Big Ten: Indiana Hoosiers

Big Ten morning links

February, 27, 2015
Feb 27
The best quote from the first week of spring practice at Michigan, surprisingly, came from someone other than Jim Harbaugh.

Of course, it was about Harbaugh.

“He’s the smartest man I’ve ever been around,” U-M offensive coordinator Tim Drevo told reporters Thursday night after the Wolverines’ second practice of the spring.

What, not the smartest man in the world?

It should be noted that Drevno, 45, worked with Harbaugh at Stanford from 2007 to 2010. If you take him at his word on Harbaugh, it’s safe to assume Drevno didn’t get out and about much on the Stanford campus, which is full of its share of smart people.

Otherwise, in this opening week, Drevo said he likes what he’s seen from Michigan, which returns its entire offensive line.

Drevno, who will call plays next season and coaches the line, told the Detroit News:

“There’s something special in there. Are we there yet? No. It’s Day 2, but there’s something special in there, and I’m excited about it.”

Ah, the optimism of spring.

Some intriguing data and excellent analysis here by Joseph Juan of numberFire on the NFL combine results of Melvin Gordon.

According to the numbers, the former Wisconsin All-American compares favorably to many of the great running backs of this generation.

Juan’s findings:
Gordon seems to possess a rare combination of size, speed and power that combined with his instincts and vision could make him a very formidable NFL running back. ... As a testament to the rarity of Gordon’s collection of skills, no other NFL running back for which we have combine data from the past 15 years falls within the ranges I set forth for (build, speed, power and explosiveness.)

The writer finds, in conclusion, that Gordon “appears that he’s primed for a breakout rookie season.”

Full disclaimer: While I enjoy the NFL draft, I’m not sold on the predictive ability of the combine, pro days or individual workouts. I think a player’s body of work in college serves as the best indicator of his NFL potential -- and Gordon couldn’t have done much better in that category.

Stats and measurements can be interpreted to make just about any argument. Nevertheless, the numberFire breakdown of Gordon is solid.

I agree that he’s got a chance to join the backs to whom he’s compared in this article. But the organization that drafts him in May likely ranks as the top factor in determining his shot to make a rookie splash.

A Friday trip around the rest of the Big Ten:

And finally, from Wisconsin, this is, well, it's something. Have a good weekend.

Ranking the Big Ten coaching jobs

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
AM ET this week ranked the Power 5 college football coaching jobs, from No. 1 to 65. While those national takes on the Big Ten hit the mark, we'll offer a few minor changes in our Big Ten rankings, No. 1 through 14, of the league seats.

1. Ohio State
Is there really any doubt? The national championship is difficult to overlook. There’s no better job in the Big Ten -- both historically, though Michigan might argue, and in the current climate.

2. Michigan
The Wolverines deserve real consideration for a spot in the top 10 nationally. With more wins than any program in college football history and the second-highest winning percentage to Notre Dame, this is a truly special job. Just ask Jim Harbaugh.

3. Penn State
Resources galore. PSU may feature the best combination in the league of location, fan support and tradition. And the urgency to win is real, an important factor in comparison to other Big Ten programs striving for the top.

4. Nebraska
Some natural disadvantages exist, yes, but no school in the Big Ten creates unity and provokes passion among its fan base like the Huskers. This is not Tom Osborne’s Nebraska, but it’s still a top job with elite institutional support.

5. Michigan State
Natural competition with Michigan and Ohio State works for the Spartans in setting a high standard -- and works against MSU in that it may never be viewed, by comparison, as a true blue blood in the sport. Still, who cares about that if you’re in the discussion for a national title?

6. Wisconsin
While the Badgers don’t have the history of the Big Ten’s other top programs, and the resources in recruiting don't ever figure to stack up with a few competitors, Wisconsin wins and produces championship-caliber competitors.

7. Maryland
The Terrapins sit a ways back from the top tier of the league in many areas. But few can compare with Maryland’s recruiting ground and built-in support system courtesy of Under Armour.

8. Iowa
The Hawkeyes compensate their coach well: Kirk Ferentz had one of the top 10 salaries in the country in 2014. And they have a strong tradition. They are the biggest show in the state, but convincing talented players to come to Iowa City remains a challenge.

9. Minnesota
Minnesota has made an effort in the past few years to upgrade facilities and invest more in resources like nutrition and player support. The results are starting to show. While the local talent might be lacking, Minneapolis is one of the more attractive cities in the Big Ten.

10. Illinois
The Illini fall slightly behind Minnesota on our list because of location. Illinois coaches have had trouble consistently getting talent from Chicago to join them in the middle of the state. The focus remains more on basketball in Champaign.

11. Rutgers
One of the Big Ten’s newcomers is making strides toward matching some of the bigger schools in the conference, but the Scarlet Knights still have a ways to go before they can get out of catch-up mode.

12. Northwestern
Stringent academic requirements and a small, private campus are obstacles for any coach at Northwestern. A new facility on the edge of Lake Michigan should help the Wildcats when it is eventually completed.

