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2012 CFN Big Ten Pre-Spring Preview
Michigan State DE William Gholston
Michigan State DE William Gholston
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Feb 7, 2012


2012 Big Ten Pre-Spring Preview - Why Every Big Ten Team Should Be Excited

2012 Pre-Spring Preview   

Why To Be Excited - Big Ten


Leaders Illinois | Indiana | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin 
Legends Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota | Nebraska | Northwestern 

2012 Big Ten Pre-Spring Preview
- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Leaders Rankings
- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Legends Rankings
- Why Every Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Team Should Be Grouchy
- What Every Team Needs To Work On  
- 2012 Recruiting Breakdown Big Ten Leaders | Big Ten Legends

Leaders

Illinois
- The Ron Zook era is over and Tim Beckman is trying to bring in a shot of excitement to a program that hasn’t been able to find any semblance of consistency. It hasn’t exactly been a smooth start – Beckman had a nightmare of a time trying to find a defensive coordinator who wants to work with him – but he was able to turn around Toledo into a winner and he has the hard-edged approach the team needs. Offensively, getting QB Nathan Scheelhaase back is a nice place to start with the offense, while the defense is loaded up front -- even with Whitney Mercilus gone early to the NFL – and is led by tackle Akeem Spence. Jonathan Brown is one of the nation’s best outside linebackers, and three starters return to the secondary.

Indiana
- Everyone of note comes back. It might have been a painful first season for head coach Kevin Wilson with no wins against FBS teams, but with the writing on the wall early on, Wilson went really young, really fast. There will be an open fight for the starting quarterback job, but Tre Roberson got his feet wet as a true freshman and showed signs of being a playmaker. Big Stephen Houston is a nice back to work around and the offensive line should be far stronger with a little more work. The Hoosiers might have lost to Ball State last season, but starting out the year against Indiana State, UMass, and Ball State is a nice way to pad the record.

Ohio State
- Urban Meyer’s 2012 recruiting class. Yeah, getting a top ten recruiting haul is par for the course at Ohio State, but it was the way this recruiting season went and the attitude that Meyer showed that should make Buckeyes fans very, very happy for what’s going to happen in the near future. Going into 2012, there might not be anything at the end of the rainbow with the no Big Ten title or bowl game to play for, but this is a young enough team across the board that this can be a prep season and a slight step back to take a huge leap forward. As is, Ohio State is good enough to be the Big Ten’s best team in 2012, but it could be good enough to be the nation’s best team in 2013.

Penn State
- After the complete and utter disaster of a 2011 season, the program is moving forward on the field and at least has a defined path now. Bill O’Brien won’t have the pressure that the head man to follow Joe Paterno would’ve had had under normal circumstances, and now he can truly use this season as a time of transition. The defense should be a killer with Michael Mauti – who was on his way to an all-star 2011 before tearing up his left knee – and Gerald Hodges leading the Big Ten’s best linebacking corps. The offense gets back RB Silas Redd to use as a workhorse early against a manageable schedule -- there’s no Alabama on the slate this year.

Purdue
- The quarterback situation was starting to improve by the second half of the season, and it’s going to be even better with Caleb TerBush returning and Robert Marve getting a sixth year of eligibility. The passing game might not have been special, but outside of Justin Siller, all the top targets are back along with top running backs Ralph Bolden and Akeem Shavers. Kawann Short could be the top defensive tackle in the 2013 NFL draft, leading a line that should be better against the run and terrific at getting into the backfield. Raheem Mostert returns after helping Purdue lead the nation in kickoff returns.

Wisconsin 
- Considering they’re going to need some work, the Badgers couldn’t ask for much more in the Leaders division. Penn State is really in a transition year, if not longer, and it’s going to have problems on the field with wholesale changes in the secondary and on the offensive line. Ohio State will probably be better than Bucky, but it’s ineligible to play in the Big Ten championship. That means Wisconsin probably has to only be better than Illinois, Indiana, and Purdue to get back to the title game, and the returning team is good enough to get by those three. The road dates are at Oregon State, Nebraska, Purdue, Indiana, and Penn State and that’s not too bad. The 2012 Wisconsin recruiting class might not have been anything special, but it got its big catch when RB Montee Ball chose to come back for his senior year.

