Tracking down Thursday's top spring headlines

Here’s a look at some of the happenings on Big Ten gridirons, as the fallout from Danny O’Brien’s decision to attend Wisconsin continues. Poor Penn State.

While Danny O’Brien’s decision was celebrated in Madison, Wisc., fans in Penn State were left wondering: What if? So, the picture at quarterback remains the same in State College, Pa., according to Joe Juliano of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Matt McGloin, Rob Bolden and Paul Jones will continue to battle this spring for No. 1 honors. But don’t expect the new staff to make a decision right now.

“There won’t be a starter named until possibly the night before the (Sept. 1) Ohio game,” Bill O’Brien said. “So there’s no starter right now at that position.

“We want to give each one of them an equal amount of reps with the first team and the second team and keep stats,” he said. “We want to make it as scientific as possible, keep scrimmage stats, keep 7-on-7 stats and talk to them about completion percentage, decision-making, accuracy that go into being a starting quarterback.

“When we go to make a decision on who starts the football game, it’ll be an educated decision and a fair decision.”

It would have been an easier decision—MUCH easier—had O’Brien opted for Penn State and to be groomed by a head coach who knows a thing or two about offense from his recent stint as coordinator with a team called the New England Patriots and a quarterback by the name of Tom Brady. Oh, well.

FULL-TIME RECEIVER: Tony Lippett is now exclusively a wideout, says Matt Charboneau of the Detroit News. Good thing, because the Spartans need help at receiver. B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol all are gone. And the guy who chucked the passes—Kirk Cousins—also has left the building, too.

“Tony will go exclusively to offense,” Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. “He’s a guy we moved over there on the defensive side of the ball, really along with (Jeremy) Langford last year, because we felt like we had depth in those positions, and those are too good of athletes just to stand there and watch.

“Both those guys will be able to come over on defense in an emergency situation, but both those guys will work exclusively on the offensive side of the ball.”

New quarterback Andrew Maxwell has to like this.

CHANGES IN CHAMPAIGN: Winds of change blow in Champaign, says Mark Tupper of the Decatur Herald-Review. And we aren’t talking about new basketball coach John Groce. We’re talking football, as Tim Beckman begins putting his stamp on the program during spring drills.

“Coach Beckman is high energy,” says quarterback Reilly O’Toole, who may end up splitting time with Nathan Scheelhaase. “He has brought a whole new wind in here. When we go out to practice everyone is running around. He said we’re going to be high-tempo and everyone is moving to where they need to be.

“Sometimes we practice to music and that makes it fun, even over on the sideline jumping around with your teammates.”

But depth issues at running back, receiver, safety and the offensive line remain, which means some position moves could be looming. Stay tuned. The tweaking only has just begun.

MIXING IT UP IN IOWA CITY: For Iowa quarterback James Vandenberg, ‘everything is brand new’ for the offense, writes Randy Peterson of the Des Moines Register.

Among the changes: Vandenberg will wear a wrist card with plays on it.

“It might go all the way up to my shoulder—that’s the truth,” Vandenberg said. “Everything is brand new.”

Other changes under new offensive coordinator Greg Davis: More throws to the running backs. And even more exotic—by Iowa standards—five-receiver sets.

“Coach Davis summed it up best,” said Vandenberg, who says the playbook is thicker. “He said we’re not reinventing the wheel, we’re just doing it a little different.

“It’s nothing we haven’t seen, it’s just called something a little different.”

It’s all about amping up an offense that ranked sixth in the Big Ten in scoring (27.5 ppg); 12th in rushing (137.7 ypg); seventh overall (372.5 ypg).

GRANT’S TIME: This must be the year touted linebacker Curtis Grant become a player, writes Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch.

Grant was the highest-rated Buckeye recruit last year, but he didn’t have much of an impact beyond special teams. Why?

“He overanalyzed everything a year ago,” coach Urban Meyer said. “He didn’t play very fast. He was — I don’t want to say depressed — but he wasn’t enjoying football.”

Grant is competing at middle linebacker for a corps that didn’t excel last season. But he, Ryan Shazier and Storm Klein could end up forming a nice trio. This is a key unit for the new Buckeye staff to develop.

TIME FOR TACKLES: Nebraska’s offensive tackles are stepping up after a year of learning, writes Rich Kaipust of the Omaha World-Herald.

Jeremiah Sirles started as a redshirt freshman at left tackle before playing a reserve role in 2011. Tyler Moore became the first true freshman to start a season opener on the line in Nebraska annals, manning right tackle. He went on to start the first four games before assuming a backup role as Yoshi Hardrick and Marcel Jones took over the tackle slots. The future for both? It looks bright for a Nebraska offensive line that also is looking for a center with Mike Caputo gone.

“I hope to be at least somewhat of a leader,” Moore said. “I’m not much of a talker, but hopefully I can lead by example and hopefully be viewed as somebody who can help out.”

My TAKE on TWEETS
Jeff Potrykus of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

My take: This is what makes landing Danny O’Brien so sweet for Wisconsin. Unlike Russell Wilson, who had just one year of eligibility, O’Brien has two, giving the Badgers’ stability at a position that will be on its third different starting signal-caller in three years.

Angelique Chengelis of the Detroit News

My take: I love this idea, too. Why not pair up the 12 Big Ten teams with their natural rivals and have them play two spring games or scrimmages vs. each other? One on each campus? What do you think? I knew you’d like it. You are welcome.

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.

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