Big Ten: Josh Heupel

When the coaching carousel stops and all the moves and non-moves are assessed, Penn State's retention of defensive coordinator Bob Shoop could be overlooked.

There have been bigger moves nationally and in the Big Ten, none more so than Michigan's hiring of Jim Harbaugh to lead its struggling program. There have been more notable assistant transactions, such as Oklahoma dumping offensive coordinators Josh Heupel and Jay Norvell. Shoop, appearing Thursday on Pittsburgh's TribLive Radio, even said his brief flirtation with LSU was "a little blown out of proportion. When it ultimately came down to it, it really wasn't much of a decision."

But make no mistake: this is a big deal, not just for Penn State but for the Big Ten. Fox Sports' Bruce Feldman reported that Shoop will receive a new three-year contract from Penn State valued at around $1 million annually.

Shoop isn't the first Big Ten coordinator to make that kind of money -- Michigan State made a similar commitment to then-defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi last February. But the move shows that Penn State can step up in a competitive market to keep a top aide for James Franklin, a head coach it brought in for more than $4 million per year.

Until recently, Penn State hadn't been known as a place that shelled out big bucks for coaches. Joe Paterno obviously had a lot to do with it, as his salary, even in his final years, was well below that of less-accomplished coaches. But the Shoop raise, following Franklin's contract and a raise for former coach Bill O'Brien in 2013, underscores that Penn State has caught up.

So has the Big Ten.

The league adjusted slower to the salary surge than others. In 2010, the league had no assistants among the top 10 in salary and just one in the top 30. The SEC, at the time, had 14 assistants among the top 30 earners.

Michigan began the shift when it brought in defensive coordinator Greg Mattison for $750,000. Ohio State and others followed with stronger commitments. But Bret Bielema cited assistant pay at Wisconsin as one of the reasons he left for Arkansas in 2012. Moves like this and this suggested that Big Ten teams were vulnerable to losing top assistants for seemingly lateral moves.

The SEC's reign atop college football infuriated Big Ten fans, especially as the Big Ten was repeatedly dragged through the mud. But the SEC also raised the bar for investment in the sport.

When the Pac-12 coaches visited ESPN headquarters in July, each one of them mentioned the league-wide investment in facilities, coaches' salaries and other areas. That's the SEC effect.

ACC schools Clemson and now Louisville are paying top dollar for top assistants (Clemson has done so for years).

The Big Ten had even more resources to sink into football. In October 2013, I wrote about the disconnect between Big Ten revenue and Big Ten on-field results.

"I think we spend enough to be successful," league commissioner Jim Delany told me at the time. "Our coaches are good. We have 85 scholarships. Spending more money in football doesn't necessarily mean it's better."

But spending more money on the right coaches is a big step toward improvement. Urban Meyer, arguably the nation's best head coach at hiring assistants, has the resources to do so. Michigan State not only took care of Mark Dantonio after the Rose Bowl, amid interest from Texas and others, but boosted salaries for Dantonio's loyal staff.

Michigan, an athletic program flush with cash, spent a lot on Harbaugh, a potential program savior, and provided assurances that he can hire elite assistants. The process already has begun with D.J. Durkin, the former Florida defensive coordinator, who takes the same post at Michigan. Harbaugh is assembling a strong staff from both the college and pro ranks.

Penn State committed to Shoop before things got more serious with LSU. Like Penn State, the Tigers boast tremendous tradition on defense and regularly churn out top NFL prospects. Top defensive coordinators are in demand around the SEC, which is throwing around insane salaries for them. Shoop could have stepped into a great situation in Baton Rouge. Instead, he chose to remain in what he considers a great situation at Penn State.

Although the Big Ten is losing two of its top assistants, Narduzzi and Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman, both men left for solid head-coaching positions. It would have been much worse if they had taken coordinator jobs in other leagues simply because of the money.

