Big Ten: Maryland Terrapins
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.
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:
- The quarterback competition is just getting started at Northwestern.
- Mark Dantonio is understandably bullish on Michigan State's chances to maintain its top-five status from the past two seasons.
- Indiana's cornerbacks under the spring spotlight.
- Doran Grant will be difficult to replace for an Ohio State secondary that made huge strides in 2014.
- Nebraska's 2015 roster is the best in the Big Ten West, according to this analysis.
- Penn State running back commitment Miles Sanders added a scholarship offer from Alabama.
- A spring preview of Rutgers from the Big Ten Network.
- Lou Groza Award-winning kicker Brad Craddock is the only repeat member of Maryland's leadership council, the Terps' version of captains.
- Social media can be a friend or enemy to college athletes.
And finally, from Wisconsin, this is, well, it's something. Have a good weekend.
We come now to the end, with special teams. Since it's virtually impossible to predict what kick coverage units will look like several months from now or project how new starters will fare on field goals and such, we're basing these rankings mostly on who's coming back at place-kicker, punter and returner.
Here we go:
Best of the best: Maryland
The Terrapins return the 2014 Lou Groza Award winner in Brad Craddock, who missed only one field goal all of last season. They also bring back an elite return man in Will Likely, who led the Big Ten in kickoff return average and was third on punt return average last year. Punter Nate Renfro is also back, giving Randy Edsall both experience and trust at the key specialist spots.
Next up: Ohio State
It's entirely possible that Cam Johnston is a wizard, as his rugby-style punts somehow both cover a ton of distance yet seem to stop at the right places. He was brilliant in the Sugar Bowl. The Buckeyes also have a boatload of speed they can use in the return game, including Jalin Marshall and Dontre Wilson. Place-kicker Sean Nuernberger is back after a respectable freshman campaign, but it's not like Urban Meyer really wants to kick field goals, anyway.
Sleepers: Nebraska and Minnesota
"Sleeper" isn't really the right word here, but we wanted to give a shout out to both of these special-teams units.
The Huskers have one of the nation's most electrifying punt return men in De'Mornay Pierson-El, who averaged 17.5 yards per attempt and scored three touchdowns last year. Punter Sam Foltz and kicker Drew Brown also return and could improve with experience.
Minnesota has the reigning Big Ten punter of the year in Peter Mortell, plus highly productive returners Jalen Myrick and Craig James. More accuracy from kicker Ryan Santoso (12-of-18 as a freshman) would solidify the Gophers as one of the best special-teams groups around.
Problem for contenders: Penn State and Michigan
Again, it's nearly impossible to predict how new kickers will fare, as you don't really get to see how they will fare in pressure situations until the games begin. Both the Nittany Lions and Wolverines have some big shoes to fill.
Place-kicker Sam Ficken was far and away the best thing about Penn State's otherwise highly shaky special teams in 2014, and now he's graduated. The team doesn't have a scholarship kicker on the roster and may turn to walk-on Joe Julius. Punt and return teams must make major strides as well.
Michigan lost both its place-kicker (Matt Wile) and punter (Will Hagerup) to graduation, and its return game was no better than average last season. New special-teams coach John Baxter will have his work cut out for him this spring in bringing some new names -- like freshman kicker Andrew Davis -- along.
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.
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.
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?
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Stewart completes the rebuilt Nebraska staff, replacing Charlton Warren, who left the school this month for North Carolina. Warren was the lone holdover from Bo Pelini’s former staff in Lincoln.
Stewart, 50, agreed to a mutual parting last week with the Terrapins after three seasons that followed a stint at the University of Houston and eight seasons in the NFL with four organizations. He was the defensive coordinator of the Dallas Cowboys in 2007 and 2008.
“I couldn’t be more excited to be a part of the Nebraska football program,” Stewart said in a statement released by Nebraska. “The opportunity to coach at Nebraska is awesome. My first impression is ‘wow.’ From the weight room to walking down the hallway and seeing the national-championship trophies, Nebraska is what you think it is -- a football powerhouse.”
He is the fifth secondary coach at Nebraska in the past six seasons.
Riley, hired by the school in December, said Stewart “brings a record of success in both the collegiate and professional ranks and will be a great fit” at Nebraska.
"He has experience coaching and recruiting in all parts of the country," Riley said in a statement.
Stewart’s two seasons in Dallas coincided with time spent there by Nebraska special-teams coordinator Bruce Read. Eight Nebraska coaches, including Riley, former head coach of the San Diego Chargers, own a combined 30 years of NFL experience.
