Big Ten: Jared Zwilling
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Everything on offense starts with what happens up front, and line play will make or break the season for several Big Ten teams. The league loses a handful of standout linemen, including Rimington Trophy winner A.Q. Shipley, but several teams should reload nicely.
There's a lot to like about the top three, and I don't see any truly bad units in the league.
1. Iowa -- Shonn Greene was the nation's most dominant running back last year, but he had plenty of help. Iowa returns three starters and several key reserves from a line that propelled Greene to 13 consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. Junior Bryan Bulaga is the league's premier left tackle, while Kyle Calloway provides depth on the other side. The Hawkeyes boast more guard depth than any Big Ten team, a group that includes Dace Richardson, who has resurrected his career after a string of injuries.
2. Ohio State -- A major disappointment in 2008, Ohio State's line should be much improved thanks to experience, the addition of guard Justin Boren and some excellent recruiting. Boren brings a much-needed spark to the line and impressed just about everyone this spring. Center Mike Brewster is a year older, and senior Jim Cordle has shown impressive versatility in shifting to right tackle. The left tackle spot concerns me a bit, but Ohio State has recruited extremely well here.
3. Wisconsin -- The Badgers lose starting guards Andy Kemp and Kraig Urbik, but they always find a way to control the line of scrimmage and return several key pieces. Center John Moffitt and left tackle Gabe Carimi will contend for All-Big Ten honors, and Bill Nagy looks solid at one of the guard spots. If right tackle Josh Oglesby takes a step forward and lives up to his potential, Wisconsin will once again have one of the league's top lines.
4. Northwestern -- The team hopes its skill-position losses will be offset by a much better offensive line, which returns four starters. Northwestern did a good job of limiting sacks last year but should be much better at staying on blocks and buying time for athletic quarterback Mike Kafka. Left tackle Al Netter and center Ben Burkett are both All-Big Ten candidates, and the Wildcats boast plenty of depth after recruiting extremely well to this position.
5. Michigan -- No group will make a bigger jump in Year 2 of the spread offense than the line, which returns four starters. Michigan should be very solid up the middle with center David Molk and guards Stephen Schilling and David Moosman. If the Marks (Ortmann and Huyge) hold up at the tackle spots, a run game led by Brandon Minor will surge. Despite several player departures, Michigan has recruited several standout linemen who will provide depth this fall.
6. Michigan State -- I like the Joels (Foreman and Nitchman), and left tackle Rocco Cironi returns from a shoulder injury, but this group still needs to prove itself. Despite Javon Ringer's success last fall, the line was just average and must fill several gaps. Hopes are high for J'Michael Deane and Jared McGaha after spring ball, and if those players make progress Michigan State will move up the list.
7. Penn State -- The line rivals the secondary as Penn State's biggest concern entering the fall. In addition to Shipley, the Lions lose tackle Gerald Cadogan and guard Rich Ohrnberger. Only one starter (right tackle Dennis Landolt) returns to the same position he occupied in 2008. Stefen Wisniewski will be fine at center, but Penn State needs tackle DeOn'tae Pannell and others to make a lot of progress during camp.
8. Illinois -- With so much talent at the skill positions, expectations will be high for the Illini line, which drew mixed reviews in 2008. Right guard Jon Asamoah will contend for All-Big Ten honors, and Illinois really likes young right tackle Jeff Allen. The team must fill a big hole at left tackle, though veteran Eric Block slides over from guard to center. This could end up being a very respectable group.
9. Minnesota -- Perhaps no offensive line in the Big Ten intrigues me more than Minnesota's, which is going through a major transition in both scheme and technique with assistant Tim Davis. The Gophers are returning to their roots as a power-run offense, but they'll have to adjust quickly to all the changes. Left tackle Matt Stommes could be a pro prospect if things fall right, and the mammoth Jeff Wills lines up on the other side of the line. Notre Dame transfer Matt Carufel joins the mix as a starting guard.
10. Purdue -- Injuries decimated the two-deep last year, and Purdue used seven different starting lineups up front. The Boilers are much healthier entering the fall and should be much better. Young players like right guard Ken Plue gained valuable experience last fall, and he rejoins veterans Jared Zwilling, Zach Reckman and Zach Jones. The big question is how quickly the group jells as Purdue wants to stress the run game more this fall.
