Aug. 1 is the first day high school senior football prospects can receive official, written scholarship offers. College coaching staffs have gotten extremely creative in how they deliver those offers, and many prospects have taken to social media to show them off.
Here's a look at some of the more creative and unique offers that have gone out.
East Carolina stuck with the pirate theme and sent prospects scrolls with burnt edges and all.
— ECU Football (@ECUPiratesFB) August 1, 2017
Five-star defensive end Micah Parsons tweeted out his offer from Nebraska that was personalized to him with his picture on it.
— BLESSEDMVP (@Micah_parsons23) August 1, 2017
Ohio State commit Teradja Mitchell tweeted that he will be signing in December during the early signing period.
Can't wait to sign in December =Ý .. pic.twitter.com/FM7ZXJEMnI
(@WhosThatNumber7) August 1, 2017
Thomas Booker, an uncommitted ESPN 300 prospect, tweeted out multiple scholarship offers, including this one from Penn State.
— Thomas Booker (@TheThomasBooker) August 1, 2017
Defensive tackle Jordan Davis received an offer from Georgia.
— Jordan Davis< (@jlpdavis99) August 1, 2017
Texas commit Jalen Green's offer emphasized the tradition the Longhorns have and the prowess the program holds.
It's official > pic.twitter.com/W8TgTX5siG
— Jay Green = (@jaygreen__) August 1, 2017
ESPN 300 tight end Luke Ford is one of the top uncommitted prospects left, and he holds an official offer from Alabama that included a letter from coach Nick Saban.
Roll Tide Roll! pic.twitter.com/2JkBYv8aYr
— L U K E F O R D (@lukeredx97) August 1, 2017
Defensive end Xavier Thomas is the No. 2-ranked prospect overall and has committed to Clemson. The Tigers stamped an "Offer Accepted" statement on his offer.
— Xavier Thomas 1ã9ã (@atxlete) August 1, 2017
And finally, Oklahoma's official offer to ESPN 300 defensive back C.J. Smith asks some questions of the prospect.
It's official blessing on blessing =O<þ pic.twitter.com/MqIzUIuMU7
— Cj Smith (@Cj_Csmith) August 1, 2017
This year, the end of summer came sooner than usual for most of college football. As one might expect, not everyone is happy about that.
If they haven't already begun training, most programs will be taking the field for training camp Monday, before the calendar flips to August. The early start comes as an unintended consequence of new NCAA rules banning teams from holding two-a-day practice sessions in the name of student-athlete welfare. The number of practices each team is allowed to hold stayed steady at 29, but after being stripped of the power to squeeze a couple of them into one day, most schools have extended the usual four-week training camps to five this season.
"I don't like it," Utah coach Kyle Whittingham said. "... You have to bring them in earlier to get in all of your practices. It's five solid weeks now from when they report to when they play. That's a long time. The NFL at least breaks things up with the preseason games, but five weeks without playing a game, that's a grind. You've got to be really careful how you structure it and make sure you keep it fresh."
Coaches seem to overwhelmingly share Whittingham's disappointment in the rule change made this spring. While eliminating two-a-day practices could theoretically reduce injuries, in practice the new method might be more of a step backward than forward where student-athlete health and free time are concerned. The NCAA is currently grappling with how to best address both of these issues.
August is the most injury-riddled month of the year, NCAA chief medical officer Brian Hainline told the Associated Press earlier this month. More than half of football's concussions take place in preseason camp, and a larger-than-average number of overuse- and cardio stress-related injuries occur during the dog days of camp. Hainline said there was preliminary data and "consensus in the room" that two-a-days were a major culprit in creating health issues among student-athletes.
Players and coaches using anecdotal evidence aren't so sure. The days of grueling, four-hour double sessions in full pads are long gone. If teams used two-a-days at all in recent years, they typically served as extended teaching sessions and walk-throughs with players wearing fewer pads, and featured little to no contact.
"Honestly, the two-a-days were easier than the one-a-days," Minnesota running back Rodney Smith said.
Iowa's Kirk Ferentz and Kansas State's Bill Snyder -- as old-school of a combination as there is in college football -- both expressed some concerns about getting rid of the summer rite of passage, but not for the stereotypical reasons. Ferentz said in the spring that his players were largely against the change because it shortened summer. Snyder told reporters that the Wildcats won't use all 29 of their practices this year because if they did, there would be no break between summer school and training camp for players to leave campus and visit their families.
"Lengthening the training camp and having people start earlier is the exact opposite of what we've been doing in every other area of these guys' lives," Stanford's David Shaw said. "Creating less time, not creating more time, with the sport."
The change creates new challenges for coaches as well. As Whittingham acknowledged, keeping players engaged for five weeks is not easy. Several coaches said they planned to rework the pace of their camps to keep things from going stale, ensuring their teams are mentally fresh heading into their season openers.
