Dienhart: Friday's Big Ten spring football links

It’s not Friday the 13th, but it probably feels like it at Iowa, where another running back (Jordan Canzeri) has gone down with injury. Is the position cursed in Iowa City? Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette scoffs at that notion. Still, you have to wonder … Marcus Coker … Mik’ail McCall … Adam Robinson … Jewel Hampton … Brandon Wegher … all gone earlier or hurt since Shonn Greene’s huge 2008 season. Hmmm. Just sayin’.

Read about that and more below, including a look at Wisconsin and how it will handle the arrival of transfer quarterback Danny O’Brien and any lingering image issues that may be attached to bringing in another transfer signal-caller.

Iowa running back Jordan Canzeri has torn an ACL and will redshirt in 2012. This, ladies and gentlemen, is horrible news. Someone get Herky a Kleenex.

This is getting ridiculous, right? Canzeri was looking good in spring drills, ready to ascend to the No. 1 spot for a position that seemingly has been hexed in recent years with injury and transfer. With Canzeri out, Iowa figures to turn to Damon Bullock and De’Andre Johnson. Bullock ran for 10 times for 20 yards after splitting time at receiver. Running backs coach Lester Erb describes the 6-foot, 195-pound Bullock as a slasher with decent speed. The arrival of touted freshman Greg Garmon can’t come soon enough.

GLAD TO HAVE O’BRIEN: Perception matters more than reality, right? Well, Wisconsin’s Bret Bielema isn’t worried about his program’s image or how Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien will transition to the team, according to Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal.

“We’ll have a conversation before he actually hits the ground running here and emphasize to him some of the things we shared with Russell (Wilson),” said Bielema. “Show up, do your business, show the kids you know how to work and you’re willing to work with one another and good things will happen.”

What about the perception of the program? Bielema thinks the current state of signal-callers merits it, just like last year. Injuries have wracked the positions: Curt Phillips (knee); Jon Budmayr (elbow); Bart Houston (shoulder). And Bielema feels prep seniors still will have interest in inking with the Badgers, since they can redshirt in 2013 behind O’Brien—who has two years of eligibility—and then compete for the job in 2014.

WAITING GAME: USC transfer Kyle Prater is receiving a spring welcome at Northwestern. But Prater still is waiting on a waiver from the NCAA to see if he’ll be eligible this season or be forced to sit out. Regardless, Fitzgerald told me in a recent interview that he thinks there’s depth at wideout.

“A couple years ago, Tony Jones played for us as a true freshman and he redshirted last year because of injury,” said Fitzgerald. “He is back. Rashad Lawrence and Demetrius Fields have played a lot of football. Look at the job a Christian Jones did for us last year as a freshman. Add (USC transfer) Kyle (Prater) to that mix if the waiver gets granted. Mike Jensen is a young man who has kind of evolved a blue collar guy like an Eric Peterman or a Zeke Markshausen kind of player.”

Look for my Q&A with the Northwestern boss later today.

MOVING INSIDE: Michigan State’s Tyler Hoover is moving on from an injury, and onto a new position. The Spartans need help on the interior of the defensive line with Jerel Worthy gone, so Hoover’s move from end to tackle will be welcomed. And Hoover—who is slated to start next to nose tackle Anthony Rashad White–is chomping at the bit after missing almost all of last year after suffering a fractured rib.

“The biggest difference is slowing your stride down,” Hoover told George Sipple of the Detroit Free Press. “You can’t really open up as much. When you’re coming off the ball, start taking short, quick steps.

“I’m going to have to definitely work on getting low and using my height as an advantage. Speed-wise, I’m going to have to be quick.”

GOOD HAYES AHEAD: Nick Baumgardner of AnnArbor.com says Michigan coach Brady Hoke gushes—as much as Hoke can gush—about Justice Hayes and other spring standouts.

The diminutive Hayes could play a big role for a Wolverine backfield that needs a complement to Fitz Toussaint. Vincent Smith and Thomas Rawls also are in that mix. And Hoke has liked what he has seen from freshmen linebackers Joe Bolden and Kaleb Ringer, a fellow freshman Jarrod Wilson, a safety.

“Hayes has shown some things with his abilities,” Hoke said. “And I think the linebacker position is a very competitive position, having (freshmen) Joe (Bolden) and Kaleb (Ringer) kind of in the mix there a little bit puts a little pressure on some of the older guys.”

YEAR 2: The Gophers are starting from Square Two after a transition season under Jerry Kill.

“It’s just (a matter of) being comfortable. I know who our players are a little more,” Minnesota coach Jerry Kill told Phil Miller of the Minneapolis Star-Tribune. “You can’t coach all kids the same way. I probably made some mistakes — who to motivate, how to motivate. I’ve learned more about them.”

Now, the Gophers need to get down to business. The chief task: Fix the defense. Last season, Minnesota finished 11th in rushing defense (186.4 ypg), ninth in pass defense (216.7 ypg) and 10th in the Big Ten (403.1 ypg). Areas of focus will be the line and secondary. And more big plays—sacks and tackles for loss—also are needed.

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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