11. Indiana -- Much like Purdue, injuries hit Indiana's line especially hard last fall. The Hoosiers have two proven veterans in left tackle Rodger Saffold and center Pete Saxon, both of whom have started for three seasons. If those two can lead the way and young players like Justin Pagan and Will Matte continue to develop, Indiana will be much improved here.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Purdue's first set of spring practices under head coach Danny Hope is in the books, as the Boilermakers finished up Saturday with the Black & Gold game at Ross-Ade Stadium. The offense prevailed 36-29 in a game that featured a modified scoring system.
The spread offense is still very much alive in West Lafayette, but Purdue might not be as much of a pass-oriented team as it was under Joe Tiller. The ground game came along very nicely this spring, and an unlikely sophomore has put himself right in the mix for the starting running back position.
Sophomore Ralph Bolden capped a very impressive spring with 153 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 26 carries in the spring game. With Jaycen Taylor still rehabbing from a torn ACL and heralded freshman Al-Terek McBurse awaiting the go-ahead from the NCAA Clearinghouse, Bolden showed impressive skills and durability throughout the spring. He gained 406 rush yards in Purdue's three spring scrimmages.
Though his smallish frame (5-foot-9, 184 pounds) might raise red flags, Bolden should be a big part of Purdue's offensive plan this fall.
"He's probably the fastest kid on our offense," offensive coordinator Gary Nord told The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier. "He was clocked at 10.5 in the 100 meters in high school. We have to find ways to get him the ball."
Dan Dierking added 95 rush yards on 19 attempts as the offense racked up 299 yards on the ground. The passing game didn't exactly struggle, either, putting up 421 yards. Projected starter Joey Elliott had a nice day, completing 20 of 33 passes for 193 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Other notable items from Purdue's spring game:
- Don't expect the second coming of Dustin Keller this fall, but the tight end position will play a much bigger role at Purdue than it did in 2008. Even without projected starter Kyle Adams, who sustained a minor knee injury, three tight ends (Jeff Lindsay, Jeff Panfil and Crosby Wright) combined to catch 12 passes for 134 yards in the spring game.
- Keith Smith has established himself as Purdue's No. 1 wide receiver and registered game highs in both receptions (8) and receiving yards (99) in the spring game. Smith, who caught a touchdown pass from Elliott, enters the fall as a starter along with Aaron Valentin. Purdue needs another wideout to emerge this summer.
- Oft-injured linebacker Jason Werner recorded an interception in the spring game, a good sign for a Purdue defense that looks a bit thin at linebacker. The Boilers' defense recorded five takeaways in the game, including an interception by safety Logan Link and a fumble recovery by defensive tackle Kawann Short, who also had two pass breakups and a tackle for loss. End Gerald Gooden also stood out with a sack and a fumble recovery.
- Purdue's resurgent run game this spring can be attributed to an improved offensive line, which returns four starters and avoided the injuries that crippled it a year ago.
- Short and backup quarterback Caleb TerBush received Purdue's Newcomer Award for making the most progress in their first round of spring practices. Offensive guard Rick Schmeig and cornerback Charlton Williams received the Most Improved Award.
- Purdue also announced its captains for the 2009 season: Elliott, defensive tackle Mike Neal, Werner, safety Torri Williams and center Jared Zwilling.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten's only new head coach isn't new at Purdue. Danny Hope was there for Purdue's rebirth in the late 1990s and returned last year as head coach-in waiting and offensive line coach. Those tags have since been removed, and Hope is going through his first practices as the man in charge. Purdue comes off a 4-8 season and missed a bowl for just the second time since Joe Tiller's arrival in 1997. Hope brought in five new coaches during the offseason, including offensive coordinator Gary Nord and defensive coordinator Donn Landholm.
|Sandra Dukes/Icon SMI|
|Joey Elliott is a candidate to start at QB for Purdue in 2009.|
The Boilers have competition at quarterback, running back and wide receiver as they try to turn things around in Hope's first year. I caught up with Hope earlier this week.
A few practices in, is the team where you thought it would be? Ahead of schedule? Behind schedule?
