Big Ten Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014

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Coaches dish on all 14 teams in the Big Ten.

Big Ten Coaches Talk Anonymously About Conference Foes for 2014

It's not easy getting college football coaches to honestly comment on another coach, player or team. Most coaches don't want to give opposing teams billboard material, which is why there is a lot of coach speak or overused cliches used during the year.

 

In order to get an accurate assessment of teams heading into 2014, Athlon asked coaches in the Big Ten to talk anonymously about their opponents.

 

Note: These scouting reports come directly from coaching staffs and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.

 

Big Ten Coaches Anonymously Scout Conference Foes

 

East Division

 

Indiana


Opposing coaches size up the Hoosiers:
 

“Defensively I’m sure their focus this season will be finding a way stop the run.” …

“They had some kids that looked good, especially on offense. They were youthful from what I remember.” …

Offensively they are scary as hell with very good running backs and receivers. Kevin Wilson does a nice job with that scheme. They are pretty multiple and can spread it out on you. They are a threat to score a bunch of points.” …

“It’s hard to pinpoint what the issues were on defense, but they’ll have to try to get bigger and stronger up front and plug in holes with recruiting.” …

“The spread offense and stopping the run game are priorities for them. That’s sort of been their M.O. for a long time.” …

“They’ve had some great offenses in the past and put up a gazillion points and still win five games. It’s sort of strange.” …

“I can’t really name any of their top defensive guys. A lot of times they either had trouble getting pressure or they couldn’t cover on the back end. But they were a huge threat offensively.” …

“Wide receiver Cody Latimer is a great player – he’s gone, or at least I hope so.” …

 

Maryland

 

Opposing coaches size up the Terrapins:

 

“An explosive team that has tools at positions that can and should make a significant impact for them.” …

“Their issues are the best players are not all the time available or healthy. It was a scouting report factor to look at. They’ve had on and off the field issues with players leaving, which does not help.” …

“Stefon Diggs is as good as any skill player in the country. He is as good as advertised.” …

“Randy Edsall, despite what some say, is a good coach.” …

“Another important factor: Will recruiting hold up and can they keep the best players in state? That remains to be seen.” …

“Penn State with James Franklin will make things interesting along the 95 corridor and the beltway.”…


“The linebackers and the secondary groups were the best.” …

“Their quarterback, C.J. Brown, was a pretty good player. He is impressive.” …

“Mike Locksley is a really good football coach, their offensive coordinator.” …

“Their special teams are well coached schematically, that’s one thing we were impressed with.” …

“They aren’t overly impressive on the offensive and defensive lines. Just normal there. Nobody stood out.” …

“They didn’t have a really big time player except the quarterback when we played them. He was the best player on the team I thought.”…
 

Michigan

 

Opposing coaches size up the Wolverines:

 

“What are they going to do new offensively? They just hired Doug Nussmeier. Where they’ve struggled, they haven’t been what they thought they’d be on the offensive line. They lost both their tackles now.”…

“Devin Gardner’s back, so it will be interesting to see, are they building an off for Gardner for one more year or building for the future for Shane Morris or whomever they recruited? Nussmeier comes from Alabama, and the Alabama model offensively is to be pretty conservative, run the ball with play-action passes. That wasn’t a quarterback-driven offense but McCarron was great at what they needed. So if you’re not going to use Devin’s feet and athleticism, are you going to miss the boat? Because I don’t think he’s like McCarron – he’s got to make up for lack of accuracy with his legs and creativity and extending plays.”…

“I think they were very meager running the football. They struggled protecting the quarterback. The statistical things you evaluate – offensive line, rushing yards, yards per carry, they were pretty poor in those areas.”…

“Defensively, I don’t think they were near what they want to be. They have a great defensive coordinator, he’s a very good coach, but as the defense is designed to stop the run it’s become more of a passing league in some ways. Great, you held them to 100 yards rushing but they threw for 350 and you got beat.”…
 

Michigan State

 

Opposing coaches size up the Spartans:


“Their model is good. They know how to reload the pieces to fit their scheme.”…

“I expect them to be coming out of the gate as the best defense in the conference, even though they lose several starters.”…

“That November game against Ohio State in East Lansing will go a long way. They’ll certainly be good enough to win at least 9-10 games and stay in the thick of conference race. They’ll probably be better on offense, too.”…

“They’ve found a little identity there. I thought Connor Cook was one of the difference makers for him the second half of the season. His play against Ohio State and in the Rose Bowl was very good. He was a little bit of a late bloomer.”…

