CHICAGO — Players and coaches from around the Big Ten touched on a variety of topics during day one of Big Ten Media Days including new practice rules, the changes in recruiting, handling expectations and more specific team subjects. Here is your Big Ten notebook.
Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz spoke in-depth about the rule changes eliminating two-a-days practices.
“It started 18 years ago,” Ferentz said. “Full disclosure: my first year we practiced every opportunity that we had to the max. I felt like we really needed to re-learn how to practice the way we needed to. The next year, specifically in 2001, we started to really taper back. We were practicing less than rules allow, we were hitting less than rules allow, all those kinds of things because it was unlike camp in the ‘80s where we had 125 guys in camp. We had 105. So the nine years I was gone things really changed and to have a healthy, productive team at the start of the season, you can’t practice the way you did in the ‘80s. I think a lot of coaches have gone through that process where they reassessed what they did.
“I think the intentions of this new legislation are really well intended; I think they’re really misguided on how they got legislated. I’m fearful that a lot of what we did in college football right now practice-wise trickles down from the NFL and we’re not the NFL … There are certain things you have to do on the practice field; you can’t do them in the meeting rooms and you can’t do them without equipment on. That’s a concern. This concept of one-a-days is really neat, it sounds great, kumbaya, but in the NFL they do two weeks of that, a week-and-a-half and then they start playing preseason games so they break up the monotony of one foot after another and my contention is … we could have practiced the same amount, had the same amount of non-contact and the same amount of built-in rest period which I think is a critical component … So I think we could have done some things without messing around with our kids’ calendars and making them come in four days earlier than they did a year ago.”
Ferentz was also asked about how recruiting has changed over the years, and he mentioned how it has become so much more national than regional.
“It’s a byproduct of social media and technology,” Ferentz said. “Somebody can sit in Tuscaloosa and look at a lineman from Cedar Falls, Iowa. That didn’t happen two years ago, and next thing you know that guy’s playing for him and playing pretty well. So we’ve seen that change. We’ve seen people come to our state, like LSU and Iowa? Seriously? But they had that this past recruiting cycle. That’s how the world’s changed.”
Ferentz was asked about his thoughts on Big Ten West contenders, and he mentioned the two that most people have atop the division: Wisconsin and Northwestern.
“It seems like Wisconsin is good every year and that’s a good starting point,” Ferentz said. “To me, you look at what Northwestern has done the last couple of years, they’ve got two really high-profile players that have really grown immensely the last two years.”
Ferentz obviously did not mention Nebraska in that group, but he said with 11 games between now and when the Hawkeyes and Huskers will face off he is directing his focus to more immediate matters.
Iowa wide receiver Matt VandeBerg talked about the ongoing quarterback battle in Iowa City.
“I just want the guy who is going to win football games,” VandeBerg said. “We kind of went through this when we had Jake Rudock and C.J. Beathard; we were kind of going back and forth there. That’s why we have camp, we have another month to figure it out. I’m not too concerned.”
VandeBerg is one of the few proven options at wide receiver for the Hawkeyes, but he is trying to bounce back to full health after breaking his foot in September and missing the rest of the season.
“We just want guys that are going to go out there, bust their butts in practice and try to get better,” VandeBerg said. “It’s the guys that find themselves on the field, that push — when coach is watching film and he goes ‘we have to get this guy on the field’ — that’s what we try to push them to during camp, myself included. I have to be in that group. I have to show them that I’m capable of playing at a high level and that’s what all our guys are going to do is push each other and ultimately that’s how we move forward.”
Indiana quarterback Richard Lagow relayed how he found out that his former head coach Kevin Wilson got fired.
“It was very surprising,” Lagow said. “I actually found out about it, I was in class and we got a text just saying we had a team meeting later in the day. But I’m sitting in class and the information got leaked to the media and there was a kid sitting next to me in class and he taps me, and he’s like ‘What’s going on?’ ‘What are you talking about?’ And he turns his phone and shows me the screen and it said ‘Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson fired.’”
Lagow said the toughest part about transitioning to a new offense under Coach Tom Allen’s staff has been the terminology.
“I think just the terminology is the biggest difference,” Lagow said. “You have to learn a whole new language, really, when it comes down to it. Everything is called different stuff. That’s the stuff that you have to put the most work into.”
Wisconsin linebacker Jack Cichy talked about the process of sitting out while recovering from a torn pectoral muscle that ended his 2016 season.
“I learned a lot as far as football goes, but I learned a lot about myself,” Cichy said. “I won’t say I took things for granted before, but I don’t know if I fully appreciated them while they were there. That’s one thing I learned coming back in spring ball even if it was for non-contact, just being able to take full advantage of being out there and just running around. I don’t know if I’ll ever complain about being tried again because I’d rather be winded than be sitting in a sling on the sidelines.”
Stay tuned to Hail Varsity as the Huskers take the podium on Tuesday.
Jacob is in his third year with Hail Varsity covering Husker athletics. He has also written extensively for SB Nation’s Bright Side of the Sun and The Creightonian. His love of basketball can best be described as an obsession and if you need to find him, he’s probably in a gym somewhere watching, coaching or playing hoops.