Big Ten: Tim Tibesar

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.

 

 
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.

In-state rivals Purdue and Indiana both are searching for their first Big Ten victory. Both teams have issues on defense and are using quarterback rotations. Today's Take Two topic is: Which program in the Hoosier State is best positioned going forward?

Take 1: Adam Rittenberg

Like the T-shirts say, it's Indiana. Sure, Purdue has more talent, but if this is Danny Hope's best team, it should be able to compete a heck of a lot better than what we saw the past two weeks in West Lafayette. A defense with several pro prospects shouldn't surrender 771 rushing yards in two weeks. A program headed in the right direction should rise to the occasion, rather than fall flat on its face. Hope seems to have recruited well, but I don't see the results showing up in Year 4. Sure, Indiana remains the butt of jokes in the Big Ten. The Hoosiers have just three Big Ten victories in the past four-plus seasons. But I see a brighter future in Bloomington. I see an offense that will put up huge points and yards totals under coach Kevin Wilson and coordinator Seth Littrell. I see a team with multiple quarterback options, as both Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld have held their own in Big Ten games, despite being being Tre Roberson on the depth chart entering the season. I see a ton of talent at the receiver position and a solid running back in Stephen Houston. I'm not blind. I see a terrible defense, too, a unit that hasn't been respectable for a long time. And I see Indiana's history as an all-offense, no-defense, never-get-over-the-hump program. But I think Wilson gets it done in the near future. The athleticism is slowly getting better on defense. It might take another recruiting class -- and possibly some coaching changes -- to get things right, but it'll happen. And Indiana just needs its defense to be decent. The offense will be a juggernaut for years to come.

Take 2: Brian Bennett

I really like the fight that Indiana has shown this season and think brighter things are ahead for the Hoosiers. But let's also not overreact to what were two admittedly terrible back-to-back performances by Purdue. IU may have more grit than in the past, but it still only owns two wins this year, over an FCS club (Indiana State) and a glorified FCS team (UMass). The Hoosiers haven't won a Big Ten game since 2010. Purdue is still the better program in the state and one that is better set up for success. The Boilermakers have been able to recruit and develop top-notch defensive players like Ryan Kerrigan, Kawann Short and Ricardo Allen, something that defenseless Indiana can't say. You have to play defense to win in this league, and while Purdue hasn't done that the past few weeks, it has a better chance of figuring that side of the ball out. I don't know if Danny Hope is the guy to lead the Boilermakers back to being a legitimate and relevant Big Ten team; fans have started to cast their no votes on that topic by staying away from Ross-Ade Stadium, which is the biggest reason for Hope to worry. The hiring of Tim Tibesar from the Canadian Football League to be defensive coordinator this offseason is starting to look more and more like a questionable move. But whether it's Hope or the next coach who comes along, Purdue will be fine. The school has traditionally made a bigger commitment to football than its neighbors in Bloomington, and that will continue. Maybe Drew Brees isn't walking through that door anytime soon, but the Boilers will remain a step ahead of the Hoosiers.
Five lessons from the week that was in Big Ten football:

1. How about an Ineligi-Bowl?: Here's an idea: Make this year's Big Ten championship game a doubleheader. First, the scheduled contest between the Leaders and Legends Division representatives. And then a second game between probation-saddled Ohio State and Penn State for the shadow championship. Penn State might not be the second-best team in the Big Ten, but it's one of the hottest, having won four straight games and gaining confidence every week under Bill O'Brien, the clear front-runner for Big Ten Coach of the Year. Meanwhile, the league has finally found the team to carry its banner in Ohio State, which blasted Nebraska 63-38 to improve to 6-0. Too bad there's an asterisk on that banner, because the bowl-banned Buckeyes are the cream of the crop right now in the Big Ten. The two teams on probation are a combined 4-0 in league play and one made field goal at Virginia away from being 11-1 overall. The de facto Ineligi-Bowl arrives Oct. 27, when Ohio State goes to State College. Surprisingly, that game is now must-see TV because ...

[+] EnlargeOhio State's Urban Meyer
Andrew Weber/US PRESSWIREUrban Meyer and his Buckeyes will play in a de facto Ineligi-Bowl on Oct. 27.
2. The eligible Leaders teams are worse than expected: Wisconsin at Purdue. Oct. 13. A spot in the Big Ten championship game potentially on the line. Who's excited? (crickets) ... We knew the Leaders would have a unique dynamic this season with only four postseason-eligible teams. But we figured some team might resemble a division winner that could advance to the Rose Bowl. Michigan exposed Purdue in a 44-13 beatdown at Ross-Ade Stadium. Wisconsin slogged its way to a win against Illinois but hardly looked impressive for most of the game. Indiana looked great for a half and terrible for a half, failing once again to get over the hump in a Big Ten game. Illinois is, well, not good. One of those four teams will be going to Indianapolis, whether it deserves it or not. At this point, we'd probably pick Wisconsin by default. The eligible Leaders teams own a combined 1-6 Big Ten record and are 0-4 versus the Legends. Perhaps Jim Delany should have listened more seriously to Pat Fitzgerald's summer suggestion of picking the second Big Ten title game participant via a committee.

