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July 28, 2014

Big Ten Media Days Rundown

Big Ten Media Days breakdown CHICAGO - All 14 Big Ten coaches got their turn at the podium Monday morning/afternoon. We have Bo Pelini and Nebraska covered pretty well in our other content, so here's a synopsis of what the other 13 coaches had to say.

Coach: Pat Fitzgerald
2013-2014: 5-7, 1-7 (sixth in Legends)
Key question: What was the mood of the team like the dynamics of the team when the hearing was going on with the union, and did that change at all after the hearing, and is it better today?
Response: "As we visited throughout the whole offseason, I believe there's no more unified football program in the country. We've been through more since probably January than most, and it's been nothing but a positive and nothing more than unifying in our locker room and throughout our entire football program. So I think we're a leg up from that standpoint."
Need to know: Trevor Siemian will be Northwestern's quarterback after rotating with Kain Colter over the last couple years, and Fitzgerald is happy to return to the one-quarterback approach.
Quotable: " think we lost track from, first of all, not sticking to what we value (in 2013). You look at the way we didn't respond very well from things that were out of our control, and that's been the hallmark of our program. And that's ultimately my responsibility as a leader. And so I took that personally this offseason, and we really worked hard in everything that we did to put our guys in difficult situations to force them to respond."
Noteworthy: Fitzgerald said he believes Northwestern is the only program in the country to retain all nine assistant coaches for four consecutive years, including both coordinators for six years... The Wildcats return 18 starters, nine on offense and nine on defense... Fitzgerald described Northwestern's three matchups against Nebraska as "nothing but entertaining."

Coach: Darrell Hazell
2013-2014: 1-11, 0-8 (sixth in Leaders)
Key question: What are your realistic expectations for this season?
Response: "Every year is its own separate entity. And until you understand that, whether you are a great football team last year or whether you are a poor football team last year, each year takes on its own little role. And we gotta make sure we separate ourselves from last year's role and move forward."
Need to know: Quarterback Danny Etling, who started the final eight games last year, will be pushed by other signal callers in fall camp.
Quotable: "Here's the biggest thing that I've learned when you take over a program, and nobody's at fault, but there's so much learning that has to happen in that first year, how you want things done. And it's not only coaches to coaches. It's coaches to players, to equipment people, to trainers. So it's a learning process... Our players, they know what the expectations are from the coaches. So we've made-- you'll be impressed on the significant strides that we've made as a program."
Noteworthy: Purdue added arguably the Big Ten's biggest player this offseason - junior college tackle Corey Clements, who stands 6-foot-8 and weighs 400 pounds... The Boilermakers return 19 starters, including 10 on offense and eight on defense.

Coach: Gary Andersen
2013-2014: 9-3, 6-2 (second in Leaders), lost in Capitol One Bowl
Key question: With the youth coming in and the turnover on the defensive front seven, how different do you expect your defense to be scheme-wise compared to last year with kind of fitting new players into the system?
Response: "With the youth, overall, I'd say you'll see us move around a little bit more than we did last year. You'll see us play with more packages than last year. Last year we would carry sometimes three different defensive packages into a game... But we'll be more multiple. And that will allow us to be what will look like we're being more aggressive and with some more athletes on the field in certain situations.
Need to know: The Badgers will have an open competition at quarterback, a bit of a surprise considering that Joel Stave started all 13 games last year. He will be challenged by Tanner McEvoy, a junior college transfer in the 2013 class who played wide receiver and safety last season before moving back to quarterback in the spring. The two will split reps in fall practice, and Andersen said he has no timeline for picking a starter.
Quotable: "The kids on the team will understand it, the coaches will understand it, and at that time we'll make a statement and have a starting quarterback. It may not be until we jog off the sidelines for the first snap at the LSU game, though."
Noteworthy: Andersen said no one player can replace wideout Jared Abbrederis, so the Badgers will be counting on multiple players to chip in and help... Melvin Gordon and Michael Caputo have picked up the leadership mantle with so many veterans gone... Andersen said his offensive line is eight or nine deep right now.

Coach: Tim Beckman
2013-2014: 4-8, 1-7 (fifth in Leaders)
Key question: How do you handle the pressure that you've been dealing with since day one when you took the job, and what has (athletic director) Mike Thomas told you about his expectations for this year?
Response: "I've been around this profession my whole life. I've seen a dad go through it. I've seen family members go through it... You know, that's the life of a football coach. If you're not going to have that life, then you shouldn't be in this profession. So it's just a part of it."
Need to know: Beckman believes Illinois' youth is maturing, and he said the Illini return 40 players from their 2013 two-deep depth chart, including 17 starters.
Quotable: "I always joke around and say my wife locks the door in December because she would like to be somewhere a little bit warmer at a bowl game. But it's been a blessing for our family to be involved with a lot of winning, with a lot of bowl opportunities."
Noteworthy: Former four-star and Nebraska target Aaron Bailey, who split time between several positions on offense last year, will compete for the open quarterback job this fall... 18 of the 22 defenders on Illinois' two-deep return this year.

