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Key quotes from coaches at Big Ten Media Days

Here’s what you need to know from Media Days.

NCAA Football: Big Ten Football Media Day Robert Goddin-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten Media Days wrapped up in Indianapolis on Thursday. With four new head coaches, a number of new coordinators and some offseason drama, there were no shortage of key quotes from Big Ten coaches.

Here’s a roundup of one important quote from each coach:

Bret Bielema, Illinois

“When (Jim Leonhard) didn’t get retained, I reached out to him and said, ‘Hey, have you thought about what you want to do?’ We started conversations, invited him down to spend a couple days with our staff. I think he was still trying to figure it out, so it’s a better question for him. He’ll be a senior analyst for us, and he’ll handle responsibilities that touch all three phases of the game.”

Illinois announced on Tuesday that former Wisconsin defensive coordinator and interim head coach Jim Leonhard is joining the staff as a senior football analyst. Leonhard will be working with players in all three phases of the game, not just on defense, but cannot coach or recruit as an off-field analyst.

Greg Schiano, Rutgers

“Kirk Ciarrocca is a veteran coach, one that I know very well. He was on our staff at Rutgers the first go-round. He brings experience, he brings clarity, knows exactly what he wants to do and I think does a great job leading and managing our staff, so I’m excited. I enjoy going to work every day. I enjoy being with him. He’s just a true professional.”

Just before Big Ten Media Days, Greg Schiano named junior Gavin Wimsatt the starting quarterback. New offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca, who was offensive coordinator at Minnesota last season, did solid work with Tanner Morgan and will need to similarly develop Wimsatt and put together a much stronger offense than last year’s.

Mel Tucker, Michigan State

“This season is going to be a tremendous opportunity for our players, great exposure for our program, a national audience in a pro football arena, which I think is going to be great for our team. It’s going to be a great game. We’ll be in the Detroit area where we recruit. We have a lot of fans there. I think that it’s a great opportunity. We’ll see how it goes, but I’m looking forward to it.”

Because of the new NBC TV deal, Big Ten teams now need to play Saturday night games through the end of the year, despite the frigid November temperatures, without informing coaches, according to ESPN’s Pete Thamel. Teams like Michigan State are adapting to this by pivoting to indoor venues like Ford Field, which has its own positives in engaging Detroit area alumni and recruits. If the game is a success, it’s possible we will see more Big Ten teams pivoting to indoor NFL stadiums for night games in November.

David Braun, Northwestern

“I never could have imagined, nor did I desire, to become a head coach under these types of circumstances. That said, I’m honored to lead this group moving forward.”

David Braun was hired as interim head coach at Northwestern after Pat Fitzgerald was fired due to hazing allegations. Braun, who was hired as defensive coordinator at Northwestern in January from North Dakota State, has never been a Power 5 coordinator, much less a head coach. It was already going to be an uphill climb for Northwestern to be successful this year, but now Braun’s main role will be just trying to keep the program together.

James Franklin, Penn State

“Everybody wants to talk about the quarterback. We’re still in a competition phase. Obviously there’s a lot of people talking about Drew (Allar) and what he brings to the table. He was able to get a ton of experience last year, playing in, I think, ten games. So I understand why the excitement is there, 6’5”, 242 pounds, can make all the throws, but Beau Pribula is a guy that everybody in the program has a ton of respect for as well. So that’s going to be an interesting competition throughout the entire camp.”

It’s been seen as a foregone conclusion that former five-star prospect Drew Allar will be Penn State’s starting quarterback, but James Franklin seems unwilling to commit to it just yet. While it’s still likely Allar, who played last year while redshirt freshman Beau Pribula did not, will start, it’s interesting Franklin emphasized the competition.

Kirk Ferentz, Iowa

“I’m hopeful this is an opportunity with the NCAA to maybe reconsider two things: what the, quote/unquote, punishments or penalties might be that are, I would say, fair and relevant to the world we’re living in right now. And then probably the bigger thing is there’s an opportunity right now, I think, for a better education process, if you will.”

In May, Iowa announced an investigation into 26 players across five different sports programs who are suspected of wagering on sports in violation of NCAA rules. Players gambling on sports has become a hot topic, with a number of NFL players facing suspensions for gambling on NFL games. Gambling is an inextricable part of sports media and television at this point, and as Ferentz pointed out, is on every game broadcast and pregame show.

