Dienhart: One thing to watch in each Big Ten spring game this weekend
The Big Ten will wrap up its spring games the next few days, with Iowa and Wisconsin playing on Friday and Maryland, Rutgers and Penn State conducting their games on Saturday.
Here is one big thing to keep an eye on in each of the five spring games.
Quarterback. With C.J. Beathard gone, this will be interesting, simply because there will be a fresh set of eyes evaluating the position in new QB coach Ken O’Keefe. Iowa’s former offensive coordinator is back and he hasn’t had any involvement with the main contenders for the spot. Also, Brian Ferentz has been promoted to OC, so he may have a different view than former OC Greg Davis. The favorite to win the job is probably sophomore Nate Stanley, who was the backup last year for Beathard. But junior Tyler Wiegers also has a shot to win the job. Still, most believe it’s the 6-5 Stanley’s job to lose.
Quarterback. It’s no secret that quarterback play hasn’t been up to par in recent years in College Park. And, the quest continues now that Perry Hills and Caleb Rowe are gone. In fact, the competition figures to continue into fall camp for DJ Durkin. Junior Caleb Henderson, sophomore Tyrrell Pigrome and sophomore Max Bortenschlager are battling. And then touted freshman Kasim Hill will be in the mix in the fall. Most think Henderson—a transfer from North Carolina who sat out last season–will take hold of the job at the start. But Hill may end up winning the position. Bottom line: stay tuned.
Defensive ends. Standouts Evan Schwan and Garrett Sickels are gone, leaving some big shoes to fill for a rising defense that needs some pass rushers. But the coaching staff has talent to work with. Redshirt freshman Shaka Toney, sophomore Shareef Miller, sophomore Ryan Buchholz, redshirt freshman Daniel Joseph and junior Torrence Brown are guys to watch. Who has a chance to make a strong impact? Redshirt freshman Shane Simmons, Miller and Buchholz.
Quarterback. This position has been too inconsistent of late. Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig have opted to leave the program. Gio Rescigno saw his first career action last year and started the final six games of the season. His play would be characterized as up and down, but he showed a skill set to be successful. Rescigno completed 52.8 percent of his passes for 889 yards with five touchdowns and five interceptions over seven appearances. Zach Allen is a senior who struggled last year after transferring from TCU. Sophomore Tylin Oden has been booted from the team, thinning the QB herd. Many feel incoming freshman Jonathan Lewis is the future. And it only will be a matter of time before he takes over. It will be interesting to see how new OC Jerry Kill shapes this spot.
Linebacker. Big shoes to fill on the outside with Vince Biegel and T.J. Watt both gone from one of the most dynamic linebacking units in the nation. Senior Garret Dooley will likely fill one of those spots at OLB, with sophomore Zack Baun, redshirt freshman Christian Bell and junior Andrew Van Ginkel all pushing for time. Van Ginkel is the first JC signed by Paul Chryst. This unit has plenty of good options at inside linebacker in senior Jack Cichy, junior Ryan Connelly, junior T.J. Edwards and junior Chris Orr. Cichy (chest) and Orr (knee) are coming off injury. Redshirt freshman Griffin Grady, sophomore Jake Whalen and sophomore Nick Thomas will try to make a move.