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  • Interview Loaded Day 2 In Chicago

    Big Ten Media Days have ended and the 36 student-athletes, commissioner Jim Delany, Big Ten Network president Mark Silverman, and all 12 conference head coaches – including Urban Meyer – have survived it.

    Despite a record throng of reporters and a sellout for Thursday’s annual Kickoff Luncheon, those obligated to attend handled their media responsibilities in impressive fashion and without incident.

    In fact, SportsRappUp.com went digging for some unique perspective and came up with, well, loads of it.

    Meyer’s podium address on Wednesday was summarized in a Rapp Around column from later that day – to see it, click here – but the second-year OSU head coach also informed and even entertained the following day during his roundtable discussion with curious reporters.

    Meyer, no doubt, was relieved when the questions on Thursday eventually shifted away from player misdeeds after a Wednesday session in which eight of the 11 inquiries centered on his discipline policies.

    Still, he was upright and honest when asked about the recent unpleasantness. Earlier in the week before departing for Chicago, Meyer and the university put out a release dealing with off-field troubles for running back Carlos Hyde and cornerback Bradley Roby, who made the news for separate incidents in bars that led to police involvement.

    Hyde, who amassed 970 yards rushing and 16 touchdowns last year, is still considered a person of interest in a case involving a Westerville, Ohio, woman who alleges the running back struck her in a nightclub. Reports continue to vary, even from those who claim to have seen the surveillance video of the confrontation, and Meyer is insistent that Hyde is suspended indefinitely until all the facts come forth in the case.

    The coach did, however, hint at a punishment for Roby, who was charged with battery after a fracas in a Bloomington, Ind., bar last weekend. Meyer said discipline will follow and suggested that he was leaning on a suspension of some sort. He added that Roby also will “be on a very short leash,” but wouldn’t elaborate.

    Meyer again expressed bitter disappointment since he also dismissed true freshman Tim Gardner, a lineman from Indianapolis, and has suspended incoming tight end Marcus Baugh, a product of Riverside, Calif., for the Aug. 31 season opener with Buffalo. They were arrested by Columbus police for alcohol-related offenses.

    Meyer didn’t want to spend any of his two hours of availability to the media on Thursday speculating on the impact suspensions for Hyde and Roby could have on the Buckeyes. However, former Ohio State running back Eddie George, also on hand in Chicago as an analyst for FOX Sports, said Hyde is not instantly replaceable.

    “It’s not that simple,” George told SportsRappUp.com. “He’s maturing to where he can really become a beast and from what I hear from the coaches he has done a great job of leading and doing the work in the weight room. He came on huge last year. It’s hard to replace a guy like that, even though there’s a lot of talent at that position.”

    Some analysts believe the defense would suffer more from a prolonged absence of Roby than the offense without Hyde, who has many capable backups. The candidates at corner behind Roby are vastly unproven.

    Someone who would miss him immediately is safety Christian Bryant, who was sent to Chicago in Roby’s place after the news of the arrest broke.

    “Me and Roby are on the same side, the boundary side, so without him being right there with me – we’ve been playing with each other for three straight years now – it would kind of be a letdown, just because that’s my partner in crime throughout the game,” Bryant said.

    “We talk throughout the game, and with him on the field I feel like everybody is a little bit more comfortable and at ease. Without Roby it would be pretty tough, but I’m looking for him to be back.”

    Help Has Arrived

    While Meyer isn’t sure about the makeup of his team leadership and now has some real issues with which to contend regarding Hyde and Roby, the overall outlook is still pretty sunny.

    Ohio State is as loaded player for player as any squad in the Big Ten and was the only league team to have three players named to the conference’s Players To Watch List.

    The Big Ten announced the names in Chicago and OSU leads the way with quarterback Braxton Miller, linebacker Ryan Shazier and Roby taking up three of the five slots for the Leaders Division. Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson and Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland were the other two.

    Michigan was the only other school with more than one player mentioned on the Players to Watch List as UM quarterback Devin Gardner and offensive tackle Taylor Lewan were tabbed. The other three players from the Legends Division to make the list are Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough, Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez and Northwestern running back Venric Mark.

    Shazier, Roby and Robinson were the only players on the list who were not present in Chicago.

