NCF Nation: Phil Meyer

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Purdue's hiring of defensive coordinator Donn Landholm on Monday likely marks the end to the major coaching moves in the Big Ten this year. 

There have been no head-coaching changes -- Danny Hope was named Purdue's head coach-in-waiting last year -- and unless Iowa's Kirk Ferentz bolts for the Kansas City Chiefs, which isn't likely, all 11 teams will have continuity on top. But there were several key changes among coordinators and key position coaches. 

Here's a summary. 


Offensive coordinator: Mike Locksley left to become New Mexico's head coach. Illinois hired TCU offensive coordinator Mike Schultz as his replacement. 

Defensive line: Ron Zook fired Tom Sims and hired Cincinnati's Keith Gilmore. 

Offensive line: Eric Wolford left for the same post at South Carolina, and Zook hired Houston's Joe Gilbert as his replacement. 

Notes: Arguably Illinois' biggest coaching move was one that didn't happen. Zook offered Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson the chance to be Illinois' defensive coordinator, but the ace recruiter opted to stay at State College. 


No changes.

Notes: Despite a 3-9 season that saw regression on both sides of the ball, head coach Bill Lynch said he didn't expect to make any staff changes for 2009


No changes.

Notes: Ferentz is being mentioned as a candidate for the Chiefs' head-coaching vacancy because of his ties to new general manager Scott Pioli, but it appears likely he will remain at Iowa for an 11th season. He will hold a signing day news conference scheduled for Feb. 4 and has talked with athletic director Gary Barta about a contract extension.


Defensive coordinator: Scott Shafer resigned and later took the same job at Syracuse. Michigan hired former Syracuse head coach Greg Robinson as Shafer's replacement.

Notes: Head coach Rich Rodriguez took his time with the search, and Robinson actually reached out to him about the defensive coordinator vacancy.


No changes.

Notes: Offensive coordinator Don Treadwell was in the mix for several head-coaching spots (Miami University, Boston College) but will stay put for 2009.


Offensive coordinator: Mike Dunbar resigned Jan. 6 to pursue other professional opportunities. Minnesota hired former Denver Broncos wide receivers coach Jedd Fisch as Dunbar's replacement.

Defensive coordinator: Ted Roof resigned Jan. 6 to take the same post at Auburn. Gophers head coach Tim Brewster hired former Nebraska and Wisconsin defensive coordinator Kevin Cosgrove, who will share coordinator duties with defensive backs coach Ron Lee.

Notes: Fisch will call the offensive plays, but he must collaborate with Tim Davis, the team's new offensive line coach and run game coordinator. Davis, who replaces Phil Meyer, was hired in late November to transform Minnesota's run game and return the team to its roots as a dominant rushing attack.


Offensive line: Bret Ingalls left for the New Orleans Saints. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald told me he's not concerned about naming a replacement until after signing day, but indications are Adam Cushing, the H-backs coach and recruiting coordinator, will be promoted to line coach. 

Notes: Athletic director Jim Phillips wants to work out a contract extension for Fitzgerald and likely will announce one in the coming weeks or months.


No changes.

Notes: Some expected offensive coordinator/offensive line coach Jim Bollman to get the axe, and while it still could happen, head coach Jim Tressel is the primary playcaller and responsible for the unit's success. Co-defensive coordinator and linebackers coach Luke Fickell was mentioned as a candidate for the head-coaching vacancy at Bowling Green.


No changes.

Notes: Penn State retained Larry Johnson despite Illinois offering more money and a coordinator position. Longtime defensive coordinator Tom Bradley also remains despite some rumors that he was a candidate for the top job at Syracuse.


Offensive coordinator: Ed Zaunbrecher was fired and replaced by Florida Atlantic offensive coordinator Gary Nord. 

Defensive coordinator: Longtime Boilers defensive coordinator Brock Spack left to become Illinois State's head coach. Hope hired his former Eastern Kentucky staffer Landholm as Spack's replacement. 

Running backs: Joel Thomas left for the same job at Washington, and Hope hired former Kansas State assistant Cornell Jackson as his replacement. 

