Big Ten: Billy Gonzales

Big Ten Tuesday mailblog

July, 23, 2013
7/23/13
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Send in or tweet your questions for our Big Ten player chats as Nebraska CB Ciante Evans, Penn State G John Urschel, Northwestern QB Kain Colter and Wisconsin LB Chris Borland will join us during the live blog Wednesday.

For now, you'll have to deal with me. Let's go ...

Mike from Novi, Mich., writes: Coming into last season, Michigan had to replace the interior of the offensive line. And the offensive line was mediocre in creating holes game after game. For this coming season, Michigan again has to replace the interior of the offensive line, only this time Hoke's highly rated players are the new faces. On the other side, Michigan has been mediocre in generating a pass rush the past two years. Frank Clark has been hyped up but he only started 4 games last year. Your prediction: will the OL or DL be better this coming season?

Adam Rittenberg: Really good question, Mike. There are some highly rated young guys on the defensive line, too -- Taco Charlton is a monster -- but certainly more on the offensive side of the ball. I think both units will be a bit better this season, although I wouldn't put either group among the elite of the Big Ten. Michigan's youth on the interior line will show up at times, but the line will get better as the season progresses. I definitely like Clark's potential at defensive end, and the overall pass rush should be better. But Michigan hasn't had an impact defensive tackle since Mike Martin, and I'm taking a wait-and-see approach with the guys occupying the interior this year.



Kevin from Chicago writes: Basic Question here. What backfield do you think is the most exciting. Talking in terms of excitement. Id like to say its between Colter/Mark and Martinez/Abdullah. Just always fun to watch Colter do his thing and short Venric Mark just run past defenders. On the other hand Martinez is just a playmaker on the ground and Abdullah is just as good.

Adam Rittenberg: Both are great choices, Kevin, but I'd give the edge to Northwestern's Colter and Mark when it comes to pure excitement. When they get the zone-read game going, they're nearly impossible to stop, and both are dynamic open-field runners. Martinez certainly brings more to the passing game than Colter does, and both Martinez and Abdullah have great speed. Nebraska has more overall big-play ability than Northwestern on offense, but the combination of Colter and Mark and the special things they can do when they find a rhythm gets my vote here.



Greg from NYC writes: Adam my dude, the steam picking up about the power conferences splitting from the non power ones is fascinating...say the split does happen..are we about to eliminate playing outside the power conferences..say you play your 9 (just a number) conference games and then 3 from the other power conferences? or how would it work? or does anybody know?

Adam Rittenberg: It's way too soon to tell, Greg, but it's a good question to ask. The power conferences are recognizing the value in upgrading schedules, especially from a TV perspective. We've seen the Big Ten take positive steps lately, and other conferences like the Pac-12 have done the same. I'm not sure I see the day when teams are only playing power-conference opponents because of the budgetary demand for teams to play so many home games, among other factors. But a division consisting only of power-conference teams likely would create more attractive schedules overall.



Chris from Monticello, Ill., writes: Adam, What kind of impact can Illinois fans expect Bill Cubit to have? Tim Beckman and a fairly inexperienced staff stumbled on and off the field last year. Can Cubit be a calming influence when things start moving quickly?

Adam Rittenberg: I think he can, Chris, and he'll need to be as Illinois must establish its identity on offense early this season to have any chance of real improvement. Illinois goes from two unproven coordinators (Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales) and a bizarre, built-to-fail play-calling system to a veteran coordinator who had some success as Western Michigan's head coach before things went downhill. There will be no gray area with Cubit, no questions about who is really in charge of the unit. He has a plan and will try to execute the plan. Whether he has the players to do it remains to be seen, but Illinois should have an easier time establishing something that works on offense. The big challenge is how fast Cubit wants to play on offense -- quarterbacks are expected to get rid of the ball within 2.2 seconds -- and whether players can adjust to the desired tempo.



Cameron from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, writes: It may seem callous for me to say this but I don't care if current or former college players get a dime from the O'Bannon lawsuit. What they fail to see is that they are college students just as much as they are athletes and personally the fact that other college students get jobs (athletic training), unpaid internships (playing football, basketball, etc.) should not go overlooked. They whine and cry and ask for a handout when any college student graduating with a mountain of debt would trade places with them leaving school debt free. They need to wake up and realize what a gift an athletic scholarship is and use it to get an education that will benefit long after their playing days are over.

Adam Rittenberg: Cameron, thanks for your note, and you're not alone in your beliefs. The counterargument is that major college football players aren't normal college students. They generate way more money for their universities than you or I did for our alma maters, and that money is going into coaches' pockets and elsewhere rather than to the guys on the field. Sure, they're getting a free education that shouldn't be discounted, but many of them are limited in their opportunities for both education and jobs/internships while in college because of their sport demands. College football truly is a year-round deal with the training regimen, and there aren't too many John Urschels out there. I don't think a full-blown pay-for-play model works where individual athletes negotiate their own deals through agents, but I absolutely think the value of the scholarship should go a little further, especially when certain schools and leagues are willing to do so.



