This was my first Big Ten Media Days as a member of the working media. I knew what to expect going in: hundreds of reports crammed into a ballroom, so much so that they clogged the wireless internet and allowed me to load one page every 15 minutes like I was still on a 2400 baud dial-up connection. After being at the basketball media day last year I got used to the routine of each coach getting his 15 minutes to answer the same types of questions. I tried to mix it up at basketball media day by asking Thad Matta about Mark Titus, but there wasn't as much of a chance with a larger crowd there today.
Indeed, it seemed like each coach faced the same questions:
1. What do you think about Ohio State's situation?
2. What do you think about the Big Ten Championship game?
3. What do you think about adding Nebraska?
Those were the three big ones, with questions about pay-for-play and a respective position battled going fourth and fifth. With each coach getting the same questions they often had the same answer:
1. This one varied from Bret Bielema advocating everything short of being tarred, feathered, and ridden up the Monon line to Mark Dantonio calling Jim Tressel, "A tragic hero". Really, these were their quotes:
If I had a dream world, I would say hammer the guys that don't do things right. To me in my profession, the only thing I get very frustrated about is when I know things go on that aren't right, mainly in recruiting. That's the biggest thing that comes across my desk. People are willingly and knowingly abusing rules and breaking things. To me, when you are consciously aware of abusing a rule, there's no excuse for that.-Bret Bielema
To me, it's tragic. He becomes a tragic hero in my respect, in my view. Usually tragic heroes have the ability to rise above it all in the end and that's what I'll look for in the end. - Mark Dantonio
2. Everyone likes the Big Ten Championship game.
3. Everyone likes the addition of Nebraska.
It was an interesting day overall. Luke Fickell of Ohio State looks terrified and spoke haltingly like he had never been in front of the media before. Joe Paterno, as usual, ignored most questions and turned it into storytime with Joe Paterno. Some of Paterno's best:
I feel a lot better than I did a year ago. I had two tough years physically. The kid from Wisconsin running into me in the sideline, when I broke my knee that time. Then I threw my hip out showing off, trying to show the kids how to kick a football. I couldn't kick when I was healthy. I sure as hell couldn't kick with a broken knee.
"Ohio State to me has been a great, great, great college football program through the years. For all of a sudden, now there's something going on out there, I don't know. I don't know enough about it. I sure as heck don't want to start being critical of situations when I'm not that familiar with them. I try not to even read anything about it. I try to make sure we're doing what we're supposed to do.
Is this the last year of my contract? I don't even know I got a contract. I don't pay attention to that.
(On staying out of trouble): Oh, boy. Maybe we're lucky. I don't know. What the good Lord said, don't be the first one to cast the rock. I preach all the time. I tell our alumni all the time, Stay out of it. - Joe Paterno
I really think JoePa is totally in control and plays up his age to the reporters, and he is not a fan of the press. He was by far the most interesting one up there today.
As I said in the title, the word of the day was excitement. Ron Zook must have said he was excited 27 times in his 15 minutes. Every other coach was excited. All we needed was a, "You're excited? Feel these nipples!" I think that would be the funniest from JoePa, followed by Jim Delaney since he was so dull it was putting most people to sleep.
Of course, this is a Purdue site and therefore our Boilers are our primary concern. I found the most interesting thing of the day came not from Danny hope, but from Albert Evans via Twitter as I was on my way to the event:
Shwaggin32 Albert Evans
@HammerAndRails o will u really, will u be coverin us or everyone we will potentially lose to in ur book
I admit, I have been a little more harsh on this team than I usually am, but it is stuff like this that gets me excited and makes me want to recants a few of those predicted losses. I like seeing guys like Albert taking offense to all the negative media they are getting. I see him as a guy that is going to use it as fuel for the coming season and I can't wait to see him prove me and the rest of the media wrong. Not too many people are high on this team, and the players know it. That makes me think there could be some surprises. I think we'll be 6-6 and make a bowl game, but I'll be very happy to be wrong and see us go 9-3. I can't wait to talk to Albert about it tomorrow because I know he's a good guy that is going to be a leader this year.
Coach Hope's time at the podium was a little odd because I am not sure people knew what to ask him. The most interesting thing he said was about the change in our conditioning as a result of all the injuries last season:
We have hired a new director of sports performance, Duane Carlisle. He brought on an unbelievable staff of sports performance coaches. They've done an outstanding job of getting our team prepared for the upcoming season. A lot of emphasis has been on 'pre-hab,' techniques and drills can you do to minimize your chance for injury, also workouts and a plan to get our injured players back on the field. I think we're in good shape right now from a health standpoint. - Danny Hope
This is great news for all Purdue fans not only for football, but for all sports. Rememberthat volleyball, men's basketball, and women's basketball all had crippling injuries at the worst times last season. We need to keep our guys and gals healthy. That will be the biggest key in the coming season.
Another point coach Hope raised was the relative youth of our team. Only six seniors played last season and a Big Ten leading 19 starters return. A lot of freshman that saw time will be a year older and better now, thus helping us greatly:
We're in good shape from a health standpoint. Looking back at last year, it was tough in some ways because we had, again, 17 or 18 freshmen that played. We only had six seniors that played last year. We were probably the youngest football team in BCS football. - Danny Hope
It's pretty good. It's the first time since I've been the head coach at Purdue that I went into spring ball with a quarterback that ever played in a ballgame, college football game. It's the first time since I've been the head coach at Purdue that we have a quarterback going into the fall that played in a college football game. We have two. They're both exceptional people, great team guys, very talented players. Robert Marve is a special passer, runs well. It was unfortunate that he was injured last year because I think he was starting to get it together. His game was really beginning to come on. Unfortunately he was injured. Rob Henry came on board as our starting quarterback. He's a fantastic runner. Still developing some as a passer. But was really improving. It's unfortunate he sustained an injury. I was really proud how he finished the season directing our offense, becoming a great leader. A lot of people talk about our quarterback situation saying if you don't have a starter, you don't have a quarterback. I disagree. We have two really good quarterbacks. Both of those guys are great players, great people, exceptionally talented, outstanding team players, and really want to win. - Danny Hope
Coach Hope also had a funny thing to say about Carson Wiggs:
He's an outstanding football player that's trapped with a kicker's leg. - Danny Hope
On a more serious note about Wiggs:
I think he's the most exciting field goal kicker in all of football. He nails world record field goals on a regular basis in practice. If you look at other athletes that train, if they train at world record performance on a regular basis in practice, that's always a good sign. - Danny Hope
So there you have it. Tomorrow I will try to talk to players Evans, Wiggs, and Joe Holland. Let's keep this show going.