Chris Ash is a defensive guru, but upon his hire as head coach of the Rutgers Scarlet Knights one hire was going to matter more than any other — offensive coordinator.
Over the weekend that hire was made known, and it was extremely telling as to the direction Ash wants the Rutgers program going in. His choice of Houston wide receivers coach Drew Mehringer speaks volumes because he plucked an assistant from the Urban Meyer and Tom Herman tree.
That means one can expect to see the Scarlet Knights look a lot like what we’ve seen in the past from Ohio State and from Herman himself.
Hiring the 28-year old Mehringer also means Ash is going all-in on the recruiting trail, as the young coach has a great reputation as a recruiter in the Midwest and the state of Texas.
Most importantly though, is the endorsement of a mind like Herman. The Houston head coach called Mehringer “the brightest young coach in America,” per Pete Thamel of Sports Illustrated.
Rutgers hiring UH's Drew Mehringer, 28, as OC. Tom Herman says he's "the brightest young coach in America." https://t.co/w8CK8vCAri
— Pete Thamel (@SIPeteThamel) December 13, 2015
Will that mean a power-based offense or the more pass-happy version that Herman and Co. have run at the likes of Iowa State and Houston? Personnel may dictate that the transition is slower early on, as there is no run-first type of quarterback on the Rutgers offense.
The two things that will help are a stable of experienced and somewhat productive running backs and an offensive line designed for a power run game. Rutgers was sixth in the Big Ten with 169.2 yards per game and had two sophomores (Robert Martin and Josh Hicks) at the top of the rushing charts.
It’s a good starting point for Mehringer to being to build around. Still, there is little doubt that there is going to be a transition needed for this team heading forward.
Yet, there’s a bigger question at hand — can Rutgers win with the same blueprint that is working so well in Columbus?
A lot of that will depend on winning major recruiting battles for the best players in the state of New Jersey. The Scarlet Knights have long been a pro-style offense, and the level of athlete it takes to be successful in a much more wide open offense are of a very different variety.
That’s where the hire of Mehringer comes in handy. He’s got the youthful energy to help turn this team around on the recruiting trail and he knows exactly what kind of player will make his offense tick best.
New Jersey is full of talented players, but Rutgers has to be the No. 1 option for the best athletes the state high school programs have to offer. That simply isn’t the case right now, meaning Ash and Mehringer have their work cut out for them if they want to get things turned around quickly on offense.
Win battles for bigger targets and suddenly the transition may be far less difficult. But, that’s a tall order with Penn State, Ohio State and other big schools having long-established roots in at some of the biggest programs in the state.
One thing is for sure, you can expect a lot more shotgun and a lot more read-option out of this offense going forward. Oh, and you can expect Mehringer to lead the way on the social media front as well — a tool one can’t underestimate in today’s world of recruiting.
If Rutgers can become “cool” with the top offensive athletes in New Jersey, Mehringer and Ash just may be able to clone the success that Ohio State has had on offense. If not, Ash may not last long in Piscataway.
Just remember this though — Ash isn’t afraid to come in and swing for the fence. This hire is certainly an indication of that.