Written By Kelsey Meyer
For college football, this time of the year is what one might refer to as the calm before the storm. Teams are just settling in with their Signing Day recruits and Spring football is about to be underway. While there may not be much in the way of news, there are still bits of information leaking off campus, and the Big Ten is no exception. Here is a look at what is going on in the West:
The boys in black and gold have made a few changes to the coaching staff for the upcoming 2015-2016 season, though no one saw the axe fall. Head coach Kirk Ferentz entrusted more responsibility to son Brian Ferentz who is now at the head of a tailor-made position as run-game coordinator. This newly developed job, as well as the heavy recruitment in offensive positions, tells us that the Hawks know their offense needs some major work. Kirk Ferentz has never been one to look for the brightest stars in the incoming class, but he knows what he wants and always goes with his instincts not matter the results of the previous season. The Hawkeyes are also looking to add depth to their linebacker and wise receiver slots in the next season.
The biggest news out of Purdue is the announcement of Terry Malone joining the coaching staff, where he will focus on developing tight ends. Malone has an impressive resume when it comes to coaching, including nine season-stint coaching tight ends for the New Orleans Saints. His record includes college experience at Michigan, when he was present for the Wolverines 1997 National Championship title. Former tight end coach for the Boilermakers, Gerald Parker, will take over as wide receiver coach, while also keeping in his role as a recruiting coordinator. The team has also started to hold early morning, optional workouts, which judging by the teams record last season is more than welcome.
Illinois Fighting Illini:
The big news out of Champaign-Urbana is the installment of three showdowns over five years between the Illini and Northwestern University over five years to be held in Chicago, Illinois at Soldier Field. While this is exciting news for fans, the Illini still have a lot of work to do if they want to make a serious name for themselves in the Big Ten this season. Former Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Chicago Bears assistant Mike Phair has been brought on as a co-defensive coordinator.
Minnesota Golden Gophers:
Nothing new has come from the Golden Gophers since National Signing Day. Head coach Jerry Kill has once again shown his knack for signing an incoming class with a higher overall rating than the class before it. This is on track with the upward trajectory the Gophers have been party to recently, and they are showing no signs of slowing down. The bar is being set higher, and the incoming classes are following suit. Kill is recruiting more and more players who look like they belong in the Big Ten, meaning that the Golden Gophers will not be dismissed as a fierce competitor this season. Heavily recruiting defensive backs, offensive linemen and running backs shows that the Golden Gophers are looking for development across the board this season.
Huskers head coach Mike Riley announces that Brian Stewart would join the coaching staff in the upcoming season, working with the teams defensive backs. Stewart brings with him experience at both the collegiate and professional levels, spending time as a defensive coordinator and secondary coach at the University of Maryland for five years and then two years in the NFL. The fact that Nebraska is one of the teams facing the promise of a new coach in the 2015-2016 season, fans are faced with the anticipation of seeing what Riley can do. The Huskers will hold their traditional spring game on April 11th, which will show Husker nation, and the rest of college football what we can expect form the practically fresh squad.
Though the Wildcats lost a few key players last season, head coach Pat Fitzgerald remains optimistic in not only his abilities and the teams abilities, but the skills that his coaching staff brings to the table. This is one stubborn coach, and we must keep in mind that a few short seasons ago, the Wildcats experienced decent success. The biggest thing they will be focusing on in spring camps is their consistency. While they beat Notre Dame last season, their victories were not impressive across the board. They will do this by working on covering the holes in their offense and developing more powerful and explosive plays as well as players.
The only real news out of Madison is that the reign of new head coach, Paul Chryst is about to begin. The Badgers recruited fairly well this year, and not much will change on their overall squad, but we should be on the lookout for a team with a new mindset, and new determination.