Offensive line: Hope handled the line in 2008 and hired his former Eastern Kentucky staffer Shawn Clark to replace him. 

Special teams: Hope moved Mark Hagen from special teams to linebackers and promoted graduate assistant J.B. Gibboney to this post. 

Notes: Tight ends coach John McDonnell was not retained for 2009, and a replacement hasn't been named. Terrell Williams will once again coach the entire defensive line this fall after working strictly with the ends in 2008. 


No changes.

Notes: After firing veteran defensive coordinator Mike Hankwitz and seeing offensive line coach Bob Palcic leave for UCLA last year, head coach Bret Bielema is keeping his staff in place despite a very disappointing 2008 season. 

Posted by's Tim Griffin

After making a trip to the Orange Bowl last season as the first BCS appearance in school history, Kansas is back for more in tonight's Insight Bowl against Minnesota. Here's a look at several items to watch in the game.

Who to watch: It's easy to get lost as a quarterback in the Big 12 at times, but Kansas quarterback Todd Reesing quietly broke a slew of his own single-season school records this season with 302 completions, 406 attempts and 3,575 passing yards. When Kansas' young offensive line gives him protection, the diminutive Reesing can carve defenses up. His chances for success Wednesday will be magnified by the return to health of key weapons like wide receiver Kerry Meier and running back Jake Sharp, who both struggled with injuries late in the season. It will be the healthiest that Kansas has been since early in the season, providing the Jayhawks an opportunity against a slumping Minnesota team that lost its last four games after starting 7-1.

What to watch: The play of Kansas' secondary will be critical to the Jayhawks' chances. Starting cornerback Justin Thornton did not make the trip for undisclosed disciplinary reasons. Senior Kendrick Harper will start in his place. That retooled unit will try to contain Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber, who was hot during the Gophers' fast start but averaged only 144.7 yards and threw more interceptions than touchdowns in Minnesota's last three games. Minnesota coach Tim Brewster fired offensive line coach Phil Meyer and replaced him withTim Davis as the running-game coordinator after the late slump. But the Gophers' ability to pass the ball from the spread offense will determine whether they can sneak out of Sun Devil Stadium with an upset against an erratic Kansas pass defense that ranked 113th nationally and allowed 19 touchdown passes in its last six games.

Why to watch: The Jayhawks already made their mark by making back-to-back bowl trips for the first time in the 119-season history of the program. They can crack another barrier Wednesday by winning, which would give them 20 victories in the last two seasons for the first time as well. A big effort against Minnesota also could set the tone heading into next season when the Jayhawks are positioned to be one of the North's preseason favorites.

Big Ten internal affairs: Week 14

November, 25, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The regular season is finished, but there's still some news throughout the conference. Here's a closer look at five Big Ten teams.

Three players have left the program in recent days, and more attrition could be on the way. But head coach Rich Rodriguez expects freshman running back Sam McGuffie to return next fall, despite rumors of a transfer to a school closer to his home in Texas. McGuffie led Michigan in carries (118) and finished second in rushing (486), but he was overtaken by Brandon Minor down the stretch and dealt with some injuries, including two concussions that might require more medical evaluation.

"Sam has some tough issues," Rodriguez said. "He's a long way from home, trying to take care of his family. ... But hopefully Sam, he had a pretty good freshman year. He got banged up a little bit here at the end. But hopefully things will work out."

Michigan State
The Spartans' extra practice time in the coming weeks could jump-start what figures to be one of the Big Ten's most intriguing position competitions heading into 2009. With senior quarterback Brian Hoyer graduating, Michigan State will turn to either Kirk Cousins or Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichol to lead the offense. Cousins has looked good in relief work this fall, completing 7 of 9 passes with a 23-yard touchdown pass and a 2-point conversion in Saturday's loss to Penn State. The coaches don't need to see much of Hoyer until game preparation begins, so they should get an extended look at Cousins and Nichol in practice.

Head coach Tim Brewster on Monday announced the resignation of offensive line coach Phil Meyer, who will pursue other opportunities. Minnesota's offensive line became a glaring weakness as the season went along, and the Gophers ranked last in the Big Ten in rushing offense (105.8 yards per game) and 10th in sacks allowed (27). Inexperience and injuries contributed to the struggles, but Minnesota was manhandled down the stretch by Iowa and Michigan. Brewster will begin a national search for a replacement and could make a hire before Minnesota's bowl game.

