Big Ten: Big Ten spring wrap 050609

Illinois spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:50
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Illinois Fighting Illini
2008 overall record: 5-7

2008 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 8; Defense: 6; Special teams: 2

Top returners

QB Juice Williams, WR Arrelious Benn, TE Michael Hoomanawanui, WR Chris Duvalt, WR Jeff Cumberland, LB Martez Wilson, DT Cory Liuget, K Matt Eller

Key losses

LT Xavier Fulton, C Ryan McDonald, LB Brit Miller, DE Will Davis, DE Derek Walker, CB Vontae Davis, LB Rodney Pittman

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Juice Williams* (719 yds)
Passing: Juice Williams* (3,173 yds)
Receiving:
Arrelious Benn* (1,055 yds)
Tackles:
Brit Miller (132)
Sacks:
Brit Miller and Derek Walker (6)
I
nterceptions: Vontae Davis (2)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Missouri (at St. Louis)
Sept. 12 Illinois State
Sept. 19 BYE
Sept. 26 at Ohio State
Oct. 3 Penn State
Oct. 10 Michigan State
Oct. 17 at Indiana
Oct. 24 at Purdue
Oct. 31 Michigan
Nov. 7 at Minnesota
Nov. 14 Northwestern
Nov. 21 BYE
Nov. 27 at Cincinnati
Dec. 5 Fresno State

Spring answers

1. Running men -- Illinois can feel optimistic about its ground game after the development of sophomore running backs Jason Ford and Mikel LeShoure this spring. Both players markedly improved their physical conditioning and combined for 93 rush yards on 17 carries in the spring game. They should take the running load off of Juice Williams this season.

2. Man in the middle -- Martez Wilson moved to middle linebacker and could be on the brink of reaching the lofty expectations set for him when he arrived from Chicago's Simeon High School. Wilson adjusted well to the defense's premier position after an up-and-down sophomore season. He also has fully recovered after being stabbed outside a bar in December.

3. Receiver rotation -- The Illini could have the Big Ten's best receiving corps next fall -- by far. Everyone knows about first-team All-Big Ten performer Arrelious Benn, but Illinois boasts depth with Jeff Cumberland, Chris Duvalt and others. The team also adds a big piece in Florida transfer Jarred Fayson, who was practicing with the first-team offense this spring before sustaining a foot injury.

Fall questions

1. Line limbo -- Illinois loses three starters from the defensive line and needs to identify a capable pass-rusher after losing its top four sacks leaders from 2008. The tackle spot should be solid with Corey Liuget, Josh Brent and Sirod Williams, who returns from a torn ACL, but there is some doubt at defensive end. Jerry Brown dominated in the spring game, but he must clear some academic hurdles before the fall.

2. Run stoppers -- The Illini really struggled against the run last season and lose top tackler Brit Miller, an All-Big Ten linebacker. They need more help from the back seven, particularly Wilson and safety Donsay Hardeman, who sat out spring drills because of a neck injury.

3. Cornerback -- NFL first-round draft pick Vontae Davis leaves a hole at cornerback, and Illinois will be looking for a top cover man in preseason camp. Tavon Wilson could very well step into Davis' spot, and the sophomore had a nice spring. Davis was not only a playmaker against the ball but a capable tackler, finishing second on the team with 78 stops last year.

Indiana spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:45
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Indiana Hoosiers
2008 overall record: 3-9

2008 conference record: 1-7

Returning starters

Offense: 8; Defense: 9; Special teams: 1

Top returners

QB Ben Chappell, LB Matt Mayberry, DE Jammie Kirlew, DE Greg Middleton, CB Ray Fisher, S Austin Thomas, P Chris Hagerup

Key losses

QB/WR Kellen Lewis, RB Marcus Thigpen, WR Andrew Means, DT Greg Brown, LB Geno Johnson, K Austin Starr

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Marcus Thigpen (631 yds)
Passing: Kellen Lewis (1,131 yds)
Receiving:
Andrew Means (450 yds)
Tackles:
Matt Mayberry* (89)
Sacks:
Jammie Kirlew* (10.5)
I
nterceptions: Austin Thomas* (2)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 3 Eastern Kentucky
Sept. 12 Western Michigan
Sept. 19 at Akron
Sept. 26 at Michigan
Oct. 3 Ohio State
Oct. 10 at Virginia
Oct. 17 Illinois
Oct. 24 at Northwestern
Oct. 31 at Iowa
Nov. 7 Wisconsin
Nov. 14 at Penn State
Nov. 21 Purdue

Spring answers

1. Going to Chappell -- Unlike a year ago, Indiana knows its starting quarterback coming out of spring ball. Junior Ben Chappell gets the nod and will take all the snaps after Kellen Lewis was dismissed from the team. Chappell said he felt more comfortable this spring with the starter's tag, and he has a big fan in head coach Bill Lynch.