13. Indiana
Football interest wanes quickly for the Hoosiers when basketball gets started in the late fall. The resources aren’t there, which makes it difficult to survive the improving gauntlet of the Big Ten East on a yearly basis.

14. Purdue
Purdue is Indiana without the added benefit of Bloomington, a great college town. Ross-Ade Stadium could use a face-lift, and West Lafayette lacks the charm of other campuses in the conference.

Big Ten morning links

February, 25, 2015
Feb 25
Hurry up and get out of here, February. No one likes you.

1. It's great to have football back, even if it's only spring practice. Michigan was the first Big Ten team to open spring drills on Tuesday, and Northwestern hits the field for the first time Wednesday.

What's also great is the, uh, unique way Jim Harbaugh answers questions. While Michigan likely will never be much of a fountain of information under its new head coach (or the previous one, or ...), at least Harbaugh gives some unorthodox quotes. Like his response to a Q&A on the school's website about what it's like to start spring drills:
It's like Thanksgiving. It's like New Year's Day. It's like a family reunion. And having it all rolled into one. Most people think of Jan. 1 as the start of a new year. To people who espouse to Catholicism and Christianity, they might correlate that with the birth of Christ. Us in football, the start of spring practice and the first day of summer training camp are what you look at as the New Year with fireworks going off, it's your birthday. It's being born back into football, it's a happening.

Q: So it's the birth of a new team?

Yeah, it's like coming out of the mother's womb. You're in a nice, warm, cozy environment -- safe. And now you are out into the chaos and bright lights. It's a happening. It's all those things rolled into one.

And it's also like the first day of school. You're so excited for that first day of school, and the night before you set out your clothes, you stuff your lunch into a lunch box, and off you go. It's the start. It's laying down a benchmark. Now we have a place to start from. We have a place to improve from. We have a place to go forward from, and you hope to lay that benchmark halfway up the mountain -- and not way down on the flat land.

Love it.

Michigan's first practice was full of enthusiasm and energy, Harbaugh said.

2. Now that the NFL combine's over and we know who the top performers were, who rose and who fell from the Big Ten?

Much of that is subjective, of course, but just about everybody agrees that Michigan State cornerback Trae Waynes helped himself the most. With his ridiculous 4.31 time in the 40-yard dash and other great showings in the drills, Waynes is rocketing up draft boards. According to's Charles Davis, "Waynes has put himself in the top 10-15 territory."

Our Todd McShay is not as bullish as Waynes' former high school teammate, Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon. McShay writes that Gordon "had a decent workout but not a great one, putting up results that were average or above-average in every category." Still, our Scouts Inc. says Gordon still has a good shot to go late in the first round and adds that Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah emerged as a sleeper "who should land somewhere in the Day 2 range."

But analyst Mike Huguenin writes that Abdullah was one of five players who hurt his stock, thanks to his 4.6 time in the 40. Huguenin also includes Michigan's Devin Funchess in the stock down.

You know what they say: It only takes one team to fall in love with you.

Around the league ...

Big Ten morning links

February, 24, 2015
Feb 24
Spring football starts Tuesday at Michigan, where temperatures are forecast to dip below zero each of the next three nights.

Why do I feel like everyone on Twitter is talking to Jim Harbaugh these days?

The Wolverines will be warm and cozy at practice inside Al Glick Field House. Northwestern also starts this week. Maryland, Minnesota and Nebraska open drills next week, which makes now as good a time as any to review staff openings around the Big Ten.

Presumably, all 14 programs will get back to full strength for spring practice. For now, three teams remain down a man.

Since we last took a divisional look at offseason changes in the East and the West, Nebraska and Wisconsin lost assistant coaches. Brian Stewart left Maryland as defensive coordinator to take the opening at Nebraska.

And Purdue hired Terry Malone over the weekend to coach tight ends.

Malone made it to a 6 a.m. workout Monday with the Boilermakers.

He is an intriguing hire for Purdue. Most recently the tight ends coach of the New Orleans Saints, where he was instrumental in the development of 2013 first-team All-Pro pick Jimmy Graham, Malone coordinated Michigan's offense from 2002-05 and also worked under Lloyd Carr as offensive line coach.

Michigan won five league crowns in Malone's nine seasons. He brings an NFL pedigree and a history of success in the Big Ten. Pretty good place to start for the Boilermakers, who have won one Big Ten game in two seasons under coach Darrell Hazell.

The imminent Stewart hire at Nebraska, to replace Charlton Warren as secondary coach, also makes sense for Mike Riley, who generally picks coaches that he or his assistants know. Stewart served a solid stint in 2007-08 with the Dallas Cowboys as defensive coordinator. Also on that Dallas staff was Bruce Read, Nebraska's special teams coach and a longtime Riley assistant.

Stewart is a San Diego native and coached the secondary for the Chargers before his stint in Dallas; Riley, former head coach of the Chargers, and his staff have numerous San Diego ties.

