“If someone is stronger than you, train harder,” Abdullah said.”If someone is faster than you, then you have to run smarter.”
Day two of Big Ten Media Days in Chicago is about two things. We got two hours to speak with all the players and coaches in attendance and the kickoff luncheon capped by this year’s speaker Huskers RB Ameer Abdullah. As far as the coaches and players go, no one said anything remotely controversial which is newsworthy in itself. However, I did get a wide range of quotes from some players and coaches. I even had Penn State Head Coach James Franklin try to rat me out to Bo Pelini for wearing a Penn State blue shirt. The talk of him being able to work a room are completely accurate.
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell who has the best fro in the Big Ten spoke about Nebraska simplifying their offense by pairing down the offense and cutting back the signals from the sidelines. He says they had 500 signals from the sidelines and cut that back dramatically. I also found his thoughts on the chemistry with expected starter Tommy Armstrong:
“The chemistry between Tommy and I is great. Our personalities don’t clash in anyway like (departed QB)Taylor’s did at times. I was so loud and outgoing. Taylor was quiet and reserved and they didn’t mix well. Tommy and I are like Ameer and myself. We are always yelling at each other and having a good time laughing. So that side of the chemistry will be there easily. Figuring out how he thinks and operates as a football player, that’s going to take a little bit more time but we are coming up on fall camp where we have 30 or so practices for it to develop.”
Nebraska Head Coach Bo Pelini talked about a wide range topics from loving his small but mighty senior class, the punt return situation(four guys are in the mix), the preferred run/pass ratio(of course it’s 50/50) and more. Here are his comments on the College Football Playoff and scheduling SEC teams:
“The hard thing about the playoffs is picking 4 teams. There aren’t enough games between the conferences. When are we going to start playing more games between the conferences so it’s easier to evaluate. I think there are some (SEC teams) scheduled in the future. We don’t shy away from playing anybody. A lot of it is so far out that it’s difficult to do.”
Michigan State QB Connor Cook was one of the breakout stars of the conference late last season and is expected to have a big year in 2014. He spoke a lot about his growth as a QB in managing nerves and learning to make better reads. He also talked about how coach Dantonio has changed while Connor has been at MSU:
“Coach used to be so straight laced and all business. He is way more loose right now. He has gone from a guy that would never crack a smile to hanging out with Rich Homie Quan and dancing in the locker room and listening to “Some Type of Way.” When (Browns QB) Brian Hoyer came back for a scrimmage he was shocked at how much fun Coach D was having.”
Michigan State DE Shilique Calhoun won my award for the best interview of the day. He was loose and having fun and there were lots of laughs at his table. He cracked jokes about if he could tie his own bow tie, what he did the night before in Chicago, and Mark Dantonio’s dry humor. He was asked what makes defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi a special coach:
“Coach Narduzzi is like no other coach. If we are talking about his knowledge of the game, it’s superior to anyone I have ever met. He really understands the game well. It’s not just defense but also special teams and offense. He can break down tendencies like no one else. He understands players very well. As a person he is so lively and we love it. You can go and talk to him like you are one of his boys. You are always going to respect him but it’s nice to know that you can go to him not always as a coach.”
Ohio St QB Braxton Miller spoke about how difficult it was to sit out practice while recovering from surgery. He didn’t want to get into whether college athletes should be paid but he did perk up when I asked him about the praise Urban Meyer gave him about being in the best shape of his life:
“He’s correct about that. I gained muscle and lost body fat. You know I take this year in that I need to be in better shape than last year. When I had surgery, they had me on the bike, the treadmill and all that stuff. I was doing extra cardio so I feel that played a big role in it too.”
When James Franklin wasn’t busting my chops about wearing a Penn State blue shirt, I did get to ask him what he wants to instill in the Penn State program that he did at Vandy:
“It’s more about our staff and our philosophy. Having fun and the energy and enthusiasm of being positive. Its more of that than necessarily a school. We brought brought 14 coaches and administrators with us so we’ve got a pretty good idea of how we like to do things in our program.”
The other big highlight of course was Nebraska RB Ameer Abdullah’s speech at the 43rd annual kickoff luncheon. Ameer’s speech was well received and I thought he did well. Here is the video of the speech to see for yourself:
The Big Ten put on a great event even if the coaches and players didn’t say much that was controversial or breaking news worthy. The access to coaches and players was great in a mostly relaxed atmosphere. Now that “talking season” is over for the Big Ten, I’m looking forward to fall practices and getting the games going.