Big Ten links: Nebraska, Michigan State honor Sam Foltz, Mike Sadler

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Big Ten links: Nebraska, Michigan State honor Sam Foltz, Mike Sadler

The lives of Nebraska’s Sam Foltz and Michigan State’s Mike Sadler recently were honored in moving ceremonies.

The Nebraska punter and former Michigan State punter were killed in a one-car accident returning from a kicking camp in Wisconsin late last month.

Foltz, the 2015 Big Ten Punter of the Year, was set to begin his senior season for his hometown team in Lincoln, Nebraska, while Sadler was expected to begin law school at Stanford.

Watch Sadler’s tribute above and Foltz’s below.

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How about this? Les Miles’ kid has committed to Nebraska. He’s a fullback, a position that has had success over the years in Lincoln.

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Chris Ash came from Ohio State to take the Rutgers job. So, just how big is the talent gap between the Scarlet Knights and Buckeyes? As you would suspect, it’s vast.

Here, Ash will tell you: “Well, there’s a gap there. There’s a gap in facilities, there’s a gap in depth on the football team. We have some outstanding, talented football players that can play on any team in this league. But what we don’t have is the depth that probably some of the top teams have in key areas. Especially when you talk o-line and d-line. Those are some of the things that are different.”

I still love the potential of RU. So much to sell, as long as an investment is made in facilities and the top brass is on board.

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How will Urban Meyer make decisions in battles for starting jobs? Cleveland.com takes a look.

Meyer and his staff must figure out who’s going to play — sooner rather than later. There will be 16 new starters that have to be chosen, which means analyzing practice in a different way than a year ago.

“And I’m giving (the position coaches) a line of demarcation where they have to name a starter,” Meyer said. “At some point you have to say, ‘This is our guy.’ And we haven’t done that yet.”
I think things will work out just fine this fall for Meyer and Co.

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Camps are opening. And at Michigan State, a big emphasis is figuring out the d-line.

Michigan State lost three of its defensive line starters to graduation, then another three expected contributors to attrition in the offseason. Despite all the changes, Spartans coach Mark Dantonio still expects to rotate 8-10 players in the position, and thinks his team has the talent and depth to do so.

“I think we have those numbers, quality numbers,” Dantonio told Mlive. “That’s got to pay dividends for us.”

The only returning starter to the group is one of the most heralded returning players in the Big Ten: Malik McDowell, a preseason All-America selection and likely first-round pick if he declares for the 2017 NFL draft.

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Speaking of Dantonio, he hopes the Big Ten’s nine-game league schedule helps send a team to the playoffs.

“It adds a power rating to our conference, hopefully,” Dantonio said at Big Ten media days last week. “I would think that it would be very difficult with a one-loss team who wins the Big Ten championship to not be in the College Football Playoff, and I think that’s the goal.”

The Big Ten joins the Pac-12 and Big 12 in playing nine-game schedules. The SEC and ACC both play eight-game conference schedules. Yes, the extra league game should augment the playoff profile of Big Ten teams. But I’m not sure the ninth league game will be that big of a boon to a playoff spot. The extra Big Ten game was added more to enhance the league’s TV profile.

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In case you missed it, the NCAA recommends less contact in practices. Now, how many leagues will follow suit?

The guideline would not impact training camps across the country but would slide into place six days before each team’s regular-season opener — and continue through the rest of the 2016 season.

The NCAA defines “live” practices as workouts where players are tackled or hit to the ground. Per the new guideline, players who did not participate in a game the previous week would be allowed to take part in two live practices in the following one-week session.

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Here is a great piece from Joe Christensen on Minnesota coach Tracy Claeys, a guy who is kinda difficult to get to know. The Claeys has humble beginnings … and a heck of a work ethic.

It’s a pivotal year for Claeys. For all his success as a defensive coordinator, he remains unproven as a head coach. He also has a new boss in recently hired athletic director Mark Coyle. The Gophers went 2-4 after Kill resigned last year. Claeys expects more, saying the Gophers should at least contend for a Big Ten West title every November. His three-year contract pays $1.4 million this year but contains a small buyout — just $250,000 per season. Interesting.

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Penn State has had some boffo tight ends of late. And new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead plans to use the position a lot in his fast-paced offense.

Pennlive.com notes that Moorhead is nothing if not balanced and resourceful in his approach to calling plays, so extra looks for deserving tight ends should be expected. At Fordham, Moorhead lost a trio of 1,000-yard wide receivers from his 2014 team, only to see tight end Phazahn Odom lead the 2015 team with 37 catches for 492 yards and seven touchdowns. Dan Light blossomed into an All-American under Moorhead and caught 43 passes for 385 yards and three scores in 2014.

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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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