Another year, another gone. The 2012 Big Ten Football Media Days has officially been in the books for almost a full day now. And as I fully reflect on my first experience with the event, I can easily say that (among other things) it was an exciting, educating, dazzling and certainly intimidating spectacle to behold.
Unfortunately, since TMill couldn't go after taking off work for his trip to the Rockies, I was thrown to the wolves in my very first brush with a professional media event. Although I flew solo through the entire two days, I think I came away fairly unscathed and plenty better because of the experience.
Anyways, I was definitely all eyes and ears at the Media Days. And I also tried very hard to give the fans at home a good front row glimpse of the entire event. I found the idea of live tweeting to be quite advantageous, as I managed to snap and post some pretty good pictures and blurbs about many things happenings at McCormick Place. All in all, I would say that my work on Twitter during the Media Days was rather successful.
To get into the meat of what actually happened at the event, I will say that plenty of it was predictable. During the official media sessions on the first day, Bill O'Brien was pecked, prodded and interrogated about the Penn State scandal at the podium. Urban Meyer was mostly questioned about his move from the SEC to the Big Ten and resuming his role as a college coach. Tim Beckman of Illinois also gathered queries about his new coaching job, and meanwhile Kevin Wilson said a ton about how much IU sucked last year and they need to improve (LOL). And of course, Danny Hope had questions about Purdue's potential, our 3 QB system and the potential move to the 3-4 on defense.
The entire transcripts from each coach's media session has been publicly released on the Big Ten's website. In addition to the transcripts for speeches from Jim Delany and BTN President Mark Silverman, all of the transcripts can be found here:http://www.bigten.org/sports/m-footbl/spec-rel/072612aab.html. If you're even slightly interested, I suggest you take a look.
Another great part of the event was that many exclusive media guides that were made available to me since I was a part of the "credentialed media personnel". Most of them were informational packets about news, rules changes and the like happening in Big Ten football. But what I was most impressed with among the media guides was the team-specific info guides that were being handed out. I immediately grabbed a Purdue guide, started flipping through it and noticed that it was basically a paper database about the football team. Most of the data--things like coach and player profiles, rosters, stats, records and team history--seemed to be pulled straight from purduesports.com. But, a couple of very nice things about the guide were that the jersey numbers for the incoming freshman players were listed in the roster and also that an up-to-date depth chart for the new season was available.
The rest of the first day events included TV and Radio sessions with coaches and players, but these areas weren't directly made available to me. I could basically just stand nearby these booths and try to listen in on the discussions, but I found it very hard to hear what anyone was saying in these phases because of the noise level and the fact that not one microphone was being broadcast for media personnel in the room.
The best part of the entire experience occurred on the second day, though. That morning, I was able to take part in a two-hour-long round table interview session with any of the coaches and players that attended the event. Some were very easy to talk to. Schools like IU, Northwestern, Minnesota and even Purdue all drew in some reporters but were definitely the least popular kids at the dance. Other coaches and players weren't very easy to get in touch with. For instance, Bill O'Brien and Urban Meyer were barraged by about fifty reporters at all times, so I eventually found it futile in creepily standing next to them with my iPhone shoved in there face and trying to yell out questions over a crowd of hungry dogs.
What was great though was getting to sit down and talk one-on-one with Danny Hope and the players he brought along--Kawann Short, Ricardo Allen and Caleb TerBush. Each guy was very nice and personable. I managed to record the conversations I had with all four of them, but my phone won't let me transfer the files to my email. As much as I would like to post the audio so I can type a lot less in this post, I will instead have to paraphrase all of what was discussed. I hate Apple.
While talking to all three of the players, I asked them what their personal expectations of the new season were and what needed to be done to get there. They each answered with respectable yet cliche things like "Just winning more games, going to another bowl game, staying healthy, etc." and "staying focused on our opponents, practicing harder, preparing more in the weight room and film sessions, etc."
I also asked Kawann what he thought about being considered a first round draft pick for next April's 2013 NFL Draft. He replied with something to the tune of "I haven't really given it a whole lot of thought. Plenty of people are in my ear about it, but I try not to get ahead of myself and focus on it too much. I just try to stay humble and focus on the upcoming season and staying healthy."
Also, I had a few off-kilter questions for the players. I asked Rico Allen about his thoughts on being rated 81 overall in NCAA 13, as I thought he was seriously snubbed by EA and should have been rated higher (for the record, CB#21 from Purdue has been edited to 89 overall in my saved roster on my copy NCAA 13). He said that he can use that as motivation to continue to prove his doubters wrong. We then got into a discussion about how he is a small guy on the football field and some people (I'm looking at you EA Sports) feel he isn't as good as he knows he can be. But Ricardo said that he trains hard, both physically and mentally in order to be able to play at as high of a level as he can, even though he is always one of the smallest guys on the gridiron. Oh yeah, being that he is an NCAA Football addict, Rico said that he is looking forward to playing a lot of NCAA 13 soon and is actively looking to challenge people to games online. Let this be a warning to you gamers.
