Andrew Holleran / Photo editor
CHICAGO – Big Ten foes are stationed in State College, Pa., attempting to lure players away from Penn State football – that’s how Bill O’Brien is preparing for his first season as the Nittany Lion’s coach.
Of course, the opening sessions of Big Ten Media Days on Thursday in Chicago is a reminder that each Big Ten coach’s widely varying preparations for the upcoming college football season are well underway.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer provided updates for the Buckeyes’ roster, Michigan coach Brady Hoke called the Wolverines’ 2012 season “disappointing” despite a victory in the 2012 Sugar Bowl and both the Purdue and Illinois programs openly discussed their intent to recruit PSU football players.
Poaching Penn State
O’Brien’s Nittany Lions program, which was issued a $60 million fine, a four-year postseason ban and a reduction of 40 scholarships by the NCAA Monday, is now at risk for losing its top talent as players have been granted free passage to transfer to other programs.
While Big Ten coaches such as Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema, Hoke and Meyer said they would not actively recruit PSU players, Illinois coach Tim Beckman was forthright about his active recruitment of O’Brien’s squad.
Beckman said his program was on the ground in State College Wednesday and offered PSU players a chance to discuss a transfer to Illinois.
“We were in State College, but we did not go on campus,” Beckman said. “We went to two establishments outside campus and called some individuals and if they wanted to come by, it was their opportunity to come by.”
Beckman also said he briefly spoke with O’Brien and PSU athletic director Dave Joyner during a Thursday morning meeting in Chicago to discuss his recruitment of PSU players.
Purdue coach Danny Hope expressed his interest in recruiting current Nittany Lions players, saying, “as long as we’re compliant, we’re going to exercise every opportunity we can to enhance our own football team.”
O’Brien said that no players have informed him of their intent to transfer, but likened the current situation to professional football, adding that “it’s like NFL free agency without the rules.”
“(Big Ten coaches) can do what they want as long as they tell our compliance office that they’re contacting (PSU) kids, and it is what it is,” O’Brien said. “I don’t have anything to say on that.”
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany also chimed in on the debate about recruiting PSU players, saying he addressed the issue with the conference’s coaches in a Thursday morning meeting.
“I would hope they would take (the Thursday meeting) into consideration,” Delany said.
Ohio State roster update
Meyer, appearing at his first-ever Big Ten Media Days conference, took to the podium and said that redshirt senior Jake Stoneburner and redshirt senior offensive lineman Jack Mewhort have not been reinstated – yet.
Stoneburner and Mewhort were arrested June 2 for obstructing official business. According to a police report from the Shawnee Hills (Ohio) Police Department, police said they spotted Stoneburner, Mewhort and a third person, Austin Barnard, urinating on what appeared to be an early childhood education school called The Oxford School near the Bogey Inn in Dublin, Ohio. After shining a bright light, police said the three suspects ran away.
Police said they found Stoneburner and Barnard crouched between cars while Mewhort fled to a nearby wooded area before turning himself in after threatening to use a police dog.
“(Stoneburner and Mewhort) are actively working out,” Meyer said. “They have to fulfill their penance or obligation that we’ve asked them to do.”
Stoneburner and Mewhort have both had to pay for summer classes, Meyer said, adding that the players had committed a “very expensive mistake.”
“They’re doing what they’re supposed to do,” Meyer said. “The decision won’t be made until we get to training camp. But, as of now, they’ll be reporting to training camp a week from Friday.”
With regard to Storm Klein, who was dismissed from the Buckeyes July 7 after being arrested for domestic violence and assault, Meyer said he could choose to “reevaluate” that situation.
“Storm has a good reputation. He has good grades, good student,” Meyer said during a breakout session. “Good guy. Made a severe violation. Made it clear from day one, my first meeting, was very clear about what we expect and it’s non-negotiable. And he understood, he knew it.”
The team up north’s “disappointing” season
Coming off a 2011 campaign that saw OSU football finish with a 6-7 record, including a 24-17 loss to Florida in the 2012 Gator Bowl, Buckeyes fans would probably having a hard time seeing reigning Sugar Bowl champion Michigan as a sympathetic program. Be that as it may, Hoke said Michigan’s 2011 campaign didn’t meet expectations.
“We had a disappointing year a year ago when you do not win the Big Ten championship,” Hoke said. “And at Michigan we’ve not won that championship since 2004. So, we have direct goals ahead of us.”