    Meyer raved about the development of Miller and Shazier while in Chicago but spread around the praise. He noted the team’s wealth of experience in the secondary, believes young defensive linemen Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington are on their way to being All-Big Ten players and is happy with the depth at tailback.

    He also said “it would be disappointing if our offensive line isn’t one of the best in the Big Ten” and likes what he’s seeing of the four returning starters there.

    And the coach raved on.

    “Receiver is probably the one area we were weakest at last year, and I think this year, with the injection of some speed in the recruiting class and also development of the guys we have, that I’m really counting on them to become one of the strengths of our offense,” he said just one yea after openly questioning the group.

    “The two guys that really developed throughout the year last year, two very good tight ends in (Jeff) Heuerman and (Nick) Vannett, and we’ve not traditionally been known as a two tight end offense. However, with these two talented players, you’re going to see some 12 personnel, which they’re two guys we have to find a way to get them on the field at the same time.”

    Plus, Meyer admitted that he’s very encouraged by the potential of several incoming freshmen and believes they will make an immediate impact.

    “We don’t recruit to redshirt, we recruit to play – especially offensive skill,” Meyer said. “They’re given an expectation level of what they’re supposed to be like on the first day and then it’s in their court.”

    Miller said he is especially impressed with newcomer Dontre Wilson, an all-purpose back out of Texas. Offensive tackle Jack Mewhort agreed and said he saw “a lot of guys that can fly” in the first few days of workouts with the freshmen.

    Bryant also is impressed.

    “I actually called my dad after the meeting and I was like, ‘All these guys look like athletes,’ so this is a great recruiting class,” he said.

    Putting The Gray In Black And Blue

    With all the recent discussion about concussions and the public’s thirst for high-scoring games, the offseason conversation for football continued to shift toward measures that hinder overly physical defensive play.

    At the collegiate level, it has even reached to a proposal that “targeting” – going after ball carriers in defenseless positions – could now lead to an immediate ejection. The ready example for this new rule is the vicious hit South Carolina’s Jadeveon Clowney put on Michigan running back Vincent Smith the minute Smith received a handoff in the 2013 Outback Bowl.

    Michigan head coach Brady Hoke is not happy with the development – and it’s not because his player was popped. Hoke is an old-school defensive coach and doesn’t like the shift toward disallowing defenders from clean hits within the flow of the game.

    Not surprisingly, Bryant, perhaps OSU’s most aggressive tackler if it’s not Shazier, also is not a fan of the idea.

    “If it’s purposeful, I would say it’s worthy of an ejection, but not if it’s unintentional,” he said. “It’s not really my rule but I will be abiding by the rules, so I don’t think I’ll be ejected for any games.

    “You have to be more cautious with how you’re tackling but I don’t think it’s going to take away from the physical part of the game. It may for some people but for me personally it’s not.”

    Meyer’s Tree Grows

    Meyer has hired several coaches who have gone on to head up programs and Wisconsin’s Gary Andersen is in that tree.

    Andersen was Utah’s defensive line coach under Meyer in 2004 when the Utes posted an undefeated season. He stayed on in Salt Lake City as defensive coordinator before becoming the head coach at Utah State. Success there led to his appointment at UW, replacing the controversial Bret Bielema.

    Meyer and Andersen expressed great appreciation for each other in Chicago. In fact, Meyer lit up when asked to talk about Andersen’s emergence.

    “First of all, I have great respect for Coach (Barry) Alvarez, have for many, many years, and I was honored when he asked me for my opinion,” he said. “Gary I would put in one of the top two, three hires I’ve ever made, the recommendation of Utah’s head coach, Kyle Whittingham. He made a direct impact on our program, and I couldn’t be more proud of who he is as a person. And I think he’s at the right place, a great school with a great athletic director, and really proud of Gary Andersen.”

    Andersen also has made a quick impression on the Wisconsin fans and Badgers.

    “He’s all about the players, and I think that’s real important,” UW wideout Jared Abbrederis said. “We can all see it. The first thing he told me when he came here was that he called the Utah State players. He called each and every one individually. It’s good to know that he cares about his players there that much. He brings a lot of spice to the program and it’s been fun having him.”

