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July 24, 2013
Big Ten Media Day: The best of the rest
With just a few weeks before the start of fall camp, all 12 Big Ten coaches are excited and optimistic about the upcoming season.
TheWolverine.com has plenty of coverage from Michigan coach Brady Hoke's comments (find them here, here and here). We also covered the Wolverines' two biggest rivals: Ohio State and Michigan State.
Here are the highlights from the conference's nine other coaches:
Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald
The Wildcats are coming off a 10-win season - just the third in program history - that including their first bowl victory since 1949. This season, their goals are even higher.
"As we rewind, very proud of the success we've had, five straight bowl seasons," Fitzgerald said. "But as I said as I put the Gator Bowl trophy up above my head, we're just getting started at Northwestern. We have a lot of work. Talk is talk, and now it's about time for action, and looking forward to getting back with our guys here in a few weeks."
"We've already kind of looked at the roadmap and you hear me say a lot the blueprint of what we're going to do, and there will be definite tweaks and adjustments to our preparation.
"At the end of the day, it's how we prepare and what we do to determine if we're prepared for that game."
"Obviously on paper as you sit here the end of July and you look at the conference slate, you get excited to play each and every one of your games, especially the ones that are primetime atmosphere.
"But, frankly, I haven't put a lot of thought into it. My focus has been, number one, to make sure our guys are healthy and doing the right things academically here in summer school, and then our focus will shift once we get into camp about how our freshmen integrate and how we'll put those pieces of the puzzle together to get prepared for the opener against Cal.
"But as you look forward, obviously you get excited for Big Ten play. I think the last time we played each other at night was a pretty unique environment at our place. Obviously we were successful, so that's a fond memory in my mind."
Purdue coach Darrell Hazell
Hazell is one of the Big Ten's two first-year coaches, along with Wisconsin's Gary Anderson. The Boilermakers are coming off a 6-7 years in which they did not beat an opponent with a winning record.
"We have a coaching staff that I'm proud of and that they all have the vision to change Purdue football to where it needs to be," Hazell said. "And I can't be more proud of my coaching staff.
"And, we have a great group of young men who are committed to the cause and the cause is to make Purdue football special on the football field in 2013. So we're excited to get started next week. We open up practice on Aug. 3 and then we kick off the season against Cincinnati on Aug. 31, but I'm very excited to get started."
"And I told them it's going to take a lot of work but we're going to climb ourselves out of the middle and we're going to put this program on national prominence for a long point in time."
"We have to be able to create some depth early in the season by putting those guys out there and because you know at some point in time we're going to lose a guy throughout the course of the season. We'll have to try to create some depth but I think there's enough capable bodies for us to be good. We're going to try to keep it as simple as we can, for those guys and the communication is absolutely critical, for those guys and it starts with our center, Robert Kugler."
"And in about two weeks after we start practice, we'll make a decision and have that guy have ownership of our football team going into our first game."
Wisconsin coach Gary Anderson
The Badgers compiled a 30-11 record while winning three Big Ten titles and reaching the three consecutive Rose Bowls in the last three years. But former Utah State coach Gary Anderson steps in after Bret Bielema left Madison to accept the Arkansas head coaching position.
"It's been a crazy six and a half months," Anderson said. "And just a lot of thanks goes out to everybody surrounding Wisconsin, from the administration, Coach Alvarez and all of his people that made the transition possible for the coaches, the wives that are involved, the kids that are involved, the staff. It's always a very difficult time for the moms involved. And I publicly just thank them for allowing the coaches to move in.
"Thank the kids also for putting us in a position to be able to build trust. Trust is a big thing with us. We talked about it day one, and I think after six and a half months we've got trust within players to coaches and coaches to players."
"For us, it's sit back and look at and get our core values into place, let our kids understand again the trust factor. Let them understand the true set of core values that we're going to hold them accountable to a high level.
"We walked into a program that is absolutely not broke. It's been very successful and there's great young men that have been recruited there, and the prior staff did a great job in that area."
"We sat down with all the young men when we were first there and gave them a very clear vision that when we sat down in April we would discuss exactly where they're at, what the situation is, and when we came out of it, Curt (Phillips) and Joe (Ferguson) came out on top in spring.