Legends

Iowa
- As long as the Hawkeyes don’t blow it again against Iowa State and Minnesota, and as long as they’re fully prepared for a good Northern Illinois team in the opener, they should be 5-0 before going to Michigan State in mid-October. There’s a chance that James Vandenberg could progress into the best pro quarterback in the Big Ten with a few years of experience under his belt and a full command of the offense. There might be some huge losses across the board, but the passing game has the potential to be explosive with Keenan Davis ready to step into the No. 1 role and a strong tight end situation.

Michigan
- With Ohio State ineligible to play for the Big Ten title, this could be the Big Ten’s best team and it might not even be close. Last year the success came from a combination of the maturation of Rich Rodriguez recruiting classes and a coaching staff that knew what to do with all the talent. While there are a few holes to fill and this is hardly a perfect team, its strengths – offensive backfield, secondary, linebacker – are outstanding. With a full recruiting cycle, Brady Hoke went yard with big pickup after big pickup to upgrade the team’s speed and athleticism to a national title level. The needle is pointed up. Way up.

Michigan State
- Coach Mark Dantonio has done a good enough job of recruiting over the last few years that several good prospects are waiting in the wings to take over key jobs. The offensive line is loaded with four returning starters and only left guard Joel Foreman to replace, while the defensive front, despite the loss of anchor Jerel Worthy at tackle, should be terrific if end William Gholston turns into the star NFL prospect he’s expected to be. The secondary could become the strongest in the Big Ten if the pass rush is as strong as it was last year, and Max Bullough and the linebacking corps should be fantastic.

Minnesota
- Jerry Kill really is a good head coach; he just needs more time to work. The cupboard was left bare, and while the recruiting class might not have been special, it was a decent start. MarQueis Gray is a big, strong veteran quarterback with the athleticism and ability to carry the team on his shoulders if he can get a little bit more time to work. The offensive line was very young and should be far more consistent, and Donnell Kirkwood is a good-looking back to work around. The defense that struggled so much throughout last year gets all the outside players on the front seven back including rising playmaker Mike Rallis at linebacker.

Nebraska
- The Huskers might not have enough options on offense, but QB Taylor Martinez and RB Rex Burkhead are longtime veterans who should make the spread attack sing. No, there won’t be more of a balance, but running the ball won’t be a problem. The receiving corps that was non-existent for stretches last year actually has a little bit of talent, and now everyone is experienced with all the top targets, along with all the tight ends, returning. The defense welcomes back Baker Steinkuhler to anchor the line, while enough good tacklers are back in the linebacking corps to make up for the loss of Lavonte David.

Northwestern 
- The Wildcats linebacking corps might not be the best in the Big Ten, but it might not be far off the lead. Safety Ibraheim Campbell led the team in tackles, but the trio of David Nwabuisi, Damien Proby, and Collin Ellis should be the team’s rock going forward. Helping the cause is top recruit Ifeadi Odenigbo, who might be the team’s best linebacker the moment he gets to Evanston. Offensively, the loss of a quarterback like Dan Persa would normally devastating, but Kain Colter got in his share of work early last year and proved more than capable of handling the job.
 
Leaders Illinois | Indiana | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin 
Legends Iowa | Michigan | Michigan State | Minnesota | Nebraska | Northwestern 

2012 Big Ten Pre-Spring Preview
- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Leaders Rankings
- CFN 2012 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Legends Rankings
- Why Every Team Should Be Excited
- Why Every Team Should Be Grouchy
- What Every Team Needs To Work On  
- 2012 Recruiting Breakdown Big Ten Leaders | Big Ten Legends