Spring practice is officially in the books. With that in mind, we're breaking out the ye olde round table a couple of times today to look back on key developments that happened in the spring.
Today's first roundtable discussion: Which Big Ten team exited the spring with the most questions answered?
Brian Bennett: Ohio State
Sure, this is an obvious one, given that the Buckeyes are the defending national champions. They did come into spring drills needing to find answers at a few positions, however, including defensive line, cornerback and wide receiver. And of course, they have the mother of all position battles at quarterback, a three-man race that won't really even kick into gear until this summer when J.T. Barrett and Braxton Miller get healthy enough to push Cardale Jones.
While Urban Meyer said after the spring game that "we did not improve as a team" and "that was not a good team out there," he still has less to worry about than any other coach in the Big Ten -- and perhaps the nation. Tommy Schutt, Gareon Conley and Noah Brown helped relieve some of the concerns at defensive line, cornerback and receiver, respectively. Even with Ezekiel Elliott out, the emergence of Curtis Samuel gave Meyer yet another playmaker at running back. Whoever wins the quarterback battle will be a stud. This team is loaded and ready to make another run toward the playoff.
Josh Moyer: Nebraska
The issue here isn’t necessarily what team now has the fewest question marks -- the answer is obviously Ohio State -- but what team answered the most questions. That’s why I’m going with Nebraska. Think back to how much less we knew at the beginning of the spring: We weren’t sure what schemes the Huskers would run or how players would adapt to a new staff. We also weren’t sure how linebacker or I-back would shake out, or how Nebraska would replace defensive end Randy Gregory.
Now? Well, in the spring, we saw the Huskers transition to a pro-style offense and go with an attacking 4-3, and the personnel seems to have found a fit. And we saw Terrell Newby separate himself at I-back, while Josh Banderas impressed at middle linebacker. The defensive line also still looks strong (especially at tackle) with Jack Gangwish and Greg McMullen looking solid at the ends. Like any team, Nebraska didn’t leave the spring answering every question -- such was who’s the backup quarterback? -- but, almost by default, we entered the spring not knowing a lot about the Huskers because of the new coaching staff. We know a lot more now.
Mitch Sherman: Michigan State
The Spartans, after consecutive top-5 finishes, began spring with fewer questions to answer than any Big Ten team that does not reside in Columbus, Ohio. And even in comparison to the Ohio State, MSU has the comfort of a settled situation at quarterback, thanks to Connor Cook. Coach Mark Dantonio appeared bullish on the Spartans throughout the spring, in part because of the emergence of new playmakers at key positions.
Gerald Holmes and Madre London performed well at running back in the bid to replace Jeremy Langford. DeAnthony Arnett emerged at receiver as the Spartans searched for candidates to replace the production of Tony Lippett. In the secondary, where MSU lost cornerback Trae Waynes and safety Kurtis Drummond, several players -- including Montae Nicholson, Demetrious Cox and Vayante Copeland -- showed the ability to step into important spots. Also on the defensive side, tackle Malik McDowell and linebacker Riley Bullough look ready to handle feature roles. Even without a change at defensive coordinator to elevate coaches Harlon Barnett and Mike Tressel, the Spartans displayed this spring why they'll be a popular choice to again rank among the nation's elite programs.