Reader mail: Who's my Big Ten Player of the Year?

It’s that time of the week when I reach into my mailbag to answer your questions. And, there’s a lot going on, what with the hoop season about to hit its full postseason stride and spring football about to heat up. So, let’s begin.

So, who is your Big Ten player of the year? – Matt P.

Well, I think it’s a two-man race between Indiana’s Victor Oladipo and Michigan’s Trey Burke. And, I would give the edge to Burke. There is no denying Oladipo’s all-around game. The junior impacts in so many different ways, as a skilled shooter, on the dribble-drive and a top-flight defender. But Burke is a more dynamic player, showing up his full array of skills in that comeback at Purdue. What he lacks in defensive acumen, Burke compensates by being a wondrous offensive player who has few—if any—peers. And he’s also a deft passer who is an above-average defender.

We have seen some assistant coaches leave their schools after being on the job for just a short period of time. What do you think of that? – Joey

In fact, three Big Ten assistants left jobs they took in a matter of weeks after taking them. Purdue offensive line coach Jim Bollman bolted for Michigan State to be co-offensive coordinator/tight ends coach; Illinois offensive line coach Jim Bridge left for the same post at Purdue; Tight ends/special teams coach Jay Boulware left Wisconsin for the same job at Oklahoma. I guess you never want to begrudge a guy the opportunity to leave. Why should he stay if he isn’t happy or wants to go elsewhere? Often times, these moves leave a staff in a lurch. Then again, assistant coaches are fired all of the time, too. So, just remember: The door swings both ways on deals like these.

Who do you think will be the top team in the Legends Division for 2013? – Cliff

It looks like another close race between Michigan and Nebraska. And don’t count out Northwestern, which will have lots of veteran talent back from a 10-win team. I think Michigan State has too many questions on offense, while Minnesota continues to build. Having typed all of that, I’ll go with the Cornhuskers to repeat. Yes, I know the defense has work to do—especially along the front seven. I was at the Big Ten title game. But I trust Bo Pelini and John Papuchis to get the unit rehabbed. The offense? It will be loaded with Taylor Martinez, Ameer Abdullah and a boffo collection of receivers. Oh, and the line will be stout, too.

How much pressure is on Ohio State’s Curtis Grant to finally step up and be a rock at linebacker? He was one of the highest-rated linebackers to ever to come out of high school. I think this will be the year Urban Meyer gets him suited for the spot. If he gets going, how good can their linebacking unit be this year? – Barry

Grant arrived as a five-star recruit but has struggled to make a big contribution his first two seasons. The Buckeyes need help with Etienne Sabino and Zach Boren gone. Ryan Shazier is a good building block and star on the weak side. Grant is penciled into the middle, while Josh Perry looks like the man on the strong side. Others to watch: WLB David Perkins; MLB Camren Williams; SLB Jamal Marcus. This is a linebacking corps that has a lot to prove.

What do you think Wisconsin will do at quarterback? – Andrea

No doubt, the Badgers will have a lot of choices. Curt Phillips has been given a sixth year of eligibility. Also back are Danny O’Brien, Joel Stave and Bart Houston, a freshman who redshirted last season. And in the summer, stud JC transfer Tanner McEvoy will arrive. Lots of choices for new coordinator Andy Ludwig and coach Gary Andersen. Who will win the job? It’s anybody’s guess.

Is there a chance that Cincinnati is looking at the Big Ten Conference? – Claude Kehler

I am sure Cincinnati would LOVE to join the Big Ten. But, alas, I don’t think it will be getting an invite. The school doesn’t “move the needle” enough to be attractive to the conference. By that, I mean it wouldn’t expand the Big Ten’s TV footprint. And the school doesn’t appear to be an academic fit with the Big Ten. Most scuttlebutt about Big Ten expansion centers around ACC schools North Carolina, Georgia Tech and Virginia.

I am very concerned about the lack big-name offensive and defensive linemen produced by the Big Ten in last few years. Those types of players are the backbone of any good football team. What do you think? – Josh Kowalczyk

I think there have been some good linemen to come out of the Big Ten in recent years. This year alone, players like Purdue’s Kawann Short and Ohio State’s Johnathan Hankins are projected by some to be first-round draft choices. Wisconsin center Travis Frederick and offensive tackle Ricky Wagner will go in the first three or four rounds of the draft. If Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan had turned pro, he surely would have been a high pick. Again, my point, there are lots of good big men in the Big Ten.

About Tom Dienhart BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men’s basketball for BTN.com and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at btn.com/tomdienhart, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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