Big Ten football media day

Big Ten football media days started Thursday at the Hilton in downtown Chicago.

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Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

Harbaugh opted to discuss the three Michigan players he brought to Chicago rather than thank Jim Delany or say he's excited about the season. Short and to the point before he gets to questions.

On new offense

I really felt watching Shea Patterson especially — and Dylan McCaffery also — their playmaking ability and ability to operate as a passer and as a runner ... really fits the shotgun and fits the RPO world and fits the uptempo. I've been watching (new OC) Josh Gattis since he was at Western Michigan. He's a young, enthusiastic, high energy coach that really fits our team because we have a group of coaches that are exactly that way.

On his comments about Urban Meyer i.e. controversy following him

I don't think it was anything new or anything of a bombshell. It's things many of you all understand and have written about.

On transfers

It should be clear to what the rules are when a player transfers. My opinion is every student athlete should have a one-time ability to transfer and not sit out a year. A second time you would have to sit out a year. I would also keep the graduate transfer rule we have in place where you can graduate and transfer and become immediately eligible. It would be good to have a clear, concise where everybody understands what the ramifications are.

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Chris Ash, Rutgers

Shoutout to Chris Ash, who thanks the media first. Knows how to read a room. Of course, he also thanks Jim Delany and welcomes Kevin Warren. Can't forget that.

Ash ultimately opens it up for questions — there's a bit of a pause — and ... "You guys don't have to all raise your hand at the same time."

On incoming transfers

We thought we could fill in some holes at certain spots. I'm excited about the guys that are on campus right now. At the offensive side, we brought in McLane Carter (from Texas Tech) at quarterback to create some competition.

On realignment discussion

I think it just goes by the year. I don't think you're going to be able to realign the conference to make everybody happy. We can have those conversations, but I just don't think it's possible. We've got to play who we play. I like where it's at right now, and I don't see it changing anytime soon.

On having John McNulty back at OC

That's a huge point for our program to get a guy to come back in that position for a second year. There's an understanding of what we have to do to fit the players that we have. I think it's the first time in maybe 10 years at Rutgers — it's an amazing stat, a true stat — but what John brings coming back for a second year is the knowledge of the players. John has an understanding of our roster and players and probably, more importantly, what our offensive line can do and our quarterback can do. 

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Paul Chryst, Wisconsin

Tough draw for Chryst to have to follow Pat Fitzgerald, who killed at the podium. If coaching doesn't work out for Fitz, comedy might.

Also, Chryst is excited about the season and thankful for what Jim Delany has done for the Big Ten. Just wanted to make sure that was noted. 

On playing five teams this year coming off a bye

You have to take it week to week. That's when you as a team are at your best if you can be in the moment and make the best out of that moment. You look at the schedule and are aware of it, but our job and opportunity is to make the most out of each week. That's what I've appreciated playing in the Big Ten. You know every week it's going to be a big game. This year is no different than that.

On Jonathan Taylor as a leader

Certainly Jonathan is a very talented and great running back. But I really think from the time he got to campus he's been as impressive — if not more — with who he is and how he handles it. As you see him grow and develop, the leadership part of it is growing and developing as well. He played right away as a true freshman and had a lot on his plate to do what he was doing. Like you'd expect and hope, he has taken that leadership to another level. As great a running back as he is — and I do think he is a great running back — he cares a ton about this team and his teammates. There's natural leadership qualities in JT and each year he feels more freed up and it's his place to be a vocal leader.

On freshman QB Graham Mertz

There's a lot of buzz and talk about him. I think he's handled it well, and I think the team has handled it as well. He's the same person. He's grounded, an unbelievable worker. We had three freshmen come in early. They're experiencing a lot for the first time — going to school, being away from home and obviously there's a ton of football. Graham has handled it well. Going into fall camp, it's not all new to him.

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Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern

"You guys awake?" — Fitzgerald to us media types in Chicago. (To be honest, just barely). "I hope my team reacts better in two weeks."

Also, Northwestern apparently had another outstanding year academically. Sounds right. 

On payoff from new facility

It's amazing to think we're going on year two now. It's been amazing. I think young people want to go to a school and get a great education, play for the staff that recruits them and play for championships. But I think they want to be supported. If year one was a Big Ten West championship, I look forward to year two.