"It's not even taking away summer that's the concern; it's just the length of training camp," said Rutgers second-year coach Chris Ash. "It's just a long time. At a day and age when player safety is at the forefront of what we do, lengthening training camp, I think, goes against that. We've got do deal with it, but I hope it's something the NCAA goes back and revisits next year and that we have more dialogue and discussion about."
Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said the coaches would have a chance to voice their opinions. He said the rules were made with student welfare in mind, and the blowback is just a part of working out the kinks in an active legislative process.
"Everybody is concerned about health and welfare and time demands. It's a balancing act," Delany said. "It's compromise. It's toothpaste. When you push this part here, it has an effect over here."
The compromise might come through shrinking the overall number of practices that teams can hold before starting the season. The number currently allowed, 29, is not the result of a consensus that it takes that many practices to properly prepare a team for the season. Some coaches believe that it's more than needed, given the amount of time players spend honing their craft during the summer. Purdue coach Jeff Brohm said his teams spend far less time simply getting into shape than they did a generation ago, when he was playing quarterback at Louisville.
"Nowadays the kids are here all summer long working out and in school," Brohm said. "When I played, I never worked that hard. I don't know if I could. We haven't had two-a-days for the last few years."
Brohm, who coached at Western Kentucky before this season, said his teams didn't use all 29 of their practices. He plans to keep the same four-week schedule for his first camp at Purdue. Most coaches are wary of giving an opponent any type of edge by using less than the maximum time they're allotted leading up to the season, but they largely agree that they would be fine with fewer practices if everyone else was held to the same limit.
Holding fewer practices -- rather than simply adding more time to complete the same number of workouts, reps and hits -- seems like a better way to address both the health and time-on-task concerns for all involved in college football. It appears the rules might be headed in that direction, even if takes a little longer than necessary to get there.
Michigan won 10 football games last season by an average of 34.6 points per game, but the team's three losses are still sticking with coach Jim Harbaugh and his players. After losing three of the last four games by an average of 1.6 points, Harbaugh is focused on improving his team and eliminating that sour taste from such close losses.
"I'm avoiding all fun stuff," Harbaugh said. "Concentrating on preparing ourselves for the season, avoiding all fun things. We lost three of four games last year, so two by one point and one by three points in overtime, so I didn't like that feeling, and that's motivated us to pour more time into the football team and our jobs, and give more effort."
Michigan lost to Iowa 14-13, fell to Ohio State 30-27 in double overtime after quarterback J.T. Barrett dove forward to secure a fourth down by inches, and lost to Florida State 33-32 in the Orange Bowl.
Those losses have stuck with Harbaugh, so fun has become secondary. That philosophy is a departure from what his tenure at Michigan has been so far, which has included climbing trees with recruits, riding go-karts with current defensive tackle Aubrey Solomon, taking a trip to Rome and throwing out the first pitch at baseball games, among other things.
The coaches hope that mentality spills over to the players and that the feeling of losing can motivate them for camp and the upcoming season.
"I hope they didn't like losing those ballgames, because they won a lot of ballgames," Harbaugh said. "They won nine straight games. There's nothing better than the high-five after a ballgame. That feeling compared to the one where you're losing a game in overtime by one point, much better to get the high-five."
The players are still college kids and aren't completely avoiding anything fun, but they understand what Harbaugh means and what he's looking for out of the team heading into fall camp.
"When it comes to football, we want to be focused as much as possible while having fun playing the game we love," linebacker Mike McCray said. "That's the fun that Harbaugh wants us to have, is going out every day and getting better and competing, which is fun for us."
The Michigan players and Harbaugh understand the lofty expectations ahead of them. The Wolverines have yet to make it to a Big Ten title game or the College Football Playoff, and the fan base is itching for a championship.
The first step to getting back to the top will happen when the players step on the practice field for fall camp with that bitter taste of losing still fresh in their minds.
"I think the guys on our team have learned that," Harbaugh said. "I think [the losses] have made things a little hotter, a little more competitive in spring practice and summer conditioning. We'll find out where their mindset is next Monday when they start practice."
All three committed to Penn State in 2013 and signed the following February, weeks after an effervescent new coach named James Franklin took over. They don't remember the gloomy predictions for the program immediately after the sanctions came down:
Worse than the death penalty ...
Won't recover until 2020 or 2022, at the earliest ...
May never be the same ...
Five years and one day later, the players arrived at Big Ten media days to represent the defending league champion. Following a shocking run to the conference title, Penn State will enter the 2017 season as a top-10 team and a College Football Playoff candidate.
"They've gotten to the other side," Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany said Monday.
