Before Media Days got underway, Cleveland.com released their annual poll of media members who cover the Big Ten, and Michigan and Nebraska were named the favorites to win their respective divisions. Wisconsin running back Jonathan Taylor was selected as the Preseason Offensive Player of the Year, while Ohio State defensive end Chase Young was honored as the Preseason Defensive Player of the Year.
Of course, the highlight of Big Ten Media Days are the press conferences. So here's what was said by the speakers in Chicago!
Jim Delany-Big Ten Commissioner
- Recognized that September 16th, the league's next commissioner, Kevin Warren will join the Big Ten, and called him "smart and experienced."
- "It's been a great run for me," he said of his tenure. He talked about being especially proud of making great strides toward gender equity since 1989. He also talked about the Big Ten being the first conference to have a concussion management plan and just recently holding another (their seventh) summit to address the issue.
- Asked about his regrets, Delany mourned the loss of the 4-year athletic scholarship and said he wished freshmen continued to remain ineligible.
- Delany has pushed for injury reports akin to what they have in the NFL. However, the NCAA has decided against implementing the idea. "For a variety of reasons," Delany said, "they have decided not to do that."
- He believes the subject of amateurism will eventually make it to the Supreme Court.
- Despite their struggles for recognition within the College Football Playoff, Delany said the Big Ten is built for championships. "I still don't know how Ohio State was ranked sixth last year." He said he understood that discussion of expanding of the playoffs would continue and hoped it would be sensitively done.
- There were many questions posed to Delany about the playoff format. He was willing to consider that Gene Smith having to recuse himself during discussion of the Buckeyes the past two seasons may have ultimately hurt the Big Ten's chances. He also said he opposes the concept of making the ballots of CFP voters public.
Ryan Day-Ohio State
- Day spoke to our very own Matt McCoy.
- When at the podium, Ryan Day declared that the Buckeyes are a team with "a lot to prove."
- Day said that the defense is working toward making the linebacker room similar to the defensive line room in terms of its depth and the ability of older players to mentor younger players. Helping to make that happen is that right now Tuf Borland is being pushed by Teradja Mitchell.
- The offensive line had a good spring, but the process of setting a starting five will really take place in August.
- There is a lot of energy and positivity surrounding the program. "I love our team," Day said.
- For the first six games of the season, Day said the running backs and defense will be relied upon heavily, because whomever they play at quarterback will be inexperienced. Only Chris Chugunov was with the Buckeyes before this past December.
- Day wants to continue to use a deep rotation of six or seven wide receivers.
- His team is aware of the fact that Michigan was picked to win the division, but Day maintains he will not use that as bulletin board material.
(Note: McCoy also spoke to Buckeye defensive lineman Jonathon Cooper, and you can hear that interview here.)
- "Each year, you'll have a team come out of nowhere to have a good season. We plan on that being us."
- Smith said he feels they have a team that can compete, especially considering they have added five graduate transfers who can mentor the talented young players they've recruited. "It's all about this year."
- Smith likes the way the league has set up their divisions.
- The Illinois head coach would like more transparency in the transfer portal, with public explanations for why some transfers are allowed and some denied.
- He started by apologizing for the delay to his press conference. His flight to Chicago had been diverted due to storms.
- When it comes to recruiting, Frost said he'll go to where the players are. "If they're in Jamaica, or Kazakhstan," then after a beat he added, "Michigan."
- Frost said the biggest improvement the Huskers have made since his arrival is in strength and conditioning.
Mark Dantonio-Michigan State
- Dantonio called the transfer portal "interesting," and said you almost have to recruit it the same way you do high school seniors.
- Being a former Buckeye assistant, Dantonio was asked about the change in coaches at OSU. "Urban Meyer has done a tremendous job there." Dantonio said. Then, calling Meyer's replacement down-to-earth and charismatic, Dantonio added, "I've been very impressed with Ryan Day. I've been impressed with him as a person, too."
- Their mantra this year will be "chase the moment."
- The one word that will define the Hoosiers this year, said Allen, is grit.
- Despite the fact that they are young, they are experienced having played 16 freshmen last year.
- Although he has more than one talented quarterback, it is not his plan to run a two-quarterback system.
