We have already discussed the ground that Urban Meyer covered during today’s Big Ten coaches spring teleconference, but you might be surprised to learn that the conference’s other coaches participated as well. Here are some of the key points that each of them talked about.
Jeff Brohm | Purdue
Jeff Brohm’s call begins with bad cell reception, which is in no way indicative of the way things are going to go at Purdue. Right?
They focus on a 3-4 hour recruiting radius, then areas where they believe in. “Down south,” Texas, the east coast. “It’s about hammering this 3-4 hour radius as much as we can.”
They had a bland spring game because they didn’t want too much stuff on tape for their opening opponent Louisville.
The appeal of being a difference maker at Purdue appealed to him.
Jim Harbaugh | Michigan
Asked which state other than Michigan he focuses on in recruiting, Harbaugh said he doesn’t have a second state. He loves all of them equally. He views his staff as miners. The internet has also helped in recruiting because it’s easier to find guys than ever before.
The most important recruiting area? “The United States of America.”
Offensive lineman Grant Newsome is the only major injury. He’s likely out this year after a bad knee injury in November.
Receiver Grant Perry isn’t practicing as he deals with legal issues, but may still be with the team. Asked if that meant Perry was no longer with the team, he answered, “I didn’t say that.”
Quarterback Wilton Speight continues to rise and has made good progress over the offseason and the spring.
Michigan’s spring game is Saturday.
Mark Dantonio | Michigan State
The Spartans have been mired in different legal issues which have seen a number of suspensions, including some players he were suspended after the spring game. Dantonio said it was normal for discipline to occur at all times, including after the spring. Same with attrition and players leaving the program.
Ohio is the second-most important state for recruiting for Michigan State. Last year’s roster had over 30 Ohioans on the roster.
Tough to know who won’t be on the roster this early after spring ball. “I can’t put a number on that.”
Been very impressed with QB Brian Lewerke. He’s bigger and faster. “He throws the ball.” Clearly the starter.
Younger players are trending upward. Expects to have a good team this year.
Running backs will be strong.
Biggest area of concern? They need to continue to solidify themselves in every respect, including off the field. “We need to work through those situations.” They need to find leadership and that leadership needs to translate on and off the field. “We’re going to come together as a football team.” They are all going to go in the same direction and those who don’t go in the same direction will be left behind.
Pat Fitzgerald | Northwestern
Didn’t have a spring game this year. His job is to get his team ready, not to put on a spring game.
The coaching in the B1G is outstanding and requires a commitment from each of the schools to bring the standard up. “It’s a special time to be a part of the Big Ten, there’s no doubt about that.”
There is a depth issue at linebacker, but everyone who practiced got better. Paddy Fisher and Nathan Fox are competing for the middle linebacker spot. Neither guy has lost the job yet.
He understands why the B1G is playing Friday night football, but he’s not a fan of it because it shortens the week and shortens recovery. But as long as there is a plan in place to accommodate the players and the team, he’s fine with it.
Has seen “outstanding growth” in quarterback Clayton Thorson, and “when you have a quarterback you have a chance.”
James Franklin | Penn State
Receiver Juwan Johnson has been making plenty of noise as a redshirt sophomore. He’s figuring things out. He played a little bit last year, but he’s matured. “He’s really made a significant jump from the end of the season to now.” He is playing with confidence right now to go along with his special physical abilities.
Franklin doesn’t think any opponents would get much out of watching spring games. There is no game planning going on. The focus is on getting better, not beating somebody. There is some value in watching the opponent, but not for game planning.
They are focused on team success and with that success there will be individual notice for guys like quarterback Trace McSorley and running back Saquon Barkley. They don’t talk about it, but those are two guys who are equipped to handle any attention that comes their way.
People bringing up complacency is a positive because it means you’ve done something, but for PSU it goes back to the fact that last year is over and doesn’t matter this year. “We’ve got to build it all over again.”
The exciting part is that the offensive line is matured from last season. There are 17 linemen on scholarship right now, which is a change from their days of being limited by sanctions.
There are a lot of question marks on the roster. He’s still trying to figure out the best 11 on each side of the ball.
Chris Ash | Rutgers
Chris Ash is going into Ohio more to recruit, but the focus is on the tri-state area with New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania.
The starting quarterback as of right now is Giovanni Rescigno, who has improved under the tutelage of Jerry Kill. He is the clear No. 1 over Zach Allen, who are the only two scholarship quarterbacks on the roster right now.
Ash heard in the offseason that Jerry Kill wanted to get back into coaching, so when he heard that he had strong feelings for reaching out. He went out right away and visited with him to see if Ash’s approach and beliefs would mesh with Kill’s. They started talking – not Xs and Os – and it didn’t take him long to realize it would be a great fit. Kill’s wife had to visit Rutgers to make sure he was allowed to do it. Once she gave the okay, Kill was all in.