Shoop isn't the only rising-star defensive coordinator the Big Ten should retain in 2015. Dave Aranda, who has elevated Wisconsin's defense in two years with his creative scheme, will remain in his post with new coach Paul Chryst. Aranda deserves a nice raise, so it will be interesting to see what Wisconsin does for him.

The silly season isn't over and there will be other assistant coaching transactions in the Big Ten. But the Shoop retention and moves like it show that the Big Ten is serious about its coaches.

Again, the league can't move its campuses to the South or scrap its athletic philosophy or academic standards. But the money is there, and it has been there, and the right investments are being made.
Josh Heupel is a rising star in the coaching profession, and his next stop could be in the Twin Cities.

The Tulsa World is reporting that Heupel, who coaches quarterbacks at Oklahoma, flew to Minneapolis on Wednesday to interview for Minnesota's offensive coordinator vacancy. The Gophers are looking to replace Jedd Fisch, who officially left Wednesday for the Seattle Seahawks, and want to act quickly.

Heupel, who quarterbacked Oklahoma to a national title in 2000, also was in the mix for the Minnesota job last year.

Heupel has done good work with the Sooners quarterbacks, most notably Heisman Trophy winner Sam Bradford and Paul Thompson. He's only 31 but has made a name for himself early in the coaching ranks. A potential conflict is that he comes from a spread offense at Oklahoma, and Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster wants to keep a pro-style system in place after switching from the spread after 2008. Then again, several of the other possible candidates -- J.D. Brookhart, Gregg Brandon -- also ran the spread at previous coaching stops.

I'm hearing Brewster likely will interview one or two more candidates before making a decision, as he wants to get the offensive leadership in place as soon as possible.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Joey Elliott wants to become the next Josh Heupel.

Sure, he wouldn't mind leading Purdue to a national title, winning the AP Player of the Year award and finishing second in Heisman Trophy voting. But Elliott is more interested in mirroring Heupel's rapid rise up the college coaching ranks.

Heupel landed a job as Oklahoma's quarterbacks coach less than five years after quarterbacking the Sooners to a national title in 2000. Elliott, a senior quarterback at Purdue, wouldn't mind joining the Boilers' staff in the near future.

  Sandra Dukes/Icon SMI
  Joey Elliott looks to be the starter this fall for Purdue, but he also has an eye toward a future in coaching.

Rather than savoring the final hours of winter break in January, Elliott traveled to Nashville for the American Football Coaches Association convention. Along with his dad, John, a longtime coach in Indiana, Elliott spent several days networking, studying and soaking it in.

He attended seminars led by Heupel, Arkansas quarterbacks coach Garrick McGee and Georgia Southern head coach Chris Hatcher, among others. And he rarely strayed far from his dad's side.

"I followed his coattails," Elliott said. "He introduced me to everybody he knew and let them know I'm getting into coaching. It's kind of a word-of-mouth career. It's who you know, what you know.

"You need to have a way in."

Elliott might finally have a way in to Purdue's starting quarterback spot after four years of waiting. Curtis Painter has graduated and Elliott's primary competitor this spring, Justin Siller, was dismissed from school earlier this month for academic violations.

A coaching career awaits Elliott, but he's got unfinished business as a player.

"In my mind, he's the starter," Purdue offensive coordinator Gary Nord said. "At the same time, we haven't named anything, and anybody can beat anybody out. Nobody's guaranteed anything. The coaching staff doesn't know what the capabilities are, doesn't know the intangibles of them yet."

The last part shouldn't be a hard sell for Elliott, whose high school coach, Harvey Robbins, said he "always took care of the intangibles."

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Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Expect the links to have more of a recruiting flavor as we inch closer to National Signing Day. 

"The biggest news emerging from the weekend is the moves Michigan made with the two highest ranked visitors from the weekend -- [Marcus] Hall and Greenwood, S.C., defensive end Sam Montgomery."
"In the last five drafts, 166 Big Ten players were chosen, third highest among conferences. The SEC led the way with 192 players, followed by the ACC with 176. The Pac-10 had 157 while the Big 12 had 143.

