Quarterback Mitch Leidner advanced the ball on a keeper during the Gophers' spring game.
Tommy Armstrong Jr. takes over for Taylor Martinez at quarterback for Nebraska.
Nati Harnik • Associated Press,
Quarterback Connor Cook and Michigan State will try to make it back-to-back Big Ten titles.
Al Goldis • Associated Press,
Big Ten spring football: Offseason of change welcomes two more
- Article by: Joe Christensen
- Star Tribune
- April 23, 2014 - 12:30 PM
The Big Ten wraps up spring practice Saturday, when Iowa, Rutgers and Michigan State hold their annual spring games. It’ll be a new-look conference this fall, with the addition of Maryland and Rutgers, giving the league 14 teams split into East and West divisions. Here’s a glance at where each team stands now and how that might change by this fall:
Big Ten West
Coach: Jerry Kill (fourth year).
2013: 8-5, 4-4 Big Ten. Bowl game: Lost to Syracuse 21-17 in Texas Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 8, defense 7.
Top returnees (2013 stats): RB David Cobb (1,202 rushing yards), DE Theiren Cockran (7 ½ sacks).
Spring news: LB Cody Poock looked like a potential starter at outside linebacker but tore the ACL in his right knee and is questionable for the season.
Schedule notes: The Gophers play at Texas Christian (Sept. 13) and drew two tough Big Ten East crossovers: at Michigan (Sept. 27) and vs. Ohio State (Nov. 15).
Football fever temperature: 60. The Gophers are coming off their best finish since 2003. This team might be better, but the big test comes with this November finish: Iowa, Ohio State, at Nebraska, at Wisconsin.
Coach: Tim Beckman (third year).
2013: 4-8, 1-7.
Starters returning: Offense 7, defense 8.
Top returnees: RB Josh Ferguson (779 rushing yards), S Earnest Thomas (101 tackles).
Spring news: Despite a shaky spring game, Will Lunt, a transfer from Oklahoma State, is the favorite to take over at quarterback. He’ll replace Nathan Scheelhaase, who quietly led the Big Ten in passing last year.
Schedule notes: Illinois plays at Washington (Sept. 13) and faces Ohio State and Penn State in its Big Ten East crossover games.
Football fever temperature: 45. An unheralded recruiting class did little to quell fans’ angst about Beckman, who is 6-18 at Illinois, including 1-15 in the Big Ten. Beyond Scheelhaase, this team must replace linebacker Jonathan Brown, the conference’s second-leading tackler.
Coach: Kirk Ferentz (16th year).
2013: 8-5, 5-3.
Bowl game: Lost to LSU 21-14 in the Outback Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 8, defense 5.
Top returnees: QB Jake Rudock (18 TD passes, 13 interceptions), RB Mark Weisman (975 rushing yards).
Spring news: Several top players return, but there’s a hole at linebacker, where the Hawkeyes lost three longtime starters.
Schedule notes: The nonconference slate brings Northern Iowa, Ball State, Iowa State and Pittsburgh. The Hawkeyes got a favorable draw from the Big Ten East, with games against Indiana and Maryland.
Football fever temperature: 70. The Hawkeyes restored faith last year, rebounding from a 4-8 finish in 2012. Iowa should enter the fall as a strong candidate to win the Big Ten West.
Coach: Bo Pelini (seventh year).
2013: 9-4, 5-3.
Bowl game: Defeated Georgia 24-19 in the Gator Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 5, defense 8.
Top returnees: RB Ameer Abdullah (1,690 rushing yards), DE Randy Gregory (10 ½sacks)
Spring news: Pelini has lightened up a bit, at least publicly, and the Cornhuskers hope to turn a corner as they begin the post-Taylor Martinez era with Tommy Armstrong Jr. running the offense.
Schedule notes: After opening with Florida Atlantic and McNeese State, the Huskers play at Fresno State and Miami (Fla.). Their crossover games are at Michigan State and home against Rutgers.
