On Wednesday, we got to hear spring updates from every B1G coach. Everything from quarterback battles, position switches and Friday night football was discussed.
Here were the important takeaway points each of them provided:
LOVIE SMITH, ILLINOIS
The Illinois coach didn’t have a spring game to preview (or recap), but he did discuss the progress of two important offensive players.
Smith said that receiver Mikey Dudek, who spent the last two seasons out with anterior cruciate ligament tears, is cleared to go. He didn’t have any contact during the spring, but he’s back to looking like his freshman self.
As for quarterback Chayce Crouch, Smith said he’s also progressing nicely. And while Eddie George Jr. has been getting plenty of reps with Crouch sidelined, Smith didn’t mince words.
“(Crouch) is our starting quarterback. He is the undisputed leader of our team.”
TOM ALLEN, INDIANA
In case you haven’t heard, Jon Gruden and his dad will be the honorary coaches at Indiana’s spring game on Thursday night. Allen addressed what that’ll mean to have them in attendance.
“It’s pretty special. He’s just got such a presence about him and such a personality that I’m just excited to spent time with him for sure. Obviously this place is special to him with his dad being the coach here for five years being a boy here and just spending some quality time.
“They’re excited to have the opportunity to come home and we’re excited to have them. I think it’s going to be a treat for our entire team.”
KIRK FERENTZ, IOWA
With the news that Brandon Snyder suffered a torn ACL, Kirk Ferentz was forced to get a little creative. Iowa asked running back Noah Clayberg, a former high school quarterback, if he’d be willing to switch to safety. Clayberg obliged, much to the delight of Ferentz.
Clayberg spent Monday at his new position.
“So far so good. The good news is that we had a good feel about Noah when we recruited him. I really thought (safety) was where he’d end up playing but his preference was to start out at running back…but we definitely have a need now with Brandon being out so we talked to him about transitioning over there. He was very receptive to it. He’s got a great attitude.”
DJ DURKIN, MARYLAND
There’s quite the quarterback battle brewing in College Park. UNC transfer Caleb Henderson, promising sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome, four-star true freshman Kasim Hill and Max Bortenschlager are all competing for the starting job.
Durkin addressed that battle.
“It’s been a good. Every day, it’s been a little different. One guy makes a push, the next day it’s someone else. I like it that way. We’re enjoying that competition. I’d like to have that in as many positions as we can…we’ll carry that all the way through spring into summer camp.”
JIM HARBAUGH, MICHIGAN
Jim Harbaugh was asked about which state (besides Michigan) he puts the most emphasis on recruit. Harbaugh, of course, had more recent success in New Jersey than Rutgers. More recently, Harbaugh got commitments from Georgia.
But he didn’t get into any of that. Instead, Harbaugh talked about recruiting the United States of America, and threw in a Johnny Cash reference.
“The Internet’s been very good. Less and less players that are under the radar. Their video is able to be seen by everybody. That’s a great thing. So to answer your question: everywhere. Johnny Cash would say, ‘Everywhere, man.’”
MARK DANTONIO, MICHIGAN STATE
Naturally, Dantonio was asked about the ongoing turmoil surrounding MSU. Though Dantonio wouldn’t identify which players sat the spring game because of suspensions — three unnamed players are suspended during an ongoing sexual assault investigation — he added that there have been more suspensions since the spring game just nine 11 days ago.
He didn’t identify which players were “red-locked.”
“Well, we red-lock people from time to time. We use the term ‘red-lock’ for various things. So yes, there has been. That’s a constant. There is constant people in and out of different situations. I think that is normal.”
P.J. FLECK, MINNESOTA
After a lengthy opening statement — probably longer than the rest of the coaches combined — P.J. Fleck talked about his hiring process. Admittedly, Fleck said that he usually hires people that he’s worked with before, much like new offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca.
“I’m not for everybody. So the last thing I want to do is get somebody in here and hire somebody and not know them. The next thing you know; they didn’t fit with me and you have to make changes as you go.”
MIKE RILEY, NEBRASKA
Like Harbaugh, Riley was also asked about the out-of-state recruiting market he tries to attack. Like Harbaugh, Riley didn’t repeat the obvious (Calibraska), and instead, took a different route. He referenced Nebraska’s 500-mile radius and took it a step further in referencing his national recruiting.
“We are America’s team here.”
