Big Ten Media Days 2022: Ohio State’s bold expectations, Manny Diaz’s transition to Penn State among takeaways

Day two of Big Ten Media Days was all about heavyweights, as three of the top four scheduled Eastern Division finalists took the stage along with Big Ten West favorite Wisconsin. With Wednesday marking a month before 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 seeks to produce its first national title winner since the State of Ohio in 2014.

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

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

To return to Big Ten supremacy, the Buckeyes will likely have to beat this team up north, but they face more hurdles than Michigan. Among the challengers will be Penn State, Michigan State and the Badgers, each represented on Day 2 at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis.

As the conference turns the page on the talk season at the start of real football, here are the takeaways from Big Ten Media Days Part 2:

Ohio State Scars

Day said he thought his players were “a little scarred…a little insensitive” after an 11-2 season that featured a Rose Bowl victory but no Big Ten East title and no football playoff appearances. university. One of the program’s biggest moves this offseason to address 2021’s shortcomings was bringing in defensive coordinator Jim Knowles from Oklahoma State to help improve a tied Buckeyes unit. ranked 59th nationally last season in total defense.

If there was any doubt about Knowles’ unit expectations in 2022, Day clarified that.

“New program, new coaches, all of those things are new,” Day said. “I think playing them in the spring and seeing what’s happened in the summer and now in pre-season, it’s 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 played our best football it was because we played really good defense, and we were balanced and played a complementary football. We obviously want to stop the run to start and then go from there, but we expect a top 10 defence.”

Manny Diaz cut at Penn State

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

“He’s done it at a high level in a lot of different places, but he’s also been a head coach,” Franklin told the Big Ten Network. “There is value in these experiences from a leadership perspective, looking at the bigger picture.”

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 gig so soon – but maybe he was partly. because of a pre-existing relationship between the two. .

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

Aidan O’Connell about to step into the spotlight

Diaz’s first challenge at Penn State will feature one of the best quarterbacks in the league, as the Nittany Lions take on Purdue and a budding star quarterback in Aidan O’Connell to start the 2022 season at a confrontation Thursday evening September 1st. Connell made the All-Big Ten West preseason team after throwing for 3,712 yards and 28 touchdowns last season.

Now, the sixth-year senior and former walk-on enters 2022 as the undisputed starter for the Boilermakers after guiding Purdue to a 9-4 record and Music City Bowl victory last season.

“Aidan did a great job,” Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said. “It’s a shame that his head coach didn’t start him at the start of the year, but we were able to understand that. He really earned his place from day one. He continues to work hard every day. He became a great leader.”

Week 0 benefit for Illinois

Aside from the obvious Week 0 headliner between Nebraska and the North West in Ireland, the only other Big Ten team in action on August 27 is Illinois, who host Wyoming in a bet match. to the point before playing Indiana the following Friday. The game was originally scheduled for Week 3, but was eligible for the Week 0 slot since Wyoming is playing Hawaii this season.

Teams making the trip to Hawaii are allowed to start the season earlier in order to incentivize the trip to such a remote location. In this case, that rule benefited the Illini even though they aren’t the ones playing in Hawaii, and Illinois coach Bret Bielema credited athletic director Josh Whitman with helping facilitate the change.

“You see a huge improvement from players who never played the game from week 1 to week 2,” Bielema said. “That’s kind of the reason I was lobbying. I thought if we could play a home game and put our feet under us and play a home game and put our feet under us in Week 0 , that was a huge advantage.”

The Lasting Impact of Kenneth Walker

A season after transferring from Wake Forest, Kenneth Walker has become a college football star with 1,636 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns, Michigan State is considering another transfer to help in the running game. The Spartans bring in 2020 Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year Jarek Broussard from Colorado to once again position Michigan State as one of the biggest potential benefactors to the Portal.

With former four-star running back Jalen Berger also traded after averaging 4.6 yards per carry on 84 attempts in two seasons at Wisconsin, it’s clear that Walker’s progression with the Spartans into a draft pick of the NFL in the second round resonates with running backs looking for new homes.

“We’re just telling a story,” Michigan State coach Mel Tucker said. “I don’t know 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 great competition.”

Rutgers in Limbo

One of the pressing matters 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 then opted to go to the Scarlet Knights bowl game after receiving a late Gator Bowl berth.

Ultimately, he did not sign as a free agent, possibly partly due to an ankle injury sustained in the bowl loss to Wake Forest. Had he not declared for the draft, Singleton would be eligible for a sixth season due to the extra year of eligibility provided by COVID-19. As preseason camp nears, however, the Scarlet Knights are still awaiting updates on the status of a player who helped stabilize their defense with 54 tackles last season.

“We hope the cooler spirits will prevail,” Rutgers coach Greg Schiano said. “We have a call. I hope he can come back. He wants to get his graduate degree. I believe – he’s doing so many great things. He’s a kid from downtown Newark who has a lot overcome. The guy is trying to do the right thing. Hopefully we can do the right thing and get him back, but we’re waiting to hear.”

Wisconsin takes on a new offensive look

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

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

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

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