Big Ten: Big Ten SG recap 10

In case you missed it, I reviewed all 11 spring games that took place in the Big Ten the last two weeks. While I don't place a huge premium on these scrimmages, they provide clues about the teams and mark the final time we see these teams on the field until early August.

Check out all the recaps below:
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The spring game recap series ends with Illinois, which wrapped up spring ball Saturday at Memorial Stadium.

The defense controlled the first part of the scrimmage before the offense came on strong late behind running backs Mikel LeShoure and Jason Ford, who combined for 228 rushing yards and three touchdowns. LeShoure, who finished the 2009 season on a strong note, finished spring practice the same way, elevating hopes for Illinois' rushing attack this fall.

Not surprisingly, the quarterbacks took center stage but had mediocre to poor results. Nathan Scheelhaase, the clear front-runner for the starting job, completed 11 of 20 passes for 126 yards with no touchdowns and two interceptions. Jacob Charest, the only candidate with game experience, really struggled with two picks and just two completions on eight pass attempts. True freshman Chandler Whitmer, an early enrollee who the coaches say is behind both Scheelhaase and Charest, had the best performance, completing 7 of 8 passes for 43 yards and a touchdown for the Blue team. Whitmer also took four sacks.

Illinois likely won't officially name a starter until August, but if Scheelhaase holds onto the top job, he should have some help on offense with the two running backs and wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, who capped a strong spring with six receptions for 95 yards in the spring game.

The Illini defense played without several key pieces -- linebacker Martez Wilson, end Clay Nurse, cornerback Miami Thomas -- but received a strong performance from the line. Tackle Glenn Foster ended a very good spring with nine tackles, including three for loss and two sacks.

Illinois also got production from its new "Bandit" position, an outside linebacker/defensive end hybrid spot. Michael Buchanan, the team's projected starter at the Bandit, recorded nine tackles, four tackles for loss and two sacks, while backup Nate Palmer added two sacks, an interception and a fumble recovery.

Other Illini nuggets:
  • The big negative from Saturday was the knee injury to starting offensive tackle Corey Lewis, who tore his ACL and will undergo surgery. Lewis' status for the 2010 season is unknown, and Illinois will have to fill his spot.
  • Head coach Ron Zook saw growth from linebacker Aaron Gress this spring, and the senior finished strong with seven tackles, one for loss, and an interception in the spring game.
  • Safety Nate Bussey and cornerback Tavon Wilson both recorded interceptions, and linebacker Justin Staples had two tackles for loss, including one sack.
  • Former backup quarterback Eddie McGee is playing wide receiver these days, but he saw some time at his old position Saturday. Illinois introduced the "D.C. package" -- McGee is a Washington D.C. native -- and had McGee take the snap with the quarterback lined up as a receiver. Scheelhaase certainly has the athleticism to excel as a receiver, so this could be a dangerous weapon for Illinois this fall.
  • Ball security will continue to be stressed after Illinois committed seven turnovers (four interceptions, three lost fumbles) in the spring game. Jenkins, return man Terry Hawthorne and Charest all coughed up the ball.
  • Derek Dimke continues to lead the competition at kicker and connected on the only field goal attempt of the spring game, a 44-yarder in the second quarter.
We're in the home stretch of the spring game recaps, and up next is Northwestern, which wrapped up spring ball Saturday at Ryan Field.

Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald told me Friday that the spring game wouldn't go longer than 80 plays or so and his main goal was to keep the team healthy. Injuries really hurt the Wildcats during the first half of the 2009 season and led to inconsistent play. Northwestern went through its healthiest spring in recent memory and survived any major injuries in the spring game, so mission accomplished.

As expected, the game was a bit watered down, but it provided a few clues about the 2010 team.

The defense led the way, allowing only 253 yards on 85 plays (2.9 ypp) and only 92 rushing yards on 47 carries. Northwestern's continued inability to spark the ground game is a concern after the 2009 season, when it finished an uncharacteristic 95th nationally in rushing average (117.5 ypg). Jacob Schmidt and Scott Concannon couldn't get going, and backup quarterback Evan Watkins (7 carries, 36 yards) actually had the best day on the ground.

