You have questions, I have answers in this week’s mailbag. Plenty of questions about football with some spring drills about to conclude this weekend. But I start off this week with a hoop questions. Why? Because I can. Thank you.
Spring games offer fans that first opportunity to sneak a peek at their team. What are the key areas of concern? And are they being filled? Or will a lot of work remain in the fall? Don’t expect any big resolutions, as coaches typically play things very pedestrian and vanilla so as not to show opponents anything new they are working on that could be compromising down the road.
As with my Daily Big Ten Links, here are some of the bigger items buzzing in Big Ten territory with spring exhibitions looming this Saturday at Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue, Indiana, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois.
As a handful of Big Ten Spring Football games approach, I found out what’s making news on Big Ten gridirons. Which team does Montee Ball see as the favorite in the Leaders Division? Who can help Rex Burkhead carry the load at Nebraska? How has Iowa freshened up the offense? Plus, get my takes on a few Big Ten-related tweets.
Here’s what is buzzing in Big Ten football circles on this glorious Wednesday, as we barrel toward the first batch of spring games this weekend.
Michigan State is coming off consecutive 11-win seasons. The Spartans won a share of the Big Ten crown in 2010 and captured the Legends Division title in 2011 before falling to Wisconsin in the inaugural Big Ten title game. Some heady accomplishments under Mark Dantonio. But something is missing—a trip to a BCS bowl, which is a destination that Michigan State never has enjoyed. In fact, the Spartans haven’t been to the Rose Bowl since after the 1987 season.
Just four years ago, Brady Hoke was coaching in the MAC at Ball State. Now, he’s leading one of college football’s most storied programs. And Hoke has Michigan on the precipice of big things as he enters his second season in Ann Arbor. Hoke is riding the momentum and mojo of a smashing debut at Michigan in 2011, forging an 11-2 record and second-place finish in the Legends Division. The Wolverines capped the season with a victory over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl.
Take a spin around what is making news across the Big Ten football landscape on this day. Among other things, Michigan looks like it has a tight end … Ohio State may have a star safety … and more is revealed about the recruiting dust-up between Urban Meyer and Bret Bielema.
This is the moment Tim Beckman had been building for: To coach a Big Ten team. And the first-year Illinois coach knows the possibilities are huge, which is why he’s so excited. I recently spoke to Beckman about a variety topics as his first spring practice in Champaign was close to drawling to an end.
A look at the football news that’s making headlines as we steamroll toward the first Big Ten spring football games this weekend. From Ohio State’s spread offense and Nebraska’s depth at linebacker to trick plays at Penn State and junior college transfers at Indiana, let’s dive in.
Michigan star Trey Burke announced Monday that he will return to the Wolverines after flirting with entering the 2012 NBA Draft (story). About a week ago, Ohio State’s Deshaun Thomas announced the same thing (story), which got us thinking the following: Which player’s return is bigger? BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart and BTN.com blogger Brent Yarina debate the topic in this post. Also on Monday, Minnesota guard Chip Armelin announced he is transferring (story).
Michigan point guard Trey Burke made the right move by announcing Monday that he will return to school for his sophomore year.
Ohio State saw star center Jared Sullinger turn pro earlier this week after his sophomore season. But the Buckeyes got good news today with Deshaun Thomas’ announcement that he would return for his junior season. “Deshaun, his family and our coaching staff have spent the last week evaluating his future,” Ohio State coach Matta said. “Deshaun determined he wants to remain a Buckeye. We are looking forward to building on the success our team enjoyed in 2011-12 with Deshaun playing a significant role next year.”
You have questions, I have answers in this week’s mail bag. A lot of football queries, as April is the month of the spring football game. As always, thanks for the questions. Great ones, as usual. Keep them coming! In addition to filing regular football fix posts, writer roundtables, and one-on-one interviews, I’m monitoring the news around Big Ten practices. And I’ll be going to a few Spring Football games, too. Stay in touch with me on Twitter (@BTNTomDienhart) and Facebook page (www.facebook.com/BTNTomDienhart), too.
How is strength training going at Penn State? What does Nebraska’s Rex Burkhead say he needs to do better? And what is Illinois coach Tim Beckman looking for this spring? It’s that time of day—time for a dose of Big Ten grid bits. What are scribes across the Midwest banging their keyboards about? Check it out.
The building continues in Minnesota for second-year coach Jerry Kill, who is coming off a 3-9 season and last-place finish in the Legends Division. Hope floats in Minneapolis, but Kill has a long to-do list if he wants to get the Golden Gophers back to the postseason since Tim Brewster took them to consecutive bowls in 2008-09. The top priority? Improving a porous defense that finished 11th in the Big Ten vs. the run (186.4 ypg), ninth against the pass (216.7 ypg) and 10th overall in the Big Ten (403.1 ypg).
Ohio State big man Jared Sullinger announced he going to turn pro with two years of eligibility left. It was big news. But the fact the Buckeye offense still is trying to find its way under a new scheme is noteworthy, as well. Here are other key spring grid happenings today as well as my reaction to a handful of Big Ten tweets.
Change is the operative word in Iowa City this spring. There three new assistants, including offensive coordinator Greg Davis and defensive coordinator Phil Parker. And each is tweaking the schemes they inherited from the departed Ken O’Keefe (offense) and Norm Parker (defense). Also, Brian Ferentz (Kirk Ferentz’s son) was tabbed to coach the offensive line and LeVar Woods was promoted to linebackers coach, while Reese Morgan was moved from offensive to defensive line coach.
Here are some of the hotter Big Ten football items buzzing around the Internet on this day. Plus, see three tweets that caught my eye.
No one was shocked when Ohio State’s Jared Sullinger announced Wednesday that he will turn pro after two seasons in Columbus. He’s ready. In fact, some felt Sullinger was ready after his freshman season, when he averaged 17.2 points and 10.2 rebounds for a team that won the Big Ten and entered the NCAA tourney as the No. 1 overall seed. Alas, the Buckeyes lost in the Sweet 16 to Kentucky.
Kevin Wilson’s debut was a rough one as the Hoosiers skidded to a 1-11 mark overall and an 0-8 Big Ten record. But it’s a building process and Wilson knows that. He spent most of last season implementing his schemes—and trying to get players to buy into what he wants and demands from them. In my ongoing series of Big Ten Spring Football writer roundtables, I talked to three writers who cover the Hoosiers to get their views on Indiana’s top priorities this spring.
The future looked so bright for Michigan State center Derrick Nix. Now, it’s murky. Nix was arrested early Tuesday morning and charged with operating a vehicle with the presence of drugs and marijuana possession.
The nation still is buzzing over the greatest six-point performance in NCAA title game history. Thank you, Anthony Davis. Here’s what’s buzzing around Big Ten gridirons.
It is four straight bowls (Alamo, Outback, TicketCity, and Meineke Car Care) and counting for Northwestern under Pat Fitzgerald, but he’s still looking to sip from the postseason championship cup as he enters his seventh season in Evanston. It could happen this year, if the Wildcats can answer some key questions this spring.