2. Middleton re-emerges -- After taking a step back last fall, senior defensive end Greg Middleton rededicated himself during the offseason and hopes to regain his 2007 form. Middleton impressed the coaches in spring practice and recorded a sack and a pass breakup in the spring game. He could form the league's top pass-rushing tandem with Jammie Kirlew.

3. Off and running -- Indiana needs ball-carrying threats other than Lewis to develop, especially after losing top rusher Marcus Thigpen. The spring brought some encouraging signs, particularly from Trea Burgess and heralded redshirt freshman Darius Willis. The two combined for 172 rush yards and three touchdowns in the spring game.

Fall questions

1. Defensive tackle -- The Hoosiers are extremely thin at defensive tackle and will remain so even after Deonte Mack returns from a hip injury. Several players switched positions to defensive tackle, and Indiana must begin to build depth at a position that usually requires a three- or four-man rotation.

2. Firing the pistol -- Indiana will operate almost exclusively in the pistol formation this fall. After working with the pistol during spring ball, the Hoosiers must work out the kinks and get their timing down before the Sept. 3 opener. The alignment should help the running game, especially if the offensive line continues to improve, but the timing and Chappell's footwork will be key. Lewis' dismissal leaves Indiana without a proven playmaker.

3. Secondary health -- Starting safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk were among the Indiana players who missed spring ball with injuries. Their recoveries and the continued development of cornerback Ray Fisher, a converted wide receiver, as well as safety Jerimy Finch and corners Richard Council, Chris Adkins and Donnell Jones will loom large as Indiana tries to fix the Big Ten's worst pass defense.

Iowa spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:40
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Iowa Hawkeyes
2008 overall record: 9-4

2008 conference record: 5-3

Returning starters

Offense: 6; Defense: 8; Special teams: 2

Top returners

QB Ricky Stanzi, LT Bryan Bulaga, RT Kyle Calloway, RB Jewel Hampton, LB Pat Angerer, LB A.J. Edds, CB Amari Spievey, DE Adrian Clayborn, S Tyler Sash, P Ryan Donahue

Key losses

RB Shonn Greene, TE Brandon Myers, G Seth Olsen, C Rob Bruggeman, DT Mitch King, DT Matt Kroul, CB Bradley Fletcher

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Shonn Greene (1,850 yds)
Passing: Ricky Stanzi* (1,956 yds)
Receiving: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos (639 yds)
Tackles: Pat Angerer* (107)
Sacks: Mitch King (4)
Interceptions: Pat Angerer and Tyler Sash* (5)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule

Sept. 5 Northern Iowa
Sept. 12 at Iowa State
Sept. 19 Arizona
Sept. 26 at Penn State
Oct. 3 Arkansas State
Oct. 10 Michigan
Oct. 17 at Wisconsin
Oct. 24 at Michigan State
Oct. 31 Indiana
Nov. 7 Northwestern
Nov. 14 at Ohio State
Nov. 21 Minnesota

1. McNutt emerges -- After switching over from quarterback, Marvin McNutt could play a major role at wide receiver for the Hawkeyes this fall. McNutt moved to the top of the depth chart at wideout and can be a big target for quarterback Ricky Stanzi at 6-4 and 210 pounds. The sophomore impressed the coaches throughout the spring.

2. Stanzi's time -- Stanzi established himself as the starting quarterback last year, and he took steps this spring to become more of a leader. After rebounding from mistakes to make big plays against Penn State and other opponents, Stanzi showed greater consistency with his throws during spring practices. "He's obviously a more mature player than he was a year ago," head coach Kirk Ferentz said.

3. Sharp edges -- The spring further confirmed that Iowa will be very strong on the edges of both the offensive and defensive lines. Bryan Bulaga could be one of the nation's top left tackles in 2009, and he and Kyle Calloway form the Big Ten's top tackle combination. Iowa also will lean on defensive ends Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard, who have taken on greater leadership roles.

Fall questions

1. No Shonn -- Record-settling running back Shonn Greene is a major loss for Iowa, and the coaches didn't get a full chance to evaluate his potential replacements this spring. Projected starter Jewel Hampton and third-stringer Jeff Brinson both missed some practice time with injuries. It will be interesting to see if Hampton establishes himself as the top back this summer, or whether Brinson or Paki O'Meara emerge.