Ryan Day, Ohio State

“Once we get into the teeth of the season, I know how it’s going to go probably for me. I’m going to end up being right involved with it again, but that being said, as the season wears on, I have to be conscious this year of not getting too locked into the offense and making sure that I have a handle on everything that’s going on.”

Ryan Day, for the first time, is turning play-calling duties over to his offensive coordinator, the recently-promoted Brian Hartline. Hartline has a strong track record of success developing wide receivers like Garrett Wilson, Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Chris Olave and Marvin Harrison Jr., but hasn’t called plays yet. Based on the quote, it’s likely Hartline will still be running mostly Day’s playbook with a lot of Day’s input, but some changes are still likely since Day will not be calling plays directly.

Tom Allen, Indiana

“We’re not creating enough on offense, and it’s hard to drive a football 75 yards on the defenses in the Big Ten. So I wanted to get some more receiver body types to help create more explosive plays.”

Indiana lost a significant amount of its production from last year, returning just seven starters total. But that turnover gave the Hoosiers the opportunity to scout new kinds of players in the portal and in future recruiting classes and to address some of their biggest needs. By diversifying the body types in the room, they have the personnel for explosive plays through the air and to bring both speed and strength.

Mike Locksley, Maryland

“Our program has reached a point where we can say: We’re here to compete for Big Ten championships. You haven’t heard me say that in the previous four times I’ve been in front of you guys.”

After two consecutive 8-5 seasons, there’s some pressure for Maryland to take the next step forward and compete with Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State at the top of the conference. While the path will get easier starting next season when divisions are eliminated, this will be the program’s last year with star quarterback Taulia Tagovailoa.

P.J. Fleck, Minnesota

“These allegations are baseless. We have full support of our athletic director, Mark Coyle, and our university leadership. This is a similar story that gets peddled every single year, and the majority of the players have been dismissed or removed from our football team. We also have around a half-dozen anonymous reporting avenues within our football program that players can go to if they have an issue.”

P.J. Fleck responded to an investigation from Front Office Sports that he created a toxic culture at Minnesota. The investigation alleged those with coins in the “Fleck Bank” escaped team punishments and that he used workouts as punishment. In the wake of the hazing allegations at Northwestern, the allegations were spread far online, but they don’t appear to be a significant roadblock for Minnesota this year.

Ryan Walters, Purdue

“When I first arrived, my message to them was that I need to learn what it’s like to be a Purdue Boilermaker. They’ve obviously had success at Purdue. They played in the Big Ten Championship game a year ago. It’s my job to get to know them and build trust with them.”

Ryan Walters is new at Purdue this season, taking over after two seasons as the defensive coordinator for Illinois. He led the nation’s top scoring defense at Illinois last season, but is in his first year ever as a head coach. He takes over a Purdue program that has had a decent amount of success in the Big Ten West, especially offensively.

Matt Rhule, Nebraska

“I want all of college football to respect the way Nebraska plays the game, and most importantly I want our players to respect what it means to be a Cornhusker and playing at Nebraska. This season for me is all about us, not just earning, but taking back respect and bringing back respect to Nebraska football.”

Nebraska has had a rough go since entering the Big Ten. Once one of the most feared programs in college football, the Huskers haven’t made a bowl game since 2016. The biggest task for Rhule will be to re-establish the Nebraska culture, something he was able to successfully do at Baylor prior to flaming out in the NFL with the Carolina Panthers.

Luke Fickell, Wisconsin

“We have one objective and that’s to play for a championship. That won’t ever change… Nobody outside the walls of our team will define what success looks like for us.”

This is the last year of the Big Ten West, which makes it Wisconsin’s best chance for a conference title. Wisconsin has long been the strongest program in the Big Ten West, and with Fickell coming in after bringing Cincinnati to a College Football Playoff, hopes are as high as they’ve ever been.

Jim Harbaugh, Michigan

“I’m not allowed to talk about any aspect of that ongoing situation. I’d love to lay it all out there — nothing to be ashamed of — but now is not that time.”

Harbaugh could not comment on the potential for a suspension due to recruiting violations, as was reported Tuesday. Based on his statement, it does seem like he will share his side of the story at some point, likely when the official decision comes out.