Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, December 12, 2014

Let the speculation begin: Mel Kiper, Jr., and his hair think that if Michigan?s Devin Gardner commits to being a receiver, he could be a late-round NFL draft pick.

Gardner played the first eight games of the 2012 season as a wide receiver for the Wolverines, catching passes from former Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson, who is now an NFL running back in Jacksonville.


No denying the impact offensive coordinator Ralph Friedgen had on the Rutgers? attack in his first season. He was worth his $500,000 salary, the highest ever given to a RU assistant.

According to the USA Today report on assistant coaches salaries released this week, Friedgen ranks 62nd nationally among the highest-paid assistant coaches and tied for 6th among Big Ten offensive coordinators whose salaries were documented in the database (Penn State, Northwestern didn't disclose their information). Again, money well spent for a 7-5 club headed to a bowl in its Big Ten debut. I didn?t see it coming.



 Penn State is down one quarterback, as Michael O?Connor is transferring. notes that O'Connor originally committed to the Nittany Lions when Bill O'Brien was the head coach and enrolled at the school in January. Under James Franklin's staff, O'Connor – a 6-foot-5 pro-style passer — was listed as the third-string quarterback on the depth chart all season behind Christian Hackenberg and fellow freshman Trace McSorley. PSU will be just fine. No worries.


Disappointment at Northwestern, where the Wildcats have missed the postseason for a second year in a row. So the gang at has taken a look at the top five players coming back in 2015.

No. 1 on the list: DE Dean Lowry, who quietly was one of the team?s best players this season. Bet you thought it would be RB Justin Jackson.


Speaking of Northwestern ? here?s a pre-decision primer on the union issue at NU. This should answer any questions you may have on the process, what has happened, and what may happen.


The early returns are in: Ohio State is beating Alabama when it comes to early sales of Sugar Bowl ducats.

Since Sunday's announcement that Ohio State would meet top-ranked Alabama in the national semifinal game on Jan.1, fans in the Buckeye State have scooped up 21 percent of tickets purchased on SeatGeek, compared to 18 percent bought in Alabama. Connor Gregoire, an analyst for SeatGeek, speculated that Ohio State's strong and surprising finish at the end of the season - a 59-0 victory over Wisconsin with third-string quarterback Cardale Jones at the helm - accounts for the strong ticket sales.

"It seems odd to call Ohio State the Cinderella team," said Gregoire. "But they really are the underdog here."


The decision of Gary Andersen to bolt Wisconsin for Oregon State is still reverberating. Pat Forde of Yahoo! Sports thinks UW may have an institutional problem.

Forde wonders if A.D. Barry Alvarez could be the problem. When the resident hero coach is still in town, it can be difficult coaching in his shadow. When the resident hero coach is still on campus, it?s more difficult. When the resident hero coach is your boss, well, good luck. Alas, it appears the school is on the precipice of hiring a new coach. That didn?t take long.


Nice story on Iowa All-American offensive tackle Brandon Scherff, who may be the top lineman produced during the Kirk Ferentz era. He took home the Outland last night.

Scherff could have left for the NFL after his junior season, when he would have been a first-round pick. But he decided to return, to cement his legacy as one of Iowa's all-time greats.

"I've never regretted my decision," Scherff said.

Scherff's athleticism and strength have him a sure-fire NFL first-round pick again. Analyst Mel Kiper Jr. has Scherff No. 6 on his latest first-round projections.


Nice get for Indiana, which landed UAB wideout Marqui Hawkins after the Blazers dropped their program. He will be a needed target for an aerial game that lacked pop in 2014.

Hawkins enrolled at Florida, where he redshirted in 2013, before transferring to UAB. He had to sit out there and retains three seasons of eligibility. He originally picked Florida over Clemson. As a high school senior in Columbus, Ga., Hawkins had 41 catches for 800 yards and six touchdowns. The guy is a stud.


Indiana hoops has a rebounding problem. How will the Hoosiers solve it?

Troy Williams can reasonably at least get back to last year's numbers, and there's promise in Emmitt Holt and Collin Hartman. But says it's got to start with Hanner Mosquera-Perea. Rebound, young man.


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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