If you break it down to first-rounders, the Big Ten also fared pretty well. The conference has had 28 such players in the last five drafts, including one chosen first overall -- Jake Long of Michigan by Miami last year. Only the ACC (39) and the SEC (37) have had more first-rounders. The Big 12 and Pac-10 each had 17."

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

A few weekend leftovers for you ... 

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Joe Tiller enters his final season at Purdue much like he did his first, with an under-the-radar team that could surprise people this fall. "The more things change, the more they stay the same," he said.

After having some fun during team pictures on the Ross-Ade Stadium field -- on the final do-what-you-want shot, Tiller turned his cap to the side, C.C. Sabathia style, and flexed for the camera -- the Boilermakers coach met with the media.

Here are some of the items he touched on:

  • Tiller announced that defensive end Nickcaro Golding, safety Josh McKinley and defensive tackle Preston Numa will be suspended for the season opener against Northern Colorado for "conduct detrimental to the team." Senior safety Torri Williams, a candidate to start, has been fully reinstated. Williams was suspended this spring after an arrest for shoplifting.
McKinley started one game last fall but looks to be in a reserve role this year. Both Golding and Numa redshirted last year.
  • Linebacker depth is Purdue's biggest concern in training camp. Fifth-year senior Anthony Heygood and promising junior Jason Werner look good at the two outside spots, and Tiller is hopeful Kevin Green can step up in the middle. But after those three, the cupboard is pretty bare.
Purdue conducts its first full-pads practice later today, and the coaches will closely examine who else they have at linebacker, and who could move over to the position.
"It's a daily discussion," Tiller said. "Today's an important day for us. We've been out there dancing our underwear for a couple day and playing pass-and-tap with shells on. Now we're going to start playing football, so we'll see if somebody will demonstrate an ability to help us. Until that happens, we're reluctant to move anyone."
Green recorded only seven tackles in eight games last fall, and Tiller wants to see more from the man at the core of the Boilermakers defense.
"He could really help us," Tiller said. "Kevin's the type of guy that's had his moments but from a consistency point of view hasn't been there yet."
  • Purdue made several moves with its starting offensive linemen, who are all healthy after a painful spring. The Boilers swapped tackles Sean Sester and Zach Jones, moved Jared Zwilling to guard and established Cory Benton as the No. 1 center. Sester, one of the team's top pro prospects, moves to right tackle after protecting Curtis Painter's blind side a year ago. Tiller said he didn't know what to expect from Jones a year ago and wanted a more experienced player at left tackle.
But after evaluating Jones in his first season as a starter, Tiller made the switch.
"Jones is the more athletic guy than Sester and really is better suited to play the left side than Sean is," Tiller said of the former walk-on. "And Sean is better suited to play the right side. We think we have them at their natural positions now."
Tiller likened Zwilling to Jones, saying guard is an easier position to transition into than center. Benton played mainly at guard but is expected to perform well at center.
"He smells it," Tiller said of Benton. "He knows he's got a chance to be the lead tank and be the starter at center all year."
  • Tiller provided a little background on Purdue's big home showdown with Oregon on Sept. 13. Six or seven years ago, Tiller started discussing the game with then-Oregon athletic director Bill Moos, who Tiller had coached at Washington State in the early 1970s.
Moos brought up the idea of playing Purdue, but Tiller didn't have much interest.
"Finally Bill said, 'Well, let's schedule a game that's so far out there that both of us will be retired, so it really won't matter,'" Tiller recalled. "And of course, Bill's retired and I'm not, so that worked for one guy and not the other."
The "real reason" Tiller agreed was that Oregon had dropped September road games against Big Ten teams, falling to Michigan State in 1999 and to Wisconsin in 2000.
"I thought, 'You know, here's a West Coast team that has to travel a long way and probably doesn't play well on the road early, so let's sign 'em up,'" Tiller said. "That was a long time ago and obviously isn't true about them any longer."

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