Football fever temperature: 75. Instead of firing Pelini, Nebraska gave him an extension through 2018. His teams have lost exactly four games in each of the past six years.
Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (ninth year).
2013: 5-7, 1-7.
Starters returning: Offense 9, defense 9.
Top returnees: RB Venric Mark (injured last year), LB Chi Chi Ariguzo (106 tackles).
Spring news: Former QB Kain Colter has tried unionizing this team, an issue that has overshadowed everything else, but the current players are expected to reject the idea.
Schedule notes: Northwestern opens with California and will play at Notre Dame (Nov. 15). Crossover games are at Penn State and home against Michigan.
Football fever temperature: 50. Trevor Siemian, who split time with Colter, now has the QB job all to himself, and he is far less mobile. Mark’s return should help energize an offense that returns most of its other key players.
Coach: Darrell Hazell (second year).
2013: 1-11, 0-8.
Starters returning: Offense 10, defense 8.
Top returnees: QB Danny Etling (10 TD passes, seven interceptions), RB Akeem Hunt (464 rushing yards).
Spring news: An offensive line that allowed 38 sacks last season continued to show its futility in the spring game, as Etling was sacked four times.
Schedule notes: The Boilermakers play Notre Dame in Indianapolis on Sept. 13. The Big Ten crossovers are home against Michigan State and at Indiana, preserving that rivalry game.
Football fever temperature: 40. The Boilermakers were lousy last year, and some of their best players are gone, including DT Bruce Gaston, CB Ricardo Allen and P Cody Webster. This team looks too thin on the offensive and defensive lines to expect much improvement this year.
Coach: Gary Andersen (second year).
2013: 9-4, 6-2. Bowl game: Lost to South Carolina 34-24 in the Capital One Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 6, defense 3.
Top returnees: RB Melvin Gordon (1,609 rushing yards), CB Sojourn Shelton (4 interceptions).
Spring news: Joel Stave’s injured right shoulder has opened the door for dual-threat QB Tanner McEvoy to take over as the starter.
Schedule notes: The Badgers open with LSU (Aug. 30) in Houston and are host to defending MAC champion Bowling Green (Sept. 20). Their crossover games — Maryland and at Rutgers — seem to be a gift from reconfigured Big Ten.
Football fever temperature: 75. Gordon is back, but it’s unclear how this team will replace wide receiver Jared Abbrederis and several key defensive players, including Chris Borland and Beau Allen.
Big Ten East
Coach: Kevin Wilson (fourth year).
2013: 5-7, 3-5.
Starters returning: Offense 8, defense 10
Top returnees: RB Tevin Coleman (958 rushing yards), WR Shane Wynn (11 TD receptions).
Spring news: Needing a defensive makeover, the Hoosiers switched to the 3-4 under new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr.
Schedule notes: The Hoosiers face Bowling Green and Missouri in nonconference play and play Iowa and Purdue from the Big Ten West.
Football fever temperature: 50. Indiana lost some top-flight receivers, including Cody Latimer, but this still will be a lethal offense with quarterbacks Tre Roberson and Nate Sudfeld and a healthy Coleman. The Hoosiers went 1-11 in Wilson’s first year but increased their win total to four in 2012 and five in 2013.
Coach: Randy Edsall (fourth year).
2013: 7-6, 3-5 ACC. Bowl game: Lost to Marshall 31-20 in the Military Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 9, defense 9.
Top returnees: QB C.J. Brown (13 TD passes, seven interceptions), WR Stefon Diggs (587 receiving yards in seven games).
Spring news: Maryland officially moves into the Big Ten on July 1, after 61 years in the ACC.
Schedule notes: After nonconference games against West Virginia and Syracuse, Maryland plays its first Big Ten game at Indiana on Sept. 27. The Terrapins play crossover games against Iowa and Wisconsin.
Football fever temperature: 55. The Terrapins have some good skill players in Brown, Diggs and a stable of running backs that should at least make their move into the rough-and-tumble Big Ten East interesting.
