Ohio State wasn’t there yet, but plenty of interesting tidbits emerged from the first of two Big Ten Football Media days in Chicago.
Here is a nugget from each coach’s opening press conference.
1. A local product could be key for Northwestern
The Wildcats must replace five starters from last season’s defense, including both ends. That should mean an opportunity for Centerville High School graduate Ifeadi Odenigbo. A key reserve for three seasons, Odenigbo has 13.5 career sacks and was among the players head coach Pat Fitzgerald mentioned in his remarks Monday.
“He’s stronger than he’s ever been,” Fitzgerald said.
2. Ditto for Purdue
While Fitzgerald wants to see Odenigbo help his program maintain success, his counterpart at Purdue used one of his former Elk teammates as an example of the progress he hopes to see this fall.
“You take a look at Jake Replogle,” Hazell said of his senior defensive tackle. “He’s 6-5, 290 pounds. We played him as a true freshman at 6-4.5 and 242 pounds. That’s not fair to him. That’s not fair to the program, but that’s something we had to do. He’s a good player. He’ll play at any place. So we’re excited to have him ready to go.”
Hazell, a former Ohio State assistant who is just 6-30 so far in West Lafayette, hopes not to have to rush players into the lineup anymore, though his time could be getting short if wins don’t start coming more often.
3. Chris Ash has no illusions
After seeing Michigan raid his new recruiting backyard (the state of New Jersey) last winter, the first-year Rutgers head coach was asked about a rivalry with Michigan.
The former OSU assistant corrected the question.
“I’ll start by saying there’s no rivalry with Michigan yet,” Ash said. “They’ve done some things that we have not been able to do and I think it’s great when fans get a chance in the offseason to talk about college football and have fun with college football, have a tremendous amount of respect for Coach (Jim) Harbaugh and the job he’s done at Michigan and the program they’ve had for several years.
“And we’re going to work the best that we can here at Rutgers to create rivalries with everybody that we play. And it’s great that the fans are involved and care and passionate about what we’re doing at Rutgers.”
4. James Franklin is excited about his new offensive coordinator
After two years of mostly putrid offensive performances, Penn State has a new offensive coordinator in Joe Moorhead. He will be breaking in a new quarterback, but his head coach is optimistic the skill players can help with implementing the new attack.
“What we have at the running back position,” Franklin said in reference to Saquon Barkley, a freshman All-American last season. “We went from being inexperienced at wide receiver to now being experienced. We’ve got mobile quarterbacks on our roster that complement those things. I think all of it will time up extremely well. I think Joe has got a nice scheme, but we also have the personnel that’s going to make it effective as well.”
He added he has 17 scholarship offensive linemen after having to try (and fail) to get by with low numbers there the past two seasons.
5. Jim Harbaugh is excited about Jabrill Peppers.
This shouldn’t come as a big surprise to anyone who saw Peppers play on both sides of the ball (and special teams) last season as a redshirt freshman, but the Michigan head coach was exceptionally effusive about Peppers’ ability.
“He can play just about anywhere on a football field and be effective,” Harbaugh said before naming almost every position, nickel back, which the coach identified as probably his best position.
“He’s a very fiery guy. He is highly motivated and with the type of athleticism that he has, I truly believe he keeps working and keeps having the same intensity and focus that he’s had and the seriousness about being a very good football player and student and all those things.
“He could explode into I mean a giant of a man.”
6. Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys might not be against eliminating the kickoff.
After a report last week multiple groups could explore doing away with the kickoff, Claeys was asked for the Big Ten’s stance.
“We haven’t talked about it as Big Ten coaches. My own personal belief is if that play obviously is causing that many injuries and it’s that obvious from the data, then we need to replace it. Find a good way to replace it and get it out of the game.”