Big Ten football spring practice wrapup

  • Article by: PHIL MILLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: April 23, 2012 - 12:05 AM

With spring football practice winding down, the Star Tribune's Phil Miller offers a look at how the Big Ten looks now -- and how things might change by the time the season comes around in the fall.


Purdue quarterback Rob Henry

Photo: Tony Dejak, Associated Press

CameraStar Tribune photo galleries

Cameraview larger

With spring football practice winding down, the Star Tribune's Phil Miller offers a look at how the Big Ten looks now -- and how things might change by the time the season comes around in the fall.

LEaders division


Coach: Tim Beckman (1st year)

2011 record: 7-6, 2-6 Big Ten

Bowl game: Illinois 20, UCLA 14 (Kraft Fight Hunger)

Spring star: RB Josh Ferguson. A slow-to-heal hamstring cost him most of his freshman season, but the suburban Chicago native capped a strong spring with 150 yards in the spring game, including a 68-yard romp.

Biggest concern: Illinois' passing attack collapsed during a six-game losing streak last season, three times failing to pick up 100 yards through the air. Now QB Nathan Scheelhaase, whose arm strength has always been in doubt, must cope without go-to receiver A.J. Jenkins, and behind an offensive line than allowed 36 sacks last year -- and nine more in the spring game.

Telling quote: "I feel like there's a whole new energy throughout the locker room. Coach Beckman just gets us excited." -- QB Reilly O'Toole

Football-fever temperature: 45. It's pretty chilly in Champaign these days, despite Beckman's promise of a wide-open offense. Barely 3,000 attended the spring game, and ticket sales are reportedly slow.


Coach: Kevin Wilson (2nd year)

2011 record: 1-11, 0-8

Bowl game: none

Spring star: TE Ted Bolser. He seemed to have star potential as a freshman, then faded into the background. But new offensive coordinator Seth Littrell promised to better use the weapons at his disposal, and proved it by getting the ball to the 6-6 Bolser six times in the spring game.

Biggest concern: Where to start? The Hoosiers were last in the Big Ten in scoring defense, rushing defense and total defense and gave up an average of 42.8 points in Big Ten play. The secondary showed improvement in spring, but until the Hoosiers can keep from being trampled on the ground, the record won't change.

Telling quote: "We probably as a staff didn't do as good a job as we needed to do connecting with players last year." -- Wilson, on the exodus of more than a dozen players during his first year

Football-fever temperature: 32. It's freezing in Indiana, where even the new-coach honeymoon was squandered by some boorish behavior and an abysmal season.


Coach: Urban Meyer (1st year)

2011 record: 6-7, 3-5

Bowl game: Florida 24, Ohio State 17 (Gator)

Spring star: QB Braxton Miller. Perhaps the No. 1 priority of Meyer's first spring as Buckeyes coach was to find out if the sophomore can handle the coach's signature spread offense. There's still plenty of improvement needed, but with a 24-for-31 performance in the spring game, he showed he's up to the job.

Biggest concern: The Buckeyes were 11th in total offense and last in passing and last year had no receivers who caught more than 14 passes. So finding playmakers who can get enough separation to catch a pass is critical.

Telling quote: "We knew we can run the quarterback. What we don't know, and unfortunately after this spring game, I still don't know -- can we throw the ball?" -- Meyer

Football-fever temperature: 85. Replacing Luke Fickell with Meyer has the Buckeyes thinking big again, and 81,000 attended the spring game in Columbus. But no postseason means the real excitement begins in 2013.


Coach: Bill O'Brien (1st year)

2011 record: 9-4, 6-2

Bowl game: Houston 30, Penn State 14 (TicketCity)

Spring star: DE Brad Bars. O'Brien is an offensive guru, but he knows the Nittany Lions' strength this season will be on defense, and Bars looks like an emerging star. The junior from Nashville made four tackles for a loss in the spring game.

Biggest concern: The quarterback controversy that has reigned at Penn State for two seasons still hasn't gone away. Three serious contenders for the job -- holdovers Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin and newcomer Paul Jones -- all have weaknesses, and each threw at least one interception in the spring game.

