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July 26, 2012

Big Ten Media Days: Thursday snapshot

Big Ten Media Days breakdown CHICAGO - All 12 Big Ten coaches stepped to the podium Thursday to provide their thoughts on both their teams and the league for the upcoming season. Since we've got plenty of information on Bo Pelini and the Huskers, here's a primer on what the other 11 coaches said.

A main topic of discussion was the sanctions handed down to Penn State and whether each coach would be open to pursuing current PSU players, who are allowed to transfer without penalty. Their responses are among the answers below.

MORE ON MEDIA DAYS: Media Days preview | 2013 Thursday LIVE Media Days updates

Coach: Bret Bielema
2010-2011: 11-3, 6-2 conference (first in Leaders), lost Rose Bowl
Key question: Do you believe the Big Ten has a problem with Big Ten schools recruiting committed players? Is it best to have a 'gentleman's agreement'?
Response: "I didn't say anything about a gentleman's agreement. I didn't say anything about coaches recruiting other players. That was kind of spun into the word. So I've never made any comment about that. I've never referred to it in any way, shape or form."
Need to know: Quarterback Danny O'Brien, who transferred from Maryland, arrived in early June. Bielema said that while he hasn't been able to be with players during workouts yet, he's heard good things. That being said, O'Brien will have to compete for the job.
Quotable: "I'm not blind and oblivious to the fact that we're in a division that has six teams and only four are eligible for the Big Ten championship game. But it really won't change our approach."
Stance on recruiting Penn State players: "I made the decision as a head coach that we will not reach out to any Penn State players."
Noteworthy: Wisconsin's appearance in the inaugural Big Ten championship game stood out more than any other game in Bielema's career… Every left tackle that has started for Bielema at Wisconsin has been a first-round draft pick in the NFL.

Coach: Danny Hope
2010-2011: 7-6, 4-4 conference (third in Leaders), won Little Caesars Bowl
Key question: What's your thought on recruiting fifth-year transfer players, as Wisconsin has done?
Response: "If a guy has graduated and spent his time at his institution and has his diploma and has other options that he feels can serve himself, maybe that's a good thing for the player. On the flip side, if you're the coach and you invested four years training an athlete… you hate to see that guy leave your program."
Need to know: Caleb TerBush comes into fall camp as the No. 1 quarterback, but there will be a competition.
Quotable: "(This is the) first time since I became the head coach at Purdue we potentially have a very good football team coming back."
Stance on recruiting Penn State players: "As long as we're compliant, we're going to exercise every opportunity we can to enhance our football team."
Noteworthy: Purdue is much more disciplined than a year ago… Quarterback Robert Marve's health is back to 100 percent and he looks the best he has since he arrived at Purdue… Winning the turnover battle is a major emphasis this year.

Ohio State
Coach: Urban Meyer
2010-2011: 6-7, 3-5 conference (fourth in Leaders), lost Gator Bowl
Key question: Does the fact that you can't participate in the postseason make 2012 a kind of buffer year?
Response: "There's no such thing as a buffer year, and certainly not at Ohio State, certainly not with myself or our staff or our players."
Need to know: Tight end Jake Stoneburner, who was arrested in early June, is actively working out with but has not been reinstated to the team. A decision on his status won't be made until training camp.
Quotable: On Ohio State's sanctions: "We got hit with a two-by-four that day they said you can't go to a bowl game. It was a two-and-a-half week barrage of negativism and the recruiting that we were dealing with. You find out who wants to be a Buckeye. There's not going to be half-ins anymore."
Stance on recruiting Penn State players: "I have a problem with that… A young man has the right to play wherever he wants to play. However, when he part of a team, you're getting into a situation I'm not familiar with, and we're not going to get very familiar with it."
Noteworthy: Meyer has no feud with Bielema… year in the broadcast booth as an analyst for ESPN gave Meyer some new ideas for his team… Meyer thinks the Big Ten is lacking in athleticism compared to the SEC, but the conference is changing.