Riley also announced the hire of Jon Clark as a defensive graduate assistant. Clark formerly coached the secondary at East Texas Baptist University and served as a student assistant at Arizona State.
Here at the Big Ten blog, we're getting involved by offering a look at coaching in the Big Ten. We'll offer our takes on the league's jobs.
Tuesday's roundtable topic: What Big Ten coaching job has the most upside?
Brian Bennett: Maryland
You can look at this question a number of ways. I chose to view it as a program that's not currently viewed in any way, shape or form as one of the nation's top jobs, yet has the potential for serious growth. That's why I picked the Terrapins. Granted, to do so means to ignore much of history, as Maryland's past couple of decades contain a lot of mediocrity (or worse). Ardent fan support isn't really there, either; this is anecdotal, but here at the Big Ten blog, we almost never hear a peep from Terps fans (and the ACC folks will tell you the same was true in their neighborhood).
Even still, this job has a lot of things going for it. The school is located in a fertile, if highly competitive, location for recruits. Under Armour founder Kevin Plank could be Maryland's version of Phil Knight, pouring money into the program and upping the "coolness" factor. Ralph Friedgen showed from 2001 to 2003 -- when the Terrapins went 31-8 and finished first or second in the ACC each season -- that very good things are possible in College Park under the right circumstances. It will be an uphill climb in the East Division, but the upside certainly exists.
Mitch Sherman: Penn State
The Nittany Lions haven’t gone more than five straight years without a 10-win season since the early 1960s -- a streak in jeopardy in 2015 after a tumultuous stretch in the wake of tragedy, scandal and two coaching changes. Are there 10 wins on Penn State's schedule in 2015? If coach James Franklin can fix the offense during the offseason, maybe. Regardless, Penn State is a 10-win program -- and it can reach greater heights in special seasons, which remain within reach amid the rigorous East Division. Its combination of fan support, resources, natural recruiting ground and history match that of the best programs in the Big Ten.
Three years ago, Penn State wasn’t a top-five coaching job in the league. The work of Franklin, predecessor Bill O’Brien and the school administration has repositioned the Nittany Lions to emerge from this dark period and make strides as significant as any Big Ten team during the next two to three years.
Dan Murphy: Michigan
Michigan's program isn't in the top tier of the Big Ten right now, but it offers the biggest reward for the coach who can boost this team up a level. Much like at Penn State, all of the resources (financial and human) that come with a winning tradition are in place in Ann Arbor. It only takes a little bit of momentum for those advantages to start working in Michigan's favor. If and when they do, the infrastructure is in place for the Wolverines to eventually compete for conference titles and playoff spots. The Michigan coach has opportunities to take incremental steps forward (a bowl game one season, a win over a hated rival the next, etc.) to keep that momentum rolling in the right direction. Jim Harbaugh is already considered one of the top coaches in the game, but a speedy turnaround at Michigan would launch him to exalted status in the Mitten State.
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 ...
- Quarterback guru George Whitfield is confident about Braxton Miller's return.
- Indiana's Tevin Coleman played nearly half the season with a broken toe -- and still rushed for 2,000 yards.
- Some Iowa football players got down with their bad selves at halftime of a Hawkeyes basketball game.
- Michigan's Devin Funchess said he could have played basketball in college.
- Another guy named Allen could be headed to Michigan State soon.
- Minnesota is excited about its redshirt freshman receivers.
- Scouts don't have to question much about Nebraska's straight-shooting Ameer Abdullah.
- Bill O'Brien cheered when he heard Penn State's sanctions had been lifted.
- Melvin Gordon is being realistic at the NFL combine.
- Is Illinois getting better under Tim Beckman?
Up next: Maryland
2014 record: 7-6 (4-4 Big Ten)
Three-year record: 18-20
Coaching situation: Maryland fans may not have been exactly sold on Randy Edsall when he went 6-18 in his first two seasons after replacing the popular Ralph Friedgen. But Edsall, who dealt with a rash of injuries early in his tenure, has righted the ship and has taken the Terrapins to back-to-back bowl games. He still has much work to do but appears to have the program headed in the right direction.
Roster situation: Maryland loses quite a bit of frontline talent off its 2014 squad, including receivers Stefon Diggs and Deon Long, defensive end Andre Monroe and most of its front seven on defense and three starting offensive linemen. In addition, quarterback C.J. Brown, who had seemingly been in College Park forever, is gone now, with Caleb Rowe expected to take over the reins of the offense. It will be time for young players whom Edsall has recruited to start taking over in 2015, and the Terps still have a couple of All-Big Ten selections in cornerback Will Likely and kicker Brad Craddock.