Danny Hope: We're ahead in some ways. Obviously, when you have a guy like Curtis Painter, who was accomplished as he was at the quarterback spot, you've got a lot of work to do. We are eight receivers short from the roster of 2008. So I didn't really know what to expect when we went out the first day in shorts last Wednesday, but I was very pleased with what we've got done so far. We are able to go out there and execute the offense to some degree, which is a good sign for us this early in spring. The good thing about our quarterback spot, even though we don't have a bona fide returning starter, is our top two quarterbacks played in 2008.
How does the quarterback competition shape up right now?
DH: Joey Elliott was a very good No. 2 quarterback for us, was actually putting pressure on Painter and starting to get in some games, and then he got injured. You're not getting a rookie. He's a football junkie. He loves it. He had shoulder surgery and his health status is much better than I thought it would be at the start of spring. He's throwing the ball better, got a little more zip on it. He's a guy who knows more about the offense than anyone else we have on that side of the ball right now. So him being healthy enough to go out there and throw was a huge shot in the arm for us. And obviously, Justin Siller, even though he wasn't that well prepared because he had not been in the lineup before and was working as a running back, we beat Michigan with Justin Siller and he's a great athlete. He has some game experience. So we don't have two varsity rookies out there. That's a good sign. And I really like what I'm seeing out of our freshman, Caleb TerBush, who was on the scout team all of last year, he's out there getting some great reps. We're further along at the quarterback spot than I thought we were going to be, but when you're comparing it to the likes of Drew Brees, Kyle Orton and Curtis Painter, we're nowhere near that.
Do you have a timetable on when you'd like to make a decision on a starter? Will it go well into preseason camp?
DH: Everybody asks that, and the most important thing to me is the development at the quarterback position, not just one particular quarterback. Last year is a classic example of what I'm talking about, where Painter went down and Joey Elliott got hurt and we had to take Justin Siller from running back and move him to quarterback, and he wasn't prepared to do so. I think the development of all of our quarterbacks is key this spring, and certainly the No. 1. We'll play as many players as we can, so I'm not really concerned about saying there has to be a certain deadline or due date as long as each and every one of our quarterbacks are improving and can get themselves in position to help us win. That's more important than naming a guy.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Time for our weekly look inside five Big Ten teams.
Michigan State -- The Spartans went deep into their roster against Northwestern, as 59 of the 70 players in uniform for the game saw action in a 37-20 victory. Freshmen Glenn Winston and Keshawn Martin made big contributions on kickoff returns and in the passing game, and Jeremy Ware sparked a banged-up secondary with five pass break-ups. Michigan State could be a bit healthier for Saturday's clash against No. 12 Ohio State, as top cover corner Chris L. Rucker might return from an elbow injury. Wideout Mark Dell remains the starter on the depth chart despite being limited against Northwestern with an undisclosed injury.
Ohio State -- Head coach Jim Tressel reaffirmed his support Tuesday for starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor despite struggles on offense the last few weeks. Tight end Jake Ballard stumped for senior Todd Boeckman and a two-quarterback system that could better balance the offense. The Buckeyes rank 108th nationally in pass offense and 70th in scoring, but Tressel is satisfied with the direction. Pryor's individual yardage totals have dropped in each of the last three weeks, but Ohio State continues to win and didn't fare much better with Boeckman at the helm.
Wisconsin -- In addition to having no definitive starting quarterback at this point in game week, Wisconsin could have a new look on the offensive line Saturday at Iowa. Right guard Kraig Urbik, who has made 45 consecutive starts on the line, likely will miss the game after sustaining a knee injury last Saturday against Penn State. Sophomore Bill Nagy would start in Urbik's place. The Badgers are a bit more hopeful about getting left tackle Gabe Carimi back for Iowa, though Carimi also has a knee injury and is questionable. Redshirt freshman Josh Oglesby could get his second straight start and would protect the quarterback's blind side if right-hander Dustin Sherer replaces Allan Evridge.
Purdue -- The Boilermakers' offensive line had another setback with the season-ending loss of tackle Garrett Miller to a foot injury. Miller, a fifth-year senior, will undergo surgery in the coming weeks. Purdue's other tackle, Sean Sester, has been battling back problems this season, and right guard Justin Pierce is struggling with headaches. Starting center Cory Benton hurt his elbow against Ohio State and reserve center Jared Zwilling recently had an ankle injury. Purdue is tied for 52nd nationally in sacks allowed (1.67 per game) and on Saturday faces a Northwestern defense that is tied for the Big Ten lead in sacks (19).
