Tag Archives: Indiana

Cus Words: Blowin’ in the Wind

Are the computers Ohio State’s biggest threat? We look at that and more in this week’s column.

Carlos Hyde had quite a day at Illinois

The Buckeyes took care of business eventually at windy Memorial Stadium and now turn their focus to Indiana, a similar team that figures to provide a bigger challenge.

Scout.com: Cus Words: Blowin’ in the Wind.

Ohio State Football Week 8: Stop Breaking Down Blues

This week the column takes its title from a Robert Johnson standard that The Rolling Stones (among others) do a great version of. I think it sums up the feelings of Ohio State fans, players and coaches alike as the Buckeye offense roars and the defense struggles.

What we learned last week: Postseason bans don’t do much to dampen expectations at a place like Ohio State.

Sometimes waiting an extra day to write this column pays off in a little extra perspective. Sometimes it might suffer from that, too, but I’ll take the good with the bad.

In this case, the first inclination is to look at the last image of Ohio State’s 52-49 victory over Indiana and hold that up as the representation of the entire night. I’m not quite sure that’s wise, though.

To be sure, this is no great defense Ohio State is fielding in its 100th season in the Big Ten. “Inconsistent at best” is probably the kindest way I could accurately describe it at this point in time.

However, things might not be as dire as some are making them out to be.

I just think in general this team is still working out some of the mental issues that came with the NCAA-related strife of the end of 2010 through last season.

Many of these guys have been through a lot, and those who haven’t are too young to know what they don’t know.

The schizophrenia of this team is mind-boggling at times, but maybe it shouldn’t be. My theory now is that these guys are just showing the signs of any team that falls behind early in a game.

Rallying takes more energy than holding steady or running in the lead. At least that is the conventional wisdom, so let’s take it as fact for the sake of this discussion.

The thing about falling behind is it is stressful. Having stress is more energy-consuming than not because it necessarily means we have more to think about than when we aren’t worrying. And so as a consequence of this stress there is a never-ending desire to exhale. That is where rallying becomes difficult. It is not only an energy drain but also a distraction.

I think the core of this Ohio State team has just been trying to catch up so long it can’t ever get an even keel. Then throw the added stress of having to learn a new system and to adjust to the new psychology of a different coaching staff, and perhaps there just isn’t enough energy to go around.

And so you get what we had there last week.

One of the most easily forgotten parts of sports is the role of human nature. Why do you suppose that is? Shouldn’t it be the first thing we consider when we analyze our games? After all, that’s the stuff that draws us to them in the first place. The raw, honest emotion and the unpredictability of an event without a script. Nothing brings out human nature more freely than that, so why fight the result? But we all do, myself included.

Did the Ohio State defense let up with a big lead last Saturday night? You bet it did. Is that a big surprise? I suppose not.

Is it a bad sign for the future? That remains to be seen. Perhaps it turns out to be a positive. Maybe it’s a wakeup call and such a thing won’t happen again.

Maybe this wounded pride will provide motivation to work harder later this season and yield better results against better opponents.

Or maybe it will go in one ear and out the other, another potential lesson flittering away with the ashes of a disastrous finish to last season when the defense never could seem to get a good grasp on anyone as injuries took their toll down the stretch.

Seeing the same mistakes repeat themselves is striking. I think there are problems with the scheme, but I think they can be worked out. I think there are players who probably should be replaced sooner or later, even if that means next year is the soonest it could happen in some cases.

Such is life in college football, where there are not trade-deadline deals to bolster a roster but sometimes a 19-year-old has the light go on in November. Suddenly things that did not make sense in the heat of August click with the falling of the leaves. Sometimes they don’t.

I guess we’ll have to watch next week to see, either way.

What we can expect to learn this week: Maybe nothing more than what’s next.

Ohio State has defensive deficiencies that aren’t going to be worked out in one week’s time, but the Buckeyes can start the road back to respectability without hesitation if they tighten up their effort and focus.

