Big Ten Media Days 2022: Ohio State’s Bold Expectations, Manny Diaz’s Penn State Transition Between Takeaways

Day two at the Big Ten Media Days was for the heavyweights, as three of the top four finishers from the Eastern Division took the stage along with Big Ten West favorite Wisconsin. With Wednesday marking a month to the start of the league season – a trio of teams will be in action for Week 0 – the sense of urgency was real as the conference looks to produce its first national title winner since Ohio State in 2014. .

The Buckeyes were among the shows in the spotlight on Wednesday, and fifth-year coach Ryan Day addressed his show’s expectations head-on, noting that Ohio State’s aspirations are, as always, “to beat the team.” from the north, win the Big Ten Championship, win the National Championship”.

“Those are our goals,” he said, “and these things didn’t happen last year.”

To return to Big Ten supremacy, the Buckeyes will likely have to defeat this team up north, but they face more obstacles than just Michigan. Challengers include Penn State, Michigan State and the Badgers, each represented on Day 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

As the conference shifts the page from the talk season to the start of real football, here are the takeaways from the second part of the Big Ten Media Days:

Ohio State Scars

Day said he thinks his players are “a little scared… a little bit calloused” after an 11-2 season that featured a Rose Bowl win but no Big Ten East titles and no College Football Playoff appearances. . One of the show’s biggest moves this offseason to remedy the shortfalls of 2021 was bringing in defensive coordinator Jim Knowles of Oklahoma State to help improve the Buckeyes’ unit, which was tied for 59th nationally last season in total defense.

If there was any doubt about expectations for the Knowles unit in 2022, Day clarified it.

“New scheme, new coaches, all these things are new,” Day said. “I think facing them in the spring and seeing what happened this summer and now in pre-season was exciting to watch. There’s just an aggression about them. But in terms of expectations, yes, we expect a top 10 defense. That’s what we want. When we play our best football, it’s because we played really well in defence, and we were balanced and we played complementary football. We obviously want to stop the race to start and then go from there, but we expect a defense from the top ten.”

Manny Diaz is in shape at Penn State

The Buckeyes aren’t the only Big Ten East powerhouse with a new defensive coordinator after Penn State head coach James Franklin called Manny Diaz to replace Brent Pry, who took over as head coach at Virginia Tech. The Nittany Lions finished tied for sixth nationally in points defense last season, allowing just 17.3 points per game, leaving Diaz with some big shoes to fill after a three-year run as head coach of Miami.

“He did it at a high level in a lot of different places, but he was also head coach,” Franklin told the Big Ten Network. “There is value in these experiences from a leadership perspective, from a general perspective.”

Franklin said he called Diaz the day after he was fired in Miami and wasn’t sure he’d be interested in talking about the Penn State show anytime soon — but he was, perhaps due in part to a preexisting relationship between the two. .

“He’s a guy that we also spent time with in the offseason with my previous defensive coordinators talking,” Franklin said. “That’s what we do in the offseason, you talk to other coaches who come from a similar philosophy and tree. It also helped because when you go out and hire someone who has a completely different philosophy, there’s going to be growing pains with that. the ground running.”

Aidan O’Connell ready for the spotlight

Diaz’s first challenge at Penn State will be to contain one of the best quarterbacks in the league, as the Nittany Lions take on Purdue and a rising quarterback in Aidan O’Connell to kick off the 2022 season in a Thursday night showdown on Dec. September. Connell was part of the All-Big Ten West preseason squad after throwing for 3,712 yards and 28 touchdowns last season.

Now, the sixth-year veteran and former walker enters 2022 as the Boilermakers’ undisputed starter after guiding Purdue to a 9-4 record and a Music City Bowl win last season.

“Aidan did a great job,” said Purdue head coach Jeff Brohm. “It’s a shame his manager didn’t put him in earlier in the year, but we managed to figure that out. He really earned his spot from day one. He keeps working hard every day. He’s become a great leader.”

