Best of What Each Coach Said During Big Ten Football Media Days
INDIANAPOLIS, Ind. — Welcome to Day 1 of Big Ten Football Media Days hosted at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis, Ind. On the first day, seven Big Ten head coaches had 15 minutes each to answer questions from the media about their upcoming seasons.
Below, we give you some of the best quotes from each coach in their speaking order. On Wednesday, we will do the same with the second half of coaches.
Scott Frost — Nebraska
-On getting back on track in the Big Ten
FROST: “We were competitive in every game last year. We had our chances to win. We made a ton of progress as a program from a talent perspective and from a culture perspective. We haven’t gotten where we want it yet.
There’s a little piece we have to put together to make sure we get over the hump, but we’re excited to have the chance to do that.”
” We had a good enough team last year to do better than we did. That falls on me. It falls on the whole coaching staff. It falls on the whole team.
Compliment Ohio State. They came into Lincoln with a really good football team, and we were right in the game and we didn’t win it, and that seemed to happen quite a bit.
It would be easy if it’s one thing. It’s a little harder because it’s a little something different in every game. More than anything, I think we just need to have a little more of a killer instinct to finish games, and we get in those close games, we need to finish them.
Look forward to competing this year. I’m sure we’ll be in some more, and we’ve got to find a way to come out on top.”
Michael Locksley — Maryland
-On Taulia Tagovailoa
LOCKSLEY: “The biggest thing with Taulia, as we talk about in our program, every player has a shelf life, meaning when the play is over, it dies. For Taulia, he’s a guy that puts a lot of pressure on himself. There’s nobody that has more expectations than he does.
What we’ve seen him do here from I say midpoint of last season on is I’ve seen a maturity in how he manages himself, whether it’s a good play, not letting that good play get him too high, or if it’s a bad play, not letting it get him too low. We like to keep him at that neutral position.
I see a growth out of him. I see a comfort level in our system. That’s probably one area we want to see him improve in is just the emotional maturity, and we’ve seen that out of Taulia.”
-On Maryland’s front seven defenders
LOCKSLEY: “The biggest thing I’ll say about the front seven, first of all, we’ve got a lot of experienced guys, with Mo Kite coming back for a third season, Ami Finau. We’ve had a lot of injuries. That’s been our Achilles heel on the defensive side of the ball. We’ve had a lot of injuries. Durell Nchami is healthy, one of the best pass rushers in our program.
Like you talked about, having our secondary back, a guy like Deonte Banks, Jakorian Bennett, Tarheeb Still — all three of those guys lost games last year due to injury. Having those guys healthy, as well as the second level of our defense last year. We lost Fa’Najae Gotay in our opener, a veteran player who’s played a lot of football. There’s been the addition of really talented players. We brought two freshmen in midyear, Caleb Wheatland and Jaishawn Barham, we think will add tremendous depth.
The biggest thing with our front seven on the defensive side of the ball — we have experience and we’re healthy, and we need to keep those guys healthy.”
P.J. Fleck — Minnesota
-On Mohamed Ibrahim
FLECK: “Mohamed is part of that encore four they’re kind of calling themselves. I’m not sure if that’s NIL or not or some copyright infringement that I just threw out there for them. But you’ve got Mo, you’ve got Tanner, John Michael Schmitz, and Crab.
Talk about Mo, he could have went to the National Football League. After tearing his Achilles, I think we all saw it, he had 170 yards in the first half against Ohio State, and he was primed for a huge season.
Decided to come back, not only for himself, but for his teammates. That spread through our entire team.
I think he’s one of the best backs in the country, but more importantly, he’s one of the best people you will ever meet in your entire life. His leadership has become really infectious based on real-world experiences. Here’s a guy who had a lot of NIL, and he ran for 170 yards in the first half, got all this stuff, and boom, it all ends.”
-On offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach Kirk Ciarrocca
“We talked about this. Change is really hard. It’s hard to do. It’s hard to accept. It’s hard to move on from that. A lot of people asked me, were you hurt when Kirk left? I said no. Besides letting me know on Christmas morning, I said there really wasn’t anything I was mad about.
But I said, that’s not what loyalty is about, staying with somebody forever. Loyalty is about giving 100 percent committed job effort at that particular time, while you work for that person and while you work for that environment.
But when the opportunity came back to hire him, him and I, it was easy. It was like yes. What I respect about Kirk is Kirk wanted to know how that would affect the kids, and I wanted to know how that would affect the kids.
So you start asking people a little bit about how would you feel if somebody came back? And guys got really excited about that.
He makes me a better head football coach. One thing I can do really well is hire people that are way smarter than me. He’s really smart, really intelligent. Makes me a better head football coach. I hope we make him a better coordinator. We’re really excited to have him.”
Kirk Ferentz — Iowa
-On coaching at Iowa
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FERENTZ: “I feel really fortunate and thankful to be starting my 33rd year at Iowa. I was a nine-year assistant back in the ’80s, and starting my 24th year as a head coach now.
I’ve long considered Iowa one of the best places to coach, and really it’s pretty much the majority of what I know during my time in coaching. I think the one commonality, whether it’s the ’80s or certainly the last 20-plus years, just the quality of people. That’s coaches I’ve worked with, also the players, most importantly the players. Just outstanding people and outstanding leaders. So I feel very, very fortunate about that.
That being said, I probably wouldn’t be the only person to say I’m really concerned about the path that college football is on right now and eager to see where it heads and what direction we end up taking.
