The Big Ten football coaches held their annual spring teleconference on Wednesday. Each of the 14 coaches spent about eight minutes fielding calls and questions from the media. You can see what Urban Meyer had to say right here, and down below are the other 13 coaches and the various notable things they had to say as well as well.
Kirk Ferentz – Iowa
The linebacker position is still up in the air and they will take things up until the last practice and beyond. There are players playing well and they do have a top five who are all pretty close.
They have had to adjust their thoughts on spring official visits. They are currently trying to decide who they would like to invite and when they would do so. “We’re clearly cloudy in this whole thing right now.”
They are two-thirds of the way done with spring ball and today was the first time they’ve practiced outside.
Jim Harbaugh – Michigan
Hosting spring official visits will depend on the availability of the players. “It depends on each individual family and youngster what their schedule is.” You can only host as many spring official visits that they have left over from last year. Programs are allotted a set number (62) of official visits each year and spring visits are based on the previous season.
Ole Miss transfer quarterback Shea Patterson is practicing very well and “controlling the things that he can control.” The staff is treating it the same way. They are waiting for the final verdict on his eligibility.
The Michigan spring game has been canceled due to weather.
The run blocking and offensive line has been improving, same with the pass protection. The offensive line has been one of the bright spots this spring.
Some players standing out are cornerback Ambry Thomas, defensive lineman Michael Dwumfour, and linebacker Josh Ross. Offensively, the receivers are “really coming on fast.” Tarik Black is back up to speed after an injury last year. Donovan Peoples-Jones is coming on as well. Nico Collins, “there’s a name for you.”
Mark Dantonio – Michigan State
Spring practice finished yesterday for the Spartans.
They have a pretty good idea of the starting five on the offensive line and they played well this spring. Matt Allen has done well at center. The twos have some work to do, however.
MSU returns 19 of 22 starters and 40 of the 44 in the two-deep.
The front four is asserting itself and there are players there who are playing with force.
Pat Fitzgerald – Northwestern
Northwestern opens on a Friday night this season, but his preference would be to open on Thursdays rather than Fridays.
Other than staying healthy, the goal this spring is to take the next step. They go from a bowl win and they need to follow through on that momentum.
If a player doesn’t want to be at Northwestern anymore and wants to transfer, he has never blocked them from leaving. He does believe the player should have to sit out a year, however, because schools recruit players from other schools. He doesn’t think you can stop third-party recruiting. They way he sees it is that if he were to leave Northwestern, he would have to pay a buyout. People like to say the coaches can leave freely, but they can’t. They pay to leave. He does think players should get the year back that they lose to transferring provided they meet academic benchmarks.
James Franklin – Penn State
Penn State opens on Friday night this week and he’s not a fan of it. Never has been. None of the B1G coaches are fans of it. Thursday night in small doses is for college football, not the NFL. It was a cool deal for college football, then the NFL creeped in. Fridays is for high school. Saturdays are for college. Sundays are for the NFL.
They have some tight ends that they’re excited about, but they don’t know who the starter will be replacing Mike Gesicki. They have the same situation at middle linebacker. They like their options, but they don’t know exactly who it will be yet.
Chris Ash – Rutgers
The goals this spring was to have a tough football team and a team that became closer. They just wanted to come out and attack each day. Nothing about scheme, more about attitude and demeanor, and they’ve done that with three practices to go.
The toughest position to develop is quarterback because there is so much that goes into it. Every other position has to help that development. The other positions can develop on their own in many cases, but a quarterback has to be around those moving parts to get better.
P.J. Fleck – Minnesota
The Minnesota spring game has moved to Thursday at 6pm. Canceling the spring game was not an option. He wants the fans to see the team and he has young players who need to experience a game under the lights in front of fans.
They will handle spring official visits depending on the recruits. If a player is going to make a decision soon, they’ll try to get them on campus. If he’s not deciding soon, they’ll try to take their time. Weather will never be a reason for trying to get kids from the South in during spring. They aren’t trying to hide the fact that there is snow in Minnesota.
They actually have enough players to divide into two teams. They weren’t able to do that in the past. They had players draft the teams, which the players enjoyed.
Whoever starts at quarterback this year will have never thrown a pass in a college football game. All three candidates are competing with each other, not against each other. They want to see decisive decision making and accuracy, and then eventually a master of the offense. They are looking for the guy who allows them to do more once he has the basics down.
Paul Chryst – Wisconsin
Running back Jonathan Taylor is a blast to coach. It is not difficult at all to keep him grounded. He wants to get better, so that’s what he is focused on. He knows that everyone can get better. This is his first spring camp and his first year of doing football year-round. “He’s really fun to be around.” How will it translate in 2018, you don’t know, but he has put in a lot of work to improve where he needs it.
Chryst really likes the offensive line that they have. “But we have not arrived.” They still need to get better, “but I like this group a lot.”
Lovie Smith – Illinois
Smith would like spring official visits a lot more if guys could sign immediately.
Jeff Brohm – Purdue
Running back D.J. Knox is emerging a leader and goes hard all the time. If they can get the rest of the team practicing like he does, the entire program would be better for it.
“In the end, you’ve gotta have guys that can flat make plays…” On both sides of the ball, every week. They have improved there, but still need to find more playmaking ability in certain positions. Those are the guys you have to rely on in tough games to put you over the top.
Scott Frost – Nebraska
“We’re taking the first couple of steps on the long road to making Nebraska what it should be.”
Spring football is about half-way over right now. The goals are daily improvement. There is a lot of ground to cover and culture to adopt. This isn’t a thing you can measure easily. “We’re going to fix it the right way.”
The players have embraced the way the coaches are doing things, but it’s just the first couple of steps.
Sometimes choosing a starting quarterback in a tight race comes down to a gut feel. “Those are good problems when you have more than one player who is capable of doing it.” Most times the best will emerge, though. They are a long way from that point though.
They aren’t too fired up about using official visits in the spring. If a kid is close to deciding, then they probably will, but he wants players to experience gameday in Lincoln. He’s also not too crazy about getting players committed in May or June because then you have to hang onto them. They honor their commitments, so they’d like players to do the same, but that’s not the way things go. They won’t tell a commit to find another school if Nebraska finds a better player.
Tom Allen – Indiana
On grad transfer quarterback Brandon Dawkins, they had to make sure he fit into their culture, which he does. He has played in and won Power 5 football games. He has been a starter (at Arizona) and had success and he brings leadership and maturity to the quarterback room, the offense, and the entire team.
They are moving to an offense designed for quarterbacks who can run the ball and evade trouble. As a defensive-minded coach, that kind of quarterback is more difficult to defend. You still have to be able to throw it well, but if he can extend plays, it just makes things more difficult to defend.
With how young the QB room is, it was very important to find a graduate transfer. They weren’t sure how it was going to play out, but it was in the back of their minds, and it grew and grew during the offseason and spring. They weren’t going to add somebody just to add somebody. They had to find the right guy, and they believe Brandon Dawkins is that guy. All of their QBs will be competing for the starting job.
D.J. Durkin – Maryland
They are in the midst of installing a new offense with offensive coordinator Matt Canada.
They are hanging their hat on the offensive line group and the running backs right now. Those two positions are playing very well right now.