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Archive for August 13th, 2017

After weeks of rumors, speculation, William Byron picked to drive #5 Chevy for Hendrick Motorsports in 2018 replacing Kasey Kahne

August 9, 2017

 

WILLIAM BYRON TO COMPETE IN THE NASCAR CUP SERIES FOR HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS BEGINNING IN 2018 

AXALTA AND LIBERTY UNIVERSITY ON BOARD AS PRIMARY SPONSORS

 

 

CONCORD, N.C. (Aug. 9, 2017) – Record-breaking teenager William Byron will drive for 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champions Hendrick Motorsports beginning next season. He will debut at stock car racing’s highest level in the 2018 Daytona 500 and compete for rookie of the year honors. 

Byron’s No. 5 Chevrolet team will feature sponsorship from Axalta Coating Systems and Liberty University, which currently support the 19-year-old driver in the NASCAR Xfinity Series. Beginning in 2018, the two primary sponsors will cover the majority of Byron’s Cup races annually. Additional details of the multi-year partnerships will be announced at a later date.

In 2016, Byron turned in the most successful debut season in Camping World Truck Series history with a NASCAR national series rookie record seven victories. This year, the Charlotte, North Carolina, native progressed into the Xfinity Series, where he has already earned three wins — Iowa, Daytona and Indianapolis — and currently ranks second in the standings after 20 of 33 races with Hendrick Motorsports affiliate JR Motorsports.

William Byron in 2015 By Sarah Stierch - Own work, CC BY 4.0, https commons.wikimedia.org

“It hasn’t sunk in yet,” said Byron, who will turn 20 on Nov. 29. “Mr. (Rick) Hendrick has built such a great team. The people at Hendrick Motorsports have dedicated their lives to giving their drivers the best chance to win every weekend. I have a responsibility to them to work hard and put everything I have into this opportunity. They need to know I’m always giving 100 percent because that’s what they do.

“When I told my parents that I wanted to drive race cars, they supported me and believed I could do it. Without them, there’s no way this would be possible. Axalta and Liberty University are awesome partners, and I’m so thankful for their faith in me. I’m going to do all I can to make my family, my sponsors and my teammates proud and represent them all in the right way.”

Hendrick Motorsports signed Byron in August 2016. Next season, he will join drivers Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and Alex Bowman as a member of the four-car NASCAR Cup Series operation.

“At every step, William has proven how quickly he can adapt,” said Rick Hendrick, owner of Hendrick Motorsports. “Some drivers have raw talent and some have a strong work ethic. William has both. It’s impressive to see a young guy who never gets rattled and instinctively knows how to communicate with his team. That level of commitment, poise and pure ability is rare at any age. I think he’s just scratching the surface.”

Axalta Coating Systems (NYSE: AXTA), a leading global supplier of liquid and powder coatings, became a sponsor of Byron’s Xfinity Series effort this season. With primary sponsorship across teammates Byron and Alex Bowman (15 races), the company will increase its already significant presence with Hendrick Motorsports in 2018. Axalta has been a Hendrick Motorsports corporate partner since 1992 and recently opened its state-of-the-art Customer Experience Center on the team’s campus.

Liberty University began its support of Byron in 2014 when he drove late models for JR Motorsports and is now in its fourth season sponsoring the driver. Founded in 1971 and located in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty University is the largest private, nonprofit university in the United States, the largest university in Virginia and the largest Christian university in the world. Byron is currently a sophomore student working toward an undergraduate degree in business communications through the school’s online education program.

“To have this opportunity with a new partner (to Hendrick Motorsports) in Liberty University and to grow what’s been an incredible long-term relationship with Axalta, it’s very special,” Hendrick said. “These are two sponsors who have already built effective programs around our sport and now see even more possibilities. It’s a big compliment to William, who has been a terrific ambassador for them both, and we look forward to a bright future together.”

WILLIAM BYRON YEAR-BY-YEAR:

2017: As a rookie, has posted three wins, one pole position, seven top-five finishes and 14 top-10s through 20 of 33 races in the Xfinity Series. Recorded wins at Iowa Speedway and the iconic venues of Daytona International Speedway and Indianapolis Motor Speedway. Currently second in driver points, first in playoff points and leads the rookie of the year standings.

2016: Recorded the most successful rookie season in NCWTS history with seven wins (a national series rookie record), three poles, 11 top-five finishes and 16 top-10s driving for Kyle Busch Motorsports. Named rookie of the year after leading 21 percent of the season’s total laps and securing the NCWTS owner championship. Started two ARCA Racing Series events, finishing second and eighth. Signed by 12-time NASCAR Cup Series champions Hendrick Motorsports in August.

2015: Crowned NASCAR K&N Pro Series East champion after posting four wins, three pole positions, five top-five finishes and 11 top-10s. In 14 events, led 740 of the season’s 1,730 total laps (43 percent). Started two K&N Pro Series West races, recording two top-five finishes. Competed in two ARCA events, earning a second-place finish in his series debut after leading 120 of 200 laps at Indianapolis Raceway Park. Won the pole at Kentucky in second ARCA start. Posted one win and three top-five finishes in three CARS Super Late Model races. Made NASCAR national series debut with a NCWTS start Nov. 13 at Phoenix. Outside of racing, earned the Boy Scouts of America rank of Eagle Scout, the highest advancement rank in scouting.

