Greg Bartram-USA TODAY Sports
Time to reach into my Big Ten mail bag. With spring football winding down, gridiron is on the minds of many of you. So, let’s get started. Oh, and thanks for all of the terrific virtual cards and letters. Great stuff!
Wisconsin begins a new era after Gary Andersen was hired from Utah State as the Badgers program’s third coach since 1990. Andersen inherited a full cupboard after Bret Bielema bolted for Arkansas, so the new coach’s task is a bit easier as he pursues the program’s fourth Big Ten title in a row. But issues must be settled, beginning with the quarterback and secondary. Some work was accomplished this spring, but more remains.
Much was made last year about Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez working with quarterback guru Steve Calhoun in southern California. But, the results were good. Well, Martinez will be back at it in May, looking to further hone his technique for a big senior season send-off.
The Illinois offense was broken in 2012. How bad was it? The Fighting Illini ranked 11th in the Big Ten in rushing (127.8 ypg); 11th in passing (168.8 ypg); last overall (296.7 ypg); last in scoring (16.7 ppg) during a 2-10 debut season for Tim Beckman that saw the Illini finish 0-8 in the Big Ten.
Any way you slice it, the 2012 season was a disappointment for Michigan State. The Spartans were coming off back-to-back 11-win seasons—with a trip to the Big Ten title game in 2011—and were thinking big entering last season. Alas, MSU flopped to a 7-6 mark that saw the Spartans lose five home games (0-4 in Big Ten) and come up short in myriad close games. In fact, MSU lost five games by a combined 13 points. An erratic offense was at the root of the Spartans’ woes. As a result, Mark Dantonio shook up his staff.
Gary Harris announced today that he was returning for his sophomore season at Michigan State. And he did it without a press conference, too. At 6-4, Harris would be a short off-guard by NBA standards and his ability to create his own shot also remains a work in progress.