January 28, 2016

PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Drew Mehringer knows the overriding question about him heading into his first season as Rutgers' offensive coordinator is his age.

At 28 years old, Mehringer is known as a bright young mind in the coaching industry. He is a protege of Houston coach Tom Herman, who engineered Ohio State's potent offense that won a national title in 2014, then led the Cougars to a 13-1 record and a win in the Chick-fil-A Peach Bowl.

Mehringer was the receivers coach at Houston last season after spending 2014 as James Madison's offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach. He was a graduate assistant at Ohio State from 2012-13.

While he has an impressive resume for his age, there are questions about whether he has enough experience.

''That's going to be one of those things that keeps recurring until we play some games and have some success,'' Mehringer said. ''The only thing that I can tell you is coach (Chris) Ash is a smart man. I think that he probably did his research. I certainly feel very confident and I have a lot of belief in my ability to get the job done.''

The infusion of youth - three coaches 28 or younger - was by design. Ash, 42, wanted to hire a mixture of age and experience, also hiring three coaches 50 or older.

''We have a pretty good blend of youth and excitement and energy with experience and wisdom. That combination is really what I wanted on the staff,'' Ash said. ''I didn't want a staff of all older, experienced guys that have been through the wars. I didn't want a staff that was completely filled with a bunch of young go-getters either. I wanted a nice little blend of that.''

While some may see Mehringer's age as a negative, he sees benefits in only being 10 years older than many high school seniors.

''I have the ability at this current age that I am right now to relate a little bit more to some of those high school players,'' he said. ''I'm not that far removed from playing college football or being recruited, for that matter. Being able to allay some of the fears that parents and prospective student-athletes might have, I think I do have that relatability.''

The other question surrounding Mehringer is what exactly his offense will look like.

Mehringer learned under the tutelage of Herman, who runs a spread offense. Running a spread at James Madison, Mehringer coordinated an offense that ranked 10th nationally with 484.6 yards per game.

However, Rutgers has historically been a pro-style offense. So Mehringer knows he'll have to tweak his offense to the current personnel.

''As a coordinator, if you have the gall to say you're going to make the players fit to your offense, you're not going to be a coordinator for very long,'' Mehringer said. ''We're going to assess what we have on the field through winter conditioning and in spring ball, then adapt the principles we believe in to fit those guys and put them in the best positions we can.''

One of those assessments will be the quarterback position. Both Chris Laviano - last year's starter - and backup Hayden Rettig are pro-style quarterbacks. Laviano is regarded as more mobile.

But the quarterbacks, like everyone on the roster, will start with a clean slate and have to fight for the job.

''There are no starters, backups right now, it's open competition. All the way back down to even Gio (Giovanni Rescigno) and those guys. It's open for all of those guys at every single position,'' he said. ''If you didn't come here to compete and win, your position, or game for that matter, you don't really belong here.''

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