Big Ten links: Catch up on Friday's football & hoops headlines

Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten links: Catch up on Friday's football & hoops headlines

Yes, Michigan State’s season ended in disappointment. But the Spartans already have turned the page. In fact, Tom Izzo thinks his 2016-17 team may be his most talented yet.

Speaking of next year’s roster, Mlive.com says the big question mark among is forward Deyonta Davis, who will be deciding whether or not to declare for the NBA after his freshman year. But in a presser, Izzo also singled out Eron Harris, Matt McQuaid and Gavin Schilling as players he’s looking to make a significant step next year, as Michigan State looks to replace three starters in Denzel Valentine, Bryn Forbes and Matt Costello.

“I think those guys are talented enough,” said Izzo, who is primed to add a boffo recruiting class.

The beat goes on in East Lansing.

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This is good to know: Michigan A.D. Warde Manuel is amenable to scheduling Notre Dame. Let’s hope this happens. It’s good for college football. And who doesn’t want to see Jim Harbaugh tweaking the Fighting Irish? Exactly.

Back in 2012, Notre Dame canceled three remaining games against Michigan that were scheduled for 2015 through 2017. That cancellation, which left the Wolverines with no future games against the Irish, was primarily due to Notre Dame partnering with the ACC and agreeing to schedule five games against their conference members each season.

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How about this: Wisconsin will hold a spring practice in Green Bay, Wis., on April 2.

It’s in preparation for the Wisconsin season opener against LSU at Lambeau Field on Sept. 3. The Badgers will practice at the Green Bay Packers’ indoor training facility beginning at 10 a.m. After practice, the team will tour Lambeau Field and the Green Bay Packers Hall of Fame.

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Yes, the QB derby at Penn State will draw a lot of attention, as the Nittany Lions look to replace Christian Hackenberg. But the offensive line may be an even bigger concern. This unit needs to make big strides if the offense wants to take flight.

How bad has it been? The last three years, Hackenberg was sacked 103 times. PSU finished 2015 No. 13 in the Big Ten in total offense and No. 12 in rushing. New line coach Matt Limegrover will help. He’s a smart man. And he has some talent to work with led by tackle Andrew Nelson.

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Rutgers has a banner up in its practice bubble that reads “The Hunt.” What does it mean?

“‘The Hunt’ is really the theme of the team right now,” Chris Ash said Thursday after Rutgers concluded the first of 15 spring practices. “We’re basically chasing the other teams in the Big Ten. We can’t make any secret about that. To chase them, we gotta go hunt every single day. That’s the theme of the offseason, that’s the theme of the team right now. Whether it’s in the weight room, out in the indoor (bubble) with our special workouts or in practice.”

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Curtis Samuel has a healthy foot. And that is a reason why some fell he may be the Buckeyes’ breakout offensive star for an attack that lost a lot of proven skill talent.

“It’s definitely going to help me out. Last year I was running around with a messed-up foot,” Samuel said. “I felt like I couldn’t come out of my breaks, I couldn’t cut as well as I wanted to. I was running fast, but it was just the pain was still there.

“I feel like I’m going to be much better now. I’m ready for it.”

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Illinois A.D. Josh Whitman and hoops coach John Groce held a joint news conference on Thursday to show they are still on the same page, regardless of myriad off-court issues involving players.

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First it was Purdue’s Caleb Swanigan, now it’s Iowa’s Peter Jok who will test the NBA waters. Can’t blame them. I’d do the same. It’s nice the NCAA has this rule.

Will Jok, a senior-to-be, get picked? He probably is a long shot now. But, it can’t hurt to get an evaluation. He has until May 25 to decide. Jok won’t hire an agent so he preserves his eligibility. Like Swanigan, Jok probably will be back on campus next year. At least that’s what I think.

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It is good to see Purdue LB Ja’Whaun Bentley at spring drills. The Boilermaker defense desperately needs Bentley to be a stud.

The junior linebacker suffered a torn ACL in practice last October, missing the final seven games of the 2015 season. Despite appearing in only five games, Bentley finished sixth on the team in tackles with 49, and third on the team in tackles for loss with 7.5. Five months removed from surgery, Bentley says he’s ahead of schedule.

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Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer

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, and send him questions to his weekly mailbag.

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7:00 PMFlorida Gulf Coast at Rutgers Watch
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