2. Defensive tackle -- Four-year starters Mitch King and Matt Kroul might be bigger losses than Greene, and Iowa needs to build a rotation in the interior defensive line. Junior Karl Klug performed well in limited time last fall, but the Hawkeyes must identify more run stoppers.

3. DJK is MIA -- It was hardly a secret that leading receiver Derrell Johnson-Koulianos fell out of favor this spring. The man known as DJK must prove himself again to the coaching staff in preseason camp and show he can do more than make the flashy catch. Despite McNutt's emergence, the wide receiver position remains a bit iffy heading into the summer.

Michigan spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:35
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan Wolverines
2008 overall record: 3-9

2008 conference record: 2-6

Returning starters

Offense: 10; Defense: 5; Special teams: 1

Top returners

RB Brandon Minor, WR Martavious Odoms, WR Greg Mathews, WR Darryl Stonum, RT Stephen Schilling, LB Obi Ezeh, DE Brandon Graham, CB Donovan Warren, P Zoltan Mesko

Key losses

QB Steven Threet, DT Terrance Taylor, DE Tim Jamison, DT Will Johnson, S Brandon Harrison, CB Morgan Trent

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Brandon Minor* (533 yds)
Passing: Steven Threet (1,105 yds)
Receiving: Martavious Odoms* (443 yds)
Tackles: Obi Ezeh* (98)
Sacks: Brandon Graham* (10)
Interceptions: Morgan Trent (3)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Western Michigan
Sept. 12 Notre Dame
Sept. 19 Eastern Michigan
Sept. 26 Indiana
Oct. 3 at Michigan State
Oct. 10 at Iowa
Oct. 17 Delaware State
Oct. 24 Penn State
Oct. 31 at Illinois
Nov. 7 Purdue
Nov. 14 at Wisconsin
Nov. 21 Ohio State
Spring answers

1. Forcier develops -- The quarterback competition resumes in August, but Michigan can feel a bit better about the most important position on the field after true freshman Tate Forcier made progress this spring. Forcier had some growing pains, but he also showed the ability to create on the move. The early enrollee impressed the crowd at the spring game, throwing for four touchdowns, including a 60-yarder to Roy Roundtree.

2. Smith emerges -- Running back could be Michigan's strongest position in 2009, and the Wolverines got an added bonus this spring with the emergence of Vincent Smith, an early enrollee. The bite-size Smith generated some buzz with his speed and elusiveness. He needs to add weight to be a significant contributor, but he could give defenses a different look.

3. Brown does it all -- Stevie Brown moved into a linebacker-safety hybrid role this spring and showed promise in new coordinator Greg Robinson's scheme. Brown will be a bigger factor in Michigan's run defense as well as covering slot receivers, fullbacks and tight ends in the middle of the field.

Fall questions

1. Flipping quarters -- Michigan still needs a starting quarterback and just as important, it needs to build depth at the position. Junior Nick Sheridan appeared to be playing well this spring before breaking a bone in his leg. If Sheridan and incoming freshman Denard Robinson can push Forcier in the summer, the Wolverines will be a lot better off this season.

2. Defensive line -- The Wolverines know what they have in senior end Brandon Graham, but the other three line spots are open entering the summer. Promising defensive end Ryan Van Bergen should be fine following minor knee surgery, and early enrollee William Campbell will be a factor right away at defensive tackle. Heralded recruit Craig Roh joins the mix in August.

3. Offensive rhythm -- Ten starters return on offense, and Michigan should be improved at quarterback. Rich Rodriguez's scheme is no longer foreign to most of these players, but establishing a rhythm in preseason camp will be vital. Rodriguez will lean heavily on the running backs and the offensive line to establish a viable ground game.

Michigan State spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan State Spartans
2008 overall record: 9-4

2008 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters

Offense: 7; Defense: 8; Special teams: 2

Top returners

WR Blair White, WR Mark Dell, C Joel Nitchman, TE Charlie Gantt, LB Greg Jones, DE Trevor Anderson, S Danny Fortener, K Brett Swenson

Key losses

RB Javon Ringer, QB Brian Hoyer, RT Jesse Miller, DT Justin Kershaw, DE Brandon Long, S Otis Wiley

