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From the Penn State scandal to signing day controversies to a suddenly depleted Legends Division, there was plenty to talk about at the 2012 Big Ten media day on Thursday, and new Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had thoughts on it all.
Participating in his first Big Ten media day as the Buckeyes' head coach, Meyer fielded questions for more than 14 minutes in front of gathered media members at the Hyatt Regency in downtown Chicago, Ill. Ohio State's third head coach in as many years, Meyer touched on topics ranging from the current status of his roster to his impressions of his new conference.
After weeks of speculation, Meyer officially announced that his first fall camp as the Buckeyes head coach will begin on Friday, Aug. 3. That provides his players just eight days to prepare for what is expected to be one of the more rigorous and uptempo camps in recent Ohio State history.
"I like our players. I like our team. We had a conditioning test that our players are telling me about. And the energy level is real high right now in Columbus with our football team," Meyer said. "I'm anxious to get going."
Meyer also indicated next Friday could see the return of tight end Jake Stoneburner and left tackle Jack Mewhort to the Ohio State roster. Both players were suspended indefinitely and subsequently removed from their scholarships after pleading guilty to disorderly conduct charges in June.
"They're not reinstated yet. They're actively working out. They have to fulfill their penance or obligation that we've asked them to do," Meyer said. "They're doing what they are supposed to do. Monitoring it closely. And that decision won't be made until we get to training camp. But as of now they'll be reporting to training camp a week from Friday."
Rivalry Put To Rest?
When Ohio State offensive tackle Kyle Dodson flipped his commitment from Wisconsin to the Buckeyes on signing day in February, it was reported that Badgers head coach Bret Bielema was unhappy with Meyer for recruiting a committed player. On Thursday, both coaches denied that any bad blood exists between the two of them.
"We have a very, very good relationship. I think you'd have to ask coach (Bielema), but we get along fine. We had a conversation about it at the Big Ten meetings, I believe it was in February. A lot of the things that were reported weren't said," Meyer said. "We stand by exactly the way how we do things."
Bielema agreed with Meyer, stating that any rivalry that the two may have regarding recruiting tactics has been blown out of proportion.
"The great thing that came out of that event was I began to realize that not everybody actually reads and follows every press conference that's read or written," Bielema said. "I didn't say anything about a gentleman's agreement. I didn't say anything about coaches recruiting other players. That was just kind of spun into that world. So I've never made a comment about that. I've never referred to it in any way, shape, or form."
Penn State Problems
One topic that Meyer and Bielema certainly agree on is their stance on recruiting current Penn State players, who are now eligible to transfer without penalty due to the NCAA sanctions that were handed down to the school on Monday.
"I have a problem with that," Meyer said bluntly.
"We made a decision that we would not actively pursue any Penn State players," Bielema said. "We play Penn State the last game of the season this year in the regular season. I'm going to be their biggest fan for every week of the year for the guys that stay there and stick it through."
But while Meyer and Bielema join Indiana's Kevin Wilson, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, and Michigan's Brady Hoke as Big Ten coaches against actively recruiting current Nittany Lions, the conference's coaches aren't unanimous in that belief.
Purdue's Danny Hope and Illinois' Tim Beckman both said that they don't see a problem with recruiting Penn State players, simply because the NCAA states that they're now allowed to.
"NCAA has established the rules and the guidelines," Hope said. "As long as we're compliant, we're going to exercise every opportunity we can to enhance our own football team."
Beckman, who admitted to having coaches from his staff in State College, Pa. this week, was even more open about his plans to pursue players on the Penn State roster.
"It was brought to our attention by two individuals prior to even any sanctions being granted by the NCAA that an opportunity might present itself for a transfer," Beckman said. "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."
Big (Ten) Adjustment
Having spent time as a head coach in the MAC, Mountain West, and SEC, 2012 will mark Meyer's first season as a head coach in the Big Ten. With the SEC having won the past six national championships, Meyer would like to see his new conference follow in the footsteps of his former one.
"The defensive front seven in that conference, in the SEC, is the difference-maker right now. But it's a little bit deeper than that," Meyer said. "I just think overall athleticism right now we're a little bit behind. But we're recruiting with that motive, with that intention and I'm real proud to say it's going very well."
Having spent just more than seven months as Ohio State's head coach, Meyer said he's already seeing effects from the SEC's success as he prepares for his new opponents in the upcoming season.
"I think it was eight out of the 12 teams are running some sort of spread offense right now. And then there's two option offenses and then traditional offenses, and that's obviously a drastic change from historically what you think of the Big Ten," Meyer said. "The SEC, the last few years, is kind of the kingpin with the success they've had in the BCS. I have watched a lot of the Big Ten as we got ready to play some Bowl games in recent years. I see the Big Ten has changed dramatically."
But it's not just Meyer who has some adjusting to do this season. Along with Beckman and Penn State coach Bill O'Brien, Meyer is one of three head coaches new to the Big Ten this season.
"It's kind of a neat thing," Bielema said. "I don't know Bill very well. I've met Urban on a couple of different occasions, had an opportunity to have him on campus. And Coach Beckman, I've now met several times. It's something that I'm very excited about. I think it's a neat thing to bring in to our league. It's a challenge to compete against new schemes and new philosophies and new ideas."
With the recent exists of legendary Big Ten coaches such as Jim Tressel and Joe Paterno, Bielema said that it's important for the Big Ten to add value to the conference in its coaching hires, and that's exactly what it's done this offseason.
"Urban coming with a coach that's won national championships brings value to our league and his reputation is outstanding. Coach O'Brien, with everything he's been able to accomplish during his coaching career. And Coach Beckman, obviously anytime you move from a MAC school to a Big Ten school speaks volumes that they think you can have success as well," Bielema said. "Should be nothing but a positive for our league."
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