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July 23, 2018

Chris Ash

Chicago, Illinois

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

CHRIS ASH: Good afternoon. Welcome back, everybody. Hopefully you had a fun and relaxing summer and everybody's recharged and ready to go for another football season. I know I am. And most of the coaches are.

I'd like to just mention to you guys that we really appreciate all that you do. Thank you for your coverage. I know coaches and media often do not see eye to eye on a lot of issues, but because of the job that you do and the coverage that you give our sport, it's one of the most popular sports in our country.

So, again, I'd like to say thank you for everything that you guys do for college football and specifically for our program, Rutgers University.

My third year here, and I'm still honored and very humbled to be able to represent Rutgers and the state of New Jersey at such a huge event. It's an unbelievable event and an honor to be part of it to be one of the 14 head football coaches in one of the best conferences in America.

It is year three, and it's amazing how fast time flies. After we got to Rutgers in year one, kind of got the lay of the land, developed a three-year plan. In year one we just wanted to be able to make the changes that we need to implement the things we wanted to do in the program to get it going and to build it the way we wanted to build it.

Year two was about being more competitive, winning more games, which we did. We went from two wins to four wins, zero wins in the Big Ten to three wins in the Big Ten. Had opportunities to get some others.

It didn't happen. But we made progress. And in year three, it's about trying to build your team and have an opportunity to go to postseason play, and right now I feel like we're right on track to get that done.

A lot of things we have to still do to get to that point and reach that goal. But right now, going into year three, some of the things that I'm excited about. One is our coaching staff. We've had some changes in our staff. I feel like we have the best staff we've had at Rutgers in my time there. We've got great coaches, great teachers, guys that really care about our players and do a great job of developing those guys.

You need to have a great senior class. We don't have a big senior class. We have 13 seniors, but the quality is outstanding. We have three of them with us today -- Tariq Cole, Deonte Roberts, and Blessuan Austin, great representatives of our program.

But we have an outstanding senior class. We've had the best offseason and the best summer that we've had. Our leadership on our football team, the standards that we have with our behavior and our performance and just overall work ethic has been outstanding, and very excited about that.

We continue to move our program forward in a lot of areas. Recruiting is very important. And we're having more interest in recruiting than we've had in the previous few years. And it's because of how we're doing business and the progress we're making in our program.

We continue to move our program forward from a facilities standpoint. Year one we built a new weight room. Year two we built a new practice complex. Year three we're going to build a new locker room and also start construction on a brand-new academic center to continue to provide a first-class experience for our student-athletes.

As we continue to move forward, there are a lot of things that we've got to do to continue to reach our goals of going to postseason play. Offensively, we've got to score points. It's an area we haven't been very good at, and we have to score points and protect the football.

Defensively we've got to stop the run and we've got to create more takeaways if we're going to win the games we need to to be able to go to a bowl game when the season is over.

I can't be more excited about the start of training camp. And the opening game, where the foot hits the ball and we kick it off, it's an opportunity for us measure the progress that we've made against the teams in our league that we're going to play. And I'm very excited about the players, the culture and the direction that we're going in our program, and 2018 is going to be a very fun season.

Q. You mentioned the staff and offense scoring more points. How much of an impact do you feel John McNulty has made so far? Obviously you haven't played a game yet, but just going through spring ball into now?
CHRIS ASH: Yeah, we haven't played a game yet, so that will be the truest measure. But I think he's had a huge impact on our offense so far. Especially our quarterbacks. He's a true quarterback coach. He's done a great job developing the quarterbacks in his room.

We still have not settled on a quarterback for this year. I feel great about the room that we have. We just need to find an individual that we can trust and can do the things we want him to do.

John's had a huge impact on our offense. His vision and my vision of our offense is aligned. He's got knowledge and history with Rutgers, so he knows the area, knows the university, knows the program, knows a lot of former players.

But he's got a great football mind. Very excited to watch him continue to work with our quarterbacks and our players and develop our offense and go score points, because that's what it's about.

But John's been a great hire. He's been a great person to have on staff for the other staff members, and he's been a great person for our players to talk to.

He's got 15 years of NFL experience. Every player goes into college, major college football with a dream and goal of going to the NFL, and he can talk to them about that and what it's like and what it takes to make that happen. I'm happy that John's with us.

Q. You mentioned the quarterbacks. That's been a position of flux over your first couple of years. How important is it to get a stable player coming in at that position, and when do you expect to make that decision?
CHRIS ASH: It's really everything. We have several position battles that we have to settle when we go to training camp, but none more important than the quarterback.

If you look at the NFL, high school, college football, doesn't matter, if you don't have a quarterback that is productive and takes care of the ball and can distribute to the other players, you don't have a chance to win. So it's everything for our program right now to be able to get that done.

We don't have a timetable set on it, sooner than later. We're not going to take all of training camp, but we're not going to do it after a few days either. It's when we feel it's the right decision, we're comfortable with it, the other players believe in it, then we'll make that decision.

We obviously want to do it sooner than later, but there is no set date that we'll do it by X and X date. It is an important decision, and we'll let it play out for a little bit in training camp.

Q. How have you addressed the new gambling situation, legalized gambling situation, with your players and stuff? What do you think would be the toughest problem there as you look at it?
CHRIS ASH: Well, it's just continued education, one, about the whole gambling being legalized situation and talking to them about that. It's not only the players, but it's your coaches, your support staff and everybody involved in the program. You have to continue to educate what are the potential pitfalls and issues that could come up surrounding it, and make sure that they make the right decisions.

In the state of New Jersey, obviously gambling is a big deal, and people are constantly trying to find information about your football team and injuries.

But it's just constant education and communication about the issues that could come up, how to handle them, how to report them and make sure that you avoid them.

Q. Rutgers last season, obviously, I think three Big Ten wins on the cusp, the thought of maybe getting to a postseason bowl, just what were the big steps you took from that year to that season, and then what are the things you've got to do obviously to get it to that next step?
CHRIS ASH: It started with just teaching the guys how to compete more, compete a little harder, a little bit longer, fight for each other a little bit more. And that's really what allowed us to win some games and be close in some other games to move forward to continue to even improve on that and get the number of victories that we all want to go to a bowl game.

We're going to have to keep improving that process. We have to compete. Stay healthy. We've got to make some plays and stop doing things that make you lose games -- errors, poor effort, penalties. Especially in critical situations we have to stop doing those things, because those things killed us in critical games last year.

But there's no magic formula. We just have to continue to compete, learn how to win. And that's really at the core of our program, is competition. Everything that we do, whether it's a meeting, practice, in the weight room, it's compete. Our players have embraced that. They expect that.

And I think right now they're learning how to win, and they've got a lot of confidence as we go into this season that we can win and compete in this league.

Q. There's charitable progress, the kind of objective measures, you talk about win totals and the other things you're talking about, in building a program, getting that buy-in, that belief from your guys. Are there leaders emerging, guys you can lean on more maybe this year as opposed to last year, coaches on the field and in the locker room, so to speak?
CHRIS ASH: Yeah, absolutely. I feel really good about the leadership that we have on our program right now, both from the coaching standpoint but more importantly from the players.

We have tremendous love in our program. We've got great relationships. We've got great leadership. We've got a good senior class. Like I mentioned, it's not big in numbers but it's very good in quality, and they provided some outstanding leadership for our football team here this offseason.

I'm excited to see where that takes us as we go into the fall. We just have to continue to improve our player-to-player accountability.

We've got love, great relationships, great leadership. We have to continue to improve the accountability we have from player to player, but I really like where we're at from that standpoint.


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