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Javon Ringer (1,637 yds)
Passing: Brian Hoyer (2,404 yds)
Receiving: Mark Dell* (679 yds)
Tackles: Greg Jones* (127)
Sacks: Trevor Anderson* (8)
Interceptions: Otis Wiley (4)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Montana State
Sept. 12 Central Michigan
Sept. 19 at Notre Dame
Sept. 26 at Wisconsin
Oct. 3 Michigan
Oct. 10 at Illinois
Oct. 17 Northwestern
Oct. 24 Iowa
Oct. 31 at Minnesota
Nov. 7 Western Michigan
Nov. 14 at Purdue
Nov. 21 Penn State
1. Quarterback options -- The Spartans' quarterback competition is far from over, and that's not a bad thing. Sophomores Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol both performed well this spring and put up the exact same totals (357 pass yards, 4 TDs) in the Green-White game. The coaches are comfortable with either player, and both quarterbacks have the athleticism that will allow the offense to expand.

2. Safety depth -- Several key contributors in the secondary missed spring ball with injuries, but the Spartans bolstered their depth at safety with Trenton Robinson. The redshirt freshman continually impressed head coach Mark Dantonio, who mentioned Robinson every time he met with reporters. Robinson could push for a starting spot alongside Danny Fortener or Kendell Davis-Clark.

3. High and tight -- The tight end spot might be phased out for many college teams, but not Michigan State. The Spartans could have more depth at tight end than any Big Ten team -- Wisconsin's right there, too -- as Clemson transfer Brian Linthicum joins Charlie Gantt and Garrett Celek.

Fall questions

1. Ringer's replacement -- Arguably no player in the Big Ten did more for his team last fall than running back Javon Ringer, and Michigan State continues to look for a capable successor or two. None of the four candidates created much separation this spring, and incoming freshman Edwin Baker and Larry Caper will have opportunities to compete in preseason camp. Head coach Mark Dantonio wants to identify 2-3 reliable backs.

2. Offensive line -- Dantonio saw promising signs from a revamped line toward the end of the spring, but some doubt still remains. Junior J'Michael Deane and sophomore Jared McGaha must continue to develop on the right side of the line. Left tackle Rocco Cironi also returns from a shoulder injury and needs to re-establish himself.

3. Pass-rush help -- The Spartans finished eighth in the league in sacks last season (26) and need to identify a second pass-rusher to complement Trevor Anderson. The starting end spot opposite Anderson remains up for grabs, and redshirt freshman Tyler Hoover could land it after a solid spring. Colin Neely also is in the mix.

Minnesota spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:25
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Minnesota Golden Gophers

2008 overall record: 7-6

2008 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 10; Defense: 8; Special teams: 0

Top returners

QB Adam Weber, WR Eric Decker, WR Ben Kuznia, DT Garrett Brown, LB Simoni Lawrence, CB Traye Simmons, CB Marcus Sherels, LB Lee Campbell

Key losses

TE Jack Simmons, DE Willie VanDeSteeg, LB Deon Hightower, P Justin Kucek

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: DeLeon Eskridge* (678 yds)
Passing: Adam Weber* (2,761 yds)
Receiving: Eric Decker* (1,074 yds)
Tackles: Lee Campbell* (80)
Sacks: Willie VanDeSteeg (10.5)
Interceptions: Traye Simmons* (4)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 at Syracuse
Sept. 12 Air Force
Sept. 19 California
Sept. 26 at Northwestern
Oct. 3 Wisconsin
Oct. 10 Purdue
Oct. 17 at Penn State
Oct. 24 at Ohio State
Oct. 31 Michigan State
Nov. 7 Illinois
Nov. 14 South Dakota State
Nov. 21 at Iowa

Spring answers

1. Gray day -- Heralded recruit MarQueis Gray finally got on the practice field for the Gophers this spring, and he lived up to the hype. Gray won't take the starting quarterback job away from junior Adam Weber, but he'll definitely be a part of the offense this fall. Minnesota likely will have some special packages for Gray, who completed 8 of 10 passes for 141 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game.

2. Defensive depth -- Minnesota loses only three starters from an improved defense, and new coordinator Kevin Cosgrove should have plenty of options this fall. Cedric McKinley appears ready to step into a primary pass-rushing role with Willie VanDeSteeg departing, and the defensive tackle spot will be a strength with co-captains Eric Small and Garrett Brown. Wisconsin transfer Kim Royston should see time at safety after a strong spring.

3. Troy's time -- After showing impressive speed on kickoff returns last fall, sophomore Troy Stoudermire will be asked to do much more for the Gophers in 2009. Stoudermire saw time as a wide receiver this spring and accounted for 274 all-purpose yards and a touchdown in the spring game. Head coach Tim Brewster is looking for playmakers, and Stoudermire fits the description.