Coach: Brady Hoke
2013-2014: 7-5, 3-5 (fifth in Legends), lost in Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl Key question: Considering how last season ended, has the pressure become bigger heading into this year for you to perform?
Response: "You know, why do you coach? I mean, why do you really coach? If we're doing everything we can for 115 guys, sons on our roster, from the graduation, since we've been there, 69 of 69 seniors have graduated. That's important."
Need to know: Former Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier comes in with a reputation for molding quarterbacks, and Hoke said he's done a good job with Devin Gardner and the Wolverines' other quarterbacks so far.
Quotable: "I think they've worked hard and I think a lot of that is the foundation that's been laid over the last three years and the depth that we have on our football team, it's as competitive as a team that I've been around at all positions."
Noteworthy: Five-star recruit Jabrill Peppers (no. 3 overall in 2014 class) will start his career at nickelback... This is the last season that Michigan and Notre Dame will play each other, so Hoke said there will certainly be an added emphasis on what has been an historic rivalry.

Coach: Kyle Flood
2013-2014: 6-7, 3-5 record in AAC, lost in Pinstripe Bowl
Key question: When they came to you and first said, 'Hey, we're contemplating making this move (to the Big Ten)', from a football standpoint, what were the things that went through your mind about taking your program from the Big East, the AAC, into the Big Ten?
Response: "I think the first part of your question, when they came to me and they said that, when Tim (Pernetti) came to me, I said perfect. That was our first choice. It was the conference that, really, we felt like the culture at Rutgers belonged in."
Need to know: Ralph Friedgen, who was the head coach at Maryland from 2001-2010 and won ACC Coach of the Year during his final season with the Terrapins, is now Rutgers' offensive coordinator.
Quotable: "I look at our football program and I look at the Big Ten Conference, I see a tremendous marriage. I don't think there's any other conference in the country that we would want to play in, the premier academic athletic conference that the Big Ten is, and I don't think there's any better choice that the Big Ten could have made than to add Rutgers University."
Noteworthy: Quarterback Gary Nova was uneven last year, but Flood said he threw just one interception in 15 spring practices and will begin the season as the starer... The New England Patriots have drafted a number of former Scarlet Knights in recent years, a fact that Flood says shows the school prepares its players for the NFL.

Coach: Jerry Kill
2013-2014: 8-4, 4-4 (third in Legends), lost in Texas Bowl
Key question: How critical is it for you in order to take that next step (in the passing game) to get more production through the year?
Response: "I think through the past we've always made decision on a quarterback, and probably didn't do that enough a year ago. And we said, 'Hey, Mitch (Leidner) is going to be our quarterback... And we established that. And I think when you know you're going to be the guy, it's a little bit different."
Need to know: Minnesota has lost its last six bowl games dating back to 2005.
Quotable: "We've done some things that hadn't been done for a while. I think we kind of set the tone where in our third year where we've been before we start the turnaround process, and now we have to take it another step."
Noteworthy: Kill took a leave of absence in 2013 to focus on his health, as he has a history of seizures. But the topic wasn't even brought up Monday, a sign that Kill is hopefully feeling better... Kill is very committed to giving Leidner, who played in ten games (starting four) last year, a chance at quarterback.

Michigan State
Coach: Mark Dantonio
2013-2014: 11-1, 8-0 (first in Legends), won the Rose Bowl
Key question: How are you adjusting to all the new attention (after winning the Rose Bowl)?
Response: "We've gotten to a point where we've done some special things. What's on our agenda next, how do we handle that success, and that's really going to be one of the biggest things we'll have to deal with this year. I think we're a little bit more of the hunted. That's a good place to be, but it's also a very precarious place to be as well."
Need to know: The Spartans had three defensive backs - members of the self-proclaimed "No Fly Zone" - be named first-team All-Big Ten in 2013.
Quotable: "We're not looking for any entitlement, anybody to put us up there. We'll get what we earned."
Noteworthy: Dantonio compared Connor Cook to former MSU quarterbacks Brian Hoyer and Kirk Cousins, who both needed some time before they settled in and became future NFL signal callers.

