Big Ten Spring Football Wrap Up

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Spring practice is now over for all of the Big Ten football teams. We now have a long 4 month wait before fall camp starts up. As a football blogger, it's tough to not have news to report on everyday, but it gives me a chance to sit down and actually spend a day or two writing a post, like this one. Anyway, through just 15 practices it's hard to get all the answers about the teams in the Big Ten this year, especially with just 1 chance to actually see the teams play. But there are some things to be learned and a couple of interesting position battles to watch.

Illinois

Returning Starters: Offense - 5, Defense - 7, Kickers - 2
2009 Record: 3-9 (2-6)
Spring Game:
The Illini are installing a new offense system this spring bringing in Louisville's offensive coordinator Paul Petrino. The offensive will now be more pro style instead of the spread option that they were running the past few years with Juice Williams. Well, Juice is gone now, and it sounds like the QBs looking to replace him have been struggling. From A Lion Eye - Spring Game Thoughts talking about QB Nathan Scheelhaase (who you may remember from a few years ago when Iowa was recruiting him):
If we were playing Iowa today, Tyler Sash might have had 6 interceptions.
The other QB, Jacob Charest, was 2-8 for 15 yards with 2 INTs and a fumble. It sounds like the running game will be okay and that the defense was fine. Overall though, I think the Illini might once again struggle to make a bowl so it is kind of too bad Iowa doesn't get them this year. I always enjoy beating Illinois.

Indiana

Returning Starters: Offense - 8, Defense - 4, Kickers - 2
2009 Record: 4-8 (1-7)
Spring Game: Crimson Quarry - Probably the biggest news out of Bloomington this spring is the unveiling of new uniforms. Football-wise, the word from the Cream and Crimson Game is that Hoosier defense is playing a lot better. Though, I think the lack of offense may have made the defense look stronger. The Cream and Crimson teams combined for a total of 37 rushes yards on 51 carries. QB Ben Chappell had a pretty good day though, going 15/23 for 142 yards and a TD.

Iowa

Returning Starters: Offense - 6, Defense - 8, Kickers - 2
2009 Record: 11-2 (6-2)
Spring Game: I've obviously written a bit on the Hawkeyes already. Here is my quick thoughts on the Iowa Spring Game. And, here's a good spring analysis from BHGP too.

Michigan

Returning Starters: Offense - 10, Defense - 8, Kickers - 0
2009 Record: 5-7 (1-7)
Spring Game: The big news for Michigan is the QB battle and from the sounds of things, Denard Robinson has made a strong case for the starting spot. Last year against Iowa, Robinson managed to run all over the Hawkeye defense. Luckily he ran out of time and was forced to throw the ball, which resulted in a Greenwood interception and an Iowa victory. It sounds like Robinson may have gotten the hang of passing the ball however. From Maize and Blue Nation - Spring Game Review:
I think I can pretty much say without provocation that Denard impressed the most. His passes were very crisp and on target. He ran well with the ball, and most importantly, he was nowhere close to being in bad situation where he might turn the ball over.
On the other side of the ball, Michigan's defense is moving to a 3-3-5, which Rich Rod ran at West Virginia. The front 6, I guess you would call it, sounds like it is doing pretty well and is dealing with the absence of Graham. The secondary, however, is still struggling a bit. It will certainly be interesting to see how this defense matches up against an offense like Iowa's.

Michigan State

Returning Starters: Offense - 7, Defense - 6, Kickers - 1
2009 Record: 6-7 (4-4)
Spring Game: Around this time last year, everyone was talking about the Spartans as a Big Ten contender (not me though), but I haven't heard much talk about them this year. Though they don't return a large number of starters, they do return key pieces on offense and defense. I think they may actually have a chance this year to make some waves in the conference title hunt. Anyway, on to the game... The defense dominated the spring game led by LB Greg Jones. However, Kirk Cousins had a really good day going 10/15 for 254 yards. He's going to be really good this year, especially if he gets a few more targets than just Mark Dell. I am glad Iowa gets Michigan State at home this year.

Minnesota

Returning Starters: Offense - 9, Defense - 2, Kickers - 1
2009 Record: 6-7 (3-5)
Spring Game: Minnesota had a supposed quarterback competition (though I think Weber was the clear favorite) this spring. Dual-threat Marquis Gray does provide more athleticism to the position, but Weber apparently locked up the spot in the spring game. What is more interesting though, is that the defense, which returns just 2 starters from last year's defense (which already wasn't very good) actually beat the offense 49-26 under the modified scoring. I'm not sure what that says about the offense, or defense I guess, but I don't think it is good new for Minnesota this year.

