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Jason Galloway | The Wisconsin State Journal | July 26, 2016

Ash uses Big Ten experience to build plan for Rutgers

  Chris Ash is no stranger to the Big Ten Conference after serving stints on the Wisconsin and Ohio State staffs.

CHICAGO -- Chris Ash didn't spend his first days as Rutgers' coach searching for opinions.

The former University of Wisconsin and Ohio State defensive coordinator didn't need to brainstorm how to attack his first head coaching job or ask his new Scarlet Knight coaches and players how they'd like to proceed in turning around a program still new to the Big Ten Conference.

"He just said, 'This is what I like, this is what I believe in and this is what we're going to do,'" Rutgers fifth-year senior defensive lineman Julian Pinnix-Odrick said. "It sounded like a man with a plan, and that's what you need. You need direction."

The lack of hesitation, Ash said, comes from the bits and pieces he's gathered from working under other great coaches at top programs in the Big Ten.

 
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Rutgers hired Ash after he spent the past two seasons as the Buckeyes' defensive coordinator under three-time national champion Urban Meyer. Ash spent the 2011 and 2012 seasons as the defensive coordinator with the Badgers before following former UW coach Bret Bielema to Arkansas.

Ash said he remains close with Bielema and UW athletic director Barry Alvarez and still leans on those two for advice. Alvarez even spoke at the Rutgers Football Coaches Clinic this spring.

"It's helped a lot, being under Bret and being (at UW) with Coach Alvarez," Ash said Monday at Big Ten Media Days in Chicago. "A wealth of knowledge, a wealth of information that I was able to soak in and keep notes on to help build the plan I wanted here at Rutgers. I've coached under a lot of great coaches and have taken bits and pieces from all of them.

"The trial and errors happened as an assistant coach along my journey. I took great notes. I think I learned a lot of how to do things, good and bad, through that journey. I think that experience and that exposure has helped me build a plan that I feel really confident about."

Ash has brought some of his history with the Badgers to New Jersey. He hired former UW safeties coach Bill Busch to be the defensive backs coach after the two worked together last season at Ohio State, while former Badgers defensive back Aaron Henry, who played under Ash at UW from 2010-11, was hired as an assistant defensive backs coach.

Ash, who has been a secondary coach at several stops, including UW, said Henry will focus more on coaching cornerbacks.

"I think (Henry's) a bright, young coach, and he's a perfect fit for me because he knows how I like to coach in the secondary," Ash said. "I can get involved at any point that I want to, and he has no ego.

"Bill is a great coach. Bill has been a really good defensive backs coach himself, but he got comfortable with the way I wanted defensive backs to be coached after our time at Ohio State. It was a really comfortable move to be able to bring both of those guys in."

Ash knows what he wants, and he's confident he knows how to make Rutgers, picked by the media to finish last in the Big Ten West Division this season, a more consistent contender in the conference.

Like the top-tier Big Ten schools he's worked for previously, he said the Scarlet Knights need to build from the inside out and start winning games with the physicality of their offensive and defensive lines.

Ash, also due to his experience in the Big Ten, doesn't expect that process to be easy.

"This is my third Big Ten school that I've had a chance to work at," Ash said. "I've been fortunate to work with a lot of great coaches, players and coaching a lot of really big games in this conference. I truly believe Big Ten football is at an all-time high right now. I'm excited to be a part of it and I know Rutgers and New Jersey are excited to be a part of it, too.

"I think we have all the key ingredients needed to build upon a great foundation to build upon this season and future seasons to be one of those better Big Ten teams that people don't want to play each Saturday."

This article was written by Jason Galloway from The Wisconsin State Journal and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.