Big Ten East Division Talks Football

The annual spring Big Ten teleconference featured coaches and players from around the league the past two days, including representatives from the league's East Division today. Find out what OSU's competitors had to say today as teams prepare for the 2014 campaign.

Representatives from the new Big Ten East Division (Maryland, Rutgers, Michigan, Michigan State, Penn State and Indiana in addition to OSU) gave their thoughts on the upcoming season, and BSB has a recap of what they had to say.

A full recap of what Ohio State representatives Urban Meyer and Michael Bennett will follow.

Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson
--When discussing how to improve the team's woeful defense from the past few years, Wilson takes a page from Urban Meyer's book: "I think we needed to develop a culture of competitiveness and our standard of the effort and attitude and commitment and communication." Tried to work hard at establishing that over the winter and getting his staff to work together. "I think the kids have really embraced it and taken to the new schemes and coaching. I don't think it is new or radical, but it is exciting." Says the defense has even been better than the offense this spring at times with 10 returning guys.
--Wilson doesn't think Indiana has the talent to play "bend but don't break" on defense or to be totally aggressive on defense. They hope to be able to do parts of both at times while getting rid of the big plays that dogged the defense the past few years. Part of that includes confusing the quarterback to make him try to figure out what the defense is doing
Indiana wideout Shane Wynn (Cleveland Glenville)
--Wynn has done been one of the most explosive slot receivers in the league the past few year sbut is moving outside as a senior: "It's different for a lot of reasons." There's a lot of reading the coverages and reading the corners instead of reading the safeties. He's done a lot of film work on that so far.
--On the defense: "I've seen a lot of great things for them so far." They've beaten the offense at times in spring, and "Seeing the defense play like that gives us an adrenaline rush for the season."
--Both quarterbacks, Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld, have both played "great through the spring."

Maryland head coach Randy Edsall
--The community response to Maryland joining the Big Ten: "I think the response has really grown and really developed since the first announcement. Anytime there's change there's always a little bit of apprehension with people, but as people have started to understand what this means to the University of Maryland and our athletic program, everybody is excited about what is going to take place as of July 1 and really looking forward to it."
--The Terps have had to do extra film work to get ready for taking on Big Ten teams after not having played any previously, but they've worked it into their schedules for the offseason.
--Any schematic changes for the team as they embark on Big Ten play? "No, what we've just tried to do is work with all of our guys to get bigger, faster and stronger, as we do all the time."
--Edsall says it's a great conference but the Terps believe they can come in and compete given the number of returning players they have as well as players coming back from injury. Offensively, "I think we have really good skill guys on offense and I think we have depth there. … I like the people that we have at receiver, I like our running backs, our quarterbacks, fullback. We have some young tight ends that really haven't played much and we have to have them come along, and our offensive line has progressed quite nicely here in the spring. … We have a chance to be very dynamic offensively."
--Will they try to embrace Penn State as a rival? "There's no question that's what we'd like to do." Says it is natural, but Maryland has to be able to beat them to make that a rivalry.
Maryland quarterback C.J. Brown
--Says going to the Big Ten is the best of both worlds, having played in both the ACC and now the new league. "It'll be a new experience going to different venues and playing in front of different crowds." Says the team has been "motivated throughout the offseason" to show well in the Big Ten. Brown is from Michigan and his father, Clark, played at Michigan State, so he knows Big Ten football.

Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio
--How is he keeping his team from getting overconfident? "I think that's something we've talked about enthusiastically and really consistently the last three or four months." They try to go back to the basics each day at practice and reaffirm what allowed the team to win the Rose Bowl. "Right now, I feel like our football team is grounded," but it's a day-to-day thing.
--Dino on sudden standout QB Connor Cook: "He grew immensely in the course of a year. He's had an outstanding spring." He's also elevated his leadership now that he's entrenched as a starter. Dantonio also wants to see him improve as a runner because he has skills he hasn't shown there.
MSU quarterback Connor Cook
--Cook says last season "was a lot of fun and we made a lot of memories." Said people keep bringing up the Rose Bowl, but, "We're focusing on the now … and we're looking ahead to have a great 2014 season. I think all of us players are hungrier than ever. We have our sights on bigger and better goals."
--Did he feel things really took off at some point last year? He says yes, when he made his first Big Ten start vs. Iowa. Said he played "lousy" in the loss at Notre Dame but made some adjustments during the week off after that.