Faster than anyone expected.
"When you tell me about that [forecast] -- 2020, 2022 -- when I hear that, it epitomizes what Penn State is about," Cabinda told ESPN.com on Monday. "What other university has something like this happen where hundreds of football alumni fly in just to come and talk to the team and tell [players], 'Hey, this is where you need to be.' They're done, their time is over, they don't owe us anything. But they'll take the time, buy a flight, come and talk to every senior, every junior, every sophomore, every freshman, and say, 'Stay here. This is where you need to be.'
"That's powerful, it really is. That shows the resiliency this place has."
On Monday, Delany acknowledged the "difficult, difficult road" Penn State traversed following the Jerry Sandusky child sexual abuse scandal and the ensuing NCAA penalties. He said Penn State faced challenges he had never seen in his administrative career -- far beyond a postseason ban and scholarship losses. He praised the school for making changes and complying with requirements set forth. He described Penn State's culture, which NCAA president Mark Emmert eviscerated while announcing the sanctions, as "one of the great ones in the country."
"Maybe the least important [thing] is how good their football team is," Delany said. "But their football team is now healthy."
After an ahead-of-schedule title run, Penn State could be positioned to match or even exceed last year’s performance. The Nittany Lions return arguably college football's most exciting backfield with running back Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley, who will again operate for innovative playcaller Joe Moorhead.
Wide receiver Chris Godwin, king of the 50-50 ball, departed for the NFL, but Penn State should have more depth to go along with the springy Gesicki at tight end. The offensive line, impacted more by the sanctions than any other position group, not merely could be improved but "has a chance to be special," Franklin said Monday. The defense has some potential holes but brings back key pieces like Cabinda at linebacker and Allen at safety.
There's something else, too. As Penn State moves further from the most turbulent stretch in its history, it establishes more stability under Franklin, who signed the entire roster other than the fifth-year players. Franklin inherited Joe Paterno's last recruits as well as the players signed by Bill O'Brien.
"They faced three different coaches and three different mindsets and three different goals," Allen said of his former teammates. "That's like someone that’s been through three religions: [Islam], Christianity and Buddhism. You can't get the same message across. Now that we all understand one message and Coach Franklin's goals, we can teach it to everyone else."
Sitting in a conference room Monday, Allen recalled the criticism he received from people back home when he committed to Penn State. The program was barely a year into the sanctions, and the prospect of playing in a bowl game -- much less the Big Ten championship -- seemed far away.
The path seniors like Allen have taken -- committing to a program with an uncertain future, slogging through two middling seasons, breaking through last fall -- makes it easier for Franklin to motivate.
"They've seen both spectrums," Franklin said. "If you're a kid and you go somewhere and all you've had is success, people patting you on the back, and then you hit the bottom, that's hard to deal with. Where if you've had to earn it, the way we have, you appreciate it more, you respect it more and you can really see both perspectives."
Penn State had to earn wins in close games, a problem early in Franklin's tenure. While Penn State’s 24-21 win over Ohio State -- fueled by a 17-0 surge in the fourth quarter -- provided evidence of what the team could achieve, the swing game came two weeks earlier, with less national fanfare, as Penn State outlasted Minnesota in overtime.
"If we don't come back against Minnesota," Gesicki said, "the Ohio State game, honestly, doesn't have as much meaning."
Penn State won its final five regular-season games by an average of 28.2 points before rallying to beat Wisconsin and win just its first Big Ten championship since 2008 and its fourth since joining the conference.
"After winning this year, we truly realized what Happy Valley is," Cabinda said. "People are going to work with smiles on their faces every day. It really is, no exaggeration, just brighter. Everything's just better. People are happier."
Added Gesicki: "They were just waiting for it to come back."
But the forecast in college football, like in central Pennsylvania, can change in an instant. A Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl appearance solidified success for a program that was not supposed to appear on the national radar for several more years. But the way the Rose Bowl went -- Penn State was down 13, then up 15 following a 28-point third quarter, but allowed 10 points in the final 80 seconds of a 52-49 loss to USC -- left players unfulfilled. Allen said reaching such a stage without winning only makes players want to return more.
The shock value of Penn State's season made the wild swings throughout the fall more pronounced. A repeat in 2017 would be less surprising but more validating, proof that Penn State will be a factor for years to come.
"For who we want to be, the programs we're competing with, they've been having the types of years like we had last year for a number of years," Franklin said. "For us to put another really good year together and be part of the conversation is critical."
Ohio State's Larry Johnson has a full library of former players at his disposal to use to convince top recruits that he can turn them from raw talent into college football’s next great defensive lineman.
