Ash addresses players charged with fraud, plans to pick QB
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — As Rutgers preseason practice nears its end, the two biggest story lines of summer appear to have reached their conclusion.
A day after eight current or former Rutgers football players had been charged in an alleged credit card scheme, Rutgers coach Chris Ash addressed the charges. And then said he would announce his starting quarterback vs. Texas State on Friday.
Junior linebacker Malik Dixon, senior defensive back Kobe Marfo, sophomore defensive end C.J. Onyechi, redshirt freshman cornerback Edwin Lopez, redshirt freshman defensive back Naijee Jones and redshirt freshman linebacker Syhiem Simmons were not with the team to start training camp. Sophomore linebacker Brendan DeVera and junior defensive back K.J. Gray were dismissed earlier in the summer for violations of team rules. Simmons and Lopez have left the program.
“Regarding the other players, we have not made and will not make a decision on their status until this thing is resolved,” Ash said.
The eight are charged with crimes including conspiracy, promoting street crime and money laundering. They allegedly obtained credit card numbers belonging to others and transferred money to accounts for their personal use.
DeVara pleaded not guilty in court Thursday, while others have court dates in September and October.
“We can control our response to issues that come up. Our players understand what our standards our, what our expectations are and there are consequences if they don’t live up to those behavior standards and that’s really all that we can control,” Ash said. “But it’s just constant education and communication about the issues that can come up on college campuses and try and help these guys make good decisions.”
Ash was brought in to clean up a program marred with on- and off-the-field issues after Rutgers had a dismal 4-8 season under Kyle Flood in 2014. Flood was suspended by the university for three games that season for improperly communicating with a professor. Seven football players were also arrested in September.
“It’s the first issue that’s involved multiple players. We’ve had other issues. We’re by no means perfect and every issue that comes up from a missed class to something like this we use as a teachable moment for our players,” Ash said, adding, “It’s a never-ending process. We never sleep on it and we talk about the majority of discipline is anticipation and getting out in front of it and communicating non-stop.”
As for the starting quarterback, Ash wanted to communicate with his signal callers before announcing the starter to the media. Rutgers opened camp with a three-man competition, with redshirt senior Gio Rescigno, sophomore Johnathan Lewis and freshman Artur Sitkowski.
Rescigno – who was named a team captain earlier in camp – has seven career starts, with seven touchdowns and six interceptions. Lewis appeared in seven games last year, throwing for two touchdowns and running for four, but also throwing four interceptions. Sitkowski, a native of nearby Old Bridge, is a big-arm talent with prototypical size at 6-foot-5, 224 pounds, and spent his senior season at IMG Academy in Florida.
During the team’s second scrimmage last Saturday, Rescigno and Sitkowski took a bulk of the first team snaps, indicating the competition had been dwindled down to those two.
“Feeling very confident about the young man starting for us against vs. Texas State,” Ash said.