Rutgers_Ash

Rutgers head coach Chris Ash responds to a question during the Big Ten Conference NCAA college football media days Friday, July 19, 2019, in Chicago. (AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast)

Tyshon Fogg remembers the day he became a captain for the Rutgers football team.

It’s a day he won’t forget.

“I remember that day vividly. It was right before our spring game,” Fogg said. “It was a euphoric type of feeling, like, ‘Wow, it’s really happening.’ It definitely means a lot to me, my family, my close friends in general. To elect me to lead the guys means a lot to me.”

The junior linebacker played in all 12 games a year ago. Off the field, he was named a Big Ten Distinguished Scholar and was picked to the Academic All-Big Ten list at the end of last season.

That’s all nice, but man, being a captain is extra special.

“It’s something I’ve dreamed about ever since I was little,” Fogg said. “Just being a captain and a leader of a group of guys who are going to come out and go hard every single day is definitely an honor.”

The Scarlet Knights have plenty to prove this season. When you go 1-11, like Rutgers did a year ago, there is hardly anywhere to go but up.

And up is just where Fogg plans to take it. He wants to be part of a big turnaround this season.

“The biggest thing is to be the most improved team in America,” Fogg said. “Every day we’re fighting towards that. Just keep taking those stepping stones and get better every single day, and pushing the guys on the team to be accountable for each other and just improve every single day.”

Rutgers coach Chris Ash understands the task ahead. Ash is 7-29 in his three years as head coach of the Scarlet Knights.

Of course the expectations at Rutgers are nothing like you see at Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State or the other bluebloods of college football. Still, Ash is going to need to turn the program around sometime in the near future.

Now might be a good time to start.

“When you’re 1-11, things are difficult,” Ash said. “I own it, and the good thing is that we can control our future.

“We’re the ones that determine whether we’re going to stay there or move forward, and I’m really excited about our football team, the way they’ve responded, the way they’ve worked, the way they’ve come together, and excited about what we can show on the field in terms of improving from last season.”

Having John McNulty back as offensive coordinator could help. McNulty is the first Rutgers OC to return for a second season in a decade.

That fact by itself tells you the state of the Rutgers program. It’s hard to build any consistency without some stability on the coaching staff.

It’s often said that young teams have to learn how to win games. It may be just as important for them to learn how to not lose games.

“I get asked a lot about what we have to do to improve, and first and foremost, I believe that more games are lost than they are won, and for us we have to figure out, and it starts with me, how not to lose games,” Ash said. “That starts with taking care of the football, foolish penalties, playing with great fundamentals and tremendous effort, and those are things that we’ve been working on through spring, this summer, and we’re going to focus on here in training camp as we get ready for our opening game against UMass.”

Fogg is trying to help is team do just that. And it may be a cliche, but he’s just taking it one day at a time.

“You have to get better every single day,” Fogg said. “You can’t have a day wasted. Every day you have a chance to put on those pads, every day you have a chance to be with the team and getting better, you have to really use that.”

Fogg wants to be a leader, but he won’t have to do it by himself. He’ll have three other captains to help him.

“Within this team, everyone is a leader,” Fogg said. “But to have those four captains step up every single day, for people to be able to go to the captains and ask questions, it was something we needed.”

Now, they just need to win some games.

Bob Hamar is sports editor for The Independent.

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