3. Michigan's defense, run game make it top Legends contender: Michigan's turnovers at Notre Dame overshadowed some promising signs from the defense and the offensive line. The Wolverines showcased those elements Saturday at Purdue in a dominant performance they really needed after a 2-2 start. They generated four takeaways, including a 63-yard interception return for a touchdown by cornerback Raymon Taylor. Linebacker Jake Ryan continued to elevate his play, and Michigan held a Purdue team averaging 51 points on its home field to 13 points and 213 total yards. This is the same time of year when Greg Mattison's defense really turned a corner in 2011. The unit's play the past two games has been very encouraging. Michigan also committed itself to the run game against a decent Boilers defensive front and racked up 304 rush yards and three touchdowns on 55 attempts (5.5 ypr). Denard Robinson rebounded with a huge game on the ground (24 carries, 235 yards). Fitzgerald Toussaint twice found the end zone, and Thomas Rawls finished things off nicely. It's important for Michigan to get its running backs more involved in the coming weeks, but Saturday's offensive approach was encouraging.

4. The Spartans had better hope Saturday was their wake-up call: Despite being billed by some (ahem) as the Big Ten preseason favorite, Michigan State has looked really impressive only once in the first five games. After a tough 1-point home loss last week against Ohio State, Michigan State seemed to suffer a hangover in the first chunk of Saturday's game at Indiana. The Spartans were a complete mess -- committing personal fouls, getting steamrolled on defense, not moving the ball consistently enough on offense. They had seven first-half penalties (six personal fouls), fell behind 17-0 and got outgained 183-22 in the first quarter. To their credit, the Spartans turned things around and dominated the second half to escape Bloomington with a win. Michigan State's defense regained its top form, Le'Veon Bell (121 yards, 2 TDs) steamrolled the Hooosiers, and freshman receiver Aaron Burbridge (8 catches, 134 yards) sparked the passing game. Was Saturday the wake-up call Michigan State needed after a somewhat sluggish 3-2 start? It had better be, as the schedule gets much tougher the rest of the way. Michigan State remains very much in the Legends Division mix, but it can't expect to overcome the early miscues it had in Bloomington.

5. More work to do for Purdue, Northwestern and Nebraska defenses: Saturday was a disappointing day for three teams that thought their defenses had made gains. It's back to the drawing board -- or more apropos, back in the defensive meeting room -- for the Boilermakers, Wildcats and Cornhuskers. Purdue brought in defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar from the Canadian Football League in part because his CFL experience taught him how to defend the spread. But a Boilers defense that looked good the first three weeks has gone south the past two weeks in allowing 85 points to Marshall and Michigan, and it couldn't stop Denard Robinson on Saturday. Northwestern seemed to have made some strides defensively this season in a 5-0 start. But the Wildcats crumbled at Penn State, allowing 22 fourth-quarter points in a 39-28 come-from-ahead loss. The Nittany Lions ran a whopping 99 plays as a lack of a pass rush kept Northwestern from getting off the field defensively. And then there was Nebraska, which stuffed Wisconsin in the second half of last week's comeback win. But these still aren't your older brother's Blackshirts, as Ohio State rolled to 498 yards and 49 offensive points in a 63-38 rout in Columbus.
That Kawann Short thinks Saturday is "the perfect timing" for Purdue to beat Notre Dame has less to do with the Irish than it does the Boilermakers.

Sure, Short and his Purdue teammates are well aware that Notre Dame will be playing just a week after opening its season 3,600 miles away in Dublin (that's Ireland, not Ohio). While Purdue had a stress-free opener at home and will make the short trip from West Lafayette to South Bend, Notre Dame's body clocks are probably scattered over the North Atlantic.

Could jet lag slow down Notre Dame this week? It's possible. But there are no guarantees.

[+] EnlargeKawann Short
Cal Sport Media/AP PhotosTackle Kawann Short says the communication on the Boilers team has been better than ever.
"We can't count on that being the difference maker in the football game," Purdue coach Danny Hope said. "We have to go out there, play hard and execute, and play our best. If we do that, it won't matter who we play or where they've been."

Short, the Boilers' All-Big Ten defensive tackle, expects No. 22 Notre Dame to be geared up for its home opener Saturday.

"I wouldn’t take anything for granted," he said, "I wouldn't think they've got jet lag or anything like that."

Short's confidence stems from his immediate surroundings at Purdue. Like Hope, Short thinks this is the best Boilers team in recent years, one with a shared goal to win and much improved communication.

Two years ago, Hope talked about the opportunity that awaited Purdue at Notre Dame, where, like it or not, the national spotlight always shines. The Boilers opened the season in South Bend but couldn't complete a fourth-quarter rally and fell 23-12.

Purdue hasn't won at Notre Dame Stadium since 2004, when then-Heisman Trophy frontrunner Kyle Orton dismantled the Irish defense in an impressive performance. The Boilers have dropped four straight against the Irish.

Although wins against Notre Dame no longer carry the value they once did, both Hope and Short don't underplay the significance of a victory for a program trying to get noticed.

"It creates momentum for our program," Hope said. "... A win potentially could project our program in some ways from a national perspective. It would catch the attention of recruits. It would energize our fan base in some ways, and would certainly be a confidence builder for our football team."

Added Short: "It'll turn this program around. It'll make things more promising of what we want to do and what we're trying to do. It's going to give us a boost of what team we're trying to become this year."

Purdue needs a strong performance from its defense to slow down new Irish quarterback Everett Golson and an offense that put up 50 points and 490 yards last week against Navy. Although Cierre Wood, Notre Dame's top running back, remains suspended for the game, Theo Riddick and George Atkinson III looked more than capable in Dublin, combining for 206 rush yards and four touchdowns.

The Boilers held Eastern Kentucky to six points, 10 first downs and 190 total yards in last week's opener, their first game under new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar. Short recorded a sack and two blocked kicks on special teams, and Purdue had eight different players contribute on tackles for loss.