    Dual Threats Abound

    The Big Ten is now blessed with several quarterbacks who are virtually as adept at hurting defenses running the ball as they are passing, Miller at the top of the list, and several of them were in Chicago.

    Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase, Nebraska’s Martinez and Northwestern’s Kain Colter, all seniors, are among the weapons as well as Miller and Gardner, both juniors.

    While they all have talent running the ball, they have been told to be smart about it.

    Gardner admitted his likes to run the football and dish out a little contact every once in a while.

    “My old coach told me I play like a linebacker at quarterback, so they tell me to run out of bounds and don’t try to do certain types of things, but sometimes you’ve got to let the defense know that you’re not a chump,” he said. “Sometimes I do it and I take it a little far, but I’m not going to play timid or anything like that.”

    Miller has been known to try to drive into pursuers, a move that led to him being hurt against Purdue.

    “He’s a bigger guy and the type of offense that they run, the quarterback has to be a downhill runner, but that’s not my job here in this offense,” Gardner said of Miller. “Our running backs will do that and when I can I’ll give a little forearm shiver here or there.”

    Gardner has spent part of his time in Ann Arbor at wide receiver, which allowed him to get a feel for the real price of being hit.

    “It helped me and it made me such a tougher person, mentally and physically,” he said. “I got a chance to pancake a few guys and knock some guys on their back. I’ve never done that in my life. It was actually pretty refreshing knowing I could do that.”

    Still, QBs are so valuable to their teams that coaches are conflicted with calling their number on running plays. Martinez, for example, was slowed part of last season with a lingering ankle injury.

    Martinez admitted the soreness slowed him a bit in 2012 yet he still relishes every carry he can get.

    Has he ever cringed at the thought of taking off with the ball?

    “I want to run the football, so I’ve never done that before,” he told SportsRappUp.com. “Whenever I get the chance to run the football I’m excited to. But I have so many weapons around me and in the backfield that I don’t want to be greedy about it. So I try to get the ball to Ameer (Abdullah) or an outside receiver because I know they can make the plays also.”

    Colter said he has the same approach.

    “Football is for tough guys and for me and I’m sure Taylor, too, we love running the ball,” he told SportsRappUp.com. “When you’re in the game, you’re going to be tired and you have to take that suck-it-up pill. And when your number is called, you’ve got to make a play.

    “I’m trying to improve my vertical passing game and passing the ball downfield, too. It’s my final go-round, so I’m just going to try to give it my all and make some more plays.”

    Gardner likes to be athletic, too, but is excited at the notion that Michigan appears more committed to a traditional offense with lots of passing capability under the direction of offensive coordinator Al Borges.

    “The spread is like anything – that was so amazing, and then everyone figured it out,” Gardner said. “The spread is going to be figured out because there are so many great defensive coordinators. I think Coach (Greg) Mattison has it figured out this year and I can’t wait to see what he does with the spread teams we play. I think a pro style is the best way to go, with spread concepts.”

    Quotable

    Miller on the hope of another undefeated season for the Buckeyes – “It crosses my mind a few times.”

    Bullough on the Spartans coming off a 7-6 season – “When you lose games the way we did, it makes you want to go play games right now. It makes the offseason long. Whenever pride is involved, it makes it personal, and that makes it that much more meaningful.”

    Mark on being named preseason first-team all-conference by some publications – “I don’t really look at that stuff. I don’t believe in predictions; I believe in production. So if that’s where they want to have me that, that’s great, I respect that. I’ll tell them thank you. But my obligation is to Northwestern. If somebody asks me if I think I’m the best running back, yes, I do think I’m the best running back. And there are other guys who should feel that way as well because there are a lot of great running backs in the Big Ten.”

    Miller on evening kickoffs – “I love the night games. It reminds me of Friday night lights, high school. I don’t know, there’s just something about the night games I love. It feels like everybody is watching. I wish we had a night game every game.”

    Martinez on directing the Cornhusker ball-movers – “It might be the best offense Nebraska has ever had.”

    Gardner on his assertion that Bullough is the best LB in the Big Ten – “He’s a really big guy and he knows a lot about offenses, it appears.”

