Big Ten: Wayne Lyons

You might not feel it, but spring is soon to be in the air around the Big Ten. In preparation, we’re looking this week at key position battles for each program.

Next on the list is Michigan.

1. Quarterback: It all starts here for new coach Jim Harbaugh and the Wolverines, now without Devin Gardner. Is that addition by subtraction for an offense last year that averaged 15.1 points against eight winning FBS teams? Shane Morris, the only returning quarterback with experience, committed six turnovers and did not account for a touchdown in 2014 as a sophomore. Wilton Speight enters spring as his main competitor after a redshirt season. Freshman Alex Malzone joins the Wolverines for spring. Signee Zach Gentry, an intriguing prospect at 6-foot-7 who was formerly committed to Texas, enters the mix in the summer. Michigan has also added ex-Houston quarterback John O’Korn, who is expected to sit out the 2015 season.

2. Running back: Derrick Green and De'Veon Smith enjoyed nice moments in their sophomore seasons, combining to rush for 990 yards and nine touchdowns. Green’s season was cut short by a broken clavicle after six games. They’ll compete in the spring with USC transfer Ty Isaac – like Green, a former elite recruit – who sat out last season after rushing for 236 yards as a freshman for the Trojans. Green, Smith and Isaac all weigh in at 220 pounds or heavier. Junior Drake Johnson also returns after rushing for 361 yards last season.

3. Safety: The intrigue here involves the potential position switch of Jabrill Peppers, Michigan’s top recruit from 2014 who played in three games as a nickelback last year before injuries ended his first season. Peppers is likely more natural at safety than cornerback and could make an immediate impact despite the return of established starter Jarrod Wilson in addition to Delano Hill, Jeremy Clark and Dymonte Thomas, all of whom gained experience last year. Michigan also appears set to add graduate transfer Wayne Lyons, a cornerback at Stanford who could fit among several versatile athletes capable of playing multiple spots in the defensive backfield. Secondary coaches Greg Jackson and Michael Zordich face several decisions in setting responsibilities in the secondary.
My apologies for posting this a bit late -- blame the Big Ten spring meetings -- but there have been several stories in recent weeks about high school prospect Wayne Lyons, who is taking his recruitment into his own hands. There's a Big Ten connection here, so just be patient.

Describing Lyons as the "next Myron Rolle,"'s Andy Staples explains how Lyons and his mother are sending a detailed list of 50 questions to each of the schools who have offered scholarships. They ask about student life, a program's history of graduating players and the coaches' backgrounds, among other topics. Here's the full list.

Lyons, like Rolle, is not only a star on the field but in the classroom, where he takes a bunch of AP courses and earned a 3.8 GPA while taking classes at a community college near his home in Florida.

OK, here's the Big Ten connection.
Wisconsin defensive line coach Charlie Partridge, who recruits South Florida, told Rolle's mother, Gwen Bush, about all the options her son had and offered a way to separate the best ones.
In fact, it was Wisconsin's Partridge who inspired the questionnaire. He mentioned to Bush that 2010 Badgers signee James White had sent questionnaires to schools recruiting him. Partridge forwarded Bush a copy of White's questionnaire and Bush added a few questions she picked up from a recruiting service. Then she sat down with her son and each listed more questions they wanted answered.

"[White's] wasn't as elaborate as what we have," Bush said. "We were very, very specific."

Wisconsin has some stiff competition for Lyons' services, as his offers list includes Alabama, Florida, Miami and fellow Big Ten schools Ohio State and Michigan. But Partridge's suggestion certainly shouldn't hurt the Badgers' chances. It shows the Wisconsin staff is willing to answer questions, not just offer information.

I'll be interested to see if more recruits follow this approach, as they try to sift through the truths and lies of the recruiting world.