Fall questions

1. Running back -- The Gophers will emphasize the power run in their new-look offense, but who carries the ball remains to be seen. Projected starter Duane Bennett was held out of contact this spring and both DeLeon Eskridge and Shady Salamon missed time with injuries. Redshirt freshman Kevin Whaley showed some promise in the spring game with 63 rush yards and a touchdown, but the position remains a bit of a mystery.

2. Offensive line -- Not surprisingly, the offensive line endured some growing pains this spring as it adjusted to the new scheme being implemented by line coach Tim Davis and offensive coordinator Jedd Fisch. The Gophers return four starters up front, but several players have been moved around and two new tackles (Matt Stommes and Jeff Wills) likely will start the season.

3. Maresh musings -- Everyone in Minnesota is pulling for freshman linebacker Sam Maresh, who practiced this spring less than nine months after undergoing open-heart surgery. Maresh played a decent amount in the spring game and showed some potential. If he can avoid any further setbacks, he could be in the mix at linebacker this season.

Northwestern spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:20
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Northwestern Wildcats

2008 overall record: 9-4

2008 conference record: 5-3

Returning starters

Offense: 5; Defense: 8; Special teams: 1

Top returners

LT Al Netter, C Ben Burkett, DE Corey Wootton, S Brad Phillips, S Brendan Smith, CB Sherrick McManis, LB Quentin Davie

Key losses

QB C.J. Bacher, RB Tyrell Sutton, WR Eric Peterman, WR Ross Lane, WR Rasheed Ward, DT John Gill, LB Prince Kwateng, LB Malcolm Arrington

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Tyrell Sutton (890 yds)
Passing: C.J. Bacher (2,432 yds)
Receiving: Eric Peterman (737 yds)
Tackles: Brad Phillips* (109)
Sacks: Corey Wootton* (10)
Interceptions: Jordan Mabin and Brad Phillips* (3)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Towson
Sept. 12 Eastern Michigan
Sept. 19 at Syracuse
Sept. 26 Minnesota
Oct. 3 at Purdue
Oct. 10 Miami (Ohio)
Oct. 17 at Michigan State
Oct. 24 Indiana
Oct. 31 Penn State
Nov. 7 at Iowa
Nov. 14 at Illinois
Nov. 21 Wisconsin

Spring answers

1. Matthews impresses -- The competition at running back remains open entering the summer, but speedy sophomore Jeravin Matthews made a strong push this spring. One of only two true freshmen to see the field last fall, Matthews moved from wide receiver to running back and brings top-end speed to the backfield. He had a game-high 90 yards and a touchdown in the spring scrimmage.

2. Backers set -- Northwestern left the spring with its starting linebacking corps set. Middle linebacker Nate Williams and strong side backer Quentin Davie were likely starters following the 2008 season, and Ben Johnson emerged at the weak-side spot in practice. Johnson has impressed head coach Pat Fitzgerald with his speed on the outside.

3. O-line develops -- With several skill positions up in the air, Northwestern will lean on a line that returns four starters. Left tackle Al Netter and center Ben Burkett anchor the group after turning in solid performances this spring. Northwestern has recruited better to offensive line than any other position, and several redshirt freshmen (Neal Deiters, Brian Mulroe, Nick Adamle) will provide depth.

Fall questions

1. Wootton's health -- All eyes will be on All-Big Ten defensive end Corey Wootton this summer as he returns from a torn ACL. Reports on Wootton's rehab are promising, but there's no certainty he will return to the form he showed last season. Wootton projects as a first-round draft pick if healthy, and Northwestern needs him to anchor the pass rush in 2009.

2. Quarterback competence -- Mike Kafka has proven himself as a runner, but his consistency as a passer remains a question entering the summer. Kafka has a so-so spring and still must improve on the short to intermediate routes that spur Northwestern's offense. Coordinator Mick McCall has a good track record of developing quarterbacks, but both Kafka and backup Dan Persa need to make a jump this summer.

3. Receiver rotation -- The wide receiver depth chart is written in pencil at this point, and several spots might not be settled until the Sept. 5 opener. Andrew Brewer seemed better suited to the outside receiver spot this spring, but Northwestern will need another option or two to emerge inside alongside Jeremy Ebert, who returns from a hip injury.