Of little relevance, Stewart, as the Cowboys coordinator, succeeded Mike Zimmer, who -- after the 2003 season -- interviewed for the Nebraska head-coaching job. It went to Bill Callahan, who spent 2012-14 with the Cowboys.

And of minor relevance, Stewart would be the only full-time member of the Nebraska staff to coach a game at Memorial Stadium. He spent three seasons at Missouri, losing to the Huskers in 1996 and 2000 in Lincoln and in 1999 at Mizzou.

Here's a rundown of the programs with open positions:
  • Illinois still has an opening after the January firing of two assistant coaches. The spot yet to be filled was vacated by special teams coach Tim Salem, though coach Tim Beckman might hire for a different position. Beckman said recently that he had interviewed internal candidates and likely would assign Alex Golesh, the Fighting Illini recruiting coordinator who worked last season with running backs and tight ends, to handle a heavy load on special teams next season.

  • Maryland needs an assistant to replace Stewart. Inside linebackers coach Keith Dudzinski was promoted to defensive coordinator.

  • Wisconsin must hire a running backs coach to replace Thomas Brown, who left for alma mater, Georgia. John Settle, who coached the position for the Badgers from 2006-10 and for Wisconsin coach Paul Chryst at Pittsburgh last season, has been mentioned in reports as a candidate.
Let's get to the links:
It's here. Spring practice in the Big Ten starts this week. Michigan opens Tuesday; Northwestern begins Wednesday. Right on time, we’ll examine the Big Ten’s position groups.

Let’s get started with a look at the league’s quarterbacks – always the premier position but especially in 2015 as the Big Ten looks likely next year place a quarterback in the opening round of the NFL draft for the first time since Kerry Collins in 1995. Only Rutgers, Maryland, Michigan and Northwestern are replacing starters, and nine teams return a quarterback with more than one year of experience as the man in charge.

Intriguing storylines abound.

Best of the best: Ohio State and Michigan State

Any conversation about Big Ten quarterbacks begins with the Buckeyes and their three-headed monster of Braxton Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones. We won’t go in depth on the trio, but know this: Ohio State would be favored by many to repeat as national champion with any of three at the helm next fall. Miller and Barrett, of course, must return to good health after the spring. Health is not a concern for the Spartans, who have a bonafide star in rising senior Connor Cook. Cook could have made a splash in the draft this year but opted to return after throwing for 24 touchdowns and 3,214 yards last season in leading MSU to a second straight top-five finish. As long as he’s at the helm, Michigan State won’t be far from the national spotlight.

Next up: Penn State and Nebraska

The numbers aren’t over-the-top great for Christian Hackenberg, who took a step back statistically as a sophomore with 12 touchdowns and 15 interceptions. His completion percentage of 55.8 also dropped, but Hackenberg remains arguably the most physically gifted Big Ten QB. And if Penn State improves on the offensive line, a breakout season would surprise few. The situation is more murky for Tommy Armstrong Jr. and the Huskers. He must first win the job over inexperienced contenders as new coach Mike Riley takes stock of talent in the spring. But for Armstrong, the ceiling is high. He started eight games as a redshirt freshman, then threw for 2,695 yards and rushed for 705 last year. Armstrong still fought consistency but displayed big-play skills in accounting for more than 400 yards in the Huskers’ Holiday Bowl loss to USC.

Sleeper: Indiana

Don’t forget about Nate Sudfeld, back from surgery on his non-throwing, left shoulder to reclaim the starting position for a third season. He threw for 2,523 yards in 2013 and started well last fall, leading a late drive to beat Missouri before he was hurt against Iowa. Sudfeld’s absence crippled the IU offense, which got a boost this offseason with the transfer of a Jordan Howard and Marqui Hawkins, a dynamic running back-receiver combo from UAB. It’s up to Sudfeld to make the pieces fit and carry the Hoosiers back to a bowl game.

Problem for a contender: Wisconsin

New coach Paul Chryst inherits an interesting situation with Joel Stave, who missed the first four games of his junior season with a case of the yips. After his Octoer return, Stave rarely showed the poise from his first year as a starter in 2013. He completed 61.9 percent of his throws as a sophomore; it was just 53.4 last year with nine touchdowns and 10 interceptions. For some, patience has worn thin for Stave, who must adjust to life without Melvin Gordon in the backfield. Still, he looks like the Badgers’ best option unless someone emerges this spring from the group of Tanner McEvoy, who could move back to defense, Bart Houston or freshmen Austin Kafentzis and Alex Hornibrook.

B1G roundtable: Toughest coaching job

February, 23, 2015
Feb 23
What's the best coaching job in the country? Stay with this week for an answer as the full list of Power 5 coaching seats is unveiled. The countdown began Monday, with Nos. 48-65 Insider.

Here at the Big Ten blog, we got involved by offering a look at coaching in the Big Ten. We'll offer our takes on the league's jobs.

