Big Ten: Shane Covington

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

All 11 Big Ten teams are now immersed in spring practice, and several squads held controlled scrimmages over the weekend. Some scrimmages were closed and no information was released, but here's what I've pieced together.

INDIANA

Scrimmage: Saturday

Highlights

  • The Ben Chappell-Kellen Lewis connection is gaining steam, as the current quarterback (Chappell) hooked up with the former quarterback (Lewis) for a 30-yard touchdown. Chappell completed 15 of 23 passes for 231 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while Lewis had four catches for 51 yards.
  • Indiana's running backs, an area of concern entering the spring, racked up 200 rushing yards on 31 carries. Senior Bryan Payton had a 40-yard burst on the first play out of the pistol formation. Junior Trea Burgess, who began the spring at linebacker before switching to running back, led all rushers with 13 carries for 65 yards.
  • Six defensive starters sat out the scrimmage with injuries, but the Hoosiers still recorded three interceptions, including one by junior safety Jerimy Finch, a Florida transfer who came to Indiana with a lot of hype. Converted wide receivers Shane Covington and Collin Taylor also picked off passes. Junior linebacker Tyler Replogle had a 90-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
  • Sophomore wide receiver Matt Ernest, who played sparingly last fall, led all receivers with five catches for 92 yards. Tandon Doss added six receptions for 79 yards.

MINNESOTA

Scrimmage: Saturday

Highlights

  • The Gophers ran almost 100 plays in their first spring scrimmage. Despite being limited by a surgically repaired shoulder, Adam Weber took all the snaps with the first-team offense, while MarQueis Gray worked with the second team.
  • Ten different receivers caught passes, and the Gray found Brodrick Smith for a 63-yard touchdown.
  • The running back spot is pretty wide open after the Gophers ranked as the Big Ten's worst rushing team last fall. Redshirt freshman Kevin Whaley got most of the carries Saturday, indicating a possible move up the depth chart.
  • The scrimmage was closed to the media, but head coach Tim Brewster said the defense is still ahead of the offense, which is installing a new system under coordinator Jedd Fisch. Weber got intercepted on his first pass attempt and later said there was a mix-up on the play.
  • After seeing Wisconsin raid its state's high school ranks for years, Minnesota picked up a quarterback recruit from Badger Land over the weekend.

PENN STATE

Scrimmage: Saturday

Highlights

  • If the scrimmage is any indication, Penn State fans who have been telling me not to worry about the defensive line are spot on. The line dominated reserve quarterbacks Kevin Newsome and walk-on Matt McGloin. Defensive tackles Jared Odrick and Abe Koroma and defensive ends Jack Crawford, Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham all had good days.
  • Only two touchdowns were scored, as starting tailback Evan Royster had a 45-yard scoring run and starting quarterback Daryll Clark found tight end Mickey Shuler in the end zone. Clark didn't scrimmage much but performed extremely well when he was out there, while Newsome, a true freshman who enrolled early, seemed to struggle. Several reports said McGloin outplayed Newsome. If it's not obvious already, Penn State needs Clark to stay healthy this fall.
  • The Lions' new-look secondary featured A.J. Wallace and Knowledge Timmons as the corners and Drew Astorino and sophomore Andrew Dailey at the safety spots.
  • After losing three starters, the offensive line will take time to jell, and Saturday wasn't a strong performance. First-team left tackle DeOn'tae Pannell had a rough day and will be pushed by several players.
  • Wide receiver is a position of intrigue throughout the spring, and Graham Zug, Brett Brackett, Derek Moye, Chaz Powell and James McDonald got the most work in the scrimmage. Powell also lined up in the backfield on several plays, a la Derrick Williams.

PURDUE

Scrimmage: Saturday

Highlights

  • A day after quarterback Justin Siller was dismissed from school, Purdue received a much needed strong performance from its offense in a 125-play scrimmage. Though quarterback remains a question mark for the Boilers, they appear to be strong in the run game.
  • Sophomore Ralph Bolden exploded for 192 rush yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, including bursts of 38 and 32 yards. Senior Frank Halliburton added 85 yards on 14 carries as the Purdue backs combined for four rushing touchdowns. Senior Jaycen Taylor was held out of the scrimmage as he works back from a torn ACL.
  • Head coach Danny Hope praised quarterback Caleb TerBush last week, and the redshirt freshman didn't disappoint, completing 15 of 22 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. TerBush's performance in the wake of Siller's departure has to leave Hope feeling a bit better about his options at quarterback. Projected starter Joey Elliott completed 9 of 17 passes for 104 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
  • Cornerback Brandon King recovered a fumble, while defensive ends Ryan Kerrigan and Robert Maci and tackle Mike Neal each recorded sacks.
  • Defensive end Nickcaro Golding missed the scrimmage with a high ankle sprain sustained earlier in the week.
  • Tight en
    d should be a better spot for Purdue this fall, as Kyle Adams returns from an injury sustained in the 2008 opener. Adams led all receivers with four catches for 41 yards in the scrimmage.