It's important to note that Arby Fields, the team's leading rusher last fall and the frontrunner to win the job for 2010, didn't participate in the spring game -- or any spring scrimmages for that matter -- because he was playing baseball for Northwestern. The Wildcats also have a couple of starting offensive linemen banged up, but they simply need to improve the run or it could be a long season in 2010.

Starting quarterback Dan Persa was efficient, completing 7 of 11 passes for 83 yards, but he also got picked off in the end zone by cornerback Mike Bolden. Watkins threw an interception on his first drive but rebounded to pass for 78 yards and a touchdown.

A few Wildcats nuggets:
  • Defensive tackle should be a strength for Northwestern this fall. Fifth-year senior Corbin Bryant has extensive experience, and Jack DiNardo and Niko Mafuli combined for four tackles for loss and a sack in Saturday's spring game.
  • A healthy Jeremy Ebert makes a big difference, and the junior should be the team's No. 1 wide receiver this fall. Ebert recorded four receptions for a game-high 49 yards on Saturday, including a 21-yard gain.
  • Linebacker Quentin Davie missed most of the spring with a foot injury, but he participated in the scrimmage and recorded three tackles.
  • Northwestern's secondary took a good step Saturday as it looks to replace three multiyear starters from 2009. Bolden and safety David Arnold both recorded interceptions and cornerback Justan Vaughn had a sack, while safety Davion Fleming and cornerbacks Jeravin Matthews and Ricky Weina each recorded a pass breakup.
  • Kickers Stefan Demos and Jeff Budzien both connected on 3 of 4 field-goal attempts, with their only misses coming from 51 yards (Demos) and 48 yards (Budzien). Steve Flaherty went 2-for-4 on the day, while Budzien had a game-long 46-yard conversion.
  • Rather than have coordinators Mick McCall and Mike Hankwitz call plays, Fitzgerald gave the duties over to his position coaches, calling it an opportunity for them to professionally grow.
The recap series rolls on with Michigan State, which played the annual Green-White Game on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.

A year after quarterback candidates Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol both passed for 357 yards in a spring game shootout, Michigan State saw a better defensive performance with continued progress from the offense.

Cousins is the Spartans' clear-cut starter and looked the part Saturday, completed 10 of 15 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown. He found Mark Dell for completions of 58, 44 and 27 yards, and Dell had a huge day (4 receptions, 138 yards). There's a lot to like about Michigan State's skill players, and the Spartans have arguably the most weapons of any Big Ten team. Among the standouts Saturday were Dell, wideout Keshawn Martin (6 receptions, 109 yards), tight ends Charlie Gantt (4 receptions, 68 yards) and Dion Sims (3 receptions, 53 yards) and wideout Donald Spencer (3 receptions, 54 yards).

There's a ton of firepower in East Lansing.

A Spartans defense that ranked 112th nationally against the pass last year allowed 534 pass yards in the spring game, which isn't good, but the unit performed decently against the run and emerged with a 17-10 victory in the scrimmage. Top running backs Larry Caper and Edwin Baker didn't do much, and while freshman Nick Hill had a big day with 51 rush yards and a touchdown, his longest run of 31 yards ended with a fumble, forced by safety Jairus Jones and recovered by cornerback Johnny Adams.

The defense saw solid performances from Adams (4 tackles, 2 sacks, fumble recovery), Jones (4 tackles, forced fumble), Greg Jones (4 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks), freshman safety/linebacker Denicos Allen (7 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 2 sacks, 1 pass breakup), redshirt freshman linebacker Steve Gardiner (7 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, forced fumble, 1 sack) and true freshman linebacker Max Bullough (4 tackles, 1 pass breakup). Michigan State's added depth at linebacker should help as the team uses the 3-4 alignment more this fall.

