Written By T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle) and Kelsey Meyer (@storminmormon20)
The B1G Round-Up is a somewhat weekly feature that covers news and notes from around the conference. I’ll be handling the East Division teams today. Coaching staffs are mostly complete and coaches are busy building up to Signing Day. There’s not a ton of news but there have been some newsworthy things of note that have occurred in the past two weeks.
-Former Michigan great Tyrone Wheatley has been hired as the new running backs coach for the Wolverines.
-New Head Coach Jim Harbaugh landed his first commitments of his Michigan Tenure. His 2014 class is small but he still has some time to bring in quality players. 4-star QB Zach Gentry flipped from Texas to Michigan. He’s the 8th ranked pro-style QB. They also flipped 3-star DE Reuben Jones from Nebraska and 2-star OL Nolan Ulizio from UConn. Their class now sits at 9 commitments.
-Braxton Miller announced that he will be returning to Ohio State for his final season. They now have Miller, J.T. Barrett and Cardale Jones on the roster.
-Ohio State’s future recruiting classes are riding high on the momentum of their national title. They received commitments from a top 2016 TE and the #1 OT in 2017.
-The Buckeyes then received a commitment from defensive linemen named DaVon Hamilton. Hamilton was previously committed to Ohio, Pittsburgh and Kentucky. Something tells me he’ll stick with this commitment and sign with the Buckeyes.
-The Spartans aren’t losing very many players this offseason so they are expected to sign a relatively small class. They got their 17th commitment when 3-star LB Drake Martinez from Saddleback Community College committed to MSU.
-Mark Dantonio then added a pair of former Kentucky commits when twins David and Andrew Dowell committed. Andrew is a 3-star running back and David is a 4-star WR/DB.
-The Nittany Lions are expected to sign a pretty strong recruiting class on February 6 and they’ve added a couple of nice pieces to that class in the past two weeks. First up was Robert Windsor, a 3-star DT from Wisconsin. Next was Shareef Miller, a 3-star DE from Philadelphia.
-Coaching changes often cause a late shakeup for recruiting classes and a coaching change at Pittsburgh (Paul Chryst left for Wisconsin) prompted Nick Bowers, a 3-star TE and the top TE prospect in Pittsburgh, to look elsewhere. After a quick search, he committed to Penn State.
-Kevin Anderson, Maryland’s current Athletic Director, is a top candidate for the vacant AD position at California University.
-D’Andre Payne, a former 4-star DB recruit that played his freshman season at Tennessee, has transferred to Maryland. Payne played for the Vols last season so he will likely need to sit out a season and have three years of eligibility remaining.
-A punter from Florida, Nick Rubinowicz, has committed to the Terrapins. Their punter last season (Nate Renfro) graduated early and decided to leave the program meaning Rubinowicz will probably step in as the starter next season.
-The state of Maryland has some serious money problems. The University of Maryland is planning on transforming their old basketball facility (Cole Fieldhouse) into a state-of-the-art football practice facility. The project has a price tag of a staggering $155 million! The problem? The school is being forced to cut costs elsewhere due to a reduction of $15.6 million in state funding. Some cost-cutting measures include unpaid furlough for staff and tuition hikes. The Testudo Times (excellent Maryland blog) has really good coverage on this issue if you’d like to find out more.
-The Scarlet Knights lost one of their top-ranked commits when OT Blake Camper flipped his allegiance from Rutgers to the Ol’ Ball Coach and the South Carolina Gamecocks.
-Players decommitting isn’t always bad news though as they snagged former Tennessee commit Marques Ford, a 4-star DE from Florida.
-The Sunshine State brought another commitment as WR Jawuan Harris announced he would be playing for Rutgers.
-Finally, they added 3-star safety Najee Clayton. One of the things I enjoy about following this stuff is the “hashtags” and humorous or over the top things coaches say on Twitter. IU has the #CrimsonArmy and #BOOM…Rutgers and Head Coach Kyle Flood has #RFootball, #RFamily, #TheBirthplace (ugh, really?) and #CHOPNation.
Fighting Illini Athletic director Mike Thomas is an outlier, so to speak of the Big Ten. Where many coaches have been shown the door, Tim Beckman has Thomas’s vote of confidence and will remain at the helm of Illini football for the 2015. Let’s face it, the Illini are in a tight spot and have been in rapid decline for some time now, as far as their football program is concerned. Development in every aspect of the game is absolutely key to Illini success.