Monday's roundtable topic: What's the toughest coaching job in the Big Ten?

Mitch Sherman: Northwestern

No Big Ten program fights for relevancy in its home market quite like Northwestern, with its long history of struggles in athletics and demands academically unlike even the other elite institutions of the league. Northwestern went 64 years without a bowl win until 2012, when it finished 10-3, just its third season out of 132 with more than nine victories. Coach Pat Fitzgerald, after a breakout season in 2008 and unprecedented success in Evanston, has clouded our minds about the difficulty of sustaining success at Northwestern. The past two 5-7 seasons, though, serve as a reminder. It’s tough. The fan base tends to get disinterested, the margin for error is slim, and the emerging culture in college athletics to empower student-athletes further establishes challenges at the league’s lone private institution that aren't as difficult elsewhere in the Big Ten.

Dan Murphy: Indiana

Expectations aren't particularly high for football among the Hoosiers faithful. A bowl game -- Indiana's first since 2007 -- would keep the masses happy, but making it through the Big Ten's East Division gets more treacherous each year. That side of the league is loaded, with two top-five programs in Ohio State and Michigan State. If Jim Harbaugh's track record follows him to Ann Arbor, Michigan won't be far behind. James Franklin is another proven winner at Penn State, and newcomers Maryland and Rutgers held their own in their first year. That leaves Indiana as a hanger-on in a league full of climbers. Unless the Hoosiers start investing more in the program as a whole, winning in Bloomington will be a tall order for Kevin Wilson or anyone else in his seat.

Brian Bennett: Purdue

In my view, the two toughest jobs in the Big Ten are both in the Hoosier State, and Indiana has struggled the most in the past two decades. But the Hoosiers have made some upgrades in their facilities, and Bloomington is an excellent college town. Purdue has a stronger tradition than IU but is in an even tougher position. It's a great school with rigorous academics, but Ross-Ade Stadium and West Lafayette both lack charm. There isn't much local talent from which to draw. Fan support and revenue are major issues, as the program recently announced it was cutting prices on its season tickets. It's even more remarkable, in retrospect, what Joe Tiller accomplished during his tenure with the Boilers. The team hasn't done much since he left.
As spring practice approaches, we’re taking a snapshot of the state of each Big Ten program. We’re looking at recent performance, won-loss trends, coaching, current personnel and future personnel.

Up next: Indiana

2014 record: 4-8 (1-7 Big Ten)

Three-year record: 13-23

Coaching situation: Not many Power 5 conference coaches would be given a fifth year with a record of 14-34 and no bowl appearances. But Indiana isn't your average Power 5 program, and athletic director Fred Glass wanted to make sure he had some coaching stability for a change. So Kevin Wilson has yet to really feel any major heat, and last season's 4-8 record was excused somewhat by a midseason injury to quarterback Nate Sudfeld. Sooner rather than later, however, Wilson will need to deliver a breakthrough season.

Roster situation: The Hoosiers must replace running back Tevin Coleman, who broke school records last year with his 2,000-yard season. His loss will be mitigated somewhat by UAB transfer Jordan Howard. Getting Sudfeld back is huge, as he has the talent to be one of the better quarterbacks in the Big Ten. The receiver position is a problem, but Indiana hopes it has addressed that in recruiting. The offensive line is still in good shape. The defense remains an annual sieve, but at least the team has been adding more athletes to that side of the ball.

Recruiting situation: Wilson has brought in some of the highest-ranked classes in Indiana history despite a lack of on-field success. He and his staff have dipped into Georgia and Florida for prospects and made inroads this past season into the Washington D.C. area. Wilson's offense is an attractive one for recruits, and he can sell immediate playing time at most positions on defense. The state of Indiana doesn't produce a ton of top prospects, but the Hoosiers have a recognized name and aren't far away from a lot of talent bases. Tradition and subpar fan support for football are the biggest obstacles.

Trajectory: Holding. No doubt last season was a small step backwards for the program after a 5-7 campaign in 2013 led to expectations of a bowl in 2014. The Hoosiers won at Missouri in September but then went on a major skid after the Sudfeld injury left them with no experience behind center. When fully stocked, Wilson's offenses have been able to score with the best of them, but his defenses have mostly had a hard time stopping anybody. The Hoosiers have only been to one bowl game since 1993, a still-astonishing fact. Now they have to compete in an East Division with Ohio State, Michigan State and likely resurgent programs at Michigan and Penn State -- and the Big Ten goes to nine league games in 2016. Breaking that postseason drought won't get any easier.

Big Ten morning links

February, 20, 2015
Feb 20
The Big Ten is gauging its member schools’ interest in making freshmen ineligible, joining other Power 5 leagues that have at least kicked the thought around.

Is it an idea whose time has come? Or an old approach that doesn’t reflect modern realities?

Unless and until more details emerge, I would lean toward the latter.