Other Spartans nuggets:

  • Nichol played wide receiver Saturday, recording three receptions for 43 yards, but Michigan State seems to have decent insurance behind Cousins. Backup Andrew Maxwell completed 18 of 34 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown, while freshman Joe Boisture, an early enrollee, went 3-for-3 for 36 yards.
  • The secondary had an interesting day overall, as the cornerbacks and safeties made plenty of plays but also allowed plenty of passing yards yet again. Cornerbacks Adams and Chris L. Rucker combined for three sacks and four tackles for loss, and safety Trenton Robinson added five tackles. There's clearly some depth and ability in the back half for Michigan State, but after the unit significantly underachieved last fall, the jury's still out.
  • The competition at kicker will continue into the fall as Michigan State tries to replace standout Brett Swenson. Kevin Muma connected on his only attempt Saturday, a chip shot from 19 yards out, while Dan Conroy hit from 31 yards out but missed a 35-yard attempt.
  • Michigan State didn't generate much pass rush from its front four Saturday and still needs to identify an edge rusher or two before the season. The Spartans' top priorities right now look like defensive end, the right side of the offensive line and solidifying things in the secondary.
The spring game recap series marches on with Minnesota, which wrapped up its spring session Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Both the offense and defense had some highs and lows, as the offense started fast before slowing down considerably, while the defense allowed an early touchdown before turning up the heat with physical play in the second half.

Not surprisingly, the quarterbacks took center stage. Three-year starter Adam Weber got most of the work with the first-team offense and led an opening scoring drive, thanks in large part to a 56-yard completion to speedster Troy Stoudermire. But the senior completed less than half his passes (8 of 20) in the game. Backup MarQueis Gray accounted for the game's lone touchdown pass, a 38-yard strike to Hayo Carpenter, but he also threw an interception. Third-stringer Moses Alipate completed 2 of 4 passes for 14 yards.

Head coach Tim Brewster will name a starter in the coming days, and all signs point to Weber, who stepped up his game this spring after a subpar junior season. I'm sure a portion of Gophers fans will be upset to see Weber back at the controls, but his struggles last season weren't all his fault. Remember that he was recruited to play in the spread and had to adjust to a dramatically different and overly complex offense in 2009. He'll be better this season, especially if the offensive line steps up.

Minnesota's running game showed some life early as top backs Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge racked up 97 of their combined 106 rushing yards in the first half. Bennett averaged 6.1 yards a carry, though the backs struggled to find running room late in the game.

The defense played without any returning starters from 2009 but still showed some good things, especially at linebacker. Mike Rallis, a converted safety, recorded two sacks and three tackles for loss. Sam Maresh had two tackles for loss and a pass breakup, and Keanon Cooper picked off a Gray pass.

Other Gophers nuggets:

  • Kenny Watkins and Christyn Lewis filled the starting safety spots in place of the injured Kim Royston and the suspended Kyle Theret, and both players turned in solid performances. Lewis and Watkins combined for seven tackles and two pass breakups.
  • Minnesota must replace both of its starting defensive tackles, but Jewhan Edwards and Brandon Kirksey earned high marks from reporters who attended the game.
  • The biggest hole for the defense could be the cornerback spot, as it must replace Traye Simmons and Marcus Sherels. Michael Carter recorded two pass breakups in the spring game and Ryan Collado added three tackles and a pass breakup. Kyle Henderson, a transfer from Minnesota-Mankato, was one of the spring game stars with four tackles and three pass breakups. Still, Minnesota needs to develop more depth there.
  • Kicker Eric Ellestad turned in a solid performance, going 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts with a long of 50 yards.
The spring game recaps series marches on with Ohio State, which held its spring game Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium.

The Buckeyes didn't have many glaring issues this spring, but Terrelle Pryor and the offense responded nicely Saturday after a poor performance the week before in the jersey scrimmage. Pryor played only one quarter but completed 8 of 12 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown, finding wideout Dane Sanzenbacher four times for 61 yards.

The game's most significant development came with the reserve quarterbacks, as Kenny Guiton made a strong case to back up Pryor, rather than Joe Bauserman. Guiton, an eleventh-hour signing in 2009, completed 11 of 21 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns, both to Taurian Washington, including the game-winner with 55 seconds left to give the Gray team a 17-14 victory. Guiton also had a potential touchdown pass dropped by DeVier Posey minutes into the game.

Bauserman, meanwhile, had his struggles Saturday, completing just 6 of 15 passes for 75 yards and two interceptions, including one in the end zone. He had a 43-yard completion to James Jackson and led the Scarlet team with 35 rush yards, but he'll be in a battle with Guiton in preseason camp.