Week 0 Advantage for Illinois

Aside from the obvious Week 0 headliner between Nebraska and Northwestern Ireland, the only other Big Ten team in action on August 27 is Illinois, which hosts Wyoming in a prep game before playing Indiana the following Friday. The game was originally scheduled for Week 3 but was eligible for the Week 0 slot as Wyoming is playing in Hawaii this season.

Teams making the trip to Hawaii can start the season early to encourage travel to such a distant location. In this case, that rule ended up benefiting the Illinis, although they aren’t the ones who play in Hawaii, and Illinois coach Bret Bielema credited athletic director Josh Whitman for helping to facilitate the switch.

“You see a huge improvement from players who never played the game from week 1 to week 2,” Bielema said. “So that’s why I was lobbying.. I thought if we could play a game at home, get our feet under us, and play a game at home, and get our feet under us in week 0, that would be a big deal. benefit.”

Kenneth Walker’s Lasting Impact

A season after the Wake Forest transfer, Kenneth Walker emerged as a college football star with 1,636 yards and 18 touchdowns, Michigan State is looking for another transfer to help with the running game. The Spartans are bringing in 2020 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year, Colorado’s Jarek Broussard, to position the state of Michigan once again as one of the portal’s biggest potential benefactors.

With former four-star Jalen Berger also transferring after averaging 4.6 yards for 84 attempts over two seasons in Wisconsin, it’s clear that Walker’s progression with the Spartans to a second round of the NFL Draft is on the way. resonating with running backs in search of new players. houses.

“We just tell a story,” said Michigan State coach Mel Tucker. “I’m not sure how many people knew him nationally. He saw an opportunity to come to Michigan State and improve. His goal was to play in the National Football League and play against big competitors.”

Rutgers in Limbo

One of the pressing topics for Rutgers ahead of the 2022 season is the status of linebacker Drew Singleton, who is awaiting a decision on a petition that would allow him to play one more season. Singleton declared for the NFL Draft and hired an agent, but opted to participate in the Scarlet Knights’ bowl game after they were given a late slot to the Gator Bowl.

Ultimately, he was left out of contract as a free agent, perhaps due in part to an ankle injury sustained in the loss against Wake Forest. Had he not declared for the draft, Singleton would have been eligible for a sixth season because of the extra year of eligibility provided by COVID-19. As preseason camp approaches, however, the Scarlet Knights are still awaiting news on the status of a player who helped stabilize their defense with 54 tackles last season.

“We hope the cooler minds will prevail,” said Rutgers head coach Greg Schiano. “We have an appeal. I hope he can come back. He wants to pursue his graduate degree. I believe that – he does so many good things. He’s an inner-city Newark kid who’s overcome a lot. The guy is trying to do the right thing.” I hope we can do the right thing and get him back, but we’re waiting to hear.”

Wisconsin gets new offensive look

With Jim Leonhard as defensive coordinator and Bobby Engram as freshman offensive coordinator, Wisconsin now has former NFL veterans dealing the cards on both sides of the ball. Engram joins the Badgers after eight years on the Baltimore Ravens team and is tasked with rejuvenating a Wisconsin unit ranked 120th nationally last season in offensive passing.

It is his first stint in college football since he coached wide receivers for two seasons in Pittsburgh under current Wisconsin head coach Paul Chryst. But Engram, who played 14 seasons in the NFL, has some Big Ten roots as a Penn State alumnus and former Nittany Lions star.

“I’m really excited that Bobby Engram has the chance to be with us and that I’m coming back and training with him,” said Chryst. “I had the chance to train for a few years with Bobby, and a lot of respect. I think one thing I always think is important when you add a coach is to think about your players. That’s where I’m most excited, for our players to be around Bobby. I think it’s both the chance to — the timing was right for both of us, but for Bobby to come. I think with Bobby we’re a better team.”

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