Day 2 of the Big Ten Media Days took place on Tuesday, with the seven remaining coaches finishing up the event in the morning.
Mark Dantonio, Kirk Ferentz and Urban Meyer headlined the event while DJ Durkin and Lovie Smith got their first taste of the preseason event in Chicago.
Here were some of the major takeaways from the final round of press conferences at the Big Ten Media Days:
Lovie Smith is establishing a firm recruiting base in Chicago
Bringing in highly touted recruits is something Smith wants to do in Champaign, and he understands landing commits from his home state is crucial. So far, the newly appointed Illini coach says things are going well.
“Recruiting has gone well and they’re listenting to us,” Smith said of prospects in the Chicago area. “We need to do well in the Chicago area.”
Smith also said there’s a triangle of great recruiting areas that included St. Louis and Indianapolis in addition to the Windy City.
Indiana is setting a new standard on defense under Tom Allen
In his opening statements, Kevin Wilson spoke endlessly about how powerful the Hoosiers offense has become in his five seasons in Bloomington. He pointed to Nate Sudfeld’s 3,500 passing yards and Jordan Howard and Devine Redding each running for more than 1,000 yards as an example of how electrifying that unit was in 2015.
But Wilson understands improvement needs to come on the other side of the football.
“We haven’t played solid defense since we’ve been here,” he said. “I’ve been encouraged with [defensive coordinator Tom Allen’s] leadership and how he leads the defense.”
Indiana ranked last in points allowed per game last season, surrendering an average of 37.6
Mark Dantonio believes Michigan State is still solid at quarterback
Michigan State enters 2016 losing quarterback Connor Cook, who started 39 games for the Spartans, tied for most in school history. They’re also losing a Heisman Trophy candidate and a player who ranked in the top five in the Big Ten each of the last three years in passing yardage and passing touchdowns.
But Dantonio is confident in the future of the position.
“We lost a lot of talent,” he said. “But quarterback is a very talented position for us.”
Dantonio also said that Tyler O’Connor is in the lead for the starting role but that camp will determine who takes the field in September.
Wisconsin is excited about the opportunity its challenging schedule presents
There’s no getting around it, the Badgers have the most difficult slate in the Big Ten.
Wisconsin opens the year against LSU at Lambeau Field, the third-straight season it has opened against and SEC opponent. Three weeks later, the Badgers start conference play, and will face Michigan State, Michigan, Ohio State and Iowa in the first four Big Ten games.
“I know our players and coaches are excited about the challenge of our schedule,” he said. “It’s a tremendous opportunity.”
The Badgers have won 10 games or more five times in the past seven years. The schedule will certainly be a test, but this might be the best opportunity Wisconsin has to prove it’s a title contender.
Recruiting in its own backyard is a priority for Maryland
DJ Durkin has already established himself as an excellent recruiter during his short time at Maryland. He spoke about why recruiting on his home turf is so important for the program.
“Our backyard is one of the most talent-rich areas in the country,” he said. “That’s obviously been our priority.”
Durkin is currently working on one of the best recruiting classes in the program’s history. He has currently locked up 11 commitments and ranks 23rd in the nation and 6th in the Big Ten for 2017.
Seven of those recruits come from Maryland, Washington D.C. and Virginia.
Kirk Ferentz understands the difficulty of replicating last season’s success
After completing a perfect regular season, many believe Iowa is the favorite in the Big Ten West and will represent the division in the conference’s title game in December.
Ferentz understands that the success of the Hawkeyes in 2016 is not a foregone conclusion.
“This is a very new team,” he said. “New opportunities and new challenges ahead of us.”
He went on to see that the team faces “a heck of a challenge,” trying to replicate what the Hawkeyes were able to accomplish last season.
This Ohio State team could be the most talented Urban Meyer has coached
For every other coach in the Big Ten, that’s a scary thought.
The Buckeyes lost a wealth of talent to graduation and the NFL draft after last season, leaving the team with a slew of players who will step onto the field for the first time this fall.
Meyer knows it’s going to be a challenge to get those guys ready, but also believes the talent in the locker room will be ready for the season.
“I would say going into it, this is as talented a group from top to bottom that we’ve had,” he said.
Meyer has had some pretty good teams during his stint in Columbus, finishing with an undefeated regular season twice and winning the Big Ten and the national championship in 2014.
Meyer and Dantonio deny negative recruiting against Penn State
When asked about the allegations that Penn State head coach James Franklin made that Michigan, Michigan State and Ohio State were negatively portraying the Nittany Lions, both coaches denied any role in that.
“Absolutely not,” Meyer responded. “That’s the first I’ve heard of that. That’s a pretty strong allegation.”
Dantonio echoed those same thoughts.
“I have not said anything negative about Penn State,” he said. “I was surprised when I read that. That’s not our M.O.”