Chris Ash opens first spring practice at Rutgers as coach
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) Chris Ash bounced from drill to drill at his first spring practice as Rutgers' new football coach Thursday, alternating from offense to defense, offering encouragement and warnings to his players.
''Finish every play,'' he said, later adding: ''If you don't finish, you won't be here.''
Music blasted inside the practice bubble for the entire hour the media was permitted to watch.
Ash's wife and infant son along with his mother-in-law were on the sidelines. So were athletic director Pat Hobbs and booster Ron Garuitti, who, along with his wife, Joanna, donated $1.25 million to overhaul the weight room in the Hale Center.
Most of his time in New Jersey has been spent in his office.
''Honestly, I was just trying to do what we've been doing and get the guys better every single day. My emotions were gone,'' the former Ohio State defensive coordinator said. ''I had the press conference back in December when I was hired as the head football coach and that was an emotional day, but outside of that day it's been focus and blinders on and try and figure out the things we need to do each day to get better and today was no different.''
Along with Ash's emotions, the ''F.A.M.I.L.Y'' and ''T.B.A'' signs from his predecessor, Kyle Flood, are also gone. Instead a sign reading, ''The Hunt,'' hung high above the practice bubble.
''The hunt really is the theme of the team right now. We're basically chasing the other teams in the Big Ten. We can't make any secret about that,'' Ash said. ''To chase them we have to go hunting every single day.''
Rutgers went 4-8 last season after going a surprising 8-4 in 2014, the first year it was in the Big Ten.
There were black straps running down the crowns of several players' helmets which signify if a player is game ready. It's a tradition he brought from Ohio State. Removal of the strip means ''you've been knighted.''
''When it's removed from your helmet, you are game ready. You are combat ready to go play,'' Ash said. ''And the players know that if they have a black stripe on their helmet they will not play in a game here.''
Ash's plan to change the culture was written on the wall.
Where there used to be pictures of team captains were signs reading ''code of ethics,'' ''our culture'' and ''plan to win.''
The code of ethics is tied to the issues that arose last year that led to Flood's firing.
Flood was suspended for three games for making inappropriate contact with a professor regarding a player's academics. Also, seven players were arrested since August, though charges were dropped against star receiver Leonte Carroo, who had been accused of throwing a woman during a domestic dispute. The arrests included a home invasion by two players.
Ash's code of ethics: 1. Honesty. 2. No drugs. 3. Treat women with respect. 4. No stealing. 5. No weapons.
As for the on-field play, Ash said he was pleased with his first practice.
''It was fun to finally get the guys on the field and watch them run around, put on helmets and throw and catch and try and make some tackles and things like that,'' he said. ''It's been a long couple months of off-season training.All for this moment to get out and see what kind of football players we got.''
It will be a learning experience, one that will keep Ash at the office for long hours of meetings and planning.
''We didn't come here to go to the shore or the city,'' Ash said. ''We came here to try and build a football team, develop our players and recruit some guys and right now I really like where I'm at, who I'm doing it with and just pressing on.''