What we learned this spring

May, 5, 2010
5/05/10
2:30
PM ET
You don't get to close the book on the Big Ten's 2010 spring football practice session without first identifying what you learned.

What are the lessons from the past seven weeks?

We saw quarterback competitions, defensive scheme tweaks, key injuries and emerging stars, among other things. Some teams welcomed new coordinators and talented early enrollees, while others took business-as-usual approaches to get better.

Here are five takeaways from the spring:

1. Quarterbacks step up: Quarterback play hasn't been a major strength for the Big Ten in recent years, but most signs this spring indicate an uptick is on the way in 2010. Returning starters, such as Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins, Indiana's Ben Chappell, Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien and Minnesota's Adam Weber, took the necessary steps. Denard Robinson stole the show at Michigan's spring game, while new arrivals like Purdue's Robert Marve and Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase also impressed.

2. Big Ten defenses will be more multiple: Several Big Ten teams employed three-man fronts during spring ball to increase their speed and athleticism on defense. Michigan State and Indiana both will operate out of the 3-4 much more in 2009, while Michigan worked in a 3-3-5 set. All three teams boast some versatility at linebacker/defensive end with players such as Greg Jones, Adam Replogle and Craig Roh.

3. New coordinators welcomed: Three new coordinators began their on-field duties this spring, and the results were favorable. Paul Petrino and Vic Koenning increased the level of accountability at Illinois, a major underachiever the past two seasons, and identified potential difference-makers on both sides of the ball. Jeff Horton pared down the offense at Minnesota, increasing the comfort level for Weber, MarQueis Gray and the linemen.

4. Penn State unsettled at quarterback: Jay Paterno doesn't sound too worried, but Penn State's quarterbacks didn't make a great first (public) impression in the Blue-White Game, as Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin both struggled. Early enrollee Paul Jones played well and might have worked his way into the mix; that is, if Joe Paterno could stomach playing a true freshman under center. There's no clear leader in what should be a very intriguing race.

5. Coaches see expansion coming: There seems to be greater support -- or at least acceptance -- among Big Ten head coaches that expansion is coming. Joe Paterno continued to advocate for eastward expansion, while others such as Minnesota's Tim Brewster and Wisconsin's Bret Bielema also back additions to the Big Ten. Even Ohio State's Jim Tressel seems to understand what's coming, saying, "When things are brought forward and there's a rationale made, and it makes sense, I'm on board with it."

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