Written By T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)
The B1G Round-Up is a new (somewhat) weekly feature on Hoosier Huddle. This one is lengthier than most because of the time frame covered but we’ll look at the rest of the teams in the conference, cover news-related items and during the season, we’ll look at upcoming games and recap the previous week’s action (and of course, what it all means for the Hoosiers).
I couldn’t find anything remotely interesting to write about the Buckeyes so I’ll just move on…Seriously though, congratulations to all OSU players, coaches and fans on a wild ride and on winning the inaugural College Football Playoff National Championship. Ohio State finished the season 14-1 (8-0) and knocked off Alabama and Oregon to win the program’s 8th national championship.
· Offensive coordinator Tom Herman was rightfully lauded for the Buckeyes exceptional offensive performance (and adaptability after losing Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett). He has been hired as the new Head Coach for the Houston Cougars.
· The Buckeyes hired from within and promoted former offensive line coach Ed Warinner to offensive coordinator. They also officially former Nebraska OC Tim Beck as their co-OC and quarterbacks coach.
· Cardale Jones announced that he will be returning to Ohio State for his Junior season (there was speculation that would forgo his remaining eligibility for the NFL Draft).
· Ohio State should find out soon enough which quarterbacks will be joining Jones in what could be the most intriguing QB competition college football has seen in a long time (my guess is that Braxton Miller transfers to a high-major school and J.T. Barrett returns to Ohio State).
The Michigan State Spartans rallied from a big deficit on New Year’s Day to knock off Baylor (42-41) in a thrilling Cotton Bowl Classic. The victory was a big one for the perception of the B1G and it meant that the Spartans finished at 11-2 (7-1).
· Longtime MSU defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi accepted the head coaching position at the University of Pittsburgh. Narduzzi was one of the most respected DCs in the nation and his departure is a blow to the Spartans.
· MSU moved quickly and promoted both former linebackers/special teams coach Mike Tressel and former secondary coach Harlon Barnett to co-defensive coordinators.
· Junior QB Connor Cook weighed his options and decided to return to East Lansing for his Senior season.
The Terrapins first season in the B1G will be seen as a mild success by most. Maryland finished 7-6 (4-4) after a blowout defeat to Stanford in the Foster Farms Bowl. Head coach Randy Edsall entered the season “on the hot seat” and did just enough to stay employed for at least another year.
· Running backs coach/Special teams coordinator Andre Powell left UMD to become the Special teams coach at the University of Pittsburgh. Powell greatly improved the special teams in his three seasons (6th ranked special teams unit in the nation last season) and he was considered a strong recruiter. Maryland has yet to hire a replacement.
· Maryland has to replace seven starters on defense and six on offense, including their starting QB and talented starting wideouts Deon Long and Stefon Diggs. Diggs announced that he will be headed to the NFL and skipping his Senior season.
Another school that made its B1G debut this past season. It’s still incredibly weird to me to see a B1G Network promo featuring Rutgers (I remember before the football season began…breathless promos about a primetime showdown between Rutgers and Penn State, “this is what the B1G is all about!!!”...hmmm, okay). Anyway, a bowl victory over North Carolina gave Rutgers an 8-5 (3-5) finish.
· Mixed news for Rutgers in the “departures” category. Junior WR Leonte Carroo announced that he will return for his Senior season. However, tight end Tyler Kroft will forgo his Senior season and head to the NFL.
· In a bit of scheduling news…Rutgers (now in the Big Ten) and Virginia Tech (now in the ACC) used to be Big East “rivals”. The two schools have agreed to a home-and-home series that will see the Hokies playing at Rutgers in 2023 (2023?!?!?!).
After a string of frustrations under “nice guy, not a good enough coach”, Michigan parted ways with head coach Brady Hoke. The Wolverines set their sights on former Stanford and San Francisco 49ers head coach (and MICHIGAN MAN!!!) Jim Harbaugh. After some quick negotiations, they got their man and Harbaugh quickly set out to hire his staff. Michigan finished last season at 5-7 (3-5) but there’s plenty of talent in Ann Arbor and I would expect a fairly quick return to prominence for the Maize and Blue.
· Kevin Tolbert was hired as the new strength and conditioning coach. Tolbert was the strength and conditioning coach for Michigan from 2001-2007. He then worked for Harbaugh in San Francisco as the assistant strength and conditioning coach.
· D.J. Durkin was hired as defensive coordinator and linebackers coach. Durkin has worked at both Stanford (under Harbaugh), Florida and Notre Dame.
· Tim Drevno was announced as the new offensive coordinator. Drevno comes from USC where he was the USC running game coordinator and offensive line coach. Again, Drevno worked with Harbaugh at both Stanford and San Francisco.