First of all, freshmen ineligibility in men’s basketball is a non-starter without a change in the NBA age-limit rule or the creation of a better non-college option than the D-league. You only have to look at Duke, Kentucky, or Ohio State to realize there are true freshmen right now who are plenty good enough to be in the NBA, and restricting them from playing in college or at that level for a year would be unfair.

Things are different in college football, where a lot of players redshirt their first year anyway. But it’s also true that many are ready to contribute as true freshmen. Justin Jackson, Mikey Dudek, Mason Cole, and De'Mornay Pierson-El are just a few names of true freshmen who made a major impact last season in the Big Ten. (No wonder Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith opposes freshmen ineligibility, since Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer says he doesn’t redshirt.)

Of course, the rule would be more about preparing players for the academic rigors of college than performing on the field. At the same time, however, teams are always going to bring in borderline students or even academic risks who have exceptional talent. Will a year off really make a huge difference for those types of players? How do you keep them engaged in school and the team when the reward of games has been removed for a year? Would players automatically get a sixth year if they need a medical redshirt later in their careers? What about transfers? And would you really want to see big-time stars -- like, say, Joey Bosa and Christian Hackenberg -- potentially jump to the NFL after only two seasons of playing for your team?

The sport's leaders should be lauded for trying to find ways to emphasize the college part of college football. Yet it's the uniquely American and mostly illogical practice of turning our universities into quasi-minor league teams that is the intractable problem. Making freshmen ineligible raises as many questions as it might solve.

Maryland changes defensive coordinators

Give the Terrapins points for stealth. Few people forecast the change Maryland made on Thursday, when it replaced defensive coordinator Brian Stewart with inside linebackers coach Keith Dudzinski.

The official Terrapins company line was that the team and Stewart agreed to "mutually part ways." But given that Stewart was handed a multi-year contract extension just 13 months ago, it’s hard to believe the decision wasn't more one-sided than that.

Stewart has a strong track record and was mentioned as a candidate for Tulsa’s head coaching job in December. Yet his defenses in College Park got a little worse each of the past three years. Despite some individual standouts on last season’s unit -- like defensive end Andre Monroe, cornerback Will Likely and linebacker Cole Farrand -- the Terps finished 95th in the FBS in yards allowed and tied for 87th in points allowed (30.2). The defense completely collapsed in the second half against Rutgers in the season finale, and gave up 45 points to Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl.

Stewart will land on his feet and might already have another job lined up. Dudzinski, a coaching veteran who ran defenses at smaller schools in the Northeast earlier in his career, now has the task of reshaping this Terrapins defense that will break in almost an entirely new starting front seven this spring.

Elsewhere in the Big Ten ...

Big Ten morning links

February, 18, 2015
Feb 18
Jim Harbaugh ... quarterback whisperer?

Such was the implication when it was revealed on Tuesday that the new Michigan coach was in Ann Arbor helping former Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston and ex-Baylor star Bryce Petty prepare for this week’s NFL combine.

It turns out that Winston and Petty were directed to Michigan via quarterback guru George Whitfield after training in San Diego in order to get acclimated to the time zone and weather and throwing in an indoor facility before they head to Indianapolis. (Though why they'd need to adjust to the weather is a mystery). Harbaugh and Wolverines quarterbacks coach Jedd Fisch met with both players on campus.

Though it was a bit odd to see players from other schools get advice from Harbaugh, it was also brilliant in many ways. Harbaugh has a great and well-deserved reputation for developing quarterbacks and understanding the position, given his playing career and previous players he has coached. This will merely enhance the perception of him as a teacher of quarterbacks, especially given that Winston could be the No. 1 player taken in the draft.

And what's Michigan's biggest need right now? Developing a quarterback, naturally. Despite getting a very late start in recruiting this year, Harbaugh was able to flip Zach Gentry away from his Texas commitment based no doubt largely on Harbaugh's track record. The Wolverines are in hot pursuit of more star quarterbacks in the 2016 class. It sure doesn't hurt for prospects out there to see these images of Harbaugh bestowing his wisdom on future NFL quarterbacks. (And it was probably also no coincidence that Petty and Winston were at the Michigan State-Michigan game in Crisler Arena at the same time as a bunch of important in-state recruits).

Of course, the guy who Harbaugh will be chasing, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer, is viewed as one of the best developers of quarterbacks in the business. If there was ever any doubt about that, Meyer showed it last season with how both J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones were able to take over at a moment's notice.

Two other new head coaches in the Big Ten, Nebraska's Mike Riley and Wisconsin's Paul Chryst, have earned praise in the past for their ability to teach quarterback play. That's a great harbinger for the league's future, since the most important position on the field seemed to slide a bit in recent years throughout the conference. Now, though, the Big Ten might just be flush with quarterback whisperers.

Around the league ...

Big Ten morning links

February, 17, 2015
Feb 17
As new coaches shopped for assistants after the season at Michigan, Nebraska and Wisconsin, four members of the programs’ old staffs were retained.