The game didn't provide too many answers in the running back race, as top backs Dan Herron and Brandon Saine both had only four carries apiece. Herron racked up 32 yards, giving him a solid yards-per-carry average (8 ypc), while Saine broke off a 14-yard gain. Redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry missed the game with an ankle injury, so Carlos Hyde (6 carries, 26 yards), Jordan Hall (4 carries, 17 yards) and Bo DeLande (5 carries, 28 yards, TD) got most of the work.

Other Buckeyes nuggets:
  • Ohio State needs to identify a No. 3 wideout, and Washington strengthened his case Saturday with three receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Duron Carter should be back with the team at some point, but Washington enters the summer as the man to beat. Chris Fields and Jackson also are in the mix there.
  • Linebacker Etienne Sabino ended spring ball on a good note with a game-high seven tackles and a forced fumble. Sabino likely locked up a starting job this spring alongside All-Big Ten candidates Ross Homan and Brian Rolle. Dorian Bell also should be in the mix at linebacker after recording five tackles, including one for loss, in the spring game.
  • Like the rest of the offense, the line bounced back nicely from the jersey scrimmage and protected the quarterbacks. The left tackle spot isn't settled, but junior Mike Adams finally appears to be taking charge of a spot that, given his talent, should already be his.
  • I really think Ohio State needs to get its tight ends and fullbacks more involved in the passing attack this fall, and Saturday seemed to be a good step in that direction. Tight end Jake Stoneburner, who could be a huge factor for the Buckeyes, had three catches for 43 yards, while fullback Zach Boren led the Gray team with four receptions for 44 yards.
  • The kicking game remains a question mark entering the summer. Punter Ben Buchanan struggled Saturday (35.7-yard average), and there was only one made field goal, a 47-yarder by freshman Drew Basil. It'll be interesting to monitor the kicker competition between Basil and Devin Barclay in preseason camp.
Six Big Ten spring games took place Saturday, and our review begins with the Blue-White Game at Penn State.

As expected, the quarterback competition took center stage at Beaver Stadium, and the early returns weren't too promising. Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin both struggled, while true freshman Paul Jones, seemingly an afterthought in the race before Saturday, had the best performance. Jones twice found classmate Shawney Kersey for 18-yard touchdown passes and finished 5-of-8 passing for 67 yards.

[+] EnlargeKevin Newsome
AP Photo/Ralph WilsonKevin Newsome entered the spring as the slight favorite to quarterback Penn State, but struggled in the Blue-White Game.
McGloin got the most work as a passer but completed just 10 of 23 attempts for 110 yards with two interceptions and nearly threw a third, which cornerback Chaz Powell dropped with a clear path in front of him. Newsome, who entered the spring as a slight favorite for the starting job, completed 5 of 12 passes with no interceptions and added 12 yards on the ground.

Although the quarterbacks didn't get much help from the offensive line (concerning) or the wide receivers (less concerning), Penn State's offense remains a major question mark entering the summer. To be fair, star running back Evan Royster didn't play Saturday.

"I would rate my performance as we've got a lot of work to do," Newsome said afterward. "We've got a lot of work to do. We've got a lot of work to do. We're just going to keep working."

"A lot of eyes were on us today," McGloin said. "We didn't perform maybe up to par, maybe up to what people expected to see."



Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said after the game that it's wrong to eliminate Jones from the race, and then added, "I checked my e-mail afterwards, and people are telling me Paul should be the starter. So it doesn't take long for people to make the decisions."

Paterno and the other coaches have more time to make the ultimate decision, and they'll look for improvement from all three signal callers by the time preseason camp rolls around.

Other nuggets from the Blue-White Game:

  • The offensive line's struggles can be attributed in part to the shuffling that went on this spring. It takes time to build chemistry, and Penn State has moved around several linemen, including first-team All-Big Ten selection Stefen Wisniewski. "Obviously, there's that chemistry we need to have,'' right tackle Lou Eliades said. "I think we're only going to get better in time. Chemistry will develop. I think, by September, we'll be ready to go.''

  • Nate Stupar sometimes gets overlooked when folks size up Penn State's linebacking corps for 2010, but he had a very nice performance Saturday. Stupar recorded seven tackles (six solo) and an interception.

