Big Ten: Philip Nelson

Big Ten lunch links

May, 16, 2014
May 16
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Who else is ready to head to Natal?
  • Michigan State athletic director Mark Hollis addresses the logistics of scheduling in the new era of college football, and he also is mindful of limiting the number of games at night.
  • Meanwhile at Michigan, Dave Brandon said there have been no talks with Notre Dame about putting them on the schedule after the series comes to a close this fall.
  • James Franklin's recruiting pitch at Penn State isn't limited to potential athletes, and he's not leaving any stone unturned to drum up support for his program.
  • The new turf is down and the numbers and lettering were being installed on Thursday, but there's still work to be done at the Horseshoe before Ohio State opens it up in September.
  • Rutgers coach Kyle Flood publicly addressed the Philip Nelson situation, calling it "tragic" and sending out prayers for the victim.
  • Now on his third position with Purdue, Dolapo Macarthy has found a comfortable spot at tight end and appears to figure significantly in Darrell Hazell's plans this fall.
  • Kirk Ferentz will keep on selling the NFL to Iowa recruits, and with only Ohio State having more players drafted in the Big Ten this decade, that's a good idea.
  • Minnesota coach Jerry Kill announced a partnership with the Epilepsy Foundation, starting the fundraising with a $100,000 donation of his own.
  • Ohio voters oppose allowing college athletes to form a union and also aren't in favor of paying them.

Big Ten lunch links

May, 15, 2014
May 15
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The spring meeting of Big Ten athletic directors is over. Back to the offseason lists and polls.
  • Wrapping up from Rosemont, the “cost of attendance” discussion remains alive.
  • Good take by Andrew Logue on the complexities of Jim Delany.
  • More Big Ten athletic directors weigh in on the eastward movement of the league. Just don't expect the football championship game to go the way of the basketball tourney.
  • Iowa AD Gary Barta comments on the status of the Hawkeyes’ series with Iowa State.
  • Illinois wants to make it clear: No alcohol sales at Memorial Stadium. But is Michigan heading in a different direction? Other athletic directors discuss the issue.
  • Michigan State and Notre Dame would like to keep playing, but the format of the series will change.
  • More details from the incident that that led to the arrest of former Minnesota and Rutgers QB Philip Nelson.
  • Former Chicago prep star running back Ty Isaac is leaving USC. Next stop, the Big Ten?
  • Solid results for Big Ten football programs in the NCAA’s new report for 2012-13 on academic progress rates, including a big jump for new member Maryland.
  • Rare insight into the work of Mark Pantoni, the Ohio State director of player personnel, a job with a wide range of responsibilities.
  • Tom Shatel remembers the football career of a former two-sport Nebraska star who continues to bring a grinder mentality to his alma mater.
  • Ex-Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez fails a physical with the Eagles. Some insight into the alleged bike theft by Nebraska linebacker Josh Banderas.
  • A Rutgers offensive line recruit brings plenty of intensity.
  • Eugene Lewis looks like a worthy replacement for Allen Robinson at Penn State. James Franklin has watched “Moneyball” at least seven times. A new Nittany Lions logo arrives as part of a $10 million scoreboard replacement project.
  • It’s a tradition at Michigan for its quarterback pledges join in the recruiting battle.

Big Ten lunch links

May, 14, 2014
May 14
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Busy time for a Wednesday in May. Keep up here with Adam Rittenberg's reports from the spring meeting of Big Ten athletic directors.
  • From Rosemont, Ill., the Big Ten sticks to its commitment to play nine conference games, starting in 2016. League athletic directors generally still oppose alcohol sales at football stadiums.
  • Strong comments from Northwestern AD Jim Phillips on the unionization issue.
  • Nebraska AD Shawn Eichorst finally offers a few words on coach Bo Pelini.
  • Minnesota AD Norwood Teague is not a fan of the “we hate Iowa" chant, especially when it’s sanctioned by the UM athletic department.
  • The league sets remaining kickoff times for homecoming next fall.
  • Rutgers dismisses quarterback Philip Nelson in the wake of a felony assault charge for the recent Minnesota transfer, leaving the Scarlet Knights’ QB situation for 2015 in limbo. And the view from Minnesota.
  • Nebraska linebacker Josh Banderas is charged with felony theft. A few early mock drafts for 2015 place Nebraska defensive end Randy Gregory in a lofty spot.
  • Ohio State coaches are out looking for quarterbacks in Georgia and California.
  • More recruiting talk from James Franklin, who says the changing face of the Big Ten will not affect Penn State’s ability to recruit regionally and nationally.
  • Michigan State signs up to face Arizona State in a home-and-home series, starting in 2018.
  • QB Andrew Maxwell is among the latest former Spartans to get an NFL look. Same story for ex-Wisconsin QB Danny O’Brien.
  • A former Iowa safety led police in his hometown on a chase and got tased.
Rutgers on Tuesday dismissed Philip Nelson from the program a day after the quarterback transfer was charged with assault.

