Dienhart: Things I learned at Minnesota

MarQueis Gray

Tom Dienhart's Take Away on Minnesota

Anytime you watch Minnesota, you can’t help but focus on quarterback MarQueis Gray. At 6-4, 250 pounds, Gray looked like a linebacker or defensive end when I stood by him at practice. He’s a physical beast. But he also has made some great strides as a passer, which were apparent in the practice we watched. Quarterbacks coach Jim Zebrowski told me things are slowing down for Gray in his second season in the scheme. You could sense a maturity and confidence about Gray as he worked out. He’s older and wiser—and it showed today.

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Did You See This? Illinois' Tim Beckman takes ice bath

It was a hard days work for Illinois football coach Tim Beckman on Friday. Or perhaps, he really felt like bonding with standout linebacker Jonathan Brown. Either way, the first-year head coach capped Friday’s practice with a plunge in the ice bath. No joke. And from the picture @IllinoisFootball tweeted, it sure seemed as though Beckman enjoyed the cold temperatures. See the photo in this post.

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BTN tour mailbag: All things Nebraska Huskers

Throughout the seasons, I answer your Big Ten football and basketball questions in my Big Ten Mailbag. While on the BTN summer bus tour, I’m fielding questions from every stop along our 3,000-plus mile trek across Big Ten country. We were at Nebraska practice Thursday night, and Husker fans sent me their questions. We’ll be at Minnesota practice Saturday, and here’s what I want to see from the Gophers. If you have a question, send it to me in the box at the bottom of this post or tweet it to me (@BTNTomDienhart).

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The next Bob Sanders: Iowa's Nico Law?

Iowa's Nico Law

Nico Law Defense - Iowa Spring Game

Iowa’s Nico Law owns 11 career tackles. Eleven! But with a name like Nico Law and the ability to obliterate opponents, statistics aren’t needed to garner attention. Especially during preseason camp. The sophomore safety has impressed so much this summer, some in the Iowa football program are comparing him to Iowa legend Bob Sanders. Yes, that Bob Sanders, the three-time All-Big Ten first-team honoree. The comparisons may be a bit premature, but there’s no denying he’s a hard-hitting safety.

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New Purdue train logo featured on football jerseys

Not a great photo, by any means, but this is the only look I’ve seen of the much-debated new Purdue train logo on the football jersey. Back in April, the logo change was a hugely popular topic. And let’s just say, not many Boiler fans were happy with the tweaks Nike made. Well, they’re going to have to get used to it, because it’s displayed at the bottom of the collar, just like the old logo, sandwiched in between the new “B1G” patch and the Nike swoosh.

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Dienhart: Getting ready to see the Gophers

The BTN tour bus stops at Minnesota next. And there will be a lot to watch at Saturday afternoon’s practice in Minneapolis at the Gibson Nagurski Football Complex. The Minnesota Preview Show will air at 10 p.m. ET Sunday. Jerry Kill’s second team has lots of questions. On offense, I will watch to see how quarterback MarQueis Gray is passing the ball. He hit just 50.7 percent of his passes last year. That must improve, while also maintaining his vast running skills.

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Dienhart: Things I learned at Nebraska practice

Nebraska's Rex Burkhead

Tom Dienhart's Take Away on Nebraska

The second stop of our BTN bus tour brought us to Lincoln, Neb., where we watched the Huskers practice on an absolutely beautiful night Thursday. Here is what I learned and observed while taking in the practice. Talking to offensive coordinator Tim Beck after practice, he says quarterback Taylor Martinez has made strides in his mechanics. Beck showed me how Martinez had a hitch in his delivery, thrusting his hips forward and dropping his right shoulder before delivering the ball.

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