Coach: Mark Dantonio (eighth year).
2013: 13-1, 8-0. Bowl game: Defeated Stanford 24-20 in the Rose Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 7, defense 5.
Top returnees: QB Connor Cook (22 TD passes, six interceptions), RB Jeremy Langford (19 touchdowns).
Spring news: The Spartans must replace three offensive linemen, including Blake Treadwell, and several key defensive players, including CB Darqueze Dennard, LB Denicos Allen, LB Max Bullough and S Isiah Lewis.
Schedule notes: The Spartans play at Oregon (Sept. 6) and face Nebraska and Purdue from the Big Ten West. Their rematch against Ohio State comes Nov. 8.
Football fever temperature: 85. After winning its first Rose Bowl in 26 years, Michigan State should be a top-10 team in most preseason polls.
Coach: James Franklin (first year).
2013: 7-5, 4-4. Bowl game: Ineligible.
Starters returning: Offense 7, defense 7.
Top returnees: QB Christian Hackenberg (134.0 efficiency rating), RB Zach Zwinak (989 rushing yards).
Spring news: Franklin, the former Vanderbilt coach, has created quite a buzz since taking over for Bill O’Brien, who bolted after two years for the Houston Texans.
Schedule notes: The Nittany Lions open with Fiesta Bowl winner Central Florida in Dublin, Ireland. The crossover games are against Northwestern and Illinois.
Football fever temperature: 75. The spring game drew 72,000 fans, but this squad still must play with 10 fewer scholarships than other teams this fall. Offensive line depth is a big concern, and WR Allen Robinson left a year early for the NFL.
Coach: Brady Hoke (fourth year).
2013: 7-6, 3-5. Bowl game: Lost to Kansas State 31-14 in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 7, defense 9.
Top returnees: QB Devin Gardner (21 TD passes, 11 interceptions), TE Devin Funchess (748 receiving yards).
Spring news: Gardner threw two more interceptions in the spring game. WR Freddy Canteen enrolled early and had an electrifying camp.
Schedule notes: Michigan plays Appalachian State, Notre Dame, Miami (Ohio) and Utah in nonconference play, and Minnesota and Northwestern from the Big Ten West.
Football fever temperature: 70. Hoke, whose teams have gone backward since 2011, hired offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier away from Alabama. The Wolverines’ biggest questions are on the offensive line, with Taylor Lewan headed to the NFL.
Coach: Urban Meyer (third year).
2013: 12-2, 8-0.
Bowl game: Lost to Clemson 40-35 in the Orange Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 5, defense 8.
Top returnees: QB Braxton Miller (24 TD passes, seven interceptions), DL Noah Spence (eight sacks).
Spring news: Ohio State must replace RB Carlos Hyde and four starters on the offensive line.
Schedule notes: The Buckeyes open against Navy (Aug. 30) in Baltimore, followed by Virginia Tech, Kent State and Cincinnati. They play Minnesota and Illinois from the Big Ten West.
Football fever temperature: 80. After winning his first 24 games at Ohio State, Meyer hopes to rebound strong from two season-ending losses. The Buckeyes must shore up a defense that ranked 11th in the Big Ten last year against the pass.
Coach: Kyle Flood (third year).
2013: 6-7, 3-5 AAC.
Bowl game: Lost to Notre Dame 29-16 in the Pinstripe Bowl.
Starters returning: Offense 9, defense 7.
Top returnees: RB Paul James (881 rushing yards), LB Steve Longa (123 tackles).
Spring news: Philip Nelson must sit out this season after transferring from Minnesota. Meanwhile, Rutgers has a three-way quarterback battle among Gary Nova, Mike Bimonte and Chris Laviano.
Schedule notes: The Scarlet Knights open at Washington State (Aug. 28) and play their first Big Ten game Sept. 13 against Penn State. They also play Wisconsin and Nebraska from the Big Ten West.
Football fever temperature: 60. Rutgers went 9-4 in its first year under Flood, before slipping to 6-7 last season.
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