Nelson faces first- and third-degree assault charges for allegedly kicking a man in the head early Sunday morning outside a Mankato, Minn., bar. Nelson was released from jail Monday night. Isaac Kolstad, a former Minnesota State football player, remained in critical condition with serious head injuries as of Monday afternoon.

"The Rutgers football family's thoughts and prayers are with Isaac Kolstad and his family," Scarlet Knights coach Kyle Flood said in a prepared statement.

The decision comes as no surprise. Nelson, who started 16 games for Minnesota the past two seasons, transferred to Rutgers in January. If convicted, he could face up to 25 years in prison.
video Disturbing details emerged Monday about the assault allegedly involving former Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson, now at Rutgers. Nelson was charged Monday with both first-degree assault and third-degree assault.

The victim of the assault, former Minnesota State football player Isaac Kolstad, remained in critical condition as of Monday afternoon, according to his father.

Philip Nelson
AP Photo/Blue Earth County JailIf convicted, Philip Nelson faces up to 25 years in prison.
Nelson was released from jail Monday night and left with a towel over his head to hide his face from cameras.

Here's what came to light Monday:

  • According to a criminal complaint, Nelson kicked Kolstad in the head while Kolstad was lying on the ground early Sunday morning outside a bar in Mankato, Minn. Surveillance video showed Kolstad first struck Nelson in the back and then was hit in the head by another man, who police are trying to identify. Nelson then approached Kolstad on the ground.
  • The criminal complaint states that the dispute started when a bouncer at the Blue Bricks bar kissed Nelson's girlfriend's hand. Nelson became upset and possibly confused Kolstad for the bouncer when they were outside the bar.
  • According to Mankato Police Sgt. Jeff Knutson, who reviewed surveillance video of the incident, Kolstad appeared to spark the altercation when he "raised his arm and struck Nelson in the back area with the punch." The unknown man then struck Kolstad, who witnesses say was knocked out before Nelson allegedly kicked Kolstad's head "like a soccer ball." Steph Stassen, who witnessed the incident, told the Star Tribune that Kolstad was "unconscious after the first punch" and didn't brace himself as he fell to the ground, hitting his head.
  • Police released video of both Nelson and the unidentified suspect leaving the scene. Nelson told police he doesn't know the other man. He also said he didn't remember kicking Kolstad in the head.
  • The entire incident took only five to 10 seconds, according to police, but it left Kolstad with a fractured skull and a swollen brain, fighting for his life. Even if he survives, he could have some permanent brain damage. Kolstad is the father of a 3-year-old girl, and his wife is pregnant with their second child. Mankato's public safety director said Nelson and Kolstad knew each other from their high school football days in Mankato.
  • Nelson's attorney said Monday that his client wasn't the aggressor in the incident and that it isn't certain who caused Kolstad's injuries. A neurosurgeon at the Mayo Clinic told Mankato police that a combination of the punch and the kick could have caused the damage to Kolstad's head.
  • Nelson faces up to 25 years in jail if convicted of both felony assault charges. Patrick McDermott, the assistant Blue Earth County attorney, said, "You have some decisions that were made by some individuals that probably had some impaired thinking, and those decisions will affect many lives for years to come."

Nelson played at Minnesota the last two seasons, starting 16 games at quarterback, before transferring to Rutgers in January. He remains on the Rutgers roster, and Rutgers hasn't commented since releasing a short statement Sunday that it is gathering information on the incident.

An incredibly sad situation all around. More to come.

Big Ten lunch links

May, 12, 2014
May 12
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Happy belated Mother's Day to all the moms out there. I got to spend the first part of Sunday with mine before flying home to see my wife on her first Mother's Day. Good times.

To the links ...
Philip Nelson, the former Minnesota quarterback who transferred to Rutgers this winter, was arrested early Sunday on suspicion of assault following an incident that left another football player in critical condition.