Kevin from Cincinnati writes: Let's say Maryland is forced to pay the full $50 million (or as much as possible) to leave the ACC and Virginia and the N.C. teams aren't going to risk that. Does Delany just throw his hands up and move on, or would he and the B1G give an invite to teams like Old Dominion or East Carolina on very strict rules and guidelines? I'll be the first to admit it sounds very, very farfetched, but Rutgers surprised the snot out of me.

Adam Rittenberg: Rutgers was a geographically strategic addition, plain and simple. Although Rutgers has dramatically improved its football program in recent years and has potential to be a bigger factor in the New York sports market, the Big Ten, as I wrote last fall, is really gambling more on its existing product resonating in a new, attractive market, than the boost it could or could not get from Rutgers. Jim Delany hasn't written off the possibility of further expansion, but the ACC's grant of rights agreement really reduces or eliminates the pool of attractive candidates from the region (East Coast) the Big Ten now covets. The Big Ten won't add East Carolina or Old Dominion for numerous reasons -- how much time do you have? -- and I'd be surprised if the league expands beyond 14 before the next TV contract, which is really what this is all about.



Kelle from Boulder, Colo., writes: Hey Adam, Do you think the Aaron Hernandez backlash had anything to do with Urban Meyer's quick discipline of Roby and Hyde? Also, is there any chance either of them misses any relevant game action due to their arrests?

Adam Rittenberg: No. Meyer had to act quickly no matter what as both incidents became public and, in Roby's case, an arrest was made. Meyer's response came about as quickly as you would expect, so I don't see any effect from the Hernandez case. To answer your second question, Hyde certainly could miss significant time -- he could even be dismissed from the program -- depending on how his case plays out. But if he's not charged, I don't see how he can be suspended for much or any of the season. Roby's situation also is unfolding but I'd be surprised if he misses many games.
Ohio State already had started paying more competitive salaries for assistant coaches before Urban Meyer arrived in November 2011.

But when Meyer and athletic director Gene Smith sat down to discuss staff pay, Smith soon realized he needed to do more.

"I think Michigan had stepped up with their coordinators," Smith recalled last week during Big Ten spring meetings in Chicago. "So we were already going to that before Urban Meyer came, but we bumped it up a little more. Any time there's change, you have that opportunity."

[+] EnlargeGreg Mattison
Lon Horwedel/Icon SMIMichigan DC Greg Mattison ranks as the highest-paid assistant coach in the Big Ten for the 2013 season.
"Everyone's always focused on head coaches' salaries," Smith continued. "That's always the thing. But really when you look at the changes, it's really been assistants' salaries across the country -- not just in the SEC, but the Big 12, Pac-12, all across the country."

The Big Ten is part of the change, too, as the league is allocating more money toward football assistants than ever before. The Detroit Free Press has an excellent look at Big Ten assistants' salaries, complete with a database that includes 10 of the 12 current members (Northwestern doesn't submit salaries as a private institution, and Penn State doesn't have to because of state laws).

The Free Press found that eight of the 10 schools are paying more for assistants in 2013 than they did in 2012 (only Indiana and Illinois are not). There are some significant total increases, such as Wisconsin (up $558,000), Nebraska (up $518,500), Purdue ($400,000) and Minnesota ($355,000). Staff pay had been an issue at Wisconsin, which lost six assistant coaches following the 2012 Rose Bowl, and at Purdue, which paid less for its staff during the Danny Hope era than any Big Ten school.

The total trend among the 10 schools is an increase of $1,720,852.24 for 2013.

Ohio State and Michigan remain No. 1 and No. 2 in Big Ten staff salary, as the Buckeyes allocate $3.416 million and the Wolverines allocate $2.805 million. Nebraska and Wisconsin make the biggest moves in the league for 2013, as the Huskers rise from sixth to third and the Badgers rise from seventh to fourth.

Illinois, which replaced five assistants from the 2012 team, including co-offensive coordinators Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales, dropped from third in staff pay ($2.314 million) to eighth ($2.065 million).

The database shows that nearly every Big Ten assistant with "coordinator" in his title -- whether he's the sole coordinator or a co-coordinator -- will earn north of $300,000 for 2013. Only 18 assistants listed will make less than $200,000 in 2013 -- 15 work for Minnesota, Illinois, Purdue and Indiana.