· The defensive coordinator under Brady Hoke, Greg Mattison, will remain on staff and serve as the defensive line coach.
· Mike Zordich, former Penn State All-American safety and former Youngstown State safeties coach, is reportedly joining Michigan as the safeties coach.
· Finally, Harbaugh added Greg Jackson as the secondary coach. Jackson worked as the assistant secondary coach in San Francisco.
· Jim Harbaugh is on the recruiting trail and I have a feeling the rest of the B1G is going to get really tired of this guy (and very, very quickly)…he’s “attacking with an enthusiasm unknown to mankind”.
James Franklin’s first year in charge went about as expected. Penn State won their non-conference games, struggled in the B1G but managed to get two wins and then won a surprisingly exciting bowl game over Boston College. They finished 7-6 (2-6) in what they hope is the last season they’ll flirt with missing a bowl game. Franklin is a really good recruiter and he plans on having the Nittany Lions back in the national picture but the B1G East is getting really crowded and the job may be tougher than Franklin initially imagined.
· The Nittany Lions suffered some personnel losses as defensive end Deion Barnes, tight end Jesse James and offensive lineman Donovan Smith all decided to enter the NFL Draft.
· News was better on the coaching front as defensive coordinator Bob Shoop decided to stay at Penn State. Shoop was considered a candidate for the LSU defensive coordinator position but he opted to stay in State College thanks to a very nice new contract that makes him one of the highest paid assistants in the conference.
· A recent report suggests that the NCAA is considering the reinstating Joe Paterno’s vacated victories. I can’t believe anything having to do with Joe Paterno’s victories is still a topic of conversation but, IU fans still discuss Bob Knight. As “The Sandlot” memorably told us, “Heroes are remembered but legends never die”. The victories have been restored to Paterno’s record.
The Wisconsin Badgers won the B1G West division title but were then humbled by eventual national champions Ohio State 59-0 in the B1G Championship Game. Subsequently, head coach Gary Andersen shockingly left UW to become the new head coach at Oregon State. Wisconsin needed a coach so Barry Alvarez stepped in (again) and led the Badgers to an impressive Outback Bowl victory over the Auburn Tigers. The Badgers finished 11-3 (7-1). Meanwhile, Wisconsin turned to former offensive coordinator and Pitt head coach Paul Chryst. Paul Chryst makes sense as a hire and he should continue to recent tradition of Wisconsin getting huge offensive linemen, talented running backs and shoving the ball straight down opponent’s throats. UW enters the Chryst era as the premier program in the West division and it’s not particularly close.
· As expected, Paul Chryst is bringing a lot of his staff from Pittsburgh to Madison. Ross Kolodziej will be the strength coach (he was strength coach at Pitt), Inoke Breckterfield will be the defensive line coach (same position at Pitt) and Chris Haering will be the new special teams coach (same position at Pitt). Pittsburgh didn’t exactly tear up the ACC under this staff, Wisconsin is counting on much better results from the group when they take over in Madison.
· Joe Rudolph was Chryst’s right-hand man at Pitt and he’ll handle the same role at UW. Rudolph will be the offensive line coach and the offensive coordinator. Chryst decided to keep Dave Aranda on staff and named him defensive coordinator and linebackers coach for the Badgers.
The Nebraska Cornhuskers had another “pretty good” year. They won 9 games, they were didn’t have any bad losses and they went to a decent bowl game. However, Nebraska fans (and the administration) were tired of just being “pretty good” and Bo Pelini was fired. A lot of people around the country have questioned the decision to fire Bo Pelini but if Nebraska strives to be great and they didn’t think Pelini could ever get them there (plus he was a maniac on the sideline that it appears hated his bosses and probably despised the fan base), I can’t blame the Huskers for making a move. The subsequent hire they made though, was more than a little surprising. They looked out West and hired Oregon State’s Mike Riley. Riley is considered one of the nicest guys in coaching (basically, the polar opposite of Bo Pelini). He had a lot of success in the mid-2000s but has struggled to find footing recently in the PAC-12 and many Oregon State fans were frustrated by the recent regression of the program. The goal put forth by Nebraska is clear, be better than just “pretty good”…we’ll see if Mike Riley is up that task.
· Riley has a full staff already assembled in Lincoln. Defensive coordinator Mark Banker has served for 14 years as Mike Riley’s defensive coordinator at Oregon State. The new offensive coordinator is Danny Langsdorf. Langsdorf spent the 2014 season as the New York Giants QBs coach but spent the previous nine seasons with Mike Riley as the Beavers OC and quarterbacks coach.
· I won’t go through the rest of the hires but they kept their secondary coach, Charlton Warren as the only major returning member of the previous staff.
