Big Ten football: New year, new deal
There is only one new head coach in the Big Ten this season, but a number of programs have added new coordinators.
Scott Frost, who quarterbacked Nebraska to a 24-2 record in 1996 and 1997, is back in Lincoln after leading Central Florida to a 12-0 record and a Peach Bowl win over Auburn last season.
He brought his entire staff with him from Orlando, including offensive coordinator Troy Walters and defensive coordinator Erik Chinander, a former Iowa offensive lineman who first worked with Frost at Oregon.
Elsewhere, Ohio State and Rutgers have newly-defined roles for offensive and defensive coordinators.
In Columbus, interim coach and offensive coordinator Ryan Day has assumed play-calling duties while former Washington State defensive coordinator Alex Grinch now shares that role with Greg Schiano.
In Piscataway, John McNulty returns following nine years in the NFL as the Scarlet Knights’ offensive coordinator while Jay Niemann shares defensive coordinator duties with former Indiana safeties coach Noah Joseph after Bill Busch left for a position at LSU.
Illinois, Maryland, Penn State and Purdue have new offensive coordinators.
Former Arizona coordinator Rod Smith is now at Illinois, former LSU coach and now interim coach Matt Canada will call plays at Maryland while sharing coordinator duties with receivers coach Chris Beatty. Tight ends coach Ricky Raline replaces new Mississippi State coach Joe Moorhead at Penn State and wide receivers assistant JaMarcus Shephard shares the coordinator title at Purdue with Brian Brohm.
At Michigan, coach Jim Harbaugh will assume offensive coordinator duties after Tim Drevno left to become the running backs coach at USC.
On defense, Mike Tressel is the sole coordinator at Michigan State after Harlon Barnett left for the same job at Florida State.
The biggest change in college rules this year allows kickoffs to become a touchback to the 25-yard line if the receiving team signals for a fair catch inside its own 25.
The objective is reduce injury potential on kick returns.
Other new rules for this year include:
-- A new package of rules designed to make it easier to understand blocking below the waist, requiring all blocks to made from the front other than those by interior linemen and not allowing the offense to block below the waist more than five yards from the line of scrimmage.
-- Play clocks will be set to 40 seconds following touchdowns and following kickoffs to resume play more quickly.
Ten seconds will be run off the clock when an instant replay overturns a ruling on the field with less than one minute remaining in either half when the correct call would have not stopped the game clock.
Northwestern and Minnesota raised the facilities battle in the West Division, opening new football facilities prior to the start of this season.
The Wildcats are now training in a new $260 million facility which sits on the shores of Lake Michigan on the Evanston campus, bringing practice facilities to campus rather than having players trek back and forth to athletic facilities near Ryan Field, 1.5 miles away.
The Golden Gophers facility is part of a $166 million project which also houses Minnesota’s basketball programs and includes academic and nutrition centers in addition to strength and conditioning and practice space.
Iowa and Purdue have opened new facilities in recent years and construction is underway on a new football performance facility at Illinois.