Some notes:

  • Although Wisconsin paid former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst good coin, the school has increased its commitment for Gary Andersen's staff, not only with the coordinators but with some coveted position coaches like running backs coach Thomas Hammock ($300,000).
  • All of Nebraska's assistants are earning $200,000 or more for 2013, but there's a huge drop-off between Beck and the next highest-paid assistant (defensive coordinator John Papuchis at $310,000).
  • Michigan State has a similar drop off between Narduzzi and co-offensive coordinators Dave Warner ($270,000) and Jim Bollman ($260,000). Warner will be the primary offensive play-caller and has been on Mark Dantonio's staff since 2006, while Bollman is a newcomer.
  • Although Michigan is paying top dollar for its coordinators, the school gets its assistants for a relative bargain. Receivers coach/recruiting coordinator Jeff Hecklinski will earn $225,000 in 2013, while the others all will earn $205,000. Ohio State, meanwhile, pays all but one of its assistants $286,000 or more.
  • The Big Ten's three lowest-paid assistants all are in their first years: Illinois wide receivers coach Mike Bellamy ($125,000) and Purdue linebackers coach Marcus Freeman and running backs coach Jafar Williams (both at $120,000).
  • Although schools like Illinois, Wisconsin and Iowa ($325,000) pay their coordinators the exact same amount, others have slight differences in salary. Purdue's Shoop makes $5,000 more than defensive coordinator Greg Hudson. Minnesota defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys ($340,000) makes $5,000 more than offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover. Wonder if that leads to any underlying jealousy?
  • Most Big Ten schools have assistant salaries in round numbers, but there are some interesting totals from Indiana, which pays co-offensive coordinators Seth Littrell and Kevin Johns $255,500.04 and new recruiting coordinator/assistant defensive line coach James Patton $173,740.08. Never know when that change can come in handy.

The Big Ten still lacks some of the OMG totals seen in the SEC -- LSU is paying new offensive coordinator Cam Cameron $3.4 million in the next three years -- but the overall trend puts the league more on par with what we're seeing nationally.

CHICAGO -- Illinois offensive coordinator Bill Cubit knows what he represents: another round of changes for players who have experienced plenty of them.

Cubit is Illinois' fourth offensive play-caller and fourth offensive coordinator in the past three seasons (Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales shared play calls and the coordinator role in 2012). No unit in the Big Ten has endured more recent transition than the Illini offense. Cubit understands what his players have been through, but he's not decelerating the learning curve this spring. Just the opposite.

"Like I told those guys, what you did in the past really doesn’t make a bit of difference," Cubit said Friday before Illinois held a spring practice/scrimmage at Gately Stadium on Chicago's South Side. "We've just got to get this thing done. ... Ohio State, Penn State, Northwestern, none of these people really care. You've got to face the facts."

The facts are Illinois had one of the nation's worst offenses in 2012. The Illini finished 119th nationally in both yards per game and points per game, 107th in passing and 97th in rushing. Big Ten play brought even greater struggles for Illinois, which averaged just 272 yards and 11.8 points in eight league contests.

Cubit, a longtime offensive coordinator before spending the past eight seasons as Western Michigan's head coach, is tasked to turn things around in a hurry. He's not wasting any time installing his system, and not downplaying what it entails for the players.

"The system is vastly different from what they've done," he told ESPN.com. "The routes are vastly different. The quarterback reads, the quarterback steps are vastly different. We're going to play underneath the center at times."

Quarterbacks Nathan Scheelhaase and Reilly O'Toole, who are competing for the starting job, are absorbing the brunt of the changes under Cubit. In addition to taking more snaps under center, both are working on getting the ball out quickly.

Cubit's target is 2.2 seconds, typically out of a five-step drop. He notes that even the slightest delay, like holding the ball at chest level rather than shoulder level, where it can be quickly released, makes a big difference.

"I don't think we have the personnel that we just sit back there and take seven-step drops and guys will be open," Cubit said.

Scheelhaase and O'Toole also have had to change their footwork and throwing mechanics, a process which, according to Cubit, has been fairly easy. Because neither quarterback worked much under center before, they haven't had to break longtime habits.

Although Scheelhaase has a major experience edge (36 career starts), Cubit said the quarterbacks are "about equal" so far this spring. Cubit is focused more on installing his system than evaluating a potential starter, and the competition likely will last through the summer and into preseason camp. It's highly unlikely Illinois will use a rotation at quarterback.

"Let’s find the one guy we know we can win with and go," Cubit said, "and prepare that other guy in case something happens."

Whomever emerges will need a lot of help, as Illinois struggled to find playmakers in 2012. Cubit likes the potential of the tight end group: Evan Wilson, Matt LaCosse and, when he gets healthy, Jon Davis. Running backs Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young have had good springs.

There are bigger questions at wide receiver. Although Illinois returns a few familiar names (Ryan Lankford, Spencer Harris), it needs others to emerge and could be turning to several players who have switched positions (Steve Hull, Miles Osei) as well as a junior-college arrival (Martize Barr).

"The biggest change has been Steve Hull moving from defense to offense," wide receivers coach Mike Bellamy said. "He's polished, he's excited, he's energized, he's competitive. He's making big plays."

