Ohio State joined the party on day two of Big Ten Football Media Days in Chicago, but Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes weren’t the only heavy hitters to make their way through the interview room.
Here’s a sampling of storylines.
1. Urban Meyer is not worried about the talent of his fifth Ohio State team.
The coach of the Buckeyes told reporters raw ability won’t be an issue this fall, but the coaching staff must meet the challenge of getting the team ready to play.
“I can’t recall a time where you’re talking about a very, very talented group of players that have waited their turn and are a very talented group that got there in June. If we’re going to play — my goal is to play every freshman. I know that doesn’t happen, but we want to play the freshmen as soon as we can.”
2. Mark Dantonio won’t confirm his starting quarterback – yet.
The coach of the defending Big Ten champions must replace a three-year starter at quarterback. Tyler O’Connor has been perceived to be the leader, but Dantonio insisted he still has four candidates to evaluate this fall – including true freshman Messiah deWeaver from Wayne.
“But we’re going to keep the pressure on our quarterback position and on our quarterback coach, Brad Salem. I think that’s the thing to do right now. Not dependent on one guy. Not to say, hey, he’s our guy. That will be defined through August camp and early in the season. But we’re going to give people opportunities.”
3. Wisconsin does not know who will be its quarterback yet.
Paul Chryst also has to replace a long-time starter at quarterback, but the coach of the Badgers only mentioned two players who are still in the running.
“I’m excited with Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook,” Chryst said. “They’ve done a great job to this point of not worrying about the common question of who is going to be the starter and the quarterback competition. But spending their time trying to work on and improve in the things in their control. And they’ve done a great job this summer. And I know our players respect who they are as people, as teammates, and those two will get a ton of reps in fall camp. And certainly I don’t know when, but we’ll name a starting quarterback.
“But I think our job as coaches is to make sure that both of them are ready to play and play well in the first game and I think for both of them their job is to make sure they focus on being the best QB they can be. And I like what they’ve done.”
4. Lovie Smith is keeping it simple on the recruiting trail.
The new head coach at Illinois last coached at the college level in 1995 when he as mentoring defensive backs at Ohio State, so it came as little surprise he was asked how recruiting has changed in that period of time.
“Nowadays there’s a lot more information you can get,” the former coach of the Bears and Buccaneers said. So when you initially start those conversations they know a lot about you right away.
“We all have a history that you can really research, but for me this is who I am. I don’t feel like I’m a phony. I let people know how we’re going to do things. And, again, players can get information from players that we have, to get the information they need. So that’s how we’re doing it. We feel like once people really listen to how we’re going to do things and see how we coach on a daily basis, that people will want to get onboard with that.”
5. Kevin Wilson hopes his third defensive coordinator is the charm.
Indiana’s head coach has delivered on his reputation as an offensive guru in Bloomington, but the defense has been consistently awful during his five-year tenure.
Armed with a new contract from the IU administration, he got himself a new defensive coordinator in the winter: Tom Allen.
“I met with him for three hours and talked about how do you get your staff to buy in? How do you get people to believe in you? How do you get kids to play hard? How do you get them how do you correct mistakes?” Wilson said. “And we’re going for throats. And I said, ‘Hey, what kind of defense do you run?’ I had no clue. He runs a 4-2-5. That’s great because I think that’s one of the better plans.”
6. DJ Durkin is embracing his powerful new friend at Maryland.
If UnderArmour founder Kevin Plank wants to do for Maryland what Phil Knight and Nike did for Oregon, well, the Terps’ first-year head coach is not going to complain one bit.
“He’s a Terp. He played at Maryland. Was a great special teams player, a guy who went there as a walk-on and earned his scholarship. Like everything else in his life he’s earned what he’s got.
“I think most importantly, I think the values of our program are in line with the values of UnderArmour. I think that’s one of the coolest parts about it. It’s a natural bond and allegiance with one another because it’s easy. What we hold in high regard in our program, he holds in high regard in his program, in his business as well.”
7. Kirk Ferentz wants Iowa to meet expectations for once.
Iowa never seems to finish where the experts think the Hawkeyes will under Ferentz. When they are expected to be good, the Hawkeyes have often faltered, and when they have soared, it’s generally been from under the radar.
Coming off an undefeated regular season and Big Ten West division title, Ferentz’s team is dealing with high expectations this fall, so it was only natural that was the first thing he was asked about in Chicago.
“Our ability to handle little details and do little things well on a consistent basis typically is a measure of our success,” Ferentz said. “And last year is a really good illustration of that. I think if you look at it all but one game, there weren’t many games where we were in the last four minutes where anybody on our sideline felt very comfortable. All those games went down to the wire. They’re extremely competitive and again that’s just I think the nature of college football. It certainly is for us at Iowa. And for us to be successful we’ve got to be able to come out on the right side of those things and again it usually gets down to little detail things.”
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