There are a lot of positives to open the season on a Friday (vs. Washington) and they are excited to do it this year. It gives them a day of their own in the spotlight, plus an extra day to get ready for the next game.
P.J. Fleck | Minnesota
The Gophers had about 22 offseason surgeries, so they have been depleted this spring. The ones who have participated have bought in and he is very proud of the way they adapted.
The spring game won’t be a true game because of the low numbers, but they’ll try to make it look as much like a game as they can.
When it comes to building a staff, P.J. Fleck said, “I’m not for everybody.”
They had a 7-on-7 tournament because of injuries on the offensive and defensive lines. “It was a unique to adapt to the circumstances we were dealt.”
There are some major issues on both lines that need to be addressed the next two years in recruiting.
The two running backs on the roster – juniors Rodney Smith and Shannon Brooks — are “superstars”. They need to find receivers and a quarterback. They don’t have a QB that has played more than one game total. It is one of the most competitive battles right now. There are four guys getting the majority of the reps. There won’t be a starter named this spring, but he expects to name one during fall camp. The winner will be the guy who best controls the ball.
Paul Chryst | Wisconsin
The Badgers are keeping the 3-4 defense despite a new coordinator because their players are accustomed to it at this point.
New defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard (and former Badger) is a rising star in the coaching business. “Coaching is a part of who he is.” Even as a player in the NFL Chryst tried to lure him to Pitt as an assistant coach.
The offensive line is missing a couple of starters this spring, which is allowing younger players to get some necessary reps.
Lovie Smith | Illinois
There are some injuries and surgeries that have kept players out. Quarterback Chayce Crouch was out all spring. Receiver Mikey Dudek was out due to recovery from an injury last year. He’s doing well, but they are bringing him back slowly.
Crouch gave the team a spark when he came in last year, and the team needed it. He didn’t do any contact work this spring, but was able to throw the last week. He’s right on schedule. He’s able to participate in everything now that spring football is over – lifting, running.
Dudek is totally cleared, but he won’t do any contact work until training camp. He’s running and there appears to be no issues following ACL surgery. He is right where he needs to be.
They began spring football back in February, which allowed them to get back to football pretty quickly after signing day. He’s going to continue doing that.
They didn’t have a spring game this year because they didn’t have numbers. They had two big scrimmages during spring, so it didn’t make sense to have a spring game, especially since all of their practices are open. If they have numbers in the future, they’ll have a spring game.
D.J. Durkin | Maryland
They have seven early enrollees in for spring practice now, which has been a good addition to their roster. They still have about five more practices yet.
Running back Lorenzo Harrison is having a really good spring. He remains a dynamic ball carrier. He is powerful and hard to bring down. Their focus has been on making him a better pass protector, as well as just simply taking the sure yards because at times he will try to make plays that aren’t there and he loses yards.
The quarterback battle is a two-man battle between a pair of sophomores who played quite a bit last year in Tyrrell Pigrome and Max Bortenschlager. There isn’t much separation between them and that will continue in fall camp.
Mike Riley | Nebraska
Mike Riley has a 500-mile drivable recruiting radius, but they also recruit nationally in certain spots. “We are America’s team.”
While a QB battle may be new for Nebraska over the recent years, it is not new for Riley. He likes it because it brings an edge to the practices. They flipped a coin to determine which quarterback would get the first reps this spring, which have been split evenly so far between redshirt freshman Patrick O’Brien and redshirt junior Tanner Lee.
The biggest thing they are looking for at QB is consistency. They’ve both been good, so they’re splitting hairs.
Tom Allen | Indiana
The spring game for Indiana is tomorrow night. The attitude and effort this spring has been great as they strive towards breaking through in 2017.
Ohio is the second-most important state in recruiting for Indiana.
Tomorrow he wants to see consistent execution on offense. They’re going to be very basic, so he wants to see clean execution. Defensively, he wants the players to get their feet set, keep their eyes where they need to be, and tackle well.
Kirk Ferentz | Iowa
Running back Akrum Wadley continues to improve. He was a nice complement last year to Leshun Daniels, but has made even more progress this spring.
Spring practice with a quarterback battle between sophomore Nathan Stanley and junior Tyler Wiegers has been interesting. Right now, it’s a “real competition” that is wide open. The competition makes them all better, but sometimes players press and succumb to the pressure to make the big play all the time.
Offensive lineman Sean Welsh is playing well and provides versatility to play a number of different spots on the line.
Freshman running back Noah Clayberg has moved to the secondary.