Head coach Tim Beckman called the offensive line Illinois' "biggest concern" after a season where the group surrendered a league-worst 39 sacks and the Illini averaged a league-low 3.5 yards per carry. The silver lining is players like Michael Heitz, Simon Cvijanovic and Ted Karras have experience under their belts. Alex Hill has moved from guard into the top center spot this spring.

Cubit has tried to tailor his scheme to help out the offensive line.

"We've got to play to their strengths also," he said. "The one thing I see there is willingness. Probably a scarred group, like the whole offense. When you’re next to last [nationally] in offense, you're going to have some gaps out there. But I just keep on telling them how good they can be. And they can.

"They've got a shot."
Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.

The Big Ten assistant coach carousel is still spinning but many key vacancies have been filled. Today's Take Two topic is: Who is the most important assistant coach hire in the Big Ten this year?

Take 1: Adam Rittenberg

It comes down to which Big Ten unit needs the most help entering 2013. The answer seems pretty clear to me: Illinois' offense. Almost nothing went right for this group last fall. Illinois finished last in the Big Ten in both scoring (16.7 ppg) and total offense (296.7). When you look only at Big Ten games, those numbers drop to 11.8 ppg and 272.1 ypg. Yuck. Bill Cubit has a ton of work to do as Illinois' new offensive coordinator. For that reason, he's my pick for the Big Ten's most important assistant coach hire.

Illinois head coach Tim Beckman went from two inexperienced coordinators (Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales) to a veteran in Cubit, who spent the past eight seasons as Western Michigan's head coach and also has been an offensive coordinator at Stanford, Rutgers and Missouri. Offense wasn't the problem for Cubit at Western Michigan, and he developed quarterbacks like Tim Hiller and Alex Carder in Kalamazoo. Illini players like quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase have had to adjust to new offenses throughout their careers. Cubit has to install his system without overwhelming the players. Illinois needs playmakers on the edges and chemistry with an offensive line that struggled mightily last season and loses its top two players. If Beckman gets a third season in Champaign, Cubit will be a big reason why. He's an incredibly important addition for a reeling Illini program.

Take 2: Brian Bennett

I would say Michigan State's offensive coordinator hire is the most vital, except I presume Mark Dantonio will keep that in house and we won't see a lot of changes with the Spartans' attack. He could prove me wrong. I also believe Andy Ludwig will be under a lot of pressure as the new offensive coordinator at Wisconsin, where fans have come to expect a certain style of play.

But I'm with Adam in thinking the most important hire comes down to which unit needs the most help. That's why I'm going with Indiana's replacement for co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Mike Ekeler, who announced Friday he was leaving for USC. Kevin Wilson has some a strong option on the current staff with Doug Mallory, who was co-defensive coordinator last season. But defense remains the main obstacle between the Hoosiers and respectability. Indiana has a dynamic passing attack and an offense that scored over 30 points per game last season, but its defense was once again last in points and yards allowed. Improvements on that side of the ball could get the program back to a bowl game. Ekeler also did well on the recruiting trail and helped land some exciting young talent like Darius Latham and Antonio Allen in this year's class. Now, Wilson has to find the right assistant to help mold that into a defense that can hold its own against the better teams in the Big Ten.
Illinois' new wide receivers coach knows a lot about catching passes for the Orange and Blue.

Mike Bellamy earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as an Illini receiver in 1989 (he also earned second-team All-America honors as a kick returner that season), when he recorded 59 receptions for 927 yards and eight touchdowns. Bellamy went on to be a second-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 1990.

His new task calls for him to upgrade Illinois' receiving corps, which, like the rest of the offense, struggled mightily in 2012. Head coach Tim Beckman promoted Bellamy from assistant director of player personnel and relations, a recruiting-based position, to receivers coach. Bellamy replaces Billy Gonzales, who left Illinois for a post with Mississippi State after only one season.

While Bellamy fills one vacancy, Illinois reportedly has lost another assistant as cornerbacks coach Steve Clinkscale is headed to Cincinnati. Clinkscale, one of Illinois' top recruiters, is the fifth assistant to depart Beckman's staff -- four left voluntarily, one was fired. All the staff turnover is no surprise after such a tough 2012 season and with Beckman's uncertain future in Champaign.

Bellamy will be Illinois' fourth new full-time assistant for 2013, joining offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, offensive line coach Jim Bridge and defensive line coach Greg Colby. The Big Ten Network's Howard Griffith, a former teammate of Bellamy's at Illinois, first reported Bellamy's promotion.

"I always say there are three places that I call home -- my family’s house, my mother’s house, and Memorial Stadium," Bellamy said in a statement. "As an alum, I think it's important to teach our players what it means to wear the orange and blue. This program has a proud and storied history, and I can't wait to pass the pride that I have have for Illinois Football on to our current student-athletes."