And as far as troublesome schemes, Purdue practically provides a mulligan for the Buckeyes this week following the Hoosiers’ success with their spread offense.

The Boilermakers bring a better scoring unit (and Indiana’s wasn’t bad) to the Horseshoe this weekend, and they will play a similar style to the one that has been giving Ohio State fits for much of the season. Actually, to be more accurate, Purdue brings better skill players while the scheme might be a bit inferior to that of hurry-up spread guru Kevin Wilson at Indiana. That is really probably splitting hairs, though.

Purdue was also just decimated on defense by a previously struggling Wisconsin team, so there should be another good chance for the Ohio State offense to continue to evolve.

One would think the motivation that was lacking last week is built in this week. That the Buckeyes would have a hard time getting fired up to face Indiana after back-to-back revenge games was practically guaranteed.

By contrast, they play host this week to a team that has tormented them twice in the last three years and therefore could be cruising for a bruising.

There is so much to deal with in a year of transition that expecting all holes that pop up to be filled is probably unrealistic. That’s why teams don’t win national championships in the first year of a new coaching staff.

That said, I think those calling for Luke Fickell’s head on a (pizza) platter are being irrational. The scheme needs some tweaking, but the bigger problems are in execution, experience and talent on hand.

Some of the older players aren’t executing, and some of them don’t have the talent necessary to make an elite defense. Others have the ability but not the knowledge, at least not yet. Again, this is life in college football, and Ohio State is operating on a shorter leash than a lot of teams that fancy themselves top-10 squads thanks to scholarship reductions and attrition from the coaching change.

There seems to be some problems connecting the styles of defense each coach prefers, and that has not helped matters.

They seem to want more than anything to install a system that depends on individuals making reads and winning battles. That is great if it happens, but it can be a pretty big disaster if not.

Then what do you do? Well applying pressure via scheme is not so easy as pressing a button with a controller. It still has to involve players playing off each other, a cohesive plan for a cohesive unit.

And somewhere in there, Fickell and company seem to be getting lost.

They certainly could still find their way, be it now or with the benefit of an offseason to reevaluate things.

I do think he needs to learn to let it go a little more, to trust his guys, be they old or young.

With nothing really to lose this season, one would think that wouldn’t be tough to do, but then again I guess we already learned about expectations, now and forever.


How Do You Like Me Now?

What better than some Toby Keith to usher in November and recognize Ohio State’s return to the Big Ten championship race with a thrilling win against would-be bully Wisconsin?

What we learned last week: Sometimes it doesn’t hurt to be too young to know any better.

Wisconsin’s late rally nearly undid a full game’s worth of good work for a Buckeye team that has endured more than a season’s worth of anguish already. As I wrote in the cover story for this week’s Buckeye Sports Bulletin, there was too much familiar about watching Jared Abbrederis haul in that pass from Russell Wilson and score the go-ahead touchdown.

I was on the sideline by that time, and I knew the feelings of despair and confused anger that were being expressed all around me. I saw and felt the same thing the last two times Ohio State played a ranked team at home under the lights, the only difference from the collapses against Penn State and USC being the lead once looked much safer against the Badgers.

I hit the stadium floor just before Braxton Miller took a snap from center and ran around end for a 44-yard touchdown that seemed to lift the lid off the stadium. There were not only cheers but sighs of relief, a feeling finally one of these ones would go the way of the home team. It was just after the defense turned back yet another Wisconsin short-yardage run, and the two plays taken together made it seem like a clear picture of the night was taking shape. Ohio State had exorcised a demon in last year’s loss to the Badgers, gotten over the marquee night game hump, proved it had regained the toughness Wisconsin stripped away in 2010 and, oh yeah, there was another athletic guy with a bright future leading at the helm of the offense.

