Rutgers athletics entered a new era in 2014 as it embarked on a giant leap forward from the floundering Big East to the flourishing Big Ten. It did so with a whole of mess happening behind the scenes.
Two years later and the Scarlet Knights are getting a fresh start with a new AD and a search for a new head football coach. It appears that search is coming to an end, as Thayer Evans of Sports Illustrated is reporting that Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash is set to become the Scarlet Knights’ next head coach.
ESPN’s Adam Rittenberg confirmed the report later as well.
Can confirm Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash is finalizing agreement to become Rutgers Head coach. SI first reported.
— Adam Rittenberg (@ESPNRittenberg) December 5, 2015
Rutgers confirmed those early reports on Saturday afternoon and will introduce Ash as the next head coach at a press conference on Monday, per NJ.com.
Ash became a target after some other big names were linked to the job but went elsewhere. However, he comes to the Scarlet Knights with one of the most valuable assets for a coach of a program like this — knowledge of what it takes to win in the Big Ten.
That’s because Ash has been a long-time winner as an assistant coach in multiple Big Ten locations. Ohio State was his latest stop on the coaching trail, but Ash was also an assistant under Bret Bielema at Wisconsin for all three Rose Bowl teams to start the 2010’s and has been the co-defensive coordinator under Meyer the last two seasons.
As co-defensive coordinator Ash has overseen a resurgence of the Buckeyes secondary in specific. This season Ohio State ranks second in the nation in scoring defense (14.0 points per game) and 10th in the nation in total defense (303.5 yards allowed per game).
While at Wisconsin, the Badgers defenses (and the secondaries in particular) were some of the best in the country. UW was third in the Big Ten (193.9) in pass defense during his first season (2010), moved to second in 2011 (163.6) and gave up fewer yards than the opening season in 2012 (193.6).
This will be Ash’s first head coaching job at any level, but he’ll come in to a situation very familiar to him. At 41 years old, Ash is also young enough to bring a lot of energy with him to a program in desperate need of exactly that.
Most importantly for Rutgers is Ash comes to them with a major reputation as a closer on the recruiting trail. Selling guys on what he was able to do for players like Vonn Bell and Eli Apple should speak volumes while getting in to major recruiting battles in the state of New Jersey.