Recruiting situation: The Terrapins swam in some deep waters this past recruiting season, knocking heads with SEC and Big Ten powers for prospects and winning some of those battles for guys like defensive lineman Adam McLean and offensive lineman Quarvez Boulware. Edsall is trying to convince players from the DMV (D.C./Maryland/Virginia) area to stay home with the program's Maryland Pride motto, and it's a smart idea given the amount of talent in the region. It's also a very competitive area to recruit, made more so by the Big Ten's eastern expansion. At least the Terps have a homefield advantage.
Trajectory: Up -- slightly. Maryland had an odd 2014 where it could easily have won eight games if not for a complete collapse at home in the season finale against Rutgers. The Terps had nice wins on the road against Penn State and Michigan and at home versus Iowa but were wildly unpredictable from week to week and even half to half. The program has yet to really get over the hump under Edsall, and the Big Ten East Division could be one of the toughest divisions in college football if Michigan and Penn State make expected improvements to push Ohio State and Michigan State. On the other hand, the Terps have shown that they're no pushover in their new league. The financial backing from Under Armour and planned renovations of the team's football facilities bode well for the future. Maryland needs to prove it can rise above mediocrity and that it has the fan support to do so. But it does have some natural advantages going for it if Edsall can capitalize.
Purdue is lowering season-ticket prices for nearly 90 percent of the seats at Ross-Ade Stadium in 2015. You can get a ticket to seven home games for less than $100 after attendance dropped in 2014 by 28 percent to 35,269 per game -- the lowest figure since 1951, according to the Lafayette Journal and Courier.
The university issued a news release Wednesday, quoting athletics director Morgan Burke, who opened with this: "We want our fans back."
Hey, at least he's not sugar-coating it.
The Boilermakers have won four games since Darrell Hazell took over two years ago, including one in Big Ten play – and it came on the road at Illinois last year.
If you wondered about the importance of next season for the third-year coach, wonder no more.
Meanwhile, at Ohio State, they're dropping ticket prices, too, though not quite like Purdue. The national champs are rolling prices to 2010 for the April 18 spring game to $5 per seat.
Five bucks to see the Bucks -- that's the best deal in the Big Ten. Apparently, this is happening in response to last year, when OSU tried to charge $20 a seat for the spring game, only to slash prices at the last minute.
Or maybe Ohio State is just preparing its fans for the letdown of a scrimmage without Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett.
I admit, if I followed Dwayne Haskins Jr., the nation's No. 2-rated pocket-passer quarterbacl, on Twitter, I would not have understood his reference to Maryland's tribute to a Drake album cover.
I thought Drake was an FCS program in Des Moines. So yeah, I'm out of touch with some of these kids. Fortunately, people exist in the media out there who can explain this stuff to me.
If you're reading this it's too late.. pic.twitter.com/6GYsHk0Kik— Dwayne Haskins, Jr (@dh_simba7) February 17, 2015
Now, Jameis Winston and Bryce Petty are talking up Michigan's facilities and coach Jim Harbaugh in a part-genius, part-propaganda campaign by the Wolverines with two of the nation's premier quarterback prospects for the NFL draft.
If you didn't already notice, Winston and Petty visited Ann Arbor this week to work out at Al Glick Fieldhouse and meet with Harbaugh in advance of the NFL combine.
They attended a basketball game, and Winston gushed over Harbaugh on camera for the school-run website, saying, "I wish I could have played for" the former 49ers coach.
Harbaugh and George Whitfield, personal coach for Winston and Petty, have some history together; Whitfield served as an intern with the 49ers last year.
Curious minds want to know: What do Jimbo Fisher and Art Briles think of this little exercise?
On with the rest of the links:
- Remember that business mogul and Rutgers booster, Jeff Towers, who was up for the job to lead the Scarlet Knights' recruiting operations? Yeah, that's not happening.
- Did Penn State seriously want to hire 70-year Bill Parcells to replace Joe Paterno? No surprise, they noticed this story in New Jersey.
- Place-kicker Rafael Gaglianone highlights this look at the Wisconsin special teams in 2015.
- Nebraska announces details for its April 11 spring game. Tough times for former Husker defensive back Rickey Thenarse.
- Defensive end Khalid Kareem backs away from his early commitment to Michigan State.
- Former Iowa offensive tackle Andrew Donnal met Wednesday with the Texans at the combine -- no surprise, considering the strong connections already formed between the Houston franchise and the Hawkeyes.
