Purdue's Danny Hope: I spoke with one media member that I consider to be very connected to all things Big Ten. He is not a guy that beats for a certain team. He told me that Danny Hope was remarkably UNIMPRESSIVE. He could not believe that a head coach at the Big Ten level could be as ‘blah' as he found Hope to be. Hope was so blah that I don't even remember seeing him in the room where all of the coaches and players were…I am guessing he was, but I didn't go look for him as Iowa dose not play them this year. I can tell you where every other player and coach was sitting…just not Hope. My friend and I both wondered if the Boilermakers were not headed back to the Purdue we knew prior to Joe Tiller's arrival. For those of you that don't remember those days, they were not good…for Purdue fans.
PSU DL Jared Odrick: Perhaps I am easily swayed, I don't know. Some folks have accused me of getting a bad case of Stockholm Syndrome when I am around coaches and players from other teams. They might be right; I was impressed with Gene Chizik after all. Odrick had me thinking that I might be underestimating Penn State's front four this year. They have been pretty darn good now for several years in a row, and Aaron Maybin was hardly a household name before the season began last year, and he turned in a great season in relief and found his way to the NFL. If the defensive line can live up to Odrick's lofty expectations, their linebackers are good and that will ease the pressure on the entirely new secondary….still, that doesn't raise my expectations for PSU's offense after three, 1st team All Big Ten linebackers have seen their eligibility expire.
Ron Zook: Again, Stockholm Syndrome. Perhaps I am just a bit soft hearted. I have given Zook quite a ribbing since he mistook Nate Kaeding for a running back prior to the 2004 Outback Bowl. Who hasn't? The guy might be a bit hyper, but I sure as heck ain't perfect, either. He seems pretty genuine. I don't senses any Machiavellian schemer in him like I do at least one, if not two fellow Big Ten coaches. (We'll get to that). When I asked him if his defense would be the key to a Big Ten title contending season for Illinois this year (and I think they can contend), he said no, it's going to be the offense taking care of turnovers. I think Illinois has the best collection of skill position players in the Big Ten, so that offense is going to be great….but they lose Vontae Davis and Brit Miller on defense, their two best players on a squad that was average at best. Look for a lot of shootouts in Champaign, and to think that Juice Williams can play mostly mistake free football for a season? That hasn't happened yet; he threw 22 touchdowns last year to go along with 16 interceptions. Some of those picks were off the hands of his targets, however.
Tim Brewster: Speaking of Mr. Machiavelli…while I found Zook to be genuine, I thought I saw a wizard hat and snake oil creeping out of Brewster's jacket pocket. When I asked him why they were going to a running game this year, he said "Because that is who I am." Oh…OK. You took over a program that was known for being a power running team, one that produced several tandem 1000-yard rushers for Glen Mason, and you came in and went to a spread offense with a freshman quarterback in your first year. That's who I am? I think it has more to do with his offensive line this year, and how big they will be, plus moving from indoors to outdoors…just say that. I can see how he can be a good salesman in the home of 17 and 18 year olds and the mothers probably like him. I just don't trust the guy. Sorry Tim, just talking about football here.
Rich Rodriguez: The original man wearing a wizard hat selling snake oil (thank you for that parting quote, Joe Tiller)…but I can see why he can sell in a living room. He has that folksy charm with a country accent. He isn't intimidating, just puts you at ease. He said he feels that the offense is going to be better at every position, with uncertainty at quarterback…but the guy can recruit. He is putting together amazing back to back classes, even amazing for Michigan's high standards.
NW DL Corey Wootton: All of the Wildcat players in attendance said that Wootton was 100%. Corey confirmed that, too. Either there is a conspiracy afoot, or the kid is OK. If it's the latter, then the Wildcat defense is going to be formidable again this year. He is a difference maker and he will play in the league. I hated seeing him get hurt against Missouri in the Alamo Bowl for a few reasons…one, he is good. Two, I wanted Northwestern to beat Missouri, and without him that was going to be more challenging. I am just glad the Cats have to come back to Kinnick with a new face at quarterback and without over 200 combined receptions that have graduated.
Bret Bielema: I never sat down at his table as there was never a close seat, but I overheard him talking to at least two separate reporters about Wisconsin's record this decade, stacking it up against anybody, etc. That reminded me of one of my favorite sayings I have come up with through the years…actually, I think it's the only one worth remembering; When you are talking about the past, your present sucks.