Big Ten: Tim Tisebar

Wisconsin Badgers spring preview

March, 13, 2015
Mar 13
The shock has long subsided from the surprise departure of coach Gary Andersen in the wake of a third Big Ten championship game appearance in the past four years. Wisconsin, after another Barry Alvarez-coached postseason -- a victory over Auburn in the Outback Bowl -- appears unified behind former Wisconsin quarterback and offensive coordinator Paul Chryst, who returned home from Pitt.

Spring practice marks the next step in this new era for the Badgers, who have won 10 or more games four times in the past six seasons.

For an additional pre-spring primer, check out our state of the program report on Wisconsin and key position battles.

Schedule: The Badgers open practice Sunday, followed by two workouts next week and three in the final full week of March. They will break from March 28 to April 7 before the final nine practices of the spring wrap with the April 25 spring game at Camp Randall Stadium.

[+] EnlargeCorey Clement
Jonathan Dyer/USA TODAY SportsCorey Clement is next in line to continue Wisconsin's tradition at running back.
What’s new? Only defensive coordinator Dave Aranda remains from the Andersen staff. Chryst brought offensive coordinator and line coach Joe Rudolph, defensive line coach Inoke Breckterfield, special-teams coach Chris Haering, tight ends coach Mickey Turner and running backs coach John Settle from Pittsburgh. Secondary coach Daronte’ Jones coached at Hawaii; outside linebackers coach Tim Tibesar spent last season at Northwestern; receivers coach Ted Gilmore comes from the Oakland Raiders.

Biggest question: Can the offense roll along without Melvin Gordon? History tells us the answer is yes. The Badgers have barely missed a beat at this position since well before the days of 1999 Heisman winner Ron Dayne. Since 2005, in fact, six backs have combined to produce 10 consecutive years with at least one 1,000-yard rusher. And with Corey Clement, who rushed for 949 as a backup last year, the position appears to be in good hands. But Gordon provided an extra dose of star power, rushing for 2,587 yards as a junior under the tutelage of Thomas Brown, the running backs coach whom Chryst retained, but then watched depart for Georgia in February. As the Wisconsin quarterbacks struggled, Gordon put this offense on his back. Can Clement do the same? The Badgers hope it’s not necessary in 2015. Nevertheless, Gordon leaves sizable shoes to fill.

Three things we want to see:

1. Joel Stave taking charge: Chryst’s history with Wisconsin quarterbacks is impressive. You might remember the work in 2011 with Russell Wilson, who set an FBS record for passing efficiency. The previous season, Scott Tolzien won the Unitas Award as he completed 72.9 percent of his throws. The 6-foot-5 Stave needs a bit of that senior-season magic. He fought the yips last year and played in just the final eight games, throwing for 1,104 yards and six touchdowns. This spring is a new start.

2. A rebuilt right side of the offensive line: The Badgers return Dan Voltz at center and Tyler Marz at left tackle to anchor the line. But the loss of guard Kyle Costigan and tackle Rob Havenstein stings on the right side. Ray Ball looks like a solid replacement at guard, and redshirt freshman Michael Deiter ought to be ready to fill a key role. Hayden Biegel is an intriguing option at tackle as a third-year sophomore. Several additional, untested big bodies crowd the roster.

3. Inside linebackers emerging: Wisconsin’s defense carried it through the dark moments of 2014. And even when the offense played better in November, there remained no doubt about this team’s strength -- that is, until the Big Ten title game debacle. From their spots in the heart of Aranda’s unit, Marcus Trotter and Derek Landisch served as the Badgers’ unsung heroes. And they’re gone. It’s up to a group led by rising junior Leon Jacobs and sophomore D’Cota Dixon to recreate the production.

Spring preview: Leaders Division

February, 17, 2012
After taking a look at the Legends Division outlook for spring practice, it's time to turn the focus to the Leaders Division.

Away we go ...