Then the ghosts returned. A quick Wisconsin touchdown drive and a predictable (and perhaps understandable) three-and-out followed by a rarely seen deep zone breakdown. Suddenly all was wrong again. Many of the old stereotypes about the Buckeyes of the past six or seven years began to re-establish themselves. No backbone. No mental toughness. Not good enough to get it done against similarly matched teams. Those stories literally were already being written by the time Jordan Hall took that kickoff back near midfield and the newest young field general trotted onto the field.

Who knows if Braxton Miller knew he was going to lead a comeback for the ages when he winked at head coach Luke Fickell to reassure him. Who knows how often those types of things go on but we don’t hear about them because they don’t make for a good story if the deep passes are intercepted.

What was Miller really thinking?

It doesn’t really matter. It might be better if it was nothing in particular. Sometimes young and carefree is the best way to be. That worked out on this night, and now the future looks bright.

As for the opponent, I still think Wisconsin is a good team, but the Buckeyes really got after them, especially on defense. Ohio State took away Wisconsin’s will to run the ball, which is no small feat, and they made Wilson look uncomfortable in the pocket all night. I think he’s a better player than he showed at the Horseshoe, and that is a credit to Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock and the game his front seven turned in. They kept Wilson in the pocket and made him hurry a lot of throws. His poise was disappointing until the end.

Ohio State’s offensive line did just what it should have against the Badgers: Dominate. That was the name of the game, and Boom Herron continued to make a case for most improved Buckeye I have ever seen.

What we can expect to learn this week: Truth be told, there may not be a team in the Big Ten that can teach us less than Indiana. The Hoosiers are pretty awful. They have questions at quarterback as they attempt to install a new hurry-up offense, and the old problems on defense are as real as ever. There are a couple of intriguing running backs, and the wide receivers aren’t bad, but new head coach Kevin Wilson has a lot of work to do.

I’d say this provides a good mental test for the still-young Buckeyes after an emotional win, but they should be able to win even with a C- effort.

I suppose a reintroduction to some principles of stopping a spread offense can’t hurt with a somewhat improved Michigan team still out there to be dealt with at the end of the month, but that might be stretching it somewhat.

Indiana can move the ball a bit, as evidenced by the way the Hoosiers gashed what we now know to be a somewhat suspect Wisconsin front seven, but there is not much to be scared of other than complacency.

Every snap this young group can get is valuable, of course, and it will be interesting to see if they try to throw the ball a little more just to get Miller more reps in that department. Sometimes these snoozers are the games in which the Ohio State offense comes closest to letting it all hang out. They used this same Hoosier program to work out some kinks in the passing game last year, so perhaps that bears watching this time around.

All-Buckeye Beater Nominees: Well the obvious choice is Wisconsin linebacker Mike Taylor, who notched an astounding 22 tackles, including 2.5 for loss, and broke up a pass.

I’m still debating what to do with Wilson, who looked mediocre to poor for most of the game before rallying his team to two late touchdowns, but I will definitely look back at the night Abbrederis produced (six catches, 113 yards, two touchdowns) when I sit down to pick the best of the Buckeyes’ competition this season.

That’s a surprisingly short list, to be sure, but that’s what happens when a vaunted offensive line is so thoroughly dealt with and a defense proves it is lacking playmakers. The Badgers’ second best defensive player, Chris Borland, had 13 tackles but often looked to be on the wrong end of lead blocks from his opposite No. 44, fullback Zach Boren.

DVR Directions: Now that November is upon us, I recommend you kick up a notch your studies of Michigan. I know I will. As such, set the DVR to record the Wolverines’ trip to Iowa (Noon, ESPN) because it takes place as the same time the Buckeyes will tangle with the Hoosiers.

At 3:30, check out next week’s Ohio State opponent, Purdue, as the Boilermakers head to Madison to take on Wisconsin. Then make sure you have a nice spot to watch the clash between Alabama and LSU in prime time.

Big Ten Picks: Anyone who would pick Iowa to win any time soon has to be nuts, so Michigan is the default pick in Iowa City this weekend. The Hawkeyes have some legitimate problems going on with the rebuilding process, but there is no excuse for losing at Minnesota, who will feel Michigan State’s wrath this week in East Lansing.

