CHICAGO — After admitting this week has featured a tough couple of days and then giving a general overview of his Ohio State team, Urban Meyer didn’t talk much football.
In terms of strategy. Or quarterback Braxton Miller’s shot at the Heisman Trophy.
The second-year Buckeyes coach spent most of his session at Big Ten Media Days discussing issues away from the football field.
— Like the Aaron Hernandez murder case involving his former tight end at Florida and the text message he sent out defending he and his staff at Florida.
“The only reason I sent that text (is) I was getting ready to leave for vacation,” Meyer said. “There was inaccurate information being sent out ... (and) some people sent me text messages about just inaccurate information.”
— Like the suspension of top running back Carlos Hyde and arrest of Bradley Roby, a cornerback who was supposed to attend Media Days but was not in Chicago.
Meyer still is considering what to do about Hyde’s situation. Hyde was suspended indefinitely after he was named a person of interest in a battery case last weekend.
“For an upperclassman, (I’m) extremely disappointed,” Meyer said. “And it will be dealt with in a very serious manner. I’m getting all these different conflicting stories. I just have to wait to get the facts and react. But disruption is the biggest thing that bothers me.”
— He’s also had to deal with the dismissal of freshman defensive lineman Tim Gardner and the suspension of tight end Marcus Baugh, two players who haven’t even played a down yet for the Buckeyes.
“(It’s) two young people that I really don’t even know yet do stupid things like that,” Meyer said, “and cause for me to be discussing those two freshmen right here, that’s not right.”
— And allegations that he turned in his old school, Florida, for recruiting violations.
“I’m not sure how that all became a major story,” Meyer said. “There was certainly no intent to go after Florida, so that’s all I can tell you.”
New Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen served as an assistant under Meyer at Utah. He didn’t have a strong opinion on the ongoing matters Meyer is dealing with at Ohio State.
“First of all, I have no idea how Coach Meyer handled the situation,” Andersen said. “I’m not big into that stuff. I haven’t read anything about it, so I don’t know. But I know he’s going to be very fair. He always seems to do that.”
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Only a small media contingent gathered around Kain Colter’s table, but the Northwestern senior made strong points.
About players getting paid. About the ongoing Ed O’Bannon lawsuit regarding the NCAA using players’ likenesses but players receiving no compensation.
“For players, a lot of us have been told we can’t really promote ourselves using our names,” Colter said. “They’re promoting us using our (likeness) in the video games, but we’re not seeing any of that. I do think there needs to be a change. Players have a voice ... and it’s time for us to step up.”
Illinois defensive end Tim Kynard said he didn’t have a preference if players are paid or not.
“I think it’d be fine, (but) the education we get and the money we get already is enough,” Kynard said. “Some players maybe want more because of the rigorous schedule we go through, and that’s understandable. Overall, I think the scholarship is fine with me. Everybody wants a little more in their scholarship checks. When you work hard, you want to get paid, but we don’t really talk about it much.”
Minnesota has two players, Moses Alipate and Victor Keise, who have their names attached to the O’Bannon lawsuit. Minnesota coach Jerry Kill doesn’t seem to mind that Alipate and Keise are heavily involved in the matter.
“I get locked in my own little world, and I don’t understand all the things that are going on with that case,” Kill said. “And right now it’s an NCAA issue. We live in a country where everybody’s got their rights and so forth. We’ve got a lot ... of discussions in college football right now about a lot of issues. That’s one of them, and it’s an NCAA issue. That’s how we’re approaching it.”
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Nearly every coach was asked about the new targeting rules that will go into effect this year and the safety of players.
“It’s well-documented (that) I’m a rather large hockey fan, and to see the way the rules have changed in the game of hockey to where it’s more of an athletic game and guys aren’t getting pressed up and boarded, it’s the same for football,” Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. “If you’re defenseless, you should be protected.”
Illinois coach Tim Beckman said it’s a topic he will constantly broach with his team. He experienced it firsthand last year when defensive back Earnest Thomas was ejected for a head-to-head hit against Penn State. Thomas was the only league player to receive an ejection for such a hit.
“We’re still going to be as aggressive as we possibly can with our schemes and doing the things that are necessary to be successful on defense,” Beckman said. “The awareness of the fact that targeting is going to be looked at and called more aggressively is something that, again, we have to inform our players and educate our players so that they are not targeting.”
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Andersen and Purdue’s Darrell Hazell are the only two new coaches this season in the Big Ten. And both enter 2013 unsettled on who will start at quarterback.
Andersen can choose from Joel Stave, Curt Phillips or Tanner McEvoy.
“It will be a three-man race,” Andersen said. “I have no timeline on it. And we may jog out there the first play of the game with two quarterbacks on the field and see what happens from there. So who knows? It will be interesting.”
Andersen said McEvoy, a junior college transfer, is doing fine after he was mugged last weekend in Madison, Wis. He is back with the team, and Andersen expects him to compete with Stave and Phillips for the starting job once practices start.
“I say this in recruiting all the time: You gotta understand your situation,” Andersen said. “You gotta understand your surroundings. Doesn’t matter if you grow up in a town of 40 or grow up in a town of 4 million. There’s always issues that can pop up.”
Hazell, who turned Kent State around in two seasons and was an assistant at Ohio State for seven seasons, can choose from Rob Henry, last year’s part-time starter, Danny Etling and Austin Appleby.
“We’ll give them equal reps,” Hazell said. “One guy will run with the ones in one group, in one drill, and the next drill the other guy will run with the ones. And in about two weeks after we start practice, we’ll make a decision and have that guy have ownership of our football team going into our first game.”
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It wasn’t long into his remarks before Kill was asked about his health.
The third-year coach has suffered several seizures throughout his coaching career as he deals with epilepsy. The former Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois coach said he’s feeling well.
“Things are going great for me,” he said. “I’ve got a great doctor that is a specialist in epilepsy. I feel like — I may not look like it — but I feel like I’m in the best shape of my life.”