2014: Turned professional in legends cars in January and promptly won the Charlotte Winter Heat Series U.S. Legend Car Pro championship. Crowned Pro Legends champion at the Winter Nationals at Florida’s Auburndale Speedway after winning six of six races. Gained experience in full-sized stock cars across the U.S. Legend Car Pro division, NASCAR Whelen All-American Series late model division and select pro late models. Signed to compete regionally for Dale Earnhardt Jr.’s late model program at JR Motorsports, competing 21 times at North Carolina’s Hickory Motor Speedway. Earned first-ever victory in a stock car on Sept. 6 at Hickory. Named the state of North Carolina’s rookie of the year in the NASCAR Whelen All-American Late Model Series. In total, competed 56 times with 11 wins, 24 pole awards, 29 top-three finishes and 37 top-five finishes.

2013: After racing exclusively online, began competing in the U.S. Legend Car Young Lions division. Raced in 69 legends car events across the United States, posting 33 wins, 59 top-five finishes and 64 top-10s en route to the U.S. Legend Car Young Lions national championship. In addition, won the 2013 Thursday Thunder Young Lions championship at Atlanta Motor Speedway and the Young Lions all-star race at Charlotte Motor Speedway.

ABOUT AXALTA COATING SYSTEMS:
Axalta is a leading global company focused solely on coatings and providing customers with innovative, colorful, beautiful and sustainable solutions. From light OEM vehicles, commercial vehicles and refinish applications to electric motors, buildings and pipelines, our coatings are designed to prevent corrosion, increase productivity and enable the materials we coat to last longer. With more than 150 years of experience in the coatings industry, the 13,600 people of Axalta continue to find ways to serve our more than 100,000 customers in 130 countries better every day with the finest coatings, application systems and technology. For more information visit Axalta.com and follow us @Axalta on Twitter and on LinkedIn.

ABOUT LIBERTY UNIVERSITY:
Liberty University, founded in 1971, is the largest private, nonprofit university in the nation, the largest university in Virginia, and the largest Christian university in the world. Located near the Blue Ridge Mountains on more than 7,000 acres in Lynchburg, Virginia, Liberty offers more than 550 unique programs of study from the certificate to the doctoral level. More than 250 programs are offered online. Liberty’s mission is to train Champions for Christ with the values, knowledge, and skills essential for impacting tomorrow’s world.

ABOUT HENDRICK MOTORSPORTS:
Founded by Rick Hendrick in 1984, Hendrick Motorsports has earned 249 points-paying race victories and a record 12 car owner championships in the premier NASCAR Cup Series. The organization fields four full-time Chevrolet teams on the Cup circuit with drivers Kasey Kahne, Chase Elliott, Jimmie Johnson and Dale Earnhardt Jr. Headquartered in Concord, North Carolina, Hendrick Motorsports employs more than 600 people. For more information, please visit HendrickMotorsports.com or interact on TwitterFacebook and

Instagram.

 

PRESS RELEASE WRITTEN BY Jesse Essex; COURTESY HENDRICKS MOTOR SPORTS & NASCARmedia.com

 

“Bubba” Wallace holds off Bell and Busch to win NASCAR Trucks race at Michigan

Darrell Wallace Jr. in victory lane (photo credit Jonathan Ferry of Getty Images courtesy NASCARmedia.com)

Brooklyn, Michigan — Several members of the media in the Michigan International Speedway Media Center were talking amongst themselves Saturday afternoon after watching the NASCAR Camping World Series race, why Darrell Wallace Jr. doesn’t have a regular ride in any series?

The 23-year-old Wallace has been wondering the same thing and mentioned in interviews after holding off Christopher Bell and the tenacious Kyle Larson to win the 18th Annual LTi Printing 200 at the 2-mile oval in the Irish Hills area of Southwestern Michigan.

Rounding out the top 5 were Ryan Truex and Austin Cindric.

The win by Wallace gives truck owner Mike Millner his first Camping World Truck Series victory.

What is most remarkable about the Mobile, Alabama native, is prior to this race, he had not driven a truck since the 2014 season where his best finish was third. Winning a race after not competing regular in the series for three years, so that he has talent. He won the last race of the 2014 season.

The last 11 laps of the race were very exciting as Wallace protected his position very well. Probably worried more about the clever and cunning Busch, who has dominated this series for years, than he was about Bell. Driving his #99 Maestro’s Classic Chevrolet, Wallace blocked high, low and middle. He did lose the lead briefly, but gained it back and confidently held on to win his sixth Trucks race overall. His first win at Michigan.

“It’s been so long since I’ve been in victory lane,” Wallace said. “I try to hold a positive mindset over it, and everybody in my family knows it eats at me every day.”

