As the 2018 Big Ten Media Days come to a close, see what each coach had to say about their program to start the year.
For Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes, consistency will be a focal point this season.
“We had some really rewarding moments last year, and probably the biggest thing I would note for this team moving forward, if we’re going to take another step, it’s all about consistency,” Ferentz said.
The highlight for the Hawkeyes last season? A 55-24 thrashing of Ohio State at home. The Buckeyes were one of the top teams in the country last year, and their collapse against Iowa bounced them out of the College Football Playoff.
Just a few weeks prior, Illinois strolled into Iowa City for Homecoming and were just down a touchdown to start the fourth quarter. That stride between those two games is a great example of what Ferentz hopes to make with his guys.
Roster wise, Iowa will be tasked with replacing holes at running back and linebacker.
“If you look at the losses, the most obvious loss would be our linebacker corps,” Ferentz notes. “We had three seniors that played at a high clip, and we also had a fourth, Kevin Ward, a very valuable special teams player captain for us on special teams. We lost four players at that position that did a really good job... The obvious thing we’re lacking is experience at running back. But we like our players there. They just haven’t played very much.”
The Hawkeyes return two sophomores and usher in four freshmen, two of whom sat out last year with redshirts.
Over in Bloomington, improving is the name of the game for Tom Allen’s crew. That starts with changes to personnel.
The Hoosiers added Dave Ballou as their new strength and conditioning coach, as well as adding Dr. Matt Rhea to cover speed development. The addition of one of the top-ranked recruiting classes in program history and a couple key transfers could immediately translate to an on-field improvement for Allen’s squad.
The football program will also be unveiling some upgrades to facilities. A new south end zone complete with a new nutrition center and a renovated team room will serve as points of emphasis for upcoming recruiting visits.
As far as who will be under center to start the fall, that question still looms.
“It’s an open competition for quarterback,” states Allen. “(Dawkins) has not been named the starter. He’ll have to compete for that position.”
After an 11-3 campaign last season, capped off by a bowl win over Washington State, the Michigan State Spartans look poised for another College Football Playoff run.
“We return 10 starters on offense. I think nine on defense. All of our special teams performers. I think the biggest thing I’d like to say I guess about our football team right now is that I feel a great sense of leadership, chemistry and focus from our football team,” said Head Coach Mark Dantonio in his opening statement.
“Our ability to work as a group and to overcome our challenges and be in the hunt for a championship in November told me a lot about our people as individuals,” Dantonio said.
Top dogs in the conference last year, Wisconsin returns an impressive nucleus featuring quarterback Alex Hornibrook and running back Jonathan Taylor. The only imperfection on its record last season was a conference championship loss against Ohio State in Indianapolis, and it held Paul Chryst’s team from a shot at competing in the College Football Playoff.
“There’s a lot of storylines, but nothing’s happened yet; you have to go out and earn it,” Chryst said when asked about a possible National Championship run this year.
The Badgers also return four all-conference offensive lineman, making them heavy favorites to come out of the West division. Will this be the year that the Badgers fend off the East and get their shot at a title?
The firing of Zach Martin, former wide receivers coach at Ohio State, was the hot topic for Urban Meyer as he addressed the podium this morning.
“I’m going to address the 2009 because I’ve been asked about that. In 2009 Zach was an intern, a very young couple. As I do many times, most coaches and people in leadership positions, you receive a phone call, first thing you do is tell your boss, let the experts do their jobs. We’re certainly not going to investigate. It came back to me that what was reported wasn’t actually what happened. And Shelley and I actually both got involved because of our relationship with that family and advised for counseling and wanted to help as we moved forward,” Meyer said.
When he asked if Martin was fired because of the incident coming to light or because of the latest protective order issued last Friday, Meyer wasn’t as inclined to answer.
“I’m not going to get into that,” Meyer declared. “It’s a very personal matter. The decision was made. I think the details that I’m obligated to give, I gave.”
Outside of the off-the-field issues, Meyer got the chance to hype up his next superstar at quarterback, Dwayne Haskins.
“The expectation is to be the best quarterback in the Big Ten,” Meyer said.
Haskins beat out Joe Burrow earlier this offseason for the starting spot, forcing Burrow to transfer and try and find a starting spot elsewhere.
DJ Durkin of Maryland concluded the coaches’ press conferences. He opened his statement with some thoughts on the late Jordan McNair, a lineman who passed away earlier this summer after health issues relating to heatstroke and seizures.
“Jordan was a special member of our team. He had a unique way about him that was infectious to his teammates. He was loved by everyone,” Durkin said. “Our hearts continue to be with them. They will not be forgotten. They will always be part of our program, Jordan and his family will always be part of what we do”
As for the upcoming season, Durkin talked about being in the heart of young football talent.
“For us, I know I’ve said this before, and I truly mean it, the area we’re in, I think we’re in the center of one of the best football talent areas in the country. I really feel that way,” stated Durkin. “We’re going to continue to recruit in the DMV and through our radius of our campus like crazy and do everything we can to keep as many guys here with us and representing their hometown as we possibly can. And we will certainly branch out in different certain areas.”
Illinois and Maryland will meet for the first time in the programs’ histories this season.