Ash opens camp amid questions on Rutgers, OSU investigations
PISCATAWAY, N.J. (AP) — Morning rain gave way to a sunny sky as Rutgers began training camp amid optimism under third-year coach Chris Ash. However, Ash couldn't escape the cloud surrounding his program, as well as the one where worked before taking the Rutgers job, Ohio State.
While Ash deals with an investigation into credit card fraud allegedly involving several of his players, his mentor Urban Meyer is on administrative leave at Ohio State as the university investigates whether Meyer failed to report domestic abuse allegations against former receivers coach and recruiting coordinator Zach Smith.
Ash was Meyer's co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Ohio State from 2014-15.
"We take any type of abuse — whether it be versus a female or a male, domestic abuse or not — very seriously. We have a lot of sympathy for victims in those situations. I can't tell you who knew what when, any of that type of stuff. I was there, and that's about all I can tell you," Ash said. "They'll go through an investigation. Obviously, you guys know how I feel about Urban Meyer and his family, but it's a very serious situation, and one that all parties there will take very seriously."
At his program, six players were left off Rutgers' training camp roster amid the credit card fraud investigation.
Redshirt junior linebacker/safety Malik Dixon, senior defensive back Kobe Marfo, sophomore defensive end C.J. Onyechi, redshirt freshman cornerback Edwin Lopez, redshirt freshman defensive back Naijee Jones and redshirt freshman linebacker Syhiem Simmons did not appear on the official roster distributed by the team.
"I'm concerned about the young men that are in our program," Ash said. "I think we've done an outstanding job in recruiting the right type of player character wise, decision-making wise that fit what we want, and again like I mentioned earlier, you look around the country when you're dealing with 17- to 22-year-olds on a college campus, there are a lot of opportunities to be put in situations where you have to make a decision. Unfortunately, we had some young men that made a decision, made a mistake, and we'll deal with it. ... We use events unfortunately like this to bring our team closer together, and I think that's exactly what happened. Our team is rallying around with each other."
Now, the team needs to find a quarterback to rally around.
Rutgers opens camp with a three-man QB competition among redshirt senior Gio Rescigno, sophomore Johnathan Lewis and freshman Artur Sitkowski.
Rescigno has seven career starts, with seven touchdowns and six interceptions, while Lewis appeared in seven games last year, throwing for two touchdowns and running for four but also throwing four interceptions. Sitkowski, a native of nearby Old Bridge, is a big-arm talent with prototypical size at 6-foot-5, 224 pounds, and spent his senior season at IMG Academy in Florida.
"There's no date. There's no set timeline" to name a starter, Ash said. "It's wherever we feel comfortable around somebody and somebody's got command of the offense and the rest of the team and is consistently doing what we want them to do. When is that? I don't know. I'm hoping sooner than later, but it's Day 1, we've got a lot of work to do."
Ash was 2-10 with a 0-9 Big Ten Conference record in his first season and 4-8 overall and 3-6 in the league last year.
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