COLUMBUS, Ohio — The coaching staff at Rutgers knows the culture of the Ohio State football program as well as any opponent can.
First-year Rutgers coach Chris Ash was co-defensive coordinator and safeties coach for the Buckeyes for the past two seasons, including the 2014 national championship team. When he went to New Jersey, he snapped up seven staffers with Ohio State ties, all former graduate assistants or lower-level coaches under Urban Meyer.
So the Scarlet Knights (2-2) at least will have that when they visit Ohio Stadium Saturday, although it may not matter much. Ohio State (3-0), No. 2 in the AP Top 25 poll and playing as well as any team in the country, likely could hand over its playbook to Ash and company and still be the favorite. The early line has Rutgers as a five-touchdown underdog.
Still, Meyer said Ohio State will try to switch up signals and some change other things to confuse his former employees.
“We had that conversation this morning in great detail. We changed most of our defensive signals prior to this,” Meyer said Monday. “Offensively, we’re being very cautious also, also special teams. We just have to be sharp.”
Quarterback J.T. Barrett said Ash knows the Ohio State offense well from running his defense against the unit for two years in practice. It also works the same way, since Ash is running the same defense at Rutgers as he did at Ohio State.
“He’s not going to let our base things try to happen, so he’s going throw in some things we haven’t seen,” Barrett said. “At the end of the day we have to be prepared for what he’s going to throw at us and also make adjustments on the fly.”
Ash downplayed the familiarity.
“I mean, I know the players, but it’s not about me knowing the players,” he said Monday. “It’s about our players knowing the players and going out and making plays.”
Rutgers battled Iowa last week but blew too many red-zone opportunities and lost 14-7. The bigger loss may have been star wide receiver and kick returner Janarion Grant, who suffered a serious leg injury and is lost for the season. Defensive end Quanzell Lambert also was injured and is lost for the season.
OHIO STATE INJURY REPORT
Wide receiver K.J. Hill has surgery on a high ankle sprain and will be out about a month. He had two receptions in the opening game against Bowling Green, one of them a touchdown. Freshman linebacker Justin Hilliard is out with a torn bicep. Wide receiver Noah Brown and H-back Dontre Wilson each have what Meyer described as a “sore foot.” Both were rested during the bye week and likely will play.
COMING TO THE ‘SHOE
If Rutgers doesn’t have enough to worry about, Ash expects the intimidation factor at Ohio Stadium to be high for his players. The capacity of Rutgers’ home venue, High Point Solutions Stadium, is about half of Ohio Stadium’s nearly 105,000.
“The Horseshoe is an impressive venue and when it’s filled to capacity, which it is every Saturday, regardless of the opponent, it can be an intimidating venue for opponents to walk into,” he said. “You’re talking about 18- to 22-year-old kids that have never been in that environment before. A lot of times that venue can beat you regardless of what the home team does. And that happens to teams. You know, they get intimidated by just the size of the stadium and the history and the tradition and all the things that Ohio State has, and a lot of times teams are beat before the foot even hits the ball.”
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