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.
Illinois center Meyers Leonard has opted to turn pro. And it isn’t a shock. “This was a very difficult decision because I love the University of Illinois,” Leonard said in a statement released by the school. “But I feel the timing is right for me to follow my dream of playing in the NBA and having the opportunity to provide for my mom and family.”
Danny Hope broke through in Year Three last season with his first bowl appearance as Boilermaker coach, capping a 7-6 season with a victory over Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. Now, he’s looking to take Purdue to the next level. And, it may happen in 2012, if some key issues get resolved. I talked to three writers who cover Purdue to get their thoughts on the Boilermakers’ spring to-do list. See what Mike Carmin, Brian Neubert and Pete DiPrimio all have to say about the Boilermakers in this post.
Yes, the national championship will be decided tonight in New Orleans. But spring football is in full bloom across Big Ten country. And here are some of the bigger things scribes are writing about on this glorious Monday.
Ohio State led by as many as 13 points in Saturday night’s national semifinal against Kansas, but it couldn’t hold on in a 64-62 defeat at the Mercedes-Benz Superdome. It was a heartbreaking defeat as Kansas’ rally marked the third-largest comeback in Final Four history. BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart offers his rapid reaction to the season-ending loss in this post.
It is four bowls in a row and counting for Pat Fitzgerald and Northwestern. But something is missing: A bowl victory. Fitzgerald is 0-4 in the postseason; Northwestern. But Fitzgerald presses on, coming off his first losing season (6-7) since his 4-8 debut in 2006. And his Wildcats have issues to address this spring. Chief among those is improving a defense that ranked 11th in the Big Ten overall (407.7 ypg), 12th vs. the pass (230.4 ypg) and 10th against the run (177.3 ypg). The offense also has work to do with Dan Persa gone under center. I caught up with Fitzgerald as he was in the midst of spring drills.
It’s not Friday the 13th, but it probably feels like it at Iowa, where another running back (Jordan Canzeri) has gone down with injury. Is the position cursed in Iowa City? Mike Hlas of the Cedar Rapids Gazette scoffs at that notion. Still, you have to wonder … Marcus Coker … Mik’ail McCall … Adam Robinson … Jewel Hampton … Brandon Wegher … all gone earlier or hurt since Shonn Greene’s huge 2008 season. Hmmm. Just sayin’.
There’s no shortage of newsworthy Big Ten items right now, what with Ohio State headed to the Final Four in New Orleans, spring practice in full swing and ex-Maryland QB Danny O’Brien deciding to commit to Wisconsin over Penn State, among other schools.
What has been anticipated for a few days became reality Thursday as Illinois named Ohio’s John Groce as its men’s basketball coach. Will it be a good hire? A bad hire? Who knows? It’s absurd to draw a conclusion on something like that on the day of an introductory press conference. But a few things are without dispute.