Spring football is in the air….so let us not spend a lot of time outside cleaning the yard or mowing the lawn….lets direct your computer to isportsweb.com and read the latest news about Big Ten Football…your April Primer begins……NOW!
Illinois: I have to start this piece with a question….Why would new AD Mike Thomas who was hired in August of last year fire both his football coach AND his basketball coach within a matter of four months after both finished with winning records?…Zook who admittedly wasn’t piling up the W’s, but was a semi-big named coach who could get good recruits to come to Champana, which in most circles doesn’t get confused with too many football hotbeds….and hoops coach Bruce Weber who really did nothing but win games in Champana….I have heard he may have an ego issue and wants his guys on his campus….we’ll see how that shakes out…Saying all that I have heard new football coach Tim Beckman speak about his team and his first few days and I like what I hear…his team wants to compete…and like other new coaches in the Big Ten…he has some talent coming back and is far from having nothing to work with. So the Illini will be installing a new offensive system that is similar to a spread system…but don’t call it that to either of the two new co-offensive coordinators Chris Beatty and Billy Gonzales.
Indiana: Coach Kevin Wilson last year decided to go with youth and build from there…it was a decision that probably many IU faithful didn’t consider a major decision but it cost the Hoosiers…at least two games…and when you only win one game, two games is a lot…but I’m sure the line of thinking here was put them out there and get some experience playing in games and it will eventually reap benefits. All this considering, the Hoosiers in 2012 are still considered very young, but at least they have some game experience…and a QB prospect that has a pretty high ceiling in Tre Robinson. Losing out on QB prospect Gunner Kiel hurts, but how much could you really miss something that you never had? IU has a much easier nonconference schedule in 2012, but more on that next month…
Ohio State: Urban is very excited about his QB Braxton Miller…he loves the athletic ability this kid has…as do I. The things I am reading that Meyer is saying…I get the feeling he is just short of actually coming out and saying something like “This kid is just like Tim Tebow, but he can throw…” call me crazy, but I think this 2012 season in which the Buckeyes can’t play for the Big Ten title or in a bowl game might be exactly what this program needs…and here’s why…Miller doesn’t really have great prospects at WR to throw to…yet. Meyer has all spring to develop kids and I am sure that a couple guys will emerge….plus OSU loses both starting tackles on the O line and center Mike Brewster…so Braxton will have the 2012 season as a make-believe season getting ready for 2013…that should be when the Buckeyes will be ready to roll.
Penn State: The Nittany Lions have made up a lot of ground since the March primer…they have closed out several four-star recruits and actually ended up with a decent class all things considered…but what really needs to happen is…and this isn’t breaking news folks…they need to settle on a QB. Coach Bill O’Brien has declared that the position battle is open and will likely stay that way until just prior to the season opener vs The Ohio university…O’Brien has stated that he will not watch any tape from the 2011 season when it comes to evaluating his signal callers…he wants an empty palette when evaluating his guys…The Lions (Penn State that is) offensively were atrocious in 2011 when attempting to move the football…they were 110th in scoring and 112th in passing efficiency….there was a poll released recently and it reveals that among the state of Pennsylvania’s registered voters 46% of those polled would be in favor of renaming Beaver Stadium in honor of Joe Paterno…I found it very interesting that 40% opposed the idea.
Purdue: The last half decade or so in West Lafayette has been trying for football fans…struggling with the injury bug seemingly more than most schools has really been frustrating…but with all that considered coach Danny Hope has his most experienced and talented team ever. A couple of things that we will have our eye on here at isportsweb is the battle at QB and the left side of the O line…the QB spot: Rob Henry is out this spring after knee surgery so Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve (who was granted tenure by the NCAA this past offseason…Marve by the way did finally declare a major and it will be Quarterback)…will be the co-#1 QB’s for Purdue…they did this a lot last season when both were on the field at the same time…the left side of the O line lost both the starting guard and the tackle so starters will need to be determined there for any hope of success for the 2012 season…one area they will not have to find help with is D line…Kawann Short….he is the most underrated lineman in the NCAA and one of the best in the country. The Boilers are going to have to develop ways to get the ball in Frankie Williams and Raheem Mostert’s hands…Mostert led the country in kickoff returns…and Williams has been tremendous in spring ball this year….he is a great CB in coverage.
Wisconsin: Another spring in Madison brings another transfer QB to Camp Randall..this year it’s Maryland’s Danny O’Brien…however..unlike Russell Wilson, O’Brien has two seasons of eligibility remaining as he will graduate in a few weeks. Obviously, the QB position is a concern..with O’Brien in the fold, they do have depth as a concern…the two most decorated players, Curt Phillips and Jon Budmayr, have injuries that will keep them out of the mix for the distant future so the backup position will be won by either redshirt freshman Joel Stave or sophomore Joe Brennan. That is why Wisconsin drafted another QB….the Badgers will have to find some other big lineman to replace a couple of starters…thankfully they are a dime a dozen in the Land of Cheese…one note that may keep Wisconsin from their second straight Big Ten title game appearance and a third Rose Bowl in four years is the usually sound kicking game…the Badgers need to find both a new punter and placekicker.
