March 22, 2010

Ash talks new role, recruiting areas

MADISON - As one of two new coaches added to the Wisconsin football staff, Chris Ash is slowly transitioning into the model head coach Bret Bielema has set up.

With five spring practices under his belt, Ash is focused on learning and maintaining the proper terminology that the team has become accustomed to.

In an effort to get to know Ash, his coaching style and his recruiting territory and philosophy, requested an interview at the conclusion of a recent practice.

The following is a question and answer with one of the newest coaches on the UW staff.

First of all, how has the first week of spring practice gone?

Ash: Good so far. I'm seeing a lot of improvement, especially in the last couple of days. I've been happy with that.

How has the transition been for you as a coach just coming into a new area?

Ash: It's been smooth. It's kind of getting old because this is my third job in three years. That's not fun, but I find I am at a place that I really like with people that I really enjoy being with. So I'm happy to be here.

Is that what brought you here? Just a chance…

Ash: There's a number of things. I have a great relationship with Dave Doeren and Charlie Partridge. We've known each other for years. But just the potential to challenge for a Big Ten title, to go to BCS games, an opportunity to play in one of the best game day atmosphere's in all of America, to live in a city like Madison, there are a lot of things that went into it.

It was a tough one because I really enjoyed where I was at and I enjoyed the people that I worked with. People in the state of Iowa were great to me. But all those other things far outweighed that and that helped with my decision.

Obviously for you coming in its probably a difficult thing, but for the players that have to adjust to a new coach, has the transition been pretty good?

Ash: Yeah, they have to adjust to me and my coaching style and the way I approach things, but I have to adjust to them too. So there is an adjustment period and transition for both of us. To the player's tribute, they've welcomed me with open arms and they've been great.

They have tried really hard to learn and pick up the things that I teach and I coach and I emphasize. My style is different than what they've been used to. Whether they like it or not, they've accepted it and understand what it is. Again, styles are different, but it's how do you help teach and develop those guys and I think they're buying in so far.

How would you describe your style? It seems like you're pretty vocal out there and you're not afraid to let people know if something is going on.

Ash: You know, Dan McCarney was the head coach at Iowa State. I worked with him for eight years and that's the way that he stressed coaching and that's just they way I've been. I want to give instant feedback. I want to be able to communicate with the players. I want to coach with enthusiasm. I want them to play with enthusiasm and juice so I'm going to coach them that way.

I'm going to be demanding and I'm going to hold them accountable for the details. I'm going to coach them on every single play. That's just kind of the way I do it.

That rubs off on the players, too. Are you starting to see that?

Ash: Yeah, I think so. They are improving and they see the improvement. Any time players can see a coach helping them improve, they are going to listen.

Are there any players that are standing out so far during the first five practices?

Ash: It's hard for me to point out any individuals. I try not to do that because it's all about the group. I can tell you that the group has really improved. They've bought in and they're going the extra mile to be as good as they can be.

It's kind of nice because you've got some veteran guys back there with Jay Valai and Aaron Henry, even though he's making a position change. That's got to help a little bit, too?

Ash: It does. They're smart guys. They're back there making a lot of checks and adjustments and getting everybody lined up. They've played a lot of football and that makes it easier. They've helped me.

Just kind of off the field stuff now. Where is your recruiting area and how is that going to work?

Ash: My primary area is going to be focused in Chicago and the Chicago area of northern Illinois. I'm going to recruit Indiana and Iowa, also. Then I'm also going to go into Dallas some. There are a lot of new areas for me that I haven't necessarily recruited in the past, but I'm excited about it and trying to dig in and find some guys for us.

You worked a lot out in California at Iowa State didn't you?

Ash: Yeah, I've been in Florida for several years before and then the last three or four years I've been focused in southern California.

If you find a kid out there would you pursue him?

Ash: Yeah, I would. What we're trying to do is identify guys that are good fits for Wisconsin. Wisconsin really hasn't recruited in southern California. Would I like to? Yeah, because I am familiar with it and I know where to go and I know the coaches. It may not be the right fit for Wisconsin and what we're looking for. But yeah, if somebody were to pop up and fit what we're looking for, absolutely, we'll recruit him.

What is your philosophy when you're on the recruiting trail. How do you get better and how do you work at it?

Ash: Well, what you said there with the word work, it's just like everything else. You've got to approach recruiting the way you approach coaching. You've got to work at it. It's all about relationships. You've got to build relationships with coaches, with parents and with recruits. You've also got to be able to identify guys that fit with Wisconsin. We're not looking for the most talented player, we're looking for guys that fit the schemes of offense and defense.

We're a little bit different than some other people are. (We're looking) for people that fit the university and the academic profile that we have here. Also, we're going out and trying to find out what people want to buy. We may not have what somebody is looking for. I'm not going to waste my time with it. Wisconsin will sell itself. I don't have to spend a lot of time selling what Wisconsin and Madison have.

I want to find guys that want to buy what we have and fit what we're looking for.

That's the whole mantra of the whole coaching staff, isn't it?

Ash: Yeah, I mean it starts at the top down. Coach Bret Bielema has a way he wants to recruit and the type of person that we want to recruit and that's the way we want it.

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