PAT FITZGERALD, NORTHWESTERN
Pat Fitzgerald admitted that his thoughts about Friday night football have been “well-documented.” That could’ve been what led the B1G to push Northwestern’s two Friday night games to Saturday in 2017.
Still, Fitzgerald was asked about why he’s not fully on board with the idea.
“My concern is the safety and well-being of our student athletes, specifically my guys. We’re in a little bit of a unique situation. I hope in the future we get consideration to potentially play on Friday. I think definitely our opener. With us not being in school, that’d be great.
“But anytime you shorten the week, I get concerned big time about recovery, I get big-time concern about missed class opportunities. I just want to make sure there’s a plan behind it. It sounds like we’re working towards that. I’m very thankful for the B1G and the thought process behind this whole thing and I look forward to it being an asset for us in the future.”
URBAN MEYER, OHIO STATE
Ohio State is replacing more talent at one position group than arguably any in the country. With possible future first-round picks Marshon Lattimore, Gareon Conley, as well as safety Malik Hooker all off to the NFL, Meyer was asked about their replacements.
Blue-chip defensive back recruits Jeffrey Okudah, Shaun Wade and Marcus Williamson are all competing for a starting job as true freshmen. But according to Meyer, JUCO transfer Kendall Sheffield is the leader in the clubhouse.
“Right now, Kendall Sheffield is ahead of the three freshmen corners, which you would expect because he’s an older veteran guy whose been out of high school the last two years. He’s in the rotation right now. Damon Arnette has had a very good spring and Denzel Ward is our best corner. Denzel is our best corner.
“We’re very impressed so far with Wade, Okudah and Williamson. They’re all getting better each day.”
JAMES FRANKLIN, PENN STATE
One of the brightest spots out of Penn State’s spring camp has been the emergence of talented sophomore receiver Juwan Johnson. The Lions, of course, need a replacement for Chris Godwin.
According to Franklin, Johnson’s stock his rising at the end of spring.
“He just has taken a very mature approach. A very mature approach, a very aggressive approach all offseason. He redshirted as a freshman, then played a little as a true freshman and now he kind of has it figured out. What he needs to do to be successful, what he needs to do to have a bigger role, what are his strengths, what are his weaknesses.
“He’s a mature guy and a smart guy. He’s really just made a significant jump from the end of the season to now. It’s been him identifying what his strengths and weaknesses are in conversations with his position coaches, as well as myself…he’s playing with a lot of confidence right now. I think we all know he’s got some special physical abilities. It’s all starting to come together for him right now.”
JEFF BROHM, PURDUE
Purdue has an obvious need at wide receiver. The Boilermakers are young and inexperienced at wideout, which was evident during the spring game. Brohm addressed those concerns.
“I still have concerns about the position. It’s not where we need it to be. It’s not the strength of our team. We have a lot of area to improve there. We are gonna add two junior college guys and a graduate transfer that will be here by May but mostly by summer to spice up the competition.
“But we do need to improve in that area. We do need to find some playmakers. We need to feel comfortable utilizing them. It’s definitely an area that still needs plenty of improvement.”
CHRIS ASH, RUTGERS
There’s now a clear No. 1 in Rutgers’ quarterback battle, according to Chris Ash. Gio Rescigno, who started for the Knights down the stretch last year, solidified his place as the leader in the QB race.
Ash said that Rescigno’s leadership and decision-making have both improved significantly working alongside new offensive coordinator Jerry Kill.
“He has been taking the reps with the 1s here this spring. I’m very impressed with the improvement he’s made under the new leadership of coach Jerry Kill coaching quarterbacks and running the offense. I think Gio has really been a pleasant surprise.”
PAUL CHRYST, WISCONSIN
Apparently Paul Chryst had his eye on new Wisconsin defensive coordinator Jim Leonhard for a while. The two knew each other when Leonhard played at Wisconsin over a decade ago.
Leonhard, who was hired to take over Justin Wilcox’s role after just one year on Wisconsin’s staff, was targeted by Chryst at the end of his NFL career.
“Even when Jim was playing and I went to Pittsburgh, I’d see if he wanted to retire a little early and start another career. Certainly there’s a knowledge component to coaching, and he has that. It’ll still be a number of years until the coaching years outweigh the playing years, but the way he played, and he was around a lot of different coaches and schemes.
“The big thing I was impressed with was his communication and the ability to take something that is developed and well-thought-out and simplify it for a player. I’ve thought a ton of him for a number of years.”