- Fleck thanks Jim Delany and notes that Delany's replacement as Big Ten commissioner, Kevin Warren, was once a neighbor of his.
- They went from being "the youngest team in America to the second youngest team in America."
- Asked about possible divisional realignment, Fleck pointed to the improvement and the recent coaching hires in the West.
- "We're knocking walls down," Fleck said about recruiting.
- He has done a study that shows if you top your opponent in explosive plays, as well as have fewer missed tackles and turnovers, you will win 78 percent of the time.
- Keeps a plaque at his home that reads, "Home is wherever football takes us." Now, though, he is coaching the team he says he grew up rooting for, and hopes to put down roots for a while.
- His first day on the job, he said he did something similar to "speed dating" with his players, spending about fifteen minutes with each, because he thought it was very important to get their feelings on the state of the program.
- On Ohio State transfer Keandre Jones: He will bring some insight on what it takes to win, because "success leaves clues," and he's been part of a successful team.
- Mentioned that when he first attended Big Ten Media Day, Sammy Sosa was playing right field for the Cubs. Ferentz also talked about how much simpler exercise bikes were back then, but even now, "You still have to peddle. You have to put energy into it. The basics have not changed."
- Ferentz stressed the need for them to be "improvement driven." This squad "better be getting better." That's especially true in one-possession games. (Three of their four losses last season were by a touchdown or less.)
- If he could make one change in college football, it would be the speed of recruiting. He would like to be as thorough as an NFL team evaluating a potential draft pick, but that's impossible given that teams are recruiting tenth graders.
- Praised Rondale Moore, saying they are going to get him the ball, especially now that he's "put on a little weight" and is a bit stronger.
- Brohm addressed the fact that he will have a young team several times. He said they'll only have eight seniors.
James Franklin-Penn State
- Likes the foundation they have built, pointing out that they are one of the top ten teams in the country over the past three seasons in winning percentage.
- Franklin believes this might be the fastest team he has ever coached.
- Holding off on naming a starter, Franklin said there is great competition to replace Trace McSorely at quarterback.
- With the Big Ten being left out of the College Football Playoffs the past two seasons, changes should be considered, Franklin argued. "There needs to be discussions," he said, including possibly realigning the Big Ten's divisions.
- In his opening comments, Fitzgerald welcomed new coaches Ryan Day (Ohio State) and Mike Locksley (Maryland).
- The top requirement of his replacement for quarterback Clayton Thorson will be finding someone who gives the team confidence that every time they take the field, they can win.
- The past two seasons, they have started slow, so they are emphasizing getting the season off the right way this year.
- Fitzgerald believes that the expansion of the College Football Playoff is inevitable. Other changes he'd like to see? He wants all teams to play the same number of conference games, and he wants even more importance placed on winning a conference championship.
- Asked about the relatively low expectations of his team even though they are the defending division champ, Fitzgerald answered, "We're not clickbait; we'll just earn it."
- What is impressive about running back Jonathan Taylor, says Chryst, is how much he cares about his team and his teammates. He's staying grounded even though he was picked as the Big Ten's Preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
- Rutgers continues to improve their facilites, and in Ash's opening statement, he said it's making a difference to the players.
- As for last season's lackluster record? "I own it. The good thing is we control our future moving forward."
- Ash would vote against divisional realignment if his opinion was taken into consideration. He likes the East and West as they are.
- Asked what Michigan has to do to live up to expectations this year and maybe break through against OSU, Harbaugh answered they just have to tighten things up, "like an anaconda."
- Really likes his staff, and called it ten men linking arms, ready to take on the world.
- He had nothing to say about Greg Mattison and Al Washington leaving Michigan to join Ohio State. "Don't really have any thoughts about that anymore. I'd refer you back to my comments that I love my staff now."
- Regarding his comments that controversy has followed former Ohio State coach Urban Meyer, Harbaugh said today that there's, "No context you should know about." Says it wasn't new, wasn't a bombshell, and all the writers have covered it.
- Said that he, like the media polled by Cleveland.com, would pick Michigan to win the conference.
- They're really close to announcing that they will be "playing another team on foreign soil." When he realized the reporters in the room had not heard about this, he said maybe he shouldn't have brought it up, but there should be news coming soon.