Start of spring practice: March 7
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • New faces in new roles: Tim Beckman and his assistants get their first chance to work with the players on the field. Beckman retained only one assistant (defensive line coach Keith Gilmore) from the previous staff, so it'll be important for the players and coaches to get acclimated. It's also a big spring for co-offensive coordinators Billy Gonzales and Chris Beatty, both of whom will be primary playcallers for the first time at this level.
  • The quarterbacks: Nathan Scheelhaase is a two-year starter, but he'll have to re-establish himself as the team's top option at quarterback. Reilly O'Toole received a decent amount of field time last season, and Illinois should have a competition under center in spring practice. Both men will have to learn a new offense and show good decision-making skills after combining to throw 12 interceptions last fall.
  • No Merci: All-American defensive end Whitney Mercilus is gone, and Illinois will be looking for his replacement this spring. The defensive line could once again be a strength for the Illini, especially with Gilmore back and an aggressive defensive coordinator in Tim Banks. It'll be interesting to see how the coaches use Michael Buchanan and Justin Staples, who played the "bandit" position in the previous scheme and boast speed but don't have typical defensive end size.

Start of spring practice: March 3
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Juco fever: Indiana needs a quick fix on defense, and it hopes an influx of junior college players can provide one. Six juco players already are enrolled and will participate in spring practice, including five on the defensive side. It will be interesting to see how players such as defensive back Tregg Waters and linebackers Justin Rayside and Jacarri Alexander perform this spring as they compete to play right away.
  • New direction on offense: Coach Kevin Wilson wants to be more productive in the passing game, and he hired an offensive coordinator in Seth Littrell who can help in that area. Littrell guided an Arizona offense that last season ranked third nationally in passing (370.8 ypg) and 27th in pass efficiency (145.2). He'll try to help Tre Roberson, who Wilson said he thinks can elevate his game significantly as a passer despite throwing twice as many interceptions (six) as touchdowns (three) as a freshman.
  • Who has grown up: Indiana played 32 freshmen (16 true, 16 redshirt) in 2011, the most in the FBS. The early experience should pay off for several players, and Indiana needs them to grow up quickly during the spring. Roberson showed a lot of promise at quarterback, and safety Mark Murphy finished second on the team with 76 tackles. Keep an eye on players such as defensive end Bobby Richardson and receiver/returner Shane Wynn.

Start of spring practice: March 28
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • Urban renewal: The mood has improved around Ohio State's program from the moment Urban Meyer stepped to the podium Nov. 28. After putting together his staff, signing an elite recruiting class and ticking off some of his Big Ten coaching colleagues, Meyer finally gets a chance to work with the players on the practice field. After a lackluster final season at Florida in 2010, Meyer says he's refreshed and recharged, and it'll be interesting to see how he attacks practices.
  • The new offense: Ohio State fans can't wait for a new offense after suffering through a 2011 season that featured some extremely questionable play-calling. Meyer's offensive system is well-known throughout college football, but the interesting thing this spring will be how Meyer and offensive coordinator Tom Herman blend their ideas. Herman is a dynamic young coach who impressed a lot of folks at Iowa State. But Ohio State is a different animal, and expectations will be high for quarterback Braxton Miller and the unit.
  • Fickell back on defense: After spending last season as Ohio State's head coach, Luke Fickell returns to an assistant role on the defensive side. And for the first time, Fickell will be the Buckeyes' primary defensive playcaller. Ohio State's defense took a step back last season and will be looking to regain its traditional form. Fickell will work alongside co-defensive coordinator Everett Withers and look to identify some leaders to complement defensive lineman John Simon.

Start of spring practice: March 26
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • O'Brien's time: Much will be made of Penn State opening spring ball without Joe Paterno, but the real story is how critical these practices will be for new coach Bill O'Brien and his team. Penn State will be acclimating to new systems on both sides of the ball and a new coaching style from O'Brien and his assistant coaches, all but two of whom are from the outside. The learning curve will be accelerated for all involved, as Penn State needs to get a lot done in 15 workouts.
  • The quarterbacks: It's good that O'Brien has extensive experience coaching quarterbacks because no position needs a bigger upgrade at Penn State. The Lions struggled mightily under center last season and need a major boost beginning this spring. Can O'Brien get more out of Matthew McGloin and Rob Bolden, both of whom have seen extensive time in the Big Ten? How does Paul Jones factor into the mix? It'll be interesting to see how the signal-callers perform this spring.
  • Filling gaps on defense: Penn State should have one of the nation's best linebacker groups this season, but the Lions need to fill some holes on the line and in the secondary. Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Devon Still departs, and Penn State will be leaning on Jordan Hill and others to step up. A bigger concern is the secondary, which loses two multiyear starters at safety (Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay). Penn State also has a new defensive coordinator in Ted Roof, who will be looking for better results than he had at Auburn.

