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Friday, February 13, 2009
Where's the love in the Big Ten?

By ESPN.com staff
ESPN.com

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Valentine's Day is rapidly approaching, and so is spring practice. Fellow bloggers Heather Dinich and Ted Miller passed out roses to teams in their leagues earlier Friday.

I'm not too big on flowers (neither is my fiancée, thankfully), so here are five Valentine's Day gifts for prominent Big Ten figures.

 
  James Lang/US PRESSWIRE
  Coach Rich Rodriguez would love some improved quarterback play.

1. A quarterback for Rich Rodriguez -- Any improvement Michigan makes must start at the quarterback position, which was a disaster for most of 2008. Whether freshmen Tate Forcier or Denard Robinson step up or holdovers Steven Threet or Nick Sheridan elevate their play, Rod deserves a quarterback who can run the spread offense without tripping over his feet.

2. A wide receiver for Daryll Clark -- Clark, the Penn State quarterback, loses top targets Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood. Butler finished as Penn State's all-time receptions leader, and Williams was a unique talent. Clark is a smart, efficient quarterback, but he needs a capable target to emerge in spring ball. Another offensive lineman would be nice, too.

3. A magic healing potion for Bill Lynch -- The Indiana head coach saw his roster completely depleted by injuries last season. Indiana isn't at a point where it can survive a rash of injuries, and Lynch needs his key contributors healthy, particularly in the secondary and along the offensive line. Safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk remain out for spring ball, but Indiana should get a few players back in the mix.

4. An offensive identity for Minnesota -- There were a lot of changes in the Twin Cities this winter, as the Gophers hired new coordinator Jedd Fisch and new line coach/run-game coordinator Tim Davis. The spread is dead and Fisch wants to run a pro-style system, but Minnesota must improve its run game. There will be an adjustment period for players, but they need to get on the same page fast.

5. A quarterback for Bret Bielema -- The quarterback position really hurt Wisconsin last year, and another competition is coming this spring. Game managers have worked at Wisconsin before, but Curt Phillips and Jon Budmayr are solid recruits who can do more. Wisconsin must demand bigger things from its quarterbacks going forward.