January 12, 2016

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Rich Ash isn't going to stray far from his roots when it comes to rejuvenating the football program at Rutgers.

It's going to be modeled after what he learned at Ohio State the past two seasons as its defensive coordinator.

Speaking at a news conference on Tuesday, Ash said his immediate focus was finding ways to get the Scarlet Knights to play better next season after a 4-8 record that led to the firing of coach Kyle Flood.

''We're not sitting here talking about championships,'' Ash said. ''We're talking about getting better every single day. Does every coach in this profession have a dream of potentially playing in big games like that? Absolutely.''

Ash was in the national title game a year ago, and he said it was unbelievable feeling.

Now the job is getting Rutgers to that level, and it is not going to be easy in the tough Big Ten Conference. He is already behind in the recruiting race with many prospects.

''...We have so many things we have to do to try to get this program going in the right direction, to compete in the division we're in,'' he said. ''We're going to do that one step at a time. We're not going to be in any rush, take shortcuts, worry about two years, three years down the road. We're worried about being the best we can be today and get better tomorrow.''

Since being hired in early December, Ash has assembled a coaching staff that also has Buckeye roots. Eight coaches and members of his supports staff have ties to Ohio State.

''That was really important to me because they're going to understand the expectations of the program, they're going to understand the day-to-day operations because a lot of the things I'm going to do are going to be modeled by what we did at Ohio State. So that was important to me,'' Ash said.

Scarlet Knights offensive coordinator Drew Mehringer spent the 2012 and 2013 seasons as a graduate assistant at Ohio State.

New defensive coordinator Jay Niemann coached Ash at Drake.

Ash had a plan for hiring coach. He wanted guys with character who could develop relationships with the players. He wanted good recruiters, people who could work together and men who came from successful programs for the most part. He also wants a staff that loyal, especially when times get tough.

''The last thing was high energy,'' Ash said. ''We talked about that at the press conference. We needed to change the culture here at Rutgers in the football program, needed to start with positive energy. It starts with myself and the coaches I bring into this program to try to instill the type of energy that we want in this program and in these players also.''

Ash is still looking for one more coach, which will likely be a running backs coach.

Ash, who stayed at Ohio State for its bowl game, has talked to some players and others have come to his office to meet him. He has not had a chance to meet everyone because of the semester break.

When players return on Jan. 19, the offseason conditioning program starts at 5 a.m.

Ash isn't worried how many recruits he gets next month. He seemingly has 12 players committed at this point.

''We're not going to take shortcuts and go out and grab somebody that maybe is not the right fit, whether it be character-wise or academically or athletically and take a lot of risk,'' he said. ''It's not just the best way to build a program for the long-term. There's no number. It's all about the right guys.''

What Ash wants is a team that competes every day, adding if players aren't willing to compete they need not show up.

''Eventually when we get on the field the wins will come because of that,'' Ash said. ''We have to focus on the culture, the work ethic, the toughness, all the things that make you a successful football team. We have no idea where we're at right now. We have to find the baseline, a starting spot, and develop the plan to get where we want to be. The rest will take care of itself.''

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