There are 36 players and 12 coaches invited to Big Ten Media Days. The first day is more formal with each coach having a 15 minute press conference, then they break out for TV and radio interviews. Everything is set on a schedule. Day two is pretty much chaos. They set up 48 tables, sit a guy down at each one for two hours, and sic the media in attendance on them. You can walk back and forth from table to table and talk to everyone or no one.
Some tables, like those for JoePa, Brady Hoke, and such are surrounded for the entire period. Others aren't so much. Some coaches are there, but you don't see them because apparently they are vampires. Several of the players in attendance had time to sit and tweet since no one was talking to them. Our Purdue guys got a lot of love on the day. I got to the media room about 45 minutes late but I was still able to chat with Albert Evans, Joe Holland, and Carson Wiggs as well as coach Hope for a few minutes. I only had a few minutes as I needed to talk to the IU guys for my regional site responsibilities, but it was a joy to meet some of the players and get their thoughts on the coming season.
For Holland and Evans I asked a few things for their upcoming profiles in the countdown to Purdue football, but I also wanted to know how they were handling the attention for the coming season. Not a lot of people expect much from this team. Even I have been down on them a little too much, but I was impressed by Evans' demeanor:
"Handling the negative attention hasn't been that bad. We don't dwell a lot on it. I am one of the more vocal ones that will say something but it doesn't bother us a lot. We look at our season last year and people see wins and losses. There are things that are not excuses for us losing, but with injuries and things in the game plan that you prepared for going wrong they are hard to adjust to. I believe that if we just stay healthy this year we can be a much better team - Safety Albert Evans
Evans is a guy that is going to be a definite leader on this team. He seems like a guy that is very calm and focused, but he is tired of losing too. He wants to see his senior season end well and he is going to do everything in his power to make it end well. Before I had a chance to talk to him another media member asked him about his experience at Purdue and he commented that he is glad he will have a Purdue degree by the time he is done too. He hasn't given a lot to life after football, but he is glad it will come with a Purdue education. I like this guy.
Joe Holland was there and he talked about being one of the more experienced guys on the team. He also was big on the pre-habbing the team has done and thinks the new strength and conditioning staff will make a huge difference:
"I have obviously been around a pretty long time. I have played in every stadium except Nebraska and I feel I have a lot to offer the younger guys that might not know what to expect. I've got to play in every stadium in the Big Ten except Nebraska. I've seen a lot. Sometimes I think I've seen it all. I think that experience will help me take my game to the next level this season."
"Everyone saw how much of an impact the injury bug can have on a season last year. Our new strength and conditioning staff really prides itself on having what we call a great pre-hab program. We have strengthening and mobility exercise that can go a long way in preventing injuries." - Linebacker Joe Holland
While I wanted to ask some serious questions, I also know Carson Wiggs was there and he has one of the best attitudes on the team. We've come to expect that from a guy that helped create The Blur and now The Perfect Storm. He liked my suggestion of the ICBM (as he called it, the International Carson Ballistic Missle) for the nickname, but I think The Perfect Storm is better because, in Carson's words, "We bring the rain every day."
While I talked to coach Hope about the team's attitude, I had to ask him a question that has been burning me for a long time; Will he let Kawann Short play basketball.
Sadly, the answer got a flat no, mostly because he wants Kawann to keep up with his academics. He said we've had two sport guys, but he wants to make sure Kawann's academics don't suffer. I think that means the dream of Short setting screens and rebounding from the low block has died.
On a more serious note, I like hope's response on the team's attitude:
"I would expect that our entire football team has an attitude because we haven't had a winning season in three years. I'd be disappointed if we didn't play the game with a bit of a chip on our shoulder. You can't focus on the negative. You can't spend your all your time reading about yourself in the football obituaries. You're wasting your time doing that. Ricardo Allen is a guy that came to campus with a bit of a chip on his shoulder and he has an unbelievable passion for the game. That carries over to the team." - Danny Hope
Coach mentioned guys like Ryan Russell, Ryan Isaac, and Trevor Foy as players he liked because of their versatility. When he is recruiting linemen he doesn't specifically go for fast, smaller defensive linemen or big, strong offensive linemen, but guys that can play either offense or defense. He says you can't go wrong with players like that because they are going to be used on either side.
All in all I think this team is ready. Both Holland and Evans talked about how they just needed to be healthy and they can do great things. Evans especially thought this team was close in several games last year and, if it can stay healthy, will be fine. I am beginning to believe in that myself. I have a lot of confidence in the defense because of guys like Holland and Evans, and my confidence in the offense is growing because of their trust in the offense.
This was a great event to be at because it kicks off the football season. Now we get to let these guys be and really work for what's coming. Only 36 days to go.
Final Things Learned at Media Days:
- Luke Fickell answered questions like a robot. I think this guy is terrified.
- Brady Hoke's arrogance of "We're Michigan!" was a little grating. He feels like that is the appropriate response to anything and that they deserve anything because they're freaking Michigan.
- I think JoePa is one of the greatest human beings on the planet and he plays up his age to mess with people. I hope he lives to be 180 and keeps coaching until then.
- Bret Bielema, in the words of Maize N' Brew Dave, looks like he is ready for a beer. I also think he would be happy if he could personally beat the crap out of NCAA violators based on his statements yesterday.
- On the contrary, Mark Dantonio was all but openly weeping about Jim Tressel losing his job and views him on par with Abraham Lincoln, Winston Churchill, and possibly one of the 12 apostles.
- Ron Zook is excited. No, really. He is really REALLY excited.
- Kevin Wilson just might be the right coach at IU to make them good, at least until the football gods remember that IU football isn't supposed to be good. He scares me a little.
- Kirk Ferentz can be coma-inducing when he speaks. I wouldn't expect anything less from our most hated rival.
- Jerry Kill at Minnesota said most of the proper "Good MAC coach taking over a crappy Big Ten team" things.
- Bo Pelini is really tired of being asked about how it feels to be in the Big Ten. He'll be happier next year when they are just another team in the conference.
- I have nothing good or bad to say about Pat Fitzgerald.