Start of spring practice: March 7
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Another quarterback competition: Boilers coach Danny Hope loves having options at quarterback, and he'll once again get his wish during spring practice. Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve,Rob Henry and Sean Robinson all boast starting experience and will vie for the No. 1 job when workouts resume. Henry, who sizzled last spring and would have started the season if not for a torn ACL, has been cleared to participate in noncontact drills. Marve received an extra year of eligibility and will be in the mix. TerBush started every game last season.
  • Tisebar takes over: Purdue has a new defensive coordinator for the third consecutive season, as Tim Tisebar takes over this spring. Tisebar returns to college football after spending the past three seasons with the Canadian Football League's Montreal Alouettes. Hope hired Tisebar to help Purdue improve against the spread offense and the zone-read game. It will be interesting to see what spin Tisebar puts on the defense as the Boilers enter a pivotal season.
  • Offensive line depth: One of Purdue's strengths last season is a bit light on bodies following several departures. The Boilers need a left tackle to replace Dennis Kelly, and they also must increase depth on the interior line. Purdue already has moved tight end Robert Kugler to center, and Hope said earlier this month that several other tight ends could practice at offensive tackle during the spring.

Start of spring practice: March 17
Spring game: April 28

What to watch:
  • A revamped staff: Bret Bielema hired six new assistant coaches during the winter months, including offensive coordinator Matt Canada. The new coaches will have their first opportunity to work with players on the field this spring. It's important for both sides to acclimate, mainly because Wisconsin has had tremendous success the past two seasons and doesn't want the staff shakeup to throw things off course. Quarterback Russell Wilson made a seamless transition to the program last summer. Let's see if the new assistants can do the same in spring ball.
  • The quarterbacks: Speaking of Wilson, he departs Madison, leaving a major void under center. Jon Budmayr and Curt Phillips are coming off of major injuries, and while they're both making progress it could be tough to get a gauge on them this spring. Canada will spend much of his time working with Joel Stave and Joe Brennan, who need to get comfortable with Canada's adjustments to the offense and start establishing themselves as potential team leaders.
  • Reloading up front: Wisconsin will have to replace two All-American offensive linemen for the second consecutive year, and the Badgers lose three All-Big Ten selections up front (Peter Konz, Kevin Zeitler and Josh Oglesby). While the Badgers are built to reload, offensive line coach Mike Markuson has a lot of evaluating to do this spring. On the defensive line, Wisconsin loses two starters (Patrick Butrym and Louis Nzegwu) and will be looking for some difference-makers. End David Gilbert returns to the mix after missing most of last season with a broken foot.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

February, 3, 2012
What a week. Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Donnie Darko from Madison, Wis., writes: Adam, love the blog, but you've fictionalized the story about Bielema a little bit. In his press conference he said that he has seen practices that are flat-out illegal occurring in the SEC, but he never said anything that Meyer did was explicitly illegal. Having said this, Bielema did bring up that he had an issue with something Meyer did, but he rectified the situation. I do, however, think that there are some questionable practices going on at OSU. Looking forward to the matchup on the hardwood tomorrow!

Adam Rittenberg: Donnie, Bielema has made it pretty clear that he feels Meyer engaged in illegal recruiting practices. What most people are missing is that the allegations don't have to do with flipping recruits but rather something else that Bielema hasn't revealed. Bielema has acknowledged that recruit-flipping happens and that every school engages in it, including Wisconsin. But there's something else here that hasn't come out. And if he rectified the situation, why did he tell the Sporting News that athletic director Barry Alvarez would be following up with the Big Ten about it?