Telling quote: "I want to see these guys' decision-making get better. I want to see their accuracy get better. I want to see them grasp the offense better." -- O'Brien, on his quarterbacks

Football-fever temperature: 70. They're still reeling from the nightmare that was 2011, and it remains to be seen if PSU football will ever be the religion it was under Joe Paterno. Winning would help.


Coach: Danny Hope (4th year)

2011 record: 7-6, 4-4

Bowl game: Purdue 37, Western Michigan 32 (Little Caesars Pizza)

Spring star: CB Normando Harris. The junior was limited to nickel coverages last season but appears ready to move into the starting lineup, making a statement during the Boilermakers' spring game with a pair of athletic interceptions.

Biggest concern: Purdue has three quarterbacks with a variety of skills, and Hope so far appears willing to look for playing time for everyone. But the identity of the QB won't matter if the offensive line, which lost three starters, can't provide time to throw.

Telling quote: "It's fun because we've all been around each other through the whole process. It's a tossup. If somebody has a hot hand and gets into a rhythm, he's going to keep playing." -- QB Rob Henry, one of three current Purdue quarterbacks who have started at least seven games

Football-fever temperature: 60. There are plenty of questions to sort out in the fall, but there is plenty of optimism in West Lafayette.


Coach: Bret Bielema (7th year)

2011 record: 11-3, 6-2

Bowl game: Oregon 45, Wisconsin 38 (Rose)

Spring star: RT Casey Dehn. Not only is Dehn back after quitting the team last October, but he's better and more motivated.

Biggest concern: The defensive line is competent but not play-making, and the Badgers may feel the loss to graduation of tackle Patrick Butrym more than expected. The linebacking corps is solid enough to make up for some collapse-the-pocket shortcomings, but that will put added pressure on an untested secondary.

Telling quote: "I was blessed to have several great opportunities, but the vibe I got when I was at Wisconsin was special. It was kind of everything I was looking for." -- QB Danny O'Brien, who is transferring to Madison from Maryland

Football-fever temperature: 80. It feels as if the Badgers blew a legitimate shot at a national title last year with a couple of last-minute upsets and a lot of talent headed for the NFL. But a fast start will get Wisconsinites thinking about a third consecutive Rose Bowl.


Coach: Kirk Ferentz (14th year)

2011 record: 7-6, 4-4

Bowl game: Oklahoma 31, Iowa 14 (Insight)

Spring star: RB Damon Bullock. The Hawkeyes have had plenty of bad luck with tailbacks. But Bullock, a sophomore who gained only 20 yards in six games last year, romped to an 84-yard touchdown in Iowa's spring scrimmage and finished with 121 for the day.

Biggest concern: The Hawkeyes' passing defense was dreadful last season, and the secondary didn't appear any speedier in the scrimmage. With two new coordinators installing new systems, there is more for Iowa's players to absorb in a hurry than at any time during Ferentz's tenure.

Telling quote: "I've never had a tight end like C.J. [Fiedorowicz], with his size and ability to play at the line of scrimmage and also stretch the field." -- Offensive coordinator Greg Davis

Football-fever temperature: 65. Too much turnover, in the roster and coaching staff, to expect to make a splash in the tougher-all-the-time Legends Division.


Coach: Brady Hoke (2nd year)

2011 record: 11-2, 6-2

Bowl game: Michigan 23, Virginia Tech 20, OT (Sugar)

Spring star: RB Thomas Rawls. He's only 5-10, but at 220 pounds, Rawls looked born to break tackles in the spring game. Speedy Fitz Toussaint remains the Wolverines' top ball-carrier, but watch for Rawls to get time as a change-of-pace.

Biggest concern: Three-fourths of Michigan's defensive line has graduated, leaving an otherwise deep and experienced defense wondering if it can contain Big Ten ballcarriers at the line of scrimmage.

Telling quote: "You're only as strong as you are down the middle, and that's going to be our whole deal this year. We'll be fine outside." -- Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison

Football-fever temperature: 95. If Hoke improves the Wolverines as much this year as he did last, the thinking in Ann Arbor goes, a division title is inevitable, a Rose Bowl likely and a title-game berth possible. Hard to believe they were 1-7 in the league less than three years ago.