Nelson, 20, faces charges of suspicion of third-degree assault and underage alcohol consumption. Police in Mankato, Minn., found Isaac Kolstad, a football player for Minnesota State-Mankato, critically injured near an intersection in town around 2 a.m. Sunday. Nelson was at the scene and taken into custody. He will likely be arraigned Monday or Tuesday. Police reportedly are seeking another person in the incident.

Kolstad, 24, began his college career at North Dakota State before transferring to Minnesota State-Mankato.

In a prepared statement, Rutgers said it is "in the process of gathering information on the situation and reserve comment until the legal process is complete."

Nelson played two seasons at Minnesota and started 16 games, including nine last season, before announcing in January that he would transfer. He landed at Rutgers two weeks later and went through spring practice with the Scarlet Knights. Nelson will sit out the 2014 season because of NCAA transfer rules and have two seasons of eligibility remaining.

Check the blog and Twitter for further updates.
Quarterback competitions dominated the Big Ten landscape this spring, but one race we expected to continue after the 2013 season never really got started. Philip Nelson's surprising decision to transfer from Minnesota put Mitch Leidner in the spotlight this spring as the Golden Gophers' top signal-caller. Leidner, who split time with Nelson last season, received the coaches' blessing before spring ball and solidified his position atop the depth chart.

Minnesota has churned out strong defenses under coach Jerry Kill, and the run game should be a major strength this season. But can the Gophers throw the ball after finishing 115th nationally in passing last year? That question falls mainly on Leidner, whose athleticism is obvious, but he must grow into a complete quarterback.

ESPN.com checked in with Leidner earlier this week.

How did the spring go for you personally?

Mitch Leidner: I thought it went really well. The spring game didn't end the way I wanted it to, but looking back at all the practices and going over some of the new stuff, I really like what we're doing. It gets me excited for next season. What we've been doing now with workouts and some throwing, it's a good start for the summer.

[+] EnlargeNebraska vs Minnesota
Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsMitch Leidner took the reins as Minnesota's unquestioned first-string quarterback this spring and ran with it.
How was this spring different for you than the last one?

ML: It was more of a leadership role. I felt like an older guy on the team, which is what we were looking for. It was good to help out some of the younger quarterbacks and trying to help them caught up, and building chemistry with that [first-team] huddle, being in there all the time. I bring a lot of juice and passion to the game, and I think the guys love that. I've always been like that. I always wanted to play college football and worked extremely hard at it.

How do you see the offense evolving this season?

ML: In terms of our running backs, all those guys are playing well. And our O-line, most of those guys are coming back. In terms of receivers, I'm really excited because they played well throughout the spring and we have a couple of young guys coming in here in the summertime. At running back, David Cobb and Berkley Edwards and Rodrick Williams all stood out. [Donnell] Kirkwood's playing well, too. He had a little bit of a hernia, so he got all fixed up. There's some competition now. Berkley's a really explosive player. He's fun to watch.

I know fans were hoping to see Edwards last year. What was it like being around him this spring?

ML: It was good. You like having him in your huddle because every time you give him the ball, I know there's a chance he's going to bust one.

What did you and the receivers work on to improve the passing game?

ML: The biggest thing is throwing it out of their breaks. Every ball that we're throwing is thrown before they're even breaking on it. We can get a really good feel of our timing. The talent's there. We just have to get on the same page a little bit more.

Was there anything mechanically you worked on?

ML: I've been working on a lot of different hip things, getting my hips into my throws more. I've seen a lot of changes in the way I throw a ball from last season until now. Continuing to work on that has helped me get more juice behind my throws. I've been an over-the-top thrower. Now it's more bringing my hips through like a punch. Some of the workouts I've been doing with bands have helped me develop into it easily.

What stood out to you about the wide receivers this spring?

ML: It was good for a couple of the younger guys. Donovahn Jones hadn't had a spring ball and even during fall camp last year, he was playing quarterback most of the time. He eventually got moved to receiver and really had never played receiver before. A couple other younger guys like Eric Carter stepped up, and KJ [Maye] played well, too.

What are the main goals for the offense?

ML: We want to put up a lot of points every game. We want to be explosive, make big plays. It's really exciting to be part of the Gopher offense right now.

Lastly, any chance we see the return of the 'stache this year?

