Big Ten pedigree gives new Rutgers coaching staff early advantage
After two years, the Rutgers football team finally has a sense of experience in the Big Ten Conference.
Partnered with some of the nation's elite, the Scarlet Knights have taken their lumps on their way to a mixed bag of results over two seasons. To show for it, they have a 12-13 overall record coupled with a 4-12 mark in Big Ten play.
But perhaps the biggest piece of experience came in the offseason.
When Rutgers pried Chris Ash from Ohio State and hired him as the football program's 30th head coach, the Knights gained a leg up.
Ash boasts five years of experience as a defensive backs coach and defensive coordinator at Wisconsin (2010-12) before his most recent stint at Ohio State as a co-defensive coordinator and secondary coach (2014-15).
But Ash isn't the only one in Piscataway with a resume featuring Big Ten pedigree.
And that's exactly how he drew it up.
"Where are these guys from? There's been a lot of talk about not a lot of connections to New Jersey," he said. "To be honest with you, it didn't matter where I got a job. I wasn't concerned with where they were from."
What did stand out to Ash as he got settled in on the Banks was where the potential new members of his first-year coaching staff had previously stopped along the way.
And as much as he emphasized finding people of character, compatibility and loyalty, Ash underlined it all with the reminder that there was a reason for majority of the staff having 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," he said.
Drawing the pipeline back out to Columbus extends deep into the Knights' new staff.
It's that sense of familiarity that, along with the crossing paths that many of the coaches on board have gone through in one way or another, leads head strength and conditioning coach Kenny Parker, a former Ohio State staffer (2012-15) to believe it plays into Rutgers' favor entering year three of Big Ten play.
"It's good to have people around you that knows the coaches," he said. "I mean, just take my staff that I've got. They all know me or they know something of me. They was all a part of that coaching somehow, someway. So absolutely, you need that. As a coach, as a player, you definitely want that loyalty. You want that comfort knowing that we are all on the same page. It's no hidden agendas."
But even past the ties to the Buckeyes, the surface of 55 combined seasons of coaching or playing experience in the Big Ten brings Rutgers an advantage it didn't particularly have under Kyle Flood in his four years at the helm.
With the hires coming sporadically throughout the past month and a half, the newest Knights coaches haven't been together for long.
But special teams coordinator Vince Okruch, who has been on his fair share of coaching staffs in his past 35 years on the college football sidelines, thinks this one is coming along nicely — even if the plethora of Big Ten experience doesn't guarantee immediate on-field success during a transitional period.
"The characteristics that those men possess, I see in Chris (Ash)," Okruch said. "And, yeah, it's a hard job. You've gotta work and work hard, but you've also gotta work smart ... And, like I said, had things not gone the way they gone (with Rutgers in 2015), we wouldn't be here. But I'm glad we are."