Bellamy played six seasons of pro ball, in the NFL and the World League, before starting a business with his wife in the Atlanta area. He began coaching high school football in 2008 and served as receivers and specialists coach at Clark-Atlanta University in 2011 before joining Illinois' staff. His previous role involved coordinating events for former players, campus outreach and assisting with recruiting and coaching clinics.

While he has limited coaching experience, his success as a former Illini star and his familiarity with the players should help him in his new role.

Big Ten lunchtime links

February, 13, 2013
2/13/13
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Happy hump day.

Big Ten lunchtime links

February, 8, 2013
2/08/13
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Five-star Friday links:

Billy Gonzales leaving Illinois

February, 8, 2013
2/08/13
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Billy Gonzales, who served as co-offensive coordinator for Illinois last season, is leaving the Illini for another job, the Champaign News-Gazette reports.

Gonzales shared the offensive coordinator title with Chris Beatty, who was let go after the season. Illinois averaged only 16.7 points per game last season, last in the Big Ten.

Gonzales came to Illinois after serving as the passing game coordinator and receivers coach at LSU for two years. Before that, he was the receivers coach at Florida.

Illini head coach Tim Beckman hired former Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit as his offensive coordinator last month. Beckman now has two openings on his staff, as he also has to replace defensive line coach Keith Gilmore, who left for North Carolina.

 
Illinois didn't take long to find its replacement for fired offensive coordinator Chris Beatty.

The team will name former Western Michigan head coach Bill Cubit as its new offensive coordinator, a source tells ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers. Cubit's name surfaced shortly after the news of Beatty's dismissal. I heard last week Cubit was weighing a Big Ten offer and another from a WAC school.

Cubit spent the past eight seasons at Western Michigan, compiling a 51-47 record that included three bowl appearances. WMU fired him after a 4-8 season this fall, the school's worst since 2004. Cubit was in the mix for the top job at Western Illinois before withdrawing his name.

He has plenty of experience as a playcaller, serving as offensive coordinator at Stanford (2003-04), Rutgers (2001-02), Missouri (2000) and Western Michigan (1997-99). Cubit takes over a unit that struggled mightily in 2012, finishing 119th nationally in both yards per game (296.7) and points per game (16.7). This looks like a pretty solid hire for Illinois, under the circumstances.

Illinois used two playcallers this past season in Beatty and Billy Gonzales, who remains on staff. But it's safe to assume Cubit will take the lead now as Illinois looks for a significant offensive upgrade in a make-or-break season for coach Tim Beckman.
Paying top dollar for assistant coaches has become an issue in the Big Ten lately. Bret Bielema cited his inability to pay and retain assistants at Wisconsin as a major reason why he left for Arkansas. Purdue made a bigger commitment to its overall staff salary when it hired Darrell Hazell to replace Danny Hope.

How do the Big Ten teams stack up when it comes to salaries for assistants? Luckily, USA Today has just compiled a database looking at what every FBS program pays its staffs. The study found that the average major college football assistant now makes $200,000 per year, a number that is on the rise. According to USA Today, pay for assistants rose 10 percent from last year and is up 29 percent from 2009, the latter of which is higher than the increase in salary for head coaches during that time period.

Here is what Big Ten teams spent on their staffs in 2012, not including the head coach (Note: Because Northwestern and Penn State are not subject to the same state open-records laws as other schools, their information was not available):
  • Ohio State: $3.29 million
  • Michigan: $2.93 million
  • Illinois: $2.3 million
  • Michigan State $2.2 million
  • Nebraska: $2.15 million
  • Iowa: $2.1 million
  • Minnesota: $2.1 million
  • Indiana: $2 million
  • Wisconsin $1.77 million
  • Purdue: $1.61 million

As you can see, Wisconsin was near the bottom of the pack in the Big Ten. Purdue has given Hazell a pool of $2.1 million for assistant coaches, which would put the Boilermakers right about the average for league schools. Ohio State and Michigan are the two richest schools and have not surprisingly made the biggest commitment to salaries. When you add in Urban Meyer's salary, the Buckeyes are paying nearly $7.6 million per year in football salaries. You get what you pay for, I guess, as Ohio State went 12-0.

While the Big Ten's median salary pool for assistants was just over $2 million in 2012, the median in the SEC was around $2.5 million. According to USA Today, the SEC paid its assistants an average of $315,000, the most in the nation. The Big 12 was second at just under $290,000.

LSU is spending more than $4 million on assistants, while Alabama is doling out more than $3.8 million on assistants. Auburn ($3.77 million), Tennessee ($2.98 million), Florida ($2.89 million), Georgia ($2.77 million) and Texas A&M ($2.68 million) also far outspent most Big Ten schools, while Arkansas ($2.56 million in 2012) is making a larger commitment to assistant pay under Bielema.