Heading into his 22nd straight season coaching defensive linemen in the Big Ten, Johnson has produced six first-round draft picks (including Courtney Brown being the No. 1 overall selection in 2000), seven first-team All-Americans and more Big Ten defensive players of the year than any other coach in the past quarter century. His current roster in Columbus is full of players who could join at least one of those lists.
He can walk into a living room or a high school, sit down across from some freakishly large and athletic 18-year-old and say, ‘Hey, kid, how would you like to be the next Tamba Hali? Or Joey Bosa? Or Tyquan Lewis?’ It seems like a slam-dunk sales pitch, and Johnson says there’s no chance he would ever use it.
“I’m never going to do that,” Johnson said. “I don’t want two of the same guy.”
Johnson has built one of the country’s scariest defensive fronts in the four years since he left Penn State to join Urban Meyer in Columbus. The Buckeyes’ line is big, athletic and overflowing with potential star power. It may be the most important piece to what Ohio State is hoping will be another run at a national championship in 2017. And while much of the talk heading into the fall will be about the remarkable depth stockpiled in that section of the depth chart, Johnson says what sets this group apart is its diversity.
Stockpiling is a scoffed-at term in the recruiting offices in Columbus. Why, Johnson asks, fill the roster with three carbon copies of a great athlete waiting for their turn to fill in for the starter when you can find three different athletes who all have unique skills that he can use now?
“Depth helps,” he said. “You want to have the depth to play a lot of guys, but the most important thing is getting a lot of different pieces and getting them all to fit together to take advantage of their skill set.”
The need for diversity on the defensive line started to become more pressing a little more than a decade ago, around the time that Johnson was helping Hali terrorize quarterbacks in State College. At that time, the goal for most defensive line coaches was to find one dominant pass rusher and set him up to do as much damage as possible. Johnson noticed offenses were evolving to find more sophisticated ways to eliminate that one talented player. He needed more weapons in the arsenal to respond to double-teams, chip blocks and quicker three-step drops.
Ohio State’s current line was put together with that in mind. Everyone brings something a little bit different to the equation. Returning Big Ten defensive player of the year Tyquan Lewis is “a horse” and as good on a run-stopper as Johnson has seen, he says. Fellow defensive end Sam Hubbard can keep quarterbacks guessing by dropping into coverage or rushing the passer with equal efficiency. Jalyn Holmes is a “wild card” at 270 pounds who can power his way past offensive linemen at several different positions. The list goes on.
Instead of collecting talent by selling them the idea of taking over for one of his current All-Americans, Johnson said that he recruited his players by identifying a specific strength and showing them how he would develop it further. That approached has landed the Buckeyes at least one five-star defensive line recruit in each of the past two years. Two more -- Taron Vincent and Brenton Cox -- are expected to sign with the 2018 recruiting class.
Once they arrive on campus, construction continues by getting the best athletes as close to the ball as their size will allow. Johnson wants as much natural speed as he can get without sacrificing the player’s ability to hold his own physically. So a 270-pound, highly touted defensive end prospect like Dre'Mont Jones quickly becomes a 295-pound defensive tackle so he can slide down a couple feet closer to the snap. Jones, a redshirt sophomore, is now the Buckeye’s likely starter at the three-technique spot that Johnson thinks is the most important piece in a dominant, modern-day pass rush.
“That’s the guy that’s going to get most of the one-on-one matchups,” he said. “That guy has to be a dynamite pass rusher.”
Jones’ competition for reps at that spot comes from Jashon Cornell and Malik Barrow, who both have added 20 pounds since arriving in Columbus. Cornell also started his career as a defensive end prospect, and Barrow was an explosive defensive tackle out of the IMG Academy in Bradenton, Florida.
Of course, there is a fine balance between bulking up your athletes to move them closer to the ball and packing on so much weight that it negates their athleticism. Johnson said his players all have body fat targets and jump on a scale for weigh-ins with strength coach Mickey Marotti every day to make sure they’re toeing that line without stepping past it.
Moving players into different spots keeps a crowded defensive line room happy by giving them all a role, Johnson said. It also keeps them fresh. Lewis managed to earn his Big Ten lineman of the year accolades by racking up eight sacks and 10.5 tackles for loss despite (or perhaps because of) playing only 42-45 snaps per game.
Ohio State’s coaching staff has found creative ways to keep their stars fresh and to get their increasingly deep and diverse group of talents onto the field. Last season they assembled a pass rush package that featured four defensive ends across the line of scrimmage. This year they’re looking for ways to add a fifth.
Good luck to the coaching staffs scheming to stop them. Johnson said that in his two-plus decades of coaching, he’s never had a defensive line with such a wide variety of athletic abilities. All five of them will be talented. And, more importantly, all five of them will be different.
CHICAGO -- It's the Big Ten's turn at the mic. All 14 of the league's teams will be descending on the Windy City to fill up the last vestiges of the offseason with some hot air.