Jim Harbaugh kept Greg Mattison, the defensive coordinator turned D-line coach at Michigan; Nebraska’s Mike Riley kept secondary coach Charlton Warren; and Paul Chryst held onto defensive coordinator Dave Aranda and running backs coach Thomas Brown at Wisconsin.

Well, news surfaced Friday that Warren was departing for North Carolina. Monday, Brown left for his alma mater, Georgia.

And so there were two ...

Both decisions make sense. Brown played at Georgia and gets the chance to coach his former position near a fountain of recruiting talent.

For Warren, it’s a move closer to home. He’s from Georgia, too. And after nearly two decades in the military or working at the Air Force Academy, the opportunity was too attractive to make a career choice that served his family first.

Warren and Brown helped the new staffs at Nebraska and Wisconsin, respectively, transition through signing day. They were key figures in the schools’ signing of top prospects. Riley and Chryst, though, had bigger plans for them.

This is an issue, in fact, that persists nationally as the coaching carousel spins at an unusually brisk mid-February pace. Assistant coaches are abandoning recruits all around -- Ohio State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, Georgia, LSU, Florida, Notre Dame, Texas, UCLA.

A few coaches to whom I’ve spoken since signing day recognize the problem. It should be addressed, Riley said last week.

I’ve also heard from readers and on social media that coaches ought to face a penalty for leaving soon after signing day. That simply won’t happen under the current governance model unless it’s written into their contracts. And until schools stop breaking deals much more often than coaches, don’t expect any such language to appear.

If the answer is an out clause for recruits, that’s a discussion for another day. And it starts with the conference commissioners, who administrate the letter of intent and meet every June as a group.

In the meantime, head coaches next winter may think twice about the value of retaining assistants.

Around the conference:
The college coaching carousel isn't done spinning. It isn't even slowing down.

There has been an unprecedented number of coaching moves after national signing day, including some in the Big Ten. Ohio State lost running backs coach Stan Drayton to the Chicago Bears less than 24 hours after signing day. Just last Friday, Nebraska lost secondary coach Charlton Warren to North Carolina.

So this list of coaching moves -- and the one colleague Mitch Sherman will supply a little later -- isn't complete, but it provides a snapshot of what has happened around the Big Ten.

Let's begin with the East Division.


Who's out?

No changes (yet)

Notes: Kevin Wilson's staff shuffling began before he even coached a game for IU, but the Hoosiers should finally have some stability heading into a pivotal 2015 season. Running backs coach Deland McCullough, who helped mold Tevin Coleman into a consensus All-American last fall, has been rumored for the same post at Notre Dame. McCullough would be a big loss but the nucleus of Wilson's staff will remain.


Who's out?

Andre Powell, running backs/special teams coordinator

Who's in?

Terry Richardson, running backs

Notes: Powell, who left for the same post at Pittsburgh, oversaw arguably Big Ten's best special teams units in 2014. Kicker Brad Craddock won the Lou Groza Award. Richardson spent the past two years with the NFL's Jacksonville Jaguars but boasts extensive college experience. He coached standout running backs at Miami and also with Connecticut while working for Maryland coach Randy Edsall. This hire makes a lot of sense as Maryland looks to upgrade its run game.


Who's out?

Brady Hoke, head coach
Doug Nussmeier, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Dan Ferrigno, special teams coordinator/tight ends
Darrell Funk, offensive line
Jeff Hecklinski, wide receivers
Fred Jackson, running backs
Curt Mallory, safeties
Roy Manning, cornerbacks
Mark Smith, defensive line

Who's in?

Jim Harbaugh, head coach
Tim Drevno, offensive coordinator/offensive line
D.J. Durkin, defensive coordinator/linebackers
John Baxter, special teams coordinator
Jedd Fisch, quarterbacks/wide receivers/passing game coordinator
Jay Harbaugh, tight ends
Greg Jackson, co-secondary
Tyrone Wheatley, running backs
Michael Zordich, co-secondary


Greg Mattison (defensive coordinator/linebackers in 2014, now defensive line coach)

Notes: Michigan got its man in Jim Harbaugh, who hired a staff featuring a mix of NFL and college experience. He has extensive history with Drevno, tasked to boost a struggling Wolverines' line, and Durkin, considered a rising star. Harbaugh wisely retained Mattison, a strong recruiter and coach who wasn't the problem during Hoke's tenure. He also brings back former Michigan star Wheatley to oversee an underperforming position group. Fisch, who has bounced between the pro and college levels throughout his career, served as Minnesota's offensive coordinator in 2009.


Who's out?

Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator

Who's in?

Mark Snyder, linebackers/special teams coordinator


Mike Tressel (linebackers) and Harlon Barnett (secondary) elevated to co-defensive coordinators

Notes: Narduzzi, who left to become head coach at Pittsburgh, leaves a significant void after being Dantonio's defensive coordinator since 2004. But Tressel and Barnett have been on the defensive staff just as long and made big contributions to the unit's strength. Dantonio followed a familiar pattern in promoting them. Despite Snyder's struggles at Texas A&M, he has a strong track record as a recruiter and as a linebackers coach, a role he held at Ohio State before succeeding Dantonio as Buckeyes defensive coordinator.