Alan from Columbus, Ohio, writes: It's ridiculous and frustrating that the B1G is keeping these division names! Only 57% positive is not that good. I bet the directional approval rates are much higher. They aggravate me because I never can remember which is which. I remember what teams are in each, but can't remember the division name! Legends and Leaders are both great aspirations, but they are not mutually exclusive, which would help differentiate them. Are those in the Leaders division not legends, and vice versa? The initial outcry just died down because people couldn't keep talking about the same thing long enough for Jim Delany to switch the names. I think approximate directionals are much better. Do people have a tough time remembering that Dallas is in the NFC East? Then they can remember if Wisconsin is in the East and Michigan is in the West.

Adam Rittenberg: You make some excellent points, Alan. I think if the survey were conducted soon after the division names came out, it would have yielded a lower acceptance rate. The Big Ten's argument is that over time and with greater education, fans became more accepting of the names. This rate could increase further with more education about the division names and which teams go where. But I agree with you about the directional names. Even though the divisions weren't determined by geography, the division names, in my view, could be directional. You bring up the Dallas Cowboys in the NFC East, a great example. You also used to have the Atlanta Braves in the National League West. I know this because they broke my heart as a San Francisco Giants fan in 1993 (ugh!).

Ben from Milwaukee writes: Re: Legends and LeadersWow, they talked to a total of a little over 500 fans. I went to all the Wisconsin home games and the title game and did not see any sign of this survey. I understand you can't survey everyone at every game, but this seems like a pretty small sample size.I'll admit, I'm not a huge fan of the names, but in the end, I really don't care. As a Wisconsin grad I guess I just call them "Our Division" and "The Other Division". So if they stick with Legends and Leaders, it doesn't bother me that much. But to say we survey 500 people and the names seem to be taking hold just seems strange to me. Obviously they were keepign these names no matter what. Half the commercials on the BTN mention Legends and Leaders.If the conference wants to keep the names fine. But don't feed us a line that people like the name. Thanks for listening to my rant.

Adam Rittenberg: Ben, some good points here. One thing I learned this week was that it only takes 250 respondents to have a statistically significant survey. The Big Ten had more than 500 in this survey, which doesn't seem like a lot but does qualify. I think it's fair to question whether the Big Ten should have distributed the surveys in different ways, but it wanted to touch base with core fans, many of whom expressed their dislike of the names.

Tyler from Minnesota writes: Nebraska had 17 players sign from 13 states. That says a lot about their reach as a national recruiting team. I think their biggest statement was taking Jordan Westerkamp out of the heart of B1G country in IL. He was statistically their best high school receiver of all time.

Adam Rittenberg: Tyler, Westerkamp certainly was a nice addition for Nebraska, which is putting together a nice core of young wide receivers. It's good that Nebraska can reach into multiple states for recruits, but it's also important for the Huskers to land more elite recruits from the Big Ten footprint going forward. Nebraska only added a handful of players from the Midwest. You can't get 'em all, but the Huskers will need to have more success in states like Ohio and Pennsylvania going forward.

Evan from Arusha, Tanzania, writes: Adam, you never give any effort towards Purdue. You neglected to mention Robert Gregory who going to sign with the Boilers. Reading your blog almost makes Purdue fans feel like we aren't in the B1G, yet for the first half of the decade we were one of the prime programs. I'm getting tired of this neglect; Purdue has 38,000 students, which turns into a good size fan base. Stop acting we don't exist. We may not have been one the better programs this half decade, but it insulting that programs like NW or Ill should get more attention. I like your work; don't give me a reason not too

Adam Rittenberg: Evan, we'll try to do better with Purdue coverage, although I feel we've covered most of the major developments with Boilers football. I've been trying to get an interview with new defensive coordinator Tim Tisebar for several weeks, and it hasn't happened yet. Purdue simply isn't the program it was in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and there has been a decided lack of buzz around the program. It's reflected in the declining attendance numbers. The good news is the Boilers come off of a bowl win and have a chance to make some noise in the Leaders division this season. I look forward to making it down to West Lafayette for spring practice.