But it’s a great game. It was a big thing in 1980 when I went to the University of Pittsburgh as a grad assistant. It was big when I went to Iowa in ’81. If anything, it’s just grown bigger certainly. It’s always been big, and it’s bigger now.”
-On Jack Campbell
FERENTZ: “He’s got a skill set that’s unusual, just his height and range. It’s a little bit unusual for us, at least historically. I don’t know the exact numbers, but he’s probably our tallest linebacker probably in 23 years, I’m guessing.
Beyond that, he just plays smart and plays with unbelievable desire. I think the first thing I would cite with Jack, and that’s probably true of a lot of really good players I’ve been around pro, college, or high school, or good coaches I’ve been around, he’s extremely humble. He’s not about taking credit for anything.
He deserves a lot. He is a leader in his way. But he’s authentic, he’s humble, and really driven to do his best, and he’s doing it for all the right reasons. He’s got great pride in what he does, but he also feels a responsibility to really be at his best for our team.
As a coach, you just value that so much and appreciate it.”
Tom Allen — Indiana
-On the quarterback competition
ALLEN: “I’ll say that we will go through this process of evaluating our guys, and I will say by design we came out of spring football and felt like there wasn’t a clear guy to name, so didn’t do that. But I love the competition piece to the process and to be able to have to prove it every single day all summer long now into fall camp.
Obviously we’ll have a starter named before the opener, but the bottom line is that, once that person is named, he’ll be the starter. Not expecting a dual situation, but at the same time, as we saw last year and we learned up close and personal, that things happen, injuries happen, and you’d better have more than one guy that’s going to be able to be your starting quarterback in your program. So I feel like we have that with several individuals.”
-On Donaven McCulley moving to wide receiver
ALLEN: “I think he’s responded well. I will say that he came to me. He wanted to do this. We had a great talk together about that. He’s a highly competitive young man and one of the best athletes on our football team, and he wants to be on the field. He wants to be playing. He wants to be involved in special teams and have those opportunities.
He’s got a big, athletic frame, but there’s obviously a learning curve to be able to grow. I think to me Coach Henry is taking him under his wing, our new receivers coach, and his NFL experience is tremendous. We coached against each other. I was at Ole Miss. He was at LSU in those three years. We battled against each other there. Just a ton of respect for what he brings.
Pat Fitzgerald — Northwestern
-On the highs and lows from season to season
FITZGERALD: “You look at the whys. You take the whole off-season and look at the cut-ups, really take a deep dive schematically what we did, fundamentally what we did, how we can improve.
For us a year ago, we were maybe one of the youngest from an experience standpoint in the Big Ten where a lot of teams had most of their COVID guys come back. Two years ago we had our most veteran team, 11 guys get an opportunity to go on to the NFL. So that difference in that experience, we’re back to that experience level with about 65 percent of our production, as you kind of take the quarterback position out of it.
So a lot coming back, and we need to draw on that experience. But fundamentally, we need to be better. We need to be better at just the basics of the execution of our offense, defense, kick game, and get back to playing at that championship level.
Again, we have enough veterans that have been part of both type seasons, and we need to lean on that experience to take the step back to, first of all, getting back to bowl eligibility and then competing for championships again. We expect to do that very quickly.”
Jim Harbaugh — Michigan
—On the new coordinators
HARBAUGH: “Defensively, there is a new defensive coordinator that wasn’t on our staff last year, Jesse Minter. I’d have to go back to before the 2021 season when I was looking for a defensive coordinator, my brother John recommended two coaches to me. He said you can have Mike MacDonald or Jesse Minter, really take your pick — they’re both great. One’s in the secondary, one’s a linebacker coach.
I talked to Mike MacDonald first, really liked him, and I talked to Jesse some but went down the road with Mike MacDonald. He did a fantastic job. Now he’s returning to the Baltimore Ravens as their defensive coordinator.
So I went back and talked to Jesse Minter right when Mike left, and just felt it was the absolute best thing for our team. Both Jesse and Mike MacDonald, along with my brother and Wink, had really devised that Ravens defensive system. They were in on the ground floor. And an added bonus that Jesse Minter got a year of defensive play calling under his belt as the defensive coordinator at Vanderbilt.
So outstanding on offense. Both our co-coordinators were on the staff last year, both Sherrone Moore and both Matt Weiss were on the staff.
Matt Weiss is incredibly smart. He is one of those persons that, when you’re doing a project, so detailed, thinks about it from every angle, plans everything out. I’ve never met a play I don’t like and always feel that our players can execute anything, just give them the chance. Let’s just get started and get the project going. Damn the torpedos. I’ve never screwed up anything so bad that I couldn’t change it or throw it away. So we make the perfect, perfect blend really between Matt and myself.
Then Sherrone is really kind of — he is the living embodiment of both Matt Weiss and myself. He’s right there. And the most important, because he’s coaching the offensive line. So it’s an incredible group that way.
Also, Mike Hart does a great job in the run game, in the blitz protections. Ron Bellamy is another person like Matt Weiss, very detailed, very organized, very analytical about plays and projects. And Grant Newsome, who’s also on the staff as a graduate assistant as our tight ends coach, is tremendous and will be a great coach and already is.”
The author of 5 books, 3 of which are New York Times bestsellers. I’ve been published in more than 100 newspapers and magazines and am a frequent commentator on NPR.