Practice will return a week from Monday. Before then, there are plenty of questions to ask and topics to be discussed. What are some of the more prevalent storylines that are likely to dominate the conversation in Chicago this week? We're glad you asked ...
1. Ohio State is back with a vengeance. Urban Meyer has by and large stuck to the life-balance promises he made to his family when he returned to Ohio and to coaching six years ago. After suffering the most embarrassing loss of his career (a 31-0 shutout to Clemson in the College Football Playoff semifinal), will some of the uber-intense, blood-pressure-raising edge that helped him become one of the sport's top coaches start to return?
The Buckeyes' offense has certainly made clear its plans to ratchet up the intensity. Ohio State hired former Indiana coach Kevin Wilson as its offensive coordinator to help upgrade an attack that had trouble pushing deep downfield at times in 2016. Meyer has promised to fix the passing game this offseason. If Ohio State can make a jump there, and its loaded defensive front can live up to the billing, it will continue to receive in the coming days another run at a national championship is possible.
2. Who is No. 2? By all accounts Ohio State is the prohibitive favorite to win the Big Ten this year after falling short in 2016. There are several teams nipping at the Buckeyes' heels. It's not clear which one will step up as the biggest challenger.
Wisconsin returns a strong defense and -- due to its schedule and its division -- probably has as good a shot as almost any team in the nation to play in a conference title game this year. Penn State's offense should be one of the most exciting on-field products in the country this season. After beating Ohio State last year, the Nittany Lions have to go to Columbus to try to knock off the Buckeyes. Michigan and coach Jim Harbaugh are loaded with young talent but void of experience. All three have flaws, which will raise questions about whether the Big Ten, like the SEC, is a one-team league. Yes, we see that steam coming from your ears, State College.
3. Where are the stars? The Big Ten has three bona fide Heisman hopefuls this season: Saquon Barkley, Trace McSorley and J.T. Barrett. None of them will be in Chicago this week. Penn State brings only seniors and Ohio State said Barrett attended last year so the Buckeyes picked three different players from their stacked roster.
This isn't intended as a knock on the very talented players who will be there promoting their league and their teammates. It should be, though, a little disappointing for the fans. It also plays into the Big Ten's reputation as a conference that is conservative at times to its own detriment. The star power this year will have to come from head coaches such as Meyer, Harbaugh and James Franklin. Luckily, there is plenty of that to go around.
4. Some excitement in the country's most boring division. Speaking of coaching stars, there will be plenty of discussion this week surrounding coaching newcomers Jeff Brohm (at Purdue) and P.J. Fleck (at Minnesota). Brohm's high-powered offense and Fleck's high-powered personality add some spice to a West Division that is otherwise a strictly steak-and-potatoes type of group. Wisconsin, Iowa and Northwestern are all at their best when playing quiet, consistent defense and avoiding flash. Two of those coaches (Iowa's Kirk Ferentz and Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald) will have combined for 29 appearances at Big Ten media days. Brohm and Fleck, though, should provide some interesting new fat to chew.
5. Culture rebuilds abound in the wake of off-field issues. There are at least four teams in the Big Ten in different stages of trying to regain their footing after non-football issues shook their programs on a foundational level.
Penn State's breakout year in 2016 helped the team and the town regain a sense of normalcy five years after news first broke about the Jerry Sandusky scandal. Minnesota and Indiana are both introducing new coaches this year due to non-football-performance issues. Michigan State is still in the throes of a string of sexual assault allegations, locker room problems and police run-ins in the past year that accompanied a nosedive in the Big Ten standings. Expect all four of those teams to answer questions about how the environment around their program has changed or how they plan to change it. Let's just hope all involved can keep from calling these serious issues "distractions" from football.
It doesn't matter if it's homecoming.
It doesn't matter if it's Senior Day.
Schools can forget about asking for those extra five or 10 minutes to make a special announcement during halftime this season.
With the length of games steadily rising -- the FBS averaged 3 hours, 24 minutes last season -- pomp and circumstance must fit into the allotted time slot from now on, with no exceptions.
"Halftime across the board in all regular-season games will be 20 minutes," Big 12 coordinator of officials Walt Anderson said. "Period. End of story."
That means that coaches better hustle out of their halftime TV interviews if they want to address their team for more than a few minutes before the start of the third quarter. And if they feel the walk from the field to the locker room is too long, then they might want to look into finding a better, more efficient route, Anderson said.
In February, the NCAA rules committee will take a comprehensive look at the time of games, which, according to Anderson, will include "actual game time" and the "number of plays." But for now, conferences are trying to work within the current framework to shave time off games.
Halftime is a new point of emphasis, as is the ability to get in and out of TV breaks quicker.