"The communication is beyond a level we thought it would be," Short said. "You’ve got new guys adjusting to different positions, guys just jumping in and competing for each position. It's everybody stepping up and doing a lot of communication. That's one thing we thought we lacked in, but Saturday showed it."

Hope is stressing the need for a strong and steady start, a big reason why he picked Caleb TerBush to start at quarterback despite TerBush's suspension last week. Short also sees the need to set the tone against Notre Dame, which has outscored Purdue 21-0 in the first quarter of the teams' past two games. But the Boilers aren't expecting the Irish to sleepwalk out of the gate.

"The challenge is for us to perform," Hope said. "It's not to hope and anticipate that their performance level is going to be down. We don't want to bank on that."
Ten items to track as Week 1 of the college football season kicks off.

1. Shoelace's spotlight: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has been his best when the lights are brightest, particularly early in the season. If the Wolverines have any chance to upset defending national champ Alabama in Saturday night's national showcase game, they need big things from No. 16. Robinson can put his team in the national title talk and himself at the top of the Heisman Trophy watch list by combining his typical big-play brilliance with good decision-making (i.e. no turnovers) against the Tide.

2. The scene in State College: As colleague Gene Wojciechowski wrote this week, Penn State-Ohio is hardly the game of the week, but it's undoubtedly the scene of the week, and maybe the season. After a summer of transition, transfers, sanctions and scandal residue, the Nittany Lions finally return to the field at Beaver Stadium. They'll open a season without Joe Paterno for the first time since 1949, as Bill O'Brien makes his head-coaching debut. Expect an emotion-charged day for everyone in Happy Valley.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Maxwell
Andrew Weber/US PresswireAll eyes will be on Michigan State QB Andrew Maxwell in the season opener against Boise State.
3. Maxwell's moment: The big knock against Michigan State entering 2012 is the absence of star quarterback Kirk Cousins and the team's three top wide receivers. Junior signal-caller Andrew Maxwell can quiet the doubters Friday night with a strong performance against No. 24 Boise State. Maxwell has waited more than two years for the chance to start and lead the Spartans' offense. Michigan State's defense is championship-worthy. Maxwell and the receivers need to show they won't hold the team back this fall.

4. Urban renewal: With all due respect to Woody, no incoming Ohio State coach has created the type of buzz Urban Meyer has the past nine months in Columbus. Meyer's arrival couldn't have come at a better time to energize a program that endured a year of scandal and its first seven-loss season since 1897. Buckeye fans finally get to see Meyer's team in action Saturday against Miami (Ohio). Ohio State never has run an offense remotely like Meyer's, and all eyes will be on sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller as he leads the unit.

5. A new era in Champaign: Tim Beckman's debut at Illinois won't get nearly as much attention as O'Brien's or Meyer's, but it's a significant moment for a program trying to take the next step. Beckman's team is somewhat of a mystery, particularly on the offensive side, where linemen have shuffled around to different positions and the coaches have tried to identify playmakers to surround Nathan Scheelhaase. The Illini should be wary of their Week 1 opponent, Western Michigan, which boasts a potent passing attack that will test a secondary dealing with several injured starters.

6. Hawkeye running backs: Iowa might be flying under the radar entering 2012, but everyone knows about the Hawkeyes' woes at running back, thanks to the work of AIRBHG (h/t Black Heart Gold Pants). Another offseason of attrition leaves Iowa with several unproven options entering Saturday's opener against defending MAC champ Northern Illinois at Chicago's Soldier Field. Fans are most intrigued to see true freshman Greg Garmon, a four-star prospect out of Erie, Pa. Although Iowa's offense will have more of a passing lean this fall, the program always has been at its best with a reliable ball-carrying option.

7. Coordinator carousel: The Big Ten saw an unprecedented 40 coaching changes during this past offseason, including at least one new coordinator at eight of the 12 schools. Units under new leadership Saturday include: Indiana's offense, Purdue's defense, Wisconsin's offense, Iowa's offense and defense and Nebraska's defense. Some coordinators to watch Saturday: Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis, Indiana offensive coordinator Seth Littrell, Purdue defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar and Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis.

8. Danny's debut: Wisconsin won the Big Ten title with a transfer quarterback (Russell Wilson) in 2011. While no one expects Danny O'Brien to be Wilson, O'Brien can stabilize the quarterback position after transferring from Maryland. He won the job in camp and feels comfortable in the Badgers' pro-style offense, which more closely resembles what he ran with the Terrapins in 2010 (when he won ACC Rookie of the Year honors) than in 2011 (when he threw more interceptions than touchdown passes). O'Brien makes his first start for Wisconsin on Saturday, and he'll have plenty of help in the backfield with 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball.

9. Toussaint's status: Michigan coach Brady Hoke still isn't saying whether top running back Fitzgerald Toussaint will play Saturday night against Alabama. Toussaint on Tuesday pleaded guilty to driving while visibly impaired, a reduced charge stemming from his drunken driving arrest last month. Hoke has been firm on player conduct since arriving at Michigan -- he dismissed standout wide receiver Darryl Stonum in January -- but the Toussaint decision will shape how the coach is viewed in handling disciplinary cases involving key players at critical times.

