After Maryland made Michigan defensive coordinator D.J. Durkin its new head coach earlier this week, another Big Ten East team is going to fill its head-coaching vacancy with a coordinator from inside the division.
According to a Saturday report from Sports Illustrated, Rutgers is close to hiring Ohio State defensive coordinator Chris Ash as its next head coach, replacing Kyle Flood, who was fired last weekend.
It was reported earlier this week that Ash was a candidate for the job, and it looks as if the Scarlet Knights are ready to welcome in one of Urban Meyer's assistants.
Ash has spent the past two seasons running the Buckeyes' defense after serving as an assistant under Bret Bielema for four seasons at both Wisconsin and Arkansas, the final three spent as defensive coordinator for the Badgers and Razorbacks.
This season, Ash's defense has been one of the country's best. Ohio State ranks second in the nation in scoring defense, allowing an averaging of 14 points per game, and 10th in total defense, allowing an average of 303.5 yards per game. The Buckeyes have been particularly stingy against opposing passing attacks, ranking 12th in the country in passing defense, allowing an average of 176.2 pass yards per game.
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Not only does Ash have experience winning, the defensive coordinator for last season's national-championship Ohio State team, but he brings familiarity with the conference, something that could help the Knights win some games in the challenging Big Ten East.
While Rutgers' football program has been in turmoil for the past season — numerous off-the-field issues including Flood's involvement in a grade-influencing scandal led to the head coach's firing, and athletics director Julie Hermann was also fired — there are positives to the program, chief among them Rutgers' placement in a fertile Mid-Atlantic recruiting ground. A lot of top talent comes out of New Jersey, and if Ash can capitalize in recruiting, he could make the Knights competitive.
But there's no doubt that the division is loaded, with Meyer running the show at Ohio State, Mark Dantonio helming a college football power at Michigan State, Jim Harbaugh rapidly turning Michigan around and James Franklin in charge at Penn State.
It's up to Ash to find a spot for Rutgers.