Ohio State spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State Buckeyes

2008 overall record:10-3

2008 conference record: 7-1

Returning starters

Offense: 5; Defense: 7; Special teams: 0

Top returners

QB Terrelle Pryor, C Michael Brewster, TE Jake Ballard, DE Thaddeus Gibson, DT Doug Worthington, S Kurt Coleman, S Anderson Russell, DE Cameron Heyward

Key losses

RB Chris "Beanie" Wells, WR Brian Robiskie, WR Brian Hartline, LT Alex Boone, DT Nader Abdallah, LB James Laurinaitis, LB Marcus Freeman, CB Malcolm Jenkins, P A.J. Trapasso

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Chris "Beanie" Wells (1,197 yds)
Passing: Terrelle Pryor* (1,311 yds)
Receiving: Brian Robiskie (535 yds)
Tackles: James Laurinaitis (130)
Sacks: Thaddeus Gibson* (5)
Interceptions: Kurt Coleman* (4)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Navy
Sept. 12 USC
Sept. 19 vs. Toledo (at Cleveland)
Sept. 26 Illinois
Oct. 3 at Indiana
Oct. 10 Wisconsin
Oct. 17 at Purdue
Oct. 24 Minnesota
Oct. 31 New Mexico State
Nov. 7 at Penn State
Nov. 14 Iowa
Nov. 21 at Michigan

Spring answers

1. Pryor develops -- Terrelle Pryor quieted concerns about his passing ability with a strong spring capped by an excellent performance in the well-attended spring game at Ohio Stadium. Pryor made significant improvement with his footwork and looked better on the high-percentage throws that dogged him at times last season. His first full offseason as a college player appears to have paid off, and Pryor looks primed for an All-Big Ten season.

2. Boom and Zoom -- Running back is the biggest void on the Buckeyes' depth chart, but Dan Herron ("Boom) and Brandon Saine ("Zoom") appear ready to carry the load. Herron built off his experience last fall as a backup and performed well this spring, while Saine finally appears healthy and ready to showcase the explosiveness that made him such a heralded recruit coming out of high school.

3. Big bad Boren -- Justin Boren will always be in the spotlight because he transferred from Michigan, but the left guard generated plenty of buzz with his play this spring. Boren brings brute strength and an edgy attitude to an offense line that needs a jolt after a subpar 2008 season. He has quickly become a favorite of Pryor's and his fellow linemen, and should bring a nasty attitude to the front five this fall.

Fall questions

1. Cornerback -- Chimdi Chekwa has a starting spot locked up, but the other position remains open entering the summer. Senior Andre Amos has a slight edge because of experience, but Devon Torrence, who played minor league baseball in the Astros organization the last two summers, made a strong push this spring. If Torrence focuses solely on football, the starting job could be his.

2. Kicking game -- It's no secret how important special teams has been to Jim Tressel's success at Ohio State, and the head coach is focused on replacing his starting specialists. Aaron Pettrey looks capable at kicker, but the punting job is a bit of a mystery with Jon Thoma and Ben Buchanan competing for the top spot.

3. Linebacker rotation -- Ohio State has plenty of exciting options at linebacker, namely Etienne Sabino and Brian Rolle, both of whom had very solid springs. The key will be finding the right combinations of 'backers and not being afraid to use younger players like Sabino ahead of veterans who played behind Laurinaitis and Freeman for years. It will be tough to replace the lost production, but Ohio State has enough depth, as long as players are used the right ways.

Penn State spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:10
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Penn State Nittany Lions
2008 overall record: 11-2

2008 conference record: 7-1

Returning starters

Offense: 5; Defense: 4; Special teams: 1

Top returners

QB Daryll Clark, RB Evan Royster, C Stefen Wisniewski, DT Jared Odrick, LB Sean Lee, LB Navorro Bowman, S Drew Astorino

Key losses

WR Derrick Williams, WR Deon Butler, WR Jordan Norwood C A.Q. Shipley, LT Gerald Cadogan, DE Aaron Maybin, DE Josh Gaines, S Anthony Scirrotto, CB Lydell Sargeant

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Evan Royster* (1,236 yds)
Passing
: Daryll Clark* (2,592 yds)
Receiving: Deon Butler (810 yds)
Tackles
: Navorro Bowman* (106)
Sacks
: Aaron Maybin (12)
Interceptions
: Lydell Sargeant (4)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Akron
Sept. 12 Syracuse
Sept. 19 Temple
Sept. 26 Iowa
Oct. 3 at Illinois
Oct. 10 Eastern Illinois
Oct. 17 Minnesota
Oct. 24 at Michigan
Oct. 31 at Northwestern
Nov. 7 Ohio State
Nov. 14 Indiana
Nov. 21 at Michigan State
Spring answers

1. Line is fine -- Despite losing three major contributors at defensive end, Penn State's reloading line appears to be fine for 2009. Sophomore end Jack Crawford looks like the team's next dominant pass-rusher. There's good depth at defensive tackle around All-America candidate Jared Odrick, and if Penn State can get a bit healthier at the end positions, it should be solid up front.