ML: I don't know, we'll see what happens. Maybe I'll mix it up a little bit.

Minnesota spring wrap

April, 28, 2014
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The spring workouts are in the books, and the long offseason has arrived. But before diving into summer and the painful wait for football to return, we’re taking a look back at the developments from March and April and sneaking a peek at what to expect in the fall for Minnesota.

Three things we learned in the spring
  • Mitch Leidner is the man in Minneapolis: Once Philip Nelson transferred to Rutgers, it seemed as if Leidner was a lock to become the starter. Sure enough, he held off Chris Streveler this spring and cemented his status as the Gophers' No. 1 QB. And he's quickly become "the undisputed leader of the offense."
  • Plenty to be happy about with the ground game: Redshirt freshman Berkley Edwards impressed during the spring game and flashed breakaway speed, and Rodrick Williams is playing as if he has something to prove after losing his job last season to David Cobb. With an experienced offensive line returning, this rushing attack has even more going for it this season.
  • Defense is strong -- again: Despite the departures of Ra'Shede Hageman and Brock Vereen, defensive coordinator Tracy Claeys still has a lot to work with. There's no shortage of healthy cornerbacks this year, and big things are again expected out of linebacker Damien Wilson and defensive end Theiren Cockran. During the spring game, the defense kept the offense out of the end zone for the first five drives.
Three questions for the fall
  • How much will Minnesota pass?: Leidner has reportedly improved his accuracy and timing, but it's still unknown just how much the Gophers will rely on his right arm. He threw 78 passes last season compared to 102 rushes, and there are questions as to how one-dimensional this offense might be.
  • New corps of linebackers: Wilson is the leader of the defense, but Minnesota still has two other starting spots to fill. De'Vondre Campbell appears to be one, but the other spot (perhaps filled by Jack Lynn) is not yet totally settled. There's also quite a bit of depth here this season, so the second team could have a lot of different looks.
  • Developing offensive playmakers at wideout: This was an emphasis of the Gophers this spring, but there's still no check mark next to this on Jerry Kill's to-do list. Drew Wolitarsky and Donovahn Jones both return and could give the Gophers a shot at some big plays, but they'll have to continue to progress. They combined for 416 yards last fall.
One way-too-early prediction

The tight ends will become an even more valuable weapon for Minnesota's offense. Maxx Williams was the leading receiver last season, but he shouldn't be the only tight end to make an impact. Eleven tight ends are listed on the roster, including 6-foot-10 Nate Wozniak, who seems like an intriguing red-zone target. There's also returnees Drew Goodger and Lincoln Plsek, along with Duke Anyanwu, who is finally healthy. Expect at least one of them to step up.
The head coaches from the new Big Ten West Division, along with a player from each team, addressed reporters today on a teleconference. The East Division coaches and players will follow Thursday.

To the notebook:

