I’m in Iowa City today to take in Iowa’s practice. It’s the first stop on our annual summer bus tour, and I’m excited to watch the team’s running backs, among other things. Enough about me, it’s time to bring you all of Wednesday’s top Big Ten web links.
VETERAN HUSKERS: If experience matters, Nebraska is in good shape for the 2012 season. According to Steve Sipple of the Lincoln Journal Star, the Cornhuskers have 29 seniors and 26 juniors on the roster. And among that massive senior class are 22 fifth-year seniors.
No doubt, that veteran leadership will go a long way toward making Nebraska a strong program in 2012, but will it be enough to catch Michigan and Michigan State in the Legends?
ALL IOWA ON THE LINE: Iowa usually has one of the top offensive lines in the Big Ten. And this year’s unit will have another distinction in that each starter is a native Iowan.
From left to right, the starters hail from Denison (left tackle Brandon Scherff), Dyersville (left guard Matt Tobin), Iowa City (center James Ferentz), Williamsburg (right guard Austin Blythe) and Decorah (right tackle Brett Van Sloten).
Now, how many will be all-conference at the end of the year? My guess: a couple. I like Scherff the best. It will be fun to watch new line coach Brian Ferentz work with this unit, which annually is among the best in the Big Ten. It will be vital for the group to excel this fall to open holes for a running back corps that is littered with questions.
PLENTY OF DEPTH: With Wisconsin’s Montee Ball out with a concussion, the Badgers have many options to turn to at running back. First up is James White, a 1,000-yard rusher as a freshman in 2010. White is a speedster who can score each time he touches the ball. In fact, White could be a starter on many Big Ten teams.
Redshirt freshman Melvin Gordon also teems with potential and could be a factor early on as Ball recovers. So, the bottom line: There may be no need to rush back Ball until the start of conference play. Let him recover and get healthy. Time and talent abounds.
FAVORABLE ADDITION: News of Penn State’s uniform change wasn’t a shock. And the decision to add a ribbon to jerseys to recognize victims of child abuse and to put the players’ names on the back of jerseys was met with favor by alums.
I thought maybe there would be resistance from this loud and proud fan base. To mess with the sacrosanct Penn State uniform seemingly would be taboo. But I think everyone understands appreciates the cosmetic moves made by the school. Well done, Penn State.
Now, how about every Big Ten team wearing a ribbon on their jersey?
BIG-TIME EXPECTATIONS: Is there a more talked-about Michigan player than defensive tackle Will Campbell? Maybe not. Many pundits feel he holds a big key to the success of a Wolverine front that is replacing three starters. That Michigan line needs to excel to keep the defense among the best in the Big Ten if the team has any hope of fulfilling preseason expectations to win the league title for the first time since—Are you ready for this?—2004.
Campbell has done his part thus far by coming in with a slimmed-down physique.
To be exact, Campbell has dropped 46 pounds, going from 356 to 310 pounds. A revamped diet helped, with Campbell swearing off what he loves most: honey buns. Yes, honey buns.
“This is my last go-around,” he told AnnArbor.com. “I owe Michigan and these fans a lot.”
Foes have been warned.
GRANT’S TIME: Looking for the best defense in the Big Ten? It may be at Ohio State. The line and secondary may have no peers in the league. The linebacking corps? It has something to prove. And one of the players with the most to show is Curtis Grant.
Grant arrived as one of the program’s most hyped players in recent seasons but didn’t impact as expected. But that’s expected to change this season with Grant in the middle. And he also will have play-calling responsibilities.
It’s vital for Grant to be a leader.
TRUE HEISMAN CANDIDATE: Chris Huston at CBSSport.com has Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson No. 2 in his Heisman Watch.
Huston—aka the Heisman Pundit–is one of the best in the business at tracking the Heisman, so this is great news for Shoelace. Follow Huston’s work here.
TWEETS THAT MATTER
My take: And that, ladies and gentlemen, is a big reason why the Huskers’ Big Ten debut wasn’t as good as many anticipated.
My take: Mike Thomas continues his revamping of an Illinois athletic department that has seen more than 50 members depart since he assumed command.
My take: No doubt, the Boilermakers need more bodies at running back and need to thin the depth chart at quarterback. Gregory is an excellent prospect. Can’t wait to see him run.
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