2. Daryll does it -- Daryll Clark was the Big Ten's top quarterback by a fairly wide margin in 2008, and the senior built on his first season as a starter with a strong offseason. Clark has put the coaches at ease about the direction of the offense. He's the undisputed leader of the unit, and more importantly, he wants to lead. There might not be a more valuable player in the Big Ten this fall.

3. Wideouts emerge -- Penn State loses three multiyear starters at receiver, but several players showed this spring that they're ready to step up. Both Graham Zug and Brett Brackett caught touchdowns in the spring game and look to build off of their experience from last year. Derek Moye and Chaz Powell provide variety in the wide receiving corps, and the tight end position should be featured more after Andrew Quarless performed well this spring.

Fall questions

1. Secondary -- The wide receivers' performance in the spring game came with a caveat, as they faced a secondary that needs a ton of work before Sept. 5. Penn State loses all four starters from a unit that wasn't all that good to begin with, and head coach Joe Paterno expressed major concerns about the defensive backs this spring. The Lions need A.J. Wallace to get healthy and Drew Astorino to set the tone in the back four.

2. Offensive line -- Right tackle Dennis Landolt is Penn State's only returning starter playing the position he played in 2008. There are a lot of new faces up front, and it will take time for the group to jell. Three spots are up for grabs this summer, and talented junior Stefen Wisniewski still needs time to adjust to the center spot.

3. Quarterback depth -- Despite Kevin Newsome's encouraging performance in the spring game, Penn State likely can't afford a major injury to Clark to keep its Big Ten title hopes alive. The Lions need continued development from both Newsome and Matt McGloin this summer so the coaches can feel comfortable turning things over if Clark goes down.

Purdue spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:05
AM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Purdue Boilermakers
2008 overall record: 4-8

2008 conference record:2-6

Returning starters

Offense: 4; Defense: 7; Special teams: 2

Top returners

WR Keith Smith, TE Kyle Adams, LT Zach Reckman, RB Jaycen Taylor, DE Ryan Kerrigan, DT Mike Neal, S Torri Williams, CB Brandon King, LB Joe Holland

Key losses

QB Curtis Painter, QB Justin Siller, RB Kory Sheets, WR Greg Orton, WR Desmond Tardy, DT Alex Magee, LB Anthony Heygood, S Frank Duong

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Kory Sheets (1,185 yds)
Passing
: Curtis Painter (2,400 yds)
Receiving: Desmond Tardy (876 yds)
Tackles
: Anthony Heygood (114)
Sacks
: Ryan Kerrigan* (7)
Interceptions
: Torri Williams and Dwight Mclean (2)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Toledo
Sept. 12 at Oregon
Sept. 19 Northern Illinois
Sept. 26 Notre Dame
Oct. 3 Northwestern
Oct. 10 at Minnesota
Oct. 17 Ohio State
Oct. 24 Illinois
Oct. 31 at Wisconsin
Nov. 7 at Michigan
Nov. 14 Michigan State
Nov. 21 at Indiana
Spring answers

1. Backs stacked -- Running back was a major question entering the spring, especially with Jaycen Taylor still rehabbing from a torn ACL. But sophomore Ralph Bolden came out of nowhere to spark the Boilers' rushing attack. Bolden capped an excellent spring with 153 rush yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. He finished with 420 rush yards in four spring scrimmages. Dan Dierking also performed well, and the running back spot should be deep once Taylor gets healthy and heralded freshman Al-Terek McBurse enters the mix. 

2. Tight ends surge -- First-year head coach Danny Hope raved about his tight ends this spring, and the group will be featured more in the offense after a one-year hiatus. Projected starter Kyle Adams showed what he can do when healthy this spring, making 10 receptions in the spring scrimmages. He'll be pushed by both Jeff Lindsay and Jeff Panfil.

3. Defensive line solid -- Line play could be a strength on both sides of the ball, and the defensive front looked promising this spring. Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan appears ready to take another step after recording a team-high seven sacks last fall. He should get help from talented young players like Kawann Short and Gerald Gooden. Defensive tackle Mike Neal is very underrated inside and should have a big year.

