Big Ten Media Days 2014: Notable Quotes and Reaction from Day 1
CHICAGO — Change was in the air.
Day 1 of Big Ten media days served as the unofficial welcome for two new programs, one enthusiastic football coach and some renewed mentalities from the personalities that are already established in the conference.
For some, such as Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, the conversation centered on personnel and the necessary tweaks for a breakthrough season. For others—including Penn State coach James Franklin and Nebraska’s Bo Pelini—the Chicago Hilton served as the ideal setting to reiterate familiar stances still lingering in the news cycle.
And for Rutgers and Maryland, it was all about getting the lay of the land.
Oh, and we learned that Purdue JUCO transfer Corey Clements checks in at cool 6’8” and 400 pounds, according to head coach Darrell Hazell. Somehow, someway, Purdue has to find a way to get its new guard in the end zone.
As for some of the notable moments from Chicago, here’s what stood out on Day 1.
Michigan Head Coach Brady Hoke
Following Brady Hoke's opening remarks, it took all of seven seconds for the first Jabrill Peppers question to be sent in the Michigan head coach's direction. This was roughly four seconds slower than what was expected.
Given the hype surrounding the electric true freshman (and his freakish build entering camp), you knew it wouldn’t take long. Hoke has done his best to temper expectations for the newcomer, and his message stayed the same.
"Let’s anoint him when he does something," Hoke said of Peppers, throwing a bucket of cold water on the herd of media members awaiting his response.
In terms of actual news, Hoke did reiterate—at least at the moment—that Peppers will be the team’s starting nickelback in Week 1.
"That hasn't changed. The plan hasn't changed," Hoke said. "I think we've got to be careful about anointing any true freshmen starting their college career, but that's where he will start."
When Hoke wasn’t being asked about his potential star freshman—or his thoughts on a soccer game in the Big House, which actually came up—he was tackling his own job security and pressure entering the 2014 season. Except he didn't exactly tackle it all, instead focusing on the bigger picture.
"You know, why do you coach? I mean, why do you really coach? If we're doing everything we can for 115 guys, sons on our roster, from the graduation, since we've been there, 69 of 69 seniors have graduated. That's important.
"So when you talk about that, that's the only pressure as a coach that I've ever felt—making sure we're doing it for the student-athletes."
Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini
Earlier this offseason, Bo Pelini generated ripples by calling for the death of national signing day. On Monday, Pelini didn’t back down from this stance. If anything, he took his personal brainstorm a step further.
"That's something that I think would make a lot of sense," Pelini said on removing national signing day altogether. "I think sometimes the way the recruiting process works is contradictory to what we're trying to teach these kids and how we're trying to develop these kids in the long run to be successful."
Aside from calling for a dramatic reform to current recruiting, Pelini showed off his softer side, a side he believes has been there all along. He tackled this stereotype of being a hot head, saying the person that has been portrayed, specifically through the national media, shouldn't define who he is as a person.
"I'm a much different person away from the field," Pelini said. "I'm actually pretty laid back off the field and away from my job—when I'm with my family, when I'm with my kids and really a lot of times when I'm with the football team.
"So you just have to try to do things and look for opportunities to kind of show people that isn't who you are all the time. And hopefully I can do a better job of showing that side of me even during competitions."
Along this same front, Pelini indeed addressed Nebraska's new unofficial mascot.
The cat from the team's spring game.
"He's enjoying a nap up in the room," Pelini said. "So he is here in Chicago and enjoying the Windy City."
Was he joking? Most likely, although it was tough to tell from his Pelini-esque delivery. Let's just assume the university purchased the cat his own room and leave it at that.
Penn State Head Coach James Franklin
James Franklin’s Big Ten debut began with a critique of the elevators and, more specifically, how the elevator with the Penn State logo didn’t “align” with his room.
“I refuse to ride any other elevator up there, so I had to end up walking up the floors,” Franklin said.
From that point on, he was off and running.
