CHICAGO-- Over 400 media members descended on McCormick Place this week for the annual Big Ten Media Days. Each of the league's 11 football coaches (sorry, Bo Pelini, you're not "official" yet) previewed their team's upcoming season and took questions from reporters.
Some coaches were informative, some were amusing, some were neither.
Without further ado, here are the power rankings of each Big Ten head coach's performance at the podium this year.
Dantonio used far too much of his 15-minute press conference previewing the entire Spartan depth chart instead of taking questions from the media.
(Note to all coaches conducting press conferences from here on out: I don't care who your long-snapper is. And if I do, I'll pull out the roster and look on my own.)
Things didn't get any better for Dantonio when a reporter asked him about Ohio State's impressive run of five straight championships. "We don't play them this year, so I may not be quite as qualified to talk about them as some others."
HIGHLIGHT QUOTE: "I think [the 3-4 defense] is part of what we do and what we'll be doing. We'll try and transition a little bit more towards doing that on run/pass downs, first and second downs."
(The fact that an explanation of a partial shift to a 3-4 defense was the highlight of the press conference should tell you everything you needed to know about the entertainment value of Dantonio's presser.)
Lynch followed Dantonio to the stage and (unfortunately for the media in attendance) emulated his public relations strategy of walking the crowd through seemingly every name on the depth chart.
At least Lynch's presser provided a little bit of real information, instead of being chock-full of cliches like the preceding event (did you know Michigan State wants "to put our best players on the field at the same time"?).
The Indiana coach talked about the importance of finishing in close games (unlike last year), the Hoosiers' talented trio of wideouts (Tandon Doss, Demarlo Belcher, and Terrance Turner), and improvements in the Bloomington game day experience.
HIGHLIGHT QUOTES: "We've got two Replogles that will be important on our defense." (This is technically true, but still sounds humorous.)
"[Terrance Turner] spends as much time acting as he does getting ready to play football." (This is why Indiana does not play in bowl games.)
The handful of Danny Hope's press conferences I've sat in on have all come across a little bit dry, and this one was no exception. I asked the Purdue coach specifically about Ralph Bolden's torn ACL, as well as potential replacements (such as Al-Terek McBurse), and Hope danced all the way around the question without telling me anything I didn't already know.
So just in case you wondered, Bolden may be back in time to contribute this year...unless he's not. And if he's not, other running backs (McBurse, RB-turned-WR-turned-RB-again Keith Carlos, and Dan Dierking) will have to step up...they're good players, you see.
HIGHLIGHT QUOTE: "Everything about Robert Marve excites me."
(Listening to Hope rave about his new quarterback reminded me of Mike Greenberg fawning over Darrelle Revis or Mike Golic drooling over Brady Quinn.)
Tressel is known for being as buttoned-down as his conservative attire, and today's meeting with the media was no exception. The Ohio State head coach talked about the bulls-eye on his team's back, Maurice Clarett, and his lack of affection for the Big Ten's possible move to nine conference games...without making a lot of waves, as every writer in the room expected.
There was one slightly awkward moment when Mr. Sweater Vest answered a question about Terrelle Pryor's development by pointing out how many times he's already addressed the same issue:
"Well, I've kinda talked through that journey a few times and I don't want to bore the people I've done that with, but..."
Nope, no media relations brownie points there.
HIGHLIGHT QUOTE: "I think change is exciting."
(Um, Mr. Ultra-Conservative Plain-Vanilla Don't-Even-Change-My-Wardrobe Static-Consistent Coach say what?)
Brewster's meeting with the media was fine, if a little bit confusing because he spent as much time talking about Joe Paterno and Larry Fitzgerald (neither of which, if my memory serves me correctly, is at all affiliated with the University of Minnesota) as he did discussing the 2010 Gophers.
At least Brewster's presser created news, unlike a significant percentage of the day's conferences that only featured regurgitated coach-speak.
Things that this writer didn't previously know, all according to the Minnesota coach: 1. TCF Bank Stadium is "the best stadium in the country", 2. the Gophers play "one of the top five schedules in America", and 3. Texas backed out of a series with "signed contracts" at least in part due to a dispute over postgame video highlights.
(At least the third statement could be true. One out of three's not bad, right?)
HIGHLIGHT QUOTE: "I think it's absolutely vital for the University of Minnesota to play Wisconsin and to play Iowa each and every year. I think it's vital to the Big Ten. It's what the Big Ten is all about: the traditions, the rivalries, playing for the Floyd of Rosedale, playing for Paul Bunyan's Axe. It's important to those states...Wisconsin, Iowa, and Minnesota."
(It seemed like every coach was asked his opinion on potential divisional alignments, protecting rivalries, and all the administrative detail that comes with the addition of Nebraska to the conference. Brewster was one of the few to speak out with any kind of conviction on the topic, adding that he had spoken with Jim Delany to communicate his feelings about protecting the Gophers' rivalries.)
Rodriguez handled his press conference with relative ease, alternating a few humorous wisecracks with some interesting anecdotes.