"And it was a very unique situation, as it always is, at the quarterback spot when you have competition. We recruited Tanner (McEvoy). Brought Tanner in. He will also compete. He deserves that opportunity because he's a junior college player with three years left to play.
"Anytime we recruit a junior college player he's going to be given the opportunity to walk in fall camp and compete and get reps with the ones and twos at times just as every freshman will if he deems himself mentally and physically prepared to be able to be in those situations that he has a chance to help our team."
"But very good friend. Somebody I reach out to when I have questions about things. I think there's very much a mutual respect there. And look forward to seeing him this morning and hopefully we'll be able to spend a little time as we go through. It's great to compete against your friends.
"That's going to be a big game. It's way down the road at this point, and we're excited about the opportunity to compete. But he's a good person, good family man, and somebody I have great respect for."
Illinois coach Tim Beckman
In his first year at the helm, Beckman led Illinois to a dismal 2-10 record, including nine consecutive losses to end the season. Searching for his first victory over a Big Ten team, Beckman is ready to go in 2013.
"One of the things that we talked about also as a group is we're taking one challenge at a time in a very, very positive way," Beckman said. "We're not going to let negativity infiltrate our program. We're going to be positive with a great passion towards what we want to get accomplished.
"And I've seen that through this football team. The credit's gotta go to the senior class and to the football players that we currently have on the program."
"He had an outstanding spring in Bill Cubit's new offense. Riley O'Toole had a good, good spring for us also. But he's got to take away some of those turnovers. Way too many turnovers in the spring football game. He understands that. He's got to be a more sure quarterback in his decision-making so that those types of things don't happen. Aaron Bailey, we haven't been able to work with Aaron Bailey. But Aaron Bailey was brought here to compete, and I think he chose the University of Illinois because he knows he's going to be able to compete. So he'll get the exact same opportunity as all of our quarterbacks."
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson
The Hoosiers are coming off a 4-8 season in which they averaged almost 450 offensive yards per game, but allowed 463.5 yard per game, defensively (106th in the nation).
Can Indiana built on the encouraging aspects of last season, while fixing its defensive concerns?
"We're excited," Wilson said. "Coming out of last year, not the season we wanted. Maybe made some strides on paper. Maybe a little bit better record. But we got a great school, making a great commitment and we want to build a winning product and start getting the victories that we need.
"The way you do that is with recruiting and do it with player development. Thought we had a really good winter. Everybody always says that, but just the energy, leadership, we've worked very hard with the group to kind of cultivate some internal leaders with our football team to take some ownership. So we got some -- a very positive energy as we're working hard."
"But we're still maybe a sophomore-junior team. And we probably just signed on paper -- you don't play the game on paper and you can't believe every recruiting service and recruiting rating until guys really perform.
"But we probably have got the most gifted class showing up as day-one freshmen when we show up next Friday."
"Maybe greatest moxie might be Cam Coffman. He's a little daredevil. He'll take some shots and take some chances. Great anticipation, vision.
"The best athlete of the crowd is probably Tre Roberson. So they're all uniquely different.
"What we're going to do is run our spread offense, be a little bit up tempo. We'll throw the ball in space and try to be a team that can throw it pushing 70 percent, which we have yet to beat. In the high 50s or mid 50s, first year, low 60s last year. This game has evolved with protection and quality route running and people understanding spacing."
Nebraska coach Bo Pelini
Entering their third year in the Big Ten, the Cornhuskers are coming off an appearance in the Big Ten Championship Game and are returning a solid core, including veteran quarterback Taylor Martinez.
"We like where we are as a football program right now," Pelini said. "I'm proud of our football team. I'm proud of the kids in it, how they represent our program and what we've been able to do not only on the field but more importantly in the classroom and in the community, and there's a lot of positive things going on with our program.
"And that goes to the character and the type of young men that we have on our football team. And I'm proud of all those guys and what they've done for our football program. And football-wise we're looking forward to the upcoming season. We know it's going to be a tremendous challenge as it always is."
"I think we have the opportunity to have probably the best offensive line on paper, potentially, that we've had since I've been here, not only the starters but some of the backups and the depth that we have really across the board.
"If we can get a couple young kids, incoming guys, that can come in and provide us with some extra depth at a couple of positions, it's a pretty potent -- potentially a very potent offense."
