Ash will study first season at Rutgers, then fast forward
Rutgers head coach Chris Ash walks to the sideline after a timeout against Maryland during the first half of an NCAA college football game, Saturday, Nov. 26, 2016 in College Park, Md. Maryland won 31-13. (AP Photo/Gail Burton)
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) As much as Chris Ash wants to move forward quickly after a 2-10 season first season as Rutgers' football coach, he knows that he has to spend time looking back, especially at the lowlights.
''It's not what anybody wants. I'm not satisfied with that,'' Ash said Wednesday. ''We'll evaluate the overall big picture of the offense; special teams have not been very good. We'll assess all aspects of the process and identify ways to do better.''
The Scarlet Knights allowed an average of nearly 38 points a game. They were outgained in total yardage by an average of 168 yards. There were 21 fumbles – 12 lost – and the revolving door at the quarterback position was squeezed with 34 sacks, totaling nearly the length of a football field. They finished on a nine-game losing streak, failing to win a contest in the Big Ten Conference.
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Six starters will return on offense and eight on defense, and despite all the negative publicity from what took place on the field, including four shutouts by a combined 224 points, Ash remains optimistic.
''I think we have a very positive building, a very positive program, so I don't listen to the negativity that's out there,'' he said. ''I'm focused on making our players better every single day.''
Ash said his nine assistants are scheduled to return because he wants continuity and likes the group.
He's returning, too.
''Every year I learn something and improve,'' he said about coaching. Before this year, Ash had been an assistant.
Ash said he's been intentional in his growth as a head coach.
''It's been more about time management and how to handle all the responsibilities of a head coach and how to deal with it,'' he said. ''I'm a guy involved in X's and O's to a certain extent and want to continue to be so.''
Ash said his recruiting pitches are being received well.
''We have a plan, a vision, and good people on board,'' the former Ohio State co-defensive coordinator said. ''It's going to take time and effort, but I think (recruits) have really been believing in our plan and have built great relationships with our coaching staff.''
He said those relationships can help carry the team through down times.
While the staff continues with recruiting, Rutgers this week lost a pair of returning quarterbacks. Hayden Rettig and former starter Chris Laviano are transferring. But the program moves forward.
''I do believe we've built a team that will compete,'' Ash said. ''We didn't do that on the scoreboard every week; we got shut out four times and I'm not happy with that at all. But is the first year a disappointment or a loss? No it's not.
''We've done a lot of positive things in this program, he said. ''But on Saturdays, and I get it, as we move forward I'm gonna be judged by wins and losses.''
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