Finally, here's a look at the top-paid coordinators in the Big Ten among the 10 schools whose information was available via public records:
  • Luke Fickell, co-defensive coordinator, Ohio State: $761,000
  • Greg Mattison, defensive coordinator, Michigan: $758,900
  • Al Borges, offensive coordinator, Michigan: $658,300
  • Pat Narduzzi, defensive coordinator, Michigan State: $501,700
  • Tom Herman, offensive coordinator, Ohio State: $456,000
  • Everett Withers, co-defensive coordinator, Ohio State: $456,000
  • Tim Banks, defensive coordinator, Illinois: $400,000
  • Chris Beatty, co-offensive coordinator, Illinois: $400,000
  • Billy Gonzales, co-offensive coordinator, Illinois: $400,000
  • Tim Beck, offensive coordinator, Nebraska: $372,300
  • Tracy Claeys, defensive coordinator, Minnesota: $340,000
  • Matt Limegrover, offensive coordinator, Minnesota: $335,000
  • Greg Davis, offensive coordinator, Iowa: $325,000
  • Dan Roushar, offensive coordinator, Michigan State: $307,000
  • Mike Ekeler, co-defensive coordinator, Indiana: $306,600
  • Doug Mallory, co-defensive coordinator, Indiana: $306,600
  • Phil Parker, defensive coordinator, Iowa: $301,500
  • John Papuchis, defensive coordinator, Nebraska: $300,000
  • Gary Nord, offensive coordinator, Purdue: $275,000
  • Chris Ash, defensive coordinator, Wisconsin: $267,050
  • Matt Canada, offensive coordinator, Wisconsin: $265,000
  • Seth Littrell, offensive coordinator, Indiana: $255,500
  • Tim Tibesar, defensive coordinator, Purdue: $250,000

Fickell, Borges and Mattison are three of 18 assistants nationwide who earned at least $600,000 in 2012, according to the study. There were 14 assistants paid that much last season and nine in 2010. Ohio State offensive line coach Ed Warinner is the highest paid position coach in the league, at a salary of $357,800.

 

 

What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 12

November, 15, 2012
11/15/12
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Ten items to track around the Big Ten entering Week 12:

1. Ballin' for history: Thirteen years after Ron Dayne broke the NCAA career rushing record, another Wisconsin running back is on the doorstep of a major milestone. Badgers senior Montee Ball, who, unlike Dayne, spent a year and a half as a reserve, needs one more touchdown Saturday against Ohio State to tie the NCAA career mark of 78 held by former Miami (Ohio) star Travis Prentice. Ball has scored 13 touchdowns in his past six games and is averaging 179.1 yards and three touchdowns in his past nine November games. A big performance against the unbeaten Buckeyes will once again put Ball on the radar for top national honors. Ball's next rushing touchdown will mark his 72nd, moving him past Dayne for the Big Ten career record.

2. Holding serve in the Legends: Nebraska and Michigan are tied atop the Legends Division at 5-1, and on paper, they should stay that way after Week 12. Both teams are favored to take care of Minnesota and Iowa, respectively, on senior day in Lincoln and Ann Arbor. Nebraska's magic number (wins and Michigan losses) to punch its ticket to Indianapolis is 2. A Huskers loss and a Michigan win puts the Wolverines in control of their own fate in the division. One senior day subplot is whether face-of-the-program stars like Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead and Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson will play after missing time with injuries. Burkhead (knee) returned to practice this week and seems closer to a return, while Robinson (elbow) remains day-to-day.

[+] EnlargeLe'Veon Bell
Andrew Weber/US PresswireLe'Veon Bell and the Spartans plan to finish strong against Northwestern on Saturday.
3. Finishing school: Northwestern and Michigan State easily could be playing for a Legends Division title Saturday. Instead, both teams' inability to finish against the likes of Nebraska and Michigan has left them looking for a full 60-minute performance. Michigan State's four Big Ten losses have come by a combined 10 points. Northwestern held double-digit second-half leads in all three of its Big Ten losses. Something's gotta give Saturday as the teams meet at Spartan Stadium. "Their problem, just like ours, has been closing out games," Spartans linebacker Chris Norman told ESPN.com this week. "... It's going to come down to who can finish the best. Saturday is going to be interesting."

4. Hope and a prayer: There's growing talk that Purdue will make a head-coaching change after the regular season no matter what happens in the final two games. But can fourth-year boss Danny Hope save himself with a three-game win streak to become bowl-eligible? It's reason enough to tune in for an otherwise off-the-radar game between Purdue and slumping Illinois on Saturday. A loss to the Illini would prevent Purdue from getting bowl-eligible and likely seal Hope's fate, while a Purdue win adds intrigue to next week's Bucket game against Indiana. The Boilers' offense got on track last week behind quarterback Robert Marve and running back Ralph Bolden, while defensive tackle Kawann Short had his best game of the season at Iowa.

