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Hot Reads: Beautiful
Photo Credit: Aaron Babcock

Hot Reads: Beautiful, Anonymous

August 02, 2017

Generally speaking, listening to people you don’t know that well talk about jobs you don’t have in an industry that’s not yours is about the worst thing in the world. Shop talk is only fun if it’s your shop.

Unless we’re talking about Athlon’s annual unveiling of the anonymous coach quotes. The publisher always runs one or two of these quotes in its annual preview, but on Tuesday Athlon published all of the anonymous quotes it compiled. As usual it revealed that college football coaches are as gossipy and snarky as anyone else when it comes to talking about their coaching colleagues and competitors.

There’s so much deep stuff in these quotes that it’s hard to know where to start. They are all worth examining, but I’ll just give you my top five.

5. A Ruthless Summation of Illinois Football

If not for Rutgers, Illinois might be the most ignored team in the conference in 2017. This quote, succinctly describes why: “Is Mike Dudek still injured? That’s the only offensive player I can name off the top of my head, and that’s the problem.”

Don’t feel bad if you don’t remember Dudek. He hasn’t played football in two years, missing the past two seasons with injuries. But as a freshman he topped 1,000 yards receiving. That’s Illinois football right now — an opposing coach talking about a player from two years ago.

Pretty savage when you get into it. I guess at least he remembered Dudek’s name. “Is that one receiver still injured?” would’ve been worse.

4. The Smart Kids

Another illuminating part of this is just how much coaches talk about programs the same way we do. “(Pat) Fitzgerald has that thing as good as they can probably ever get,” for example, feels like a discussion I’ve had on sports-talk radio more than once.

Now, an opposing coach would never talk about Northwestern’s ceiling in any official capacity, but give him anonymity and it’s no holds barred.

Also amusing: It’s clear from the quotes that the Wildcats are viewed among coaches as the “smart-kid school,” and they use it as a way to explain Northwestern’s defense.

3. Alabama Man

I don’t imagine Jim Harbaugh is amused by much outside of a cold glass of milk, but if he were to see this anonymous quote I have to think he’d at least crack a smile: “They’re scouting opponents better than anyone in our league. They’re at Alabama’s level of prep and analysis, and as they’ve started to fit talent you’re seeing the effects. It’s hard to surprise them.”

Not even Ohio State gets an Alabama comparison, but one coach does say of the Buckeyes that “their recruiting is off the charts,” which, yeah, we know.

2. A Starless Sky

So the perception of Iowa and Wisconsin is exactly what you’d think it would be. In the case of the Hawkeyes it’s a little muted compared to the Badgers, but one coach was still willing to go this far: “Iowa today reminds you a little bit of the old Nebraska but without the big names. They specialize in tough football players, not stars, for better and for worse.”

And, y’know, without the conference or national titles. But that word, “stars,” came up again in a similar assessment of Iowa: “They just need some stars. No one can explain why they can’t win a big recruiting battle once in a while. They have so many tough, fundamentally sound players. They’ve never had one or two exceptional skill guys to put them over the top against the best teams in the league.”

Yeah, that feels about right.

1. Nebraska 2017: Nobody Knows

The conference coaches apparently don’t have any better idea of where Nebraska is going than we, the people who think and talk about that question every day, do. You’ve probably already seen some of the scare quotes from Athlon regarding the Cornhuskers — the bit about the job, the bit about Bob Diaco — but there’s one more to add to the list: “So far it looks like Riley hasn’t figured out what Bo Pelini couldn’t figure out, how to make the Nebraska culture happy on offense and recruit to that. This year they should have a stronger O-line. Get behind that and go. Tommy Armstrong leaving is a good thing for their scheme, but they’re young in the backfield.”

Is this anonymous conference coach referencing “run the ball guy?” In my professional opinion, Nebraska fans will be fine with whatever offense works. Always thought that and probably always will. You know what makes everyone happy? Wins, not scheme.

And if those five quotes aren’t enough, here’s a quick summary of what else is there: a surprising amount of optimism around Indiana, a bullish outlook on Jeff Brohm and an even brighter outlook on DJ Durkin and Maryland.

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