No need to scour the dictionary for flowery phrases to describe Rutgers’ football offense last year when one word will do:


Maybe “inept” should be in capital letters considering the Scarlet Knights were last nationally in total offense (283.2 yards), second to last in scoring (15.7 points) and six spots from last in passing.

That’s what happens when you try to run Ohio State’s offense without Ohio State’s athletes.

Chris Ash, a former OSU defensive coordinator, took over as head coach at Rutgers last year. He wanted a power-spread offense like the Buckeyes’ because he found that the most difficult to defend.

It was tough enough trying to install such an attack with an entire roster recruited to play pro-style offense. Now factor in that the man hired to implement it was 28 years old.

Drew Mehringer was the wide receivers coach at Houston when tapped to coordinate Rutgers’ offense. His previous experience as a play-caller was one year as co-coordinator at James Madison, an FCS school.

Mehringer, a disciple of former Houston and current Texas coach Tom Herman, is considered a potential rising star in coaching and drew high marks in recruiting.

But combine his inexperience with mismatched personnel and you can see why Rutgers never scored first in any of its 12 games in 2016. And why in Big Ten play, the Scarlet Knights produced only 11 touchdowns in 120 offensive possessions.

Two weeks after the season, Mehringer left Rutgers to rejoin Herman at Texas. So Ash started a hunt for — get this — Rutgers’ eighth offensive coordinator in eight years under three head coaches.

What often happens in such a transition is the next hire is the opposite of the last one.

You can’t get much more opposite than Ash’s decision to replace the now 29-year-old Mehringer with the soon to be 56-year-old Jerry Kill.

Kill, the former head coach at Minnesota who retired for health reasons, has coached more years than Mehringer has been alive. Kill is old-school toughness, not a basketball-on-grass guy.

Ash said he took several calls from candidates interested in the job, but wanted to check out word that Kill — last season an administrative liaison for Kansas State coach Bill Snyder — wanted to coach again.

“I have a lot of strong feelings and respect for Coach Kill and what he has done, not only at Minnesota but at every stop he’s been at,” Ash said. “I wanted to meet and see if his ideas would mesh with what I want in our program.”

Ash flew to Manhattan, Kansas, for a sitdown with Kill that spanned hours.

“It didn’t take me long to realize,” Ash said, “that this would be a great fit for myself, our program and our players.”

Kill didn’t go to New Jersey to check out the situation. He sent his wife, Rebecca.

“She needed to be comfortable with it,” Ash said. “She loved it, and gave the report to Jerry. After that, he was all in.”

Kill stopped coaching at Minnesota seven games into the 2015 season because of difficulties managing his epilepsy. But a new drug regimen and diet have led to him losing about 20 pounds and sleeping through the night. He told BTN he has been seizure-free for 15 months.

Rutgers plans to reinstitute use of a fullback and tight ends in keeping with Kill’s plan to create an offense that blends Wisconsin’s power and TCU’s explosiveness.

Considering the Scarlet Knights were shut out four times last season, a first since 1938, any improvement on offense is welcome.


Coach: Chris Ash, second year, 2-10

2016 record: 2-10 (0-9, 7th in East)

Returning starters: 16 (6 offense, 8 defense, 2 kickers)

Star power: Wide receiver Janarion Grant was second-team All-Big Ten as a junior. The lightning-like return specialist — he has eight career return TDs — tore up his ankle after four games last season, but has been granted another year to play. He adds much-needed juice to RU’s offense.

Not so special: The defense was last in the Big Ten and 97th nationally in yards allowed at 450.7 a game. That unit never recovered after allowing 58 and 78 points to Ohio State and Michigan back to back last October.

Worth a look: The quarterback situation. Ash said he is “very impressed with the improvement this spring” of returning starter Gio Rescigno (52.8 percent), but there’s only one other scholarship quarterback on the roster (TCU senior transfer Zach Allen) until fall. Sophomore Tylin Oden, touted as the QB of the future, was kicked off the team in early April.

Quote: “I’m really happy with the progress our program has made in all areas — our chemistry, our effort, our standards, our culture. I really like where we’re at. We’ve got to stay healthy. We don’t have a whole lot of depth.” — Ash


Sept. 1, Washington

Sept. 9, Eastern Michigan

Sept. 16, Morgan State

Sept. 23, at Nebraska

Sept. 30, Ohio State

Oct. 14, at Illinois

Oct. 21, Purdue

Oct. 28, at Michigan

Nov. 4, Maryland

Nov. 11, at Penn State

Nov. 18, at Indiana

Nov. 25, Michigan State

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