Wallace, NASCAR’s who started the 2017 season as the only African American full-time driver, has had an up-and-down career. He lost his ride driving in the XFINITY Series for Roush Fenway Racing because the sponsorship dried up. He debuted for four races in the Monster Cup Series as a fill-in for the injured Aric Amirola. He received a deal this week with MDM Motorsports.

Wallace’s start to the race was not spectacular. He started ninth on the 5th row. His pit crew received a penalty on Lap 53 when his crew went over the wall too soon. But as the race progressed, Wallace edged up closer and closer to the top of the flow. For several laps he was driving third behind Cindric and Bell but passed them up with 11 laps to go thanks to strategy planning by his spotter, Freddie Kraft.

Wallace’s crew chief is Shane Huffman.

Darrell Wallace Jr. #99 winning race (photo credit by Sean Gardner of Getty Images courtesy NASCAR media.com)

 

NASCAR Camping World Truck Series Race Results LTi Printing 200

Michigan International Speedway

Brooklyn, Michigan

Saturday, August 12, 2017

1. (9) Darrell Wallace Jr.(i), Chevrolet, 100.

2. (13) Christopher Bell, Toyota, 100.

3. (10) Kyle Busch(i), Toyota, 100.

4. (11) Ryan Truex, Toyota, 100.

5. (8) Austin Cindric #, Ford, 100.

6. (1) Matt Crafton, Toyota, 100.

7. (5) Noah Gragson #, Toyota, 100.

8. (6) Grant Enfinger #, Toyota, 100.

9. (4) Chase Briscoe #, Ford, 100.

10. (7) Justin Haley #, Chevrolet, 100.

11. (14) Ben Rhodes, Toyota, 100.

12. (12) Kaz Grala #, Chevrolet, 100.

13. (16) Stewart Friesen #, Chevrolet, 100.

14. (17) Tyler Young, Chevrolet, 100.

15. (20) Austin Wayne Self, Chevrolet, 100.

16. (19) TJ Bell, Chevrolet, 99.

17. (18) Wendell Chavous #, Chevrolet, 99.

18. (2) Johnny Sauter, Chevrolet, 99.

19. (24) Josh Reaume, Chevrolet, 98.

20. (28) Norm Benning, Chevrolet, Vibration, 82.

21. (15) Cody Coughlin #, Toyota, Accident, 65.

22. (29) Jennifer Jo Cobb, Chevrolet, Engine, 48.

23. (26) Jordan Anderson, Chevrolet, Engine, 33.

24. (22) BJ McLeod(i), Chevrolet, Vibration, 16.

25. (27) Camden Murphy, Chevrolet, Electrical, 12.

26. (21) Ray Ciccarelli, Chevrolet, Fuel Pump, 11.

27. (30) Mike Senica, Chevrolet, Brakes, 8.

28. (25) Todd Peck, Chevrolet, Engine, 5.

29. (3) John H. Nemechek, Chevrolet, Accident, 4.

30. (23) Joe Nemechek, Chevrolet, Vibration, 2.

Average Speed of Race Winner:  126.493 mph.

Time of Race:  01 Hrs, 34 Mins, 52 Secs. Margin of Victory:  0.176 Seconds.

Caution Flags:  5 for 23 laps.

Lead Changes:  7 among 7 drivers.

Lap Leaders:   M. Crafton 1-10; C. Briscoe # 11; J. Sauter 12; C. Briscoe # 13-15; K. Busch(i) 16-62; J. Haley # 63-65; A. Cindric # 66-89; D. Wallace Jr.(i) 90-100.

Leaders Summary (Driver, Times Lead, Laps Led):  K. Busch(i) 1 time for 47 laps; A. Cindric # 1 time for 24 laps; D. Wallace Jr.(i) 1 time for 11 laps; M. Crafton 1 time for 10 laps; C. Briscoe # 2 times for 4 laps; J. Haley # 1 time for 3 laps; J. Sauter 1 time for 1 lap.

Stage #1 Top Ten: 51,29,88,27,21,19,18,16,99,4

Stage #2 Top Ten: 51,16,4,88,27,33,24,18,29,98

 

RACE NOTES

* Matt Crafton was the Keystone Light Pole Award winner for the race.

13th pole of his NCWTS career in 397 starts

First pole of 2017

11th Top-10 of 2017

Third pole in 16 races at Michigan International Speedway

*Chase Briscoe, who finished fourth, was the fastest qualifying rookie.

*Austin Cindric, who finished fifth, was the highest placing rookie.

* Christopher Bell leads the point standings over Johnny Sauter by 37 points.

* Kyle Busch finished third. He has  posted nine Top-10 finishes in ten races at MIS.