The Wildcats hope to get two big pieces back for a bowl appearance. Defensive end Vince Browne will not require surgery on his knee, as originally thought, and should begin doing light running with the team when practices resume next week. Browne, who has four sacks and seven tackles for loss, sustained the injury on kickoff coverage Nov. 1 against Minnesota. Star running back Tyrell Sutton recently was fitted with a second cast on his injured wrist. Sutton will have the cast removed the second week of December, at which point he'll be re-evaluated. Northwestern won three of four games without Sutton but struggled to run the ball consistently.

Ohio State
Perhaps no player will benefit from an extended layoff more than junior running back Chris "Beanie" Wells. Wells re-aggravated a right hamstring injury in Saturday's win against Michigan and sat out the final quarter. Though he fully expects to play in a January bowl game, Wells welcomes the time off. He estimates that he hasn't been better than 80 percent healthy all season, dealing with a foot injury before the hamstring. If Wells gets near full strength for a bowl, he could have a huge performance in what could very well be his final collegiate game.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Day 2 of practice around the Big Ten is in the books, and my tour of Michigan has finished. Up next is Northwestern for practice and media day on Thursday before a weekend with the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison.

Let's hop on the Big Ten bus:

  • Wisconsin's team leadership should be more solid this season, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas served as a captain last year, but he'll share the load with linebacker DeAndre Levy and fullback Chris Pressley.
  • The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises tuned into the Big Ten Network for coverage of Ohio State's practice on Tuesday. What did he see? Linebacker Tyler Moeller practiced with the first-team defense, reserve running back Brandon Saine isn't getting hit yet and Curtis Terry is working with the first-team offense at fullback. The Columbus Dispatch's Ken Gordon also watched practice from his couch and liked what he saw from reserve quarterback Joe Bauserman.
  • Cornerback James Scott didn't make Ohio State's 105-man roster for training camp, which seems a bit odd, The Columbus Dispatch's Gordon writes in his blog.
  • Kirk Ferentz still has the same coordinators at Iowa, but the rest of his coaching staff shuffled around quite a bit during the offseason, Andy Hamilton writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
  • Minnesota's freshmen are getting immediate opportunities to play at both wide receiver and along the offensive line, Marcus Fuller writes in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The line will have to be a group effort this season, as coach Phil Meyer experiments with different combinations, Kent Youngblood writes in The [Minneapolis] Star Tribune.
  • Quarterback Ben Chappell is running with Indiana's first-team offense, but Kellen Lewis looks to be closing the gap quickly. 
  • The Detroit Free Press' Shawn Windsor goes inside Michigan's first preseason practice under coach Rich Rodriguez.
  • The Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen has an extensive report from Illinois practice, including a breakdown of the team's wide receivers.
  • Chris Burke of The Diag blog released his preseason top 25. He's not too high on Georgia but has Wisconsin higher than most prognosticators.
  • Will Indiana retire James Hardy's number? No one has claimed it so far in preseason practice, The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens writes in his blog.
  • Man, I love these photo galleries from the Detroit Free Press. Here's one that chronicles Michigan State's top wide receivers of the last 30 years. Not surprisingly, Plaxico Burress is No. 1.
  • When Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio split the team into classes to sing the fight song earlier this week, the freshmen filled the stage while the crowd of seniors was sparse. Not surprisingly, Dantonio is looking for leadership from the younger players, Dave Dye writes in The Detroit News.
  • Yes, this story is about a punter. But at Wisconsin, both punter and placekicker are in the spotlight after the losses of two All-Big Ten players.
  • The Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries had some issues with my list of top Big Ten rivalries, but I'm not bitter. And besides, they followed up by putting together a list of the league's coolest rivalry trophies. Mmmm, bacon.
  • The Ohio State blog Eleven Warriors takes a look at the Buckeyes' projected starting offense and defense, complete with diagrams. Some good analysis here.