Big Ten Media Day kicks off 2009 season

Training camps for most schools begin in less than two weeks.

The Big Ten Media Day provides opportunities for the first glimpse of all 11 teams as they get set to compete for the Big Ten title. Ohio State, which has won or shared the Big Ten title the previous four years , was voted by the media as the preseason favorite to win the title again in 2009. After losing 31 upperclassmen to graduation or the NFL , Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel knows repeating as Big Ten champions will be no easy feat. âÄúWeâÄôre going to need to grow very, very quickly,âÄù Tressel said. âÄúHandle those bumps and ups and downs and see if we can become a good football team.âÄù In addition to team accolades, preseason individual awards were also announced. Ohio State sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor was named offensive player of the year, and Michigan State junior linebacker Greg Jones took home defensive player of the year honors. Minnesota will enter 2009 with award winners of its own. While three Gophers return after being named to first or second All-Big Ten teams, none may be more vital to this seasonâÄôs success as senior receiver Eric Decker . âÄúI donâÄôt think thereâÄôs a better wide receiver in the country than Eric Decker, and I think heâÄôs poised to have a tremendous senior season,âÄù Minnesota head coach Tim Brewster said. âÄúWeber to Decker I think is going to be a heck of a tandem.âÄù For the receiver, who was drafted by the Minnesota Twins in June for the second time in as many years, the opening of a new on-campus stadium played a big role in his coming back for a senior year of football. âÄúBeing a Minnesota kid, having the opportunity to open up a new stadium, why pass up on it?âÄù Decker said. âÄúNot too many people get that opportunity, and I think that was definitely an incentive to come back.âÄù The new stadium was a hot topic not just for Minnesota, but for other coaches in the conference, including Penn State head coach Joe Paterno . âÄúFor a team thatâÄôs had the history and tradition that Minnesota has had in football, IâÄôm glad they got it,âÄù Paterno said. âÄúI think itâÄôs a great move for Minnesota, I think itâÄôs a great move for the Big Ten, and IâÄôm looking forward to it.âÄù Purdue head coach Danny Hope , entering his first season after replacing 12-year head coach Joe Tiller , said he thinks TCF Bank Stadium should provide the Gophers with an edge in recruiting. âÄúWhen the recruits come to their home games, theyâÄôll see a lot more of the student body involved, and a much more exciting collegiate atmosphere,âÄù Hope said. âÄúHats off to the Golden Gophers, and I think thatâÄôs a big step for them program-wise.âÄù Improved recruiting is not the only benefit of a new on-campus stadium. Minnesota has scheduled a home-and-home series against national powerhouse Southern Cal., beginning with a game at TCF Bank Stadium in 2010. Brewster also announced he is in the stages of planning another non-conference match-up against his former employer, Texas. Scheduling top-ranked non-conference opponents is the next move in what Brewster calls a chance to elevate the Minnesota program to a national level. âÄúMy desire is not to win six games and go to a bowl game,âÄù Brewster said. âÄúMy desire is to win a championship for the state of Minnesota. To do that, youâÄôve got to elevate the status of your program. To elevate the status of your program youâÄôve got to play quality opponents.âÄù Timing of opponents matters as well, and Wisconsin and Illinois are playing the 2009 season with two bye weeks, which stretches their seasons until December 5. The extended season allows for their programs to remain in the national spotlight as well as give their players rest throughout the season, instead of playing 12 weeks in a row. Paterno believes the long layoff from the end of the regular season to the bowl games hurts the Big TenâÄôs chances for success come bowl season. âÄúYou can go out there and do some things, but thereâÄôs not that intensity, thereâÄôs not that edge that youâÄôre going to need.âÄù Paterno said. For Minnesota, itâÄôs not the end of the season they are looking forward to but the beginning. âÄúThat first game at home is going to be something special,âÄù Decker said. âÄúGetting the students involved, itâÄôs going to finally be a college game day atmosphere on campus.âÄù While a bowl game may be in MinnesotaâÄôs future, Brewster made it clear that he is only thinking about one thing. âÄúThe only thing that matters for the University of Minnesota football program is on September the 5th at about 5 oâÄôclock being 1-0,âÄù he said.