Big Ten: Derek Hoebing

Michigan State fans would understandably disagree, but the Big Ten overall wasn't hit that hard by early departures to the NFL draft this year. Only six Big Ten underclassmen declared for the draft (Note: Purdue linebacker Dwayne Beckford already had been dismissed from the team).

Let's take a quick look back at the winners and losers of the early entries and how the decisions impact several teams going forward.

1. Biggest winner: Michigan. Almost everyone expected Wolverines left tackle Taylor Lewan to enter the draft after earning Big Ten Offensive Linemen of the Year honors and other accolades as a junior. Lewan had been projected by many as a top-15 pick, if not a top-10 pick, and his departure seemed like a foregone conclusion after he held up well against Jadeveon Clowney in the Outback Bowl. But Lewan delivered the biggest draft decision surprise -- and a delightful one for Michigan fans -- when he announced Jan. 9 that he'd return to Ann Arbor for the 2013 season. He provides a huge boost for a Wolverines offensive line that endured an up-and-down season and loses three starters. Lewan sought advice from former Michigan star tackle Jake Long, who opted to remain in school for his senior season and ended up becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 draft.

[+] EnlargeLe'Veon Bell
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioMichigan State will certainly miss the production of running back Le'Veon Bell.
2. Biggest loser: Michigan State. The Big Ten had a smaller than normal group of early NFL departures, but Michigan State accounted for 50 percent (3-of-6) as running back Le'Veon Bell, tight end Dion Sims and defensive end William Gholston all made the jump. None of the early exits comes as a major surprise, as Bell led the nation in carries (382) and ranked third in rushing average (137.9), Sims flashed next-level potential and Gholston clearly has the physical skills to succeed in the NFL. But the departures of both Bell and Sims really sting an offense that lacked consistently productive players. Bell accounted for 92.3 percent of Michigan State's rushing yards and 38.4 percent of MSU's total yards, while Sims had 36 receptions for 475 yards and two touchdowns despite missing time with an ankle injury. A Spartans offense that struggled mightily for most of the season enters the offseason with even more question marks.

3. Head-scratchers: Lewan's decision comes as a major surprise, as few saw him slipping below the middle of the first round in the draft. He could end up leading Michigan to a Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl berth as a senior, and improve his draft stock in the process, like Long did in 2007 when he earned unanimous All-America honors. But Lewan certainly is gambling a bit, as an injury or a drop in performance could hurt his future earning potential. Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio reportedly was "taken aback" by Bell's decision to leave, and some thought Gholston would have benefited from another season after falling short of preseason expectations. But aside from Lewan, the players who left were mostly expected to leave.

4. The replacements

  • Michigan State likely will look to a combination of backs, including Nick Hill and possibly some incoming recruits, to fill the massive production void left by Bell. Three players backed up Sims this fall -- Paul Lang, Andrew Gleichert and Derek Hoebing -- and recruit Dylan Chmura joins the mix. The Spartans are in better shape at defensive end with returning starter Marcus Rush, veteran reserve Denzel Drone and Shilique Calhoun, who performed well in the bowl win against TCU.
  • The expected departure of defensive tackle Johnathan Hankins means Ohio State must replace all four starting defensive linemen from 2012. The Buckeyes have recruited well up front and must hope young interior linemen like rising sophomore Tommy Schutt and rising junior Michael Bennett can fill the gaps. Adolphus Washington played some tackle as a true freshman but seems to have a future at defensive end, while Joel Hale could help Schutt and Bennett replace both Hankins and Garrett Goebel.
  • Wisconsin loses a standout junior center to the NFL draft for the second straight year as Travis Frederick departs. Redshirt freshman Dan Voltz likely will step in after backing up Frederick, unless Wisconsin decides to move Ryan Groy to center, where he started late in the 2011 season.
  • Illinois must fill both defensive tackle spots after junior Akeem Spence declared for the draft. Austin Teitsma is projected to move into a starting role after recording 15 tackles as a reserve last fall. The Illini also need younger tackles like Teko Powell and Vontrell Williams to emerge as they try to build depth along the line, typically a strong point for the team.