The coach told about fullback Mark Moundros asking for a shot to contribute at linebacker, why he kicked the extra point to force overtime at Michigan State (instead of going for two and the win), and his two or three quarterbacks (which seems to be a trend in Ann Arbor lately).
Rodriguez jokingly described his interactions with fans as: "Hey coach, when are you going to win more?", saying the Michigan faithful have been "terrific" and "overwhelmingly positive".
If you say so, coach.
HIGHLIGHT QUOTES: "Last year playing the two freshmen quarterbacks, at times we were productive, but other times we weren't."
(Sounds a lot like "sometimes you win, and sometimes you lose." Glad I didn't make the trek to Chicago especially for that piece of insight.)
"I was taking an informal poll for how long the quarterback question would come up. Didn't take long. Thanks for asking."
(The guess here is that each coach heads to Chicago with a certain question in his mind that A. knows is coming and B. he dreads answering. For RichRod, it's always about the three-headed monster under center.)
Zook used his time on stage to let everyone know that he is excited, doesn't feel any pressure, is excited, and doesn't feel any pressure.
Or something like that.
While his seat may be hotter than that of any other conference coach, the Zooker looked ready to tackle the challenge of 2010, going so far as to claim his team is "probably every bit if not better a football team than" the Rose Bowl squad of a couple years ago.
(Oh, and if you honestly believe that particular statement, I have some oceanfront property in Illinois to sell you.)
HIGHLIGHT QUOTE: "My wife had me buying appliances this summer, which I've never done in my life and will probably never ever do it again."
(We can take away from this particular sound bite that while the Illini may not be any better on the football field in 2010, at least Zook will have a nice television and refrigerator to pack onto the moving truck when he heads to his next destination.)
Fitzgerald has to make the top four on our list because, well, in his words: "I'm pretty good with the media."
(No bonus points for humility, apparently.)
Fitz wasn't necessarily as funny as some of the other coaches, but he's a great communicator that oozes passion for football and his university, which counts for something.
Oh, and he squeezed in a Biakabatuka reference...tough to do since it's no longer 1995.
HIGHLIGHT QUOTE: (explaining the Wildcats' recent success against league powerhouse Iowa): "An oblong football that bounces a lot of different ways".
(Reading between the lines, I believe you spell that L-U-C-K.)
There's Manny being Manny.
And then there's JoePa being JoePa.
Paterno's presser this afternoon in Chicago was as classic and iconic as the coach himself, with one-liners that proved beyond a shadow of a doubt the conference's figurehead hasn't lost his sense of humor.
The Penn State coach talked about his team's upcoming visit to defending BCS champion Alabama, his plans (or lack thereof) for when he might retire or who might replace him, and addressed the criticism that his "staying home" during recruiting might harm the Nittany Lions' program.
Paterno also said he's "ready to go" for the 2010 season, quoting good old Samuel Clemens in the process: "Well, you know, again, what did Mark Twain say? The rumor of my death has been over-exaggerated or something."
HIGHLIGHT QUOTE: (a question-and-answer exchange)
Q. You've had intestinal issues this last spring that you were dealing with?
PATERNO: I won't get into that.
Q. I understand, too, that you're not on the road as much...
PATERNO: It was a little bit below the intestines.
PATERNO: I didn't want to get into it, but...
(Ladies and gentlemen, I can't possibly improve that conversation by analyzing it, so I won't try. Let's just say that I don't want to hear about anything below Paterno's intestines.)
Honestly, going into the day, I didn't expect Ferentz to rate very high on this list, but the Iowa head coach impressed me.
Ferentz mixed self-deprecating humor ("Thanks to the hotel gift shop, I got a snazzy new belt on...I didn't pack very well."), blunt honesty ("I don't have a preference. And if I did, I probably wouldn't share it right now."), and corny puns ("Hopefully [running back] is a healthier situation than it has been"...) in an effective presentation of his team's prospects for the upcoming season.
HIGHLIGHT QUOTE: "I can read texts. I can’t send them. I haven't gotten that far yet. I'll work on that next summer."
(Sources indicate Ferentz will attempt to access the Internet from a mobile device by the year 2013. Iowa could neither confirm nor deny this report.)
Bielema led off the day's festivities and put on a performance no other coach could top. The Wisconsin Badgers' head man interspersed a stand-up comedy routine with his presentation (at least it seemed that way), and takes the "Power Rankings" crown in a landslide.
Among the nuggets from Mr. Quotable:
"One of my 2010 resolutions was to be more friendly with the media...I hope you'll reflect it later on with some of the questions you give me and my players."
"I tweet. I'm not saying I'm really good at it..."
"Hopefully you guys had a pool on what that first question would be."
“I don’t know what goes on at a concert, but I had an idea it wasn’t going to be good.”
"I point out stupid tweets when I see one."
"A lot of times coaches brainwash kids. I'm not saying I do, but..."
(I don't know if Bielema brainwashes his players or not, but he at least got his message across to the media in attendance this afternoon, and that's good enough for me.)
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