Stats courtesy of NASCAR Communications

 

 

 

 

 

 

Kamara, Meram, Manneh score goals to lead Crew SC to 3-1 win over Chicago Fire

MATCH RECAP: COLUMBUS CREW SC 3, CHICAGO FIRE 1

Black & Gold reach 1,000 goals all-time in regular-season action;
Ola Kamara scores 12th goal of the 2017 MLS season, while
Justin Meram scores 10th goal of the 2017 MLS season;
Kekuta Manneh scores his 25th MLS career goal



Columbus Crew SC 3 – Chicago Fire 1
MAPFRE Stadium (Columbus, OH)
Saturday, August 12, 2017

SCORING SUMMARY
CHI – Michael de Leeuw (Dax McCarty) 13’ [Highlight: http://bit.ly/2vQv25z]

CLB – Kekuta Mannah (Unassisted) 18’ [Highlight: http://bit.ly/2wELLGm]

CLB – Justin Meram (Waylon Francis, Wil Trapp) 73’ [Highlight: http://bit.ly/2hUU5OS]

CLB – Ola Kamara (Penalty Kick) 87’ [Highlight: http://bit.ly/2vtEnzf]

NEXT MATCH FOR CREW SC (11-12-2, 35 points):
Columbus Crew SC at Orlando City SC (Orlando City Stadium – Orlando, FL)

Saturday, August 19 (7:30 p.m. ET / The CW Columbus, Spectrum Sports, BCSN2, CD102.5 FM, La Mega 103.1 FM, English radio stream available on ColumbusCrewSC.com).

 


MEDIA RESOURCES AVAILABLE

FULL BOX SCORE: http://bit.ly/2uQMX7C

TEAM STATISTICS: http://bit.ly/2w1Ay54


MATCH HIGHLIGHTS:
http://bit.ly/2vQ7RYX

HEAR FROM SPORTING DIRECTOR AND HEAD COACH GREGG BERHALTER IN POST-MATCH PRESS CONFERENCE: http://bit.ly/2uCa6eC

AUDIO FROM DEFENDER WAYLON FRANCIS: http://bit.ly/2uCa6eC

AUDIO FROM MIDFIELDER JUSTIN MERAM: http://bit.ly/2uCa6eC

AUDIO FROM FORWARD KEKUTA MANNEH: http://bit.ly/2uCa6eC



TODAY’S MATCH INFO:


Venue:
MAPFRE Stadium (Columbus, OH)

Referee: Armando Villarreal
Assistants: Corey Parker, Kevin Klinger
Fourth Official: Younes Marrakchi
VAR: Hilario Grajeda
Attendance: 18,690
Weather: 76 degrees and clear

 

GOALS/ASSISTS

CHI – Michael de Leeuw (Dax McCarty) 13’

CLB – Kekuta Manneh (Unassisted) 18’

CLB – Justin Meram (Waylon Francis, Wil Trapp) 73’

CLB – Ola Kamara (Penalty Kick) 88’


DISCIPLINARY SUMMARY

CHI – Joao Meira (caution) 26’

CLB – Justin Meram (caution) 59’

CLB – Jonathan Mensah (caution) 67’

CHI – Matt Polster (caution) 73’

CHI – Matt Lampson (caution) 89’


LINEUPS

Columbus Crew SC: Zack Steffen; Jonathan Mensah, Josh Williams, Lalas Abubakar; Harrison Afful (Hector Jimenez 45’), Artur, Wil Trapp ©, Waylon Francis; Kekuta Manneh (Cristian Martinez 65’), Justin Meram (Adam Jahn 90’); Ola Kamara

Substitutes not used: Brad Stuver; Nicolai Naess, Jukka Raitala, Mohammed Abu

Chicago Fire: Matt Lampson; Matt Polster, Johan Kappelhof, Joao Meira, Patrick Doody; Bastian Schweinsteiger, Dax McCarty ©; David Accam (Jonathan Campbell 90’), Michael de Leeuw, Luis Solignac (Arturo Alvarez 60’); Nemanja Nikolic


Substitutes not used:
Stefan Cleveland; Djordje Mihailovic, Drew Conner, Christian Dean, Juninho

TEAM NOTES

Justin Meram tallied his 10th goal of the 2017 MLS regular season in tonight’s match against the Chicago Fire. Meram scored Crew SC’s game-winning goal in the 73rd minute and was assisted by Waylon Francis and Wil Trapp.  Additionally, this was Meram’s fifth game-winning strike of the 2017 MLS regular season. This year, Meram has made 25 regular-season appearances (24 starts) while registering 10 goals and seven assists. Since joining Crew SC in 2011, Meram has made 179 regular-season appearances (126 starts) while scoring 33 goals and notching 32 assists. In 2017, Crew SC is undefeated with a record of 7-0-0 in regular-season matches in which Meram has scored a goal.

Forward Ola Kamara made his 50th regular-season appearance (44th start) for Crew SC in tonight’s match against the Chicago Fire, scoring in the 89th minute. With his appearance, Kamara is now one of only eight players on the current Black & Gold roster to have achieved this 50-appearance feat while with the club, joining Harrison Afful (54 appearances, 53 starts), Waylon Francis (80 appearances, 72 starts), Federico Higuain (141 appearances, 136 starts), Hector Jimenez (83 appearances, 53 starts), Justin Meram (178 appearances, 125 starts), Wil Trapp (117 appearances, 114 starts) and Josh Williams (83 appearances, 74 starts).

