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Celebrating 5 years: Top 5 running backs of BTN era

Wisconsin's Montee Ball

The Ultimate Montee Ball Highlight Reel

It’s been a fast handful of years, and on Aug. 30, BTN will officially celebrate its fifth anniversary. Crazy to think, huh? To celebrate – not to mention kill time before the season kicks off – I’m spotlighting some of the great football careers during our existence. I’ll do it in the mold of “Big Ten’s Best,” our popular countdown show that returns this fall for another season of ranking the best in Big Ten history. My second list ranks the top five running backs of the last five seasons, aka the BTN era.

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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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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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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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Dienhart: Q&A with Iowa DC Phil Parker

Iowa's Micah Hyde

2012 Kickoff Luncheon: Hope and Ferentz

Kirk Ferentz’s Iowa staff was famous for its stability since he took over in 1999. But that all changed after last season. The key changes were new coordinators on both sides of the ball for the first time under Ferentz. Offensive coordinator Ken O’Keefe left to coach with the Miami Dolphins, while defensive coordinator Norm Parker retired.

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