Iowa: Boy..you gotta feel for a guy like Iowa HB coach Lester Erb…he’s had the best and worst of times as he heads into his 5th season in Iowa City…he started with Shonn Greene who immediately established a new Hawkeye single season rushing mark in 2008….this is an easy gig right?….not so much…since that season Erb has lost five different HB’s for almost as many reasons…some were dismissed, some decided to transfer (after being suspended) and some just didn’t want to play football anymore…well add a new wrinkle to the fold for 2012…he has a stable of HB’s as of today’s writing…but they are two sophomores and two freshmen…zoinks…add that to the fact that the Hawkeyes are establishing a new offense and a new defense to the squad this year and that is a whole lot of change this spring…I bet the Iowa writers and tv guys look like they are watching a tennis match trying to focus on one or two aspects of Iowa’s practices this spring…
Michigan: UM has it’s backfield set with senior QB Denard Robinson and HB Fitz Toussaint…but one of the goals this spring is to find a 3rd WR…Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon have both logged many plays…options are junior Jeremy Jackson, sophomore Jerald Robinson or one of two freshman Amara Darboh or Jehu Chesson…there has been talk of backup QB Devin Gardner playing WR this spring and fall..so much so that 3rd string QB Russell Bellomy has taken some reps away from both Robinson and Gardner…the other goal this spring will be to improve the defensive line….other than massive weight gains from a lot of players…Craig Roh put on almost 50 lbs and is sitting at around 270…the interior of the D line will determine the amount of success that the 2012 team enjoys.
East Lansing: Spartan fans shouldn’t worry about the defense…it usually takes less time for the defense to play well when the season starts…plus when your biggest concern is how to keep William Gholston out of jail on Saturdays…you have it made. All kidding aside this should be a great defense despite losing Jerel Worthy…The Spartans biggest concern in the passing game..most Spartan fans will tell you this isn’t a concern though…Kirk Cousins is gone as is BJ Cunningham, Keith Nichol and Keshawn Martin…so it’s not just replacing a QB or a WR…it’s a whole passing unit….luckily the thing that may make it a bit easier is the Spartans have four returning starters back on the O line…Andrew Maxwell is listed as QB-1 and Connor Cook is QB-2…one guy who will certainly fit into the WR rotation is recent transfer from Tennessee DeAnthony Arnett..the only question with him is whether he plays this year or next…there are a couple of freshmen who could get some time at WR in 2012…Aaron Burbridge and Monty Madaris..both are four star recruits..
Minnesota: It won’t get worse for the Gophers in 2012 will it?…no way..it can’t …right? What the Jerry Kill offenses usually have is a very good HB…and that isn’t what they had last year in Minneapolis…they may get some help this season…a JUCO transfer from the state of Mississippi named James Gillium is a burner and should make an impact with current HB Donnell Kirkwood…another big item Coach Jerry Kill needs to address is finding a way to move the ball…it should be a little easier in 2012..four starters return to an offensive line that was decent at rushing and Gray wasn’t sacked a ton..you can’t have a good offense without a good line..The Gophers never cracked the 30 point plateau in 2011…stunning. Mark these words….MarQueis Gray will win at least one game for Minnesota that they shouldn’t win…will tell you which game that will be in the May Primer…
Nebraska: So…how was life in the Big Ten last year Nebraska fans?…unsatisfying?…tell us about it. I really have a tough time saying the Corn will enjoy great success with Taylor Martinez as their QB…his throwing motion is so herky-jerky for a lack of a better term and awkward…he just doesn’t have the arm a team needs to get the ball downfield to keep opposing defenses honest…that being said, media members have said the exact opposite this spring..saying Martinez’s revamped delivery and throwing power have increased his overall ability…the back seven on the defense looks more impressive so far this spring…a lot of that is attributed to JUCO CB transfer Mohammed Seisay who is as big a CB as they’ve had in Lincoln for some time…6’2 and 210lbs..this group is gaining confidence and a small amount of swagger in the first few practices…a former Eastern Michigan Eagle may be a part of the Nebraska offense…HB Mike Marrow may get some snaps in goal line situations…he is 6’2” and 250.
Northwestern: I think it’s time that Pat Fitzgerald really turns his attention to the defensive side of the ball..the offense seems to be able to move the ball against most teams on most days…but the defense is what is keeping the Wildcats from reaching the next level…and that is where we begin..true freshman LB Ifeadi Odenigbo…he is athletically gifted with a great first step and great speed…but is currently undersized so get him some Big Mac’s and a tv and watch him develop…he will be a member of one of the more overlooked LB units in the conference…the offense may or may not get a boost from USC transfer WR Kyle Prater…his paperwork is in and it is in the NCAA’s hands whether or not he will be eligible to play this fall…he has actually been cleared to practice this spring and has already dropped a few jaws with his ability to catch the ball and make plays…