"Where we can hustle within the game," SEC commissioner Greg Sankey said, "let's hustle within the game."
Sankey, for his part, wasn't troubled so much by the 3:24 average of games last season as he was by the 30- to 40-percent variance in time. The shortest game, he said, was 2:55 while some games lasted nearly an hour longer than that.
According to ACC commissioner John Swofford, every bit counts. Which means losing what he calls "de facto timeouts" at the start of the third quarter and holding TV partners to their pre-defined commercial time and "not another minute."
"We have a whole new generation coming up that is more constrained time-wise about what they're going to pay attention to," he said. "Baseball is going through it. I saw an article where the NBA is looking for ways to shorten their games. A pitch clock potential in baseball, which would be a significant change to the rules. So we're going to be working on that."
"We need to look ahead," Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott told ESPN in January. "We shouldn't wait until there's a problem."
The average length of games has gone up seven minutes during the past four seasons, and the 2016 season opener between Cal and Hawaii came in at just shy of four hours.
Everyone seems to agree that the game is healthy overall, and coaches aren't necessarily itching for change. But with more and more passing offenses leading to more and more first-down stops, there's some worry that those four-hour games could become a regular occurrence.
"People are concerned about the time," SEC coordinator of officials Steve Shaw said. "But the question being asked by the rules committee is, 'What is the optimal time?' Nobody's really answered that question yet. Everybody knows it's creeping up."
Adjustments need to be made, Sankey said, but he and others don't want to "mess with the fabric of the game."
Big 12 commissioner Bob Bowlsby, who believes that 3:25 should be the goal, says that they've spoken to the NFL about the ways it has shortened games and studied Division II and III football, whose games are all below three hours.
Fulfilling the needs of TV partners and maintaining the pageantry of the game is where the balancing act comes in.
"Therein lies the art form," Bowlsby said. "That's why we're spending a lot of time listening to coaches, because nobody wants to do that."
While NFL games are much shorter than college games, Kentucky coach Mark Stoops was quick to point out that the pro season is longer.
What's more, FBS teams are averaging roughly 100 more plays per season than they did a decade ago.
Stoops would welcome change, he said, so long as it's "without changing the structure of the game."
"I like the way it's played right now," he said.
But the game is changing on the field, and time is becoming a factor.
Small, strict changes are coming this season in hopes of addressing that. The question is whether they'll be enough to turn back the clock to a more reasonable hour.
ESPN reporters Andrea Adelson and Mitch Sherman contributed to this report.
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With less than 10 weeks to go before football returns and your weekends disappear, it's time to do some planning. Before you begin scouring for tickets, gassing up the RV and RSVP'ing to those fall wedding invites with full regrets, let's map out the best way to see as much high-quality Big Ten football as possible this season.
We took the liberty of putting together our ultimate road trip for the 2017 season. We focused on finding the biggest and best games each week while hitting as many campuses as possible and trying to keep the travel from getting too repetitive. We started this week with September and October. Now it's time to wrap things up with November.
Week 10 (Nov. 4) -- Iowa vs. Ohio state (Iowa City, Iowa)
November begins and ends with the Buckeyes. First is a trip to Kinnick Stadium, where a loyal fan base and hard-to-predict weather can cause problems for visitors. The Hawkeyes will have a strong defensive front and a couple of talented running backs built for keeping close games interesting. If Ohio State's offense isn't cranked up to full speed after a tough game against Penn State the previous week, this could be a trap for them and a chance for Kirk Ferentz and Iowa to make a push for its own relevance in the Big Ten title hunt.
Week 11 (Nov. 11) -- Minnesota vs. Nebraska (Minneapolis, Minnesota)
We couldn't go a full season without visiting new Gophers coach P.J. Fleck to check in on his progress in Minnesota. Will his efforts to transport his unique culture from Western Michigan to a Big Ten campus find a foothold by November? Beating Nebraska at home in the cold would be a momentous push in the right direction. With Northwestern and Wisconsin to follow (and Michigan the previous week) November is no cakewalk for a team in transition, but stealing at least one or two wins out of that stretch will give Fleck and his staff something to build on.
Week 12 (Nov. 18) Wisconsin vs. Michigan (Madison, Wisconsin)
Pack your thermals for what might be the best cross-divisional meeting of the season in the second-to-last week on the schedule. These two teams feature strong defense -- Michigan's should be matured enough by late November to have its obvious talent settled into place -- and smart, steady quarterbacks. Those are both good ingredients to have when building competitive teams that can win close games. No matter who enters Camp Randall Stadium as the favorite for this game, the outcome will likely have a big impact on the league's postseason picture.
