Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, May 7, 2015

I took a look at three areas to watch for Big Ten West teams Wednesday. Now, it's time to take a look at the East Division.

Here is a look at the Big Ten East squads.


1. Is the defense better? The unit long has been an albatross around Indiana?s neck. It?s hoped the second year in coordinator Brian Knorr?s 3-4 scheme will pay dividends. IU ranked 13th in the Big Ten in 2014 in points allowed (32.8 ppg) and 11th in yards allowed (433.8 ypg). This unit just needs to become average-not great.

2. Who replaces Tevin Coleman? Coleman and his program-record 2,036 rushing yards in 2014 are off to the NFL. UAB transfer Jordan Howard looks like the ?man,? but he was banged up in the spring. Devine Redding is another guy to watch.

3. Will the pass game bounce back? Usually a staple under Kevin Wilson, the aerial game struggled in 2014, ranking last in the Big Ten (141.4 ypg), mainly due to Nate Sudfeld's season-ending injury. A big key will keeping Sudfeld healthy. There are some nice receiving options in Dominique Booth, Simmie Cobbs and J-Shun Harris, along with another UAB transfer in Marqui Hawkins. The tight ends need to come on.



1. How will the o-line perform? Only so much could be gathered from spring ball on this group. This is a unit with some talent in the form of Damian Prince, Brendan Moore, JaJuan Dulaney, Derwin Gray and Maurice Shelton, among others. It must grow up fast.

2. Who will replace C.J. Brown? Caleb Rowe may be the guy, but he?s coming off injury. Shane Cockerille and Perry Hills also are in the mix and saw extended duty in the spring. The good news: The Terps have some nice options at wideout even without Stefon Diggs and Deon Long. Marcus Leak figures to lead the way.

3. What's in store for new-look defense? The unit switched from a 3-4 to a 4-3 and has a new coordinator in Keith Dudzinski, who was promoted from within. Is the personnel up to speed? Yannick Ngakoue has moved from OLB to DE in the new scheme and looks good.



1. Which QB will win the job? This spot needs some stability. Jim Harbaugh won?t lack options, but are any of them any good? Jake Rudock has transferred from Iowa and may be the elixir to what ails the Wolverines.

2. Will offensive line make strides? Is this group finally up to snuff? Perhaps. The unit has growing numbers and maturity. Guys to watch are Ben Braden, Mason Cole, Graham Glasgow, Erik Magnuson and Kyle Kalis, among others.

3. Is there enough skill talent at WR and RB? Wideouts like Amara Darboh, Freddy Canteen and Jehu Chesson need to take the next step. At running back, all eyes will be on Derrick Green and De?Veon Smith, among others.



1. Will secondary continue to reload? The famed ?No Fly Zone? has a couple of holes to fill with CB Trae Waynes and S Kurtis Drummond gone. CB Darian Hicks may start. MSU has three nice safeties in Demetrious Cox, Montae Nicholson and RJ Williamson.

2. Who replaces Jeremy Langford? Langford was a special back whose speed made him a threat each time he touched the ball. Madre London may be the guy and will battle Gerald Holmes. LJ Scott will arrive in the fall with a fat scrapbook.

3. Who becomes Connor Cook's favorite targets? MSU lost some good ones in Tony Lippett and Keith Mumphery, who both were selected in the 2015 NFL Draft, and now will turn to players like Aaron Burbridge, DeAnthony Arnett and Monty Madaris, among others.



1. Who will it be under center? No position in the nation has been more analyzed or discussed since last season finished. Who will start this fall? Cardale Jones? J.T. Barrett? Braxton Miller? To be continued.

3. Which deep-threat will emerge? Devin Smith is gone. Evan Spencer also is gone. Who will go deep now? Michael Thomas is a good candidate. And watch Johnnie Dixon. Plain and simple, there is no shortage of playmakers on this offense.

3. Who will be final piece on offensive line? No, it isn?t a big concern with four starters back in tackle Taylor Decker, guards Billy Price and Pat Elflein and center Jacoby Boren. But a right tackle must be found with Darryl Baldwin gone. Chase Farris looks good.



1. Can the line protect better? The unit struggled mightily last year because of a lack of talent and depth, as QB Christian Hackenberg was sacked 44 times. But things appear to be improving. Andrew Nelson must be a cornerstone at guard or tackle.

2. Will a defensive end emerge? With Deion Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan gone, the Nittany Lions need someone to bring the heat. Carl Nassib has impressed, and Garrett Sickels and Torrence Brown are other options on the edge. Good thing PSU has one of the best DT tandems in the Big Ten in Anthony Zettel and Austin Johnson.

3. How will the new-look backfield perform? Akeel Lynch is the lone veteran presence. Keep an eye on Jonathan Thomas, Nick Scott and Saquon Barkley, who may be special.



1. Who replaces Gary Nova. Nothing was decided in the spring in the battle between Chris Laviano and Hayden Rettig, an LSU transfer. Laviano did excel in the spring game in the pursuit to replace record-setting Nova.

2. Will the offensive line improve? The jury remains out on a unit with lots to prove with three starters gone. RU had just eight healthy o-linemen in the spring game. Tackle Keith Lumpkin needs to be a lynchpin.

3. What can we expect out of secondary? The group needs to sort through the depth chart to see what it has. There are some nice options in players like Kiy Hester, Isaiah Wharton, Saquan Hampton and Darian Dailey, among others.

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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