Fall questions

1. Joey's time -- Senior quarterback Joey Elliott has waited his turn to start at quarterback, and barring a dramatic shift, he'll get it this fall. Still, Purdue would feel much more comfortable if Justin Siller was pushing Elliott for the top job. Siller might have been the team's No. 1 quarterback before his dismissal from school for violating academic policy. Elliott needs to elevate his game after three years as a backup, and Purdue must further develop backup Caleb TerBush.

2. Linebacker play -- There were some encouraging signs this spring, especially the re-emergence of oft-injured senior Jason Werner. But the rushing totals allowed in the spring scrimmages are troubling, and Purdue needs to identify three or four reliable linebackers after losing mainstay Anthony Heygood. The line and the secondary look solid, but linebacker is a bit iffy.

3. Wide receiver -- Purdue loses a ton of production at wide receiver, and Hope is still working to find capable targets for Elliott this fall. Keith Smith had a very solid spring and Aaron Valentin should take on a greater role this fall, but the Boilers need more bodies at receiver. They're hoping for more development this summer from converted cornerback Royce Adams.

Wisconsin spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Wisconsin Badgers
2008 overall record: 7-6

2008 conference record: 3-5

Returning starters

Offense: 6; Defense: 5; Special teams: 2

Top returners

QB Dustin Sherer, RB John Clay, LT Gabe Carimi, TE Garrett Graham, DE O'Brien Schofield, LB Jaevery McFadden, CB Aaron Henry, K Philip Welch

Key losses

RB P.J. Hill, G Kraig Urbik, G Andy Kemp, TE Travis Beckum, DE Matt Shaughnessy, DT Mike Newkirk, LB DeAndre Levy, LB Jonathan Casillas

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: P.J. Hill (1,161 yds)
Passing
: Dustin Sherer* (1,389 yds)
Receiving: Garrett Graham* (540 yds)
Tackles
: Jaevery McFadden* (84)
Sacks
: O'Brien Schofield* and DeAndre Levy (5)
Interceptions
: Niles Brinkley* (4)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Northern Illinois
Sept. 12 Fresno State
Sept. 19 Wofford
Sept. 26 Michigan State
Oct. 3 at Minnesota
Oct. 10 at Ohio State
Oct. 17 Iowa
Oct. 24 BYE
Oct. 31 Purdue
Nov. 7 at Indiana
Nov. 14 Michigan
Nov. 21 at Northwestern
Nov. 28 BYE
Dec. 5 at Hawaii

Spring answers

1. Toon time -- After struggling at receiver in 2008, Wisconsin might have identified a top wideout this spring, and he has a familiar name. Sophomore Nick Toon, the son of former Wisconsin great and three-time All-Pro Al Toon, blossomed during spring ball. Toon brings both speed and size to the outside receiver spot. He had a game-high four receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown in the spring game.

2. Phillips emerges -- Wisconsin wanted to find another quarterback to challenge projected starter Dustin Sherer, and redshirt freshman Curt Phillips emerged late in spring ball. Phillips finished with a flourish, completing 10 of 16 passes for 122 yards and two touchdowns in the spring game. The Tennessee native might not be a textbook passer, but he brings playmaking ability to the pocket.

3. High Wattage -- Opportunity abounds on the defensive line, which loses three multiyear starters, and end J.J. Watt seized it this spring. The Central Michigan transfer earned a starting spot opposite O'Brien Schofield and has the versatility to play both line positions after transforming his body during the last year. Watt's presence elevates expectations for the Badgers' pass rush.

Fall questions

1. Quarterback clarity -- The big dilemma in Madison is this: Will Wisconsin go with a more experienced player in Sherer and live with another one-and-done situation at quarterback, or will the coaches take a risk with Phillips? Sherer had a solid offseason and played well at points last season. He likely remains the team's best option, but Phillips could provide continuity for the future.

2. Secondary shuffle -- At least two starting defensive back positions and possibly three are unsettled entering the summer. Hard-hitting junior safety Jay Valai must fend off senior Aubrey Pleasant for a starting spot, while Niles Brinkley, last year's interceptions leader, is being pushed by sophomore Devin Smith. Senior Shane Carter is listed as a backup safety on the post-spring depth chart, but he could push Chris Maragos.

3. Clay's conditioning -- There's little doubt that sophomore John Clay possesses the skills to be a first-team All-Big Ten running back in 2009. But Clay has struggled with his weight, which exceeded 250 pounds late last season. He also has had recurrent ankle problems, so maintaining a healthy weight (235-240 pounds) will be vital through the summer and into preseason camp.

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