- Former Minnesota tight end Maxx Williams is a popular guy in Indianapolis.
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:
- Grading Michigan’s recruiting class, position by position.
- Top recent Penn State performances at the NFL combine, which officially begins Tuesday.
- A few impressive recruiting targets near home for Illinois in the 2016 class.
- Here's a deal: Buy Iowa season tickets in the next four weeks and get concession vouchers at Kinnick Stadium and coupons for discounted Hawk gear.
- A holder’s perspective on the journey of Australian placekicker Brad Craddock at Maryland.
- Nebraska tight ends ought to get ready to catch some passes.
- A fish-whispering Gopher? Must be a Texas thing.
- The checkered history of Mr. Football in Indiana, an award that has failed to provide a regular boost to the football programs at Indiana and Purdue.
- An interview with Tom Shanahan, who authored a book on how former legendary Michigan State coach Duffy Daugherty helped integrate college athletics.
- Time to evaluate the new receivers at Rutgers. Kyle Flood lost his high school coach over the weekend, a father figure whom the Scarlet Knights’ coach consulted on all major decisions in his career.
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.
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.
Andre Powell, running backs/special teams coordinator
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.
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
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.
Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator
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.
Tom Herman, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
Stan Drayton, running backs/assistant head coach
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.
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.
Ralph Friedgen, offensive coordinator/quarterbacks
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.
The schedule of those is as follows:
- Friday: Specialists, offensive line, tight ends
- Saturday: Quarterbacks, receivers, running backs
- Sunday: Defensive linemen, linebackers
- Monday: Defensive backs
The Big Ten is sending 38 players to the combine, and you can view the complete list here. A few story lines to follow when it comes to the league alumni:
- Will the Year of the Running Back lead to a huge draft haul at the position? Running back has been severely devalued in the draft, especially as the NFL becomes more and more of a passing league. Yet there are supremely talented backs from the Big Ten who will try and buck that trend. Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon couldn't have done any more on the field last season to make his case as a first-rounder. I think Indiana's Tevin Coleman could wow scouts with his physical tools in the combine setting, while Nebraska's Ameer Abdullah should wipe away any concerns about his height. Minnesota's David Cobb and Michigan State's Jeremy Langford might not put up huge testing numbers, but you can't question their productivity and durability in college.
- How many Big Ten players can crack the first round? After a dreadful couple of years in terms of producing first-rounders, the conference is poised to hear several of its players' names called on opening night in this draft. Todd McShay's most recent mock draft included eight Big Ten players in the first 32 picks. Nebraska's Randy Gregory has been viewed as a potential top-5 pick, but after some injuries slowed him down during the season, he needs to shine at the combine. Other guys like Minnesota's Maxx Williams, Ohio State's Devin Smith and Iowa's Carl Davis could solidify spots at the back end of the first round with strong showings.
- How much can Brandon Scherff lift? The Iowa offensive tackle and strong man could challenge the record of 49 reps on the 225-pound bench press that Oregon State's Stephen Paea set in 2011. Other players not yet mentioned who I'd expect to really impress in testing include Michigan State's Tony Lippett, Minnesota's Damien Wilson, Penn State's Adrian Amos and Michigan's Devin Funchess.
- Paul Chryst sees Wisconsin's high academic standards as a selling point in recruiting.
- Ohio State's defensive players thrived under a simple plan during their championship season. Why recruiting Torrance Gibson was a risk for the Buckeyes.
- A Q&A with Minnesota's Cobb on the eve of the combine.
- Breaking down the wide receivers in Iowa's signing class.
- Jim Harbaugh talked about his departure from the San Francisco 49ers.
- Some thoughts on Charlton Warren leaving Nebraska for North Carolina. The Huskers' new receivers coach lets his passion show.
- Purdue's Danny Anthrop is making progress in his recovery from knee surgery.
- Projecting Rutgers' starting defense in 2015.
- A hotly recruited 2016 Maryland quarterback says the home-state Terrapins are in the mix for his services.
- What Mike Phair's hiring could mean for Illinois.
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
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
Start date: March 10
Spring game: April 18
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
In today's #B1GFridayFive, we'll try to identify five instant impact freshmen who joined a league team last week on signing day. We're going with true freshmen here, not junior college guys, who are a bit easier to project. This isn't easy (check out last year's picks for proof), but we'll give it our best shot.
