Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, April 19, 2013

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!

I have noticed that typically if one person is doing all the kicking chores (punting, place-kicking) one or more of those duties will suffer. And since Jim Tressel always said that the punt was the most important play in football, is it cause for concern that Drew Basil will be doing all of those chores for Ohio State? -Hal Leiner

It is a lot for one player to handle. But, honestly, if Urban Meyer and staff felt they had others good enough to help in one of those areas, I think he would be playing. And, it?s not like one player hasn?t done both chores in the past for other teams-and done well.

What are the feelings of coaches regarding the practice of athletes defecting to professional sports before completion of their eligibility? – Leslie Weber

I can?t speak for coaches. But I think they understand that circumstances sometimes make sense for players to leave early for the pro ranks. If a player has a high draft rating, it often makes sense for him to leave school, avoid injury risk and get paid. All situations for players are different. We saw that when Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan bucked conventional wisdom and opted to return for his senior season even though he was projected to be a top pick.

What do you think are the Wolverines? chances of going undefeated and reaching the national championship game? – Seth Stubbins

Whoa! That?s some wishful thinking, my friend, even for a diehard Michigan. Yes, the Wolverines will be good this fall. But the offense is continuing a transition to a pro-style scheme with quarterback Devin Gardner taking full control of the attack. Issues loom at running back. And depth is needed at receiver.

The defense also needs to round into form up front with two key starters gone. An unbeaten season may be too much to expect from Brady Hoke?s third team. For now, just winning the Legends Division may be good enough. Remember: Michigan hasn?t even won the Big Ten since 2004.

Did Shane Morris enroll early at Michigan? Will he be considered the No. 2 quarterback since Russ Bellomy is injured? – Keith Bailey

No, Morris did not arrive early. Too bad, because the Wolverines surely would have liked to have acclimated him to the attack early. The backup situation has hit a crisis level, what with the injury to Bellomy. That left redshirt freshman Brian Cleary and sophomore Alex Swieca behind Gardner in the spring game.

Brady Hoke has said he may even shop for a fifth-year senior quarterback transfer or a JC transfer. Yes, the situation is that dire in Ann Arbor. No doubt, Morris will get a chance to climb the depth chart quickly upon arrival, as Hoke has said he would have no issue in burning the lefty?s redshirt if he can help.

How much defense is it going to take for Michigan State to stop the run this year 2013? – Samuel Travis

Michigan State has the makings of a good defense for 2013. In fact, it could be the best in the Big Ten. The linebacking corps should be among the best in the Big Ten with Max Bullough, Denicos Allen and Taiwan Jones projected to start. The biggest issue is the line, which must replace end William Gholston and tackle Anthony Rashad-White. Shilique Calhoun looks primed to breakout taking over for Gholston. And Lawrence Thomas looks like a future stud at tackle. Gotta like the secondary, too. Trae Waynes has emerged as Johnny Adams? replacement at a corner spot. Darqueze Dennard is the other corner; Isaiah Lewis and Kurtis Drummond form a killer safety duo.

What is the latest on realignment after Rutgers and Maryland join the Big Ten in 2014? My family are Iowa fans but we bought football season tickets for Rutgers so we can see Big Ten teams. – Dick Salway

Well, expect some type of official announcement sometime this summer on how the new divisions will look. And, early word is geography will be the No. 1 factor in how the divisions are shaped. Competitive balance? Rivalries? They won?t matter much, which wasn?t the case when divisions first were announced. Most reports seem to indicate the following alignment is a real possibility:

East: Rutgers. Maryland. Penn State. Ohio State. Michigan. Michigan State

West: Nebraska. Minnesota, Iowa, Wisconsin, Northwestern, Illinois

That leaves out two schools: Purdue and Indiana. Most seem to think Purdue will end up in the West, with Indiana in the East. But, for you, Iowa and Rutgers almost assuredly won?t be in the same division. I am sorry. And it?s unknown how cross-division opponent rotation will work out. Bottom line: Iowa likely won?t play football at Rutgers more than a handful of times each decade.


About Tom Dienhart senior writer Tom Dienhart is a veteran sports journalist who covers Big Ten football and men's basketball for and BTN TV. Find him on Twitter and Facebook, read all of his work at, and subscribe to his posts via RSS. Also, send questions to his weekly mailbag using the form below and read all of his previous answers in his reader mailbag section.

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