10. Next-step quarterbacks: Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, Minnesota's MarQueis Gray and Northwestern's Kain Colter all fall under the dual-threat label, and have the skills to take over games. All three look to make big strides this season after mixed results in 2011. Martinez, who spent the offseason working on his footwork and passing mechanics, is undoubtedly the biggest key to Nebraska making a serious push in the Legends division. Minnesota expects big things from Gray in his senior season, and Colter has worked on his arm strength and has greater ownership of Northwestern's offense in his first full season as the starter. Martinez opens against Southern Miss. Gray and Colter lead their teams on the road to face UNLV and Syracuse, respectively.

Q&A: Purdue's Tim Tibesar

August, 13, 2012
8/13/12
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If Purdue is going to cash in on its opportunity in the Leaders Division this year, then it's likely that it will have to tighten up its defense this season. The Boilermakers allowed 26.8 points per game in 2011, ranking ninth in the Big Ten. That prompted a change from head coach Danny Hope, who brought in Tim Tibesar from the Canadian Football League to remake the defense.

Tibesar has done so mostly behind closed doors this offseason, as Purdue has mainly kept observers out of practice. I caught up with Tibesar after a handful of fall practices to try and gauge how the transition is going so far.

[+] EnlargeRicardo Allen
AP Photo/Michael ConroyPurdue cornerback Ricardo Allen calls new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar's scheme "aggressive."
How is the defense looking early on in camp?

Tim Tibesar: We've been pleased overall with the tempo of practice. We've still got a lot of work to do, we've got a lot of learning going on.

It's early, but has anybody jumped out who has surprised you?

TT: I think we got a good feel for our players in the spring time, about who can be potential players for us. And so far, that's sort of holding true with what we saw in the spring.

How good do you feel about the depth you have on the defensive line and in the secondary?

TT: I don't know any coach who feels like they ever have enough depth. I'm excited that we have enough guys up front and in the secondary who can be regular contributors for us so that we don't just have to rely on four starters. So that is pleasing to see, and now we've just got to stay healthy through the season and keep that depth.

How far along are they in learning your new system?

TT: After spring, I was very pleased with how the players progressed in learning a new system and a new vocabulary and concepts. And I haven't been disappointed through six practices this fall. It just goes to show how hard our guys studied in the summer time, watching film and getting into the playbooks on our own. I'm very pleased with where we are at.

So are guys playing without thinking already?

TT: No, we're not there yet. We've got some smoke coming out of ears, don't get me wrong. But we didn't have to start back over at practice zero, so to speak. There's been some carryover from spring, and guys have been able to progress. We're much further along than we were after the spring.

No one really got to see you during spring practice or so far this fall. Can you gives us an idea of what kind of philosophy you're installing on defense?

TT: The biggest philosophy we're going to have is that we're going to put our best players on the field for a given situation. We do have some depth, both up front and in the secondary, which allows us a little bit of flexibility there. From a philosophy standpoint, we want to be very good at pursuit, we want to be very good at block destruction, we want to be very good at tackling, and we want to be great at taking the ball away from our opponent. Regardless of what scheme we play, those are the things we're going to hang our hat on.

Ricardo Allen said at Big Ten media days that it's a very aggressive scheme. True?

TT: We want to be sound in everything we do, and yet at the same time I believe in an aggressive approach. Players want that. They don't want to be sitting back on their heels and reading and reacting all the time. So we've got to have a blend of read and react and a blend of aggressive style where we're dictating the pace and tempo to the offense.

How much has your time in the Canadian Football League influenced what you've brought to Purdue?

TT: I grew a lot in my three years up in the Canadian Football League, from a technique and schematic standpoint, because they have different challenges up there that you don't encounter in the United States. So I certainly grew as a football coach and really think it helped me overall. Those concepts we've definitely tried to utilize when they've fit down here, especially with some of the offenses that have similar formations and philosophies you see in the CFL. So hopefully some of that time has been able to help ur guys out.

There has been talk of you playing both 4-3 and 3-4 alignments.

TT: We're going to be in a four-man front, and we're going to be in a three-man front. It depends on who we're playing, what their personnel is. So it's like when I said we'll try to put our best personnel on the field to match up with our opponent.

How is Kawann Short looking this fall?

TT: I think he's looked good. He's got an opportunity to have a fantastic senior season. We're looking for him to be one of our leaders.

A guy who started to stand out last year was defensive end Ryan Russell. Where is he in his development?

TT: I think Ryan has made some great steps in the offseason as far as developing his body. He came along as a true freshman last year, and it took a while for him to get his sea legs underneath him in Big Ten play. Obviously, he's much further along one year later. We've got real high expectations for what Ryan can do for our football team and to get him to play on a high level on a consistent basis.

Linebacker is a place where you've got some depth and experience issues, it seems. How is that position shaping up?

TT: We're testing a bunch of guys and we're trying to figure out who are going to be the guys that will contribute for us and can play for us in Big Ten games. We do have a couple of guys in Dwayne Beckford and Will Lucas who played a lot last year, but we have to have more than two guys. So probably at those spots, we have as much competition as any position on our team right now.

Danny Hope recently said he thinks your two corners are about as good as anybody's in the country. How good do you feel about the secondary overall?

TT: We've got good experience at the corner spot, but we're very inexperienced at safety. We've got two very good starters at the corners and we've even got some very good backups who should be able to contribute for us. But we're very young at the safety spot, so it's a blend out there. How well those safeties come along will be a big key in how good of an overall secondary we're gong to be. The competition there right now is probably a lot like our linebacker position.

Earlier you mentioned Kawann as one of your leaders on defense. Who are some other guys who can fill that role?