Ola Kamara scored Crew SC’s third goal in tonight’s match against the Chicago Fire. Kamara’s goal came in the 88th minute, as he converted a penalty kick to score his 28th regular-season goal for Crew SC since joining the club on February of 2016. This season, Kamara has made 25 regular-season appearances (24 starts) and is currently the leading scorer for the Black & Gold in the 2017 MLS regular season with 12 goals, ahead of Justin Meram (10 goals) and Federico Higuain (nine goals).

Forward Kekuta Manneh tallied his third goal of the 2017 MLS season in tonight’s match against the Chicago Fire. Manneh scored in the 18th minute to bring the Black & Gold level with the Fire. This was Manneh’s 25th career goal in MLS regular-season action and his third goal for Crew SC since joining the club on March of this year. Through 114 regular-season appearances (70 starts) in MLS, Manneh has registered 25 goals and 13 assists.
Defender Waylon Francis recorded his first regular-season assist of 2017 in tonight’s match against the Chicago Fire. Francis provided the pass that led to Justin Meram’s 73rd-minute, game-winning goal after receiving a pass from Wil Trapp. In 2017, Francis has made 10 regular-season appearances (eight starts), recording one assist. Since joining the Black & Gold in November of 2013, Francis has made 81 regular-season appearances (73 starts), recording 17 assists for Crew SC.

Midfielder Wil Trapp registered his fourth assist of 2017 in regular-season action, tying his career best which he achieved during the 2014 MLS regular season. Trapp provided an assist on Justin Meram’s game-winning goal in the 73rd minute. This year, Trapp has made 24 appearances (all starts) for the Black & Gold, providing four assists.

Defender Josh Williams made his 75th start (84th appearance) for Crew SC in tonight’s match against the Chicago Fire. Williams played the entire 90 minutes, completing 37 passes and making one tackle. In 2017, Williams has made 13 regular-season appearances (10 starts).

In tonight’s match against the Chicago Fire, Crew SC reached its 1,000th MLS regular-season goal dating back to the beginning of the 1996 MLS season. The Black & Gold’s 1,000th goal was scored by Justin Meram in the 73rd minute. With the goal, Crew SC becomes one of only five teams to have scored 1,000 goals or more in regular-season action since 1996, joining the LA Galaxy, D.C. United, the New York Red Bulls and FC Dallas.

Tonight’s match was Crew SC’s 61st regular-season all-time match against the Chicago Fire. With the win, the Black & Gold bring their regular-season record against the Fire at MAPFRE Stadium to 12-10-8. Additionally, in all-time regular-season matches, Columbus has scored 55 goals against Chicago at home, while only allowing 39.

With the win in tonight’s match, Crew SC brings its home record to 8-3-1 at MAPFRE Stadium. Next up, Crew SC travels to take on Orlando City SC for the second of three regular-season matches against the Lions in 2017, this time at Orlando City SC Stadium on Saturday, August 19 (7:30 p.m. ET / (7:30 p.m. ET / The CW Columbus, Spectrum Sports, BCSN2, CD102.5 FM, La Mega 103.1 FM, English radio stream on ColumbusCrewSC.com).

 

GAME RECAP WRITTEN BY & COURTESY OF COLUMBUS CREW SC COMMUNICATIONS

 

Rutgers Football Coach Chris Ash evaluates practice 11, Sunday, August 13, 2017

Rutgers University Football Media Day

Sunday, August 13, 2017

Head Coach Chris Ash

 

COACH ASH: Welcome. Appreciate everybody showing up today on a Sunday afternoon. Appreciate everyone’s interest in our program and what we are doing here through training camp so far.

 

Just finished our second week of training camp. We’ve had 11 practices of the 29 practices that the NCAA allows us to have, so we are not quite through the halfway point yet. Just under three weeks to go for our first game.

 

Right now I think training camp has been very productive. We’ve gotten a lot of work done. I think we’ve improved in all areas on our football team. Some areas, we’ve improved more than others but I think we have improved in every aspect of our football team through the first couple weeks and 11 practices that we’ve been able to evaluate.

Chris Ash (courtesy Rutgers)

 

I really like our football team right now. We talk a lot about these players are like our sons and we treat them like our sons; and we all love our sons, but sometimes you don’t necessarily like being around your son. We really like being around these guys. They have a great attitude. They are committed, they are invested; and we not only love them but we really like being around them every single day that we get that opportunity here in training camp. And when you can say that about your team, it’s a good spot to be in.

 

From an injury standpoint through the first 11 practices, we have our typical training camp bumps and bruises and things that happen when you play football. But for the most part, we’ve been relatively healthy other than some of the preexisting injuries we had before we started with certain individuals. But we’ve been really healthy from that standpoint.

 

The attitude and effort is there. The want-to, the care factor is there from our players, and like I mentioned before, I really like that. We are better fundamentally right now than what we were a year ago. The guys know how to practice. They come out with the same attitude and effort every single day. We don’t have to coach that. So we are able to focus on just trying to make these guys better football players here at this training camp instead of trying to build toughness and the right type of attitude that we wanted.

 

Our focus in this training camp wasn’t about building toughness. It’s about trying to make these guys better; the best football players that they can be. It’s a long training camp; it’s five weeks, and we need to make sure we come out of it with our players mentally and physically fresh, with a team that is healthy and still getting enough reps so that they know what they are supposed to do on all three phases of the game and in critical situations.

