JACK MCCARTHY,Associated Press
CHICAGO (AP) — Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner enters the season with his position secure despite calling signals in just five games last year.
Gardner, who spent most of the season at wide receiver, stepped in at quarterback following Denard Robinson’s injury and went 76 of 126 for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns running a pro-style offense.
Speaking Wednesday at Big Ten Media Day at the Hilton Chicago, Michigan safety Thomas Gordon said Gardner has steadily developed into a leader since his first start at quarterback last year.
“He’s grown right into it,” Gordon said. “He’s a lot more comfortable, you can see that. … He’s taken it by the horns and he’s spearheading this team and we look forward to how he (will) do when we go out there Aug. 31.”
Among offseason work was a trip to the recent Manning Passing Camp while also working at home with returning and incoming players.
“The young guys are eager to learn and eager to get better,” Gardner said. “I’ve been working with those guys, trying almost to be perfect, as perfect as you could possibly be.”
BEST IN THE COUNTRY? Chris Borland is flattered that Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen calls the Badgers’ linebacker the best in the county.
Now it’s time to prove it.
“It means a lot because obviously he’s got confidence in me and he comes from a defensive background,” said Borland, who earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last season. “It’s great to hear that. That said, those are just words so I’ve got to play well this fall and prove him right.”
Borland, who started all 13 games last year, enters his senior season with 308 career tackles, 41½ for losses and 13 forced fumbles, the most in school history. He needs just to tie the FBS record of 14, shared by five players.
Borland said he appreciates why the NCAA adopted new rules on targeting players and hits above the shoulders.
“(But) it’s concerning for me as a defensive player,” he said. “You don’t want to get ejected. A lot of times things happen fast on the field. If you don’t anticipate a running back going low and then he does, it could be helmet to helmet. It could be things like that.
RAISING EXPECTATIONS: New Purdue coach Darrell Hazell, a longtime Ohio State assistant, won’t settle for middle of the pack as he returns to the Big Ten after short but successful run at Kent State.
“One of the first things I said to our team @ our very first team meeting was that Purdue was perceived in the middle of the Big Ten — never up here, never down here,” he said. “I told them it’s going to take a lot of work but we’re going to climb ourselves out of the middle, we’re going to put this program (into) national prominence for a long time.”
Purdue went 6-7 overall while Hazell was 11-3 overall, 8-0 in the Mid-American Conference East in his second and final Kent State season. He also guided the Golden Flashes to the program’s first bowl game in 40 years.
“I think it all starts with your self image, how you see yourselves,” said Hazell, who spent seven years as an Ohio State assistant. “If you don’t see yourself as a champion, no one else is going to see you as a champion.
BADGERS HARDLY BROKEN: Gary Andersen takes over a Wisconsin program that’s anything but broken.
“I’m not interested in comparing what was different — whether that may have been what we deem as great, good or indifferent,” he said. “There’s going to differences when you take over a program and it’s important to put your own stamp on it.”
Andersen led Utah State to school-record 11 victories in 2012 and had an early introduction to the Badgers with a two-point loss last year.
“So I’ve never asked the question of how things were,” he said. “There’s a lot of different ways to it and there was a lot of success. For us, it’s get our core values into place, let our kids understand the trust factor and let them understand the true set of core values we’re going to hold them to.”
Wisconsin returns 16 starters from an 8-6 team that fell 20-14 to Stanford in the Rose Bowl.
The Badgers have won three consecutive Big Ten titles and gave an 11-year bowl streak.
PATIENT RECRUITING: Pat Fitzgerald said recruiting at Northwestern might take more time but extra effort pays off.
“If you look at our history in recruiting, we’re typically a day late, a week late, a month late in potentially offering a young person,” he said. “I know sometimes that frustrates our fans, but we’re going to make sure when we offer a young man, that’s someone we truly want to be a part of our football family.”
Northwestern’s recruiting philosophy also heads off potential discipline problems.
“I think discipline begins with recruiting,” Fitzgerald said. “The identification of a student athlete that fits your program in Evanston starts with that character evaluation.. We’ve got a set of questions that are married with the values of our program.”
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