Season two of “Conversations with Clayton,” Down the Drive’s interview series begins with an in-depth discussion with our old friend, Dustin Schutte.
Dustin has covered Big Ten football for Fan Rag and Saturday Tradition. He has launched his own Big Ten football site, Schutte’s Tailgate, which should work its way into your regular reading rotation immediately.
Last year, Dustin was a subject of one of the first “Conversations with Clayton.” He smartened us up about Big Ten expansion and the best practices for grilling an array of meats.
This year, Dustin tells us about his new website, grades the performances of the Big Ten coaches in 2017 and sings the praises of moving sidewalks.
Clayton Trutor (CT): Tell me about the new website.
Dustin Schutte (DS): The goal with the new website is to continue to provide quality content catered to Big Ten football. I also plan to incorporate some tailgating stories into the site and hope to make the experience a little more personal than stuff I’ve done in the past.
CT: Give me a letter grade for all of the Big Ten coaches this season.
DS: Lovie Smith (Illinois): D+
Tom Allen (Indiana): C-
Kirk Ferentz (Iowa) C+
D.J. Durkin (Maryland): C+
P.J. Fleck (Minnesota): C
Jim Harbaugh (Michigan): C
Mark Dantonio (Michigan State) A-
Mike Riley (Nebraska) F
Pat Fitzgerald (Northwestern) A
Urban Meyer (Ohio State) B+
James Franklin (Penn State) B+
Jeff Brohm (Purdue) A-
Chris Ash (Rutgers) B-
Paul Chryst (Wisconsin) A
CT: What’s the deal with Northwestern’s lack of recruiting success?
DS: When you look at Northwestern’s recruiting history under Pat Fitzgerald, the 2018 class is actually right where the Wildcats usually fall. With the exception of that 2014 class -- Clayton Thorson, Justin Jackson, Garrett Dickerson -- Northwestern usually has a recruiting class that ranks in the mid 50s and in the bottom half of the Big Ten.
Competing with traditional powerhouse programs isn’t an easy thing to do, especially with an academic hurdle also in the way. But, somehow, Fitzgerald makes it work. Even though Northwestern currently has the Big Ten’s worst recruiting class, I don’t think there’s reason to hit the panic button.
CT: Can Purdue build on their 2017 success in 2018?
DS: I keep flip-flopping on the Boilermakers in 2018. That may sound strange after Jeff Brohm had unprecedented success in his first season, but I’m not buying that Purdue has made a complete transformation quite so quickly.
As bad as Purdue was under Darrell Hazell, Brohm and his staff did inherit a group of players that had a ton of experience, particularly on defense. The Boilers rode their defense to seven wins this year, but a good chunk of that group will be departing next season. I’m curious to see how a new group of young talent adjusts on the fly.
I do believe Brohm will show a little more personality in his play-calling and the Boilermakers are a much smoother offensive team next season. I’m just not sold that it will translate to another seven-win season. Then again, nobody thought Purdue would be bowl eligible this season.
CT: Can Indiana stop losing seven games every season?
DS: This was a really good opportunity for Indiana to prove it could compete with the bluebloods of the Big Ten. I thought the Hoosiers would pull off an upset or two and would easily hit the eight-win mark. It may be awhile before Tom Allen has that opportunity again.
Granted, Allen has done great work on the recruiting trail and is building a defensive-minded culture in Bloomington. The Hoosiers also have plenty of young talent in freshman QB Peyton Ramsey and running back Morgan Ellison, so the foundation is in place.
Allen could enjoy plenty of success at Indiana, it just might take a few years before Indiana is a consistent bowl contender again.
CT: How long before P.J. Fleck turns all of this great recruiting at Minnesota into some wins?
DS: To be honest, I thought Fleck would have Minnesota competing for a Big Ten West title immediately. But he’s taking the same approach as he did at Western Michigan, dismantling the entire program and reconstructing it from the ground up.
That said, I don’t think it will be long before the Gophers are a serious threat in the West. I think 2018 may be another rough year in Minneapolis, but 2019 and beyond is when the program should really start to turn a corner.
And once they arrive, the Gophers are going to stick around for awhile.
CT: What is your favorite and least favorite Winter Olympic sport?
DS: Excellent question. My favorite has to be curling, because why not? It reminds me of a frozen version of bowling, and I’m sure I could play with a beer in hand. Ski jumping is pretty awesome, too.
I hate the biathlon, which combines rifle shooting and cross country skiing. You’re outdoorsy, we get it.
CT: What is your favorite mode of transportation?
DS: Easy, the moving sidewalks at the airports. I don’t know what it feels like to walk into another dimension, but I’m guessing it’s pretty similar. While we’re on the subject, ski lifts are my least favorite. There’s nothing worse than being stalled in a rickety wooden bench dozens of feet in the air while swaying back and forth.
CT: What is the longest that your hair has ever been?
DS: My hair is naturally curly, so I have a pretty sweet afro look when it’s fully grown. The longest I let it go was in high school (because of course). I’m not sure how long it actually was, but if you google 1970s NBA, I’m guessing I would have fit right in. I also let a few friends straighten it one time, giving me the full Ben Wallace look. Good times.
CT: Down the Drive readers thoroughly enjoyed your recipes for Italian chicken and grilled pork chops. Can we get a new grilling recipe to kick off 2018?
DS: Rosemary Ranch Chicken is another one of my favorites and I believe it’ll be a fan favorite. You can do this with a full chicken breast, chicken tenderloins or use it on a kabob, all are delicious.
1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup ranch dressing
3 tablespoons Worcestershire sauce
1 tablespoon white sugar
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary
2 teaspoons salt
1 teaspoon white vinegar
1/4 teaspoon cracked black pepper
Once the ingredients are mixed well, thoroughly coat your chicken and let marinate in the refrigerator for 30-60 minutes (any longer than 2 hours with a ranch recipe can be a little much).
Plop the chicken on the grill until the juices run clear. I like to give mine a bit of a sear on the outside because I think it adds to the flavor.
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