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Big Ten Spring Football - Leaders, Part Two
Wisconsin RB James White & PSU LB Gerald Hodges
Wisconsin RB James White & PSU LB Gerald Hodges
Posted Mar 27, 2012

The big storylines and the key thoughts for each Big Ten team.

2012 Spring Preview   

Big Ten Leaders - Part 2

Leaders Illinois | Indiana | Ohio State | Penn State | Purdue | Wisconsin 
Legends Iowa | Michigan | Michigan St | 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

2012 Schedule Breakdown
- 2012 Big Ten Leaders Division Breakdown & Analysis
- 2012 Big Ten Legends Division Breakdown & Analysis
- 2012 Big Ten Composite Schedule & Week Rankings 

- Big Ten Leaders Spring Preview & Thoughts, Part 1
- Big Ten Leaders Spring Preview & Thoughts, Part 2

- Big Ten Legends Spring Preview & Thoughts, Part 1
- Big Ten Legends Spring Preview & Thoughts, Part 2

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Penn State

Forgetting for just a second that Penn State as a university is in an all-timer of a hot mess and might not be the same place next year at this time, the football program has enough of an issue on its hands just getting back to playing football again. Considering where things were last year at this time, the whirlwind of scandal is still fresh and is still trying to be sorted out. The most shocked person of all is still probably Bill O’Brien.

Even if everything was business as usual, the Nittany Lions would still have a slew of big issues to deal with. The quarterback situation is still a mess, a few receivers need to emerge, and there are some huge losses on a defense that has to do some major retooling. Few coaches have ever stepped into a stranger situation than O’Brien, but if it’s possible, he appears to be ready and he’s going to put his own stamp on the program, starting with allowing more access for the media. Considering all that happened over the last year, that’s a big positive.

- Forget about everything else O’Brien needs to deal with. If Penn State doesn’t get decent quarterback play, the season won’t go anywhere. The Nittany Lions were 112th in the nation in passing efficiency and averaged 177 yards per game through the air. Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin aren’t Big Ten quarterbacks, but it’s not like there are a ton of other options – for now.

- No team on the Danny O’Brien World Tour needed his services more, but he chose Wisconsin over the Badgers. The former Maryland starter would've been the instant, no-question No. 1 for the Nittany Lions, and now it's sink-or-swim time with McGloin, Bolden, and Paul Jones.

- Nate Stupar is gone, but the expected healthy return of Michael Mauti from a torn ACL should help make the linebacking corps among the Big Ten’s best. Can Mauti finally stay in one piece? He’s not participating in spring drills, but he’s supposed to be ready to roll for the start of the season. Gerald Hodges is terrific on the outside, and while Glenn Carson will have to work for a job, he’s a solid option in the middle if needed. The linebackers are going to have to be fantastic because …

- Welcome to your brand new secondary. All four starters are gone and it’ll be an open competition for jobs. Adrian Amos and Stephen Morris should have the inside track at corner, but receiver Curtis Drake will give the position a shot. Malcolm Willis should take over one of the full-time safety spots, but nothing is for sure. Finding options for nickel and dime packages will be tough when the starting foursome might be up in the air for a while.

- Will O’Brien steal from the New England Patriot playbook and start using the tight end more? Andrew Szczerba is gone, and superstar recruit Adam Breneman won’t arrive until next year, meaning the spotlight will be on Kevin Haplea and a slew of untested prospects to get involved early on. Considering the problems at quarterback, the more safety valves, the better.


Coach Danny Hope was able to show what he could do if his team could stay relatively healthy, at least compared to previous seasons, but now it’s time to start being more of a factor. The Boilermakers return experienced, with a little more developed depth than normal, and more so than in any time under Hope, talented. There might not be enough in the bag to challenge for the Big Ten title, but it should certainly be stronger and should be able to battle harder against the better teams. Beating Ohio State last season proved the potential is there to come up with a big performance and show up in the clutch, and with a more seasoned team – and a healthier team – Hope will have higher expectations.

- The Purdue quarterback situation will still be in the spotlight late into the summer. Rob Henry is out this spring after undergoing knee surgery, while Caleb TerBush and Robert Marve are almost certainly going to be considered co-No. 1s. The coaching staff will probably come up with a rotation to utilize all the talents depending on the matchups, but the entire situation could be muddled.

