We’ve spent some time this offseason debating the Big Ten’s best – from the conference’s top offensive player to the defensive MVP – so we recently decided to take those debates directly to the players themselves.
During Big Ten media days in Chicago, we pulled aside 14 of the 39 player representatives and asked them four questions: Who is the Big Ten’s best offensive player? Who’s the best on defense? What other coach would you most like to play for? And what’s the toughest place to play?
We kept players’ names anonymous so they’d feel free to vote and speak their minds. There was only one catch: Any pick you made could not come from your own team. Some players declined to come up with an answer for every category, so you’ll also notice that the votes don’t always add up to 14.
Our final poll question: Besides your own coach, what Big Ten coach would you most like to play for?
B1G Coach You Most Want to Play for (12 votes)
Mark Dantonio, Michigan State – 3 votes
Urban Meyer, Ohio State – 3 votes
Chris Ash, Rutgers – 2 votes
Paul Chryst, Wisconsin – 1 vote
Kirk Ferentz, Iowa – 1 vote
Pat Fitzgerald, Northwestern – 1 vote
James Franklin, Penn State – 1 vote
Meyer and Dantonio finished Nos. 1-2 in our poll last year, so it makes sense they’d be back on top this season. Over the last four seasons, no two B1G coaches have been more successful.
One East player summed up picking Meyer pretty succinctly: “I mean, he wins national championships.” Fair enough. For Dantonio, it seemed as much about his personality as his success on the field. “He has very strong values,” one player said. “He does things the right way and doesn’t take short cuts. He just seems like a guy the players love playing for.”
The biggest surprise in this poll might’ve been the complete absence of Michigan’s Jim Harbaugh. Last year, three players picked him as the coach they’d most want to play for. This season, he wasn’t among the seven coaches mentioned.
Some players chose coaches they knew from the recruiting trail, others from reputation and track record, and others simply from their first impressions. Both Ash and Franklin appeared to gain at least one vote apiece from the latter.
One player told us he hadn’t heard Ash speak until the Big Ten luncheon, and he enjoyed his humor. He figured the two would get along. Another picked Franklin and said this: “You hear about Harbaugh and Urban just being the celebrity but, at least here Franklin – he came up and talked to me. We had a long conversation, so he seems like a good guy.”