TT: The players elected their captains, and Kawann and Ricardo Allen were chosen on the defensive side. I think we have some other guys like [defensive end] Robert Maci who can be a real good leader for us. I'm hoping Josh Johnson, our other starter at corner for us who's a senior this fall, can step into a leadership role. We need more than just two captains to be leaders for us on defense.

Home run summer: Purdue

June, 25, 2012
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Our series continues looking at a player or a group of players from each Big Ten team who needs a home run type of summer before preseason camp begins. Who needs to hit it out of the park in preparation for the season?

For previous entries, click here.

In the batter's box: Purdue

Who needs to step it up: The linebackers

Danny Hope could have his best team at Purdue this fall. The Boilermakers have good depth and experience, and Hope particularly likes what he's got to work with on his defensive line and in the secondary. But the linebacker spot has a few question marks. Leading tackler Joe Holland graduated. The return of Dwayne Beckford from a DUI-related suspension following spring practice should help a lot, and Will Lucas also comes back after making 82 tackles a year ago. The new defense installed by coordinator Tim Tibesar reportedly will have some 3-4 looks, which means the Boilers will need to identify some dependable players to go along with Beckford and Lucas. Purdue moved former quarterback Sean Robinson to linebacker in the spring for more depth and just signed junior-college linebacker Ruben Ibarra last week for some immediate help. Senior Antwon Higgs adds experience to a group that was not among the elite units in the Big Ten next year. Hopefully, Beckford will use his second chance wisely and take charge of the position this summer. If Purdue can make major gains at linebacker, it has a chance to field one of the better defenses in the league.
Assistant coach salaries are on the rise throughout college football, and the Big Ten is no exception. If you're interested in how much coin Big Ten assistants are making, be sure and bookmark this excellent list put together by Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal. Rexrode compiled assistant salary information from 10 of the league's 12 programs (Northwestern and Penn State don't disclose assistant coach salaries).

Most of this information has been publicized in team-by-team form, but it's interesting to examine from a league-wide perspective. Ohio State defensive coordinator Luke Fickell and Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison are the league's highest-paid assistants, both earning $750,000. Michigan offensive coordinator Al Borges ($550,000) is next, followed by Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi ($500,000), who recently received a raise that more than doubled his previous salary ($233,000).

Several of the Big Ten's highest-paid assistants from 2011 -- Wisconsin offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, Illinois offensive coordinator Paul Petrino, Illinois defensive coordinator Vic Koenning -- since have left the league for other jobs.

Here are the totals paid for assistants among the 10 schools reporting salaries:

1. Ohio State -- $3.22 million
2. Michigan -- $2.755 million
3. Illinois -- $2.314 million
4. Michigan State -- $2.18 million
5. Iowa -- $2.16 million
6. Nebraska -- $2.13 million
7. Wisconsin -- $1.973 million
8. Indiana -- $1.96 million
9. Minnesota -- $1.745 million
10. Purdue -- $1.61 million

When factoring in the head coach salaries, the rankings look like this:

1. Ohio State -- $7.22 million
2. Iowa -- $6.035 million
3. Michigan -- $6.009 million
4. Nebraska -- $4.905 million
5. Wisconsin -- $4.571 million
6. Michigan State -- $4.098 million
7. Illinois -- $3.914 million
8. Minnesota -- $3.445 million
9. Indiana -- $3.22 million
10. Purdue -- $2.535 million

The Big Ten had 40 overall coaching changes during the past offseason (head coach and assistant). Here are the highest-paid new assistants among the programs reporting salaries (not including assistants promoted internally).

1. Ohio State co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers -- $450,000
2. Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman -- $420,000
T-3. Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks -- $400,000
T-3. Illinois co-offensive coordinator Billy Gonzales -- $400,000
T-3. Illinois co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty -- $400,000
6. Ohio State co-offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Ed Warinner -- $350,000
7. Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis -- $300,000
8. Wisconsin offensive coordinator Matt Canada -- $265,000
T-9. Purdue defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar -- $250,000
T-9. Indiana offensive coordinator Seth Littrell -- $250,000

Some thoughts:
  • It's no surprise Ohio State paid top dollar for head coach Urban Meyer, but the school also has increased its commitment for assistant coaches. Former coach Jim Tressel had a fairly anonymous staff for a big-time program, and while there were good coaches on it, you knew the overall financial commitment would need to be increased. The Buckeyes have three assistants making more than $400,000. Interestingly enough, Illinois is the only other Big Ten squad listed here with three aides at the $400,000 mark.
  • As Rexrode points out in his post, Michigan State's staff was a major bargain before the recent raise. The Spartans paid approximately $1.6 million for a staff that helped them to 21 wins in the past two seasons. The pay increases put Michigan State fourth in the Big Ten in assistant coach pay, which sounds about right.
  • Illinois' athletic director transition from Ron Guenther to Mike Thomas didn't change the school's approach toward rewarding assistants. Guenther allowed former coach Ron Zook to open the coffers after a disappointing 2009 season and land high-priced coordinators (Petrino and Koenning). While new Illini head coach Tim Beckman ranks eighth in the league in salary, he was allowed to spend a lot for his staff, which includes just one holdover (D-line coach Keith Gilmore, who earns $200,000). It's why Illinois ranks third in the league in assistant coach pay.
  • Wisconsin's staff turnover after the Rose Bowl resulted in lower overall compensation, which isn't a huge shock because of Chryst's departure. It's a bit surprising that Badgers coordinators Chris Ash (holdover from staff) and Matt Canada (new addition) are near the bottom of the league in coordinator pay. Wisconsin did spent a good amount for new offensive line coach Mike Markuson ($255,000).
  • Some Nebraska fans I've heard from complain that Bo Pelini's staff lacks prestige, given the program's tradition and resources. The Huskers have a mostly young staff that ranks in the middle of the league in compensation. Pelini lured new secondary coach Terry Joseph for $230,000, while new defensive line coach Rick Kaczenski made the move from Iowa and will earn $195,000. Kaczenski is a bargain in my view.
  • Anyone else find it odd that Iowa defensive coordinator Phil Parker, promoted during the winter from secondary coach, makes $1,000 more than new offensive coordinator Greg Davis? While it's nice for Iowa to reward Parker's loyalty as a position coach, the $1,000 difference seems a little trivial, especially since Davis has been a coordinator for decades.
  • Purdue pays less for assistant coaches than the nine other Big Ten schools reporting information here. Penn State obviously doesn't rank at the bottom in paying assistants, and I've been told Northwestern doesn't, either. Factoring in head coach Danny Hope's salary, and Purdue's overall coach compensation is significantly lower than others, including its arch-rival Indiana. Boilers fans, how do you feel about this?
The book is closed on spring football in the Big Ten, but what did the chapters reveal? Although no games are played during the spring, which fuels optimism for all 12 teams, the 15 practices provide clues for the upcoming season. The Big Ten saw few major injuries to key players, some good news (the NCAA declaring Michigan State WR DeAnthony Arnett eligible for 2012) and some potentially troubling signs.