Northwestern has been somewhat enigmatic this year, but the Wildcats look poorly matched with resurgent Nebraska. The Cornhuskers figure to enjoy getting to look at another spread offense for a change of pace.

I’m having a bit of a hard time getting a read on Purdue as well. There seems to be some potential there at the skill positions and on defense, but Danny Hope’s squad can’t put it together. Don’t look for that to change this week in Madison. The Badgers get back on the winning track.

Record last week: 4-1. Season record: 16-6

Cus Words Big Ten Power Poll

Umm, do I have to rank them this week? So far it’s looking like everyone has decided to let the Big Ten title game sort out who is best and not bother to prove it during the regular season. OK, here goes…

  1. Nebraska
  2. Michigan State
  3. Ohio State
  4. Wisconsin
  5. Michigan
  6. Penn State
  7. Iowa
  8. Illinois
  9. Northwestern
  10. Purdue
  11. Minnesota
  12. Indiana

Big Ten Division Overview: What should be the East

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We might also call this the Division Formed To Accommodate Ohio State (DFTAOS), but I’m still working on proper titles for the new divisions. At any rate, here’s how I judge the teams on talent/experience/etc. without consideration of the schedule just yet:

Waning minutes of Wisconsin's last trip to Ohio Stadium
  1. Wisconsin
  2. Ohio State
  3. Penn State
  4. Purdue
  5. Illinois
  6. Indiana

As with the other division, I am pretty torn at the top. Ohio State and Wisconsin both have holes to fill but seem to be the most talented on paper in a division that should never have been allowed to take this form (but that’s for another time).

The Buckeyes have been outrecruiting the rest of the conference for years, but Wisconsin has done a nice job finding players who fit its specific needs as well as grabbing diamonds in the rough from recruiting hotbeds such as Ohio and Florida.

How crazy a year is it at the top in the Big Ten?

The favorites in this division might both be quarterback by players who have never taken a snap for their respective schools before this season. That means two drastically different things for Ohio State and Wisconsin, however. While the Buckeyes might turn to a youngster such as Braxton Miller or Taylor Graham if less-talented veterans Joe Bauserman and Kenny Guiton don’t impress in preseason practice, Badger fans are hoping N.C. State transfer Russell Wilson will give them reason to jump around all afternoon and into the night. He’s a great talent, but his time to work with his new teammates will be limited before the bullets start flying – and there will be a particular set of silver ones hoping to unleash hell in Columbus one evening in October.

Of course, both quarterback situations could turn out to be mediocre and both offenses might still be pretty good because both look like they could have stellar lines and deep backfields.

What either team gets out of its wide receivers is a question mark heading into the season, particularly with OSU senior DeVier Posey suspended for the first five games. Badger senior Nick Toon is the only other player from either unit to bring much name recognition into this campaign.

Defensively, there will be many new faces, but I am giving the nod to Ohio State at all three levels of the defense.

The OSU line got pushed around in Madison last season, but 3/4ths of Badgers’ defensive front wasn’t all that intimidating for the majority of the year. Without stud J.J. Watt this year, I am having a hard time anticipating this Wisconsin group being better. Ohio State lost an all-conference performer itself in the form of Cameron Heyward, but there is hope sophomore Johnathan Hankins can become a true force this year after brief flashes during his sophomore season, and Nathan Williams and Johnny Simon both look ready to break out in their second seasons as starters.

Linebacker is a push. Andrew Sweat of Ohio State should be one of the best in the conference, as is the case with Wisconsin’s Mike Taylor. Then we have both units figuring to depend heavily on getting big plays from players who missed most of last season with upper body injuries. Can Badger Chris Borland (shoulder) and Buckeye Tyler Moeller (pectoral) hold up this season? They will be crucial.