 

I like the work that we have been able to do so far. And with that, I’ll go ahead and open it to questions.

 

Q. Talking about some areas, more improved than others, which areas do you feel like you’re most improved from what you’ve seen in training camp?

COACH ASH: I would start with the quarterback position. I think we are improved at the quarterback position. We’ve got three guys that will be getting a lot of reps and we’ve been mixing them in with the ones and the twos, and I do think we’re a lot better at that position.

 

I think at the running back position, it’s a deep position when we’ve added Gus Edwards into the mix. Rob Martin has been limited early on in training camp but is getting closer and closer to 100 percent. Got several reps in the scrimmage yesterday. You add Josh Hicks in the mix, Trey Sneed in the mix, Raheem Blackshear is a freshman. I think that’s a pretty deep group. I think it’s a very competitive group and it’s a group that will be improved from last season.

 

Defensively, I like our defensive line right now. Jon Bateky is playing at a very high level. I think Jon Bateky is a very underrated player that I think — going to expect to see big things out of this year. I think linebacker right now, we’re drastically improved from where we were last year. Those are some of the areas that I feel.

 

And then special teams, not talking about snappers, holders and kickers and punters. I’m talking about the guys covering kicks. I feel a lot better right now today with who is running down covering kicks and holding guys up than what we had last year.

 

Q. Have you started to see some separation among the quarterbacks? Jerry kill has told BTN on Tuesday that he wanted to name a quarterback within about a week or so. We’re coming up on that, so how close are you to doing that?

COACH ASH: We’re getting closer to naming a quarterback. We’ve got three weeks to go before we play, and we’d like to do it sooner than later. We’ll probably get through this week, keep sorting it out a little bit, and then get ready by the end of this week, first of next week, to go ahead and name a starting quarterback.

 

But we’re not going to go all the way up until game week at all. We’ll get it done. Like I said, either end of this week or earlier next week. It’s what’s right for the players, the quarterback position; and it’s what’s right for the rest of the team, too, to know who that guy is going to be.

 

Q. Of the freshmen, who has jumped out the first two weeks?

COACH ASH: There’s been a lot of them. I’ll just talk about the offensive guys to start because that’s where we’ve had the greatest need for young players to come in and contribute right away.

 

Raheem Blackshear at running back has really stood out. He’s going to be a guy that’s going play for us. Bo Melton has stood out. Really all those wide receivers that we signed last year have stood out: Bo Melton, the Hayek brothers have both stood out, Shameen Jones, Everett Wormley. All those guys, really, are going to have a chance to compete for playing time on offense and on special teams here this fall.

 

We’re still not in position to determine what freshmen exactly are going to help us. We still have some time to sort through that, but those are the ones that are really standing out.

 

Travis Vokolek at tight end is going to be an outstanding tight end. He’s got great length. He can run. Just got to get bigger and stronger, but really like his football IQ and just the way he works every single day.

 

Micah Clark had missed a little bit of time early in training camp but the last few days he’s been back out there and showing the promise that we expected him to show at an early age, and he’ll be a guy that definitely we hope to be in the two-deep here by the time we’re done with training camp.

 

There’s some others offensively, too, but those are the ones that really are standing out defensively. Some of the linebackers — we call him 03, I don’t even attempt to say his name, 03, the linebacker, he’s a guy that’s starting to do some good things for us in defense. He’s getting some reps in the two-deep. He’ll be a special teams guy. But a lot of the offensive guys, because they are getting more reps out of need more so than the guys on defense.

 

Q. Naming the captain, what’s the process?

COACH ASH: Still a set number. We’d like to have four. But we could go up, as many as six, if we needed to. But we will have a player vote on captains this Wednesday. And that will be really about the midpoint of training camp and have a pretty good idea of who we can count on, who the players trust and who dependable and who can be our best leaders and we’ll vote on that. It will be a player vote that’s done on Wednesday night.

 

Q. Talking about Jerry Kill and how he’s come into augment the offense that you have, particularly in changing offense to keep the defense on the field, along with having five weeks to do it, how is that process going and how is it going to make the team different this year, that you’re seeing little by little.

COACH ASH: You know, started last spring, the transition in our offense started last spring. We’re going to be a lot more multiple on offense, and I think what we’re going to do is with our offense, is do what we need to do to win games.

 

There’s going to be times that we can speed it up and there’s going be to times that we have to slow it down, and we’re not just going to be a team that goes fast and we’re not just going to be a team that goes slow. We’re going to do what we need to do to have success. And that’s not just offensive success. That’s defensive success, also, because the best defense is the best offense and vice versa.

 

We’re more multiple, so we can use different personal groupings. We can use our best players. We have contingency plans if injuries occur at certain positions and we don’t have guys anymore.

 

Again, do what we need to do to manage the game and the clock so we can play really good defense, because that’s our No. 1 plan to win. We’ve got to hold on to the football and keep the offense on the field; and if that means slow it down, then that’s what we have to do.