" And I think it's going to be a great competition. We might be fairly inexperienced, especially to start off the year, you know. But I think our depth is going to be there. And there's going to be great competition, and we're athletic. It's going to be an athletic group and a talented group and I'll take that any day of the week.
"It's just going to require a lot of hard work on our part as coaches, our players' parts, and I like the potential of the group. I like the way we finished spring. I like the development we've had. And I'm excited about the incoming guys that are going to add to the mix. And we're doing a couple different things to add to what we've been doing defensively.
"I think we're going to be a little bit more multiple even than we have been even though we're going to be younger."
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill
After a 3-9 season in 2011 - his first in Minneapolis - Kill brought the Gophers to a bowl game last year, with a 6-7 record (2-6 in Big Ten play) and a loss to Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl.
Will the Gophers continue to climb?
"We're really, really excited at the University of Minnesota and the direction that we're going. It's a great time for us. I think it all started back when we got the opportunity to go to the Bowl game and play Texas Tech, and we had a great experience there and spent a lot of good time with our student-athletes. And our kids handled their selves well.
"The kids took the momentum out of the Bowl game, took it on to the off-season, did an outstanding job in the off-season getting bigger, stronger, and faster. And went into spring ball, felt like we had our best spring ball."
"I think it leads us in to this season where we're not trying to break somebody in. Matt Leidner, a young man that we also recruited, is a tremendous athlete. And I kind of compare our quarterback situation a little bit to what we had at Northern Illinois when I took over that program with Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch, and I feel like we're kinda in that area. And also with a young man named Chris Streveler from this area.
"So we feel good about our quarterback situation and we feel like that's going to be a strength down the road here."
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz
Since a 11-2, Orange Bowl Championship season in 2009, the Hawkeyes have shown diminishing returns, with an 8-5 record in 2010, a 7-6 record in 2011 and a 4-8, bowl-less campaign in 2012.
Now, Ferentz and Co. are looking to return to the top half of the conference - and, hopefully, compete for a title.
"We're enthused about our football team," Ferentz said. "Last year was obviously very disappointing for all of us, and as soon as the season ended in November, we encouraged our players to turn the page and wanted to get them looking forward and then go back to work, and that's pretty much what we've done. And we try to do that after every season.
"I'm excited again about the way the players have handled each step along the way, and needless to say, eager to get on the field here in a couple of weeks."
"Mark Weisman at this time last year, we thought he would be a pretty good fullback. Going into spring a year ago, we weren't sure if he'd block or not. He proved that he could do that. And we kind of stumbled into him as a running back during the course of last year.
"So with those two guys alone we feel a lot better about where we're at. Both those players have improved since last fall.
"Jordan Canzeri rejoins our team. He's healthy, had a good spring. Got a couple of younger players on our roster. Excited to see how they perform in August and some incoming players, too. We're excited."
Penn State coach Bill O'Brien
Penn State and O'Brien are coming off quite an interesting year. After being rocked by scandal, the Nittany Lions lost longtime coach Joe Paterno, hired a relatively unknown NFL offensive coordinator as head coach, were hit with massive sanctions (including a four-year bowl ban and serious scholarship reductions) and somehow pulled together to go 8-4 in 2012.
"Really excited about the season," O'Brien said. "We have a group of kids that have worked extremely hard in the offseason to try to improve their individual skill set and now we have to go out and have a productive training camp, but it's a great group of guys to work with.
"Our staff is really excited about it, and I believe our first practice will be Aug. 5. So it's right around the bend and can't wait."
"Obviously we haven't had a chance to work with Christian yet - not allowed to work with the guys in the summertime - and he just arrived here for our summer program. And Tyler, we worked with in the spring and he improved every day
"You know, one thing that's really exciting about working with young quarterbacks is that you get a chance to really mold that quarterback. You get a chance to really teach that quarterback. And Charlie Fisher and I are going to do that and work hard at teaching our quarterbacks how to play in our offense and managing a game and play smart, tough Penn State football. We are excited about that.
"We are going to have to make a decision at some point during training camp to allow the starter to get enough reps to be ready for the Syracuse game. It sure is exciting for us, a challenge for us and we are looking forward to it."
"Our players are tough. They're resilient. They're good kids. They're hardworking. They go to class, and we're looking forward to working with those guys. The rules are what they are. And that's what we play under. And that's what we're going to do. So we're excited about the season, and again just really want to concentrate on the 2013 season."