Penn State head coach James Franklin
--The 20-hour rule keeps Penn State from spending extra time with his players to develop the rapport that he wants. "I'm not the most patient guy but it's happening naturally over time." The staff is trying to be consistent in its interactions with the players to make sure their culture gets set.
--When asked about recruiting New Jersey, "I think it's very, very important." Says Penn State has always had a strong presence in the state. "I think the football there is very, very good. There's a lot of talent and there's good coaching." It's close but not too close to Penn State so players can go there and be close to home but far enough away for players to do their own thing.
--On how being at Penn State matches up with his perceptions, Franklin said former coach Bill O'Brien gave him honest feedback on what it was like in Happy Valley. "I feel like I had a pretty good picture of what we were signing up for ahead of time and I couldn't be more excited about our future."
--D-line and running back are the two positions Penn State has the most talent and depth. They feel good about three or maybe even four RBs (Bill Belton, Akeel Lynch, Zach Zwinak and even Cole Chiappialle), but the offensive line and wideout spots need to be "developed" or "resolved," respectively.
Penn State linebacker Mike Hull
--He has been most impressed with sophomore linebacker Gary Wooten on defense. "He's really stepped up. He's improved a ton." Also junior CB Da'Quan Davis, who has made a lot of interceptions and pass breakups.

Michigan head coach Brady Hoke
--Says Michigan was a little guarded in what it did on both sides of the ball. "Offensivley, I think we made good progress." Liked the intensity each day of the team. "I think one of the goals is that the first day of practice of fall camp is not practice one but practice 16 as a continuation of what we did during spring football."
--Devin Gardner didn't play as well Saturday during Michigan's spring game as he had the previous practices in spring. Wilton Speight has had a good spring as an early enrollee at QB but both Gardner and Shane Morris have made "incredible strides" but still need to work on consistency. One of Gardner's practices last week was one of the best QB practices he's had in some time. Hoke says it's still a battle but Devin Gardner "probably would be" the starting quarterback if Michigan played right now.
--On playing Appalachian State again: "Dave Brandon and I talked about it and we needed a game and I thought it would be a good game."
--Ohio native Dymonte Thomas has had a good spring but is in a battle with three other guys for time at safety.
Michigan defensive end Frank Clark
--"Actually, spring ball went well. We had a couple of struggles at the beginning of it but at the end we got it together as a team and I think we're on the right path."
--Says that because Michigan "didn't do its job" of reaching the Big Ten title game, even if it had beaten Ohio State, the season wouldn't have been seen as a success. "Either way, I think it would have been a failure."
--Does he remember the Appalachian State upset? "Man, like you said, I was young, but I remember it like it was yesterday, watching that game and watching them block that field goal." Describes the result as "shocking" but says this game will be like facing any other team.

Rutgers head coach Kyle Flood
--Rutgers has three quarterbacks – Gary Nova, Mike Bimonte and Chris Laviano – vying for the first string job.
--As for joining the Big Ten, "I think it impacts recruiting in a lto of ways." Says it allows the school to recruit the best in the nation. "If you're fortunate enough to be a division winner and win that championship game, you have a chance to be in that final four." Rutgers can now recruit new places and signed players from Texas, Minnesota and Michigan in its latest class.
--"College football is at its best when it's regional," Flood says when asked about developing rivalries with Penn State and Maryland.
--He knows the Big Ten will be physical but like Maryland, they need to study all the schemes on their schedule.
--Does the move enhance the Rutgers brand? "I think the name association with the Big Ten brand can only enhance whatever your product is." Walking into high schools and homes with the Big Ten association, "There's no doubt it's a positive in every way."
--Can they be competitive right out of the gate? "We do (believe that)." Points out that the early schedule including Washington State and Navy will be a challenge schematically.
Rutgers defensive end Darius Hamilton
--Being in the Big Ten "is great." Says they finally feel like they have a home after being in the AAC and Big East in his time. On playing teams like Ohio State and Michigan, "That's pretty cool. Those are great teams with great history. We're really excited about the opportunity to play them."
--On playing at OSU and Nebraska: "That's amazing, to be able to play in front of sold out arenas and things like that. I've always felt those are the best games to play in when you have a full student section and the fans care about the game of football as much as you do."

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