 

But Jerry looks at that, and that’s why he was such an important hire. Because he looks at it from a head coach’s standpoint: Hey, what do we need to do to have success. It’s not about my stats; it’s not about, you know, points — we need to have points or score points. We want to have great offensive stats, but at the end of the day, what do we need to do to give ourselves a chance to have success, and. That’s the way he looks at it and that’s what I wanted in that position.

 

Q. Two-part question on Janarion. One, how is he coming along as an overall receiver –

COACH ASH: How long have we been doing this? Eight minutes, and this is the first question about Janarion? I’m shocked.

 

Q. That’s why it’s a two-parter. Second part, is the plan to use him offensively, and are you switching up offensive schemes? Last year he took some balls out of the backfield — is that the plan for him?

COACH ASH: When you talk about changing up offensive schemes, we’re not necessarily changing. We’re adding to what we did and diversifying what we did last year.

 

But Janarion is still going to be one of our top playmakers on our football team and we are going to use him how we have to use him to have success.

 

I think the thing that is different this year is we’re going to probably have some more playmakers around Janarion why we might not have to ask him to do as much. But he’s a dynamic player, and we’re going to use him as much as we possibly can; and not put him in harm’s way by playing him at every snap.

 

Wish we could get him over at corner, too, a little bit. We’re going to use him as much as we have to, and he’ll be all over the field both on special teams and on offense.

 

Q. Wonder if you’ve been able to determine what kind of role Damon Mitchell is going to have for your team, and also are you at liberty to give an update about his brother, Amir, and his recovery from his knee injury?

COACH ASH: We’ll start with Duwop, as we call him, Damon Mitchell. He’s going to have a huge role in our football team. He’s been a great addition to our roster as a graduate transfer coming in from Arkansas. He’s big, physical. He’s been learning the offense. He’s probably a lot better right now today than obviously he was in the spring and doing some good things.

 

Where it really shows up is on special teams. His history at Arkansas is he was an outstanding special teams player, and in practice, he has shown that he’s going to do that for us, also.

 

So he’s going to help us on offense at receiver and he’s going to help us on special teams. He’s a big, athletic body. Got good football IQ and excited about what he brings to the table.

 

His brother, Amir, as you guys all know, tore his ACL in the spring and his rehab is going great, probably slightly ahead of schedule. Hope to have him back playing sometime in the middle of the season. When that is, I don’t know yet, but he is rehabbing and he is ahead of schedule and he’s out there doing some things right now on the side.

 

Q. Regarding separation at quarterback, has Kyle maybe separated himself a little bit more? Looked like he handled a little more first team reps yesterday.

COACH ASH: I can’t say that either one of them has separated themselves. It just goes by day. You know, one day one looks like they have separated and the next day it’s someone else.

 

You know, so it’s really — this week, we’ve really got to find out who is going to be the most consistent and most dependable. They both got strengths. They both got weaknesses. I shouldn’t even say both; all three, because Johnathan Lewis is right in the mix, too, getting a lot of represents. Those are you that have watched Johnathan at practice, kid has got a bright future. Big, good looking, strong-armed kid that’s got tremendous football IQ, and I’m very, very excited about Johnathan Lewis’s future.

 

But all three of those guys, they have strengths, they have weaknesses they have good days and they have bad days. Right now they are all three probably putting together more good days than they are bad days. And at the end of the day, it’s about who we can trust to go out and protect the football, make good decisions and we really need to see that this week before we say, hey, this guy or that guy going to be the starter in game one.

 

Q. What are your hopes for attendance by Rutgers fans this season, and how much of a difference can that make in your home games?

COACH ASH: When you win, they all come. That’s what it is. We over — at times, over-complicate attendance. We want fans at our games. We want people there to create a tremendous environment but I also know a lot of that is determined by the product you have on the field. If I was a college football fan, too, I probably wouldn’t be paying money to go to a game that it wasn’t going to be very competitive. That’s just calling it as it is, you know.

 

We hope to be more competitive. We hope to be winning more games this year. We hope the fans will want to come out and watch us play and watch some of the exciting football we play here in the stadium.

 

You know, like I mentioned, we’re a lot better football team right now today than we were last year at this point, and hopefully that translates into more enthusiasm and excitement once we start games and people get to see that.

 

Q. Obviously we focused a lot last year publically on special teams and offense. But defensively, since that’s your background and there’s like eight or nine returning starters, how much room for improvement is there, and do you almost put a little extra on them with the offense undergoing some changes and does the defense have to take the lead for this team?

COACH ASH: No, we’ve got to be great in all three phases. It’s not, well, this phase is going to be better and it’s okay for the other ones not to be good. I don’t look at anything like that. They all three have to be operating as good as we possibly can make them.

 

Like I mentioned before, why is Jerry so important; defense is a product of your offense. Unless you’re loaded with tremendous talent and great players and you’ve just got better personnel than someone else, it’s hard to play really good defense. If you can’t move the sticks, you can’t change the field position with special teams and you’re not putting points on the board. Just you can’t do it.