Illinois -- Juice Williams' importance to the Illini offense has become even greater after the weekend arrest of backup quarterback Eddie McGee. The sophomore was arrested for allegedly shoving a woman, and his status for Saturday's game against Indiana is unclear. McGee has appeared in only one game this season, completing one of two passes, but he's the only other Illinois quarterback with collegiate game experience. Williams leads the Big Ten in passing (279.5 ypg) and ranks fourth nationally in total offense (353.7 ypg).
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Purdue will once again be without outside linebacker Jason Werner on Saturday against Notre Dame. Werner recently had a bone chip removed from his back and likely will miss two more weeks. The junior has yet to play this season after a promising summer.
"We desperately need Jason Werner, but we're not going to have him," head coach Joe Tiller said.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Some unfinished business from today's Big Ten coaches' teleconference, which thankfully had no prank callers.
SECONDARY IMPRESSES TILLER
The result wasn't what he wanted, but Purdue coach Joe Tiller had few complaints about a Boilermakers secondary that flustered Oregon for much of last Saturday's 32-26 loss in two overtimes. Purdue recorded two interceptions and five pass breakups in the game, as Oregon wasted three red-zone scoring chances.
"They played their best game they've played in maybe two or three years," Tiller said of the defensive backs.
Starting strong safety Frank Duong, who had a team-high 11 tackles in the game, will be back for Saturday's game with Central Michigan after rolling his right ankle against the Ducks. Duong, who was wearing a walking boot after the game, has led the Boilers in tackles in each of the first two contests.
"Our red-zone defense is something we want to focus on because in the past, we haven't been very good," Duong said. "It's just another stepping stone for us to become a better defense. [Oregon is] one of the best teams in the country, and we hung with them for four quarters into overtime. We'll be able to say we can hang with anybody. I think we'll be OK the rest of the way."
Tiller expects to get senior guard/center Jared Zwilling (ankle) back this week and tackle Sean Sester (back) should be able to play about 40 snaps against Central Michigan. Starting linebacker Jason Werner (back) and tight end Kyle Adams (knee) will miss Saturday's game.
OTHER INJURY UPDATES
Illinois wide receiver Jeff Cumberland returned to action against Louisiana-Lafayette but will benefit from the bye week to heal his injured foot, Illini coach Ron Zook said. Zook expects promising safety Donsay Hardeman (knee) to return next week at Penn State, and reserve offensive lineman Randall Hunt was 100 percent in Monday's practice after sitting out a week with an injury.
The bye week also should benefit Michigan's work-in-progress offensive line. Redshirt freshman guard Mark Huyge -- great name for a lineman -- will be back from an ankle injury and starting left tackle Mark Ortmann (elbow) could have a chance to play next week against No. 8 Wisconsin. Coach Rich Rodriguez praised Perry Dorrestein's play in his first start but added, "We need to have those guys healthy to have a viable competition next week."
PRAISE FOR YOUNG RUNNING BACKS
Last Saturday was a bit odd for Rodriguez. His team made a multitude of mistakes, many unforced, in a 35-17 loss to Notre Dame. But the game also provided some bright spots at quarterback and running back. Freshman Sam McGuffie had 131 rushing yards to go along with four catches for 47 yards and a touchdown.
Several coaches around the league took notice, including Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, whose team faces McGuffie and Michigan next week.
"He's a tremendous football player," Bielema said. "I've YouTubed him as well, as everybody else in the country has. He's got a lot of raw talent. ... It seems like he's a great effort guy and a very hard guy to defend."
Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio doesn't face Michigan until Oct. 25, but he saw McGuffie while preparing for Saturday's contest against Notre Dame (ABC, 3:30 p.m.).
"If you're watching the film and don't notice him, you're not watching the film," Dantonio said.
Another freshman runner stepped up as Minnesota's DeLeon Eskridge had 114 rushing yards and three touchdowns against Montana State. Eskridge moved several steps closer to claiming the starting spot that opened after Duane Bennett's season-ending knee injury.
"DeLeon has done a great job with his preparation," coach Tim Brewster said. "As harsh as this is, one man's misfortune is another man's opportunity. DeLeon did a great job."
TEMPLE WILL TEST LIONS
Not sure what this says about Oregon State and Syracuse, but Penn State coach Joe Paterno called Temple the best team the 16th-ranked Nittany Lions will face to this point in the season. Paterno is impressed by the job his former player, Al Golden, has done with the Owls, who come off two hard-luck losses to Connecticut and Buffalo.
