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B1G mailbag: Best position group, Rutgers' New Jersey strategy

Spring football is officially over in the Big Ten. That leaves us a long few months without any actual football (and after this weekend, maybe we'll be down to just three or four hours a day of NFL draft coverage).

But never fear. The B1G mailbag is here to get you through this.

Brian Bennett: Not only do I agree with you, Matt, I wrote that very sentiment in March. The defending Thorpe Award winner (Iowa's Desmond King) and another All-American(Michigan's Jourdan Lewis) are both back, making the corner position already stacked. Then throw in guys such as Ohio State's Gareon Conley, Northwestern's Matthew Harris, Maryland's William Likely and Minnesota's Jalen Myrick, and you really have something. That's not even mentioning young guys on the way up, including Michigan State's Vayante Copeland. This is one of the better crops of cornerbacks the Big Ten has seen in a while.

Next, for me, is probably defensive line. Though the league lost a ton of talent there from 2015 (Joey Bosa, Shilique Calhoun, Penn State's terrific trio, to name a few), it's a position that is always strong in this conference. Michigan State's Malik McDowell should be an All-American, Michigan is loaded up front, Sam Hubbard is a budding star at Ohio State, and Illinois' Dawaune Smoot is one to watch. Speaking of McDowell ...

Brian Bennett: Spartans defensive line coach Ron Burton guaranteed before spring ball started that McDowell would see time "everywhere" on defense this season. McDowell is certainly quick enough to play outside. One league coach told me this spring that defensive tackles rarely have his length and speed, which makes him such a tough matchup inside. The departure of Montez Sweat hurt the depth at defensive end, and Michigan State looks to have more bodies inside.

So I think we'll see McDowell move around quite a bit more this season, if for nothing else to keep offenses from being able to key on him. Still, when you have a player who is that disruptive on the interior, you don't want to mess with it too much.

Brian Bennett: Great, more hashtags and sayings. At least nobody has talked about chopping wood in a while.

Anyway, the dream for Rutgers is obviously to keep all of the major in-state talent home and build a powerhouse that way. But I don't think that's realistic. A big reason the Big Ten wanted Rutgers is to open up the New Jersey recruiting area, and several league teams have historically found success there. Michigan is killing it in the Garden State, getting Rashan Gary and Jabrill Peppers out of there, and Jim Harbaugh giving the commencement speech at powerhouse Paramus Catholic High School is a sign of the Wolverines' intentions to remain major players there. Penn State has always had a pipeline in New Jersey, and Wisconsin and Nebraska have gotten good players from there as well. Urban Meyer can recruit anywhere.

So it's fantasy for Rutgers fans to believe that Ash, who came in with no real connections to the state, is suddenly going to build a wall around New Jersey ("and Jim Harbaugh's gonna pay for it!"). What he and his staff need to do is try to get a few blue-chippers every year and then do an outstanding job evaluating the two- and three-star players in the state. From there it's about development and coaching. No matter what catchy hashtag you devise.

Brian Bennett: I believe Richard Lagow will be Indiana's starting quarterback. The junior college transfer flashed a big arm this spring, and while he still needs some polishing, he has the most upside. Kevin Wilson has not been shy about juggling quarterbacks, though, so we'll just have to stay tuned.

Purdue probably won't be very good again this year and is a long shot to sniff a bowl. But the Boilermakers won't go 0-12. They beat Nebraska and hung tough with Michigan State and Northwestern. Eastern Kentucky and Nevada, at home, are extremely winnable nonconference games, and they'll pick somebody off in Big Ten play. Anything better than 3-9 is probably a mild surprise at this point, however, and a major improvement will be necessary for Darrell Hazell to coach this team in 2017.