Six teams met with media members on the first day of interviews at Big Ten media days in Chicago. The coaches conducted press conferences. They joined their players in a ballroom for one-on-one sessions with reporters. Plenty of storylines were discussed.
A few of the noteworthy highlights are below:
>> Pat Fitzgerald took a moment during his opening comments to welcome the new coaches in the Big Ten to the league. Rutgers' Chris Ash. Minnesota's Tracy Claeys. Maryland's D.J. Durkin. ... A nice gesture. ... Only problem? Fitzgerald forgot Illinois' Lovie Smith. He apologized in a tweet quickly after his press conference.
>> Fitzgerald said the Wildcats have a bell in their weight room that guys can run over and ring when they set a new personal record during strength training. Said Fitzgerald: "That damn thing was purple when we started the offseason and now we've got to repaint it." More than 400 PRs, he said. This is the strongest Northwestern team Fitzgerald has ever had.
>> How important was the Boilermakers' 55-45 win over Nebraska last year? Said coach Darrell Hazell: "I thought that was a huge win for us. ... That lets them know that they can do it."
>> Former Husker assistant Ross Els spent six years as a linebackers coach at Ohio. Hazell coached Kent State for two seasons. So when it came time last offseason for Purdue to find a new defensive coordinator, several of Hazell's MAC contacts were passing on favorable reviews of Els. And now Els is at Purdue. Said Hazell: "I knew right away that he was the right guy, what we were looking for. He's excellent."
>> Some fans of Rutgers took offense to Michigan's "invasion" of their territory over the summer when the Wolverine staff hosted a satellite camp in New Jersey. But coach Chris Ash, a former Ohio State assistant, isn't ready to declare war against Michigan. "There's no rivalry with Michigan. Yet," Ash said.
The Scarlet Knights have much more work to do, according to Ash. But he'd like to see the day when his program's so successful and revered that everyone wants a piece of Rutgers. Said Ash: "(We want) to create rivalries with everybody that we play."
Rutgers doesn't have a trophy game yet. Ash said he wouldn't mind seeing one established.
>> Defensive tackle Darius Hamilton missed most of 2015 with a knee injury. He was 245 pounds back then. Now he's up to 286. Feeling good. ... He's also a huge One Direction fan, apparently.
Rutgers DT/huge One Direction fan Darius Hamilton made his pitch to the band to get back together at B1G media days. pic.twitter.com/YhUP3nqt6a— Austin Ward (@AWardESPN) July 25, 2016
>> James Franklin said the Nittany Lions have 85 players on scholarship. Finally. First time in his tenure. PSU had been facing scholarship reduction penalties, levied by the NCAA in 2013. Said Franklin: "I've spent the last couple of months going back and changing all of our practice schedules and everything that we're doing in terms of reps, the amount of time that we're out at practice, increasing the reps that we're having at practice because we had modified all those in the past."
>> Said Franklin: "Overall, I think this is an exciting and pivotal time for Penn State football." ... There was a sense of urgency about the Nittany Lions Monday. A breakthrough is coming, they hope.
>> Yes, quarterback Mitch Leidner is still in the league. It seems like he's been around forever. And he kinda has. The senior made his third appearance at Big Ten media days Monday. Coach Tracy Claeys joked that more people recognize Leidner than him.
But in all seriousness, Leidner is a veteran who means a lot to the Gophers, according to Claeys. "I'll tell you what, the way that kid competed last year through the injuries he had, I think it makes it easy for his teammates to get out there and follow him," Claeys said. "And this summer he's done a lot of things with the kids in smaller groups to get our team close."
Which is important. Because Claeys said Minnesota is better than it's ever been during his time with the program (he joined the staff as its defensive coordinator in 2011).
>> Defensive back Damarius Travis passed the know-your-fight-song test.
>> Lots of silliness from coach Jim Harbaugh — perhaps to deflect the attention away from the reality that the stage is set for he and the Wolverines to have a really good year. Talking about expectations? That's not Harbaugh's style, though he didn't necessarily downplay the hype. He just seemed to have more fun coming up with creative answers to questions about a soccer match at the Big House, and Michael Jordan being an honorary captain, and his cameo in a rap music video.
So often with Harbaugh, his antics are the show. The unpredictability of his words and his actions tend to captivate the masses.
The expectations were indeed brought up, though. Said Harbaugh: "We have big hopes. We've got big dreams. We've got lofty goals. And all those are achievable. And they have to be worked for. You can accomplish anything if the work is realized. And those things have to be earned."
>> All of the positions junior Jabrill Peppers could play full-time, according to Harbaugh: Cornerback, safety, nickel, linebacker, punt/kickoff returner, gunner, special teams blocker, slot receiver, fly sweep and reverse guy, running back and wildcat quarterback. Peppers, one of the league's biggest stars, is primarily a defensive back and returner — though he did log some offensive snaps for Michigan last season.
Said Harbaugh: "He's a very fiery guy. He is highly motivated and with the type of athleticism that he has, I truly believe he keeps working and keeps having the same intensity and focus that he's had and the seriousness about being a very good football player and student and all those things. He could explode into, I mean, a giant of a man."