Coach: Mark Dantonio (6th year)

2011 record: 11-3, 7-1

Bowl game: Michigan State 33, Georgia 30, OT (Outback)

Spring star: DE Will Gholston. The junior-to-be had a breakout bowl game in January and has been so dominant in the spring, Spartans coaches have experimented with standing him up at linebacker on short-yardage situations.

Biggest concern: It's not as much a concern as a curiosity, because the Spartans profess unshakable faith in Andrew Maxwell, the junior-to-be successor to QB Kirk Cousins. But receivers B.J. Cunningham and Keyshawn Martin left with Cousins, and it's not clear how well the brand-new passing attack will function.

Telling quote: "We're laying in the weeds. We've beat Michigan the last four years. So where's the threat?" -- Dantonio to, stirring the in-state rivalry

Football-fever temperature: 90. Spartans fans feel they have the league's best defense, an offense that's better than people expect and the motivation to avenge their last- second disappointment in the league title game.


Coach: Jerry Kill (2nd year)

2011 record: 3-9, 2-6

Bowl game: none

Spring star: QB MarQueis Gray. Now that he knows the offense, his confidence has risen, and it makes a big difference, especially when he throws the ball. If his passing ability matches his running, Minnesota will score far more frequently.

Biggest concern: No quarterback can be effective if he has nobody to throw to, and the Gophers aren't certain yet that they can provide reliable targets. All of Gray's deep threats are either startlingly young or frustratingly inconsistent.

Telling quote: "When I look at the footage from last year from start to finish, I'm like, 'Oh my God, I was horrible.' ... But as the season went on, I got better. I felt, 'Wow, OK, I can do this.'" -- Gray

Football-fever temperature: 50. There's no denying the optimism that Kill engenders, and most fans understand that real success is still a couple of years away, but he's going to have to continue to show progress in order to keep fans from growing restless once more.


Coach: Bo Pelini (5th year)

2011 record: 9-4, 5-3

Bowl game: South Carolina 30, Nebraska 13 (Capital One)

Spring star: QB Taylor Martinez. After throwing only 13 touchdown passes in 13 games in 2011, coaches insisted he become more mechanically sound. The results, coaches say, is improved footwork, more accurate passing and a corresponding increase in confidence.

Biggest concern: RB Rex Burkhead was forced to basically carry the Cornhuskers offense for long stretches last year, but the center and both tackles who made that possible have graduated. Nebraska hasn't had a truly dominant offensive line since Pelini arrived.

Telling quote: "The Big Ten was exactly what we thought it would be -- tough. Difficult. Relentless. But we like that challenge. We accept that challenge." -- Pelini

Football-fever temperature: 80. After discovering that they were probably a little overconfident about their new conference in Year 1, the Cornhuskers seem more determined than ever to contend for a conference title.


Coach: Pat Fitzgerald (7th year)

2011 record: 6-7, 3-5

Bowl game: Texas A&M 33, Northwestern 22 (Meineke Car Care)

Spring star: WR Kyle Prater. Not many prep All-Americas wind up in Evanston. Prater attended USC but made only one catch last season, then transferred home. He may have to sit out this season, though he's asked the NCAA for a waiver, but quarterback Kain Colter can't wait, comparing him to NFL All-Pro receiver Calvin Johnson.

Biggest concern: It's hard to win games when your defense gives up an average of 6.1 yards on every snap, and the Wildcats have taken steps to shore up an overwhelmed secondary.

Telling quote: "That group [the defense] was very grateful for the negative comments. They said, 'We deserved it,' and have used that as fuel." -- Fitzgerald

Football-fever temperature: 45. It rarely gets much higher in Evanston, where the Wildcats have remained in the middle of the Big Ten pack, never great or terrible, for more than a decade now.


