Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, April 11, 2014

Basketball season is over and spring football is reaching its peak. What?s it all mean? My email inbox is filling up. Let?s answer some of your questions. Remember that there are eight Big Ten schools conducting spring games Saturday and all eight will be available live via BTN2Go. The teams in action: Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue, Nebraska, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, and Indiana.

How good will Trae Waynes be compared to Darqueze Dennard? Is he a legit cornerback? – Ron

From what I have seen and been told, Waynes is very good. Is he on the same level as Dennard? No. But remember: Dennard is projected by some to be a top-10 pick in the May NFL draft. But Waynes has the skills to execute the press-man coverage that Michigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi likes to play. Bottom line: He could develop into an all-conference type of player. And NFL brass has to like his 6-1, 183-pound frame.

Do you feel that Richard Pitino will be able to turn the Gophers into a perennial Top 25 team? Does he have what it takes to start persuading the top in-state kids to stay? – Chris Farr

We don?t have much of a body of work to go by. But early observations have to be positive. Pitino inherited some good players from Tubby Smith. And he guided the Gophers to a near NCAA berth, settling for a NIT bid that Pitino and company turned into a championship. Now that Pitino has been around about one year, we should get a better indication of his recruiting prowess since has had time to establish himself and his contacts. And he has a growing body of work to sell to prospect recruits-to go along with his impressive bloodlines.

What about Iowa?s Trey Dickerson? Doesn't he deserve some mention among the top incoming basketball players for next season? I think so. – John

Dickerson is a good one, a 6-1 guard who also looked at Nebraska and Arkansas before committing to Iowa. He is a native of New York, averaging 19.8 points and 5.7 assists as a freshman at Williston State College in North Dakota this past season. He will have three seasons of eligibility at Iowa. But he?s a JC transfer. I was just looking at freshmen in the list that I compiled. That?s why he wasn?t mentioned by me.

Nebraska has no doubt shocked all the analysts, fans, coaches, etc. Will the Huskers live up to the hype next season? And how much will last year?s success improve their recruiting with the new arena? – Miles F.

Tim Miles did an incredible job in pushing Nebraska to the No. 4 spot in the Big Ten after Nebraska was picked by most pundits to finish last in 2013-14. Now, Miles can show recruits actual results. And that?s a powerful selling point. Come to Nebraska, where you can win, compete for the Big Ten and get to the NCAA tourney. Couple that success with the sparkling facilities, and Miles should have more success on the recruiting trail. Next year?s team should very good again with the likes of Terran Petteway, Walter Pitchford, David Rivers and Shavon Shields back, among others.

He's had opportunities to leave in the past, but could the union movement finally be the catalyst for Pat Fitzgerald to bolt Northwestern for another school? It really all depends on the vote, but if approved, would it be surprising if Fitz left if given a chance? – Vince

This has to be a very frustrating time for Fitz. This is his school, a school that he loves. Some of things he heard in Kain Colter?s testimony had to hurt and sting. No doubt, Fitz has enough on his plate keeping NU relevant and in contention. To have mental energy drawn from that task has to be frustrating. So, who knows? I think it would take a lot for Fitzgerald to leave a place that he embodies. Chicago is his home town and he has a young family.

With all the cash floating around, why shouldn't football and men?s basketball help pay for other sports? College is like the real world in very few instances, so comparing it to a business model where unprofitable sports are jettisoned is stupid. The rich get richer and everyone else is a club sport? Nice. – Noel Hansen

College is preparing kids for the real world. Look, kids have to perform in classes-or they fail. It?s competitive. To view football and men?s basketball as equals with other sports on campus is flawed. If those football and men?s hoops are paying the bills, they deserve special considerations. If they didn?t pay the freight, the entire athletic department wouldn?t exist. Life isn?t fair. It?s never too early to learn that lesson. Why perpetuate a fantasy land in a current athletic structure that struggles to work?

The other sports can still exist. Just not on such a grand scale. What?s wrong with that? It?s about learning about team work and the spirit of competition, right? Sports aren?t about fancy uniforms and playing tourney in exotic locations.

Love being part of the BTN and starting to see more Maryland material. For the casual fan, what if anything can I expect from BTN coverage this year, prior to July 2014? Will there be any coverage of the spring game, etc.? – Joe Stephenson

Yes, BTN TV will cover the Maryland spring game in our roundup show on Saturday night. There won?t be any other TV coverage that I know of after that. Things will go full-steam ahead in the fall with football coverage, along with other sports. It should be fun.

What happened to Taco Charlton who was with Michigan last year? – Lisa Smith

He is still around and took part in spring practices that concluded last week for the Wolverines. I know the staff is counting on Charlton making an impact along the line. At 6-6, 275 pounds, he is a very impressive specimen who played in eight games last season as a true freshman defensive end.


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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