Somewhere, a Rutgers booster is lining up a Christmas gift for Tanner Ash...and it may not be a toy fire truck. It might be the actual thing, given how the son of Rutgers football head coach Chris Ash helped in recruiting his dad for the job.
On Monday afternoon, Rutgers announced that Ash will be the new head coach of the football team, the former Ohio State defensive coordinator taking over the oldest (and most underachieving) program in college football. Rutgers was 4-8 this season, disappointing considering last year's strong start in the Big Ten included an impressive bowl win over North Carolina.
But arrests off the field and losses on it led to a coaching change, one that now has Ash leading Rutgers.
He quickly emerged as a top candidate amidst a field that also included former Miami and Temple head coach Al Golden, former Rutgers player and current Alabama assistant Mario Cristobal and a number of top assistants and coordinators nationally. Ash, who has no ties to the school or New Jersey, was talking with his young son about the program.
Son Tanner asked his father two questions about the job as they discussed it. First was if Rutgers, a program that has struggled for over a century, could win.
"Yeah, we can win," his father said.
"And the only other thing he cared about, 'Can we get ranked sometime, Dad?
"I said, "Yeah, we can get ranked."
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His son's response was "Take the job."
That fire truck for young Tanner might not be enough if his father can start to win and recruit for Rutgers.
Ash inherits a team with some talent and a quarterback who did some good things (along with plenty of struggles) in his first year as a starter. Rutgers isn't close to competing with the likes of Ohio State or Michigan or Michigan State in their division in the Big Ten but they can be a winning program sooner rather than later.
And they aren't far removed from that, having gone 8-5 a season ago, their first in the Big Ten.
Ash has a recruiting class with only one four-star player, Patrice Rene, a player who chose Rutgers but also had an offer at Ohio State. There are some big players still left on the Rutgers recruiting board and a very average class could well take an uptick if Ash, known as a solid recruiter, can lend a little leverage to close it out.
"I can start to get on the phone right away. You know as a head coach you can only make one home visit or one school visit at this time. So I've got to be very cautious about where I go and who I go see, because I want to make sure that I get a staff in place and that I can go with position coaches and coordinators to try to recruit individuals in the month of January," Ash said.
"But we have some players that may potentially be mid-year enrollees that I need to get out and see. This is the only opportunity for me to be able to do that, and I plan on doing that this week."