It's time to revive the power rankings coming out of the spring. We see separation with the top two teams, while Nos. 3-5 are closely matched. The same holds true for Nos. 7-10.

Here they are ...

1. Michigan State: The Spartans' defense looks like the single best unit in the Big Ten entering the season. Spring practice only enhanced our opinion of Pat Narduzzi's group, which has no shortage of stars. While the passing game needs work, Arnett's presence should help, and the Spartans will rely more on their run game with Le'Veon Bell and an improved offensive line.

2. Michigan: Quarterback Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint, who affirmed himself as Michigan's top tailback this spring, form arguably the Big Ten's most dangerous backfield tandem. If Michigan can fill some key pieces on both lines, where there was some shuffling this spring, it will be back in the BCS bowl mix and among the favorites to win the Big Ten crown.

3. Wisconsin: It seems hard to fathom, but Montee Ball appeared to take his game to an even higher gear this spring. The Badgers' star running back will fuel the offense again, although quarterback remains a question mark as Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien arrives this summer. Wisconsin still needs more playmakers to emerge on the defensive line and in the secondary.

4. Nebraska: Tough call on this spot, but the Huskers return their core pieces on offense from a 9-4 team. Footwork-conscious quarterback Taylor Martinez received good reviews this spring, and he should be more comfortable in Year 2 at the helm of Tim Beck's offense. Coach Bo Pelini thinks the defense will be improved and potentially deeper, although the Huskers lose a lot of star power on that side of the ball.

5. Ohio State: There were few dull moments in Ohio State's first spring under Urban Meyer, who began installing an offense unlike any seen in Columbus. After resembling a "clown show" early on, the offense made strides and quarterback Braxton Miller looks like a strong fit for the system. An improved defense, led by linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins, should buy the offense some time to get acclimated.

6. Penn State: New coach Bill O'Brien ushered in a historic spring in Happy Valley, and Penn State players for the most part embraced the many changes taking place. The Lions still don't have a quarterback, but they have an excellent running back in Silas Redd and an improved offense line that pleasantly surprised O'Brien this spring. Penn State's defensive front seven, led by linebacker Gerald Hodges and tackle Jordan Hill, might need to carry the team at times.

7. Purdue: Fourth-year coach Danny Hope thinks this is clearly his best team in West Lafayette, and with 18 starters back, it's easy to see why. The Boilermakers are one of the Big Ten's deepest teams at positions like quarterback, defensive tackle, running back and cornerback. Purdue must continue to absorb the new defense installed by Tim Tibesar and fill some key gaps along the offensive line.

8. Iowa: Although Iowa's changes this spring didn't make national headlines like the ones at Penn State and Ohio State, they were very significant. New offensive coordinator Greg Davis began installing a more up-tempo and multifaceted offense that seems to be clicking with senior quarterback James Vandenberg. Jordan Canzeri's ACL injury once again clouds the picture at running back entering the summer, and Iowa needs its young defensive line to grow up in a hurry.

9. Northwestern: The Wildcats showcased one of the league's top wide-receiving corps this spring, and if Kain Colter can improve his passing, the offense should surge. Defense has been Northwestern's bugaboo in recent years, and young players like end Deonte Gibson and cornerback Nick VanHoose stepped forward this spring. It's crucial for the defense to keep making progress if Northwestern wants to maintain its bowl streak.

10. Illinois: There's little doubt Illinois will be a defense-driven team, and the Illini look loaded in the front seven with players like end Michael Buchanan, who turned in a very strong spring, as well as tackle Akeem Spence and linebacker Jonathan Brown. An offense that flatlined late last season began learning a new system this spring and still lacks playmakers at running back and wide receiver. Running back Josh Ferguson's spring-game performance is encouraging.

11. Minnesota: The second spring of the Jerry Kill era brought greater comfort for both players and coaches alike. Quarterback MarQueis Gray made strides in his second spring session as the starter, although the Gophers are still looking for more weapons to surround No. 5. The defensive line should be an improved group after several lifeless seasons. Minnesota still needs to develop depth in the secondary and at wide receiver.

