Chris Ash’s Coaching Staff Rounding Into Shape (Part 1)
On December 5, Rutgers and athletic director Pat Hobbs appointed Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash as the new head coach of the football program. Since then, he has worked tireless pulling double-duty where he is finishing up at Ohio State until their bowl game against Notre Dame on January 1st, while also putting together a staff, talking to current players, and recruiting for Rutgers.
So far, Ash has rounded up coaches that are younger, hungry, and up-and-comers with three of six full-time coaches who are under 30. “I want young, energetic guys that are extremely excited and happy to be at Rutgers,” Ash told APP.com. “Guys who are motivated and excited to show what they can do in this profession. I want guys whose careers have continually climbed, and they need platforms to show that they are some of the best coaches in the country.”
Let’s take a quick look on who has been hired as assistant coaches:
Vince Okruch (Special Teams Coordinator) – Okruch is the lone older guy of the bunch at 60 years old. Okruch has plenty of coaching experience (35 years total with 15 within the Big Ten) including the past three at Ohio State assisting with quality control for the kicking game and defense. At the time the hire was made official (Dec. 10) Ash said, “I am excited to welcome Vince to the Rutgers coaching staff. I have worked side by side with him the past two years and have been impressed with his professionalism, knowledge of the game and his connection with the players.”
Drew Mehringer (Offensive Coordinator/QB’s) – During his introductory press conference, Ash said he envisioned Rutgers in more of a spread offense. Mehringer brings just that. Although only 28, Mehringer was the offensive coordinator at the FCS level for James Madison in 2014, helping them get into the FCS playoffs. His offense ranked 10th nationally and set single-season program records in offensive plays, offensive yards first downs, passing attempts, passing completions, passing touchdowns and passing yards. Mehringer spent the 2015 campaign at Houston serving as the wide receivers coach. In a statement on the hire, the 42 year-old Ash said, “I am excited to welcome Drew to Rutgers football. Drew is a very intelligent person and great football mind. He has been under the tutelage of Tom Herman so he understands how I want the program structured. Drew will take care of the players and be a great recruiter. He’s one of the next rising offensive stars in college football.”
Kenny Parker (Head Strengh & Conditioning) / Gary Beemer (Assistant S&C coach) – Two more guys with roots to Urban Meyer. Parker comes from Ohio State serving as an assistant strength and conditioning coach. Beemer previously was in the same role for Hawaii the past three years. Both will be key to building the players’ bodies and get ready for the grueling Big Ten season. Ash said of Parker, who spent 10 years as a coach/player for the Gators including being a part of a national championship and three conference titles: “I am excited to welcome Kenny to Rutgers football program. In our past two seasons together at Ohio State I have recognized Kenny’s tremendous work ethic and his ability to get the most out of our players. Having Kenny on staff will be a major asset as we work to build a team that is both physically tough and mentally prepared to compete in the Big Ten.”
AJ Blazek (Offensive Line) – On Christmas Eve, Ash announced the hire of Blazek who was a two-time letterwinner at Iowa and most recently was the offensive line coach/ run-game coordinator at Western Illinois the past three seasons. This past season, WIU advanced to the second round of the playoffs and averaged nearly 400 yards of total offense per game.In addition, Blazek worked as the offensive line coach and the run game coordinator for Western Illinois from 2013-15. In each season the Leathernecks had a 1000-yard rusher and an All-Missouri Valley Football Conference offensive line selection.
“I am excited to welcome AJ to Rutgers football,” said Ash. “AJ has played in this league and knows what it takes to be successful as a player and teammate. I have known AJ for the past 15 years and watched as his career has taken off.”
Zak Kuhr (Wide Receivers) – Kuhr will coach the wide receivers for the Scarlet Knights and comes over after serving as the co-offensive coordinator at James Madison. Kuhr worked with Mehringer. “I am excited to welcome Zak to Rutgers football,” said Ash. “His knowledge and understanding of our offense will be important in the teaching and development of our wide receivers. He is also from the Urban Meyer coaching tree and understands our program structure and our expectations.” Kuhr coached the James Madison running backs the past two seasons, before adding co-offensive duties in 2015. In his first season as running backs coach, JMU’s rushing offense amassed over 2,800 yards and 25 touchdowns. The Dukes averaged 215.5 rushing yards per game, which ranked second in the Colonial Athletic Association and 21st in all of FCS.
Aaron Henry (Assistant Defensive Backs Coach) – Henry will help coach the young crop of defensive backs for Rutgers it was announced yesterday. A Big Ten student-athlete, Henry played at Wisconsin from 2007-11, playing for Ash the final two seasons and serving as a graduate assistant at Arkansas with Ash.
“I am excited to welcome Aaron to Rutgers football,” Ash said. “As a player, I knew Aaron had all the characteristics to be a talented assistant coach one day. We worked together when he was a graduate assistant at Arkansas and that only confirmed my beliefs in him as a coach. He is a smart, energetic young man who knows how I want the secondary to be developed.” As a senior with Ash as a the defensive coordinator, Henry was an All-Big Ten first team performer, starting all 14 games and finishing the year with 67 tackles, including three for loss with one sack, four interceptions and seven passes defensed. He spent time with the Oakland Raiders after he graduated.
Positions left to fill:
Defensive Coordinator, Defensive Line, Running Backs, Linebackers, and head Defensive Backs coach
*UPDATE* A source says Ohio State defensive quality control coach Bill Busch will coach with the DB’s at RU. He previously spent time as the DB’s coach at Wisconsin from 2013-14. Has 26 years of coaching experience. Busch will coach on Busch.
For part 2/2, click here.
For more on recruiting hires, Rick Mantz and Adam Caltury, click here.
The two lone leftovers of former head coach Kyle Flood’s staff are recruiting coordinator E.J. Barthel and Jim Panagos. It is uncertain on their future.
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