Big Ten’s most compelling offseason storylines, from Penn State’s Joe Moorhead to Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck
Plenty has changed in the Big Ten since the league had three teams vying for spots in the College Football Playoff, highlighted by the additions of three new head coaches and several high-profile coordinator hires.
Ohio State got the Big Ten’s lone playoff bid a year ago and returned much of its core for the 2017 season. Urban Meyer also made a splash by hiring former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson to coordinate an offense that stagnated last season. Wilson had a reputation for being one of the nation’s most innovative offensive minds with an attack that was both bruising and efficient.
Minnesota and Purdue got high marks for their additions of P.J. Fleck and Jeff Brohm, respectively. The Golden Gophers brought in Fleck to replace Tracy Claeys after a bizarre chain of events that saw Claeys support a player boycott over the suspension of 10 players in connection with sexual assault allegations. Minnesota went 11-8 under Claeys, including a 9-4 mark and a Holiday Bowl win last season.
Purdue had lost its way under former coach Darrell Hazell, but the Boilermakers sought out some of the nation’s best offensive coaches to fill the position. Brohm got the nod after he guided a Western Kentucky that ranked among the nation’s most explosive all three seasons under his watch.
Minnesota’s Tracy Claeys went 9-4 in his lone season before he was fired for supporting a player boycott. Rising coaching star P.J. Fleck was hired shortly after to guide the Golden Gophers program. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik)
Other Big Ten programs maintained a steady ship at the top but underwent key changes with their personnel. Nebraska is one good example as it moved on from four-year starting quarterback Tommy Armstrong. Maryland and Iowa are still looking for new starters, while Michigan could have a choice to make with Brandon Peters pushing Wilton Speight.
Michigan State got no relief from a forgettable 3-9 season with four troubling sexual allegations and the departure of two players to transfers. Coach Mark Dantonio is attempting to push his program forward through troubled waters but seems to encounter a new issue every day. In the process, the Spartans have slipped well off the pace set by Big Ten East division powers Michigan, Ohio State and Penn State.
At Penn State, coach James Franklin benefited from a lack of offseason change, which was welcome after losing his offensive and defensive coordinators and offensive line coach following the 2015 season. Joe Moorhead will be back to guide a Nittany Lions offense on the upswing after it averaged 37.6 points per game, up from 23.2 points in 2015.
We’ll take a quick look at all those changes and plenty more must-know offseason storylines below.