- Could Kawann Short be the best defensive tackle in college football? This is a huge year for tackles in the draft, and he might have been lost a bit in the shuffle had he come out early, but he has a shot at being the top interior lineman off the board with a strong year. At the very least he’ll be the anchor of a nice-looking defensive front seven.

- Three starters are gone off the offensive line including the left side of guard James Shepherd and tackle Dennis Kelly, but the pass protection needs to improve. Rick Schmeig is a big run blocking center, and Trevor Foy should be fine at one tackle, but it’ll be an open casting call for spots to fill.

- The coaching staff is going to invent ways to get the ball in Raheem Mostert’s hands more often. The nation’s top kickoff returner is ready to show he’s more than just a special teamer and could become a gamebreaking receiver and part-time runner.

- The Boilermakers have another promising option for the return game in Frankie Williams, who could be a find in the corner rotation and will be used in a variety of ways. He’s a potential shut-down defensive back with terrific quickness and athleticism. It’s early in the offseason, but he’s a standout.


It’s just assumed at this point , even with a slew of major concerns and big changes, that the Badgers are going to reload in a hurry. The program will always have big, talented offensive linemen ready to flatten someone, and it’ll always unearth a slew of no-star recruits who magically become all-stars, but there are some major talent gaps to be filled and six, count them, six new assistant coaches. Russell Wilson, Nick Toon, Peter Konz, and Kevin Zeitler are just a few of the high-profile players who’ll be missed, especially Wilson, but this is a deep team that should have an interesting offseason worth of position battles. Coach Bret Bielema brought in a small recruiting class because of all the redshirted players. He’ll have options.

At this point there’s no shooting for anything less than a Big Ten championship. While the Badgers were two deep passes away from playing for the national title, they’re not going to be strong enough to be back in that mix this season without a few miracles. However, with Ohio State ineligible to play for the Big Ten title, the goal has to be to make it two trips to Indianapolis in two years, and three flights to Pasadena in the last three. Even with the rebuilding, Bielema might have the team to do it.

- Don’t expect anything different from the Wisconsin offense with former coordinator Paul Chryst off to Pitt and Matt Canada taking over. Canada got the running game rolling at Northern Illinois and he’s going to use Montee Ball and James White over and over and over again behind a massive offensive line. The philosophy isn’t changing.

- Quarterback was becoming a major concern again, but it got its man in Maryland's Danny O'Brien. However, the coaching staff would still love for some other options to step up. Lost in all the Russell Wilson love of last year was that he not only starred for the Badger attack, but he bailed out a total disaster. Curt Phillips has never been able to show what he can do with no luck whatsoever with his knees, and likely starter Jon Budmayr has a nerve problem with his throwing shoulder and elbow. That means redshirt freshman Joel Stave and sophomore Joe Brennan will fight it out this offseason until Phillips and Budmayr can get back into the equation. However, not having the two top options this spring – Budmayr is going to the Mayo Clinic to find options for his arm - will be a big, big problem for the team’s development.

- Because there aren’t enough issues with the offense and the passing game this spring, the team’s two most talented targets – tight end Jacob Pedersen and receiver Jared Abbrederis – are both hobbling. Pederson has a groin injury and Abbrederis is trying to get past a foot problem.

- Peter Konz will almost certainly be the first center taken in the 2012 NFL Draft, and Kevin Zeitler is a top 50 pick at guard. New starting center, junior Travis Frederick, might not be Konz, but he’s the next future pro starter from the Badger line. He spent most of last year at left guard but stepped in for an injured Konz for a few games and the line didn’t skip a beat. The 6-4, 328-pounder will be a front-runner for the Rimington Award and he should be the leader of another terrific line.

- Part of Wisconsin’s consistent success has come from a sound kicking game, but punter Brad Nortman and kicker Philip Welch are gone. Redshirt freshman Drew Meyer was a good recruit who appears more than ready to take over the punting job, while sophomore Kyle French has handled himself well so far this offseason. These two are locked into their jobs, but a few walk-ons will get their chance to show what they can do.

- Big Ten Leaders Spring Preview & Thoughts, Part 1
- Big Ten Leaders Spring Preview & Thoughts, Part 2

- Big Ten Legends Spring Preview & Thoughts, Part 1
- Big Ten Legends Spring Preview & Thoughts, Part 2