As Big Ten Media days wrap up tonight, we had a chance to hear from all of Northwestern’s 2016 Big Ten opponents about the current makeup of their teams and season outlook. Here’s some of the more pertinent things that had to say.
NOTE: Nebraska did not attend Big Ten Media Days in the wake of the tragedy involving punter Sam Foltz.
Iowa (Week 5)
-Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz is glad to have star cornerback Desmond King back for his senior year, but he didn’t think it was actually a very hard decision, saying college is usually the best time of one’s life.
-Ferentz also said that this is the first time that he’s brought a non-senior to Media Days, in junior linebacker Josey Jewell.
Michigan St. (Week 7)
-Michigan St. head coach Mark Dantonio praised the team’s depth at both linebacker and running back. Dantonio also said that starting tailback LJ Scott has worked himself into much better shape heading into 2016: “LJ, I thought, was a little too heavy. Played at 235 last year, much like Le'Veon Bell did. We saw what a drop in weight could do for Le'Veon. I think LJ looks very good right now at 224.”
-Dantonio doesn’t yet know who will be the starter will be, but it appears that Tyler O’Connor is in the lead: “So Tyler O'Connor is a fifth-year senior. He's been in the system four years, been behind a great quarterback. He's been waiting his opportunity. Performed very well down in Columbus last year.” However, the position is still a question mark at this point.
Indiana (Week 8)
-Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson doesn’t yet know who will start at quarterback, although it appears it’ll be between Richard Lagow and Zander Diamont.
-Wilson also said there’s a possibility that the Hoosiers will play more than one quarterback. “In our last three years, we played three quarterbacks. So we don't need a starting quarterback. We need more than one. In this day and age, those guys are going to get hit. We were fortunate last year, we had the fewest sacks in the conference. We had the most plays. We had the fewest sacks. We had the fewest turnovers. So hopefully we'll be able to take care of that quarterback, but we'll let it play out. We were not going to drag it out. And we'll see as it moves forward. We'll play one, play two. We'll just let it go.”
Ohio St. (Week 9)
-Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer announced that former running back Bri’onte Dunn will not be reinstated on the team, and that he believes redshirt freshman Mike Weber will be the team’s starting running back. He also announced that Noah Brown will be a starting wide receiver.
-Meyer said that his biggest worry for the season is about how the new players will handle the pressure. “Just reaction to game, to running out into the Shoe in front of 110,000 people. And good thing is at Ohio State we already had the 100,000 people for a spring game. And just the experience factor. How do you get them—how do you stay healthy yet put them in game-like situations as much as possible during training camp.”
-Finally, Meyer praised the talent of his three captains, quarterback J.T. Barrett, center Pat Elfein and linebacker Raekwon McMillian and that he “can't imagine going into this” without them. He also called Elfein the best center in college football.
Wisconsin (Week 10)
-Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst on the quarterback situation: “I'm excited with Bart Houston and Alex Hornibrook. They've done a great job to this point of not worrying about the common question of who is going to be the starter and the quarterback competition. But spending their time trying to work on and improve in the things in their control. And they've done a great job this summer.” However, Chryst does not yet know who the starter will be.
-Chryst on the defense: “I like the way that they've come together and transitioned from a new defensive coordinator, new player stepping in, and thought we've had to make great strides this summer. I think that we have and certainly in fall camp it will be important for us to continue to grow and come together. But I'm excited about the pieces, and we've got some guys on defense that have played a number of significant snaps, significant roles.”
-Chryst also called Vince Biegel their best player on defense and spoke about how playing LSU early in the season is an exciting prospect for the team., though certainly a major challenge as well.
Purdue (Week 11)
-Purdue head coach Darrell Hazell doesn’t yet know who his starting quarterback will be. “Dave (Blough)'s obviously got an edge coming out of spring football. Both of those guys, David and Elijah (Sindelar), are more than capable of winning a lot of football games. What I've like about those guys is they've slowed the game down, they've shown tremendous leadership, they're throwing it with accuracy and playing with some confidence. It will be a few weeks before we make that decision.”
-Hazell is also very excited about the prospects of running back Markell Jones and linebacker Ja'Whaun Bentley. There are also multiple in house candidates to replace cornerbacks Anthony Brown and Frankie Williams.
Minnesota (Week 12)
-Minnesota head coach Tracy Claeys on replacing the wide receivers: “We have to have somebody step up and replace K.J. He made a tremendous amount of catches a year ago, especially for first downs and touchdowns. And so obviously we need somebody to replace him. But I think with Rashad Steele and I think Gary Carter being a senior, will have a good year.”
-Claeys on removing kickoffs: “My own personal belief is if that play obviously is causing that many injuries and it's that obvious from the data, then we need to replace it. Find a good way to replace it and get it out of the game. I think the players' safety is always the number one priority.”
-On offense, Clayes said he wants to “get back to being physical up front and being able to run the ball on a more consistent basis.” He also wants to negate some of the negative plays and penalties they suffered last year.
Illinois (Week 13)
-Illinois head coach Lovie Smith had some strong words about Illinois place in Chicago: “We feel like we're Chicago's team, and also we have a lot of alumni here so it's good to be here.”
-Smith also talked up the play of linebacker Dawuane Smoot and running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn and thinks Smoot should be ranked as one of the best players in the nation.