He touched on a variety of topics in his first Big Ten media appearance, including just how difficult it was to get to this point in the first place. Upon hearing criticism from Vanderbilt players on how swiftly and unexpectedly he exited—reportedly sending mixed messages before he left—Franklin tackled it head-on.
“Well, this is what I've learned. There's no good way to leave,” Franklin said on taking the Penn State job. “When you invest so much in a place and you invest so much in people, there's going to be hurt feelings.”
On the topic of hurt feelings, Franklin also addressed recruiting satellite camps. Many members of the Penn State staff were guest coaches at Georgia State for a camp this past June. Some SEC coaches didn’t take kindly to this, although Franklin—who defended this decision before Chicago—stood by the team's unique trip.
“It gave us an opportunity to get to the part of the country where maybe kids who aren't able to travel to Penn State, we were able to bring Penn State to them,” Franklin said. “And it was awesome. We had a great experience, enjoyed doing it. The colleges that we worked with were awesome, but the reaction, I can't speak on that. All I can talk about is what we're trying to do at Penn State, which is build a world-class program.”
Given the way this team has recruited thus far—currently holding down the No. 6 spot on 247Sports’ 2015 team rankings—expect Penn State to do plenty more building (and also more of these camps).
Ohio State Head Coach Urban Meyer
Last year, Urban Meyer’s time at Big Ten media days centered on off-field discipline and a string of legal issues with his players. This year, thankfully, it was all about football and the necessary moves needed to take that next step.
Meyer wasted little time addressing the status of quarterback Braxton Miller following offseason shoulder surgery. If he is concerned about the health of his quarterback heading into fall camp, he certainly didn’t tip his hand here.
"Our quarterback—I know we'll get asked that question—is ready to go," Meyer said on Miller. "He's full speed, in the best shape of his life."
His confidence in his defensive backfield isn’t near this level—at least not yet—which is why he spent the offseason tearing it down. The reconstruction is already well underway.
"We completely have blown up and started from scratch," Meyer said on the pass defense. "And Chris Ash has done an admirable job of installing a brand-new pass defense that we're going to test and see how it goes during training camp. Went very well during spring."
Vonn Bell, one of the promising young safeties on the Buckeyes, spoke about these changes earlier this offseason.
"This defense is all about being fearless and playing aggressively," Bell said to Ari Wasserman of Cleveland.com. "You'll see the difference next year, I can promise you that."
Ohio State, which ranked No. 112 in passing defense last season and lost cornerback Bradley Roby to the NFL, hopes this rebuild translates into success sooner rather than later.
Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany
At this point, NCAA enforcement has become target practice. Big 12 Commissioner Bob Bowlsby took aim at this topic at his conference’s media days, saying the following (via ESPN.com's Jake Trotter):
"Enforcement is broken. The infractions committee hasn't had [an FBS] hearing in almost a year, and I think it's not an understatement to say cheating pays presently. If you seek to conspire to certainly bend the rules, you can do it successfully and probably not get caught in most occasions."
When asked to summarize his thoughts on enforcement Monday, Big Ten Commissioner Jim Delany refused to grab the baton from Bowlsby, whose language he referred to as "colorful." Instead, Delany used a more reserved and compact approach to get his point across.
"I've used the word 'overmatched,'" Delany said on NCAA enforcement. "I haven't really gone much beyond that. I don't intend to today."
But he did, at least ever so slightly. While Delany avoided the key buzzwords like "broken" and "cheating," he did hit on the need for an overhaul.
"My hope is over the next year to 18 months, the major conferences can come together and will find ways and processes and procedures that fit with what we're trying to achieve, which is a level of deterrence, a level of compliance, level of punishment that is earned," Delany said. "So we need a system. We need regulations. And we need a system that works."
Change is something Delany has stressed, albeit through a unique voice, over his past few media day deliveries. Now it’s a matter of delivering on the changes all conference commissioners so desperately crave, which is another battle entirely.
Adam Kramer is a lead writer for college football at Bleacher Report. All quotes obtained firsthand unless otherwise noted. All stats courtesy of CFBstats.com.
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