· Star defensive end Randy Gregory (originally from Indiana) is headed to the NFL after declaring for the draft. Gregory is expected to be a Top 10 pick.
Minnesota had a pretty special 2014 season. Jerry Kill is a guy everyone can root for and I was happy to see the Gophers in a competitive spot in the B1G West. They fell late in the season to Wisconsin (which gave the Badgers the right to get crushed by OSU) and then fell in the Citrus Bowl to SEC East “champions” (we all know, our Hoosiers are the REAL SEC East champs) Missouri to finish 8-5 (5-3). Jerry Kill is a big believer in stability and his staff has been with him for a long, long time so there’s not a lot of coaching change or news coming out of frigid Minneapolis. That being said, there’s a couple of pieces of player-related news to share:
· One of Minnesota’s most prized recruits in recent memory, Jeff Jones, is eligible for spring football. Jones, a highly coveted running back, wasn’t eligible to play last season but his grades are now good enough and he is expected to be a factor in the Gophers backfield next season.
· All-American tight end Maxx Williams decided to enter the NFL Draft. He is considered one of the top three tight end prospects and he will be very difficult for Minnesota to replace.
Iowa lost to Tennessee in the Tax Slayer Bowl and finished the season at 7-6 (4-4). They are a perfectly fine and average program with fans that expect more and a coach that is paid to deliver more. Here’s a line from blackheartgoldpants.com (a well-run Iowa fan site), “this program (Iowa) isn't just sliding into stagnancy and irrelevance; it's already bought a time-share there.” Kirk Ferentz has had one winning season in B1G play (while often avoiding the better teams in the conference) in the last 5 years while getting paid like an elite coach. The Hawkeyes are stagnant (or worse) in a conference that appears to be improving in most places. People in Iowa City are angry and I can’t say that I blame them.
· Left tackle Brandon Scherff won the Outland Trophy as the nation’s top offensive lineman. Scherff will be one of the top picks in the upcoming NFL Draft.
· Sophomore linebacker Reggie Spearman left the program and is looking into other schools for a place to play. Spearman was a starter at linebacker (although he struggled in coverage and had some difficulties off the field, including an OWI arrest).
Illinois was expected to fire head coach after Tim Beckman after another disappointing season. Then, something strange happened, the Fighting Illini exceeded expectations and made it to 6 wins. Their 6th victory came on a rousing rivalry victory over Northwestern and secured Beckman’s job for at least another season. The Illini played in the Heart of Dallas Bowl and were waxed by Louisiana Tech (35-18) but overall, their season is viewed as a success.
· Things weren’t all bubbly in Champaign (thank you, thank you). They chose to fire special teams coach Tim Salem and defensive line coach Greg Colby. The Illini’s special teams unit was one of the worst in the conference and neither coach was considered a strong recruiter.
· In an interesting bit of news, it also appears that Illinois might be looking for a new defensive coordinator. There is a job posting on Indeed.com (according to thechampaignroom.com) for a defensive coordinator and the link takes you directly to the actual hiring page for the university. Current DC Tim Banks could be on the way out.
Pat Fitzgerald is often viewed as one of the best young coaches in football. However, 2014 was a rough year for him and for his program. Northwestern lost to Illinois in their season finale and fell to 5-7 (3-5) and missed a bowl game. The disappointing season came on the heels of an offseason filled with a lot of talk focused on player unions and a bit of player dissension. I think Fitzgerald is a good coach and I think Northwestern will probably return to a bowl game next season but there’s cause for concern and I’m sure this thought has the minds of Wildcats fans: Has the best of the Pat Fitzgerald era already come and gone?
· Fitzgerald surprisingly opted to make zero changes to his coaching staff.
· Do you remember former Notre Dame QB Tommy Rees? It is being reported that Rees will be joining the Northwestern coaching staff as a graduate assistant.
The Purdue Boilermakers are in rare form. They finished last in the conference in football in 2013, last in the conference in basketball in 2013/14 and last in the conference (again) in football in 2014…congratulations Boilers, that’s an impressive level of consistency. After our Hoosiers knocked them off for the second straight season, Purdue finished the season at 3-9 (1-7) in Darrell Hazell’s second season. There is one positive for Purdue to take away from this season, with the departure of both Pelini and Hoke, Hazell now has the 5th most wins (1!) in the B1G West. Alright, I’m done poking fun at the Boilers (for this week). I think Purdue will be improved in 2015 and they don’t have Ohio State, Michigan or Notre Dame on the schedule next season.
· Freshman linebacker Ja’Whaun Bentley was named a Freshman All-American.
· It appears that no coaching changes will be made. That’s a surprising move but Hazell is hoping that stability pays off.