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.
At Indiana, former Hoosier players will hold a kids clinic on the field before the current Hoosiers scrimmage. At Northwestern, current players will pose for photos and sign autographs after their game. Former Michigan players will be playing flag football in Ann Arbor while Illinois will honor the 1951 undefeated Rose Bowl team. It’s official: Spring football has become a festival for Big Ten fans.
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.
This Saturday the Big Ten Network offers up an unprecedented amount of Spring Football coverage on TV and online as fans can watch all six Saturday events live. In action on Saturday: Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue, Indiana, Nebraska, Iowa and Illinois. Find out how to watch each event in this post and listen to your Big Ten coach speak on this week’s Big Ten teleconference.
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.
The first wave of Big Ten spring games are one week away. That’s right, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue all wrap up spring drills April 14. Kind of hard to believe, huh? Here at BTN.com, we post some of the teams’ latest YouTube videos. See several of the newest ones, including a highly entertaining Northwestern feature, in this post. Plus, watch “Illini Insider” preview Illinois’ wide receivers right now.
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.
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 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.
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.
With Ohio State, the Big Ten’s final basketball team left in the men’s or women’s NCAA tourney, falling Saturday night in the national semifinals, it’s time to shift focus to spring football. In just two weeks, after all, the spring games will begin. Watch the latest spring videos from the schools’ YouTube channels 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’.