New faces, same places: Big Ten welcomes three new football coaches

CHICAGO – Illinois head football coach Tim Beckman will certainly face some new challenges as he adjusts to life in the Big Ten, but he’s not alone. Along with Ohio State’s Urban Meyer and Penn State’s Bill O’Brien, three of the six teams in the Leaders Division will have a new man running the show.

Meyer, renowned for the two national championships he earned at the Florida, comes to the conference after spending much of 2011 as an analyst for ESPN. O’Brien earned notoriety working under Bill Belichick with the New England Patriots from 2007-11, serving most recently as the team’s offensive coordinator.

The returning Big Ten coaches will have to adjust to new strategies, something Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema said he’ll embrace this season.

“It’s something that I’m very excited about,” Bielema said. “I think it’s a neat thing to bring into our league. It’s a challenge to compete against new schemes and new philosophies and new ideas.

“Urban, coming with a coach that’s won national championships, brings value to our league and his reputation is outstanding,” Bielema added. “Coach O’Brien, with everything he’s been able to accomplish during his coaching career. And Coach Beckman, obviously anytime you move from a MAC school to a Big Ten school speaks volumes that they think you can have success as well.”

Beckman said he didn’t expect the leap from the Mid-American Conference to the Big Ten to significantly alter the way he approaches the game.

“We’re going to do what we believe will be successful,” Beckman said. “We’ve been fairly successful in the Mid-American at the University of Toledo, and we’re still going to instill the same plan, the plan we believe in, at the University of Illinois.”

Meyer faces an entirely different transition in Columbus. Given the current powerhouse status of the SEC, many would argue that, for the most part, Meyer will now have to prepare his team for less talented opponents. He said Thursday that he hoped to be part of the movement to raise the conference to elite status.

“The one thing about college football, it’s very cyclical,” Meyer said. “And the Big Ten for many, many years was without question the No. 1 conference in America. Right now, we’re not, but there’s a lot of coaches and players right now very intent on making it the best conference in America.”

Meyer didn’t expect any diminished expectations in a transition season.

“There’s no such thing as a buffer year in college football, certainly not at Ohio State and certainly not with myself and our staff and our players,” Meyer said. “So there’s no buffer year.”

Penn State’s O’Brien hasn’t coached in the NCAA since 2006, when he was Duke’s offensive coordinator. O’Brien said he believes his NFL tenure can be a selling point to some of his new players, especially those considering leaving the school after the NCAA sanctions.

“I talked to them about this staff and our ability to develop these guys for the National Football League,” O’Brien said. “I told them this staff isn’t going anywhere and we’re committed to the 2012 football team.”

The first matchup between the new coaches will be Sept. 29, when the Nittany Lions travel to Memorial Stadium. Beckman and Meyer will square off on Nov. 3 in Columbus, Ohio.

“What I expect is when we start practice on Aug. 6 is that we’re going to put forth the effort, the hard work to make sure we field a very competitive football,” O’Brien said.