1. Dre'Mont Jones, DE, Ohio State:
This much we know for sure: Freshmen are going to make an impact for the Buckeyes in 2015. Urban Meyer isn't afraid to play them, and this is another supremely talented group coming to Columbus. It's just a matter of figuring out which ones will shine. We're picking Jones because Ohio State has some needs on its defensive line, but it could just as easily be fellow defensive end Jashon Cornell, who enrolled early. Linebacker Justin Hilliard could also make an impact, though he's got two established starters (Darron Lee and Joshua Perry) plus Raekwon McMillan to climb over. But we'll go with Jones, who was more consistent in high school than Cornell.
2. L.J. Scott, RB, Michigan State:
The Spartans have to replace supremely productive tailback Jeremy Langford, and Scott might be just talented enough to do so right away. Michigan State has more experienced options, like Delton Williams, Gerald Holmes and Madre London, but Scott is a 228-pound, physical runner who seems like an ideal fit.
3. Brian Cole, WR, Michigan:
Cole is athletic and versatile enough to play a number of positions, but the Wolverines have a pressing need at receiver. He enrolled in January, giving him time to learn Jim Harbaugh's system this spring. Don't be surprised to see him making important plays this fall.
4. Adam McLean, DL, Maryland:
McLean is recovering from an ACL injury but is expected to be fully recovered well before the season starts. He was an important recruit for the Terrapins because of both his pedigree and his position. Maryland lost all three starters on its defensive line, which could make it more likely that a true freshman sees time there.
5. Sterling Jenkins, OT, Penn State:
This one is tough, because true freshman offensive tackles don't often see the field immediately. Paris Palmer is a stronger bet to make an impact out of the Nittany Lions' Class of 2015 on the offensive line, but he went to junior college and we're talking true freshmen for this list. Plus, Jenkins has enrolled early, has beefed up to more than 325 pounds on his 6-foot-8 frame and has impressed in some early workouts. Given the state of Penn State's offensive line last season, it's not unreasonable to think he could be playing sooner rather than later.
Disagree with these picks? Think you have better choices? Or do you want to praise us as geniuses? Sound off on Twitter with the hashtag #B1GFridayFive. You can hit us up @BennettESPN, @ESPNRittenberg, @DanMurphyESPN, @MitchSherman, @AWardESPN and @TomVH or @ESPNBigTen.
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 FoxSports.com 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:
- Penn State will get its share of bowl revenue in 2015 for the first time since 2011.
- The redshirt freshman season of freshman J.T. Barrett in photos.
- Ex-Indiana cornerback Michael Hunter is excited about his new home at Oklahoma State.
- LSU is reportedly interested in Maryland receivers coach Keenan McCardell.
- There’s a sense of urgency among Michigan State running backs to determine a pecking order before the summer arrival of elite recruit L.J. Scott.
- An interesting look at how running back Karan Higdon landed at Michigan over Iowa.
- A breakdown of the Wisconsin wide receivers.
- Fundraising efforts for Minnesota’s facilities projects are ahead of schedule, according to athletic director Norwood Teague.
- Nebraska will hold open tryouts for students who hope to walk on to the football team.
- Illinois receivers coach Mike Bellamy deserves mention among the nation’s top recruiters.
- A look at Purdue's four linebacker signees this month.
With that in mind, we're taking a look at some spring competitions to watch for each Big Ten team. We'll key on two to three spots for each squad and give you the outlook. Let's turn to Maryland:
1. Wide receiver: The Terrapins' top two targets from last year are both gone, as Deon Long was a senior and Stefon Diggs jumped to the NFL. This could be the time for the Jacobs brothers to shine. Levern Jacobs returns from a suspension, while Taivon Jacobs is back from an injury that robbed him of most of 2014. Marcus Leak also had some moments last year, while the coaching staff is high on Juwann Winfree. The fight for playing time and receptions should be intense.
2. Defensive line: This is where Maryland was hit hardest by graduation, as it lost four of its top six players on the D-line, including starters Andre Monroe, Darius Kilgo and Keith Bowers. Quinton Jefferson returns from an injury to bring some experience at defensive end while reserve Roman Braglio could be ready to start. There will be competition at nose tackle and for all the backup spots. The team's lone early enrollee in the 2015 class is a defensive lineman, Oseh Saine.
3. Linebacker: The Terps were very senior-heavy in their defensive front seven by the end of the year, and there will be plenty of jockeying for roles at linebacker. Yannick Ngakoue is a lock to start, and Jermaine Carter Jr. looks ready for an expanded presence. Abner Logan returns from a suspension, and Jesse Aniebonam was one of the jewels of Maryland's 2014 recruiting class. Jalen Brooks should enter the mix as well. The front seven on defense will be remodeled, but Randy Edsall has some good talent to work with.