  • get related content delivered to your inbox

  • manage my email subscriptions


Philadelphia 24 4th Qtr 1:35
Washington 24
San Diego 7:25 PM
San Francisco
Minnesota 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Baltimore 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Detroit 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Cleveland 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Atlanta 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New Orleans
Green Bay 12/21/14 12:00 PM
Tampa Bay
Kansas City 12/21/14 12:00 PM
New England 12/21/14 12:00 PM
NY Jets
NY Giants 12/21/14 3:05 PM
St. Louis
Buffalo 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Indianapolis 12/21/14 3:25 PM
Seattle 12/21/14 7:30 PM
Denver 12/22/14 7:30 PM
Phoenix 99 FINAL
New York 90
Portland 18 1st Qtr 4:52
New Orleans 8
Utah 18 1st Qtr 5:01
Charlotte 21
Atlanta 7:00 PM
San Antonio 7:30 PM
Indiana 8:00 PM
Milwaukee 9:30 PM
LA Clippers
Arizona 2 FINAL
Los Angeles 4
Colorado 2 1st Prd 11:21
Buffalo 0
Philadelphia 0 1st Prd 14:49
Toronto 1
Ottawa 1 1st Prd 14:59
Montreal 0
Washington 0 1st Prd 9:28
New Jersey 0
Tampa Bay 0 1st Prd 10:50
NY Islanders 0
Florida 1 1st Prd 12:29
Pittsburgh 2
NY Rangers 0 1st Prd 11:25
Carolina 1
Chicago 0 1st Prd 9:48
Columbus 0
Nashville 7:00 PM
Calgary 9:00 PM
St. Louis 9:30 PM
San Jose
VA Commonwealth 68 FINAL
Cincinnati 47
Charlotte 78 FINAL
Georgetown 81
Michigan 51
Louisville 76 FINAL
Western Ky 67
Mount St Marys 45 FINAL
American Univ 46
Abilene Christian 33 FINAL
Boise State 77
UMass Lowell 63 FINAL
Duquesne 79
South Alabama 65 FINAL
Ohio State 74 FINAL
North Carolina 82
Massachusetts 65 FINAL
Providence 85
Syracuse 77 FINAL
Villanova 82
Citadel 61 FINAL
Virginia Tech 64
Belmont 73 FINAL
Fairfield 61
St Bonaventure 69 FINAL
Binghamton 51
Montreat 64 FINAL
Campbell 90
Delaware 74 FINAL
Fair-Dickinson 76
South Florida 62 FINAL
Florida State 75
Vanderbilt 60 FINAL
Georgia Tech 65
SC State 71 FINAL
Houston 63
Missouri 59 FINAL
Illinois 62
Truett-McConnell 55 FINAL
Jacksonville 84
Toledo 83 FINAL
McNeese State 69
Elon 71 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 64
Drexel 68 FINAL
Penn State 73
St Francis-PA 73 FINAL
Rutgers 68
Albany 64 FINAL
Yale 60
PSU-Beaver 74 FINAL
Longwood 106
Eastern Ill 60 FINAL
Indiana State 56
Indiana 82 FINAL
Butler 73
Marshall 58 FINAL
Arkansas State 67
Lafayette 69 FINAL
Kansas 96
Oral Roberts 63 FINAL
Memphis 78
Western Mich 61 FINAL
Northwestern 67
Delaware State 70 FINAL
Oregon 83
Fla Atlantic 56 FINAL
St Francis-NY 61
Arkansas Tech 57 FINAL
Stephen F Austin 94
Howard Payne 50 FINAL
Texas-Arlington 89
Kennesaw St 53
St Josephs (IN) 54 FINAL
Chicago State 77
Eastern Mich 77 FINAL
Missouri State 65
Kentucky 83
UC Davis 81 FINAL
Air Force 75
Houston Baptist 67 FINAL
UC Riverside 78
Davidson 80 FINAL
Coll of Charleston 68
USC Upstate 53 FINAL
Miss State 51
NC Central 94 FINAL
Miss Valley St 60
Illinois State 77 FINAL
Murray State 89
