Newcomers played a major role in the Big Ten's 2012 season, especially on the sidelines. Urban Meyer and Bill O'Brien took over at Ohio State and Penn State respectively, and each enjoyed wild amounts of success—especially given the murky situations they inherited.
Elsewhere, redshirt freshmen like Melvin Gordon and Joel Stave at Wisconsin, or Deion Barnes at Penn State, were able to make immediate on-the-field impacts with their new teams. As did true first-year guys like Aaron Burbridge at Michigan State and Noah Spence in Columbus.
The same type of swift impact from first-year individuals is likely to dictate the league in 2013. In every corner of the conference, another newcomer stands poised to alter his team's destiny.
Here are eight in particular who will have the biggest impact:
The Spartans fielded a National Championship-caliber defense in 2012, but still finished just 7-6. The offense was that brutal to watch.
They retained Dave Warner at co-offensive coordinator, but added Jim Bollman to share the position with him. Bollman spent 2012 coaching offensive linemen at Boston College, but prior to that spent 10 years as an offensive assistant under Jim Tressel at Ohio State.
He's is a bit of a nomad, but if nothing else, Bollman should help a talented offensive line that underachieved last season. The better they are in pass protection, the better Andrew Maxwell (or whoever starts under center) will look.
Etling, a former Elite 11 finalist, enrolled early at Purdue and wasted no time impressing the new coaching staff.
"For a guy that's supposed to be at his prom a couple weeks ago, he was extremely mature," head coach Darrell Hazell told ESPN.com during spring practice. "He's in the office at 6 o'clock in the morning studying film and trying to understand what we're trying to do. He's pretty poised for a young guy."
He's still battling senior Rob Henry for the starting job, but it wouldn't be a shock to hear Etling's number called in the opener at Cincinnati. The Boilers are looking to start a new chapter in their program's history, and letting a prized recruit get his feet wet is a good way to begin.
247Sports' top JUCO weak-side end Randy Gregory will fill an urgent void at Nebraska.
The Huskers lost eight players who started at least five games last year, and were hit particularly hard along the defensive line. They lost three starters from that unit, returning just Jason Ankrah (who has but three career sacks), and desperately need someone to emerge as a playmaker.
Gregory stands 6'5'' and weighs an imposing 230 pounds. He missed last season with a broken leg, but racked up 21 tackles for loss, including nine sacks, at Arizona Western Community College the year before that.
With names like Taylor Martinez, Ameer Abdullah, Spencer Long and Kenny Bell returning, Nebraska's offense will put up more than enough points. If Gregory can help keep their defense respectable, a return trip to the Big Ten Championship is viable.
Bullough's brother Max is an All-American middle linebacker for the Spartans, and coming out of high school, Riley seemed poised to follow in his footsteps. But a spring practice positional change has him taking over for another Michigan State legend.
Mark Dantonio switched Bullough from linebacker to running back, and has had nothing but praise for the redshirt freshman since doing so. "Riley's a doer," Dantonio said, according to the Detroit Free-Press. "So he’s going to find out the best way to do things, and he’s motivated, and the one thing about him is he’s athletic. He can jump. He can run. He’s tough, and he’s smart."
He's currently the favorite to start at tailback for MSU, a position that Le'Veon Bell occupied to perfection in 2012. The passing game shouldn't be as anemic in 2013, so Bullough won't be counted on to carry the ball 382 times, but he should be a vital part of the offense.
Michigan State's defense expects to be a top-10 unit once again this year. If Bullough can help control the clock on offense, Sparty could well see Roses come January.
Hazell isn't a newcomer, per se—he coached under Jim Tressel at Ohio State for seven years—but returns to the Big Ten after two years leading Kent State.
In his time there, Hazell enjoyed unprecedented, program-reviving success. Before last season's 11-2 campaign, Kent State was 10 coaches and 40 years removed from its last bowl game—of any type. In 2013, it was seven points away from heading to the Orange Bowl.
His specialty is offense, which is perfect since that's where his new team needs the most short-term help. According to Football Outisders' S&P ratings, Purdue was the fourth-least efficient offense in the Big Ten last year, and returns just 33.2 percent of its offensive yards in 2013.
By contrast, the Boilers return 71.1 percent of their tackles—the Big Ten's fourth-highest total—from last year's slightly underrated defense, and only stand poised to improve on that side of the ball.
He'll make his presence felt immediately within the conference.
Green is a pigment non-grata at Michigan, the primary color of archrival Michigan State. But if given the opportunity, a different Green—the player—will help the Maize and Blue see gold.
The most-hyped offensive recruit of Brady Hoke's tenure, Green was rated the top running back by recruiting services like Rivals. Despite being a true freshman, and despite being blocked on the depth chart, Green was also named a preseason All-Big Ten candidate by prediction guru Phil Steele.
Fitzgerald Toussaint is a former 1,000-yard rusher, and pending the success of his return from a fractured fibula, Green could have trouble getting high-volume carries. At least at the beginning of the year.
But eventually, it will become impossible for Brady Hoke to keep this guy off the field. And once he starts getting consistent touches, the rest of the Big Ten would be wise to take heed.
Penn State brought in two of the best quarterback prospects in the nation this year, and now stare down the barrel of a huge decision. According to 247 Sports, Tyler Ferguson was the 2nd-best pro-style JUCO quarterback, while Christian Hackenberg was the No. 1 guy coming out of high school.
Hackenberg and Ferguson were listed 1a and 1b on the Lions' post-spring depth chart, and the program has remained mum on how it will proceed going forward. But if Hackenberg does indeed win the job, he's almost a lock for Big Ten Freshman of the Year.
There's a reason he was a top-10 prospect to begin with, after all. Hackenberg stands 6'4'' with deceptive arm strength and precocious touch. Many quarterbacks his age—the ones who aren't good enough to start as true freshmen—have a college-level arm, but lack for repetitive accuracy. Hackenberg has both.
With Allen Robinson, the Big Ten's best receiver, as a capable target, Hackenberg could enjoy a brilliant debut in Happy Valley.
For its highest-profile coaching gigs, the University of Wisconsin is not used to welcoming out-of-staters. Familiarity with America's great north, it seemed, was prerequisite for the job.
Between 1995 and 2012, only three men were hired as football or men's basketball coaches at Wisconsin. Bret Bielema was promoted from within after serving as the football team's defensive coordinator, while Bo Ryan and Dick Bennett, the last two basketball coaches, had spent a combined 44 years coaching college hoops in Wisconsin before landing the head job in Madison.
But now Gary Andersen, a born-and-raised Utah boy, is the rarely accepted outsider—a fact that only amplifies the already immense pressure of his new position at Camp Randall. As if inheriting a team that made the 2013 Rose Bowl wasn't enough.
A lot of how Wisconsin fares this season—and, in turn, a lot of how the entire Big Ten shakes out—rests squarely on his shoulders. How will Andersen handle that pressure? Does his system translate from small to power conference? Why is his career head-coaching record just 30-31?
Only time will tell.