Texas defensive coordinator Chris Ash has sat on head coach Tom Herman’s increasingly hot seat before.
Ash was in the same position as Herman just a season ago when he was the head coach at Rutgers University. Rumors of Ash’s firing began circulating weeks into the season, and Ash was fired following a 52-0 loss to Michigan in late September 2019.
“It's not easy because there are a lot of people in your organization that you're responsible for, and you can only control your messaging,” Ash said in a Wednesday teleconference. “There's so many other people that can influence the mindset of your players. … It is what it is. It's not easy because there's all kinds of things that are thrown at you when you don't win the games that people want you to win.”
But Ash said focus isn’t an issue ahead of this weekend’s matchup with Kansas State, even after Texas was effectively eliminated from Big 12 Championship contention and junior team captains Samuel Cosmi and Caden Sterns both declared for the NFL Draft. Ash said while the ultimate goal is to compete for championships, the focus is on the process to reach the goal, not the goal itself.
Texas coaches are still tasked with navigating outside noise, however, as Herman’s job security continues to decrease. Ash said he is “not naive to the fact that (the players) live on their phones,” and he is in constant communication with his players on where their focus needs to be.
“It’s disappointing that (the Big 12 Championship) goal is gone, but the ultimate goal of playing the best that we can play is still there,” Ash said. “(It’s) easy for everybody to focus on negatives. I'll focus on the positives. We lost three games. It sucks. … You know, if you look at those three games that we lost there probably a handful of plays (that) could have determined the outcome differently for us, and we'd sit here and have a different conversation.”
He said he shares the same message with his players and recruits and is adamant that the sky isn’t falling within the program despite outside rumors. He said he is focusing on the positive that his defense has continued to improve and is moving in the right direction.
“That's my message to our players, that's my message to recruits and that's my focus,” Ash said. “To continue to help us overcome those few plays that have prevented us from winning the games that we need to win to get to where we all want to be.”
Ash said the defense has bounced back and refocused after Friday’s loss to Iowa State and has been receptive to the coaches’ messages of focus and improvement. Though the team still has two games left, he said the unit is ready to start finishing the season off this weekend against Kansas State.
“It's really about having pride in your performance and being a pro and finishing what you've started the right way,” Ash said. “That's what our guys have been focused on, and I don't anticipate that changing, but again, it's 2020. Who knows?”