WISCONSIN
  • Coach Gary Andersen has some concern about QB Joel Stave's lingering shoulder injury. Stave, who hurt the AC joint of his throwing shoulder in the Capital One Bowl, has been shut down for the rest of the spring and will undergo an MRI. "The challenge is to truly identify the situation and start the rehab process," Andersen said.
  • Wisconsin's blockbuster opener against LSU in Houston has motivated players during the offseason. The Badgers typically open seasons with FCS or lower-level FBS opponents, so this is different. "It would give me an edge if I were a player," Andersen said.
  • RB Melvin Gordon said he turned down the NFL draft to try to lead Wisconsin into the inaugural College Football Playoff. Andersen on Gordon's return: "Huge is not a big-enough word."
NORTHWESTERN
  • The two-quarterback system is dead, at least for the 2014 season, as senior Trevor Siemian has established himself as the clear starter this spring. Coach Pat Fitzgerald said, "This is Trevor Siemian's football team." Siemian added that while sharing time with Kain Colter had its benefits, he's excited for his moment. "It's been a long time coming," he said.
  • WR Miles Shuler, who transferred from Rutgers last September, will be an impact player for the Wildcats, Fitzgerald said. Shuler spent last season in several roles, including mimicking Braxton Miller and other mobile quarterbacks on Northwestern's scout team. "You just have to get the ball in his hands," Siemian said.
  • Injuries along the defensive line will prevent Northwestern from having a true spring game Saturday. Fitzgerald said the Wildcats will hold more two-a-day practices this summer to make up for the lost scrimmage time. Northwestern didn't have any two-a-days last year.
NEBRASKA
  • RB Ameer Abdullah has spent the spring trying to become a more complete back. It includes improving his pass-blocking by facing players like DE Randy Gregory and LB Zaire Anderson. Abdullah said Gregory is "the best that we're going to see in the conference, and luckily he's on our team."
  • Coach Bo Pelini described his epic Twitter interaction with alter ego Faux Pelini during the BCS national title game as "having a bit of fun." He didn't think it would go viral, although he's aware of Faux's strong following. Pelini doesn't follow Faux but his wife provides him updates "all the time."
  • Abdullah thinks WR Kenny Bell will have a breakout season after not getting the ball thrown his way as much in 2013. Bell's post routes and linear speed impress Abdullah.
  • The Huskers' spring game on Saturday will feature the offense against the defense and a modified points system.
PURDUE
  • RB Raheem Mostert and DT Ra'Zahn Howard both have stood out this spring. Mostert, who won two gold medals at the Big Ten indoor track championships earlier this year, has made a strong push for a starting spot. Howard is showing greater stamina and explosiveness after losing weight during the offseason, coach Darrell Hazell said. Veteran DE Ryan Russell also has emerged late in the spring.
  • Purdue's current lack of depth at tight end doesn't worry Hazell. Dolapo Macarthy (shoulder) will be fine by preseason camp, and Gabe Holmes should return after missing the spring because of academic issues.
  • The Boilers have dramatically reduced their turnovers and mental errors in practice this spring. "Last year, we couldn't even line up correctly," QB Danny Etling said.
ILLINOIS
  • Offensive coordinator Bill Cubit, filling in for coach Tim Beckman, said new wide receivers Geronimo Allison (junior college transfer) and Mike Dudek (a freshman early enrollee) both have exceeded expectations so far this spring.
  • Cubit sees separation at times in the quarterback competition but is in "no rush" to name a starter, noting that some players take longer to develop than others. Although Oklahoma State transfer Wes Lunt has looked the part so far in the spring, it seems as though Cubit will let this play out a little longer.
MINNESOTA
  • Like Siemian at Northwestern, Gophers QB Mitch Leidner has taken ownership of the team this spring and appears to be the obvious starter. Coach Jerry Kill said Leidner "became a coach" during winter workouts. "Everybody sees me as the leader of this team," Leidner said.
  • Leidner admits he was fairly shocked when QB Philip Nelson decided to transfer to Rutgers after the season. Nelson and Leidner shared snaps last season, and Leidner said he came to Minnesota to compete with Nelson.
  • The running back competition already is heating up, as redshirt freshman Berkley Edwards has turned in a strong spring alongside David Cobb and others. Edwards, the younger brother of former Michigan star WR Braylon Edwards, redshirted last season because of an ankle injury. Kill sounds as if he can't get enough ball-carrying options, as recruits Jeff Jones and Rodney Smith arrive this summer.
IOWA
  • Coach Kirk Ferentz said QB Jake Rudock is "perfectly healthy" after being bothered by knee injuries late in the season. The quarterback situation has a different feel this spring as both Rudock and C.J. Beathard gained experience in 2013. "It's a situation where both guys have to be at their best," Ferentz said.
  • Brandon Scherff had only played quarterback and tight end in high school when he committed to play for Iowa. He since has blossomed into an offensive tackle whom Ferentz said could have been a first-round draft pick had he decided to skip his senior season with the Hawkeyes. "My goal is to be one of the best offensive linemen in the nation," Scherff said.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- New Penn State coach James Franklin hasn't yet been on campus for three months, but he has already made some lofty statements. Among them: an eventual return to national prominence, selling out Beaver Stadium every week and dominating the region in recruiting.

There's no telling exactly how Franklin's first season at Penn State will go, but there is obviously some precedent here. Last week, we tried to give an idea of what to expect in Christian Hackenberg's sophomore season by taking a look at how past B1G freshmen of the year fared in Year 2. This week, we're looking at how other Big Ten East Division coaches performed during their first seasons:

Kevin Wilson, Indiana, 2011
First season with Indiana: 1-11
Season before Wilson's arrival: 5-7
Best season so far: Year 3 (2014 -- 5-7)

Synopsis: Wilson didn't inherit the greatest situation, as the Hoosiers' top quarterback had graduated after earning honorable mention on the All-Big Ten team. As a result, Wilson was forced to play three quarterbacks during his first season, all of whom finished with between 80 and 160 passing attempts.