Who's out?

Tom Herman, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Stan Drayton, running backs/assistant head coach

Who's in?

Tim Beck, quarterbacks/co-offensive coordinator
Tony Alford, running backs/assistant head coach


Offensive line coach Ed Warinner became Ohio State's primary offensive coordinator

Notes: Few head coaches are better than Urban Meyer at locating top assistants, and the Buckeye boss came through again after losing two top offensive aides. Alford is an excellent recruiter with 18 years coaching running backs. He also has links to several Buckeyes assistants, including Warinner. Beck spent the past four seasons as Nebraska's offensive coordinator. He had some ups and downs, but the Husker offense always ranked in the top half of the Big Ten and Beck improved the passing attack. Alford previously served as Notre Dame's primary recruiter in Florida, while Beck has ties to Texas as a former high school coach there.


Who's out?

No changes

Notes: Penn State awarded defensive coordinator Bob Shoop a lucrative new contract after LSU made overtures about its defensive coordinator vacancy. Shoop oversaw a Lions defense that finished in the top 10 in several significant statistical categories. Keeping him is huge for PSU, which could take a nice jump in Year 2 under James Franklin.


Who's out?

Ralph Friedgen, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks

Who's in?

Phil Galiano, special teams coordinator/tight ends


Ben McDaniels elevated from wide receivers coach to offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Anthony Campanile moves from tight ends to wide receivers

Notes: Friedgen will continue to consult Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood, but his departure leaves Rutgers with a new offensive coordinator for the sixth consecutive season. McDaniels, the brother of New England Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels, has experience coaching quarterbacks in the NFL but has never been a primary playcaller. Rutgers' offense took a significant step under Friedgen but loses quarterback Gary Nova and several other key pieces, so McDaniels will be in the spotlight. Galiano most recently served as Rutgers' recruiting coordinator but has extensive experience as a position coach, working with the Scarlet Knights' defensive line in 2011 and tight ends in 2010.

Big Ten spring practice dates

February, 13, 2015
Feb 13
Spring (practice) is in the air. Well, almost.

Two Big Ten teams -- Michigan and Northwestern -- will take the field for spring ball before the end of the month. Here's a handy list for when every team in the league begins practicing and when it will hold its spring game.


Start date: March 14
Spring game: April 18


Start date: March 26
Spring game: April 18


Start date: March 25
Spring game: April 25


Start date: March 2
Spring game: April 11


Start date: Feb. 24
Spring game: April 4

Michigan State

Start date: March 24
Spring game: April 25


Start date: March 3
Spring game: April 11


Start date: March 7
Spring game: April 11


Start date: Feb. 25
Spring game: April 4 or 11

Ohio State

Start date: March 10
Spring game: April 18

Penn State

Start date: March 20
Spring game: April 18


Start date: March 10
Spring game: April 18


Start date: March 30
Spring game: April 24


Start date: March 15
Spring game: April 25

Big Ten morning links

February, 13, 2015
Feb 13
Credit Kirk Ferentz for trying. Is it enough, though?

The Iowa coach, in preparation for his 17th season, announced changes Thursday to his staff assignments. Not coaching changes, but hey, something is better than nothing, right?

To summarize, LeVar Woods, formerly the linebackers coach, will take over the tight ends. Brian Ferentz is now the run game coordinator in addition to his responsibilities as offensive line coach. And Seth Wallace, who assisted with the defensive line last year, now coaches the nickels and cornerbacks.

Change does not come easily at Iowa, where the head coach's release of a postseason depth chart, in a departure from previous seasons, raised brows last month.

Iowa's offense needs an infusion of energy. Maybe quarterback C.J. Beathard can provide it. But the elder Ferentz is wise not to rely entirely on that. He's banking also on Woods, a linebacker on Ferentz's first two teams who did nice work on the defensive side, and the coach's son in an increased role.

Marc Morehouse of the Cedar Rapids Gazette suggests that the new job description for Brian Ferentz rates as the most interesting of the changes. But what will the younger Ferentz do as run game coordinator? Certainly, he's not about to supercede offensive coordinator Greg Davis, who has his hands full with quarterbacks Beathard and Jake Rudock.

Fact is, though, Iowa's quarterbacks -- and its defense -- would benefit most from a dynamic running game. The Hawkeyes' 4.12 yards per rush in 2014 ranked 10th in the Big Ten. It lacked explosiveness.

Brian Ferentz has extended Iowa's notable tradition of producing solid offensive linemen. If his work translates to the run game at large, maybe he can help get his dad back on the right track.

Nothing official out of Piscataway, New Jersey, yet on the potential hire of business consultant Jeff Towers as Rutgers' recruiting coordinator, but Stewart Mandel of is offering praise for coach Kyle Flood.