Week 13 (Nov. 25) -- Michigan vs. Ohio State (Ann Arbor, Michigan)
Thanksgiving weekend is a loaded cornucopia of worthwhile trips. It's hard to go wrong with the end-of-year Big Ten rivalry games, but it's impossible to pass on The Game. Last season's meeting went into double overtime and tipped in Ohio State's favor on a controversial fourth-down conversion. For all the tangible progress he's made in two season, Jim Harbaugh has yet to beat the Buckeyes. The only coach to ever start his Michigan career 0-3 against the school's biggest rival is Rich Rodriguez. So, though no one in maize and blue will be ready to run him out of town anytime soon, the pressure to win this year's meeting at the Big House will be significant.
With less than 10 weeks to go before football returns and your weekends disappear, it’s time to do some planning. Before you begin scouring for tickets, gassing up the RV and RSVP’ing to those fall wedding invites with full regrets, let’s map out the best way to see as much high-quality Big Ten football as possible this season.
We took the liberty of putting together our ultimate road trip for the 2017 season. We focused on finding the biggest and best games each week while hitting as many campuses as possible and trying to keep the travel from getting too repetitive. We started earlier this week with September. Now it’s on to October, with November to follow soon.
Michigan State and Michigan might not have the same luster it did the last time these two teams met in the Big House, but the two rivals usually put on a good show no matter where each falls in the standings. The Wolverines should have a distinct advantage on paper this season. Then again, they had a 99.8 percent chance of beating the Spartans last time around before a last-second punt went famously awry. Adding to the intrigue this season is the possibility this game might be a rare Michigan Stadium night kickoff. The three previous prime-time starts in Ann Arbor (two against Notre Dame and one against Penn State) have been spectacles worth remembering.
The friendly confines of Nebraska’s Memorial Stadium will welcome Ohio State with open arms in mid-October. New quarterback Tanner Lee should be fully settled in for the Cornhuskers by that point. So should a young secondary for the Buckeyes. If Urban Meyer’s team can get out of Lincoln with a victory, they will get a full week off to prepare for Penn State, one of only two Big Ten programs that has defeated the Buckeyes since Meyer’s arrival.
Week 8 (Oct.21) -- Penn State vs. Michigan (State College, Pennsylvania)
Before Penn State can get to that rematch, it has its own loss to avenge. Michigan embarrassed the Nittany Lions a year ago in Ann Arbor. Injury problems and an offense that had yet to click (and certainly wasn’t going to find its groove against the stingy Michigan defense) led to a 49-10 beatdown. Penn State didn’t lose again until the Rose Bowl and James Franklin’s group could very well be unbeaten again when the Wolverines come to Beaver Stadium. The school has already announced its plans to host a “White Out” game that weekend, which creates an energy that can literally shake the turf and should be on every Big Ten fan’s bucket list.
Week 9 (Oct. 28) -- Ohio State vs. Penn State (Columbus, Ohio)
If the first eight weeks of the season play out exactly as the experts in Las Vegas expect, Penn State’s trip to Ohio State will be one of the biggest college football games of the year and could (for the second year in a row) decide who plays for a conference championship and potential playoff bid. Two of the last three meetings between these teams have provided memorable drama. In 2014, the Buckeyes needed two overtimes to beat Penn State en route to a national championship. Penn State’s blocked field goal last year may have derailed Ohio State’s chance at another playoff run.
With less than 10 weeks to go before football returns and your weekends disappear, it's time to do some planning. Before you begin scouring for tickets, gassing up the RV and RSVP'ing to those fall wedding invites with full regrets, let's map out the best way to see as much high-quality Big Ten football as possible this season.
We took the liberty of putting together our ultimate road trip for the 2017 season. We focused on finding the biggest and best games each week while hitting as many campuses as possible and trying to keep the travel from getting too repetitive. We start today with plans for September. October and November will follow later this week.
Week 1 (Aug. 31/Sept. 2) -- Multiple stops
The first weekend of college football has morphed into a four-day opening ceremony jam-packed with matchups that make the offseason feel more tolerable. So why not take advantage and start with a double dip? Indiana hosts No. 1 Ohio State on Thursday night. Former Hoosiers head coach Kevin Wilson (now the Buckeyes' offensive coordinator) will be back on familiar territory for the debut of an Ohio State offense that has promised throughout the offseason to be more explosive through the air.
After spending a day or two in beautiful Bloomington, head south to AT&T Stadium in Dallas, where Michigan opens its third season under Jim Harbaugh against Florida. Gators coach Jim McElwain also enters his third year as the head coach of a program that was in need of a rebuild. Both coaches start an important year with big questions to answer. Michigan returns fewer starts than almost any team in the country. Florida recently acquired transfer Malik Zaire to try to solve its quarterbacking woes, but the former Notre Dame player remains a bit of an unknown entity. Kicking the year off at Jerry World will set the tone and expectations for both programs.
