Here’s a look at some of the happenings on Big Ten gridirons, as the fallout from Danny O’Brien’s decision to attend Wisconsin continues. Poor Penn State.
As far as debuts go, Brady Hoke’s was a hit at Michigan. Hoke sauntered into Ann Arbor and ripped off a stunning 11-2 mark, finishing second in the Legends Division and capping the remarkable season with a triumph over Virginia Tech in the Sugar Bowl. It almost made memories of the mercurial three-season Rich Rodriguez tenure vanish. Almost. Now, the question begs: What will Hoke do for an encore? I talked to three top writers who cover Big Blue to gather their thoughts on Michigan’s to-do list this spring.
For the first time since 1965, Penn State will have a new coach prowling the sideline. Joe Paterno was forced out amid scandal late in the 2011 season—and subsequently died. In steps Bill O’Brien, a first-time head coach who comes freshly minted from the New England Patriots, where he served as offensive coordinator for arguably the NFL’s top franchise.
Big doing today, as the Danny O’Brien sweepstakes have ended with the Maryland quarterback picking Wisconsin. This is two years in a row the Badgers will welcome an ACC QB transfer. Russell Wilson from N.C. State worked out pretty good. If O’Brien is anywhere close to Wilson, 2012 will be a fun year in Madison. Fire up the grill and open the brats! Find more on that and other happenings in this post.
Who is the longest-tenured coach at his Big Ten school? It’s Iowa’s Kirk Ferentz, who is entering his 14th season in Iowa City. And as he embarks on another spring practice, he faces a unique set of challenges he never before has encountered. Chief among the challenges is developing chemistry on a coaching staff that long has been a beacon of stability but has been shaken up like never before on Ferentz’s watch. On top of the staff overhaul, Ferentz also has some key personnel issues to deal with this spring. I caught up with the Iowa coach this week to discuss those issues—and others.
Lots buzzing around Big Ten football gridirons on this day, with Michigan State taking the wraps off its spring drills. And questions loom, as you’ll see in this post. I talked to Northwestern’s Pat Fitzgerald today, and he has some pretty passionate feelings about protecting the sanctity of the bowl experience for student-athletes. More to come from Fitz later. Here’s some interesting items that I came across today.
Big week in Big Ten football, as the last three schools begin spring practice this week. Penn State kicks off today; Michigan State on Tuesday; Ohio State on Wednesday. If you can believe it, the first spring games will begin on April 14. Clean up your Weber Smokey Joes and mark your calendars.
The Urban Meyer era has dawned at Ohio State. And with it comes big dreams—national championship dreams. Why not? Meyer led Florida to BCS titles in 2006 and 2008. Yes, Ohio State is ineligible for the Big Ten title and a bowl this season as it serves probation incurred under Jim Tressel. But Meyer still wants to lay the foundation for future greatness for a team that went 6-7 last season, the program’s first losing season since going 4-6-1 under John Cooper in 1988 and the school’s first seven-loss season since 1897.
I pulled together a virtual roundtable of three prominent writers who cover Nebraska to get their thoughts on the program as it works through spring drills and into 2012. Here are their thoughts, and I’ll do more of these as spring ball continues and I file my Football Fix posts.
Who’s battling for the the left tackle spot at Iowa? How has Michigan’s Denard Robinson improved since last season? Can Purdue’s Ralph Bolden hold up? I found some great stuff from the beat writers in the Big Ten today, so come have a look. I’ll continue to track updates from around the Big Ten during this spring football season in my Football Fix posts.
Took a spin around the Internet and found a few solid pieces. With spring ball here, it’s time to rearrange the puzzle at Wisconsin; at Michigan, offensive coordinator Al Borges would like more depth on the Wolverines’ offensive line. Who will win the Penn State quarterback job? What’s new on the Iowa defense? And MarQueis Gray is the starting quarterback at Minnesota ‘right now.’
In Wednesday’s web links, BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart sends you to some of the best Big Ten spring football stories and offers his perspective on each one. Among the topics: Kirk Ferentz and his offense in need of a fix, a pair of receivers who need to prove something and an update on Maryland transfer QB Danny O’Brien, among other things. See the links, plus Dienhart’s take, in this post.
Illinois is the midst of spring practice under first-year head coach Tim Beckman, who was hired from Toledo to take over for Ron Zook. Beckman’s goal: Lead the Fighting Illini to the Big Ten championship, which they haven’t won since 2001 under Ron Turner. Zook couldn’t do it, going 34-51 overall and 18-38 in the Big Ten with three bowl bids in seven seasons. He was dismissed after a bizarre 2011 that saw the Illini open 6-0, then lose six in a row before winning their bowl game.
Minnesota kicks off spring practice Thursday. As part of our daily spring “Football Fix” feature, I caught up with MarQueis Gray, the Golden Gophers quarterback who is trying to build on a breakout 2011 season and lead Minnesota to a bowl. Gray started 10 games last season after splitting time between quarterback and receiver earlier in his career. The focus on quarterback benefited Gray, who hit 108-of-203 passes (50.7 percent) for 1,495 yards with eight touchdowns and eight interceptions. Read the Q&A in this post.
Spring football is in full swing across the Big Ten. And each day, BTN.com will be the place to stop by for your daily gridiron fix as we roll toward spring games in April. BTN.com senior writer Tom Dienhart will provide analysis, previews, videos and Q&As—among other things.