  • Defensive ends Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham both found their way into the offensive backfield, and Latimore recorded two sacks in the game. Penn State's defensive line once again should be the team's strength, as end Jack Crawford and tackle Devon Still should have big seasons.

  • While backup running back Stephfon Green (4 carries, 10 rush yards) didn't do much, I liked what I saw from freshman Silas Redd, who recorded a 16-yard run and a 10-yard reception. Redd brings a nice combination of size and shiftiness.

  • Penn State brings back several proven veteran receivers, but Kersey and sophomore Justin Brown, who recorded a game-high four receptions for 35 yards, could work their way into the mix. Freshman Brandon Moseby-Felder led the White team with three receptions for 31 yards.

  • Wide receiver Brett Brackett, linebacker Bani Gbadyu and offensive tackle Quinn Barham received awards from the coaching staff for their performances this spring.
Before we get ready for a six-pack of spring games Saturday, let's take a quick look back at the final Big Ten scrimmage from a week ago.

Iowa wrapped up spring drills at Kinnick Stadium, and while it was more of a regular practice than the other spring games, the Hawkeyes did a bit of scrimmaging.

Iowa's top three running backs -- Adam Robinson, Brandon Wegher and Jewel Hampton -- missed the scrimmage as they recover from injuries, but quarterback Ricky Stanzi played and completed 7 of 11 passes for 72 yards. Backup James Vandenberg completed 13 of 22 passes for 144 yards. True freshman A.J. Derby twice was picked off by safety Nick Nielsen in limited work.

The Hawkeyes spread the ball around to several receivers. Starter Derrell Johnson-Koulianos recorded a 32-yard reception, while walk-on Don Nordmann had five catches for 49 yards.

Linebacker Troy Johnson stood out for the defense with a sack and a 48-yard touchdown return following a fumbled snap between Vandenberg and center James Ferentz.

Other Iowa nuggets:
  • The kicking game is a bit of a question mark after starter Daniel Murray converted only 3 of 7 attempts in the scrimmage. Trent Mossbrucker fared better, hitting on 4 of 5 attempts. "It's kind of been underwhelming this spring, quite frankly," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "We've been very inconsistent. We've flashed, but we've been very inconsistent." Mossbrucker was the team's top kicker for most of the 2008 season and will push Murray for the starting job in preseason camp.
  • Another Iowa running back got a bit banged up, as Brad Rogers left the field with a left ankle injury that head coach Kirk Ferentz called a mild sprain. Wegher and Paki O'Meara got banged up during spring drills, although Hampton was fine and held out of contact only as a precaution. Still, running back health is a concern entering the fall.
  • The top offensive line consisted of left tackle Riley Reiff, left guard Julian Vandervelde, center James Ferentz, right guard Adam Gettis and right tackle Markus Zusevics. Josh Koeppel remains in the mix at center.
The fourth installment of the spring game recap series takes a look at Purdue, which, despite a rash of injuries, still played the Black & Gold Game on Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium.

Purdue had none of its top running backs available for the game, so the quarterbacks received plenty of work, which is probably good in the long run. Robert Marve might be the favorite to win the starting quarterback job, but Caleb TerBush had a more impressive performance Saturday, completing 13 of 18 passes for 147 yards and two touchdowns. TerBush opened and closed the scoring with touchdown strikes to Sean Matti and Antavian Edison, while Marve tossed a 75-yard touchdown pass to Cortez Smith.

Marve, who alternated drives with TerBush, completed 11 of 22 passes for 160 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Quarterback Rob Henry completed 12 of 19 passes for 82 yards and an interception.

"They were the most impressive part of the scrimmage," head coach Danny Hope said of his QBs.

All-Big Ten selection Keith Smith, who missed spring ball following wrist surgery, figures to be Purdue's No. 1 wide receiver this fall, but another Smith will be a big factor in the passing attack. Cortez Smith recorded six receptions for 136 yards in the game.