Both teams like to play bend-but-don’t-break in the secondary, but I’m giving the early nod to Ohio State based on the standout play of its new cornerbacks in spring ball (This is of course an example of some of the limitations of previewing an entire conference while specializing on one team, but this is all pretty much for fun anyway, right?).

Ultimately, I gave Wisconsin the overall nod in the preseason rankings because it’s probably better to rely on a new veteran quarterback than a new young one.

Moving on: Penn State could be a darkhorse here. The Nittany Lions have two quarterbacks with experience back, but they might end up confirming one of John Cooper’s favorite sayings: A coach who thinks he has two quarterbacks often has none.

The more talented of the pair looks to me like Rob Bolden, but can he beat out Matt McGloin? We shall see. Signal-caller figures to be the key to success there because there is a lot to like about new starter Silas Redd at tailback and there are several receivers with the potential to be productive players. The offensive line has some questions but brings back three starters, and contributions from the tight ends should be improved this year with better health and more experience.

Defensively, there were few offseason signs a sub-par front will be better this year, but linebacker could improve thanks to the graduation of a pair of starting stiffs from last season and the potential of a healthy Michael Mauti. The secondary has solid corner D’Anton Lynn and a potential standout in young Malcolm Willis to build around.

I am willing to believe Purdue could be significantly better this year, but I don’t think the Boilermakers can overtake PSU. Head coach Danny Hope’s team has to be due for some better health, right? He says he feels good about all his quarterbacks, but they have to stay out of the training room before they can prove him right.  They should get help from a running game that welcomes back Ralph Bolden. Defensively, Purdue was surprisingly competent last year and despite the loss of super end Ryan Kerrigan has three good-looking players to build around in tackle Kawann Short, linebacker Joe Holland and cornerback Ricardo Allen.

Illinois had a nice comeback last season, and I like young quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, but I’m not convinced the Fighting Illini can overcome the heavy losses they suffered to early entry into the NFL draft, especially on defense.

The future might be bright with Indiana under new head coach Kevin Wilson, but breaking in a new starting quarterback, finding a No. 1 running back who can stay out of trouble and rebuilding what was an awful defense last season is a lot to take care of in one year.

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Big Ten Football Pre-Fall Preview: Indiana Hoosiers

Known commodities: Wide receiver Damarlo Belcher led the team with 832 yards and four touchdowns on 78 receptions last season. Darius Willis has flashed the talent to be one of the Big Ten’s best backs but struggled with injuries last season, and he faces a one-game suspension this year because of an off-field incident. Defensive tackle Adam Replogle is stout in the middle and comes from an Ohio family that is quickly becoming a Hoosier hotbed for recruiting.


Questions: The hiring of Kevin Wilson as head coach opens up all kinds of possibilities. He must find a new starting quarterback and a receiver to pair with Belcher after the departure of talented Terrance Turner and Tandon Doss. Meanwhile, the defense seems to perennially be a question mark in Bloomington.


Spring game recap: Playing for the “Hoosiers” against “Indiana” in a split-squad scrimmage, junior quarterback Adam Follett connected with redshirt freshman tight end Leneil Himes for a 12-yard touchdown on a screen pass to account for the winning points in a 27-24 victory. Sophomores Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker also threw touchdown passes and senior Teddy Schell ran one in from 13 yards out as the foursome continued a battle to replace graduated starter Ben Chappell.


Issues addressed: Wilson knows he has to upgrade the roster over time via recruiting, but he said he feels the Hoosiers have had enough ability to be better than the19-30 record they posted in four years under the direction of Bill Lynch, who was fired in the offseason.

“I think our talent level is reasonable,” Wilson said. “We’ve been very competitive, but we’ve been on the short end too much. I think it’s more of a mindset (or) focus than anything else.

“Changing our culture really starts with me and our staff. Through that it needs to foster through our organization, not just the players but the staff, the managers, the trainers, our office help, so we’re working really hard to blend a style that’s very confident and has a great deal of expectation in belief in what we’re trying to do.”

