Spring flings: Big Ten football spring practice wrap-up

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

A look at the state of the conference as spring football finishes up.

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Quarterback Braxton Miller passed last season. Buckeyes coach Urban Meyer (in white) expects big things from his offense.

Photo: Mark Duncan, Associated Press - Ap

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The Big Ten wraps up spring practice Saturday, when the Gophers and Iowa hold their annual spring games.

Here’s a look around the conference at how things look now and how they might change by this fall:

LEGENDS DIVISION

 

IOWA

Coach: Kirk Ferentz (15th year); 2012 record: 4-8, 2-6; bowl game: none; starters returning: offense 6/defense 8

Spring star: RB Mark Weisman. Iowa ranked 114th nationally in total offense last year, but the running game could become a strength. Weisman rushed for 815 yards last year.

Biggest concern: Iowa’s record the past four years has gotten progressively worse: 11-2, 8-5, 7-6 and 4-8, leaving fans to wonder if Ferentz has lost his touch. Second-year offensive coordinator Greg Davis is under pressure to improve that unit immediately. Now that James Vandenberg has moved on, it’s a three-way battle at quarterback.

Telling quote: “The mark we’ve left so far, if we’re being completely honest, isn’t a particularly good one. I’m not happy about it, but I’m excited we have one more opportunity to change things.” — Senior linebacker James Morris.

Schedule analysis: The Hawkeyes open at home with Northern Illinois, which made the Orange Bowl last year. After playing at Minnesota on Sept. 28, Iowa draws Michigan State, Ohio State, Northwestern and Wisconsin.

 

MICHIGAN

Coach: Brady Hoke (third year); 2012 record: 8-5, 6-2; bowl game: South Carolina 33, Michigan 28, (Outback); Starters returning: offense 5/defense 6

Spring star: QB Devin Gardner. With Denard Robinson gone, Gardner is ready to make the offense his own. He completed 59.5 percent of his passes last season and has several talented receivers coming back.

Biggest concern: Michigan lost two key players to torn ACL injuries this spring — linebacker Jake Ryan and backup quarterback Russell Bellomy. Fitz Touissant, their leading returning rusher, also missed the spring, recovering from a broken leg.

Telling quote: “About a baker’s dozen called me stupid. I’m not too worried, if I do the job I’m supposed to do, I won’t look stupid too much longer.” — Senior offensive tackle Taylor Lewan on delaying his entry into the NFL draft

Schedule analysis: November will tell the story with the following five games — at Michigan State, Nebraska at home, at Northwestern, at Iowa and finally Ohio State at home.

 

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