Notebook: B1G Coaches facing challenges

BY CODY GOODWIN | JULY 29, 2013 5:00 AM

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Two new faces made an appearance in Chicago last week at the 2013 Big Ten media days. One now leads a program that’s considered fairly decent. The other now heads the three-time defending conference champs.

Gary Anderson and Darrell Hazell are in their first year as coaches in the Big Ten. Their jobs have different sets of challenges.

Coach hirings normally occur when a program is in need of a change. Anderson isn’t in that situation at all — under former coach Bret Bielema, the Badgers flourished with a .739 winning percentage from 2006-2012.

For Anderson, the goal is to help maintain a program with a history of winning. Wisconsin has won three-straight conference titles — including the first two Big Ten Championship.

“I’m not interested in comparing what was different, whether that may have been what we deem as being great, good, or indifferent,” Anderson said last week. “There’s going to be differences when you take over a program. It’s important to put your own stamp on it.”

Hazell faces a different challenge. He takes over a Purdue team that wasn’t particularly bad but not elite, either. The Boilermakers went 22-27 under former coach Danny Hope. He was fired last season.

Still, Hope guided Purdue to the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in 2011 after two-straight years of sub-.500 football. The Boilermakers were invited to the Heart of Dallas Bowl last year, but Hope was fired prior to the game.

Hazell said last week he understands where Purdue ranks in the conference — “Never up here, never down here,” he said, referring to the top and bottom of the conference. Hazell enters the job at Purdue after leading Kent State.

In his first season there, the Flashes won five games. In year two, they won 11. Hazell hopes to see similar results in West Lafayette.

“I told them it’s going to take a lot of work,” he said in Chicago. “But we’re going to climb ourselves out of the middle, and we’re going to put this program on national prominence for a long point in time.”

Beckman ready to bounce back

Tim Beckman’s first stint as the Illini head football coach is one everybody in Champaign wants to forget.

The Illini went 2-10 last season, including a 0-8 showing in conference play. To his credit, his team was loaded with injuries all over. But the overall finished product wasn’t something he was too happy with.

Still, optimism is plentiful on the Illinois campus, but Beckman knows patience is another key that will be crucial if Illinois is to return to postseason play. The seniors on his team have the experience necessary — they’ve been to two bowl games in the last three years.

“We lost 400 snaps last year to injury on offense, and we lost 800-plus to injury on defense,” Beckman said last week. “You see a healthy football team. You see a team that’s very anxious and excited to progress.”

O’Brien concentrated solely on 2013

Penn State head coach Bill O’Brien was asked 14 questions while standing at the podium during the 2012 Big Ten media days. Eight of those involved the sanctions placed on the football program in State College.

The script was nearly flipped this year. Of the 10 questions O’Brien was asked while standing at the podium, only two involved the sanctions.

“I’m here to talk about the 2013 team,” he said to one of those two questions. “The rules are what they are. And that’s what we play under. And that’s what we’re going to do.

“A lot of things that we talked about last year, when I was here, it’s water under the bridge.”

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