Bill Lynch, along with all other Big Ten head coaches, spoke at the Big Ten media days. As always, it's worthwhile to read the whole thing, but here are some highlights:
We have 35 upperclassmen, 17 scholarship seniors, and 18 scholarship juniors. So we have guys that have played a lot of football and understand what it takes, and they certainly have brought the young guys along through our winter program, spring practice, and I know this summer they've worked on their own. I think that's really key. I think any good football team goes the way your leadership and your upperclassmen play, particularly your seniors. We're looking forward to big years from all those guys.
I think another thing that's important about this football team, as we know in the Big Ten you've got to be good up front if you're going win.
We have now a situation with our offensive line, Jeff, our sports information director, shared that we have 84 returning starts in our offensive line, which is quite a few in college football today.
On position changes:
And I think the other thing that I like about this team is they're all about understanding their role. I think it's a unique group that whatever they can do to help the football team they're going to do, and I think Ray Fisher is a perfect example. Here's a guy that threw up some big numbers as a wide out, but in all honesty he was one that came into our defensive coaches at the end of the season and talked about moving over to defense and playing corner. So it certainly wasn't something we had to twist his arm to do. Jarrod Smith as an offensive lineman had a couple starts last year. We felt like we needed some depth inside on defense. And he's a 300-pound kid that's got great natural strength and a tough guy. We asked him to make the move, and he said ‘whatever can help the team.’ As a result, I think it's going to help him.
On offensive scheme:
We just felt like we needed that to get more multiple. With Ben Chappell being our quarterback, we knew staying in the spread every snap wasn't in our best interest. So we looked around, and I think the first thing we wanted to do, we wanted to be able to run the football better downhill running. That's kind of a cliché, but in the spread, a lot of things are lateral.
We wanted to be able to run some power football where we could have some different blocking schemes up front instead of being kind of a total zone team, and we felt the development of our offensive line. I say that, and we've got to prove it in the fall, but I really think we've made great advances there because the kids have worked so hard. We felt like we could run that kind of offense.
The other thing we looked at it - and I think we all know how important big plays are in football - you've got to make some big plays offensively, and you have to eliminate them on defense. Well, the one thing we were missing were some big plays in the passing game. We had gotten a little bit spoiled for a couple years because we had a big receiver in James Hardy where we could kind of throw jump balls up there and he could make some plays. We needed to create some.
So we felt like getting to a downhill running game gives us a chance to have some play action pass where we could get it down the field that way. I think that's the biggest thing is the ability to run the ball a little bit in a different scheme and get play action pass. I think it fits our personnel.
On the Virginia matchup:
Well, what happened with our schedule this year is we had a home game with South Florida, and they had an opportunity, and this was late in the spring -- I can't remember exactly where it fell. But they had an opportunity to start a series with Florida State. You can see from their standpoint that was a great opportunity. And anymore in contracts today you can get out of them if you're willing to pay some money. So we were able to move their game down the road. So that opened up a game for us.
It was very difficult for us to find another home game that was suitable at that point. So it was a little bit -- it generally doesn't happen that way. The other thing is we would like to get where we're playing a good BCS school as one of our nonconference games, and we'll like to get into a rhythm at some point where we get into home and home with that school.
And trying to find schools that are similar to Indiana and what we do from not only being a BCS school, but academically and all that.
Virginia was open, so Virginia was a great opportunity. We've got them home and home. But in order to make it work, we had to go there. So that's really how that came about. We certainly would like to, as we go forward, have seven home games and five on the road. But it was one of those quirks as a result of the South Florida situation that we're going on the road for that sixth game.
Much more tomorrow.