Most Big Ten teams returning a lot of experience
Lots of the names are the same around the Big Ten.
When it comes to quarterbacks,
Nebraska’s Taylor Martinez and Illinois’ Nathan Scheelhaase are going
into their fourth seasons as starters, Ohio State’s Braxton Miller is
entering his third and Northwestern’s Kain Colter is heading into year
three as a full- or part-time starter.
All 10 of last season’s leaders in
receiving yards are back, as are seven of the top 10 rushers, conference
offensive lineman of the year Taylor Lewan of Michigan and tight end of
the year Jacob Pedersen of Wisconsin.
Eight teams return at least 16 starters.
But for all that experience, there still are some notable personnel
issues to be resolved.
Take Indiana, for instance. The Hoosiers
have a league-high 21 returning starters, including quarterback Cam
Coffman. But even he hasn’t locked up a job for 2013. As of Tuesday,
coach Kevin Wilson had not decided whether Coffman, Tre Roberson or Nate
Sudfeld would take the first snap against Indiana State on Thursday
“I don’t know if we’ve got an inordinate
amount of high-level secure guys where I’m going to play them the whole
game,” Wilson said on the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference. “A lot of
our 2s are as good as our 1s. We’ve improved our depth. Everyone is back
on our team. We’re bringing in maybe the most talented class we’ve ever
had. So we’ve got competition, we’ve got some help on our team. I think
we’re going to play a lot of guys.”
It took until Tuesday for Michigan State
coach Mark Dantonio to announce that incumbent Andrew Maxwell would be
his starter Friday against Western Michigan.
The quarterback situation remains a mystery, at least publicly, at Wisconsin and Penn State.
Curt Phillips and Joel Stave have been
battling for the Badgers. First-year coach Gary Andersen said he won’t
announce a starter ahead of Saturday’s opener against Massachusetts.
Phillips, a sixth-year senior, started five games last season and Stave,
a redshirt sophomore, started six.
“The quarterbacks know who the starting
quarterback is, and in turn the team will know just like they’ll know
who the starting linebacker and running back is, and in turn it will
work its way out,” Andersen said. “I don’t think it needs to be a big
deal because it is the quarterback.”
Penn State coach Bill O’Brien is
choosing between sophomore Tyler Ferguson and freshman Christian
Hackenberg, the only scholarship quarterbacks on the roster. O’Brien had
planned to make an announcement last week. He said the decision would
be kept under wraps until Saturday’s opener against Syracuse at MetLife
Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J.
“What’s best for the football team and
for both Christian and Tyler,” O’Brien said, “is to make sure they
understand what direction we’re heading — our team and those two guys
— and when the game starts everybody will know who the starting
quarterback is when it’s our first offensive series.”
There are newcomers at other positions who could become well-known names by season’s end.
Ohio State is replacing all four of its
defensive linemen, and coach Urban Meyer said sophomores Noah Spence
and Adolphus Washington and junior Michael Bennett have caught his eye
Spence made 12 tackles and a sack
against Miami in his first game last season. Washington appeared in 10
games, and three of his nine tackles were sacks. Bennett has four sacks
among his 28 career tackles.
At Nebraska, junior-college transfer
Randy Gregory has created a lot of buzz among fans hopeful he can
strengthen the defensive line.
“It will be fun to watch,” Cornhuskers
coach Bo Pelini said. “He has a lot of talent, he has a good work ethic,
and I think he’s a pretty instinctive guy who understands football. I
like the prospect. He’s set up to have a good year. Is he going to be
the finished product from day one? No, that’s a little unrealistic. But
he could be a presence for us.”
Minnesota coach Jerry Kill said
freshman Donovahn Jones could play a major role in his building project.
Jones started out as a quarterback but moved to receiver when it became
apparent he wouldn’t beat out Philip Nelson. Jones is 6-foot-3 and has a
40-inch vertical jump.
“He’s too good an athlete to not have
on the field,” Kill said. “He’s been in the learning progression at
receiver and we’re trying to get him coached up as fast as we can.”