Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien appeared comfortable and was in a better mood as he arrived for his second Big Ten media day event in Chicago since being named head coach in 2012. With one year of NCAA sanctions now behind him, O’Brien has adjusted to the situation his program is in and focused on the 2013 season as he met with the media.
O’Brien was one of the final three coaches to address the media as Big Ten media days got underway. Minnesota’s Jerry Kill was optimistic about his program’s growth while Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz was less enthusiastic about where Iowa is going in 2013.
Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien says junior college transfer addition Tyler Ferguson is expected to be on campus ready to compete for the starting quarterback job with incoming freshman Christian Haceknberg. Ferguson took part in spring practices and the spring game but is home in California this summer focusing on family issues. A rumor had popped up over the summer that he might not return but O’Brien put that to rest.
“Summer’s optional right,” O’Brien asked with a hint of sarcasm. “The last time I checked the NCAA rule book, summer was optional.”
Facing significant concerns regarding depth on both sides of the football, O’Brien mentioned the philososhy of “next man up,” in which everyone is expected to be ready to fill in where needed. O’Brien even went so far as to mention taking players out of the secondary, such as Adrian Amos and Stephen Obeng-Agyapong and using them as a linebacker at times.
Running back Zack Zwinak and tight end Kyle Carter are both expected to be healthy enough t practice in the training camp later this summer, which begins August 5. That is also the cutoff date for any player under scholarship in 2012 to transfer to another program without having to sit out a year as allowed by the NCAA sanctions against the program.
Kirk Ferentz was not at the podium for very long as the final coach in the media day line-up. After a disappointing season, Iowa returns in 2013 hoping to have more stability at the running back position.
“Last year we didn’t know if we had a Big Ten running back,” Ferentz said. Iowa was led by junior Mark Weisman with 837 yards and he will be back this season along with Damon Bullock. If the two stay healthy the Hawkeyes should be much improved running the football and running should be strength for the team.
Iowa’s offense was one of the worst in the Big Ten last season and Iowa won just four games. The schedule is not the easiest this season, with Northern Illinois and Iowa State highlighting the non-conference schedule and road games at Ohio State and Nebraska and home games against Michigan and Michigan State in the conference schedule.
Like many Big Ten schools, and others around the country, the quarterback situation at Minnesota is up in the air. The experience is not there for Minnesota but Jerry Kill compared the situation to one he has previously experienced while head coach at Northern Illinois. Kill coached NIU when Chandler Harnish and Jordan Lynch were on the roster at the same time, and if Minnesota’s QB situation follows a similar path, the Gophers offense could be fun to watch in the next couple of seasons.
The focus of Minnesota’s offense may be on the running game, with Donnell Kirkwood back after nearing a 1,000-yard season. “He’s done a great job, not only on the field but with leadership with younger kids,” Kill said. “I’m very pleased with his efforts.”
The future is bright for Minnesota. Kill also said the school continues to move forward with a $190 million project to upgrade facilities.
Kevin is a member of the FWAA and National Football Foundation and host of the No 2-Minute Warning podcast. Follow McGuire on Twitter, Google+ and Facebook.