The long-awaited Big Ten Media Days kicked off on Monday in Chicago, as six coaches discussed the look of their program for the upcoming season.
Due to the tragic accident that claimed the life of Nebraska punter Sam Foltz over the weekend, Mike Riley and the Cornhuskers did not attend the media session.
Here are some key takeaways from Day 1 of Big Ten Media Days:
Chris Ash believes Rutgers will become a competitor in the East
When asked about any potential rivalry Rutgers has with Michigan, Ash responded optimistically.
“I’ll start by saying there’s no rivalry with Michigan yet,” Ash said. “They’ve done some things we’ve not been able to do.”
It’s not accidental that Ash slipped “yet,” into his statement, as he hopes the Scarlet Knights can build a strong foundation this fall and develop into a championship contender.
Ash said that he eventually would like to develop rivalries with all the Big Ten opponents.
Penn State is continuing to fight a negative image
For the first time since James Franklin has been in State College, the Nittany Lion football program is back up to 85 scholarships. That doesn’t mean that aftermath of the Sandusky scandal has dissipated.
During his press conference, Franklin addressed how he handles that situation on the recruiting trail.
“You just have to be prepared,” he said. “You have to have a plan…transparency and communication is key.”
Darrell Hazell believes the “train has arrived,” in West Lafayette
Purdue has a 6-30 record since Hazell’s arrival in 2013 but the fourth-year head coach is optimistic about the upcoming season for the Boilermakers.
When asked about the struggles in his first three seasons at Purdue, Hazell defined it has developmental stretch for his program.
“I don’t see it as a three-year funk, I see it as a growing period,” he said. “People are going to like what steps off the train this year.”
October is going to be key for Northwestern
Pat Fitzgerald made it clear that he believes the 2016 Wildcats could be one of the best teams he’s had in his 11 seasons as head coach in Evanston.
But a 10-win season doesn’t satisfy the hunger that he or his team has for the upcoming year.
Fitzgerald said winning 10 games is a huge accomplishment, but for his team to reach the 11 or 12-win mark is something that’s going to require some improvement.
“If we want to have our name talked about in November…we have to be more consistent in October,” he said.
Northwestern plays Iowa, Michigan State and Ohio State all in October this year.
Tracy Claeys believes this is the best team Minnesota has had in five years
After serving as defensive coordinator under Jerry Kill at Minnesota for over four seasons, Claeys got his first taste of Big Ten Media Days as a head coach. In his inaugural session, he made it clear he has high expectations this fall.
“We’re going to enter the year with the best team we’ve had since we’ve been here,” he said.
That’s a strong statement, especially with the Gophers winning 8 games in back-to-back seasons under Kill in 2013 and 2014.
Football is still second for the media when it comes to Jim Harbaugh
Harbaugh might be focused on getting his team ready for the season ahead, but many questions for the former Michigan quarterback referenced his summer travels, satellite camps and his appearance in a rap video.
Sporting a baseball cap with the “Block M” logo, Harbaugh discussed how important it was for his team to improve every day and that the lofty goals the Wolverines have set are certainly achievable.
But he wasn’t able to sidestep the rap video question.
When asked how he thought the video went, Harbaugh responded “I think the cool people liked it.”
Day 2 of Big Ten Media Days begins Tuesday at 9am. Follow Dustin Schutte on Twitter @Sharp_Schutter for coverage.