Since Wilson's first season, he has managed to improve the Indiana's offense every season. It was ranked No. 83 nationally in total offense in 2011, No. 34 in 2012 and then No. 9 last season. On the negative end, the defense has allowed more yards every season.

Randy Edsall, Maryland, 2011
First season with Maryland: 2-10
Record before Edsall's arrival: 9-4, beat East Carolina in Military Bowl
Best season so far: Year 3 (2014 -- 7-6, lost to Marshall in Military Bowl)

Synopsis: Ralph Friedgen's firing after the 2010 season came as a surprise, as he was named the ACC coach of the year. (Franklin was the offensive coordinator at the time and the head coach-in-waiting.) Edsall's first season was disastrous. After Maryland upset Miami (Fla.) in the season opener, the Terps lost its remaining 10 games against FBS opponents. Before the season, the Football Outsiders Almanac gave Maryland a 1 percent chance of finishing 3-9 or worse.

Several players, such as QB Danny O'Brien, transferred during that offseason -- and Edsall has tried to rebuild the program since. His record has improved every season since his forgettable first, and the Terps fared relatively well in 2013 despite an injury-ridden season.

Brady Hoke, Michigan, 2011
First season with Michigan: 11-2, beat Virginia Tech in Sugar Bowl
Record before Hoke's arrival: 7-6, lost to Mississippi State in Gator Bowl
Best season so far: Year 1

Synopsis: After Michigan finished with a winning record in just one of three seasons under Rich Rodriguez, Hoke came in and helped turn the Wolverines around immediately. Michigan's defense went from No. 110 in yards allowed under Rodriguez to No. 17 under Hoke, in large part because Hoke scrapped the 3-3-5. It was the first time the Wolverines won a BCS bowl since 2000, when Tom Brady won the Orange Bowl.

Michigan has won fewer games the last two seasons, finishing 7-5 in 2012 and 7-6 last season. The offense has statistically regressed every season, and the defense has ranged from great to just above average. Hoke finished Year 3 with the same record, 7-6, as Rodriguez did in this third season.

Mark Dantonio, Michigan State, 2007
First season with Michigan State: 7-6, lost to Boston College in Champs Sports Bowl
Record before Dantonio's arrival: 4-8
Best season so far: Year 7 (13-1, beat Stanford in Rose Bowl)

Synopsis: In Year 1 of the Dantonio era, the Spartans rebounded from three consecutive losing seasons to achieve an unexpected bowl berth. Only a dozen starters returned from 2006, so it wasn't as if Dantonio had the benefit of a stacked roster, either. His defensive mindset paid immediate dividends, as the Spartans finished ranked No. 32 in yards allowed that season -- an improvement of 56 spots from the previous season.

Dantonio has led the Spartans to unprecedented success. He has led them to seven straight bowl berths, the longest streak in school history. Before he arrived, Michigan State had just seven bowl wins. Dantonio's Spartans have won their last three.

Urban Meyer, Ohio State, 2012
First season with Ohio State: 12-0 (not postseason-eligible due to NCAA sanctions)
Record before Meyer's arrival: 6-7, lost to Florida in Gator Bowl
Best season so far: Year 1

Synopsis: A lot was working against the Buckeyes the season before Meyer landed in Columbus. There was the tattoo scandal and the accompanying suspensions, a new QB in freshman Braxton Miller and an offense that ranked No. 107 nationally in total yards. Meyer helped Ohio State rebound from all that in one short offseason. Miller became the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, the Buckeyes' offense improved to No. 47 nationally, and Meyer's team came away with six victories decided by a touchdown or less.

He won 24 consecutive games with the Buckeyes before losing back-to-back contests in the 2013 postseason, in both the Big Ten title game and the Orange Bowl, by a combined 15 points. He hasn't yet been named the B1G coach of the year, but it woud be difficult to argue that he's not one of the two best coaches in the conference.

Kyle Flood, Rutgers, 2012
First season with Rutgers: 9-4 (5-2 Big East), lost to Virginia Tech in Russell Athletic Bowl
Record before Flood's arrival: 9-4 (4-3 Big East), beat Iowa State in Pinstripe Bowl
Best season so far: Year 1

Synopsis: Expectations were high for the longtime Rutgers assistant, as one preview story said the Scarlet Knights could have a "championship-caliber" defense in 2012. Rutgers' defense lived up to expectations by ranking No. 10 nationally in yards allowed that season and, with a starting roster largely returning, the season was a success. But it could've been even better. Flood's team started 9-1 before dropping its final three games.

