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Best of spring in the Big Ten

5/5/2010

As we put a bow on spring football in the Big Ten, here's a look back at several things that stood out from the past seven weeks.

Best spring game performance: A lot of good choices, but in terms of both short-term and long-term impact, I'm going with Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. With a full offseason under his belt, Robinson capped a strong spring by guiding Michigan's offense to touchdowns on five of six possessions. He provided the scrimmage's highlight by finding Roy Roundtree for a 97-yard touchdown. Honorable mentions go to Illinois running back Mikel LeShoure (12 carries, 129 rush yards, 2 TDs), Michigan State wideout Mark Dell (138 receiving yards), Purdue quarterback Caleb TerBush (13 for 18 passing, 147 yards, two TDs), Illinois linebacker/defensive end Nate Palmer (two sacks, INT, fumble recovery) and Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins (10 for 15 passing, 254 yards, TD).

Best out-of-the-blue performance: Kenny Guiton barely made it into Ohio State's 2009 recruiting class, but the quarterback made a strong case to be Terrelle Pryor's backup in the spring game. Guiton tossed two touchdown passes to Taurian Washington and racked up 167 passing yards to lift the Gray team to a win.

Top off-field story: A no-brainer here, as expansion was the story around the Big Ten and most of college football this spring. The expansion push gained greater support and/or more acceptance from Big Ten head coaches, several of whom see the writing on the wall. Although commissioner Jim Delany shot down reports that the expansion timetable has been accelerated, this story isn't going away any time soon.

Top newcomer: Robert Marve seems to have turned a page at Purdue, showing greater maturity off the field and strong play on it. The quarterback transfer from Miami drew good reviews from his new teammates and coaches this spring as he put himself in position to be the Boilers' starter Sept. 4 at Notre Dame.

Best position change: Until Robinson's scrimmage showcase, Cameron Gordon was the talk of spring ball at Michigan. The former wide receiver made an immediate impact at safety, a major position of need for the Wolverines, and drew praise from his coaches and teammates for his hard-hitting style. Keith Nichol also drew good reviews at Michigan State after moving from quarterback to receiver.

Best performance by a true freshman: Paul Jones might challenge Joe Paterno's stance on true freshmen after his performance in the Blue-White Game. While sophomore quarterbacks Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin struggled, Jones, an early enrollee, connected for two touchdown passes.

Biggest setback: Purdue starting running back Ralph Bolden suffered a torn ACL midway through spring drills and is sidelined indefinitely. Although the Boilers think Bolden could return for the fall, it would take a pretty amazing recovery. He'll be missed in the backfield.

Best quote: "There are a couple of defensive ends that haven't played much ball that are going to make a lot of people forget about Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton in a matter of minutes." -- Indiana co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic, on Darius Johnson and Kevin Bush.

Best quote II: "My name's Tucker, not sucker, so we're not going to have him get hit this spring." -- Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz, on holding running back Jewel Hampton out of contact.