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The nation still is buzzing over the greatest six-point performance in NCAA title game history. Thank you, Anthony Davis. Here’s what’s buzzing around Big Ten gridirons.
RANKING THE COACHES: Brady Hoke and Mark Dantonio ranked highly among Big Ten coaches, according to Athlon Sports. Guess who is No. 1? His initials are U.M. and he never has coached a Big Ten game. My two cents: Jerry Kill is too low. And there is NO way Kevin Wilson should be last. Just criminal.
BIG LOSS AT SAFETY: Most Michigan State fans wring their hands over holes to fill at receiver, quarterback, tight end and quarterback. But Joe Rexrode of the Lansing State Journal says don’t overlook the loss of free safety Trenton Robinson, a captain and three-year starter.
Sophomore Kurtis Drummond and redshirt freshman RJ Williamson are competing for the slot in a secondary that will welcome back starters at cornerback in Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard, along with strong safety Isaiah Lewis.
“They all have ball skills. They all can run and tackle very well,” coach Mark Dantonio said of the young contenders. “So it will be interesting to see what kind of spring they have. We have depth there, and I think it’s exciting to watch.”
GETTING MORE COMFORTABLE: The second year in coordinator Tim Beck’s system brings more confidence for Nebraska. Time will be the true test, but there’s no doubt last season was about learning Beck’s system. And it was a lot to digest.
“Last year was a lot more learning,” offensive tackle Jeremiah Sirles told Brian Christopherson of the Lincoln Journal Star. “This year is a lot more fine-tuning.”
The attack was solid in 2011, ranking No. 4 in scoring (29.2 ppg); No. 5 in total offense (379.9 ypg); No. 3 in rushing (217.2 ypg). But the passing? It was an issue, as Big Red was No. 10 in the Big Ten (162.7 ypg). In Beck’s second year pushing the buttons, there are few practice stops for review. It’s go, go, go.
“We don’t really have any repeats right now because we just want to get to the next play, keep the tempo up, because that’s kind of how our style of offense is,” tight end Kyler Reed said. “In the game, you’re not going to stop and do that, so that’s how we’re practicing.”
WAY TO IMPROVE UNDER CENTER: Dustin Hockensmith of the Harrisburg Patriot-News offers five ways Penn State’s offense can improve with a quarterback upgrade. And this is key, as the Nits lost out on the Danny O’Brien.
Item No. 1 is improved offensive line play. Just one starter is back, but new line coach Mac McWhorter inspires faith with his sage and wise ways to mold the likes of Nate Cadogan, Eric Shrive and Donovan Smith, among others. So, instead of weeping, Nittany Lions, read on. You’ll see there is hope. And lots of it for an attack that ranked No. 10 in the Big Ten last year (342.4 ypg) and No. 11 in scoring (19.3 ppg).
THROWING TO TIGHT ENDS: Ohio State tight ends are living a dream under Urban Meyer. Why? Because they figure to get the ball. A lot. According to Bill Rabinowitz of the Columbus Dispatch, Jake Stoneburner caught 21 passes in 2010, and that was the most for a Buckeyes tight end since Ben Hartsock had 33 receptions in 2003. Tight End U, the Buckeyes haven’t been, even with solid talent at the position.
“It’s like a dream come true,” said Stoneburner. “You want to come to an offense where the tight end is almost the focal point. I wouldn’t say we’re the focal point, but we’re definitely going to get the ball a lot.”
HEARTWARMING STORY: Elliott Mealer is the stuff movies are made about. He has overcome a horrible car crash that claimed his father and girlfriend in December 2007 and left him paralyzed and told he’d never walk again. Now, Mealer is primed to start at left guard.
Elliott Mealer hasn’t spoke to the media this spring, but brother Brock—who also survived that crash—has.
“The biggest way he’s grown is how he’s been able to use his position as football player at Michigan to reach out, especially to kids,” Brock. “He’s channeled that energy into something positive.
“He’s inspired me.”
RETURN OF A BIG UGLY: Here’s another good read on a “big ugly.” This one, Wisconsin’s Casey Dehn, quit the team last October. It didn’t take him long to realize it was a mistake.
After the Rose Bowl, he asked if he could return. Bam, here is Dehn, vying for a starting job at right guard for line that has three big holes to fill.
“I definitely didn’t think they were going to be so welcoming,” said Dehn. “All of the guys supported my decision to come back. It was really nice to feel welcomed again.”
Marc Morehouse, Cedar Rapids Gazette
My take: I agree. Money isn’t everything … and that’s all these alternate uniforms are about.
Steve Helwagen, Bucknuts.com
My take: Agree. Warriner is one of the most underrated coaches in America. He was the brains behind that great KU offense in 2007 that marched to the Orange Bowl title over Virginia Tech. Just an ab-fab season.
Brian Christopherson, Lincoln Journal Star
My take: Umm, he is correct. They may even show up with torches in hand. Don’t mess with the iconic Nebraska uni, which is classic for its stunning simplicity.
Tom Dienhart is a senior writer for BTN.com. You can subscribe to the Daily Links RSS here, find all of his 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.