Coach: Tim Beckman
2010-2011: 7-6, 2-6 conference (fifth in Leaders), won Kraft Fight Hunger Bowl
Key question: Can you talk about why you've chosen to emphasize the Northwestern game so much?
Response: "We call it the team upstate, and I'm not scared to say that. We're going to make it a rivalry and we're going to make it a very, very important part of our football season."
Need to know: The offense will be different. Beckman plans to better utilize quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase's dual-threat talents. He said the Illini will also have packages with two quarterbacks on the field at once.
Quotable: "When (potential NFL draft picks) Michael Buchanan, Graham Pocic, Terry Hawthorne and Akeem Spence made the decision to come back, I sure hope that's the start of something special."
Stance on recruiting Penn State players: "We were in State College, but we did not go on campus. We went to two establishments outside campus and called some individuals and if they wanted to come by, it was their opportunity to come by.
Noteworthy: Scheelhaase is the favorite to start again, but there will be a competition… the offensive line is a concern… lost final six conference games of 2011.

Coach: Kevin Wilson
2010-2011: 1-11, 0-8 conference (sixth in Leaders) Key question: What do you have to do to improve a defense that gave up over 240 yards per game on the ground each season?
Response: "I think we'll be a lot better on defense, but we're not at a point physically and year two play lights-out, great defense. We've got to score a lot of points too. Everyone talks about our struggling defense. We averaged 18.1 points. That's as poor of an offense as I've been around since 1999."
Need to know: The Hoosiers ended 2011 on a nine game losing streak. What else do you need to know.
Quotable: "When you're a 1-11 football team, there's no job safety. There's nothing etched in stone."
Stance on recruiting Penn State players: "We're working on our program, our team. We have not studied tape or talked about guys to this date. If someone's interested, that's a kid that's wanting to transfer and this stance: let's go recruit those guys."
Noteworthy: Tre Roberson enters camp as the favorite to win the quarterback job… Indiana brought in a couple of JUCO linebackers Wilson is impressed with.

Penn State
Coach: Bill O'Brien
2010-2011: 9-4, 6-2 conference (second in Leaders), lost TicketCity Bowl - all wins vacated
Key question: What will be the key to having success on the field in the upcoming years with the restrictions?
Response: "I came from a league (the NFL) where there were 53 players on the roster. So I'm pretty well aware of how to handle a roster of 65 scholarship players. We have plans in place. I don't think that's as bad as everybody says it is.
Need to know: As of Thursday, O'Brien didn't have an update on running back Silas Redd, who is rumored to have met with USC coaches. No players have yet informed O'Brien that they intend to transfer.
Quotable: "I've heard the talk that this is so bad and what are we going to do. I don't see it that way. I see it as an opportunity. I see it as a little bit of adversity we need to overcome."
Noteworthy: Matt McGloin will be the starting quarterback… the first thing O'Brien did after the sanctions came down on Monday was to have a meeting with the players… O'Brien wants to install an offense similar to what he had as the offensive coordinator of the New England Patriots.

Coach: Pat Fitzgerald
2010-2011: 6-7, 3-5 conference (fifth in Legends), lost Meineke Car Care Bowl
Key question: Is there an imbalance problem between the Legends and Leaders divisions in the Big Ten?
Response: "As a coach, you think about those things. From a macro and big-picture standpoint, maybe our division winner should automatically be in the championship. Then, you take the other teams that are eligible and you put a committee together of the 12 (Athletic Directors) and Commissioner Delany as the 13th vote, kind of how we do in the playoff. That would make a little bit of sense to me and I like the idea of maybe having two guys from our division. Who knows?"
Need to know: Wildcats are hoping to get their first bowl win under Fitzgerald. Northwestern returns 13 starters in 2012, including their specialists.
Quotable: "If we handle our business, we're going to be in position to play for a Big Ten championship."
Stance on recruiting Penn State players: "There may be free agency created by rule and by regulation, but we're not going to be a part of it. Number one, we believe in our team that we currently have. We're excited about our team. We've set our roster already."
"If you're asking me my opinion, I just believe there are certain things we're going to do and we're going to stand for as a program and this is one of those cases."
Noteworthy: The Wildcats have gone to four straight bowl games, something Fitzgerald said is unprecedented in the program… Fitzgerald called sophomore safety Ibraheim Campbell the quarterback of the defense… the coaches have a lot of confidence in sophomore quarterback Kain Colter, who already has more experience than previous starters Mike Kafka and Dan Persa did when they took over the job.
Coach: Jerry Kill
2010-2011: 3-9, 2-6 conference (sixth in Legends)
Key question: Can you describe how you plan to use quarterback MarQueis Gray after he spent so much time running last year?
Response: "I think he's come a long way. I think our big deal is we need to get better people around him. We've got to get receivers and running backs and people that can step up and make plays. We've worked hard in recruiting to do that."
Need to know: Kill feels "fantastic" physically after suffering a stroke during a game last season.
Quotable: "I think we're in a huge transition, but a positive one. Our kids have been through some adversity and some tragedy in the past year. I think it's brought us closer together."
Stance on recruiting Penn State players: "We're not going to do anything to go see players. If a young man called us from Penn State, we'd do the proper procedures. But right now, we're focusing on what we need to do to become a better football team.
Noteworthy: Minnesota has just 10 seniors… The Golden Gophers have 36 new players this season.

