Tanner Lee had not yet stepped on Nebraska's campus when he realized the intensity of Cornhuskers fans. As he walked through the Lincoln airport on his way to a recruiting visit in January 2016, fans recognized the quarterback.
"I knew Nebraska was different," Lee said Tuesday at Big Ten media days in Chicago. "I'd never been to Nebraska and I had taken pictures with Huskers fans before I even got there."
He'll be even more recognizable this fall as the Huskers' starting quarterback.
A 6-foot-4, 220-pound junior from New Orleans, Lee started 19 games in two seasons at Tulane, completing 53.6 percent of his passes with 23 touchdowns and 21 interceptions. He sat out last season at Nebraska after transferring.
He has quickly earned the trust of his teammates, who elected him an offseason captain.
"He entered in not a really dramatic fashion, just became one of the guys and was well-liked and eventually well-respected," coach Mike Riley said. "And the other reason he's here (at media days) is he earned that job through good competition in spring ball."
The Huskers (6-7, 3-5 Big Ten in 2016) were picked to finish behind Wisconsin and Northwestern in the West Division in a Cleveland Plain Dealer media poll.
Lee said he won't let his newfound fame overwhelm him and is focused on improving.
"I'm aware of what comes with playing the position, especially being in Nebraska," he said. "The most passionate fans you're going to come across are in Nebraska. It's been a lot of fun, but I'm focusing on my job and our locker room and letting everything else take care of itself."
Great expectations: Coming off a Big Ten championship and returning Heisman Trophy contender Saquon Barkley and quarterback Trace McSorley, Penn State has high hopes for defending its title and making the College Football Playoff.
Coach James Franklin said he expects the Nittany Lions to break attendance records at Beaver Stadium. The Allentown Morning Call reported in June that season ticket sales were up more than 8,400. Last season, Penn State ranked seventh in the country with an average home attendance of 100,257.
"I wouldn't be shocked if we averaged 104,000," Franklin said.
Rough start: Chris Ash's first season as Rutgers coach could have been worse, but not by much. The Scarlet Knights finished 2-10 and didn't win a conference game.
"It was awful," Ash said. "But we've moved on. It's behind us, and we're a lot better team today because of what we went through a year ago."
Rutgers coach Chris Ash on learning from his team's struggles in his first season at the helm during an interview at Big Ten media days on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. (Terrin Waack/Chicago Tribune)
Taking over as a head coach was a reality check for the former Ohio State defensive coordinator.
To help him out, Ash hired Jerry Kill, the 2014 Big Ten coach of the year at Minnesota, as Rutgers' offensive coordinator in December. The team is excited about the addition of Kill, who also coached Northern Illinois and Southern Illinois, but last year is a reminder things don't always go as planned.
"A lot of us were excited and ready to go," offensive lineman Dorian Miller said. "None of us expected that to happen."
City lights: First-year Purdue coach Jeff Brohm is eager to make the 70-mile drive to Lucas Oil Stadium for the Boilermakers' prime-time opener against Louisville — Brohm's alma mater.
"Without question, we want to establish an identity in Indianapolis and throughout the state," Brohm said. "It's important to us."
Purdue quarterback David Blough says the Boilermakers' season opener against Louisville is "the biggest game on our schedule" during Big Ten media days on Tuesday, July 25, 2017. (Terrin Waack/Chicago Tribune)