12. Indiana: After playing an insane number of freshmen in 2011, Indiana began to reap the benefits this spring. An influx of junior-college defenders, including linebackers David Cooper and Jacarri Alexander, also should boost a unit that needs all the help it can get. The Hoosiers have some nice building blocks on offense at both quarterback (Tre Roberson) and running back (Stephen Houston, Isaiah Roundtree), but they still have a lot of work to do before the season.

Purdue spring wrap

May, 11, 2012
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2011 record: 7-6
2011 conference record: 4-4 (third place, Leaders Division) Returning starters: Offense: 9; Defense: 9; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
DT Kawann Short, CB Ricardo Allen, QB Caleb TerBush, QB Robert Marve, QB Rob Henry, RB Akeem Shavers, RB Ralph Bolden, DE Ryan Russell, WR Antavian Edison, DT Bruce Gaston, OT Trevor Foy

Key losses
LB Joe Holland, S Albert Evans, LT Dennis Kelly, OG Nick Mondek, WR Justin Siller, K Carson Wiggs

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Ralph Bolden* (674 yards)
Passing: Caleb TerBush (1,905 yards)
Receiving: Antavian Edison* (584 yards) Tackles: Joe Holland (94) Sacks: Kawann Short* (6.5) Interceptions: Ricardo Allen* (3)

Spring answers

1. Healthy QBs: After two years of dealing with injuries and inexperienced signalcallers, Danny Hope finally had enviable depth at the position this spring. With Robert Marve healthy, last season's starter Caleb TerBush a year wiser, and Rob Henry on the mend from a torn ACL, Purdue has three former starters at quarterback. Hope said the depth made for much improved offensive execution this spring, which should carry over into the fall. Now he just has to figure out whom to play and when, as it's likely more than one will see the field in the same game.

2. Defensive front and back set: The Boilermakers have a chance to be very good up front defensively, and it all starts with defensive tackle Kawann Short. He passed up the NFL draft, and could work his way into first-round status with a big senior season. Bruce Gaston returns along side him in the middle, and sophomore defensive end Ryan Russell looks like a future star after coming on strong at the end of last season. The secondary is also in great shape, with returning cornerbacks Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson possibly forming the best tandem in the league, according to Hope. Nickel back Normondo Harris had a big spring game, and Max Charlot returns at safety. Purdue should have the ability to generate a pass-rush and defend the ball in the air.

3. More confidence: There's little doubt that there's more confidence in the air around West Lafayette. That comes from the team making -- and winning -- its first bowl game under Hope last season, and returning 18 offensive and defensive starters. This is Hope's deepest team, and it should be his best. Some are picking Purdue as a potential Big Ten sleeper, and the players believe that talk is justified.

Fall questions

1. Linebacker Who? While the defense looks stout up front and in the secondary, questions remain at linebacker. Joe Holland, the team's leading tackler a year ago, graduated. Dwayne Beckford missed the bowl game after a DUI arrest, and his status for the fall remains in flux. Will Lucas is the only returning starter guaranteed to suit up in September. There's talk of using some 3-4 looks under new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar, who implemented his system in practices closed to the media this spring. Does Purdue have enough linebackers to make it work?

2. Offensive line chemistry: The Boilers' offensive line didn't get a lot of hype last season, but it produced two NFL draft picks in Dennis Kelly and Nick Mondek. Trevor Foy is moving from right to left tackle, and Kevin Pamphile and Rick Schmeig worked at multiple positions this spring. Purdue will mix in some new faces and some veterans in new places this fall, and how well that unit comes together will have a large say in how the offense flows.

3. X-factors on offense: Some things we simply don't yet know include the following: Can Ralph Bolden successfully return from knee surgery? If not, is Akeem Shavers a capable every-down back? What will happen to leading receiver Antavian Edison after his arrest on weapons charges this week? Will fellow wideout O.J. Ross make it back from academic suspension? Can kick returning dynamo Raheem Mostert make an impact at receiver? Purdue has a lot more options on offense than in the recent past, but there also remains a lot of question marks.

Spring game preview: Purdue

April, 12, 2012
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We're getting you set for each of this weekend's seven Big Ten spring games with a short preview of every one.

Let's take a look now at Purdue's Black and Gold Game:

When: 1 p.m., Saturday

Where: Ross-Ade Stadium

TV: The game will be streamed live over the internet by the Big Ten Network on both BTN2Go and The Big Ten Digital Network. The Big Ten Network will air the game Monday at 7 p.m.

Admission: Free. Gates open at noon. Free parking is available in the R Lot, H Lot and Upper H Lot.

Weather forecast: A 60 percent of showers and thunderstorms, with a high near 72.

What to watch for: The Boilermakers' game will consist of three periods. The first half will span 45 minutes with a running clock and the third and fourth quarters will go 20 minutes each with a running clock.

Head coach Danny Hope revamped his defense this spring, hiring coordinator Tim Tibesar from the CFL to switch things up. Purdue has practiced mostly behind closed doors as it installs the new defense, so this game offers the first glimpse of what Tibesar has brought to the table. Players have said the defense is faster and more aggressive, but the scheme does not look all that different to the untrained eye.

The Boilers also have a heated quarterback competition, with Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve and Rob Henry all healthy and all owning starting experience. Henry has been limited for precautionary reasons as he heals from an ACL injury, so he might not do a lot in the spring game. Still, it will be interesting to see how Hope divides up the reps.

