Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, August 23, 2012

We're down to the final stop of the annual BTN summer football tour. Today, we're taking in Michigan practice, and then we're headed back home. It's been an incredible trip across the Big Ten footprint, and it's been great to see all the teams, all the coaches and all the campuses. Read all my tour coverage here and check out Thursday?s web links in this post.

RUSSELL'S NEXT: The next great Purdue defensive end could be Ryan Russell.

He turned heads as a redshirt freshman and looks primed to join the likes of Ryan Kerrigan, Shaun Phillips, Chike Okeafor, Rosevelt Colvin, Anthony Spencer and Cliff Avril, among others, as recent great Boilermaker defensive ends. Russell impresses me with his strength and quickness, as he could be the star on what may be a strong Purdue defense.

FIVE URBAN QUESTIONS: Rusty Miller of the AP poses five questions about the Urban Meyer era at Ohio State.

How are things different? Will the new offense work? How good will the defense be? Which players may have surprise seasons? What record should we expect? To me, the most interesting is the offense. I will be curious to see how it performs in a new spread set. Coordinator Tom Herman is one of the bright, young minds in the game. I think he?ll get it to work, as quarterback Braxton Miller had a nice camp.

CARR'S ADVICE: Former Michigan coach Lloyd Carr told a recruit back in 2008 to pick Iowa over the Wolverines. Really.

It?s not really a shock, when you consider the direction Michigan was going offensively after Carr left. In fact, I think his advice was spot-on.

POWER PEOPLE: The Sports Business Journal has ranked the most powerful people in college football. The Big Ten is represented.

Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany is No. 2. Who is No. 1? SEC commish Mike Slive. NCAA chief Mark Emmert is No. 4. Michigan State president Lou Anna Simon is No. 12.

HAPPY WITH PASS-CATCHERS: Well, looky here: Urban Meyer is happier with his receivers.

I think this could be a solid group, led by Philly Brown. He has had the best camp of the wideouts. Devin Smith, Jake Stoneburner, Michael Thomas and Evan Spencer also are nice options. Keep an extra close eye on Smith and Spencer. They could be very good.

HAWKEYE TO WATCH: Much has been made about the need for Iowa?s defensive line to step up. Along those lines, redshirt freshman Darian Cooper is a guy to watch.

Cooper has looked good thus far. And that?s a big positive. This is a Hawkeye front with just 14 career starts between ?vets? Steve Bigach and Dominic Alvis. And, get this: There are seven redshirt freshmen and sophomores on the depth chart. Yes, there could be some growing pains.

ROME Q&A: The Omaha World-Herald has a nice Q&A with Nebraska defensive lineman Chase Rome.

The Husker front could be stout, led by tackle Baker Steinkuhler and end Cameron Meredith. Rome also figures in as a main player for a defense that underachieved last season. His answer to a question of if there was a division between the seniors and underclassmen last season.

?A little bit. But I don?t think it was intentional. I don?t think it was anything the seniors did wrong. I just feel like that last year the young guys weren?t as OK with stepping up and trying to take hold of things. I feel like right now everyone feels like they?re invested. They?re a part of the defense and they can control their share. They can step up when they want to, and they have been, and that?s great. We need leadership from everybody. I think before it was just seen as a senior thing. I?m glad we?ve got our mind around that concept.?

ILLINI SHOULD BOWL: Now hear this: Mark Tupper of the Decatur Herald-Review thinks Illinois is headed for a third consecutive bowl. It will be a mild upset if that isn?t the case, I think.

The biggest key game? Nov. 17 at home vs. Purdue. Tupper is right. There are two teams on similar paths-and you know each thinks it can win this game. As Tupper notes: ?Illinois fell behind 21-0 and lost at Purdue 21-14 last season. This is the next to the last game of the season and it could be essential to either team?s bowl hopes.?


My take: Yes, defensive coordinator John Papuchis needs to get this sorted out. There is some nice talent in the back end of the Husker defense.

My take: This, ladies and gentlemen, is a good thing. Am I right? Fewer Timbuktu States on anyone?s schedule always is a positive

My take: I was impressed with the Minnesota front when I was there for practice. Offensive coordinator Jim Limegrover has done a good job developing this front for what could be a decent Gopher attack.

My take: Can?t say this is a shock. Purdue has to hope Bolden makes it back by late September-or by the beginning of conference season. He can be a very good back. senior writer Tom Dienhart is on Twitter and Facebook, all of his work is at, and you can subscribe to it via his RSS feed. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below.

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