Brent Yarina, BTN.com Senior Editor, July 24, 2013
CHICAGO – Big Ten media days are underway at the Hilton Chicago. Thirty-six players and all 12 coaches are here and meeting the media. Get caught up on Wednesday's happenings in this Day 1 Notebook.
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COMFORTABLE AT QUARTERBACK: There's uncertainty at quarterback all over the Big Ten. Indiana, Iowa, Michigan State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin all either have a quarterback battle or will be throwing an unproven guy under center this fall.
Michigan is one of the lucky ones, along with Nebraska (Taylor Martinez) and Ohio State (Braxton Miller). The Wolverines welcome back quarterback-turned-receiver-turned-quarterback Devin Gardner, who started the final five games last season following Denard Robinson's arm injury.
"Those last five games meant a lot for Devin," Michigan lineman Taylor Lewan said. "For him to grow as a player and to have some success, it will help a lot this year."
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Gardner performed so well (see stats), in fact, quarterback is one of the last things on Brady Hoke's mind. Who would have thought that a year ago at this time? Probably no one, with Robinson back for the final season of his record-breaking career. In the end, Robinson's injury was a blessing in disguise for the 2013 Michigan team.
"We feel real comfortable going into battle with somebody we know has been in battle before and we know can put points on the board," Michigan safety Thomas Gordon said.
"If he does the things he's supposed to do and continues to develop as a player," Lewan said, "then there's no reason for us not to be successful with him."
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BEST DRESSED: It's always fun to see what all the players choose to wear to Big Ten media days. Without fail, there's always a couple outfits that garner their share of attention.
Wednesday, it was Purdue cornerback Ricardo Allen, who made no qualms about wanting to win this year's unofficial title of "Best Dressed."
Allen showed up in Purdue colors, sporting a gold – err is it khaki these days? – suitcoat, a black and gold bow tie and black pants.
Asked about the sharp outfit, Allen said: "I've been saving this for a big moment."
This definitely qualifies as a big moment, and Allen has to take the award, not only for the overall look but for the great incorporation of school colors.
HEY, ISN'T THAT A KICKER? Specialists are a rare sight at Big Ten media days. To be fair, there have been a few invited in recent years, including Austin Starr and Zoltan Mesko. This year, Indiana kicker Mitch Ewald made the trip to Chicago.
So, too, did Northwestern kicker Jeff Budzien. Only problem is, Budzien wasn't one of Northwestern's three representatives. The Wildcats brought stars Kain Colter, Venric Mark and Tyler Scott.
So, why was Budzien at media days?
"I don't know, he just kind of showed up," Northwestern defensive end Tyler Scott said with a smile.
Jokes aside, Budzien was at the Hilton Chicago to film a fun all-access video for NUSports.com.
"I guess I missed the invite," Budzien joked. "No, but the communications and media department brought me in to play a funny role, interview the players. I'm just here to bring some comedy to a pretty serious day."
Mr. Automatic interviewed pretty much everyone, from his teammates to Pat Fitzgerald to rivals to, you guessed it, Ewald. During the interview with Ewald, the Hoosiers kicker quipped: "I heard a long time ago that they don't invite us because we look the best. They don't want the other players to feel bad."
With quotes like that, maybe teams should bring more specialists to the annual unofficial kickoff of the football season.
All things considered, Budzien did a good job.
"He started off a little slow," Scott said. "But I think he's getting more comfortable as the day goes on."
He even took some joking from Fitzgerald, who told him: "Kickers aren't allowed to be here, and you're not wearing a tie!"
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NO MORE HOME FOR THE HOLIDAYS: Who doesn't want to spend Christmas or the holidays at home with their loved ones? College football players, that's who.
Those guys want to be in Arizona, Florida or California readying for a bowl game, not sitting at home watching all the games. Iowa senior offensive lineman Brett Van Sloten knows the feeling all too well.
Iowa went 4-8 last season en route to missing a bowl game for the first time since 2007.
"Going into college football, you always tell your parents 'I don't want to be home for the holidays,'" Van Sloten said. "So, being home and celebrating Christmas there, it wasn't the same Christmas you celebrate down in Phoenix or Miami."
The experts seem to think Iowa will be home again for Christmas, pegging the Hawkeyes for the Legends Division basement. There is a lot of inexperience in Iowa City, particularly at quarterback, and the schedule certainly won't be easy to navigate.
So, what do the Hawkeyes need to do to ensure they're in warm weather this Christmas?
"Being consistent, Van Sloten said. "We saw games, moments where we were shining and everything was clicking. Offense has to be on, and defense has to be on."
WEIRDEST QUESTIONS: Let's face it, there are a lot of weird (dumb) questions asked every year at media days across the nation. It's a big part of the event, really. So, I asked Big Ten players for the weirdest questions they've received today.
- Michigan DB Thomas Gordon: "Can Devin (Gardner) sing? No, he cannot sing. I don't know where that's coming from, but, no, he can't sing."
- Nebraska WR Quincy Enunwa: "Do I know the fight song? Yeah, I don't know it! (laugh)"
- Penn State LB Glenn Carson: "What somebody's weirdest pregame ritual?"
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|About Brent Yarina
|BTN.com web editor Brent Yarina covers football and men's basketball for BTN.com. He writes the popular uniform feature "Clothes Call," which also focuses on the latest cosmetic changes across Big Ten arenas and stadiums. Read all of his work here. You can subscribe to Yarina's RSS feed and follow him on Twitter @BTNBrentYarina.