Flood's team seemed to take a step back last season, as it finished 6-7 after starting 4-1. Decommitments and off-the-field issues were a big concern, and questions about Flood's job security arose toward the end of the season. In a move in the right direction, Minnesota QB Philip Nelson recently transferred to Rutgers, however, and will be available for the 2015 season.
Spring practice in the Big Ten gets started next week, and quarterback competitions will dominate the spotlight throughout the next two months. By our count, nine Big Ten teams will have moderate to major uncertainty at the quarterback position. In the coming weeks, we'll take a closer look at each quarterback race. But some are more intriguing than others.

Today's Take Two topic is: Which is the most interesting quarterback competition in the league this spring?

Take 1: Adam Rittenberg

[+] EnlargeNebraska vs Minnesota
Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsMitch Leidner has experience, but will another Gophers signal-caller beat him out for the quarterback job?
I tend to gravitate more toward the truly open quarterbacks competitions than the ones with incumbents trying re-establish themselves. As much as Michigan fans and Wisconsin fans might want to see a younger player get a shot at quarterback, I'd be somewhat surprised if Devin Gardner and Joel Stave aren't leading their respective offenses when Aug. 30 rolls around. Tommy Armstrong Jr. is a little less established, and Nebraska's race could be interesting, but Armstrong still went 6-1 as the Huskers' starter and should improve during the offseason.

Maybe this will surprise Mr. Bennett and others, but I'm going with Minnesota. Why? Because I have no idea what will happen this spring with the Gophers signal callers. Mitch Leidner is the only Minnesota quarterback with collegiate game experience, but he's far from a lock to start. It looked like the Leidner-Philip Nelson competition would continue into the offseason, but Nelson's decision to transfer shakes things up a bit.

Now Leidner will compete against a group of intriguing mystery men. Redshirt freshman Chris Streveler, who missed part of last season with a hand injury, boasts excellent speed that should translate well to Minnesota's offense. Freshman Dimonic Roden-McKinzy is another intriguing athlete who enrolled early and will participate in spring practice. Walk-on Conor Rhoda also is in the mix. Although Minnesota prioritizes the run with its quarterbacks, it needs a more threatening pass game after finishing last in the Big Ten and 115th nationally last season in pass offense. I'll be interested to see if the Gophers find some clarity before their spring game on April 12.

Take 2: Brian Bennett

[+] EnlargeMichael Bennett
Andrew Weber/USA TODAY SportsWisconsin signal-caller Joel Stave faces stiff competition this spring.
Minnesota definitely will be a team to track, but I might have more confidence in Leidner than you do. While he needs to improve his passing significantly, he's a great athlete and runner who will bring a huge experience edge into spring ball.

The race that most intrigues me lies a few hours southeast of Minneapolis, at Wisconsin. Yes, it seems unlikely that coach Gary Andersen would push a first-time starter under center against LSU in the season opener. But it's also clear that Andersen -- like most Badgers fans -- wasn't real happy with the state of his passing game at the end of last season. And Andersen has made no secret that he favors mobile, dual-threat quarterbacks, which Stave clearly is not.

Is Bart Houston finally ready to make a move this spring? Can Tanner McEvoy stick at quarterback, or will he wind up back at safety? Then there's promising freshman D.J. Gillins, a true dual-threat prospect from Florida who enrolled early and will be given a look this spring. They all have a long way to go to make up ground on the far more experienced Stave and to earn the trust of Andersen and offensive coordinator Andy Ludwig. But the contrast in styles makes this a fascinating race, and without Jared Abbrederis around to serve as a security blanket, the quarterbacks are going to have to show that they can dependably make plays. Everyone, including Stave, has something to prove, and that's why this competition is the most interesting.

Big Ten Thursday chat wrap

January, 30, 2014
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Today's Big Ten chat got a little testy at times, but we all made it through. Thanks again for your questions and participation. If you missed out, check out the full transcript.

To the highlights:

SK from NJ: Rutgers fan here, wondering what we should expect from Philip Nelson?

