Joe Paterno made his annual appearance at Big Ten media days on Thursday and was asked many of the same questions that he has been asked before.
How is he feeling? Fine.
How has he been able to keep his job in an era where coaches are canned left and right? He doesn’t know.
How does he feel about the Big Ten adding Nebraska? He wanted an eastern team but is excited to have the Huskers in the conference.
How have the quarterbacks been? They look good.
Paterno told multiple stories about his past and mentioned the likes of Socrates and Rip Engle on a couple of occasions but Paterno looked and sounded better than he did a year ago when he was battling some illnesses. Paterno confirmed that he has been out and about more this spring and summer, doing some walking around the campus.
Asked about the issues surrounding rival Ohio State Paterno said that he didn’t know too much about the situation and he tried to keep out of the whole situation. “I don’t want to start something with someone I don’t know too much about,” Paterno said referring to his ignorance on the issues in Columbus that ultimately cost former colleague Jim Tressel his job as head coach at Ohio State.
Entering the final year of his contract, Paterno joked about not even knowing if he was under contract, which would probably make him the original Don Draper. After filtering through the fluff questions Paterno was asked a pair of questions about his team.
As for the quarterback race, Paterno would not hint at what the team may do, whether they have one starter or two quarterbacks, nor would he comment on any player by name. He previously stated that there would be a high probability it would be down to Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin, and Thursday Paterno said they had two or three guys who have played well in spring practice. “I think they’re enthused,” Paterno said about the competition for the starting job. He has no timetable for naming a starting quarterback, much like last season.
Paterno was also asked about his secondary, which has been hailed as one of the top units in the Big Ten. Rather than sing their praises Paterno gave the typical “I don’t know how good we are yet” type of response but he does seem to be looking forward to the upcoming season.
Leaders Division Notes
Ohio State interim had coach Luke Fickell was one of the two first-year coaches in the Big Ten to meet with the media, and after a nervous start he found a bit of comfort addressing the media. Fickell said he has had limited contact with his predecessor Jim Tressel, but the Ohio State administration has not told him not to be in touch with him. Fickell spoke about the energy that will come with adding Mike Vrabel to the coaching staff and said the entire program is just focused on moving forward and they will worry about the players they have now, not the ones they have lost.
Indiana coach Kevin Wilson made his Big Ten media day debut and he was not allowed to comment on the biggest story surrounding the Indiana program. A day after receiving a verbal from the nation’s top quarterback recruit, Gunner Kiel, Wilson said that recruiting is heading in the right direction. Wilson says that changing the culture at Indiana can take time but said there are example of it being possible, referring to Oregon as one good example. Will we be seeing 12 different uniform combinations at Indiana? Probably not, but it would be fun to see.
Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema made the most noise with some strong statements about people not doing the right things in college football. Though he admitted his comments were not directed at Ohio State, Bielema’s statements resonated throughout the room and the Internet.
“If I had a dream world, I would say hammer the guys that don’t do things right,” Bielema said. “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.”
Bielema also tried to sell the idea that transfer quarterback Russell Wilson will have to compete and earn the starting quarterback job at Wisconsin. Though that seems to come off as some coach-talk, Bielema is looking forward to seeing what Wilson can do. Wilsons was one of the top quarterbacks in the ACC at North Carolina State and with Wisconsin losing Scott Tolzien, there is little doubt that Wilson will be starting for the Badgers.
Illinois head coach Ron Zook said that feels good about his offensive line and also commented on the situation at Ohio State. ” I think you cringe because unfortunately it’s something out there in college football, something we just had a long talk with the commissioner, which I think is very important.”
Purdue head coach Danny Hope said he could possibly go with a two-quarterback system. It’s very likely we’ll use a two-quarterback system in the fall. We had some plans last year to utilize a two-quarterback system, especially with Rob Henry being new to the quarterback position. We felt like going into the season that Robert Marve was number one and Rob Henry was number two, it would give us a chance to get Rob Henry on the field some at the quarterback spot and some other positions as well.
Hope is also looking forward to the division era of Big Ten football.
“I’m excited about the divisions,” Hope said. “I think it gives every football team in the Big Ten one more opportunity to become a champion. If you’re a football team in the Big Ten, you have a chance to be a national champion, a Rose Bowl champion, a division champion, or just another bowl champion. Anytime you have an opportunity to become a champion, I think that’s huge for our football team and everybody else’s team in the Big Ten. I think it’s a big thing for us and very exciting.”
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