Seven of the Big Ten teams have released the dates for their spring games. Here’s a primer of issues each Big Ten team needs to address, and when the games will be played.
Illinois, April 14, 2012. Tim Brewster must get a young roster acclimated to new schemes. His offense is pro style. Defense will remain a 4-3. The Illini must discover if Scheelhaase can run this offense. They also must replace lead rusher Jason Ford and lead WR A.J. Jenkins, while replacing two starting linemen. The defense must replace Whitney Mercilus, 2 linebackers, corner Tavon Wilson, and a kicker.
Michigan, April 14, 2012. Although the Wolverines have fewer question marks than a year ago, They still need to replace WRs, Junior Hemingway, Montavius Odoms, and Kelvin Grady, safety blanket TE Kevin Koger, RT Mark Huyge, C David Molk, and the starting fullback. Backup runner Michael Shaw also graduated. The defensive line must replace three starters in Ryan Van Bergen, Mike Martin, and Will Heininger. Corner Troy Woolfolk was also steady and consistent. He’ll be missed as well. Roy Roundtree and Jeremy Gallon will really need to step up this year. Freshmen T Kyle Kalis and DT Ondre Pipkins will likely win starting jobs in August, but there will be competition.
Nebraska, April 14, 2012. Nebraska’s offense is in pretty good shape, but they’ll need to replace T Hardrick and C Caputo. Ask the Gators how hard it is to break in a new center when running the option from Shotgun. The defense must replace DT Jared Crick, LB Lavonte David, corner Alfonso Dennard, and S Austin Cassidy. Taylor Martinez must step up this year or Nebraska will finish in the middle of the Legends Division again.
Ohio State, April 21, 2012. Compared to fellow Leaders division teams, the Buckeyes are in the best shape. That’s not saying much. The Buckeyes must replace both tackles as Mike Adams and J.B. Shugarts graduated. Brandon Saine and the receivers won’t be able to wait for Herron and Posey to return, both graduated, so someone needs to step up. A new center is needed as well. Add to that, new coach Urban Meyer is introducing his version of the Spread Option. The defense returns every starter, which makes the decision to sign three defensive ends curious. The returning starters will try to eliminate any chance the freshmen will start.
Penn State, April 21, 2012. The Nittany Lions are breaking in a new head coach and a pro style offense. They’ll be doing this while breaking in four new starters on the offensive line, and finding a new lead receiver and a starting Tight End. The defense is replacing their entire secondary and defensive linemen Jack Crawford and Devon Still. Bill O’Brien also needs to find out whether the quarterback to run his offense is on the current roster. It looks to be long year in Happy Valley.
Michigan State, April 28, 2012. The Spartans have some work to do. They must get Andrew Maxwell ready to take the starting job. The top three receivers and the top two Tight Ends graduated, so finding replacements is a must. The real battle will begin in August though when Aaron Burbidge, Monty Madaris, and Macgarrett Kings, Jr. arrive. However, a pecking order can be established. There will also be a battle for Left Guard. The Spartans must also replace both defensive tackles. Anthony Rashad White is the favorite at one spot. The battle to replace FS Trenton Robinson will likely last until the season opener.
Wisconsin, April 28, 2012. The Badgers must replace three starters on the line, including C Peter Konz. Top receiver Nick Toon and TE Jake Byrne must also be replaced, as does QB Russell Wilson. The battle for the QB spot likely won’t be decided until late in fall camp. Abberderis, the hero of Big Ten Championship game and the guy who fumbled away the Badgers’ chance of taking the lead, will try to take over Toon’s job. The only starter that must be replaced on defense is Devin Smith. Considering the defense was torched by the Spartans and Ducks, this could be a good news/bad news scenario.
I will update the other five teams when they announce their spring game.