This Tuesday at 8 p.m. ET, BTN airs our “Big Ten Football Preview: Legends Division” show as our analysts take a close look at the division race. Then on Wednesday at 8 p.m. ET, they do it again with the “Big Ten Football Preview: Leaders Division” show. Both are one-hour shows and each one features a deep look at the six teams in each division. If you can’t watch it live, set your DVRs. We want you to be ready for kickoff next week.
These two shows cap off the BTN Summer Football Tour where our experts visited all 12 football training camps, and BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart previewed and recapped each visit. That’s 3,035 miles in 17 days. They started in Iowa and drove across Big Ten country ultimately finishing in Michigan this past week. BTN aired a show for each school. If you get BTN2Go, watch any of the 12 shows via the links in this post. Or click here to watch selected videos. Trust us, there are a lot of videos to watch.
The final stop on our annual summer football tour was Thursday, and they spent the day in Ann Arbor, Mich., checking out Brady Hoke’s talented Michigan team. Tom had many observations from the practice, none bigger than Denard Robinson looked more comfortable than ever under center. Read the full report.
At Michigan State, Tom wrote, “Coaches think Maxwell is a better athlete than departed Kirk Cousins—and his arm is every bit as good. In fact, it may be the best in the league. We just have to wait to see how Maxwell performs when the lights are turned on when the season starts. He just has a presence about him.” Read the full report.
From Penn State, Dienhart filed a report that began: “Bill O’Brien has said he wants to run a pro-style offense. Can quarterback Matt McGloin execute it? He had his moments but lacks a live arm and still can make dubious decisions. Paul Jones ran the second team and will see action this year, according to O’Brien. He is a massive quarterback who is pushing 260 pounds and can throw the ball 80 yards. Penn State can win with McGloin. But Jones has to play …” Read the full report.
Dienhart looked at Ohio State’s receivers, among other things. “The receiving corps has been maligned since the spring,” Dienhart wrote.”Who is going to step up? Players were in and out all practice. Corey Brown looked good. Offensive coordinator Tom Herman told me before practice that he has looked the best of the receivers in camp. Devin Smith also had his moment. Michael Thomas is a true freshman sensation and spring star who showed me he could be a contributor this fall, but he was running with the second team.” Read the full report.
Is Nathan Scheelhaase the Illini starter at QB? “It will be a shock if he isn’t the guy under center in the opener,” Dienhart reported. “At 6-5, Reilly O’Toole certainly looks the part and has the best arm of all the signal-callers. But co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty told me Miles Osei is pushing O’Toole and may have the strongest arm of all the quarterbacks.” Read the full report.
At Indiana, Dienhart kept very busy, and he wrote, “There is a lot going on at Indiana as Kevin Wilson embarks on his second season in Bloomington coming off a one-win debut. The quarterbacks had their moments, with Tre Roberson running with the first team. His arm is solid and it looks like his touch has improved. He remains a dangerous runner. Cam Coffman also looked good at times. He has a decent body and strong arm. He also showed good feet.” Read the full report.
Purdue is an interesting story, Dienhart says. “I was eager to see the skill-position talent. Running back Ralph Bolden isn’t having contact as he recovers from another knee injury. He dressed for this practice but did little. Akeem Shavers and Akeem Hunt got the bulk of the work. Hunt is a diminutive back with some giddy-up, while Shavers is a little bit of a heavier hitter. Purdue also likes to get creative in the run game, getting touches for wideouts Raheem Mostert and Antavian Edison on jet sweeps to take advantage of their speed. The quarterbacks also showed they again will be part of the running game.” Read the full report.
Northwestern trains in Kenosha, Illinois, and that was the last stop of the first leg of the trip. Dienhart filed, ” Venric Mark has been one of the biggest surprises of camp and could end up winning the running back job. The diminutive (5-8, 170) Mark was switched from receiver during bowl practices. He flashed lightning quickness today. Mike Trumpy was Mike Trumpy when I watched him: A workmanlike back. And he is healthy after ACL surgery kept him out of spring ball. Tyris Jones is another thumper. I wanted to see more of true freshman Malin Jones, but he has been dinged up with a shoulder issue. But, bottom line, I still wonder how productive this collection of backs will be.” Read the full report.
Dienhart spents some time with the assistant coahces at Wisconsin, too. “While watching practice, offensive coordinator Matt Canada told me he’s happy with what he has installed thus far, as camp is about to hit full stride. I couldn’t help but to focus on what has to be one of the most closely watched signal-caller battles in camp across the nation. Canada says it’s a three-man derby between Danny O’Brien, Curt Phillips and Joel Stave.” Read the full report.
Minnesota was the third stop for the BTN bus. “Talking to offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover, he thinks just having a year under the belt will help the staff and players with the attack,” Dienhart reported, “Last season, Limegrover felt he tried to feed the players too much, almost trying to continue where he and the staff left off at Northern Illinois. It was too much. So, this spring Limegrover stripped things down and got back to basics. And the offense is building on those fundamentals in camp.” Read the full report.
Dienhart was looking for several things at Huskers practice. “Defensive coordinator John Papuchis wants to get his first-team set, and then focus on developing depth,” Dienhart posted. “He knows the importance of having a good two-deep as the season wears on. Papuchis installed a 3-4 at practice last night, displaying an array of talent at linebacker.” Read the full report.
Here’s what Dienhart thinks you need to watch when it comes to Iowa. “Keep an eye on the offensive line,” Dienhart wrote from his first stop on the tour. ” While most pundits are rightly focusing on the issues at running back, keep an eye on the guys up front. It could be good—and it must be good. The unit has only two seniors in center James Ferentz and guard Matt Tobin, but it still teems with potential. The tandem of sophomore left tackle Brandon Scherff and junior right tackle Brett Van Sloten could be special. Scherff could be the next great Iowa lineman, falling in line with Robert Gallery, Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff. Yes, he could be that good.” Read the full report.
|Iowa | Watch on BTN2Go||Northwestern | Watch on BTN2Go||Ohio State | Watch on BTN2Go|
|Nebraska | Watch on BTN2Go||Purdue | Watch on BTN2Go||Penn State | Watch on BTN2Go|
|Minnesota | Watch on BTN2Go||Indiana | Watch on BTN2Go||Michigan State | Watch on BTN2Go|
|Wisconsin | Watch on BTN2Go||Illinois | Watch on BTN2Go||Michigan | Watch on BTN2Go|