"This is the best Temple team we've seen in a long time," Paterno said. "I have to go back to Wayne Hardin, when Wayne almost beat us in Philadelphia [in the late 1970s]. They're well coached. They line up properly. They hustle."
Paterno also declined to comment about suspended defensive linemen Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma, who aren't listed on this week's depth chart. "We'll let that situation develop and if there's something to say, we'll say it," Paterno said.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Joe Tiller enters his final season at Purdue much like he did his first, with an under-the-radar team that could surprise people this fall. "The more things change, the more they stay the same," he said.
After having some fun during team pictures on the Ross-Ade Stadium field -- on the final do-what-you-want shot, Tiller turned his cap to the side, C.C. Sabathia style, and flexed for the camera -- the Boilermakers coach met with the media.
Here are some of the items he touched on:
- Tiller announced that defensive end Nickcaro Golding, safety Josh McKinley and defensive tackle Preston Numa will be suspended for the season opener against Northern Colorado for "conduct detrimental to the team." Senior safety Torri Williams, a candidate to start, has been fully reinstated. Williams was suspended this spring after an arrest for shoplifting.
McKinley started one game last fall but looks to be in a reserve role this year. Both Golding and Numa redshirted last year.
- Linebacker depth is Purdue's biggest concern in training camp. Fifth-year senior Anthony Heygood and promising junior Jason Werner look good at the two outside spots, and Tiller is hopeful Kevin Green can step up in the middle. But after those three, the cupboard is pretty bare.
Purdue conducts its first full-pads practice later today, and the coaches will closely examine who else they have at linebacker, and who could move over to the position.
"It's a daily discussion," Tiller said. "Today's an important day for us. We've been out there dancing our underwear for a couple day and playing pass-and-tap with shells on. Now we're going to start playing football, so we'll see if somebody will demonstrate an ability to help us. Until that happens, we're reluctant to move anyone."
Green recorded only seven tackles in eight games last fall, and Tiller wants to see more from the man at the core of the Boilermakers defense.
"He could really help us," Tiller said. "Kevin's the type of guy that's had his moments but from a consistency point of view hasn't been there yet."
- Purdue made several moves with its starting offensive linemen, who are all healthy after a painful spring. The Boilers swapped tackles Sean Sester and Zach Jones, moved Jared Zwilling to guard and established Cory Benton as the No. 1 center. Sester, one of the team's top pro prospects, moves to right tackle after protecting Curtis Painter's blind side a year ago. Tiller said he didn't know what to expect from Jones a year ago and wanted a more experienced player at left tackle.
But after evaluating Jones in his first season as a starter, Tiller made the switch.
"Jones is the more athletic guy than Sester and really is better suited to play the left side than Sean is," Tiller said of the former walk-on. "And Sean is better suited to play the right side. We think we have them at their natural positions now."
Tiller likened Zwilling to Jones, saying guard is an easier position to transition into than center. Benton played mainly at guard but is expected to perform well at center.
"He smells it," Tiller said of Benton. "He knows he's got a chance to be the lead tank and be the starter at center all year."
- Tiller provided a little background on Purdue's big home showdown with Oregon on Sept. 13. Six or seven years ago, Tiller started discussing the game with then-Oregon athletic director Bill Moos, who Tiller had coached at Washington State in the early 1970s.
Moos brought up the idea of playing Purdue, but Tiller didn't have much interest.
"Finally Bill said, 'Well, let's schedule a game that's so far out there that both of us will be retired, so it really won't matter,'" Tiller recalled. "And of course, Bill's retired and I'm not, so that worked for one guy and not the other."
The "real reason" Tiller agreed was that Oregon had dropped September road games against Big Ten teams, falling to Michigan State in 1999 and to Wisconsin in 2000.