Louisiana 85 FINAL
Northwestern St 89
Oakland 77 FINAL
Pittsburgh 81
Detroit 55 FINAL
Rhode Island 69
Presbyterian 60 FINAL
UT Martin 77
Monmouth 74 FINAL
Wagner 66
Southern U 39 FINAL
Wyoming 57
Iowa State 83 FINAL
Drake 54
Wake Forest 50 FINAL
Florida 63
High Point 80 FINAL
James Madison 71
Texas Southern 71 FINAL
Michigan State 64
New Hampshire 60 FINAL
Sacred Heart 73
Northeastern 78 FINAL
Santa Clara 72
Huston-Tillotson 56 FINAL
Texas State 90
Purdue 63 FINAL
Notre Dame 94
Prairie View 44 FINAL
Sam Houston St 61
Xavier 56 2nd Half 11:39
Auburn 45
Bluffton 11 1st Half 12:27
Akron 23
NJIT 19 1st Half 8:50
Central Conn St 19
Hofstra 9 1st Half 14:07
Columbia 12
Boston Univ 7 1st Half 14:20
Dayton 12
Iona 20 1st Half 11:55
George Mason 21
Valparaiso 13 1st Half 11:55
IUPU-Ft Wayne 14
Texas A&M 11 1st Half 11:51
Kansas State 21
Morgan State 16 1st Half 11:39
Manhattan 14
Saint Josephs 13 1st Half 14:00
Marist 7
East Carolina 9 1st Half 12:02
UNC-Wilmington 11
Richmond 17 1st Half 10:00
Pepperdine 13
La Salle 13 1st Half 10:40
Towson 10
Incarnate Word 11 1st Half 12:48
CS-Bakersfield 6:30 PM
Idaho State
Iowa 6:30 PM
Northern Iowa
Milwaukee 6:30 PM
SIU Edwardsville
Long Beach State 7:00 PM
TX-San Antonio 7:00 PM
SE Missouri St 7:30 PM
Lehigh 8:00 PM
Arizona State
New Mexico 8:00 PM
New Mexico St
Oklahoma 8:00 PM
Utah Valley U 8:00 PM
Weber State
Jacksonville St 8:00 PM
Northern Colorado
St Edwards 8:00 PM
Grand Canyon
NC State 8:30 PM
West Virginia
TX A&M-CC 9:00 PM
Cal Poly 9:00 PM
Fresno State 9:00 PM
Montana State 9:00 PM
Ball State 9:00 PM
San Diego St
South Dakota St 9:05 PM
Utah State
Stanford 10:00 PM
Utah 10:30 PM
Nevada 3 FINAL
Louisiana 16
Utah State 21 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 6
(23) Utah 45 FINAL
Colorado State 10
Western Mich 10 3rd Qtr
Air Force 20
South Alabama 8:15 PM
Bowling Green
BYU 12/22/14 1:00 PM
Marshall 12/23/14 5:00 PM
Northern Ill
Navy 12/23/14 8:30 PM
San Diego St
Central Mich 12/24/14 11:00 AM
Western Ky
Fresno State 12/24/14 7:00 PM
Illinois 12/26/14 12:00 PM
Louisiana Tech
Rutgers 12/26/14 3:30 PM
North Carolina
NC State 12/26/14 7:00 PM
Cincinnati 12/27/14 12:00 PM
Virginia Tech
Duke 12/27/14 1:10 PM
(15) Arizona State
Miami-Florida 12/27/14 3:00 PM
So Carolina
Boston College 12/27/14 3:30 PM
Penn State
(25) Nebraska 12/27/14 7:00 PM
(24) USC
Livingstone 77 FINAL
UNC Greensboro 81
Loyola-Chicago 58 FINAL
Dartmouth 70
Georgia Tech 65 FINAL
St Francis-NY 59
Auburn 49 FINAL
St Johns 56
East Tenn St 56 FINAL
Jacksonville St 57
Western Mich 71 FINAL
Detroit 57
Cal-Irvine 42 FINAL
Wright State 80
Gardner-Webb 47 FINAL
Kennesaw St 50
(7) Stanford 40 FINAL
(11) Tennessee 59
Alabama A&M 47 FINAL
Ole Miss 71
Central Michigan 45 FINAL
(1) South Carolina 80
Nebraska Omaha 50 FINAL
Creighton 67
Western Carolina 83
Houston 65 FINAL
Nicholls 47
St Thomas Aquinas 45 FINAL
Army 70
St Bonaventure 72 FINAL
Niagara 60
Texas State 57 FINAL
Stetson 75
George Mason 65 FINAL