5. Rivalry renewed: Saturday's game at Camp Randall Stadium won't decide which Leaders Division team goes to the Big Ten title game, as Wisconsin already punched its ticket last week. But Ohio State can lock up the Leaders Division championship -- the only title it can win this season -- while Wisconsin can legitimize its trip to Indy by handing Urban Meyer's Buckeyes their first loss of the season. Looking ahead, the Ohio State-Wisconsin game likely will be the signature contest in the division for years to come. Illinois is a mess, Purdue has backslid this season, Indiana is still building and Penn State still has three more years of postseason bans. "I hate Wisconsin just as much as Michigan," Ohio State wide receiver Corey Brown said this week. While Meyer and Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema say their post-signing day spat is a thing of a past, it could bubble up Saturday depending on how the game goes.

6. Taking a pass: The Big Ten might not be flush with elite quarterbacks and high-powered offenses this season, but a few of its teams can sling the ball a bit, and two of them meet at Beaver Stadium. Indiana and Penn State are the Big Ten's top two pass offenses, ranking 26th and 40th nationally, respectively. They'll share the field Saturday as they try to rebound from different types of losses. Indiana quarterback Cameron Coffman struggled with his accuracy (25-for-46) in last week's loss to Wisconsin and looks for a sharper afternoon. Penn State quarterback Matt McGloin wasn't a happy guy after the Nebraska loss and will try to take it out on IU. The game features two of the Big Ten's top receivers in Penn State's Allen Robinson and Indiana's Cody Latimer.

7. Hawkeye hex: Iowa has been in a funk for much of the season and particularly in the past month, dropping four consecutive Big Ten contests. Perhaps a date with Michigan can put the Hawkeyes back on track. See, Iowa has won three straight against Michigan for the first time in team history and five of its past eight against the Wolverines. Michigan's seniors are anxious to finally get over the hump against Iowa, one of two Big Ten teams (Penn State the other) they have yet to beat. But maybe it works the other way and Iowa finally shows a spark on offense and stiffens its defense. If not, the Hawkeyes won't be going bowling for the first time since the 2006 season, and it'll be a very long winter for Kirk Ferentz. "It doesn't hurt, obviously," Ferentz said of his team's Michigan win streak, "but it doesn't guarantee us anything."

8. Backs of different sizes: Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell is the biggest featured running back in the Big Ten, checking in at 6-2 and 244 pounds. Northwestern's Venric Mark is the smallest, checking in at 5-8 and 175 pounds. But both have been extremely effective this season with the ball in their hands. Bell leads the Big Ten in rushing yards (1,249), while Mark ranks third in rushing yards (1,181) and first in all-purpose yards (1,917). Each has been the MVP of his respective offense, and it'll be interesting to see them on the same field at Spartan Stadium. Both Michigan State and Northwestern defend the run well, too, both ranking in the top 25 nationally.

9. Illini look for a spark: Illinois ranks last in the Big Ten in scoring, rushing and total offense, and lingers near the bottom of the FBS in all the significant categories. The Illini need some sort of boost on offense or a 2-10 season is a virtual certainty. Head coach Tim Beckman, whose background is defense but who had a high-powered offense at Toledo the past few years, took a more active role with the offense this week in an effort to get things going. Beckman also noted that co-offensive coordinators Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales call plays on different downs. Hmmm. Starting cornerback Terry Hawthorne took more reps with the wide receivers this week and could see an increased role against Purdue. Illinois aims to win on senior day for the first time since 2007.

10. Bowl picture taking shape: We learned a little more about the Big Ten bowl contingent last week as Minnesota became bowl-eligible, Purdue took a big step toward the postseason and both Iowa and Indiana took a step toward a winter at home. There should be some more answers in Week 12. Michigan State aims for its sixth win to go bowling for the sixth consecutive season under coach Mark Dantonio. Purdue must keep its bowl hopes alive at Illinois, while both Iowa and Indiana must win on the road to avoid loss No. 7. It won't be easy for the Hawkeyes or Hoosiers. Indiana never has won at Beaver Stadium in 15 previous meetings with Penn State. Iowa never has won consecutive games at Michigan Stadium.
In the Illinois offensive staff room, there's a board where the coaches list their top five playmakers. The goal is to identify which players need to touch the ball most often, and then to build the offense strategy and scheme around that.

How much has that list changed in the last several months?

"It's changed quite a bit since we got here," co-offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales told ESPN.com, laughing. "It's everchanging."

[+] EnlargeFritz Rock
Jason O. Watson/US PresswireThe Illini are looking to Fritz Rock to add depth at receiver.
The Illini want that top five to stay fluid to reflect competition. But there also haven't been as many candidates for that list as the coaching staff would like.