    Bullough on being a third-generation Spartan – “It’s fun. It’s cool to have that opportunity, to have those players and family members in front of me. It’s something I’ve taken advantage of in terms of talking to my dad or my grandma whenever I needed advice. It’s an honor. I look at it as an opportunity more than something I have to overcome.”

    Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald on his new team mantra to help the Wildcats through the rigors of summer workouts – “Embrace the suck.”

    Colter on NU being a potential contender this fall – “Every season is a little bit different, but we’ve got the translate that confidence that we had at the end of the season over to this season. We had some losses that we shouldn’t have, but I think we’re confident that we should be able to win every game that we play.”

    Purdue coach Darrell Hazell on working under Jim Tressel – “I spent seven years at Ohio State and Coach Tressel was a big influence on me, the way I do things today. There’s a lot of great values and just his demeanor through the course of my time there was something that you can take from, and the great decisions that he made on game day. When those bullets are flying, it’s a chaotic moment. I learned a lot from Jim Tressel there in my seven years at Ohio State.”

    Hoke on the state of college football –Lloyd Carr, 12 years ago we were in a staff meeting and the first thing he said was the landscape of college football is changing, and not for the better. He was talking about the money. When we start losing sight of what’s important in college football, which is most kids who are around these tables, then we’re really being a detriment to the game.

    “And the ship has sailed. I don’t know how you turn it back when you look at TV contracts that leagues are signing and all that. I mean the Olympics now doesn’t have wrestling, and that was one of the original sports. I don’t get that. So there’s an analogy in there somewhere.”

    Gardner upon hearing Hoke said trends in college football are “cyclical” – “He used that word? He has to stop doing that.”

    Abbrederis on sporting a thick beard in Chicago – “I never grew a beard before so I was like, ‘Let’s see what happens.’ We’ll see with the helmet and the chinstrap if it’s comfy or annoying. If it is, I might shave it.”

    Gardner on empathizing with his receivers since he used to play the position – “I know how much it sucks to run around and you’re open and you don’t get the ball or it’s a bad pass. I try to be more sensitive to their feelings. I tell the receivers that everybody eats. But it’s their job to get open. I can’t do anything about that.”

    Gardner on the theory of paying college student-athletes – “I don’t know how much money people have and I’m not really good with numbers and things like that. I only took one math class at Michigan, so that’s not my deal. I feel like it’s just my job to play football and do my best.”

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  • Colorful Two Days In Chicago

    The Windy City is known for its popular and colorful Chicago-based ball teams – Cubs blue, Bulls red and the familiar black worn by the Bears.

    On Thursday and Friday the town was painted scarlet and gray in that the discussions during the 2011 Big Ten Football Media Days there always seemed to circle back to Ohio State.

    The Buckeyes, of course, are the perennial power team of the conference after winning six straight league crowns. However, head coach Jim Tressel and quarterback Terrelle Pryor are gone because of scandal while several other key players have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season.

    And new coach Luke Fickell inherits a team that needs to rebuild its core on defense and will have to deal with varying expectations and distractions throughout the fall.

    So as the 12 coaches took the podium individually on Thursday and delved into their team outlook, the questions still managed to pertain to OSU.

    Perhaps most interesting were the comments by Michigan’s Brady Hoke, who, like Fickell, enters the rivalry for the first time as a head coach.

    A former UM assistant who opened eyes heading up the programs at Ball State and San Diego State, Hoke already has Wolverine fans fired up and Buckeye fans disliking the portly new head coach. In Woody Hayes-like fashion, Hoke has showed extra attention to the rivalry by referring to the enemy with a slighted title. But in this case, instead of Hayes calling Michigan “that school up north” Hoke simply refers to OSU as “Ohio.”

    He did it repeatedly in Chicago.

    “You know, we're really fortunate at Michigan,” Hoke said at the mic. “We have a national rivalry. We play Notre Dame. We have an in-state rivalry with Michigan State, obviously. Then the rivalry with Ohio is as big a rivalry as there is in sport.”

    Fickell didn’t react to Hoke’s reference to the Buckeyes but he made sure to tell reporters in Chicago that he doesn’t intend to let UM suddenly get the upper hand in The Game.

    “Nobody will overlook that,” Fickell said. “I know that's not something that will ever be overlooked at Ohio State. Obviously (we) look forward to that rivalry, continuing that great tradition.”