WISCONSIN

Scrimmage: Saturday

Highlights

  • Head coach Bret Bielema has emphasized red zone defense this spring after the Badgers finished last in the league in that category in 2008 (92.9 percent). Bielema wasn't pleased with what he saw in the scrimmage, as the offense scored on five of six red zone chances. The first-team offense went 2-for-2 against the top defense, as quarterbacks Dustin Sherer and Scott Tolzien fired touchdowns to Garrett Graham and Nick Toon. The second-team offense went 3-for-4 in red zone chances.
  • The tight ends and wide receivers continued to look good, particularly Graham, Toon, tight end Lance Kendricks and wideout Isaac Anderson, who caught a touchdown.
  • Top running back John Clay sustained a bruised right ankle and missed a chunk of the scrimmage, giving redshirt freshman Erik Smith extensive work.
  • Among the defensive highlights were interceptions by Antonio Fenelus, Shelton Johnson and Devin Smith. Safety Shane Carter, reserve linebacker Tony Megna and defensive ends O'Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt also had some good moments.
  • The Badgers' already iffy linebacker corps took another hit as senior Erik Prather suffered a right leg injury and needed to be carted off the field.
  • Freshman quarterback Jon Budmayr continued to impress, firing an 18-yard score to Anderson.
  • After a strong practice Thursday, right tackle Josh Oglesby returned to the first-team offensive line. Peter Konz, who briefly replaced Oglesby with the starters, worked with the second team.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Indiana won't spend spring practice going through the motions, not with what's at stake this fall for head coach Bill Lynch and a program entering a pivotal season. Despite a momentum-killing 3-9 campaign last fall, Lynch is still in Bloomington and so are all of his assistants. But there will be plenty of changes when the Hoosiers open spring drills March 24.

 
  Sandra Dukes/Icon SMI
  Indiana coach Bill Lynch is looking forward to a lot of change this spring.
Seven players have switched positions, all from offense to defense. Former All-Big Ten quarterback Kellen Lewis will audition at several spots this spring, and last year's leading receiver, Ray Fisher, returns to his roots as a cornerback. Injuries are still a problem, as they were last year, and several defensive starters -- linebacker Will Patterson, tackle Deonte Mack, safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk -- will sit out spring drills.

But Lynch vows that the Hoosiers will be better in 2009. For his sake, they better be.

I caught up with Lynch on Monday to discuss his outlook for spring ball.

What's the mood around there heading into spring ball after a season where things didn't go as planned?

Bill Lynch: We've had a great offseason. When you come off a season where you don't meet the expectations and don't go to a bowl game -- and you miss out on all those extra practice opportunities -- the offseason becomes so critical. I really like the leadership of our senior class. That's really what drives an offseason program, the leadership that you get from within. I just sense an attitude around here of guys that have worked very hard and they're anxious to get out there.

The message all along is we need to get better. We all do things in the offseason where maybe you switch positions and add some wrinkles to your offensive and defensive schemes, maybe change up a little bit how you practice. All those things are great to experiment with in the spring.

Do you sense any dramatic changes? I know you didn't make any staff changes. Will it look very different for the fans when they see you in the summer?

BL: We're going to be a lot better football team. That's the No. 1 thing. We moved some guys around on our staff. We didn't make any changes because we've got a really good staff. Philosophically, I wanted to have two defensive line coaches. We're a four-down-linemen scheme and we function with four coaches on defense, so we moved George Ricumstrict, who was our linebackers coach, to defensive end coach to work with [co-defensive coordinator/defensive tackles coach] Brian George. Mike Yeager, who had the safeties and is moving to linebackers, played linebacker in this defense and has coached in it in the past. Joe Palcic will take over the secondary by himself. So we made some adjustments there.

And then on offense, same thing. Kyle Conner will continue with the tight ends but also be an assistant offensive line coach. So he'll spend most of his time with the offensive line, particularly when we get into passing drills. We did a little restructuring there that I think will make us better.

You mentioned the line play on both sides. Was that a priority for you coming out of last season?

BL: It's a philosophical thing. That's where you win. You win up front. I had kept the structure of the staff the same as [former head coach] Terry Hoeppner had it -- one D-line coach, one O-line coach. I wanted to have two guys up front on both sides. We've got the guys on the staff. It's not a case of, 'Oh, boy, we've got to do this if we're going to win.' It's just a philosophical thing, particularly on defense if you're going to play with four down linemen.

Have you done this before at Ball State and other stops?

BL: Yes. Through my different places, I've done different things. Based on the staff you have and the team you have, you always tweak things. But I feel that's going to give us the best chance to win.

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