Lots buzzing around Big Ten football gridirons on this day, with Michigan State taking the wraps off its spring drills. And questions loom, as you’ll see in this post. I talked to Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald today, and he has some pretty passionate feelings about protecting the sanctity of the bowl experience for student-athletes. More to come from Fitz later. Here’s some interesting items that I came across today.
MEET THE NEW COACH: Brian Bennett of ESPN.com did a Q&A with Penn State coach Bill O’Brien. The new Nit boss offers some good insights as he digs into his first spring practice. O’Brien seems quietly confident about the offensive line and secondary, two areas with big losses. There is the typical speculation at quarterback. But OB also addressed the receiver spot, which I don’t think gets discussed enough. O’Brien on the receivers:
“It’s tough to replace a guy like Derek Moye, and I wish he had more eligibility. But we feel very good about our receiving corps. We’ve got Justin Brown, Shawney Kersey, Devon Smith, Brandon Moseby-Felder and Christian Kuntz. We’ve got a number of guys with good size that can run. And they’ve got two jobs: get open and catch the ball. So we’ll see how that goes as we go through spring.”
EVALUATING SPARTY: With the hoop team’s run in March truncated prematurely, Michigan State is ready to spring with football, writes Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal. Yes, like every other campus, Michigan State brims with wide-eyed optimism. It’s March, people! Take a closer look at Sparty. You’ll see questions at receiver. Will Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett get an NCAA waiver to allow for immediate eligibility for a unit that waved bye-bye to stalwarts like B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol? There are fewer worries about replacing quarterback Kirk Cousins, as the salivating over Andrew Maxwell is reaching epic proportions. Other reasons to wring your hangs: Who will replace massive defensive lineman Jerel Worthy and free safety Trenton Robinson?
REFINING HIS CRAFT: While other students were sunbathing in exotic locales over spring break, Nebraska quarterback Taylor Martinez went home to SoCal and worked with a QB coach. No, Martinez didn’t work on his throwing motion. Rather, he refined his footwork.
“If you try to change anything, it will feel different at first,” Martinez said. “Once you get used to it you’ll be pretty good at it.”
POSITION CHANGE: Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star has a nice piece on Stanley Jean-Baptiste, a former receiver who is trying to make his case at corner. It’s a position with lots of depth and completion, but Jean-Baptiste brings a unique blend of size to the position that could make him special on a defense that needs playmakers.
ANOTHER CHANGE: Roy Roundtree sees opportunity at flanker, writes Mark Snyder Detroit Free Press.
ABOUT THE BUCKEYES: Tim May and Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch analyze Ohio State as the Buckeyes wade into spring drills.
Some good stuff here:
From Rabinowitz: I think it’s safe to say that the tight end will no longer be an afterthought in the offense.
From May: The introduction of competition days to the practice schedule is intriguing, since the “winners” in Meyer’s system enjoy perks, from better food at the training table to better equipment, etc. He rewards competitive excellence, as he calls it.
QUARTERBACK QUANDARY: Bret Bielema is OK with his quarterback recruitment strategy of taking just one signal-caller in each class, writes Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal.
“I made the conscientious decision my first year: We were going to sign one quarterback and one tailback every year,” Bielema said. “Obviously, the predicament you get in is if you have two quarterbacks … that didn’t work out because of injuries and one, James Stallons, because he flunked out.”
But, golly, the Badgers sure could use some more bodies under center this spring. Check it out:
• James Stallons left the team prior to spring drills in 2009.
• Senior Curt Phillips has endured three surgeries on his right knee and hasn’t played since 2009.
• Junior Jon Budmayr missed 2011 with a nerve issue in his right elbow.
That has left sophomore Joe Brennan and redshirt freshman Joel Stave to take the snaps this spring.
What’s it all mean? Wisconsin sure could use Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien on its campus. But he’s also considering Penn State and Ole Miss.
TWEETS and TAKES
Matt Charboneau of the Detroit News:
Dantonio: "Everybody wants to talk about recruiting … but the bottom line is how many games you win at the end of the season."—
Matt Charboneau (@mattcharboneau) March 27, 2012
My take: You need good players to win games.
Richard Scarcella of the Reading Eagle:
PSU LB Michael Mauti in helmet and shorts doing conditioning and stretching.—
Richard Scarcella (@nittanyrich) March 26, 2012
My take: This is great news, as Mauti is a nice talent who could be an anchor for another strong Nittany Lion linebacking corps.
Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com and will post his Daily Links on weekdays. You can subscribe to the Daily Links RSS here, find Dienhart’s work at www.btn.com/tomdienhart, follow him on Twitter at @BTNTomDienhart, send a question to his weekly mailbag here, and click here to subscribe to his overall RSS feed.