    Hoke also admitted he has a special feeling for the late November matchup.

    “It’s fun,” said Hoke, who last participated in the rivalry as an assistant at Michigan in 2002.

    “I mean, if you can’t get geared up for that and get goosebumps and all those things for that game, then you may not be human.”

    Hoke grew up in the Dayton area but claims he rooted for Michigan as a kid. His father, John Hoke, played for Hayes and Bo Schembechler at Miami (Ohio).

    Hoke eventually found himself on the sidelines for the rivalry but doesn’t expect to be part of the spotlight when the series is renewed this fall.

    “It never has been who the coach is,” he said. “It’s always about those two great institutions.

    “Playing at the end of November is tradition and some traditions you don’t mess with,” Hoke added.

    And some you start yourself – like calling your bitter rival by its first name.

    Similarly, Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema seemed to both crack Ohio State and show the program major respect throughout his two-day appearance in Chicago.

    Bielema, who was selected by the media as the conference’s best coach in a preseason poll, has made no bones about putting Ohio State in his gun scope and he sounded like a man hell-bent on the opportunity to catch the Buckeyes during his media address. He also reminded reporters that the Badgers ruined OSU’s otherwise perfect season – even if sanctions take away the 12 wins.

    “We’ve been knocking on the door of Ohio State for a couple of years, but to finally go through last year in the way that we did, there wasn’t any question about who won that football game,” he said of the 31-18 upset of No. 1 OSU last October.

    “The only bad part about Terrelle leaving was he said the week after it was a fluke, that they’d beat us nine out of 10 times. So to me, we really wanted to play that game against him, but unfortunately we won’t.”

    The two teams will meet again in Columbus this year – a Halloween (Oct. 29) treat that is sure to stir up more emotion. The Buckeyes are expected to wear replica uniforms for that contest and the national spotlight will shine brightly. Considering Bielema’s obsession with surpassing OSU in the conference race, that some consider the Badgers as Ohio State’s biggest rival, and that the two teams are now in opposing divisions, setting up a possibly December rematch in the conference’s first-ever championship game, Bielema was asked to respond to the Buckeyes’ recent NCAA hot water.

    “I understand why you ask the question, but I don’t spend one day at the University of Wisconsin worrying about what’s going on at Ohio State,” he said.

    Sure you don’t, Coach.

    “Ohio State still has a lot of real good football players,” he continued. “Luke (Fickell) is a very good football coach. He’s a great assistant coach and my guess is he’s going to be a good head coach, but it doesn’t change what we do at Wisconsin.”

    Bielema also seemed to reference Tressel, saying, “If you’re trying to be competitive, you’re trying to win a football game, all those things, maximize all your opportunities, do what you have to do,” he said at the podium.

    “But when you consciously break an NCAA rule, to me the only way to deter that is to get rid of people, or seriously hold programs accountable. That’s probably the number one thing I would love to see happen in the world of college football.”

    However, a gaggle of reporters grabbed Bielema in thw hallway and he tried to clarify his statement.

    “You know what, those comments weren’t directed toward Ohio State,” he said.

    “I don’t know exactly what went on. More to those comments that I was referring to was recruiting. When you have people who knowingly are breaking rules or doing things that aren’t over the table, that is very frustrating. It’s very hard to trace. It’s just very, very upsetting when the people who are involved aren’t hammered the way they should be.”

    Bielema went on to say that Tressel was highly supportive of him and did admit regret that he is no longer in the conference.

    “Unfortunately, the situation arose there, but it doesn’t change my opinion about who he is or what he is or the program he built,” he said. “To win six Big Ten championships (in a row), that doesn’t just happen. You have a lot of good coaches and a lot of good football players that were able to do that, and he’s responsible for all of that.”

    Veteran Presence – Just prior to the Big Ten Football Media Days, the conference compiled a list of the top players and called it the league’s inaugural Preseason Players To Watch List. The intent was to honor five student-athletes each from the Legends Division and Leaders Division. The 2011 list was selected by a media panel and features additional honorees due to a tie.

    Representing the Legends Division are Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins, Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick and linebacker Lavonte David, and Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa.

