Big Ten links: Catch up on Friday's top Big Ten stories

Mike Carter-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten links: Catch up on Friday's top Big Ten stories

David Jones of pays a nice tribute to former Northwestern coach Dennis Green, who did the impossible by making the Wildcats semi-competitive from 1981-85.

*** looks at five things it learned about the Nittany Lions at Big Ten media days.

The issue of other schools using negative recruiting vs. the Nittany Lions came up. It was a classic he said/she said affair that predictably went nowhere. We also learned this: Cam Brown could be a special LB. Remember the name for what could be a boffo set of linebackers.


Ohio State made one of the most key offseason assistant hires when it tabbed former Rutgers coach Greg Schiano, whom Urban Meyer is thrilled with. No doubt, having an assistant of his experience is huge for an already talented Buckeye staff.

“I try to stay away from hiring friends,” the Ohio State head coach said at Big Ten Media Day. “As a matter of fact, I haven’t for most of my career, but he’s an exception because we’ve been friends for 20-plus years.”

Schiano, who spent 11 seasons (2001-11) as Rutgers head coach, was out of coaching for two years after getting fired by the Buccaneers after just two seasons. As points out, the ironic twist is that Schiano replaced Chris Ash, who left his post as Ohio State’s defensive coordinator to become Rutgers head coach.


It will be a shock if Tyler O’Connor doesn’t win the Michigan State QB job. Still, Mark Dantonio is keeping the competition open, technically. says it is a lesson he learned in 2012, when he named Andrew Maxwell the QB in the offseason—and he couldn’t deal with the pressure and subsequently struggled. Reflecting on the situation at Big Ten media days this week, Dantonio attributed Michigan State’s 2012 struggles at least partially to the pressure on Maxwell that developed through an offseason as the expected starter.

“I don’t know that we could have prevented that, because Andrew was the guy, clearly, but I think that Andrew Maxwell had an enormous amount of pressure on him in 2012,” Dantonio said. “He had some dropped balls, our receivers were young, and I think everything manifested itself, and I think that’s hard.”

This all may be true, but I think there also is a benefit to naming a starter coming out of spring ball. Among other things, he can establish himself as the leader of the team.


It goes without saying the new Michigan DC Don Brown is one of Jim Harbaugh’s favs.

“I get a big smile about Don Brown every time I even hear his name. I feel like we’re becoming best friends,” Harbaugh said Monday in Chicago. “I just met Don in December and then we’ve worked together since then.

“He’s a legend in my mind right now.”

Who couldn’t love a guy nicknamed Dr. Blitz? It is gonna fun to watch this defense in 2016.


The great Lee Barfknecht of has a good profile on new Illinois coach Lovie Smith.

Yes, the hire generated excitement for the Illini program and is a coup of sorts, but Smith has lot of work to do. Look at some of this history Smith must overcome in Champaign.

» One outright Big Ten championship in 31 seasons.
» Two major bowl games in 30 seasons.
» Just one week ranked in the national Top 10 in 24 seasons.
» No first-team All-America or All-Big Ten picks in four seasons.

If Smith gets Illinois to a bowl, he deserves coach of the year consideration.


Minnesota could have a gem in senior QB Mitch Leidner, who is healthy after injury has hampered him. Could the Gophers be a sleeper in the Big Ten West? The photo of his foot in this story from the Minneapolis Star Tribune is gruesome.

“We’re going to enter the season with what I think is our best football team since we’ve been here,” Gopher coach Tracy Claeys said earlier this week.

After a 6-7 season last year, Claeys said Leidner’s health will be a key in achieving the goal of a Big Ten title. He knows taking care of Leidner when he runs will be integral, but the leadership is there.

“I’ll tell you what, the way that kid competed last year through the injuries he had, I think it makes it easy for his teammates to get out there and follow him,” Claeys said.


Football is a pretty simple game. If you can run and stop the run, you’ll likely have a good team.


Because many Big Ten fans obsess over Notre Dame maybe joining a conference, you’ll like this story that looks at if the Domers ever will join a league.

Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer

About Tom Dienhart: senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.


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