BIG TEN NOTEBOOK: Wisconsin coach Bielema a newlywedThe Big Ten announced its preseason players to watch on Thursday. Included were quarterbacks Denard Robinson of Michigan and Braxton Miller of Ohio State, and running backs Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Rex Burkhead of Nebraska.
By: By Rick Gano, AP Sports Writer, Superior Telegram
CHICAGO — His Badgers won the inaugural Big Ten championnship game and now there's another new experience for Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema. He's a relative newlywed.
"Nineteen weeks and five days that we've been into this relationship. It's because I get reminded on a daily basis, not that I knew that stat," Bielema said to laughter Thursday during the Big Ten media day.
"But it's been fun for me. I go back to seven years ago when I got the job and everybody was like, 'Wow, you're single, da, da, da.' And everybody gave me different pieces of advice. But hopefully it's going to make me a smarter and wiser and more mature coach."
RULES ARE RULES
Citing player safety, Big Ten Coordinator of Football Officials Bill Carollo addressed several rule changes set to be implemented for this season.
One of the biggest changes takes place on kickoffs, where the kicking team will kick from the 35-yard line, and touchbacks will automatically place the ball on the 25-yard line instead of the 20.
"The situation for a kickoff is the No. 1 play scenario that lends itself to injury," Carollo said. "Because of the injuries we've seen, if it's a touchback, we're encouraging them to stay in the end zone."
The 10 non-kicking players on the kicking team must also start within five yards of the kickoff line.
In another effort to avoid violent collisions, the receiving team will also be given an opportunity to call for a fair catch on onside kicks.
Carollo said a committee comprised of coaches, athletic directors and commissioners decided the rule changes, which includes ramifications for unwarranted helmet removal.
A player whose helmet is removed on the field — not due to a play — must sit out the following snap.
Among the other changes include personal fouls for special teams defenders who try to leap over the punt protector, and an expanded zone for low-block penalties.
"(Player safety) has been our mantra for the last several years, and we'll continue to work on the health and safety of the players," Carollo said.
The Big Ten announced its preseason players to watch on Thursday. Included were quarterbacks Denard Robinson of Michigan and Braxton Miller of Ohio State, and running backs Montee Ball of Wisconsin and Rex Burkhead of Nebraska.
Ball finished fourth in Heisman Trophy voting in 2011 after rushing for 1,923 yards and 39 total touchdowns — 33 rushing. Robinson was sixth in Heisman voting in 2010. The senior has rushed for over 1,000 yards and passed for over 2,000 in each of the last two years.
Also included in the players to watch list were offensive tackle Taylor Lewan of Michigan, cornerback Johnny Adams of Michigan State, defensive end William Gholston of Michigan State, defensive lineman John Simon of Ohio State, defensive tackle Kawann Short of Purdue and linebacker Chris Borland of Wisconsin.
Commissioner Jim Delany said a goal of the Big Ten is to formulate a plan or document to make sure the roles of coaches and admnistrators and their relationships are more well-defined.
"There's no confusion in the NBA or the NFL who the owner is. In college, sometimes there's a question of who the owner is because power is diffuse. Trustees, presidents, faculty, athletic directors, compliance directors. so our challenge going forward after I thought about this question, is how do we make the lines brighter?" Delany said Thursday during the Big Ten media day.
"Do we make sure the coach fits with the institution and not vice versa," he said. "It's not about firing the coaches. It's about clarifying roles even after great success, because these are great people, they're competitive people, they're fun people. ...Coach is coach, and other people on campus get to do their job to protect whatever the infrastructure of the institution is, in terms of its values, traditions, et cetera."
AP freelancer writer Travis Miller contributed.