The defense started a bit slow but held the running game in check and recorded two interceptions and 11 tackles for loss

Other nuggets:
  • Kawann Short could be a big help in Purdue's pass rush this fall after recording two sacks and a pass breakup in the game. The Boilers need a second threat to complement All-Big Ten defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, and Short might be the answer.
  • Another defensive end, Adam Brockman, made his mark by intercepting a Henry pass in the first half.
  • Running back Ralph Bolden told The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier that he'll undergo surgery May 4 to repair a torn ACL. He's not sure whether he'll get back in time for the season, saying, "I'm not rushing back. I'm trying to come back healthy."
Wisconsin's defense was the unit that entered the spring with question marks.

The Badgers had to replace All-Big Ten defensive end O'Brien Schofield, middle linebacker Jaevery McFadden, safety leader Chris Maragos and both starting defensive tackles. Plus, they had to build depth at linebacker as Chris Borland, the 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year, and Mike Taylor sat out with injuries.

But when spring practice ended Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium, it was the Badgers offense, a unit that returns nine starters, that seemed to be searching for answers.

The defense stepped up in Saturday's spring game, holding the offense to only two touchdowns and just 101 total rushing yards (for Wisconsin, that translates to about 30). The Big Ten's top red zone offense in 2009 had to settle for three short field goals after stalling near the goal line.

To be fair, the offense played without star running back John Clay and top wide receiver Nick Toon, and the offensive line has seen a lot of shuffling this spring because of injuries. But quarterback Scott Tolzien (12-for-22, 138 yards, 0 TDs, 0 INTs) and his fellow offensive teammates were disappointed in their performance.
"We need to be better than that come fall," Tolzien said. "It's good for us to have a setback like that as long as we use it to our advantage and just realize there's a sense of urgency here. We've got to have a great offseason."

Defensive end Louis Nzegwu moved closer to locking up a starting spot with three sacks, and linebacker Culmer St. Jean and safety Jay Valai both recorded interceptions. Cornerbacks Niles Brinkley, Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith also came on strong toward the end of the spring.

Other nuggets:

  • Jon Budmayr is still settling in as Wisconsin's backup quarterback, and he'll need a strong summer after struggling in several spring scrimmages. Budmayr completed just 9 of 19 passes for 68 yards with two interceptions for the second-team offense on Saturday. He completed 3 of 6 passes for 16 yards with the first-team offense and was sacked three times in the game.
  • Lance Kendricks looks ready to become an elite tight end in the Big Ten and recorded six receptions for 63 yards, including a 19-yarder.
  • Redshirt freshman linebacker Ethan Armstrong recorded a game-high 14 tackles and a pass breakup, while linebacker Conor O'Neill had 12 stops and a pass breakup.
  • Head coach Bret Bielema confirmed that wide receiver Kraig Appleton has left school and won't return to the team. Appleton and two other players, defensive end Shelby Harris and linebacker Nick Hill, were indefinitely suspended in February for unspecified violations. Harris and Hill both could work their way back to the team.
Indiana wrapped up spring practice Saturday night with the Cream & Crimson game at Memorial Stadium. Before getting to the game itself, some of the more interesting news from Bloomington took place outside the lines.

The Hoosiers unveiled their new uniforms for the 2010 season. The new jerseys still will have "Hoosiers" on the front, but the stripes move from the pants to the shoulders of the jersey. The numbers will be in block narrow font, originating from Indiana's 1967 unis, worn when the team made its only Rose Bowl appearance.

The atmosphere at the spring game also appeared to be significantly upgraded, as new athletics director Fred Glass continues to enhance the experience of going to Memorial Stadium. The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens has a good account of the event, which featured contests, prizes and music.

Back to the game, which the Crimson squad won 17-10 following Ben Chappell's 21-yard touchdown pass to Charles Love III. The Crimson defense stepped up with two interceptions, a forced fumble, six sacks and only 116 yards allowed. Neither team scored an offensive touchdown until Trea Burgess reached the end zone on a 6-yard run midway through the third quarter.

The defensive surge had to be encouraging for a team that has struggled to stop its opponents for more than a decade. Cornerback Lenyatta Kiles, a junior college transfer, recorded two interceptions, while safety John Connelly and safety Aaron Burks both recorded one pick. Defensive end Fred Jones had four tackles for loss and three sacks. Other defensive standouts included defensive end Adam Replogle (2 sacks), linebacker Jamie Lukaszewski (11 tackles, 1 TFL) and linebacker Chad Sherer (10 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 sack).