 

I thought last year, you know, you look at the stats, they are not very good but we are a better defense than the stats showed. Again, you go through the course of the year when you don’t have the depth on defense to rotate guys, but you’re not — offensively, again, controlling the ball, scoring points, moving the sticks, keeping the defense off the field, you have no chance to play good defense.

 

Our players understand that. And it’s no different for the offense. You know, we’ve got to play great defense for our offense and get the ball back for our offense and put them in good field position. The best offense is a good defense; I truly believe that.

 

Both offenses and defenses are a reflection of our ability to play special teams, too. If we can’t set the offense and defense up with good field position because of our special teams play, you’re not going to have a chance to be successful.

 

You look at us last year, starting average field position on offense was one of the worst. Starting average field position on defense was one of the worst. Why is that? Well, it’s a combination of all three phases. It’s not just one phase over the other. It’s called complementary football and we have to be a team that uses our players the right way and we can complement each other so we can get better in all three phases.

 

Q. With Kemoko Turay, other than obviously the injury stuff last year, where have you seen him change and develop over the last couple of months?

COACH ASH: Really his football IQ and his focus on being a really good football player. Kemoko is one of those guys that’s had a lot or talent. And you guys have heard this before: You’ve got to be aware of talented players and talented people, at times, because they want to get by just on their talent alone. You know, that was probably Kemoko, early on in his career, is he was able to get by on just his talent alone and would maybe tend to cruise a little bit or not be as focused as you would like him to be.

 

Kemoko has really matured and really focused on being a good teammate. He’s really focused on being the best player that he can be. He wants to be an all-around good player, an every-down player. Early on in his career, he was satisfied with just being a third down guy; go out there and rush the passer. And that would be great if that’s all did he and he did it well. But we want and need him to be an every-down player, and that’s what he wants, also. And he understands that he’s got to be focused to do that.

 

He’s really learned the football — he has such a limited football background that his football IQ wasn’t really high, but he’s learned the game. At least from what I can tell here in this last year, he’s learned a lot more about the game, and you know, I just like where he’s at right now. He’s really, all the way from January to where we are right now, he’s worked really hard. He’s bigger. He’s stronger. More intelligent in terms of football right now. And he’s really focused on being the best that he can be.

 

Q. You’ve been here for — you’re entering your second season here, and when you look back to when you first were introduced and to the point where you are now, what has it been like for you, just these past 18- to 20-months that you’ve been here, you know, emotionally, just a grind, recruiting, everything; what have things been like for you?

COACH ASH: It’s been a blur. You know, it’s gone by really fast to be honest with you, because when you start, there’s just so much coming at you.

 

Again, you mentioned from just coaching players to recruiting to donor relationships, off the field behavior, academic, there’s just so much that comes at you and to be able to get all injure systems in place and to get things running the way you want and to be able to manage your time the way you need to, it takes a lot of time. It’s been a blur. Honestly, that’s just the way coaches are. You just kind of go and you go, go, go, and you Wake up one day you and look at the time and say, where did it all go.

 

I really haven’t had a lot of time to think about what we’ve been able to do and whatever, the 18 months that we’ve been here. But I know it’s gone by fast. We’ve done a lot of things and feel good about what we’re doing, but you know — I don’t know if that answers your question or not.

 

Q. Are there times where it’s overwhelming at all?

COACH ASH: No. It’s just football coaching, you know. I don’t care if you’re an assistant coach or head coach. If you’re going to do things the right way, it takes an insane amount of time. As an assistant coach, you’re doing the same thing. You’re recruiting, you’re developing you’re players. You’re doing things academically with your players. You’re doing things to build relationships with the players. So you’re always working.

 

This is not a 9:00 to 5:00 job. College football is not a 9:00 to 5:00 job. It’s not a six-month job that you do during the season. It’s a year round job and that’s the way most coaches look at it, and that’s the way I look at it. It’s no different here than it is being at other places that I’ve been a part of. It’s no — really, maybe a little bit more when you’re the head coach versus an assistant coach because there’s a few more things you’ve got to do. But the days, you get in early, stay late and you enjoy what you do.

 

Q. Gus Edwards, what’s he done the first two weeks to step out and how do you keep — with the depth that you have, how do you keep five guys happy and content with touches?

COACH ASH: You can’t keep five guys happy if they all want to touch the ball. That’s not our job to keep everybody happy.

 

Our job is to go out and move the ball and score points. If we’re worried about keeping everybody happy, that’s not going to work. We’re worried about putting the best players in position to give ourselves a chance to have success.

 

And right now through two weeks, Gus has shown that he can do that. He’s a big back, 230 pounds, got great speed, he’s got great balance. He’s also demonstrated really good ball security. The ball has not been on the ground with Gus. He’s willing — in pass protection, also and been a great addition.

 

He’s a real serious dude. Loves the game of football. Works really hard every single day. That’s not one day where you have to say, Gus, let’s get going. He shows up to work every single day and it’s made that room better and it’s made our offense better.

 

I just love having him here. He’s a guy on a mission. He’s came here, has one last year and obviously would like to have a shot at the NFL, and he knows he’s got to go out and extra great year to do that.

 

FastScripts Transcript by ASAP Sports

 

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