Rutgers improves physically, mentally in offseason workouts
With National Signing Day over and done with, the Rutgers football team has set its focus on the next step of preparations for the 2016 season.
Both the coaching staff and the players are anxious to begin the first season of Chris Ash’s head coaching career, but before High Point Solutions Stadium fills with more than 52,000 screaming fans, the Scarlet Knights must go through a grueling offseason workout regimen.
Working with a new head strength and conditioning coach Kenny Parker, Rutgers is going through more than they ever have.
“From the first day, it’s harder than anything I’ve ever done,” said early enrollee Trey Sneed, who was one of 19 commits to sign a National Letter of Intent to play for the Knights on National Signing Day.
Rutgers began offseason winter conditioning workouts Jan. 19 with what Ash called “a little early morning bootcamp deal.”
Along with developing physically, the grueling workout regimen is providing many additional benefits.
“Mental toughness,” said early enrollee Solomon Manning of what the workouts teach him. “I get tired, my muscles are fatigued, they’re burning. I feel like I got nothing left, and they’re teaching me I still have something left even though my mind is telling me I don’t have anything left.”
“It’s been intense, just going through things you’ve never done before,” said early enrollee Jonathan Pollock on adapting to college life. “Just getting acclimated to the different lifestyle, living on your own, getting to classes, eating right, people in your face about what to eat … I have one of the strength and conditioning coaches sit down with me every day and basically tell me what to eat.”
Parker and his staff were brought in by Ash to develop the players physically to be able to compete with physical Big Ten teams like Ohio State and Michigan.
The “home-run hire,” as Ash refers to him, won’t be done with his job once the players leave the weight room, though.
"Is he going to physically develop the players? Absolutely. But the mental development and the confidence and the belief and the training we put these guys through is going to be probably more important than the physical development,” Ash said. “The adversity that he's going to put them through to see how they respond, the competitive environment that he's going to create both in the weight room and in the off-season drills, on the practice field, is going to be extremely important for us.''
Ash hopes the early test shows the players the basis in which he’s building his program on: competition.
"Everything is going to be a competition," Ash said. "We've sent this message already. If you're afraid to compete, you're not going to be welcome here at Rutgers, whether you're a current player, an incoming player, a recruit down the road. The program is going to be built on competition."
The results seemed to be coming through just a few weeks after the workouts began. On National Signing Day, the rising freshman could already see who was rising to the top.
“Leaders are starting to emerge and everybody’s starting to pick up the slack of everybody because we kind of see what we’re capable of and we see what we can become in just two weeks,” Pollock said. “We’re definitely excited about the direction this program is gonna go so I’d say that’s the biggest thing.”