On quarterback change

I think (Clayton Thorson) was really under appreciated. He's just the all-time winningest quarterback in our program history. That's hard to do. What I expect our next starter to be is the best person and best quarterback they can be. You can't compare yourself to the last guy. That's not fair to the new quarterback and it's not attainable. Lead the squad. Take care of the football. Hopefully we get (next guy) identified here as we get rolling in camp.

On relationship with strength coach

It's critically important. It's not just your head strength coach, but that full group of five that you have. They're going to spend more time with your players than you will or your assistant coaches. And that guy has to be trusted by the players. It really comes back to trust and whether your guys believe in what that strength coach and his guys are doing. I've been documented saying they are our secret sauce for a reason.

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James Franklin, Penn State

Another thanks to Jim Delany and a welcome to incoming Big Ten commish Kevin Warren. The Big Ten coaches must have shared notes before this week.

Per usual, though, Franklin is trying to be the record setter for longest opening statement. It's a Big Ten media day tradition. We're learning about every single position — not much, of course, but he hit on just about all of them.

On quarterback situation post Trace McSorley

Whenever you lose a quarterback that played as many games and started as many games as Trace McSorley did and obviously won at a high level, there's questions marks going into a season. We've recruited very well, and we're confident about how we've developed that position as well. We'll make the decision when the decision has been made — when it's obvious who our starting quarterback will be. Obviously big shoes to fill, but we've got tremendous confidence in those guys.

On status of program

We're at a point as a program where I think 90 percent of programs across college football would like to be where we're at, but we'd like to take the next step. It's coaching. It's scheme. It's player development. It's facilities. I's every facet of our program. You look at us the last three years, and we've been as competitive with Ohio State as anybody in the conference. We've got to find a way to be able to take that next step and do it consistently. It's not one glaring area. It's fighting for every small fraction we could possibly find — nutrition, sport science. Every single aspect.

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Jeff Brohm, Purdue

Another theme of Big Ten media day so far ... congratulations from the coaches to soon-to-be-retiring commissioner Jim Delany. Brohm starts off on this note and then ... he's excited about his team going into the season. Two for two!

On expectations surrounding Rondale Moore

Rondale's a guy we don't have to worry about. I think he'll handle it great. When the lights come on, they don't phase him one bit. I know teams are going to key on him. Will he put up the numbers he had last year? I'm not for sure, but we're going to try to get it done for him. He does know he has to make plays for us and stay healthy for us to have the best chance to succeed.

On young team (just eight seniors)

I do think you'd always like to have a veteran team and veteran leadership and guys that have seen the field a lot. We have a good mix. Those seniors will lead well and will be on the field, and the other guys will have to come ready to play. Between spring practice, summer repetitions and fall camp, we as coaches have to do our best to get those guys prepared.

On quarterback situation

Elijah Sindelar right now is our starting quarterback. He has a lot of talent, a big arm and he can throw the ball vertically. We have to do a better job of coaching him to limit turnovers. He's gotten better. He works hard, is a good leader. He has had some injury issues, so we've got to keep him healthy. We've got to manage what he does in practice. 

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Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

Surprise! The Hawkeyes' coach is excited for the start of the 2019 season. Sounds familiar. We'll see how all these coaches feel about their teams, say, in October.

On the state of his team

Watching the guys work, it's been very positive. I think the attitude has been consistent since January when things got started. The leadership base has grown. We have some really good players coming back, and they'll have to be the guys leading the way for us.

On Iowa's Big Ten title chances

We'll find out. We have a chance — an opportunity. The first thing you have to is put yourself in a spot to be competitive. Once you get in that spot, it's about handling the little things well. That's the difference between being at the top, being near the top or being at the bottom. Bigger picture, we really have to be improvement driven. If we're not moving forward, we're going to have a hard time being successful.

On QB Nate Stanley

I think he's done a really good job for us. He's a tremendous young man for us, first and foremost. He's done a good job for two seasons for us. If you're best guys aren't improving and playing their best, you're not going to have a good football team. Nate embraces that. One nice thing about experience is you can't hand it to anybody. He's been out on the field in tough circumstances.

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We're back in Chicago for the second round of Big Ten media day at the Hilton on Michigan Avenue. Seven more coaches will hit the podium to share their (collective) excitement for their teams with training camp starting in a couple weeks.

