Friday, April 16, 2010
Previewing Saturday's Big Ten spring games
By ESPN.com staff
Five Big Ten teams will hold their annual spring games Saturday, so let's take a quick look at each event.
The vitals: The Cream & Crimson game kicks off at 6 p.m. ET at Memorial Stadium. Fans can choose to cheer for the Cream or Crimson squads and will be able to sit on opposite sides of the stadium. Admission is free and gates open at 5 p.m. ET. Everything you need to know can be found here.
What to watch:
- The defense is Indiana's top priority this spring, and there's plenty of competition in the secondary as three starters depart. Although safety Mitchell Evans and cornerback Matt Ernest are limited and cornerback Lawrence Barnett is out with an injury, it'll be interesting to see which defensive backs step up on Saturday. I'll keep an eye on junior college transfer Lenyatta Kiles and safety Jerimy Finch, who I'm told is having a solid spring.
- The Hoosiers' defensive front seven also should be intriguing. IU knows what it has in linebacker Tyler Replogle, but junior college transfer Jeff Thomas and others are competing for the other two starting linebacker spots. Co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic had some very high praise this week for defensive ends Darius Johnson and Kevin Bush, two players worth watching.
- Indiana should have one of the Big Ten's top passing offenses in 2010, but there are big questions with the run game. Can Darius Willis stay healthy and become a star? Is freshman Antonio Banks the real deal? We'll find out a little bit more on Saturday night.
The vitals: Iowa will hold a two-hour practice capped by a controlled scrimmage at 1 p.m. CT at Kinnick Stadium. Fans can sit in the west and south grandstands, and gates open at 11:30 a.m. ET. Check out all the information here.
What to watch:
- Fans get a glimpse of the new-look Iowa offensive line, which is replacing four players who started at least part of the 2009 season. Head coach Kirk Ferentz said six players have separated themselves from the pack, but keep an eye on right tackle Markus Zusevics and centers Josh Koeppel and James Ferentz. The line goes up against one of the nation's best defensive fronts Saturday, so it should be a good test.
- You won't see much from Iowa's top running backs, but the scrimmage should provide some clues about the cornerback spot, as the Hawkeyes try to replace All-Big Ten selection Amari Spievey. Micah Hyde has the edge on Jordan Bernstine for the starting job opposite Shaun Prater.
- Iowa knows what to expect from Ricky Stanzi in crunch time, but the quarterback wants to trim his interceptions total in 2010. The Hawkeyes could be very dynamic in the passing game this fall, so it'll be interesting to see how Stanzi looks in a game simulation.
The vitals: Michigan's spring game kicks off at 1 p.m. at Michigan Stadium and will be streamed live on bigtennetwork.com. Fans can tour the locker room Friday from 6:30-8 p.m. and Saturday from 7-9:30 a.m. Michigan's alumni football game takes place at 11 a.m. You can find all the information here.
What to watch:
- You might have heard, but there's a legit quarterback competition going on in Ann Arbor this spring. Fans can get a look at Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner, while Tate Forcier might sit out with a sprained foot. A decision on a starter won't be made until the fall, but the spring game provides an important platform for the candidates.
- There has been a lot of buzz about the 3-3-5 defensive alignment, but I'm more interested in Michigan's personnel, especially in the secondary. Safety Cameron Gordon, a converted wide receiver, has garnered a lot of praise this spring. Fans can check out Gordon, cornerbacks J.T. Floyd and Troy Woolfolk and others in the scrimmage.
- Brandon Graham's departure leaves a huge void in the pass-rush department. Sophomore linebacker hybrid Craig Roh could help in that area, and it'll be interesting to see how he's used in the spring game. Mike Martin's injury this spring has freed up reps for other defensive linemen.
The vitals: The Black & Gold Game kicks off at 1 p.m. ET at Ross-Ade Stadium, with the gates opening at noon ET. Among the day's events is the family fun fest (11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. ET), where kids can participate in six stations run by the football team. All your info can be found here.
What to watch:
- Fans get their first look at Miami transfer Robert Marve, the projected starter at quarterback for 2010. Marve and fellow quarterbacks Caleb TerBush and Rob Henry will be on display Saturday, and they'll get plenty of work in the passing game as Purdue's top running backs are all injured.
- The offensive line is one of few groups that has avoided the injury bug, which is good because Purdue has a lot to replace. It'll be interesting to see who gets the most playing time up front and the line's rotation in the scrimmage.
- Purdue loses all four starters in the secondary from 2009, and safety Albert Evans, one of few reserves with experience, is out this spring. Who's competing for starting jobs at safety and cornerback? We'll find out more on Saturday.
The vitals: Wisconsin's spring game kicks off at 2 p.m. CT at Camp Randall Stadium. The game will be streamed live on bigtennetwork.com. A Kids Fair will be held from noon-2 p.m., and football players will be on hand for the first hour. For more, click here.
What to watch:
- Wisconsin's quarterback depth is a question mark, and backup Jon Budmayr should get plenty of work Saturday. Budmayr struggled a bit in last week's scrimmage, but Wisconsin needs him to be capable of stepping into a game if anything happens to Scott Tolzien.
- The competition along the defensive line should be interesting to track, as Wisconsin loses three starters up front. The Badgers have a future star in J.J. Watt but need to see good signs from the defensive tackle spot as well as ends Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert.
- Heisman Trophy candidate John Clay won't be out there, but Wisconsin's pass-catching threats will be in action. Can Lance Kendricks be an All-Big Ten tight end? Who will join Nick Toon as a go-to wide receiver? We should find out more Saturday.