He was in no rush to pick a quarterback in the spring and said he will look for a leader to emerge during summer workouts and preseason practice.

“That position must be earned above all else,” Wilson said. “It’s going to be someone who’s going to lead your team and I think that takes time.”

Overall, he sounded very much like a coach still trying to get comfortable with his new surroundings.

“I’m very pleased with a lot of things I’m seeing, but we’re a long way from having a two-deep roster,” he said. “We’ve got a lot of competition, a lot of freshmen coming in who will blend into our two-deep.”

Other areas of concern this offseason include tailback, where Willis is suspended for the season opener as a result of a domestic abuse charge filed against him in early March (and later dropped).

Wilson, a former Oklahoma offensive coordinator, apparently was unhappy with what he discovered on the offensive line, where four starters return but there was heavy competition in spring ball. Among those getting surprise first-team reps were freshmen Cody Evers and Ralston Evans.

“They actually play hard and come off the ball,” Wilson said of the youngsters. “We’re rewarding guys for playing hard.”

On the other side of the ball, the secondary seems to be the biggest concern after the quarterbacks did plenty of punctuating a group that lost starting safety Mitchell Evans and cornerbacks Richard Council and Matt Ernest to graduation.

“At times we had guys in position to make plays on deep balls and we didn’t make them,” new co-defensive coordinator Doug Mallory said. “That kills us., The kids played hard, with good energy, but it’s definitely a work in progress.”


Advanced statistical revelations*: The number did not like the 2010 Hoosiers much. They lost four wins – dropping them to 1-11 – in an adjusted score measure that supposes they were playing an average team every week. The running game struggled all year both in terms of efficiency and explosiveness. Overall, Indiana had major problems on first down but was decent after that. The passing game was pretty consistent but could use more big plays this year.

Defensively, Indiana was solid against the run on a play-to-play basis but was victimized by a lot of big plays. The pass defense was dreadful all around, and a near complete lack of a pass rush made things that much worse.


Pro prospects**: Belcher has NFL size, but his effort and approach didn’t impress the NFP grader. He has good quickness but lacks great speed and didn’t show the ability (or perhaps willingness) to get off the line when pressed.

Offensive guard Justin Pagan is able to deliver a blow in the run game but sometimes struggles to get low and finish blocks. He is a capable blocker when asked to pull despite not being really quick. Poor technique hurts him in pass protection.

Linebacker Jeff Thomas plays with a good motor that covers up some of his deficiencies in terms of athleticism and instincts. Might project as a fullback because he has experience at the position.


Issues remaining/other thoughts: Indiana is a hard team for me to get a read on. I tend to agree with Wilson that there has been sufficient talent for the Hoosiers to be better than they were the past couple of years, especially on offense. (Though Ohio State fans would have no idea about this as the Buckeyes have thoroughly destroyed them.) Defense is always going to be the biggest struggle for a program like this that works from a disadvantage in terms of recruiting against the rest of the powers in the Midwest, but Wilson could be a good hire here since he is familiar with the conference and a gifted offensive mind.


*SBNation has spent the summer previewing teams across the country using Football Outsiders’ advanced stats. They’ve started a movement not unlike SABRmetrics in baseball, and while I don’t agree with all of the tenets they are establishing, I find them often informative and always interesting. This is just my takeaway from the lengthy preview for this squad. 
**These are culled from evaluations published by Wes Bunting of The National Football Post. He goes in-depth on a handful of draft-eligible players on every team, and I have significantly boiled them down, so I recommend you read the whole thing. 

Overheard from Big Ten coaches: Ohio State Division

The Big Ten coaches from The Division With Michigan (T-DWM) spoke Tuesday (link) with the coaches from The Division With Ohio State (T-DWOS) set to follow Wednesday. Here’s a summary of what the latter group had to say.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel first said he was surprised to hear the Big Ten’s director of communication say his team has 16 starters coming back this fall.