ULM 53
Grambling 38 FINAL
Kansas State 61
Missouri 79 FINAL
Wake Forest 64
Robert Morris 59 FINAL
Cornell 70
Air Force 44 FINAL
Abilene Christian 80
Hampton 53 FINAL
James Madison 85
American Univ 64 FINAL
MD-Eastern Shore 52
Texas Southern 63 FINAL
TX A&M-CC 68
Tenn Tech 49 FINAL
NC A&T 54
Presbyterian 45 FINAL
NC Central 33
Penn 58 FINAL
Drexel 67
Lipscomb 38 FINAL
Xavier 62
Vermont 40 FINAL
Green Bay 60
Charleston Southern 70 FINAL
UNC-Wilmington 80
Ohio Christian 62 FINAL
Akron 97
Jacksonville 62 FINAL
Murray State 80
(17) Rutgers 66 FINAL
Iona 58
Indiana 88 FINAL
Oakland 61
Indiana State 64 FINAL
SMU 55
Denver 51 FINAL
Purdue 65
TX-San Antonio 48 FINAL
Texas Tech 64
Middle Tennessee 79
Campbell 66 FINAL
Bethune-Cookman 55
Florida A&M 67 FINAL
SE Louisiana 69
Northwestern St 61 FINAL
Jackson State 62
Lehigh 61 FINAL
Arizona State 81
Valparaiso 65 FINAL
SIU-Edwardsville 77
Liberty 60 FINAL
Minnesota 74
Wofford 60 FINAL
North Florida 68
Montana State 61 FINAL
Washington St 82
Marshall 56 FINAL
(22) West Virginia 69
Morgan State 40 FINAL
Chattanooga 55
Northeastern 65 FINAL
Harvard 67
Furman 51 FINAL
(15) Georgia 58
(18) Michigan State 65 FINAL
(9) Baylor 84
Ohio U 52 FINAL
Massachusetts 59
Prairie View 48 FINAL
Texas-El Paso 86
Toledo 64 FINAL
Southern Ill 48
High Point 57 FINAL
(12) Nebraska 83
Winthrop 20 FINAL
Wichita State 66
William Jewell 59 FINAL
Louisiana Tech 52 FINAL
Utah 67
Southern Utah 51 FINAL
Gonzaga 70
Hawaii 85 FINAL
Loyola Marymount 76
San Jose St 62 FINAL
San Francisco 77
CS-Northridge 65 FINAL
San Diego State 54
Norfolk State 36 FINAL
East Carolina 65
Saint Peters 49 FINAL
Loyola-Maryland 59
Northwestern 44 FINAL
Eastern Illinois 92
Arizona 60 2nd Half 0:17
Stephen F Austin 69
Oral Roberts 31 2nd Half 11:00
Wisconsin 52
Florida Atlantic 37 2nd Half 6:14
New Mexico St 46
La Salle 38 1st Half 0:02
Georgia State 38
(16) Oregon State 43 2nd Half
Nevada 25
Sacred Heart 24 1st Half 10:10
Villanova 10
Delaware 16 1st Half 10:18
Cincinnati 13
Troy 20 1st Half 7:37
Tennessee St 17
Saint Louis 6:30 PM
Utah Valley U
Washington 7:00 PM
Pacific 7:00 PM
Long Beach St
Old Dominion 7:00 PM
Austin Peay 9:00 PM
Lewis-Clark State 9:00 PM
(21) Miss State 9:30 PM
Connect with twitterConnect with facebookConnect with Google+Connect with PinterestConnect with PinterestConnect with RssfeedConnect with email newsletters


Gophers Football Time W L Score
2014 season     
Aug 28 - vs. E. Illinois 6 pmX42-20
Sep 6 - vs. M. Tennessee St. 2:30 pmX35-24
Sep 13 - at TCU 3 pmX30-7
Sep 20 - vs. San Jose St. 3 p.m.X24-7
Sep 27 - at Michigan 2:30 pmX30-14
Oct 11 - vs. Northwestern 11 amX24-17
Oct 18 - vs. Purdue 11 amX39-38
Oct 25 - at Illinois 11 amX28-24
Nov 8 - vs. Iowa 11 amX51-14
Nov 15 - vs. Ohio State 11 amX31-24
Nov 22 - at Nebraska 11 amX28-24
Nov 29 - at Wisconsin 2:30 pmX34-24
Jan 1 - vs. Missouri noon




question of the day

Poll: How much do you like the Gophers going to the Citrus Bowl?

Weekly Question