Mostly, you'll want to see if this team actually looks like the sleeper Leaders Division candidate some have made it out to be. The spring game won't decide that by any means, but it would be nice for Purdue to see some clean, crisp execution, especially considering how many veteran starters are back.

Big Ten lunchtime links

April, 11, 2012
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Hope you're having a better week than Bobby Petrino:
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue's Caleb TerBush was walking to class just about a week before last season's opener when his cell phone brought some jarring news.

Offensive coordinator Gary Nord called to tell him Rob Henry had blown out his ACL. With Robert Marve still dealing with his own knee problems, the inexperienced TerBush was suddenly thrust into the starting quarterback role.

It was the second straight year that the Boilermakers had to adjust on the fly at quarterback because of unexpected injuries. But if a silver lining emerged from those tough situations, it could be seen at a recent spring practice when Henry, TerBush and Marve smiled and joked around during some light throwing drills. After two seasons of scrambling for a quarterback, Purdue now has three healthy veterans who have each started at least seven games.

"It's made a huge impact on what we've been able to get done this spring," head coach Danny Hope said. "The very first day of spring practice, we were able to do [quarterback] signals, which we haven't been able to do in the past. That's something you take for granted. We've started off a lot faster on offense and from an execution standpoint."

[+] EnlargeRobert Marve
AP Photo/Darron CummingsWith its experienced QBs, including Robert Marve, Purdue says it has the ability to compete with the Big Ten's elite in 2012.
Newfound quarterback stability provides a key reason why optimism is soaring for Hope's fourth year in charge of the program, but it's not the only one.

Purdue beat Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Bowl last December after finishing 6-6 in the regular season. While those accomplishments can't match the aspirations of Drew Brees' heyday, reaching the postseason still marked an important hurdle to clear. The program hadn't been to a bowl game since 2007, and fan dissatisfaction with Hope was starting to rise. The bowl win brought a new attitude to offseason workouts.

"Everybody seems more mature and more focused on what we want now," running back Akeem Shavers said. "That was the first time for most of us going to a bowl game, so we know now what that feels like and what we have to do to do better and get into a better bowl."

If you're looking for a stealth team in the Big Ten, check out these Boilers. They've got 18 starters back from a team that upset Ohio State and played Penn State to the wire on the road. Ohio State is ineligible to win the Leaders Division because of NCAA sanctions, Penn State and Illinois are going through coaching changes and Wisconsin lost quarterback Russell Wilson and most of its offensive staff. Plus, the Badgers and Nittany Lions have to come to Ross-Ade Stadium.

The players know that they're being slapped with the "sleeper" label in some quarters this spring, and they're not shying away from it.

"We've got a chance," Henry said. "We've got the weapons now. I feel like this is a season of great opportunity for us with the players we have coming back and the experience we'll have on the field. We've just got to stay healthy."

There's finally less worry about health at quarterback. Hope, who also signed four quarterback prospects in this year's recruiting class, had such a logjam at the position that he moved former starter Sean Robinson to linebacker this spring. Now all he has to do is figure out how to use what he has.

Henry is a swift runner and strong leader who was developing into a better passer before his injury. While he's being held out of some drills this spring as a precaution, he says his knee is fully healed and he's ready to go. Marve, the former Miami transfer, was granted a sixth year of eligibility by the NCAA this winter after two years of dealing with knee troubles. He said he almost forgot what it was like to move around as freely as he has this spring.

Then there's TerBush, who started all 13 games last year after sitting out 2010 with academic problems. He turned in a respectable season as a rookie starter, completing 61.7 percent of his passes with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. Hope had a plan to play both Henry and Marve some at the same time last summer before the injuries. He's not yet tipping his hand how things will shake out this year.

The three quarterbacks, each of whom has a reason to be grateful for a second chance, aren't sweating the competition too much.

"It's fun because we've all been around each other throughout the whole process," Henry said. "It's a toss up. If somebody has a hot hand and gets into a rhythm, he's going to keep playing. As the past few seasons have shown us, you never know what's going to happen to the quarterbacks."

At least now the Boilermakers won't be caught trying to develop a new starter right before the season again. The coaching staff could focus on other things this spring, like installing a more aggressive defensive scheme under new coordinator Tim Tibesar, replacing starters on the offensive line and finding solutions at linebacker. None of those problems are as big as not having a quarterback, which is one reason Purdue has its sights set higher than another trip to the Little Caesars Bowl.

"I'm excited about the progress we've made, and I feel like we have some momentum as a football team," Hope said. "We're ready for the next step."

Video: Purdue coach Danny Hope

April, 5, 2012
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Purdue coach Danny Hope talks about the Boilermakers' spring practice.

Checking in from Purdue

April, 4, 2012
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WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Greetings from Boilermaker country.

I'm here on Purdue's campus today to see how spring practice is coming along for Danny Hope's team. I won't get to see practice -- Hope has barred all reporters from spring workouts as Tim Tibesar installs a new defensive system -- but I'll be talking to plenty of players, including Kawann Short, Akeem Shavers and all those (finally healthy) quarterbacks.

After a couple of early interviews, it's pretty clear that the Boilers are operating with a bit more confidence this spring. That's because they finally made their first bowl game under Hope last year after a 6-6 regular season, and they won the Little Caesars Bowl against Western Michigan. With a strong nucleus returning and some actual depth under center, Purdue has a chance to make some noise in a winnable Leaders Division this season. To do so, however, this team will have to get better and more consistent than it's been the past few years.

I'll have more from Purdue later today and in the days to come on the blog, so stay tuned ...

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