Week 2 (Sept. 9) -- Penn State vs. Pittsburgh (State College, Pennsylvania)
A strong slate of non-conference games provides plenty of options, including Nebraska's trip to Oregon and a top-10 meeting between Oklahoma and Ohio State. We'll see a lot of the Buckeyes on the season-long road trip, though, so best to spend this weekend in Happy Valley watching the Pennsylvania rivalry between the Nittany Lions and Pitt. Last season's rekindling of this matchup lived up to its billing, with Pitt squeaking out a field goal victory before Penn State's offense fully hit its stride.
At that time, James Conner was the best-known back in Pennsylvania. Saquon Barkley has secured that title in 2017, and this game will be his first big chance to start building a resume for what might become a Heisman-contending season.
Week 3 (Sept. 16) -- BYU vs. Wisconsin (Provo, Utah)
Our last trip outside the Big Ten footprint this season comes in Utah, where Wisconsin faces its stiffest test of the non-conference schedule. Along with being a unique and worthwhile venue to check off the college football passport, BYU has won nine games in each of its past two seasons and is 2-1 against Big Ten competition during that stretch. Taking in a Badgers' game also means that our trip will provide a good look at each of the four teams from the conference that are expected to start the season in the rankings during the first three weeks.
Week 4 (Sept. 23) -- Michigan State vs. Notre Dame (East Lansing, Michigan)
Michigan State's trip to Notre Dame felt a lot different a year ago than it will when the Irish visit East Lansing in late September. Both had historically bad seasons. Head coaches Brian Kelly and Mark Dantonio will be in need of a reassuring victory by this point in the season. A loss for either could send their season spiraling in a dangerous direction. This series has produced a long line of nail-biting finishes in the past decade or so. Their history alone makes it a worthwhile game to see, especially on a weekend that doesn't feature many other blockbuster matchups.
Week 5 (Sept. 30) -- Wisconsin vs. Northwestern (Madison, Wisconsin)
The longest month of the season ends with a trip to Camp Randall Stadium where Northwestern and Wisconsin will have an early battle among what could be the top two teams in the West this season. The Wildcats' backfield duo of Clayton Thorson and Justin Jackson will face their toughest test of the season. Wisconsin will be coming off of a bye week with a fired-up home crowd behind it. Plus, it's always nice to enjoy one of the conference's best game-day experiences before it gets too bone-jarringly cold in Madison.
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Each year college football produces a new list of previously unheralded names and unexpected accomplishments. Not many expected Trace McSorley to rewrite the Penn State record books last year. Who expected a fullback (Khalid Hill) to lead Michigan's potent offense in touchdowns? How many casual Big Ten fans knew of Indiana tackling machine Tegray Scales even midway through the season?
The 2017 season will be no different. It's hard to say exactly where the next wave of surprises will emerge, but sifting through last year's stats and sorting out what the fall might hold provides a better picture of some of the Big Ten players who have a chance to catch our attention before the year's end. For discussion's sake, let's take a stab at some of the West Division players who could jump onto the national radar if everything breaks right for them this year. Don't be surprised if ...
Minnesota's Blake Cashman finishes with at least 10 sacks
The former walk-on linebacker may have found his scholarship in an Easter egg hunt, but he really earned it by tracking down quarterbacks last fall. Cashman had 7.5 sacks for the Gophers last year as a sophomore. With another season of experience, a maturing group around him and some serious closing speed, he has everything he needs to make a name for himself as one of the conference's most efficient pass-rushers.
Illinois' Mike Dudek leads the Big Ten in receiving
How will one of the league's least productive offenses from a year ago get better? A healthy Mike Dudek is a good start. After an eye-opening freshman season in 2014 (76 catches, 1,038 yards), Dudek missed both 2015 and 2016 with torn ACLs. If his knees hold up, Dudek might remain as one of the Big Ten's best when it comes to pulling in contested balls and getting into the end zone. As part of an Illini offense that isn't exactly swimming with options, Dudek should get plenty of opportunities to make plays. When he had those chances as a rookie, he took advantage.
Purdue's Markell Jones tops 1,750 all-purpose yards
Jones was a bright spot for the Boilermakers in his first couple seasons, and now he has a chance to be the top weapon in an attack orchestrated by coach Jeff Brohm's offensive mind. Brohm said he didn't yet have the personnel to run the type of pass-heavy offense that helped him make Western Kentucky the country's highest-scoring team a year ago. That's good news for Jones -- a compact and powerful back who has run for 1,491 yards in his first two season and shown the ability to be an effective receiver out of the backfield. The Boilermaker staff could do a whole lot with Jones' skill set if they are willing to get creative with him.