Ohio State Introduces Urban Meyer

Big Ten spring storylines


Thanks in large part to the biggest “free-agent signing” in college last year, Wisconsin staked its claim to a win in the first-ever Big Ten championship game.  With Russell Wilson one-and-done in Madison, however, the conference generally and the Leaders (chuckle) division specifically are up for grabs yet again.

The only certainty for the 2012 race to Indianapolis?  Ohio State won’t be involved, thanks to its well-publicized NCAA issues.

The story of the conference headed into the spring is, of course, a pair of newcomers.  Bill O’Brien takes over a Penn State football program tainted by the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal, while Urban Meyer returns to his home-state Buckeyes after hitting the pause button on his coaching career following the 2010 season.

Below are a handful of Big Ten storylines we’ll pay at least some attention to this spring:

Leg up in the Legends?
While Michigan State claimed the division’s spot in the first Big Ten title game, it will likely be its in-state rival that will carry the frontrunner tag heading into the upcoming season.  And why not?  All Brady Hoke did in his first year at Michigan was lead the Wolverines to the most wins (11) since 2006, taking an immense first step in erasing the stench left behind by the RichRod regime.  Beginning in the spring, though, Hoke must find and identify new playmakers at the wide receiver position.  Additionally, Denard Robinson must find a way to reduce his turnovers, although a second year in the same system could very well alleviate that issue on its own.  Fortunately — and by “fortunately” I mean “get down and thank the Good Lord Greg Robinson is not around” — the defense is in the very capable hands of Greg Mattison and, even with some attrition in the trenches, should be a strength of the 2012 edition of the Wolverines.

Monumental change in Happy Valley
For the first time since Lyndon Baines Johnson was sitting in Oval Office, a head coach not named Joe Paterno will direct the Nittany Lions football program through spring drills.  Charged with the task of replacing a coaching legend is Bill O’Brien, who will not only be taking over a program rocked by scandal over the past several months, but will be a head coach for the first time at any level of football.  With O’Brien at the helm, one will actually watch the Nittany Lions field a (gasp!) modern style of offense, replete with passing and excitement and the like.  While keeping some continuity on the defensive side of the ball by retaining Larry Johnson Sr. cannot be understated, all eyes in the spring will be on the number of footballs piercing the Happy Valley air.  Just who will be doing the majority of the flinging remains to be seen; Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden will once again battle for the starting job, with Paul Jones possibly getting himself into the mix as well.  While that crucial battle will begin in the spring, it likely won’t be finished until deep into summer camp.

(Insert “Urban development/renewal” pun here)
Penn State’s not the only Big Ten school preparing to cannonball into 21st century offensive football.  Urban Meyer will bring his version of the spread offense to the Buckeyes, implementing the new system after bringing an SEC mindset to the recruiting game.  Unlike the Nittany Lions, however, there is no question who will be the new offense’s triggerman as true sophomore-to-be Braxton Miller has all of the tools to flourish under the tutelage of Meyer and his offensive coaching staff.  Certainly there are other questions that need answered — filling holes on the offensive line chief among them — and there’s no postseason to play for, but the foundation laid by Meyer & Company this spring will certainly benefit the program in 2013 and beyond.  Provided another sabbatical is not in the offing, of course.

Uncertainty under center
Just because Wisconsin and Michigan State met in the first Big Ten title doesn’t make them the favorites for a return engagement in the second.  A big reason why?  Replacing the talent and experience lost at the quarterback position.  The Badgers, of course, will be looking for a replacement for Russell Wilson, and could very well turn its attention to the East Coast yet again for a QB solution; UW is reportedly one of the handful of schools Danny O’Brien is considering as he transfers from Maryland.  The Spartans, on the other hand, will definitely look from within for a replacement for Kirk Cousins, who started the past three seasons and was widely considered MSU’s heart and soul.  Barring an unexpected development, Andrew Maxwell,  a four-star member of the Spartans’ 2009 recruiting class, is Cousins’ heir apparent.  Whether he’s ready for his new, more visible role remains to be seen.

Report: Maryland plan to fire Randy Edsall following Ohio State game

COLLEGE PARK, MD - OCTOBER 03:  Head coach Randy Edsall of the Maryland Terrapins looks on from the sidelines during the second half of their 28-0 loss to the Michigan Wolverines at Byrd Stadium on October 3, 2015 in College Park, Maryland.  (Photo by Rob Carr/Getty Images)
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If one report is accurate, this weekend’s game against Ohio State will be Randy Edsall‘s last at Maryland.

Citing multiple sources close to the situation, the 247Sports.com website InsideMDSports.com is reporting that Edsall “is unlikely to survive as Maryland’s football coach” beyond this Saturday’s game against OSU.  The site writes that, “[b]arring an unexpected last-minute reversal, Maryland will part ways with Edsall when the floundering Terps enter their mid-season bye week.”

Just this past June, Edsall was on the receiving end of a three-year contract extension from the school as the Terps were coming off a 7-6 campaign in their first season in the Big Ten. This year, however, they’re gotten off to a 2-3 start, including losses the past two games to West Virginia and Michigan by a combined score of 73-6.

Edsall is in the midst of his fifth season in College Park, and the overall results have been decidedly disappointing. Under Edsall’s direction, the Terps have gone 22-33 overall and 10-23 in conference play (6-18 in ACC, 4-5 in Big Ten). Edsall is 0-11 vs. ranked teams in that span.

This is far from the first time Edsall has been rumored to be on the hot seat, but this is by far the closest he’s come to the coaching gallows.

As for the financial ramifications of a dismissal? That new deal signed earlier this year ensured that the hit the school would absorb would be, relatively speaking, mild. From the report:

Edsall’s contract was extended for three years in June — a move aimed at stabilizing his public standing, especially with high school recruits — but just $500,000 of the $7.5 million was guaranteed money; by firing Edsall before his original deal ends Jan. 15, 2017, the school will have to pay him for the remainder of this season and an additional $2.6 million: $2.1 million for next year’s salary and that half-million buyout.

High-ankle sprain and all, SDSU RB D.J. Pumphrey will travel with team

CHAPEL HILL, NC - SEPTEMBER 06: Donnel Pumphrey #19 of the San Diego State Aztecs celebrates following a 12-yard touchdown during their game against the North Carolina Tar Heels on September 6, 2014 at Kenan Stadium in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo by Lance King/Getty Images)
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What’s known is that D.J. Pumphrey will be with his teammates this weekend. What’s unknown is if he’ll join them on the field.

The star San Diego State running back sustained a high-ankle sprain in the Week 5 win over Fresno State. Originally, he was expected to be out for a period of 2-4 weeks.

However, it appears the injury isn’t as bad as originally thought as Pumphrey will travel with the team to Saturday’s game against Hawaii. Pumphrey even took nearly two dozen snaps with the scout team during Wednesday’s practice.

He is expected to be a game-time decision for the Mountain West game.

“He says he’s about 90 percent. That’s his estimation,” head coach Rocky Long said. “If he goes and does another 25 reps [with the scout team Thursday], then he will be cleared to play. So he will be with us in Hawaii. Whether he plays or not has yet to be determined. I assume he will be cleared to play tomorrow.”

However, even if he’s cleared, it’ll be up to Long and his offensive coordinator, Jeff Horton, to decide whether he plays.

Pumphrey currently leads the Aztecs with 429 yards rushing and has scored all four of SDSU’s rushing touchdowns. Last season, he finished fourth nationally with 1,867 yards, while his 20 touchdowns on the ground were ninth.