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Continued: Spring flings: Big Ten football spring practice wrap-up

  • Article by: JOE CHRISTENSEN , Star Tribune
  • Last update: April 23, 2013 - 7:30 AM

Telling quote: “I think we’ll be throwing the ball a lot more this upcoming fall because our receivers are so talented.” — Martinez

Schedule analysis: UCLA gave Nebraska a humbling defeat last September, and they’ll meet again Sept. 14 in Lincoln. Nebraska isn’t scheduled to face Wisconsin or Ohio State.

 

NORTHWESTERN

Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (eighth year); 2012 record: 10-3, 5-3; bowl game: Northwestern 34, Mississippi State 20 (Gator); starters returning: offense 8/defense 7

Spring star: RB Venric Mark. The senior ranked fifth in the Big Ten last year with 1,371 rushing yards. The Gophers don’t need to be reminded, as he torched them for 182 yards and two touchdowns last year.

Biggest concern: Northwestern had 13 players undergo surgery after the season and started spring practice with just eight healthy offensive linemen. The Wildcats chose not to hold a traditional spring game, being careful not to get anyone else hurt.

Telling quote: “Are we that far away, or that close? It’s something we have to decide as a program.” — Fitzgerald, on the fact Northwestern trailed last year for just five minutes and three seconds combined.

Schedule analysis: The Wildcats face Ohio State and Wisconsin in their first two Big Ten games before facing the Gophers. Can the Wildcats build on the school’s first 10-win season since 1995 and its first bowl game victory since the 1948 Rose Bowl?

 

LEADERS DIVISION

 

ILLINOIS

Coach: Tim Beckman (second year); 2012 record: 2-10, 0-8 Big Ten; bowl game: none; starters returning: offense 9/defense 4

Spring star: RB Donovonn Young. The junior led the team in rushing last year and looked more explosive in the spring game, carrying 19 times for 86 yards and three touchdowns.

Biggest concern: Beckman revamped his coaching staff, so even though senior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase has started 36 career games, he’ll be learning a new offense — again. The Illini averaged only 11.8 points per game in Big Ten play last year.

Telling quote: Scheelhaase said the goal of spring was establishing an identity. “That’s something I don’t know that we necessarily had last year — on offense or defense or as a team in general.”

Schedule analysis: Illinois plays Washington at Soldier Field on Sept. 14 and then opens Big Ten play with a tough quartet: Nebraska, Wisconsin, Michigan State and Penn State.

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