“Mark Dantonio worked for Jim Tressel all those years, so they model their program where it’s replacing pieces and not overhauling. They can recruit to their positions for development.”…

“Darqueze Dennard will be hard to replace, and Denicos Allen will be missed, Marcus Rush will be a good player for them coming back. He’s a solid guy.”…

“Both of their corners played well all season, and they get one back.”…

“They limit what routes you can run against them. They know how to stop the routes you can run. They kind of minimize their exposure. You can’t run every play in your offense because they are ready for at least half of it.”…

“They aren’t going to miss Max Bullough as much as everybody thought. The kid who replaced him in the Rose Bowl was pretty good.”…

“They might be a little bit less on defense but improved on offense, which will balance itself out.”…

“Defensive end Shilique Calhoun was quick off the edge, I thought.”…

 

Ohio State

(EDITOR'S NOTE: All quotes obtained prior to Braxton Miller's season-ending injury.)

Opposing coaches size up the Buckeyes:


“A very quarterback-driven offense. Without a doubt they have good skill. They have a good scheme.”...

“I have a lot of respect for the running back Carlos Hyde, he’s was a really good player. They’ll miss him a bunch.”…

“Philly Brown, had a good skill set but kind of played spotty last year. He was versatile, though – they had him all over the place. They should have good depth at receiver even without him.”…

“Defensively, I love the freshman defensive end (Joey Bosa). I love the way he played, pad level, intensity. Inside backer (Ryan Shazier) is really good and he’s gone. The back end, they were able to make a few plays but could give up a few big ones, too.”…

“Talented, talented team. If you can match up with them on the offensive and defensive lines, you can give them a good fight. For us it wasn’t like, ‘Oh no, you have to play OSU again.’ They can overwhelm people sometimes, though. “…

“With the running backs I’ve seen they have, they can make do without Hyde, but the offensive line loses a ton of experience. An athletic quarterback like Braxton Miller can complement a new offensive line, which helps.”…

“Obviously, they will coach Braxton up to not take as many hits but Braxton is a cool customer, he doesn’t seem to get fazed.”…

“If you can get your play-action passes going, you can make some big plays against them. They were a little bit suspect in the defensive backfield.”…
 

Penn State

 

Opposing coaches size up the Nittany Lions:


“They are not as far down as people want to make it seem. Maybe it’s depth or whatever you talk about, but you just watch them, start with the defensive line, they had some great players. The cupboard was not bare.”…

“The defensive ends were good, the backers are exactly what you’d expect from Penn State.”…

“Offensively they had a nice crew at wide receiver and they had a great quarterback.”…

“Christian Hackenberg – great player, makes a lot of good decisions. Where he was from the beginning of year to the end was much different.”…

“They are not a team where you look at them and think, ‘Oh my gosh they’ve been on NCAA restrictions.’…

“With the front crew they can play against anybody. They made some big plays against us.”…

“I don’t know much about James Franklin, but he seems like a high-energy guy.”…

“With O’Brien, Penn State did a good job understanding what the quarterback needed to do. I thought he did very good job as offensive coordinator developing his kids and getting his guys in the right spots. It was a structured offense. They didn’t vary from it, they were who they were. Play-calling was excellent, and they could change plays with what they saw. With using the young quarterback to get the play called, they were as good as I’ve been around.”…

“We’ll see how they do without O’Brien’s playcalling.”...

“They’ll miss defensive tackle DaQuan Jones – he was the best in the league, in my opinion. He was physically stout, didn’t have a weakness. It’s like no one talked about him. They’ve got to replace a few guys on the line.”…
 

Rutgers

 

Opposing coaches size up the Scarlet Knights:

 

“New offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen is a big hire for them. He will get the most out of the talent they have.”…

“Without a proven quarterback and only Leonte Carroo as a marquee receiver, they will not be dynamic enough to win consistently in the Big Ten.”…

“Carroo will be their best player. It’s hard to say how good he can really be because their quarterback play has been so bad.”…

“I thought they looked good up front on both sides of the ball.”…

“Their secondary was their biggest weakness. They were young there from what I remember.”…

“There’s decent skill there at receiver but not a lot of breakout star power.”…

“The quarterback play was very inconsistent. That was the biggest issue. Gary Nova had some good moments early in the year but every time you looked over during the season, he was giving the ball away. He killed their momentum. We didn’t think he was that good coming in.”…

“I think they will struggle to be .500 in that league, especially on the east side.”…

“The defensive line was really solid. They had good athleticism and can apply pressure.”…

“They had a good recruiting class going but lost some key guys after that Dave Cohen incident (claims of bullying a player). Was terrible timing after what happened with the basketball coach.”

