves to being the best they can be in all areas, on the field and off the field.

They go extremely hard. They do well in the classroom. I'm very proud of what these guys have done for myself, our staff and our program in the short time that we've been here.

I know you listen to media days all around the country and the different conferences and the coaches get up they like to talk about this player or that player or this position or that position group and they're excited about the guys and the start of the season.

I'd like to give a quick comment about what I'm really excited about at Rutgers right now before I open it up to questions. It's really about the foundation that we've laid and very excited about the culture and environment that we created in our building so far.

Our players come to the building to work and get coached and get pushed to be the best that they can be every single day. They know they're going to get coached extremely hard.

We've got a lot of accountability. We've got structure. We've got discipline. But we're having a tremendous amount of fun with these players, too.

And if we're not having fun in our building as we work and push and try to be the best that we can be, we're screwing this thing up.

And so far I've really been pleased with the foundation, the culture and the environment, the behavior and the performance that our players have given us in a short amount of time.

With that, I'll open it up for questions.

Q. Adding two new quarterbacks, getting ready for training camp, where does the position battle stand?
COACH ASH: It's an open competition. We have four guys that will compete for the quarterback position once we start camp. Three of them were with us in the spring. We added Zach Allen, a graduate transfer from TCU, in the mix here this summer. As I look back and we evaluate each position group coming out of the spring we felt like we had to make a change in that room. We had to do something to help the football team so we brought in Zach.

They've had a great summer. All the four quarterbacks have had a great summer. They provided outstanding leadership. They worked extremely hard. They're continuing to learn the offense. They put together a lot of player runs.

Seven-on-sevens and one-on-ones throughout the summer for those guys to go out and work and continue to improve, and I'm excited to see what they do once we start training camp but right now we have four guys. They'll all get an opportunity to prove what they can do and fairly quickly in camp we'll start to identify the one or two that give us the best chance to go out and have success.

Q. You mentioned Darius. Obviously he was injured last year. Where is he at as training camp approaches? Do you expect him to be the magic word 100 percent?
COACH ASH: I don't know if he'll be 100 percent. But he'll probably be about as close to 100 percent as he can be. Darius has done a great job with us. He's his own best doctor right now.

He missed last season due to injury. He's managed his body. He's managed his workload. He's changed his body. The last time he played in a football game he was 245 pounds. He's 286 pounds now. He feels he's the best he's ever felt. He's moving well. Provided tremendous leadership. I think he's going to be a real key component to us having success on defense.

Q. You've coached at two elite programs in the Big Ten. How far away is Rutgers from getting to that kind of level? And what do you expect to see on the field this year?
COACH ASH: Depends on what area you're talking about. We have some areas that are very strong, both personnel-wise and facilities-wise and support-wise. We have areas that we need to improve upon. As a team that's new to the Big Ten that's not to be unexpected. I think we have all the key ingredients needed to build upon a great foundation to build upon this season and future seasons to be one of those better Big Ten teams that people don't want to play each Saturday.

So I'm excited about what we have and looking forward to what we can build on this fall.

Q. What questions did you have for upper administrators at Rutgers before you agreed to take the job?
COACH ASH: There's a long list. I won't go through all of them. But the ones that were really important to me, one are we committed to being a part of the Big Ten and being successful Big Ten team. It's one thing to say you're part of the Big Ten but to go out and compete and be one of the elite teams of the Big Ten.

I wanted to make sure if I was going to leave where I was at and take on a head-coaching position that we had the right administrative support to make that happen. I can say again with the leadership of Dr. Barchi and Pat Hobbs, our athletic director, they've given me the things that you need to be successful. That was the biggest one.

Q. Wonder what you make about the fan rivalry with Michigan and how you think that's evolved?
COACH ASH: I'll start by saying there's no rivalry with Michigan yet. They've done some things that we have not been able to do and I think it's great when fans get a chance in the offseason to talk about college football and have fun with college football, have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach Harbaugh and the job he's done at Michigan and the program they've had for several years.

And we're going to work the best that we can here at Rutgers to create rivalries with everybody that we play. And it's great that the fans are involved and care and passionate about what we're doing at Rutgers.

Q. Do you coaches hold your breath through the month of July just hoping you can get to training camp? With things that could happen off the field? Not necessarily referring to the tragedy that happened over the weekend, but is July the hot month, I guess?
COACH ASH: Honestly, every month is a hot month. But July is one because a lot of times there's more free time during the month of July than there may be in other months of the year and anytime you have free time there's always a chance or risk of bad things happening to players in your program.

But, yeah, we worry about it all the time. We're constantly educating our players in the program about the decisions that they make, the people that they're with, where they're at. And hopefully through that constant education and communication that your players make the right choices and are in the right places.

Some things happen unfortunately, like the event that just happened to those two young men, but every month, every day, you worry about the players in your program and the things that could happen to them.

Q. I know what it was like working for Urban Meyer, how hard you guys worked as assistants there. What's the -- obviously being a head coach is a whole different thing, but what's the lifestyle, the workload, day in, day out are you working harder now or do you work harder as an assistant in a big-time program when you've got a head coach wants you working all the time?
COACH ASH: I think if you're successful at anything that you do, whether you're an assistant coach, head coach, you're in business, you have to work extremely hard to be successful.

The biggest challenge for me as a head coach versus being an assistant, just time management. Trying to identify those things that I need to focus my time on to give us the best chance for success. That's the biggest difference.

As an assistant coach, it's all about football. It's about recruiting. It's about building relationships with your players. As a head coach you're involved in those types of things too but there's so many other things that come across your desk that you have to learn to manage and deal with that you don't have to as an assistant coach.

But in terms of putting in the hours and work ethic and dedication, sacrifices, that's all there if you want to have a chance to be successful regardless of the logo or the title next to your name.

Q. Looks like you guys have had some success particularly in that part of the country on the recruiting trail. What's working for you right now especially in that area?
COACH ASH: Well, we had a plan when we came into Rutgers how we wanted to recruit and what it was going to take to create the type of environment that recruits wanted to be a part of.

It started in our own locker room. We wanted to create a culture in our locker room that our players bought into, believed in, and they could go out and sell to recruits.

At the end of the day if your players aren't your best recruiters you don't have a chance to recruit at a high level. So we wanted to work on our players in our locker room in our building, build relationships and connections with those guys that they in turn could go out and try to sell our program and what we're doing to the recruits.

We wanted to be able to develop our players in all areas again so they know they're having a great experience, they're part of a first-class program. And that's really what has helped us more than anything. We have worked hard at building relationships with high school coaches, with recruits in the area, about you it really starts with what's going on in your locker room, in your building, the relationships you have with your players, and what are they telling recruits and parents as they come on visits.

Our players have done an outstanding job in the recruiting process to help us get to where we are at today.

THE MODERATOR: Thank you.

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports
Rev #2 by #19 at 2016-07-25 18:14:00 GMT

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