Coach: Randy Edsall
2013-2014: 7-6, 3-5 in the ACC, lost the Military Bowl
Key question: Is there a certain type of player that you recruit when you're in (the ACC), and is there another type of player that you have to turn your attention to towards recruiting in the Big Ten now?
Response: "We have a philosophy of who we are offensively and defensively and what we want to do special teams. We're not going to change the type of young man that we want to recruit to the University of Maryland just because we're coming to the Big Ten."
Need to know: The Terrapins last won a conference title in 2001.
Quotable: "We have 10 new opponents that we have to prepare for. So the spring and the summer has been a whirlwind for us as coaches from the standpoint of getting to know the teams here in the Big Ten that we're going to be going against and understanding their personnel, understanding their schemes and what they like to do."
Noteworthy: Edsall was the member of the Jacksonville Jaguars coaching staff in their inaugural season in 1994, so he's confident he can handle moving conferences... Wide receiver Stefon Diggs is reportedly fully recovered from the injuries that slowed him last year.

Ohio State
Coach: Urban Meyer
2013-2014: 12-2, 8-0 (first in Leaders), lost Orange Bowl
Key question: Braxton Miller has had some durability issues during his career. Do you guys have to take any steps to make sure that you ensure that he stays healthy, any special steps? And what are some reasonable expectations in your mind for his senior season?
Response: "So do we try to slow Braxton down? Absolutely not. We try to protect him, surround him and maybe come up with a good scheme to get the ball out of his hands maybe a little quicker. Those are all the things that we address."
Need to know: Meyer is 24-2 in two seasons at Ohio State. The Buckeyes' first Big Ten loss under Meyer came in the conference title game against Michigan State last year.
Quotable: "So it's about time we played linebacker ball, linebacker play the way Ohio State is used to. I think you're going to see it this year."
Noteworthy: Meyer said he's concerned about OSU's offensive line and pass defense... Defensive lineman Tracy Sprinkle is no longer with the program.
Penn State
Coach: James Franklin
2013-2014: 7-5, 4-4 (third in Leaders), ineligible for postseason
Key question: Are there experiences you had getting Vanderbilt up out of the basement at SEC that you can apply to dealing with scholarship deficiencies and some of the obstacles there at Penn State?
Response: "I do think there's some similarities. Whenever you take over a program and you're trying to do things and there may be challenges, for whatever reason the challenges exist in the past, they're there, so I think some of those experiences are going to be helpful. I think one of the things that we really believe in is by creating depth."
Need to know: Penn State currently has the No. 6 recruiting class in the nation. The Nittany Lions have 18 commits, including 11 four-star recruits.
Quotable: "Our depth chart is... we just basically listed out by position by seniority. Because basically I want the message to our players and everybody involved that you're going to have to come and compete and earn your job every single year and every single day."
Noteworthy: The Nittany Lions begin the season with a game against Central Florida in Ireland.

Coach: Kevin Wilson
2013-2014: 5-7, 3-5 (fourth in Leaders)
Key question: Is Tevin Coleman ready to take the next step and become a full-time running back in the Big Ten?
Response: "I think, realistically he is probably one of the more talented, if not as talented as any back in this league. I think he led the nation last year in touchdown runs of over 40 yards. I think he was third or fourth in the nation of touchdown runs over 30. He's an impact guy. Very, very strong. Very, very talented."
Need to know: Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson split reps at quarterback last season, but Roberson transferred to Illinois State, leaving the job to Sudfeld alone.
Quotable: "I don't use that offense hurting the defense. I think we complement each other. So we played a lot of young guys last year. We recruited 15 guys to that side of the ball. Got 10 guys back, and you'll see some young guys in the mix. We're going to be young, we're going to be more athletic, we're making a change, we're going tobeaworkinprogress. ButfromwhatIsawin spring, we're going to be significantly improved on D."
Noteworthy: The Hoosiers have just six home games this year.
Coach: Kirk Ferentz
2013-2014: 8-4, 5-3 (second in Legends), lost Outback Bowl
Key question: (Offensive tackle) Brandon Scherff has so much talent and he's getting so much hype. Tell us what makes him so special compared to some of the other Iowa linemen that you've had through the program.
Response: "The first thing I would say is he's a lot like some of the other great players that we've had. And that's a very complimentary term. First guy that comes to mind is Marshal Yanda who's a three-time Pro Bowl guy and three-time All-Pro. And the first thing I think about with Marshal is just his enthusiasm and his eagerness to improve and work hard, and that certainly would sum up Brandon as well."
Need to know: Iowa is 27-24 over the past four seasons, including a 15-17 record in the Big Ten.
Quotable: "A year ago at this time we didn't know if we had a quarterback on our roster that could play and compete in the league... I think (Jake Rudock did a lot of great things in his first year as a quarterback for us. And the big thing about it, he's a really smart guy. He's an extremely hardworking guy."
Noteworthy: NFL.com's Gil Brandt said Scherff could be the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL draft... Rudock's 13 interceptions in 2013 were tied for the most in the Big Ten.

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