 

Listen to the Cover 2 college football podcast with guest Steven Godfrey:


West Division

 

Illinois

 

Opposing coaches size up the Fighting Illini:


“They were athletic. They’ve had their ups and downs. Maybe in Year 3 they will have both sides of the ball clicking at once. They haven’t had that yet.”…

“I loved Nathan Scheelhaase. He was a really good football player. He probably didn’t get enough credit but he moved the ball.”…

“They have some good-looking skill players and are on the verge of potentially taking the next step. I thought they were coached well and we were able to make some plays against them. You can get some big plays on them early in the game and then they’ll eventually make plays but then they are behind. Just seemed to play from behind a lot. Hard to win that way.”…

“I thought personally it was a physical team and they did some good things. Settling into what they want to do on offense and defense will be key, because they have quite a lot of things going on schematically, especially on offense with the passing concepts, so that takes time. But they are right there.”…

“You have a team that’s close but not close enough yet. If they catch fire and believe they can win, that’s infectious.”…

“Their wideouts are good looking. It’s not like you’re looking at players that don’t look the part.”…

“I haven’t heard much about the new quarterback (Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt).”…

“No defensive players necessarily jumped out at you – a few good inside backers are gone now.”…
 

Iowa

 

Opposing coaches size up the Hawkeyes:


“If you like old-school, grind-it-out, knock-the-snot-out-of-each-other-for-four-quarters style of football, that’s what our game against Iowa was like last year. It was amazing.”…

“I like the way they carry their program.”…

“They have a very tough front seven on defense. As tough as there is, snap in snap out – they sort of say, here’s what we do, come get us, we’re going to play well and tackle well.”…

“I love the James Morris kid. They’ll miss him.”…

“With their outside linebacker, they had one of the best tandems in the league. They lost a lot of experience there and that both of those guys are gone.”…

“They are settling in at the quarterback position. Jake Rudock was good in the play-action game, checking runs in the right spots. He wasn’t flashy but he got it done.”…

“They had the best offensive line in the conference. The left tackle, Brandon Scherff – he’s all that. If he’s not a first round draft pick, I’d be absolutely shocked.”…

“I don’t know if there’s an area where you can expose them. You just have to pick the spots and make the plays. Maybe if you can break a few big runs and get out early you’ll be in good shape because they aren’t necessarily built to play from behind, or at least they won’t put up 50 a game, but it’s a fistfight against them.”…

“You won’t outscheme Iowa. Your kids have to make a play to beat them.”…  
 

Minnesota

 

Opposing coaches size up the Golden Gophers:


“They are a tough crew. It’s a slugfest. They are built much like Iowa. They are very physical, fundamentally sound. I have a lot of respect for the coaching staff for the way they prepare their kids, especially on the defensive back end where they are physical.”…

“Losing the big kid inside on defense (Ra’Shede Hageman) is a big deal but they appeared to be recruiting well. Hageman could dominate some games and then others he wouldn’t really impact all that much.”…

“Offensively, they did a few different things. They do enough to keep you on edge. You have to coach your tail off against them. The way they use the fly sweep is creative. They are creative in the running game and in play-action.”…

“The wide receiver spot offensively is a bit of a problem for them. They have a good offensive line and good running backs but can they get the ball consistently downfield in the passing game? Getting a go-to receiver will be a huge deal for them.”…

“On defense, their skill guys were very good. They maybe had the most or one of the top guys in the league on skill on the defensive back end.”…

“Minnesota’s a really tough place to play when it’s colder than hell, soldout crowd and they’re always hanging in there. They are a difficult team to play.”…

“Philip Nelson, who transferred to Rutgers (later dismissed), didn’t necessarily scare you but they are high on their new quarterback (Mitch Leidner).”…
 

Nebraska

 

Opposing coaches size up the Cornhuskers:


“They hadn’t been what they wanted to be on defense, considering Bo Pelini is a defensive coach. Where they’ve been a little disappointing is defensive consistency. For John Papuchis, his first defensive coordinator gig is Nebraska. That’s a big job. It’s not like he started at a springboard place. Nebraska’s still Nebraska.”…

“They were pretty young on defense last year, so maybe another year will have Bo’s defense where he wants it.”…

“Having Randy Gregory back will help. He is an absolute stud. He’s so explosive and fast for his size. He’s physical, can cover, just a smart player. Doesn’t really have a weakness.”…