The team is switching to the spread offense this season under new coach Tim Beckman, and that's an attack that usually requires lots of depth at the skill positions. Illinois, though, doesn't have that luxury and continues to look for more playmakers, especially at receiver.

"We are extremely, extremely thin there," said Gonzales, who oversees the receivers. "Depth is a major need for us, and we have to go out and recruit that. Of the guys we have right now, I probably feel comfortable with three of them, and they are the three with experience at the Division I level. After that, it's a dogfight."

Gonzales said a spread offense should ideally be four deep at each of the three receiver spots and added that the Illini "are not even close to that right now." He also said the Illini have "not by any means" identified a true No. 1 receiver among those they are sure will contribute. A big key for the staff, he said, will be to continue to develop young wideouts like sophomore Fritz Rock and redshirt freshman Kenny Knight.

While the receiver position is a big question mark, there are higher hopes at some of the other skill positions.

Gonzales said the running back group, considered a weakness going into the offseason, is now "one of the strengths of our team." Though it's not particularly deep, the duo of Josh Ferguson and Donovonn Young has Gonzales excited. He said there are packages where both will be on the field at the same time.

"Donovonn played for us last year, and Josh understands what's expected of him after this spring," he said. "Both of those guys have the ability to run the ball in our offense, and both of them are strong and powerful."

The tight end spot is another area for optimism. Gonzales feels the team is four-deep at that position with Evan Wilson, Jon Davis, Matt LaCosse and Eddie Viliunas. The tight ends, he said, "have had a really good football camp," and you could see multiple tight end sets this fall even in a spread offense.

"We've got to put our best 11 players on the field, and if the best 11 players includes tight ends over receivers or running backs over receivers, that's what it is," Gonzales said.

Gonzales also said that quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has had a good preseason and has "really embraced a leadership role." He declined to say whether there was a plan to play backup Reilly O'Toole, as the team did last year, and said that the goal is just to get both quarterbacks and Miles Osei prepared to lead the No. 1 offense, if necessary.

There are still plenty of questions for the Illinois offense, questions that probably won't be answered until there are more players earning serious consideration for that top five list.

"Some of our guys are starting to step up, and that gives a little more flexibility to our offense," Gonzales said. "If we can get more guys to step up, that will make for a pretty good offense."

Big Ten lunch links

June, 29, 2012
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Happy Friday to all.

Big Ten lunchtime links

April, 11, 2012
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Hope you're having a better week than Bobby Petrino:
Things have seemed mostly pretty rosy for Urban Meyer and Ohio State since he took over the Buckeyes in November. But a Sporting News piece published on Monday takes a highly critical look at Meyer's tenure at Florida, saying he enabled bad actions by star players and left the program in turmoil.

The story by Matt Hayes cites several unnamed former players and sources who claim that Meyer had a "circle of trust" for his most talented players, and that they could get away with serious misdeeds. Those alleged actions include failed drug tests, insubordination and, most shockingly, attacking a position coach.

Hayes writes that former Gators star Percy Harvin was among the most coddled players and that he once grabbed receivers coach Billy Gonzales by the neck and threw him to the ground. Harvin, the story says, never was disciplined for the incident, and Gonzales left for LSU not long afterward. Gonzales, who is now the co-offensive coordinator at Illinois, told the Sporting News: "I think it’s a little overblown. I mean, every great player wants his voice to be heard."

The story says drug use was rampant at Florida to the point where New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick addressed it when he spoke to the team recently.

Meyer denied most of the claims in the story and had this to say to the Sporting News:
“I am very proud of our guys that played at Florida,” Meyer said. “Are there issues? Yes there are with 18-22-year-olds. I have been criticized that I have been too lenient on players; that doesn’t concern me. We are going to go out of our way to mentor, educate and discipline guys the way we see fit to make sure they’re headed in the right direction. Are we perfect? I never said that. We do the best we can and I think our record has been really positive in the impact we’ve made on those people.”

The story also addresses the recruiting flap between Meyer and Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema that became public around signing day. Writes Hayes:
"According to sources, Wisconsin accused Meyer and his staff of using former Ohio State NFL players to call high school recruits. Wisconsin also accused Meyer and his staff of bumping into offensive lineman Kyle Dodson, who was committed to the Badgers but eventually flipped and signed with the Buckeyes. The practice of “bumping” occurs when coaches accidentally “bump” into players during recruiting dead periods. Both the alleged phone calls and bumping are NCAA violations."

Meyer denied violating any NCAA rules during recruiting.

There's no question that Florida, which won two national titles in four years under Meyer, hasn't been the same the past few seasons. Hayes' story charges that Meyer lost control of the program and then fled the scene of the destruction. I'm not sure this story will do much to change the minds of Ohio State fans, who see Meyer as the one to take them back to the top of college football. The question with Meyer in Columbus has always been whether he's built for the long haul there.

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