Finally, I got to talk to Coach Hope. He was very nice and actually pretty enthusiastic. One of the things I noticed about some of the B1G coaches was that they were so quiet and reserved in off field situations, but are clearly known as aggressive or obnoxious on game day. See Brady Hoke or Bo Pelini. Both guys were very different in these interview sessions than on the sideline. But, Danny Hope is not one of these guys. Whether you think it's good or bad, Hope seems like he is the same kind of guy in every situation, every day of the week--an enthusiastic, personable, football loving simpleton from Florida and the Eastern Kentucky football program.
But when I actually talked a lot of football with Coach Hope, he actually seemed very intelligent (HEY! Stay with me damnit!). My first question for the coach was similar to one of my questions for the players: With the recognition that we might have a very good squad this year and with PSU and OSU ineligible for the postseason, how have your expectations for this season changed from past years? Has your approach to the upcoming campaign changed at all?
Hope answered by pointing out that we are a much more experienced football team this year than in the past with many returning seniors. He also mentioned that this was the first year in the past few that our starting quarterback is healthy and not suffering from a major injury. Coach also mentioned that in order to see true improvement this year, we will likely have to improve in a few key areas: passing efficiency, quarterback protection, heightened receiver awareness, turnover margin and improving player discipline.
I also asked Coach Hope about the situation at QB, being that we have 3 upperclassmen QBs who are healthy and previous starters. He reiterated from his media sessions that their is an open competition at quarterback and Caleb TerBush is the front runner but that he also plans to use Robert Marve and Rob Henry in different situations in order to utilize their unique talents and keep them loose with in-game reps in case TerBush gets hurt.
On the running back situation, I asked a question that H&R user DMC411 suggested in the comments section of my post on Thursday morning, which went something like this: with Bolden's arrest and Shavers being named a captain, what kind of depth do you see at RB? Do you think some receivers and other personnel in the backfield will be in the mix as well? Hope graced this question by saying that he doesn't think we have great depth at the running back position this year, but luckily we can manufacture depth. And what he meant by that is he plans to use some of the receivers, like Antavian Edison and Raheem Mostert, out of the backfield again. He stated that Akeem Shavers continues to impress him and that he is the #1 running back right now, but that he has also been impressed with the improvement of Akeem Hunt. As far as Bolden goes, Hope said that he will have to work his way back to getting some serious playing time, and hopefully he will be able to do that at some point this year so we can utilize his talents.
To transition to the other side of the ball, I asked Coach Hope about Tim Tibesar and the possibility of him instilling a 3-4 defensive system in the long run. He deflected that question by saying that he feels Tibesar is a great asset to the team with his Canadian Football League experience, where defenses basically run 3-4 defenses constantly to combat spread offenses that run rampant due to differences in the game from the American version. Hope also said that we will continue to use a 4-3 base for our defense like we always have, but that the addition of Tibesar might bring about a little more frequent and efficient use of the 3-4 as a package. I asked him what the 3-4 might look like this in terms of personnel. He said that he really couldn't answer that right now because they are still looking to iron out such details in upcoming practices before the season starts.
Lastly, I asked Hope about the numerous arrested that the football team has contracted so far this year, specifically whether or not such information can lead to the conclusion that their is a behavior issue with student athletes at Purdue. He retorted by saying that the football players seem like any other college kids who just go out looking to have fun. Also, he pointed out that being a college athlete magnifies their spotlight. To take a direct quote from Coach, "If a Math major gets in trouble you don't hear a word about it, but if an athlete gets in trouble it's headline news. A lot of times it gets blown way out of proportion."
I really enjoyed talking to Danny Hope. He seems like a guy you would have a lot of fun with if you grabbed a beer with him. He was very long-winded (my audio recording says that we talked for nearly 30 minutes, even though I only asked him about a half dozen questions), but he is a very enthusiastic guy. As I left his interview table, I even had notions that he might be a very intelligent football mind. Hopefully this year Purdue continues to progress under Coach Hope so that he can start to earn some of the respect that he very plausibly deserves.
After the interviewing process was over, the Media Days were opened up into a public luncheon with fans. I didn't stick around for long after this began, but it looked like a great time. Players and coaches were signing autographs and taking photos with fans. Mascots were running around and accepting high fives all over the place. It looked like a lot of fun and I felt very happy to be a part of such an event, but eventually the 2012 Big Ten Football Media Days had to come to an end. I left McCormick Place early yesterday afternoon feeling many different emotions, but mostly just feeling very excited for the start of another glorious Big Ten football season.