    The Leaders Division honorees are Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, Indiana wide receiver Damarlo Belcher, Ohio State center Mike Brewster and defensive tackle John Simon, Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti and Wisconsin running backs Montee Ball and James White.

    All five Legends Division players received postseason recognition in 2010, with Robinson, Crick and David earning All-America honors and first-team All-Conference accolades. Robinson was named the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year while David was tabbed the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. Persa was also named first-team All-Big Ten while Cousins was an honorable mention All-Conference choice.

    The group of Leaders Division standouts includes five All-Conference selections from 2010. Brewster earned All-America accolades and first-team All-Big Ten honors. White was named the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a second-team All-Conference selection. Belcher, Simon and Ball were each All-Big Ten honorable mention selections.

    Hot Ticket – The conference opened up ticket sales for the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game to the general public on July 30 and the ducats reportedly sold out within a few hours. Tickets ranged from $50 to $125. Orders were limited to eight tickets.

    The championship game is slated to begin at 8:17 p.m. Eastern on Sat., Dec. 3 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis and will be televised by FOX Sports.

    Those individuals who purchased tickets through Ticketmaster or the Lucas Oil Stadium ticket office for the 2011 Big Ten Football Championship Game will have the opportunity at a later date to purchase tickets in a comparable location for the 2012 game. In addition, every Big Ten Football Championship Game ticket will include a ticket to Big Ten Fan Fest, to be held at the Indiana Convention Center from 10 a.m. Eastern until kickoff.

    The championship game will feature the champion of the Legends Division facing the champion of the Leaders Division, with the winner earning the Big Ten Championship and a chance to play in either the Rose Bowl Game or Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game.

    The Big Ten Conference and Indiana Sports Corporation have entered into an agreement to host Big Ten Football Championship Games at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis through 2015. FOX Sports will serve as the official broadcast partner of the Big Ten Football Championship Games through 2016.

    Looking Back – Just one year ago, Nebraska was not a part of the conference and the fraternity of Big Ten head coaches included the likes of Tressel, Rich Rodriguez, Tim Brewster and Bill Lynch.

    In fact, just last summer Lynch was talking about the strides his staff was making at Indiana and raving about the Hoosiers’ renovated stadium.

    “One, it shows a commitment to football at Indiana, and I think that’s really big,” he said at the time. “And then I think it’s more fun. There’s no question it’s more fun to play in a lively atmosphere. That’s why when you talk to our kids they talk about playing at Penn State or playing at Iowa, those places where it’s alive from the time you take the field to the time the game’s over.”

    Lynch, of course, wasn’t around long enough to see the full effect. But he was prophetic when he said the following: “Everybody can say what they want but I don’t care where they’re at, they don’t want to line up and play Ohio State.”

    A year ago, the league also had different players in starring roles, most notably defensive end. Sure enough, Ohio State’s Cameron Heyward, Iowa’s Adrian Clayborn and Purdue’s Ryan Kerrigan all had big senior seasons and became top draft choices.

    “Those are good ones right there,” Tressel said of that trio last year. “When you have edge guys like that, those guys disrupt what you do. All of a sudden you’ve got to send your backs out to chip them, you get them out in routes and your quarterback’s timing is off because he’s used to the check-down being there with that coverage. I don’t think it’s a secret whether it’s our league or the league above us, D-linemen are impactful.”

    Meanwhile, a few tables away, Rodriguez was telling reporters that UM football was on the brink of returning to glory despite fan unrest.

    “We’re at a place where they care,” Rodriguez said last August. “You want to coach and play at a place like that. I don’t know if you ever have 100 percent of the people happy no matter where you’re at. When we were having our good runs at West Virginia at the end there, when we lost two games it was tragic. But you build up to that point.

    “There’s nothing wrong with that. I want to get to that point. I want to get to that point where, boy, one or two losses is a bad, bad thing – and we can get there. It’s taken us longer than we wanted, that’s for sure, but we can get there.

    “We’re getting there. We wanted to have a fast team. It starts off with recruiting fast players. Now we’ve got to get them to play fast all the time, and that’s our job as coaches. We’ve got to put them in that position. We’ve got to teach them, educate them. And on both sides of the ball. Some people talk about the offense, but it’s defensively, too. We’ve got to play faster defensively. And in a couple years those fast guys playing fast will be juniors and seniors.”