Then he said he’s been pleased with the work his young people have put in despite the bad weather that has plagued practice.

Terrelle Pryor has had an interesting spring because he can’t do much as he recovers from offseason surgery so he’s helping guide the youngsters competing to take his spot as starting quarterback for the first five games of the season. (Pryor is hoping to be cleared to run May 1).

He has been proud of the progress Pryor has made every year since he became the starter earlier than anyone expected him to in 2008. They need him to make another significant improvement this year in order to come close to meeting his potential.

(Then he said something contradictory about the importance or lack thereof spring football has in the grand scheme of things)

Asked about one the NFL draft’s talking heads declaring Pryor is more likely to be drafted as a tight end than a quarterback (or something like that), Tressel said he doesn’t put much stock in opinions good or bad but that he heard from NFL coaches and personnel people who were in town recently for Cameron Heyward’s pro day that they were impressed with the quantum leap Pryor made from year two to year three as a starter. He showed a much greater understanding of the game and ability to manage it.

Those NFL people said they aren’t too worried with how many games he plays next year so long as they see more progress like he’s already made.

He expects Pryor to be selected as a QB in the 2012 draft.

As for picking someone to start the first five games, he said he’s nowhere near ready to do that.

The best quarterback Tuesday was Kenny Guiton, but since there is no game tomorrow, he’s not going to pretend like there is one and give a hypothetical starter. The key thing he’s looking for is consistency, and that takes time to develop. He will try to have a pecking order established for the fall because there will not be as many repetitions to go around when Pryor returns to health.

He revealed junior linebacker Jonathan Newsome is in his doghouse but they are optimistic he can find his way out of it soon. Newsome has not carried out all the duties they expect of him…

Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson thinks the talent level is reasonable and the team has been competitive the past couple of seasons but needs a better mindset to win more games. (I agree with this – I don’t think the Hoosiers are that far away)

He’s taking his quarterback selection slowly, too, and is looking for a leader to emerge. Teddy Schell, Adam Follett, Andre Kates and Edward Wright-Baker are all splitting reps, and he looks for them to continue to lead during summer workouts and seven-on-sevens, etc.

He’s happy with his team’s work so far but he is nowhere near formulating a depth chart, and he expects some freshmen to be a part of it.

They have 15 starters back from team that couldn’t close out games because of various reasons, including foolish errors, in the past.

“We’ve been competitive but we haven’t been winning.”

They are working on upgrading talent but also working the seniors hard on not being satisfied or complacent…

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is excited for the opportunity to play in a conference championship game and the way the league has formed two divisions.

In rebuilding an offensive line that lost three starters, he has moved Ricky Wagner from right tackle, where he started for the first time last season, to left tackle and told him no pressure but the only other two left tackles they’ve had since he became coach both won the Outland Trophy. He’s also really happy with Kevin Zeitler, the other returning starter. He has not allowed a sack in three years at right guard.

Bielema looks at it as having six guys with starting experience vying for five spots. That includes center Peter Konz, tackle Josh Oglesby, guard Travis Frederick and tackle Casey Dehn.

On defense, they need to replace a lot of producting, a.k.a., big plays, with the loss of defensive end J.J. Watt.

He’s happy to have senior tackle Patrick Butrym back, and he is showing great leadership.

Mike Taylor has done a nice job at linebacker, and they are looking forward to the return of Chris Borland, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury after being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2009.

Safety Aaron Henry is the leader in the secondary, and the defense got the better of the most recent scrimmage the team had.

Being able to tell recruits play Ohio State and Penn State every year is a big deal in recruiting. It helps them in recruiting Ohio and elsewhere against other people in their division, who they are already competing against for local recruits (Parents get to see them more often if they play those schools every year)

Sophomore Jon Budmayr is running No. 1 at quarterback and junior Curt Phillips will provide some competition in the fall but he’s still recovering from a torn ACL.