On the flip side, Indiana's run game continued to struggle. Starting running back Darius Willis sat out the game with an ankle injury, and the teams combined for minus-38 rushing yards in the opening half. There's little doubt that Indiana will have one of the Big Ten's top passing attacks in 2010, led by quarterback Ben Chappell and wide receiver Tandon Doss, but the Hoosiers need more balance in their offense.

Other nuggets:

  • The game's first touchdown came on special teams, as redshirt freshman Jamonne Chester picked up a dropped snap on a punt and raced 38 yards to the end zone.
  • Freshman Antonio Banks provided the only spark in the run game with a 30-yard burst. Banks, an early enrollee who had an impressive spring, finished with 49 rushing yards on 11 carries.
  • Several players left the game with injuries, including right tackle James Brewer, wide receiver Duwyce Wilson and safety/return man Jerimy Finch.
  • The competition at kicker should be interesting to watch this fall. Returning starter Nick Freeland went 1-for-2 on attempts Saturday, connecting from 45 yards out but missing a 32-yarder. Mitch Ewald converted his only attempt, from 44 yards out.
I'll be providing brief recaps of all 11 Big Ten spring games during the next few weeks. Let's get started with Michigan, one of five teams to hold its spring game on Saturday.

[+] EnlargeRobinson
AP Photo/Tony DingDenard Robinson seems to be more comfortable in the Rich Rodriguez offense during the spring game.
As expected, the Wolverines' quarterbacks were in the spotlight at the Big House, and sophomore Denard Robinson rose to the occasion. Robinson, who last year couldn't complement his fast feet with consistent passing, showed excellent zip on the ball and connected for several big plays, none bigger than a 97-yard touchdown strike to Roy Roundtree. He seemed to be making better reads instead of forcing things like he did last season. Clearly, a full offseason has paid off for Shoelace.

Robinson took the field first and led the offense to touchdowns on five of six possessions against the second-team defense. Forcier worked mainly against the first-team defense and led three scoring drives in six possessions. So Foricer had the tougher assignment overall.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez said Robinson and Forcier will enter fall camp neck-and-neck for the starting job, with true freshman Devin Gardner a bit behind them, but Robinson has the momentum entering the summer.

From The Detroit News:

"Tate and Denard are a little bit ahead of Devin, because they have a little more experience," Rodriguez said. "And Denard, overall in the spring, has probably had a few better practices than Tate has."



I saw most of Michigan's scrimmage on the Big Ten Network, and Robinson looked like the most confident quarterback out there. I wouldn't count out Forcier, who has more experience and still made some nice plays, but he'll need to match Robinson in August to retain the starting job for the season. He seemed really disappointed after a holding penalty negated a touchdown during the overtime session, brushing past a teammate on the sideline. Rodriguez has challenged Forcier throughout the spring, and he'll need to step up.

Other nuggets:

  • Michigan's defense still needs a bit of work, though linebacker Obi Ezeh had a nice scrimmage, intercepting a pass from Gardner, who showed some freshman nerves. It would have been nice to see the first-team defense go more against the No. 1 offense, but Michigan has done more of that during closed practices this spring.
  • The kicking game could be a real adventure for Michigan, which really needs incoming freshman punter Will Hagerup to provide a boost. Keep in mind that punting has been arguably Michigan's greatest strength the last two years with All-American Zoltan Mesko booming kicks, so field position likely will change this fall.
  • The Wolverines will play more than one running back this season, and they seem to have decent depth there. Michael Shaw enters the summer with a slight edge, but both Michael Cox and Fitzgerald Toussaint showed some good signs during spring ball. Michigan's most intriguing running back prospect might be 236-pound freshman Stephen Hopkins, who brings some size to the backfield. Vincent Smith rejoins the mix in August.
  • Starting cornerback Troy Woolfolk missed the spring game after breaking a finger in practice while breaking up a Gardner pass. According to the Detroit Free Press, the bone broke through the skin but Woolfolk, who now goes by T-wolf, didn't cry.

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