    Michigan defensive back Troy Woolfolk also was talking about a turnaround – including Michigan’s results against Ohio State.

    “For us (the hatred of OSU) has been as high as it’s ever been because they’ve kind of dominated the last few years. I think it’s that time to finally get over the hill and end that winning streak. Everyone on the team, I can just see it in their eyes when everyone is telling them about Ohio State. Or even just on TV or even just an O-shaped figure I just get instantly angry. Cheerios, Froot Loops, Apple Jacks, none of that.”

    For the record, Woolfolk ended up suffering a season-ending injury and his Wolverines were bombed at Ohio State in November.

    Coachspeak – The Big Ten coaches checked in on a number of topics at the Media Days. Here are some of the more noteworthy comments:

    Michigan State’s Mark Dantonio on the demise of Tressel, his former boss and mentor – “To me, it’s tragic. He becomes a tragic hero in my respect, in my view. Usually tragic heroes have the ability to rise above it all in the end and that’s what I’ll look for in the end. It is very heart-wrenching for me and my family because we’re close to Coach Tress. He’s had a lot to do with my life as a mentor really since 1983, and that’s a long time. That’s a tough situation.”

    Illinois’ Ron Zook on Ohio State’s NCAA predicament – “You hate to see those things happen. Obviously it’s lessons that we as all coaches have to look at, maybe rethink, obviously help your players in education, learning what’s right and what’s wrong from that standpoint as well.”

    Zook on hanging onto his job – “Well, it’s hard to believe going into my seventh year and I’m actually third in seniority. Actually kind of mind-boggling.”

    Indiana’s Kevin Wilson on making the Hoosiers a contender – “If you talk to our three guys representing us today, we’re not trying to be good four, five, six years from now. The expectation, I think every game is going to be exciting, competitive, challenging in the Big Ten. That’s the niche in college football these days. That’s the beauty of BCS, fighting every week in your bowl situation.”

    Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz on Nebraska being added to the league – “First and foremost, I think it’s a fantastic thing for the conference. I was in the league for nine years back in the ’80s, gone for nine, now I’ve been back again. I was not here when Penn State joined the league. I think we’d agree that’s been a tremendous thing overall. I think this is a move that balances that out, if you will. In our case we have a border that we share. It’s certainly something that is going to be something very much of interest for the fans.”

    Nebraska’s Bo Pelini on QB Taylor Martinez – “We feel really good about where Taylor is. He’s had a great offseason. He had a tremendous spring. He’s had a phenomenal summer. I think he’s more engaged as a leader. I think he’s really taken it
    upon himself to grow in that area. I think he’s becoming a tremendous leader on our football team, holding his teammates accountable, holding himself accountable. I think he’s poised to have a great year.”

    Pelini, a former Buckeye, on how the Big Ten compares to the Big 12 – “When I think of the Big Ten, I think of class, I think of tremendous tradition. Like I said, I think of integrity. I think that’s what the Big Ten has represented for a very long time. You look a the academic accomplishments throughout the conference. To me it serves as a model, and it’s why I feel so great about us being a part of the conference. I think it serves as a model for the rest of college football. That’s why it’s such an honor for us as an institution for us to become a part of it.”

    Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald on Ohio State’s troubles – “There’s a lot that’s going on right now in college football that I think we need to wrap our arms around as a complete and total body. We will. We’ll make it better. There are going to need to be changes, tweaks, adjustments, to bylaws and rules, I would think so based on what we’ve seen in the last off-season. I don’t think there’s a coach or administrator in the country that doesn’t want to be a part of that solution.”

    Penn State octogenarian Joe Paterno on his health – “I feel a lot better than I did a year ago. I had two tough years physically. The kid from Wisconsin running into me in the sideline, when I broke my knee that time. Then I threw my hip out showing off, trying to show the kids how to kick a football. I couldn’t kick when I was healthy. I sure as hell couldn’t kick with a broken knee.”

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In our latest installment, we look at the state of the Big Ten men's basketball race, declare Michigan State as the winner on the women's side, begin to outline what lies ahead in football and more.

 
 
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