Adam Ritenberg: He's a guy who came to Minnesota with a lot of attention, showed some decent mobility at times this season but wasn't accurate enough. He didn't have a great receiving corps by any means, but his accuracy numbers down the stretch were a bit troubling. I'm interested to see how he develops under new Rutgers OC Ralph Friedgen.

Marty from The Tundra: Hey Adam! I was just curious what your takes are on which school has the overall coaching advantage? Dantonio and staff at MSU? Urban Meyer's staff at OSU or even Franklin's at Penn State or something else?

Adam Rittenberg: Meyer is still the only Big Ten coach who has won a national title (two, in fact), so I give him the nod over Dantonio, who has certainly made up ground. Ohio State's overall staff gets an edge against MSU's, although the Spartans have the best assistant of the bunch in Pat Narduzzi. Franklin and his staff are excellent recruiters, but they need to show they can win against the best Big Ten teams before I put them in the Meyer/Dantonio category. Vanderbilt made historic strides under Franklin but beat up on the bottom of the SEC.

[+] EnlargePat Narduzzi
AP Photo/Al GoldisMichigan State defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi is too good and he will get his chance to be a head coach before long.
Glenn from FL: Are you surprised Narduzzi is still coaching at MSU? It seems a lot of guys can't wait to get a head coaching job. Is he not being offered or is he turning offers down? Or does he prefer being a coordinator? It is much easier than being the head coach.

Adam Rittenberg: He had an opportunity at Connecticut that wasn't very good, in my opinion, and chose to remain at MSU. He interviewed for the Louisville job, but Petrino always was the target there. He had a good shot at Cincinnati last year before Tuberville suddenly became available. So it's a matter of time, in my view. Pat is brutally honest and maybe not as polished as some head coaches, but he has matured in recent years and seems ready to lead a program. I'd be surprised if he's still coordinating MSU's defense in two years.

Armond from Toledo: Why is everyone excited about OSU's 2 defensive coaching staff hires? It seems like people are excited like we just hired the Seahawks' DC. Michigan's OC hire was something to be excited about. These two guys have me skeptical.

Adam Rittenberg: Expand on that thought, Armond. Why does Nussmeier excite you more than Johnson and Ash? Because he came from Alabama? A lot of coordinators could have success with Alabama's personnel. Larry Johnson has been an exceptional defensive line coach for more than a decade. Chris Ash is a rising star who specializes in defensive back play, where Ohio State struggled so much a year ago. Nussmeier is a good hire, too, but I don't understand your concern about Johnson and Ash.

Jim from Chicago: If the B1G ten doesn't end up with an undefeated team, chances they have a representative in the play off next year?

Adam Rittenberg: Jim, we addressed this a bit earlier. It all depends on what happens elsewhere, but I don't see too many 1-loss Big Ten teams making the playoff. Michigan State certainly could. Perhaps Ohio State or Wisconsin another team that racks up some impressive wins despite one setback. It would need to be a close loss, ideally early in the season, for a Big Ten team to overcome and still reach the playoff.

Thanks again for the questions. Let's do it again soon.
Former Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson has found a new school, and he'll be staying in the Big Ten.

[+] EnlargePhilip Nelson
AJ Mast/Icon SMIFormer Minnesota quarterback Philip Nelson is heading to Rutgers.
Nelson will transfer to Rutgers, according to multiple reports and as first reported by CBSSports.com. The sophomore made the surprising decision to leave Minnesota earlier this month after starting 16 games for the Gophers, including nine in 2013. Nelson said he was looking for a more pass-oriented offense, and he should get that at Rutgers and the Scarlet Knights' reported new offensive coordinator, Ralph Friedgen.

It's a rare intra-conference transfer, but that's mostly because technically it isn't one yet. Since Rutgers doesn't join the Big Ten officially until July 1, Nelson will not lose a year of eligibility as he would if he moved to a school already in the league.

The Knights get another candidate to start down the road at quarterback, a position which hasn't been great for the program recently. Gary Nova returns in 2014 after starting 10 games last season before getting replaced by departed senior Chas Dodd. Freshmen Blake Rankin and Chris Laviano will likely push Nova this spring, and the program is expected to sign well-regarded quarterback prospect Giovanni Rescigno next week.

So Nelson, who completed just 50.5 percent of his passes last season for the Gophers, won't automatically step in as the starter in 2015. If he does earn the job, Minnesota wouldn't worry about facing him until 2016, when Rutgers travels to TCF Bank Stadium for the first Big Ten meeting between the two schools.

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