“Bo was on the perceived hot seat but they are always solid. There hasn’t really been a dropoff. They’ve been consistent, even with their starting quarterback out all year.”…

“They couldn’t do everything they wanted to last year because even when Taylor Martinez came back against UCLA, he wasn’t the same and they couldn’t run him very much.”…

“Last year they lost a guard (Spencer Long) to injury. He was really good.”…

“This year they should have more options with Tommy Armstrong, whom I know they are high on.”…

“Ameer Abdullah just gets it done, whatever they need. It will be interesting to see how much they try to run the option with Armstrong and Abdullah, because they did that some last year but that was maybe in part because the quarterback was inexperienced.”…

“They have enough to win the division, no doubt. Their offensive line will be young but it will be talented.”…
 

Northwestern

 

Opposing coaches size up the Wildcats:

 

“Injuries everywhere – just a tough, tough, tough year for them. Their kids played tough and they never quit or stopped believing.”…

“Tougher than hell. Compete every single week. They’ll be in the right spots, are fundamentally and technically sound.”…

“The speedy guy, Venric Mark, he changes the team. Makes them a different team on offense, and not just because of his athleticism, but competitiveness, too. He draws the whole team toward him. My guess is he’s a tremendous leader and a lot of kids follow him in a good way. Getting him back is a huge thing for them.”…

“They’ll have a chip on their shoulder, ready to play.”…

“They’ve got to replace the quarterback (Kain Colter). When they were smoking on offense, the (Trevor Siemian) kid would come in and pace them, but without Colter they wouldn’t be as dynamic in the quarterback running game. Maybe they have another guy they like but I would doubt they’d go back to a two-quarterback system.”…

“They just lost a bunch of hard fought games.”…

“They had a couple big, tall defensive linemen that were talented players.”…

“Salty on defense on the front seven, always where they needed to be.”…

“The offensive line was very functional for what their offense was built for, which became tough because of injuries. They weren’t going to overwhelm you there.”…

“I don’t look at Northwestern and say they were outmatched in the Big Ten. I thought they were physical and tough. It wasn’t that these guys were outmatched.”…
 

Purdue


“When we played against them it was still fairly early and they hadn’t lost their sails yet. They had a tough go but I have a lot of respect for Darrell Hazell.”…

“I really like them, they played hard the whole year and felt pretty good about recruiting, so it will be interesting to see the steps they take.”…

“I’m sure they know what they want to do on offense and defense and just need to find a way to implement those plans.”…

Quarterback, they have to get that fixed. Not sure what the plan is there.”…

“They are a pretty good-looking team when they jog out there, though. It was just, the pieces to the puzzle - they couldn’t really handle the running game very well. There was probably a lot of transition that goes into that, so they had some pieces to the puzzle they had to figure out.”…

“I think Darrell’s a good coach. He didn’t seem fazed or, ‘Oh my God what’s next’ from what I noticed. It’s like anything else, it’s a matter of recruiting.”…

“I thought they had some stout looking kids on the defensive line inside, the safety and the corner did some good things. I don’t think they are overwhelmed. They have some good players. They’ll be fine.”…

 

Wisconsin

 

Opposing coaches size up the Badgers:


“It will be interesting to see what transpires in Year 2 under Gary Andersen. It’s a really good defensive system but they lose a lot of good players. They’ll have to rebuild that. They have a good coordinator, a good defensive plan with tough, hard-nosed kids, very similar to Michigan State that away.”…

“It will be interesting to see how much they develop the passing game. Joel Stave got exposed a little bit as things played out. They are not sure if he can win close games for them. They know he can win the games where he’s running the offense and they could win regardless. They’ll probably search within what they’ve got.”…

“They recruited a really good player from New Jersey – running back Corey Clement He’s got a chance to be really good but he’s playing behind Melvin Gordon, who’s also great.”…

“Obviously it’s not just they have a great of line and a great system, they have some talent. Their lines are always good and they love having a 1-2 punch attack running the ball.”…

“You have to be able to throw the ball against them. You can get some big plays against them throwing the football.”…

“They lose Chris Borland, the center of the defense. Phenomenal player. I don’t know if you have a replacement for them. Team leader.”…

“We tried to use speed against them, because they know how to stop the interior run game. You have to get the ball on the perimeter with speed and throw the ball downfield.”…

“I’m not sure if they are strong enough on the back end similar to Michigan State where they can play tight man coverage.”…

“They were a little one-dimensional in the passing game offensively.”…

“They play two deep on the defensive line. Whoever they lose up front, they are probably already set to replace them.”…

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