Big Ten Tuesday personnel roundup

October, 9, 2012
Some injury news and other personnel nuggets from around the Big Ten entering Week 7:
  • Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray participated in Sunday's light practice and will be on the field later Tuesday when the team begins its game-week prep for Northwestern. Gray has missed the past two games with a high ankle sprain and hasn't been practicing. Coach Jerry Kill is "cautiously optimistic" Gray has a chance to play against the Wildcats, but added during his weekly news conference that Gray wouldn't play if the game were today. Left guard Tommy Olson (knee) will practice today and is questionable for the game.
  • Michigan State tight end Dion Sims (ankle) will miss Saturday's game against Iowa, leaving the Spartans without their leading receiver (24 receptions, 313 yards). Three players -- redshirt freshman Paul Lang, sophomore Andrew Gleichert and junior Derek Hoebing -- are listed as potential starters on the depth chart for Iowa. Lang has recovered from a serious back injury that forced him to redshirt the 2011 season, move home for rehab in the spring and take some classes online. Michigan State made several other two-deep tweaks, including moving running back Nick Hill off of punt returns and listing Chris Norman and Taiwan Jones as co-starters at outside linebacker.
  • Iowa will have top cornerback Micah Hyde on the field at Michigan State. Hyde was arrested during the weekend for public intoxication and interfering with official acts. Because he's a first-time offender, Iowa's student-athlete conduct policy doesn't require him to miss a game. Hyde won't serve as a captain Saturday for the first time this season, but coach Kirk Ferentz praised him during Tuesday's news conference. Fellow cornerback B.J. Lowery (wrist) had a setback during the open week and could miss Saturday's game. Running back Damon Bullock (concussion) will play this week and share some carries with Mark Weisman, while it's possible Iowa uses a redshirt for running back Jordan Canzeri (knee).
  • Purdue running back Ralph Bolden (knee) finally could return this week against Wisconsin. Coach Danny Hope said the staff knew Bolden was close last week but wanted to see him take more reps in practice, especially as a blocker against blitz pickup. "We are a lot more comfortable about playing Ralph this weekend, and I think Ralph is more comfortable as well," Hope said. Caleb TerBush remains Purdue's starter at quarterback, but the coaches will decide later this week if they'll use a rotation with TerBush and Robert Marve or just use Marve when needed. Hope understands why many Purdue fans want to see more of Marve, pointing to Marve's strong arm and playmaking ability. But the coach still clearly sees TerBush as the steadier option. "The big plays certainly stand out in the minds of the fans and mine too," Hope said. "That's why we are committed to getting him ready and playing him in the ball games. I'm not perplexed as to why some of the fan base would prefer Robert Marve. That's a tendency on a national level. The No. 2 quarterback is always the favorite."
  • Indiana coach Kevin Wilson expects to play both of his top quarterbacks -- Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld -- Saturday against No. 8 Ohio State. Coffman made his third consecutive start last week against Michigan State and played brilliantly in the first half, but Wilson says there continues to be little separation between the two, noting that Coffman still hasn't won a game as the starter. Sudfeld has practiced a bit better than Coffman this week, while Coffman had the edge last week in workouts. Top tight end Ted Bolser won't face any discipline from the Big Ten after being ejected from the Michigan State game and will play against the Buckeyes.
  • Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead should be fine for the team's Oct. 20 game at Northwestern, coach Bo Pelini said Tuesday. Burkhead injured his left knee in the third quarter last Saturday against Ohio State and didn't return. He won't practice much during the open week, but "it all settled down," Pelini said of the injury. "He's fine."
  • Illinois cornerback Terry Hawthorne, who left the field last Saturday at Wisconsin in an ambulance, has recovered well but still must pass a concussion test, go through a workout without any symptoms and then participate in some practice time this week to have a chance to play at No. 25 Michigan. Redshirt freshman Eaton Spence will start in Hawthorne's place if he can't play.