Slated for today is Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh. Safe to assume after his comments about former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer that came out yesterday, that Harbaugh might get some interesting questions this morning. Plus, he's always good for something weird.

Keep checking back right here at IlliniHQ.com for more updates throughout the morning.

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Ryan Day, Ohio State

On position battles heading into camp

We have depth at linebacker. With the new scheme, we actually have the ability to use different personnel groupings. We want that room to look like the defensive line room has looked in the past. A mentorship going in that room. On offense, the tight end group right now is probably the most experienced group. The thing up front (on the offensive line) will be interesting. 

On transition to head coach

It's more about recruiting and working with our guys to create that brotherhood amongst each other. It's more of a macro approach than just looking at the Xs and Os.

You don't replace a legend (in Urban Meyer). What you can do is just be yourself. I think that's what I'm doing.

On quarterbacks

The quarterback room, there's not a guy in that room that's on the roster last year. It's an interesting situation. Whoever is playing in that first game, it will be the first time. In those first six games, the quarterback is going to be green. He's not going to have a lot of experience. The guys around him ... have to pick up the slack there so when we get to the middle of the season they're hitting their stride in the offense.

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Mike Locksley, Maryland

"I'll try to keep it brief and not give an infomercial for Maryland up here." 

Mike Locksley gets it. Shoutout to him.

Nine minutes later ... maybe not. Solid opening statement, though, even if it went longer than he said it would.

On why Maryland was his dream job

When I was growing up, Maryland was a giant in college athletics and football. ... That's the Maryland that I know, and I know a lot of people outside that DMV area don't understand. We have a great history of tradition and success.

On being first black coach at Maryland

The whole black head coach thing obviously is a horse we've ridden for a long time. It's important only that I be successful as a black head coach at Maryland. 

On transfers and keeping some guys from leaving

I know when I took the job over we had quite a few guys that had entered the transfer portal. One of the things I did the first day I was hired, I called it speed dating. I met with every player for about 15 minutes. I took great notes and really worked on starting to develop a relationship. I was very fortunate I was only three years removed from being a coach there. 

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P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

I'm going to be honest. Fleck speaks too fast for me to accurately (and quickly) transcribe 100 percent of what he's saying. Shoutout to the official transcription people that have to handle it. So you'll get the condensed highlights.

Of note, Fleck did not come to the podium on a boat. Had my fingers crossed he'd row his way up there.

On strong finish to 2018 season

We made a change at defensive coordinator. I thought that was necessary. When you had such a young football team — we had eight freshmen starting on offense one point — to have success and become a champion you have to fail enough to become successful (if they were mature enough to handle it). Our theme last year was a race to maturity. ... Toward the end of the year I thought we were able to get better in a lot of areas.

On recruiting Illinois

This is a huge, huge recruiting state for us and recruiting city (Chicago) for us. I know what type of players you get out of the state of Illinois and the type of players you get out of the city of Chicago. 

On Big Ten West

With all do respect, I think the West has gotten a lot better. It's a wide open West. There are no easy games no matter what side of the division you're playing. There's zero easy games here. They're all hard. You have to be at your best every single week. That sounds boring. Sometimes boring is OK. 

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Tom Allen, Indiana

Allen is excited. Basically running through all of his position groups during his opening statement. Also dropped an "iron sharpens iron" on us. Super on brand.

On quarterbacks 

We don't plan to run a two-quarterback system. Obviously, it's happened in the past and been successful other places. The plan now is to pick one and let him be the man. They all have the ability to throw the football and extend plays, which is a key ingredient to what we're trying to do.

On improvement in recruiting

We do a really good job as a stuff of targeting young men who fit who we are and what we're trying to accomplish. We recruit the entire family. ... The key is finding guys that fit that and want that and want to get a world class education at Indiana and want to play college football at the highest level in the Big Ten.

On how he's grown as a head coach

It's been a great opportunity to learn, and you have to learn from the mistakes that you make. Gameday decision making I've really grown over the last couple years. I think it was time for me to be able to step aside from (defensive coordinator this year) and become a better head coach of the team and not just the head coach of the defense.

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Mark Dantonio, Michigan State

(NOTE: Missed Nebraska coach Scott Frost at the podium getting more from Lovie Smith ... particularly about Brandon Peters. Looks for more on Illini quarterback situation in Friday's News-Gazette).

