Notes: Big Ten West springing into action

The Big Ten West's players and coaches spoke with the media.

-- Fittingly, the first coach on the teleconference was the one facing the first big game of the season. Wisconsin's Gary Andersen sees the urgency in his Badgers as they look ahead to their season-opening game with LSU. "As a player, personally, I believe it would give myself an edge, and I think it has done that for our kids—to be able to compete on that level, on that stage, against a quality, quality opponent."

-- The Badgers will be led by running back Melvin Gordon, one of the Big Ten's best players and a potential Heisman candidate. "He's a huge part of this football team as a leader, and obviously with the ball in his hands," Andersen said of Gordon.

-- Gordon admitted that he considered entering the NFL Draft, but felt more time in college would benefit his game. "I thought about it a lot," said Gordon. "It definitely took some time. … In my heart, I thought staying was the best decision for me. The NFL will be there. When I get there, I want to be for sure that I can do everything. I want to be a complete back, and there are some things I need to work on to be that."

-- Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald declined to discuss the program's ongoing union debate, which will be voted on April 25th. Instead, he kept the conversation to football, speaking of quarterback Trevor Siemian. "There's no doubt, this is Trevor Siemian's football team," Fitzgerald said.

-- A reporter threw a match on a gas leak, asking Fitzgerald what his thoughts are on the star-rating system. "I put zero stock in star ratings," said Fitzgerald. "I have no idea what it means, nor do I care."

-- Siemain, the Wildcats' fifth-year senior quarterback and a team leader, did address the union possibility. He has been a very outspoken ‘No' vote. Many of his teammates are with this side, too. "It's a significant amount of guys on the team that feel pretty similar to me," said Siemian, referring to the vote.

-- For Siemian, it all comes down to how the Northwestern players are treated—something he feels strongly about, and believes a union wouldn't change. "I've had an unbelievable experience here," Siemian said. "This all began with the best intentions; I feel that way, and a lot of guys on the team feel that way. But with the way we're treated—I'm treated far better than I should be treated."

-- Perhaps the best quote of the teleconference came from Siemian, referring to the union. "Anytime you have a difference of opinion—you have a 110 guys in the locker room—you're not going to have everybody on the same page," he said. "You have different views, different religions, but at the end of the day, you're teammates."

-- What does spring ball mean to Nebraska coach Bo Pelini? "It's where you lay the foundation, and you evaluate guys going into fall camp," he said.

-- For a brief exciting moment, Pelini was asked about his interaction with Twitter phenomenon @FauxPelini, his parody account. "My wife reminds me of it all the time," Pelini said. It's worth noting that the parody Pelini has 6,000 more Twitter followers than the real Pelini.

-- The name Randy Gregory is one Purdue fans know as the guy that got away. The rest of the Big Ten knows him as a terror on the Cornhuskers' defensive line. Nebraska tailback Ameer Abdullah knows Gregory as a challenge in practice every day. "We know he's the best we're going to see in the conference," Adbullah said.

-- Purdue coach Darrell Hazell went through naming some breakout players from the Boilermakers' spring drills. Raheem Mostert is one he listed as a breakout star; Ryan Russell and Ra'Zahn Howard have played great on the defensive line; and tackle J.J. Prince is one of the surprises of all camp, showing his abilities on the offensive line.

-- What did Hazell take away from the jersey scrimmage of last Saturday? "You see guys starting to compete, even when they're a little bit tired," he said.

-- Sophomore quarterback Danny Etling described the Boilers' improvements from last year as "night and day." He added: "Last year, we couldn't line up correctly in the spring."

-- Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, filling in for head coach Tim Beckman, didn't go too far into detail with the Fighting Illini quarterback battle. It will be intriguing to see who wins out between Reilly O'Toole, Wes Lunt and Aaron Bailey.

-- Minnesota coach Jerry Kill declined comment on former Golden Gopher quarterback Phillip Nelson, who transferred to Rutgers (before the school's Big Ten move became official). Kill did speak highly of new starting quarterback Mitch Leidner. "He's taken complete control of leadership on both sides of the football," Kill said. "… He became a coach."

-- Kirk Ferentz, the Big Ten's dean of coaches, sees the spring as an important time for his Iowa program. "It's pure football, pure teaching," Ferentz said. "You're always evaluating the team, no matter what time of year it is."

Chris Emma has covered recruiting, college athletics and professional baseball for FOX Sports Next since 2009. Emma covered the Nebraska Cornhuskers and Northwestern Wildcats, and currently covers the Purdue Boilermakers. A Chicago native, he resides in West Lafayette.
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