Looking forward to the upcoming season, the Illini will need to focus on grooming their defense, as game in and game out it was unable to stop anyone from breaking through the line and scoring on the Illini. But, with three wins in the Big Ten last season, the Illini showed that they have the ability to run with the rest of the conference, while Beckman secured his job for one more year. This season will really have to be all about building their defense, and working to move the team up from dead last in rushing defense. It is somewhat of a necessity for the Fighting Illini to secure a subsequent bowl game in the 2015 season, so that they can start to build a foundation with their football program and attract bigger name recruits to Champaign.
Hawkeye fans across Iowa have been calling for coach Kirk Ferentz’s head for some time now, and it is easy to understand why.We have seen the glory days of post-Hayden Fry era football, and having a team that gives up 25.6 points per game will simply not do. But, Ferentz is locked in with one of the biggest contracts in college football, going into his 17th season as head coach for the Hawkeyes. This year it will be very important for Ferentz to really hone in on his recruitment skills. He needs to pick players that will work well together and that, most importantly, will help bring the Hawkeye offense out of the gutters. It might also be of value to find players who lack the ability to get in trouble, as Hawkeyes of the not so distant past have had a tendency to do. In the past, many of Iowa’s offensive issues have been pinpointed to the discontent with Ferentz’s staff. Ole Kirk really needs to learn how to hand over the reigns and let an offensive coordinator actually do their job.
Jerry Kill will continue to lead the Minnesota Golden Gophers out on the field in the 2015 season. Kill has one of the most underrated programs in the country, as he consistently closes the book at the end of the season with eight wins. The Golden Gophers mirror fellow western division rivals Wisconsin in that they ranked 30th in the nation for rushing and 35th for scoring defense. However, they ranked unimpressively at 121 in passing. So, in order for the Gophers to climb out of their rut, or hole, the passing game needs to be developed so that it can parallel the rushing game. The Gophers also need more depth when it comes to the defensive side of the ball, but that is a horse of a different color. Focusing on all-around strengthened offense should be the first priority for Kill and the Minnesota coaching staff.
There have been big changes in the Nebraska coaching staff in a short amount of time. New head coach Mike Riley, formerly of Oregon State, hired his new staff and has hit the ground running ever since. He announced five assistant coaches including Mark Banker (defensive coordinator), Trent Bray (defensive assistant), Charlton Warren (secondary coach), Mike Cavanaugh (offensive assistant) and Bruce Read (special teams coordinator) who are on board.
His staff also includes Danny Langsdorf as offensive coordinator, Reggie Davis as running backs coach and Hank Hughes as a defensive assistant. Riley is coming into Nebraska, where there are seemingly unlimited resources, and this should serve him and the Huskers well this season. Riley is also a great developer of quarterbacks, but his real concern will lie with healing the wounds of a bruised and battered Husker defense.
Pat Fitzgerald of the Northwestern Wildcats has several successful seasons under his belt as head coach. However, the past few seasons have left fans wondering if Fitzgerald has anymore tricks left up his sleeve. For the incoming 2015 season, it will be important for the Wildcats to focus on the offensive side of the ball, and build strength there.
With only a win against the Fighting Illini under their belt in last seasons Big Ten conference matches, it is a bit of an understatement to say that the Boilermakers have some work to do out on the gridiron. Head coach Darrell Hazell has his work cut out for him, but is making noticeable progress. However, patience is a virtue and not a blessing, which most football fans are not in possession of, so this season the Boilermakers will need to continue on their upward trajectory, and maybe win a few more inter-conference games.
After what can only be described as a shocking outcome of the Big Ten Conference Championships, Wisconsin head coach Gary Andersen all but left his headset spinning on the turf, as he made a B-line for Oregon State. Andersen reported that he had difficulties working with Wisconsin admissions standards, and was basically unable to get the team he wanted. This ushered in the era os Paul Chryst, a former Badger quarterback himself. This will be of great benefit to the Badgers, as they have some quarterback issues to resolve in the upcoming season. An incredible power ground game, ranking 4th overall in the country for rushing yards, is not enough to compensate for the teams passing, which ranked 118th in the nation last season. The defense is in good shape and ended last year ranking 4th overall in the nation. Improving the passing attack could send the Badgers right back to the Big Ten Championships, with a chance to redeem themselves.