Anyway, back to the Spartans. Short and sweet — as expected — opening statement from Dantonio.

On transfer portal

The portal has been interesting. I think over 2,500 names have been in the portal. You have to recruit that as well as your high school seniors.

On QB Brian Lewerke

He was an extremely productive player as a sophomore. He got hit with the injury bug (last) season. I think his confidence is back. Right now Brian is our No. 1 quarterback and I expect great things from him and expect him to return to his sophomore status.

On Urban Meyer-Ryan Day change at Ohio State

Urban Meyer did a tremendous job there. I have two hands, and I think he only lost eight times. I've been very impressed with Ryan Day. I've been impressed with him as a person, too — down to earth and charismatic.

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Lovie Smith, Illinois

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Francois McGillicuddy, BTN president

The new BTN president set a pretty high standard for opening statements — a full 18 minutes. He took up his entire time on the podium without taking any questions. Seems very excited about the network.

Biggest news so far is BTN Plus will now be under the FOX Sports app banner. BTN2Go will cease to exist.

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Jim Delany, Big Ten commissioner

On teams being required to produce an injury report each week

It doesn't like that's going to get done. The NCAA picked up on it, studied it. ... I pushed it pretty hard. Internally I worked with the groups studying it. For their own reasons, they decided not to do that.

On status of Big Ten football

When I look back at the last five years in particular, while the focus would be our last three champions were ranked 5, 5 and 6 (in College Football Playoff) ... I think we're really built to win championships. We recruit nationally. We have national TV second to none. We reinvented our stadiums. I wouldn't be shocked at all to see more of a dominating presence for Big Ten football over the next half decade, decade.

On idea of teams having to play 10 Power Five opponents to qualify for College Football Playoff

The best I can hope for is that the CFP committee ... pays more attention to the founders' effort to value strength of schedule as well as winning conference championships. Clearly Alabama and Clemson have separated themselves and have earned everything they've earned in the last couple years. I'm not sure the strength of schedule or conference championship has been adequately rewarded in my personal view.

On potentially playing a Big Ten game or bowl game in Mexico

I think it would be a great thing. I love international competition. This particular conference is regional and national to some extent and as international as any. 

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Hope you enjoyed your summer because it's officially over. Big Ten football media days is underway at the Chicago Hilton (still waiting for Harrison Ford to burst in) with half of the conference teams set to expound the virtues of their program.

Well, maybe half. Nebraska's charter flight was forced to land in Peoria this morning because of the weather, so Scott Frost and Co. either might be late or pushed back to tomorrow's second day of interviews. They apparently took off from Peoria at 10:30 a.m. and were flying into Gary, Ind., and then taking a bus to the Hilton. Given Chicago traffic, well, that might be the fastest way to go. We'll see if the 'Huskers get here even somewhat on time.

Anyway, Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany will start things off this morning in his last football media day appearance before he retires. Illinois coach Lovie Smith is set to hit the podium in the main conference room at 12:15 p.m. He's supposed to follow Frost (who goes after Delany) so the commish might get a little extra time to talk.

While the Big Ten itself doesn't release a preseason poll (the beat writers take care of that), the conference does name five preseason honorees from each division. Here's how it breaks down this season (without any Illini representation).

EAST DIVISION

Joe Bachie, Sr., LB, Michigan State

Kenny Willekes, Sr., DE, Michigan State

J.K. Dobbins, Jr., RB, Ohio State

Chase Young, Jr., DE, Ohio State

Yetur Gross-Matos, Jr., DE, Penn State

WEST DIVISION

A.J. Epenesa, Jr., DE, Iowa

Adrian Martinez, So., QB, Nebraska

Paddy Fishr, Jr., LB, Northwestern

Rondale Moore, So., WR, Purdue

Jonathan Taylor, Jr., RB, Wisconsin

The LIVE! Report will run throughout the early afternoon, with highlights from Delany, BTN President Francois McGillicuddy and all seven (or six) coaches on the podium. So keep checking back here at IlliniHQ.com today for more.

Scott Richey covers college basketball for The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).

College/Prep Sports Reporter

Scott Richey is a reporter covering college basketball at The News-Gazette. His email is srichey@news-gazette.com, and you can follow him on Twitter (@srrichey).