Monday links: Iowa LB trio, Aaron Craft & tweets

Iowa’s senior trio of linebackers James Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens has a chance to go out with a bang in the Outback Bowl vs. LSU. But let’s take a peak toward 2014 as we kick off daily links: Who will replace the three stalwarts?

Pat Harty of HawkCentral.com says 17-year-old true freshman Reggie Spearman, sophomore walk-on Travis Perry and junior Quinton Alston appear to be the frontrunners to replace Iowa’s senior triumvirate at linebacker, based on the most recent depth chart. Spearman could be a special player, but I think we all expect a drop-off, right? But coordinator Phil Parker will have the group ready to play. Defense usually is a strong point in Iowa City.

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Nice story on Nebraska wideout Quincy Enunwa, who can make a statement in the bowl game vs. Georgia.

“I haven’t played as well as I should have in the latter half of the season,” Enunwa said last week. “I know what I did wrong.”

No doubt, playing with three quarterbacks hasn’t helped. And Enunwa has played with an injury. Still, he has room to improve, too.

***

The gang at Eleven Warriors tells us to appreciate Aaron Craft while we can. Amen to that.

The guy is a special talent who embodies all a coach loves. And he’s also Ohio State’s all-time leader in assists and steals. And then there is this:

Craft plays hoops with zero regard for his body and with more passion than most people approach anything in their lives. He attacks the game with gusto, often getting more excited about little things like creating a five-second call than hitting a three-pointer, although that can get pretty exciting too.

OSU fans love him. Foes? Well, they hate him. It’s easy to see why after watching him for five seconds.

***

If Michigan was looking to shed its soft label in the game vs. Arizona, well, it failed.

And the point guard slot? It remains fluid after Spike Albrecht’s strong showing vs. the Wildcats.

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Who will be the reason if Michigan State wins or doesn’t win this season? It will be Branden Dawson, so says Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal.

Couch says that Dawson is a bit of an enigma. He has world-class athletic gifts and he’ll nod his head every time and tell you he gets it. It just doesn’t always translate to the basketball court. It can be frustrating to watch for anyone who’s ever played sports. He can also be a joy to watch, maximizing genetic blessings very few have, even at the highest levels of basketball.

At this point as a junior, I think Dawson is what he is. Not gonna really change much, ya know?

***

If it’s mid-December, it must be time for those Bill O’Brien-to-the-NFL rumors.

***

Indiana got beat by Notre Dame over the weekend in Indianapolis. And, that doesn’t bode well for the Hoosiers.

In fact, Bob Kravitz of the Indianapolis Star says the NCAA tourney is no sure thing. And, I agree.

As Kravitz notes, this is the same Notre Dame team that lost on its home floor to North Dakota State last week. Look it up. According to Kravitz, Indiana is an intriguing collection of young, athletic talent, but a team that lacks the mental and emotional fortitude to break through and make plays when they count against decent teams.

It’s also a team with no good wins so far on its resume.

***

Herb Gould of the Chicago Sun-Times offers insight on a book written by Stephen Bardo on the glorious Illinois “Flyin’ Illini” team from 1988-89.

The book has ruffled some feathers, but Bardo doesn’t mind.

‘‘The subtitle says, ‘Untold Story,’ ’’ Bardo told Gould. ‘‘I didn’t want to write something people could get from Wikipedia or Google. I wanted to give an insight into the personality conflicts and struggles that even great teams have.’’

Mission accomplished.

***

This is pretty interesting: In an effort to stay fresh and to get his team to peak at the right time for the bowl game, Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen is soliciting the input of his players.

“I talked to the kids. I think it’s a little bit of a feel thing, keeping them fresh,” Andersen said. “I’ve got some real honest minds on this football team, they’ll let me know what they think and how they feel.”

One of the changes this year is players will be off for nearly three days before Christmas. After a scheduled morning practice on Dec. 21, they won’t practice again before leaving for Orlando, Fla., on Christmas Day.

In the past, players usually got off for only a couple days, at most, prior to Christmas. That allowed the in-state players and others who lived in neighboring states to rush home. This will give more players the chance to do so.

TWEETS THAT MATTER

My take: He’s a special player.

My take: Can’t say that I’m shocked. The guy wasn’t even charged with a crime. Too bad.

My take: Save the date.

My take: Where have you gone, Trey Burke?

My take: A nice addition to an already stacked Iowa lineup.

My take: So there is that.

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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