Coach: Brady Hoke
2010-2011: 11-2, 6-2 (second in Legends), won Sugar Bowl
Key question: With Alabama on your schedule, do you think the Big Ten lacks the speed and athleticism of the SEC?
Response: "I think everybody's different. I think people make the mistake of lumping the whole conference in on not having speed or whatever it may be."
Need to know: The coaching staff has yet to make a determination on the availability of running back Fitzgerald Toussaint following his DUI arrest last Saturday.
Quotable: "We had a disappointing year a year ago when we didn't win the Big Ten Championship. And at Michigan we've not won that championship since 2004."
Stance on recruiting Penn State players: "I'd be lying if I said we didn't look at the roster to some degree, but we've kind of made a decision that we're going to stay and recruit the guys and keep our business our business."
Noteworthy: 10 of Michigan's 12 games are against teams that went to bowl games in 2011, and five of them are on the road… the team went to the West Coast this offseason for a few days to undergo a Navy SEALS-type training session… quarterback Denard Robinson has become a guy Hoke can count on as a leader. The quarterback said he's a solid 200 pounds.

Michigan State
Coach: Mark Dantonio
2010-2011: 11-3, 7-1 (first in Legends), won Outback Bowl
Key question: Was there any trepidation of adding Boise State, a noted BCS giant killer, to the schedule this year?
Response: "We have a deep amount of respect for them. We need to get our quarterback experience, get our wide receivers experience. We're talented but inexperienced. The best way to do that is put them in the light, put them in the camera, put them on prime time and put them in a situation where there is something to gain by playing well and winning. That's what we've been able to do."
Need to know: The Spartan defense, the Big Ten's best in 2011, returns eight starters and 18 players off of 2011's two-deep depth chart.
Quotable: "We have a void in leadership in terms of who is left, in terms of Kirk Cousins, but with that said, I think we've got great chemistry on our team and established players who will assume the leadership responsibility."
Stance on recruiting Penn State players "I don't think there are any winners when you speak of that entire situation. But we acknowledge we have a program that we have to run and try and get better. And so what we have done is if people have contacted us, a coach, a parent, we've followed through. That's the extent of it."
Noteworthy: Long snapper Steve Moore underwent surgery Wednesday to fix broken vertebrae in his neck and will be rehabbing for six to 12 months… wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett, a transfer from Tennessee, could be a major weapon after the Spartans lost B.J. Cunningham and KeShawn Martin graduated… Dantonio believes the strongest point of his team might be both lines.
Coach: Kirk Ferentz
2010-2011: 7-6, 4-4 conference (fourth in Legends), lost Insight Bowl
Key question: What are your expectations for the running back position?
Response: "You look at us historically - Fred Russell was our primary back in '02 and '03 and obviously we had Shonn Greene in '08. And then you'll get a year like '09 where we basically had a committee and a true freshman ended up being the MVP of the Orange Bowl that year. So there's a lot of different ways to have success, and we're open to any of them."
Need to know: Ferentz is now the longest-tenured coach in the Big Ten (14 seasons).
Quotable: "I think you can draw a parallel between the University of Iowa and the Pittsburgh Steelers - they stay with their people. And I'm very, very appreciative of that."
Stance on recruiting Penn State players: "First and foremost, everybody needs to be compliant. I think after that, it's a matter of people doing what they feel is appropriate. We'll try to continue to do the same moving forward."
Noteworthy: Freshmen Greg Garmon and Barkley Hill will both get chances to play at running back… Iowa was 6-1 at home but just 1-4 on the road in 2011… Brian Ferentz, Kirk's son and a lineman at Iowa in the mid-2000s, is now the team's offensive line coach.

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