Northwestern

Returning Starters: Offense - 8, Defense - 6, Kickers - 1
2009 Record: 8-5 (5-3)
Spring Game: Well, the good news is that Corey Wootton is gone. Northwestern didn't have too many position battles to figure out this spring. QB seems settled with Dan Persa (who played a lot of the game against Iowa last year). He was 7-11 for 73 yards with a TD and a INT in the spring game. And most of the rest of the offense returns. The one position though, that is not settled, is running back and the Wildcats struggled in the rushing department the other day netting just 92 yards on 47. Not too sure about the defense, but it'll probably be adequate as it has been under Pat Fitzgerald. I'd say Iowa should have no problem with them, but we know that they always give us fits.

Ohio State

Returning Starters: Offense - 10, Defense - 5, Kickers - 0
2009 Record: 11-2 (7-1)
Spring Game: Everything I've read on the Buckeyes this spring indicate they are going to be good, really good. Pryor was 8/12 for 108 yards with a TD in just 1 quarter of play. The backup QB, Kenny Guiton, had a lot of reps and looked okay too. From The Buckeye Battle Cry - Gray defeat Scarlet 17-14
Also impressive on the day was Kenny Guiton’s approximately 10/18 for about 170 yards and 2 touchdowns and an interception. Guiton had a scare late in the game as the Gray squad decided to run up the score rather than kill the clock [...] Luckily, Kenny managed to walk off the field under his own power and seemed to be ok.
Some other notes...Zach Boren, the fullback was impressive with 4 catches for 44 yards and a couple of big runs. The defense looks good though pass coverage still needs some work as they are working through some position battles. The offensive line, which was probably the only questions mark for the Buckeye offense, protected the QBs. Ohio State is going to be a tough match up this year and I think could put up a lot of points. Hopefully their defense won't be as good.

Penn State

Returning Starters: Offense - 7, Defense - 5, Kickers - 1
2009 Record: 11-2 (6-2)
Spring Game: With the graduation of Daryll Clark, Penn State's main focus this spring has been on finding a QB. The spring game did little to ease the worries of Nittany Lion fans as the top 2 QBs, Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin, as the 2 combined for to go 15/35 for 160 yards with 2 INTs coming from McGloin. The 3rd stringer looked the best, according to Nittany White Out - What We Learned
Surprisingly, it was Paul Jones, playing with the third team, who easily looked the best of Penn State’s three quarterbacks, though, granted, it was against the bottom-of-the-barrel defense; mainly walk-ons and freshmen. Still, it’s difficult to discount that he threw two touchdown passes–the only two touchdowns of the day...
Unsurprisingly the linebackers looked good (they don't call it Linebacker U for nothing), the offensive line needs some work (though they'll look better when they have Royster back), and they had WR Graham Zug working as the punter (actual punter got caught underage drinking or something).

Purdue

Returning Starters: Offense - 6, Defense - 6, Kickers - 1
2009 Record: 5-7 (4-4)
Spring Game: Purdue has been dealing with a ton of injuries, but the first team, the Black Team, dominated the second (Gold) team. The score was 31-10 and the Gold team started the game with 10 free points to make it more fair. The Boilermakers have a quarterback battle of their own. Three different QBs played with the Black Team during the spring game. Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush are probably the top two. Both led TD drives and had decent numbers. Marve - 11/22 for 160 yards; TerBush - 13/18 for 147 yards. Other than the QB play, there was not much else to talk about. Summed up by Boiled Sports - A Look at What's to Come
Javeare White had a couple of nifty moves at RB, Antavian Edison showed some of his quickness and R1/L1-type moves. KK Short had the most-memorable tackle of the day on an attempted wide receiver pass play. The kickoffs were pretty awful. Not much else to say about the game.
Plus, Iowa doesn't even play Purdue this year...

Wisconsin

Returning Starters: Offense - 10, Defense - 6, Kickers - 2
2009 Record: 10-3 (5-3)
Spring Game: With the Badgers returning a considerable chunk of its Champs Sports Bowl winning squad, Wisconsin has been a popular pick to challenge for the Big Ten title. The spring game left the Badger players disappointed in themselves, but it doesn't sound like things were that bad. With no Clay, the running backs did okay with Monty Ball being the standout of the backups. He ran for 75 yards and had 2 TDs on 24 carries. Scott Tolzien was 12/22 for 138, but struggled in the red-zone and didn't throw any TDs. On the defensive side, the Badgers had more work to do with 5 starters departing and some injuries this spring. However, it sounds like the defense played well and that they found a replacement for O'Brien Schofield in Louis Nzegwu who had 3 sacks and a safety.
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