Johnny from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Adam, I don't want to beat a dead horse but I have a question after reading a statement you made in the article regarding Alvarez and recruiting; you stated, "There's a difference between unethical and illegal." Why can't this same logic be used to defend Joe Paterno and his legacy? Many firmly believe he was morally responsible to follow up the accusations, but he did nothing illegal according to the letter-of-the-law. There is no "Moral Court" America, so why is Joe-Pa being tried in one?

Adam Rittenberg: Johnny, I believe many of those who have defended JoePa have used this very argument. But you really think there isn't a moral court in America? C'mon. Paterno didn't do anything illegal, and isn't being charged by the attorney general. But when you have a case as sensitive as this one, the moral argument will be brought up and debated. It happens all the time.

Tye from Texas writes: Adam, love the blog. I think the B1G made out really well in the recruiting battle. With UM still awaiting a decision from Jordan Diamond, and assuming he picks the Wolverines, how closely matched are the UM and osu classes this year?

Adam Rittenberg: Both classes are very strong, Tye, and the addition of Diamond, who announces his choice Friday night, would give Michigan another boost. Ohio State brought in the best crop of defensive line recruits in the country. The Buckeyes also brought in some good linebackers, and Michigan really excelled with its linebacker recruits. The Wolverines also added an excellent cornerback in Terry Richardson. So the classes were a bit different but both very strong, especially on defense.
Kawann Short didn't make a rash decision on whether to remain at Purdue for his senior season or enter the NFL draft.

[+] EnlargeKawann Short
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswirePurdue defensive tackle Kawann Short hopes to improve areas like endurance, flexibility and quickness.
He laid out the pros and cons in the days following Purdue's win in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. He talked extensively with his mom, who like any mother, wants her son to earn his college degree. He also reached out to former Boilermakers teammates and current NFL defensive linemen Ryan Kerrigan and Mike Neal.

Short received a third-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board, which didn't disappoint him. He also faced the uncertainty of playing for a new defensive coordinator for the third straight year, as Purdue parted ways with Gary Emanuel after the bowl game.

"Every day is something different, like yeah, should I go, or yeah, should I stay," Short said Friday. "That whole week was pretty interesting."

Ultimately, he decided to return. The desire to boost his draft stock and complete his degree brought him back to Purdue, a team that could make some noise in a wide-open Leaders division in 2012.

The correspondence with both Neal and Kerrigan helped Short during the process. Neal received a fifth-round grade after the 2008 season but opted to return and was selected in the second round of the 2010 draft by the Green Bay Packers.

Kerrigan also finished his career at Purdue, earning unanimous All-America honors as a senior before becoming a first-round pick of the Washington Redskins last April. He starred for the Redskins this past season and made the NFL's all-rookie team.

"Both of their speeches were pretty amazing," Short said.

The big gamble for Short in returning to Purdue is the coordinator change. He excelled in Emanuel's system, earning All-Big Ten honors the past two seasons and recording 12.5 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss during the span.

Short asked himself questions like: What's next? What scheme will they bring in? Will it mess me up or benefit the whole team?

Like many, he was caught off guard by Emanuel's departure, which took place while players were on winter break. He found out after teammates started calling and texting.

"I thought everything was good," he said. "A couple days later you find out coach is leaving and a new defensive coordinator [is coming in]."

Short has yet to talk with new Boilers coordinator Tim Tisebar, who comes to Purdue from the CFL's Montreal Alouettes.

"I heard he's a pretty good guy, coming from [strength coach Duane Carlisle]," Short said. "I don't think he’ll steer us in the wrong direction. ... I don't know what type of defense he'll run or what scheme. I just have to step up and face it."

Short wants to become one of the nation's elite defensive linemen in 2012. He aims to become an every-down player and improve areas like endurance, flexibility and quickness. He hopes to become a captain again -- "Hopefully, I'll get re-voted," he said with a laugh.

"The draft can make you or break you," Short said. "There's a lot of stuff I know I need to work on."