Replacing Scott Tolzien’s game managing skills will be a challenge. He really grew last year from the losses the team suffered in 2009. He learned how to deal with adversity.

Tight end continues to be a position of strength as senior Jake Byrne is back and he likes the look of youngsters Brian Wozniak and Jacob Pedersen. Wozniak has had some injuries but impresses them as an athlete and could be on Byrne’s level as a blocker…

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno was asked if college football seems to be out of control.

“I don’t know whether it’s out of control and to be frank with you we have some problems but i’m not the kind of guy who likes to throw rocks at the other guy because there are so many little things that can happen to you without you having control of them.”

He has been around the game for 65 years and seen good and bad and reactions to different situations. He thinks the game of college football is as good as it’s ever been in terms of caliber of play and interest of fans. The media gets credit for a lot of that but some problems get blown up because the press competes with television so sometimes they make things look worse than they are. His gut feeling without being completely sure is there have always been problems in college football and he doesn’t know if there are more than 30 years ago.

He said developing the offensive line is vital this year. They are trying to get a group of kids together who can play together. Overall they’ve made some progress but there’s still a long way to go. They don’t have a group that is going to dominate people up front, but technique is improving. They also need to develop the type of camaraderie that makes good lines.

He hasn’t thought about who will be the starting quarterback but likes what he’s seen out of both Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden. They know both can do the job.

Bolden is big strong kid who can really throw the ball.

Someone suggested the players have seen him more active on the field this year and he said, “I don’t think I did a particularly good job last year to be frank with you.”

That is partly because of how young they were. He didn’t want to push them too much.

He thinks the coaches need to do a better job than last year, but any increased activity on his part has not been intentional.

Purdue head coach Danny Hope saw improvements in all three phases of the game.

Last spring they had a lot of new faces on the team and then a lot of injuries. Seventeen freshmen played last year, so this year it was like they started further ahead with more experienced players.

Guys are stepping up on both lines and they got better in a lot of areas, including quarterback and linebacker.

Rob Henry entered spring as the No. 1 quarterback and remains there, although Robert Marve will challenge him in the fall when he is fully recovered from a knee injury. Marve was limited in the spring, meaning Caleb TerBush got good reps.

There will be competition there in the fall, just like at many positions.

Running back Rob Bolden should be 100 percent his fall. He did some noncontact stuff this spring but was held back for precautionary reasons…

Illinois head coach Ron Zook was asked about replacing stud running back Mikel Leshoure and instead talked about Akeem Spence taking over at defensive tackle for Corey Liuget.

Quarterbach Nathan Scheelhaase made great strides last year down the stretch and has improved in offseason.

The Fighting Illini are working this spring to improve passing game in all facets, including protection and yards after the catch. He’s pleased with what they’ve accomplished.

Scheelhaase probably threw more passes last year counting whole year than he had in any other year of his life. He has a stronger and more accurate arm now, and he’s working on knowing where to go with the ball. Football is a reaction game so more times you do something the better you are at it and the quicker you get.

To increase YAC, they worked on getting the ball to the receivers quicker and in place they can make some moves and go with it.

It’s been a lot more fun this spring building off bowl-winning season and not having to deal with installing a new offense and defense.

Martez Wilson, Liuget and linebacker Nate Bussey are big losses but that gives other guys the chance to step up.

Ian Thomas moved back to Mike linebacker to replace Wilson while Ashante Williams is at Thomas’ old Sam spot. He’s happy with what he’s seen from Jonathan Brown and Houston Bates as outside linebacker, too.

Getting back to replacing Leshoure, he said Jason Ford doing well although he’s dealing with a minor knee injury. He has lost some weight and still needs to lose more, but when he does, he can be a heck of a player. This time last year they thought he could have beaten out Leshoure, then Leshoure went on to have an All-Big Ten season.

Behind Ford, they’re impressed with Troy Pollard and Bud Golden. Golden had a sprained toe but has had an opportunity to step up and run the ball.