Mandel likens Towers, who has no known experience in football, and other similar hires at major programs to general managers at the pro level -- without the ability to trade or draft players, of course. (Don't get any ideas.)

Much remains unknown about the specifics of Towers' business experience. The only details uncovered came from his LinkedIn profile. Regardless, if Flood makes this move, clearly he believes in Towers to bring a new type of leadership to the business side of the Rutgers program.

College football programs are built like corporations today. Nearly every major program employs an operations director, the most effective of whom possess freedom in making decisions on non-coaching matters. So why not have a GM-like figure to run the personnel department, otherwise known as recruiting operations?

The size and structure of these staffs loom as a possible issue for the Power 5 conferences to debate. Even so, unless major restrictions are imposed -- unexpected in this age of autonomy -- hires like Towers will soon be viewed as standard practice.

Let's get to the links:

East Division
West Division

Big Ten morning links

February, 12, 2015
Feb 12
Good morning, and Happy Birthday to Charles Darwin, Abraham Lincoln, Bill Russell and Arsenio Hall. That would be quite a golf foursome.

Did Penn State almost get kicked out of the Big Ten?

That nuclear option, which was rumored in the aftermath of the Jerry Sandusky scandal, might have been seriously discussed by Big Ten leadership. That's according to testimony by NCAA president Mark Emmert in a deposition, which was released in a huge document dump Wednesday as part the legal case against the NCAA brought by Pennsylvania state Sen. Jake Corman.

Emmert said there were talks about removing Penn State from the NCAA and added that "my understanding is the Big Ten talked about whether they would expel them from the Big Ten." Emmert also said that "the range of issues and penalties that were being considered covered the gamut, again because of the extraordinary nature of these circumstances."

Let's not forget the disgust and outrage directed toward the university after the scandal hit and after the Freeh Report was released. Whether the Big Ten ever came close to ousting Penn State might never be known. But that would have been the wrong move then, and given how the NCAA has had to backpedal and defend itself in court proceedings since, it's a good thing the league didn't follow that path.

Proposed rule changes for 2015

In news that sheds a more competent light on the NCAA, the football rules committee supported some changes for next season. The most significant potential rule change would be in how the ineligible man downfield penalty would be called. The proposal calls for blockers to be ineligible if they are one yard past the line of scrimmage instead of the current three, unless they are engaged with a defensive player when a pass is released.

Defensive coordinators hate that spread offenses have been getting away with having linemen downfield on passing plays, and teams like Ohio State, Indiana, and Northwestern might be most affected by the change in how this would be called, if approved.

There also could be testing of new technology systems at bowl games next season, including the use of computers on the sidelines and allowing coaches to communicate through the helmets of one player on offense and defense. The NFL has had this in place for more than two decades, and it's about time college football got on board. I've always been confused about the lack of technology in football despite all the money in the sport -- really, chain gangs are still the best we can do, guys? -- and hopefully this is a step toward the, uh, 20th century.

The NCAA Playing Rules Oversight Panel would have to approve these proposals on March 5.

East Division
West Division

Position battles: Indiana Hoosiers

February, 10, 2015
Feb 10
Before you know it, spring practice will be underway around the Big Ten. To get you ready, we're examining a few position battles to watch at each program.

Next under the microscope is Indiana.

1. Wide receiver: The Hoosiers lose leading receivers Shane Wynn and Nick Stoner, plus running back Tevin Coleman -- who finished second on the team with 25 receptions in 2014 -- but regain the services of quarterback Nate Sudfeld, whose shoulder injury spelled doom for the Hoosiers on offense last season. A glut of sophomores return to fight for three starting spots, though, of course, Indiana will use four- and five-receiver sets. Start with J-Shun Harris II, Dominique Booth, Simmie Cobbs and UAB transfer Marqui Hawkins, who began his career at Florida. Ricky Jones returns as a junior, and Indiana signed three receivers, headlined by Leon Thornton and 6-foot-3 Nick Westbrook-Ikhine, last week to supplement a talented but inexperienced position group.

2. Cornerback: Gone are starters Michael Hunter, who is transferring to Oklahoma State for his final season of eligibility and Tim Bennett, who led Indiana with nine pass breakups last season. So that leaves Donovan Clark and Rashard Fant, who contributed as freshmen. Classmates Noel Padmore and Laray Smith, a converted running back, played sparingly last season. Kenny Mullen, a rising senior, returns from a knee injury suffered in the Hoosiers' September win over Missouri. New signee Andre Brown will get a look in August.

3. Linebacker: David Cooper and Forisse Hardin ranked among Indiana's top five tacklers as seniors on a struggling defensive unit. T.J. Simmons, the starter in the middle, returns as a junior after leading all players at the position group with 72 stops. Tegray Scales fills a spot after earning freshman All-America recognition. Greg Gooch, Clyde Newton and Marcus Oliver, an important reserve who was lost to injury early last season, will fight for time, as will redshirt freshman Nile Sykes, who earned scout-team accolades last fall.