Big Ten links: Latest football news, Fab Five banners & more

Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports

Big Ten links: Latest football news, Fab Five banners & more

Few schools are better at producing star offensive linemen than Iowa. Could Sean Welsh be the next great one? Chad Leistikow of HawkCentral.com explains why.

The junior-to-be might be the most vital lineman in the eventual five-man puzzle for the defending Big Ten West champions. That’s because he brings high blocking grades and position flexibility, not to mention quite the endorsement from his head coach.

“We think he’s a pretty good player,” Kirk Ferentz told HawkCentral.com. “I hate to throw this out, because I don’t want to start this train going, but Marshal (Yanda) comes to mind.”

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Ohio State is searching and sorting linemen in search of a staring group up front on offense. But just as critical: Finding a sixth man in case a starter goes down.

“What you want is if there’s a guy who can back up two spots, he’s better than the others, and that’s the next step after you find the first five,” o-line coach Greg Studrawa told Cleveland.com. “What if something happens? Who’s the next best guy? What position does he move to? Those are all pieces of the puzzle of offensive line play.”

True freshman Michael Jordan, Demetrius Knox and JC Malcolm Pridgeon are the top candidates to be sixth man in 2016.

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Oklahoma has become a haven for transfers, including ex-Penn State WR Geno Lewis. Look for him to have an impact this fall.

All told, Oklahoma has added seven transfers from NCAA Division I programs since May 2012, according to NewsOK.com. And Lewis undoubtedly comes at a great time for Oklahoma, which is seeking to replace Sterling Shepard and Durron Neal off last year’s Big 12 championship and College Football Playoff squad.

“Geno’s been invaluable to us both on and off the field with his maturity, the way he approaches practice and the way he approaches classes,” outside receivers coach Dennis Simmons told NewsOK.com. “He’s able to be here because he graduated early. That says a lot about his character.

“He is a walking, living example of what any college coach would want their players to become.”

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Penn State will have a first-year starter at quarterback with Christian Hackenberg off a year early to the NFL. The good news: The Nittany Lions have done pretty well with first-year starters of late. Jeff Rice of 247Sports.com has a good look at the Penn State trend going back to 2001. I had forgotten about Matt Senneca. Wow.

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The goal of Nebraska special teams coordinator Bruce Read: fewer breakdowns, according to Sam McKewon of Omaha.com.

The importance of De’Mornay Pierson-El can’t be understated.

“He fields punts most guys can’t and he’s quick — real aggressive with his first couple steps,” Read said. “He can split guys and then it’s on.”

In 2014, Nebraska’s punt returners — mostly Pierson-El — fielded 39 punts. Last season, NU fielded 11. As a result, the Huskers went from No. 1 in the nation with 620 punt return yards to tied for 87th with 114 return yards. And remember: 49 of those 114 yards came from Pierson-El in one game against Minnesota. Pierson-El’s skill set is crucial, Read said, because of the types of hard-to-field punts in today’s college game.

“There’s so much going on with the punt game that it’s kind of put you in a defensive posture rather than a return posture,” Read said. “We did OK there. We managed the game. It looked like football. It wasn’t chaos.”

Bottom line: Pierson-El is a difference-maker.

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Congrats to Tom Izzo on his election into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Let’s celebrate with the Lansing State Journal.

Most forget Izzo’s tenure following Jud Heathcote didn’t start ultra-smoothly, notes Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal. He even was derided as “Tom Fizzo” by one after yet another loss to Detroit. But look at Izzo now—bright and shiny with seven Final Four trips and a national title.

Speaking of Izzo, you thinking what I am thinking? Man, have we watched him age in 21 years on the MSU bench. Check out this video tribute.

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Here we go again: Debate on if the banners from the Fab Five era should be put back into the rafters at Michigan. This is the story that won’t die.

Speaking on an ESPN podcast hosted by Marty Smith and Ryan McGee this weekend, Jimmy King said he’s trying to bring the necessary parties together for the Fab Five to have its place in the Crisler Center rafters.

“I’m working with the university and we’re looking to put a roundtable together with former players and some sportswriters and sportscasters, so look for that in the future,” said King, who joined Chris Webber, Jalen Rose, Juwan Howard and Ray Jackson as Michigan’s famed 1991 recruiting class.

King added: “The main thing is getting our banners up. That’s the biggest thing that I think will also help in the recruiting of Michigan basketball.”

You know what they say: Time heals all wounds.

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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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