"I thought, 'You know, here's a West Coast team that has to travel a long way and probably doesn't play well on the road early, so let's sign 'em up,'" Tiller said. "That was a long time ago and obviously isn't true about them any longer."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
|Matthew Emmons/US Presswire|
|Tackle Alex Boone is one of four returning starters on the Buckeyes' offensive line.|
All of the previous positions I ranked (quarterback, running back, wide receiver/tight end) matter little without sturdy offensive lines to block for them. And despite lingering questions about its speed, the Big Ten continues to churn out elite linemen. The league has had three offensive linemen selected in the top 5 of the NFL draft in the last two years, including former Michigan tackle Jake Long, the No. 1 overall pick in April. Several elite players return this fall, including Ohio State tackle Alex Boone and Penn State center A.Q. Shipley, but offensive lines should always be graded as a group. Four teams look very solid up front. The rest of the league? Not so much.
Here's the rundown:
1. Ohio State -- Led by Boone, who passed up NFL bucks for another national title push, the Buckeyes bring back four of five starters up front. Sophomore Bryant Browning emerged at right tackle in spring ball and joins a group that helped Beanie Wells finish 11th nationally in rushing last season. If the first-team unit stays healthy, the offense will surge this fall.
2. Penn State -- All five starters return to a unit that mirrored Ohio State in both sacks allowed and rushing production last season. Shipley and guard Rich Ohrnberger solidify the interior line along with Stefen Wisniewski, who last year became the first true freshman offensive lineman to start at Penn State since 1999. Hopes are high for whip-smart left tackle Gerald Cadogan.
3. Wisconsin -- The Badgers lost no starters and feature All-Big Ten candidates throughout the line. So why isn't this unit rated higher? Wisconsin finished 91st nationally in sacks allowed with 33 last season, a number that must go down with a new starting quarterback. Four-year starter Kraig Urbik and Andy Kemp form the league's best guard tandem, and sophomore left tackle Gabe Carimi held his own last fall after succeeding Joe Thomas.
4. Illinois -- If not for two vacancies, the Illini would be higher on the list. They allowed just 16 sacks last fall, the second fewest in the league, and had the Big Ten's top rushing attack. All-conference candidates Ryan McDonald and Xavier Fulton return. If Ryan Palmer solidifies the right tackle spot, this group will have a big season.
5. Michigan State -- Replacing all-conference left tackle Pete Clifford became a priority this spring, and Michigan State filled the gap with talented junior Rocco Cironi. If Cironi can effectively protect Brian Hoyer's blind side, the interior line should be solid with returning starters Roland Martin and Joel Nitchman. Depth is a concern, and several incoming freshmen could help.
6. Purdue -- Health is the biggest question for Purdue after mainstay Sean Sester, Zach Jones and Zack Reckman missed spring practice with injuries. Head-coach-in-waiting Danny Hope needs all three returning starters at full strength in camp. The all-important center spot could feature an intriguing competition, as freshman Andrew Brewer joins the mix with Cory Benton and Jared Zwilling.
7. Iowa -- A veteran group could definitely climb the list, but after hemorrhaging for 46 sacks last fall, significant improvement is needed. Guard Seth Olsen anchors the line in his third season as a starter. Though several other full-time or part-time starters return, Olsen's spot appears to be the only safe one entering preseason camp.
8. Michigan -- Strength coach Mike Barwis will try to work his magic with a group that returns only one starter, right tackle Stephen Schilling. A lot hinges on junior Mark Ortmann, who succeeds Long at left tackle. If Ortmann steps in smoothly and David Moosman locks up the center spot, the Wolverines might be fine. Coach Rich Rodriguez needs linemen who can fit in his system, and if need be, he'll look to incoming freshmen like Ricky Barnum.
9. Indiana -- The left side looks strong with Rodger Saffold and Pete Saxon, but there are questions elsewhere. A lot is riding on a talented group of sophomore linemen that includes potential starters Alex Perry and Mike Stark. Sacks were a problem at times last season, and the Hoosiers must generate a stronger rushing attack outside of quarterback Kellen Lewis.
10. Minnesota -- Of all the Gophers' problems last season, the offensive line wasn't one of them. Minnesota allowed a league-low 13 sacks and ranked third in pass offense. But the departures of left tackle Steve Shidell and center Tony Brinkhaus raise questions up front. Hopes are high for sophomore left tackle Dominic Alford, but a young group must build chemistry.
11. Northwestern -- The Wildcats lost mainstays at both center and left tackle, and right tackle Kurt Mattes is the only returning starter who secured his job. A lot is riding on three young players -- freshman left tackle Al Netter, sophomore left guard Keegan Grant and freshman center Ben Burkett. If those three step up, a veteran group of skill players will put up points.