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2013 Big Ten Spring Preview - Leaders
Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis
Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 4, 2013


Big Ten Spring Preview - Leaders Division. Why to be excited, grouchy and what needs working on.

2013 Spring Preview   

Big Ten Leaders


2013 Big Ten Spring Preview
- CFN 2013 Spring Preview - Legends 
- CFN 2013 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Leaders Rankings
- CFN 2013 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Legends Rankings
- 2013 Big Ten Leaders Schedule Breakdown & Analysis 
- 2013 Big Ten Legends Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
- 2013 Big Ten Composite Schedule & Week Rankings  
 
Illinois
Start: March 5, Spring Game: April 12

Why To Be Excited: In a positive way for Illini fans, there’s a major sense of urgency for head coach Tim Beckman coming off a disastrous 2-10 season. Nine starters are back on an offense that has the potential to be far, far better under new coordinator Bill Cubit – it can’t be worse – after finishing last in the Big Ten in total yards and scoring. It only seems like Nathan Scheelhaase is going into his 14th year as the starting quarterback, and with all the top skill players back he should grow into a much more efficient and effective playmaker. Defensively, once Jonathan Brown is back and healthy – which probably won’t be until fall after having shoulder and ankle problems – the Illini will have one of the Big Ten’s better linebacking corps.

Why To Be Grouchy: The lines need a ton of work, but for different reasons. The offensive front that was so miserable last season in pass protection and so soft for the running game loses tackle Hugh Thornton and center Graham Pocic, but it’s a young group overall that has to be better in time. The defensive line lost tackle Akeem Spence early to the NFL along with fellow interior defender Glenn Foster and end Michael Buchanan. This was a miserably underachieving group that was full of NFL talent, and now it’s going to be a thin and inexperienced front wall.

What Needs Working On: Turnover margin. The punt return game was among the worst in the nation and the offense was the second-worst in college football in both yards and scoring, but overall the team can’t get any better without figuring out how to generate turnovers. The offense gave it up 30 times and always seemed to shoot itself in the foot, but the defense was the bigger problem with a mere seven picks – and three of those coming in the opener against Western Michigan – and 11 fumble recoveries with just three in the last five games.

Indiana
Start: March 2, Spring Game: April 13

Why To Be Excited: This is one of the Big Ten’s most experienced teams with just enough experience and options to finally break through under Kevin Wilson. It’s been a few years to build to this point, and with 21 starters returning the competition should be terrific in several key spots. Tre Roberson returns from his broken leg to challenge Cameron Coffman and Nate Sudfeld for the starting quarterback job, while Stephen Houston and D’Angelo Roberts should provide a nice 1-2 rushing punch behind a good-looking line.

Why To Be Grouchy: The team might be loaded with veterans and depth, but is there any real talent? Strides were made across the board last year, but after giving up 163 points in the final three games, there are still plenty of question marks. The defensive front still has to prove it can stop someone’s running game, and now it has to go on without grinding tackles Adam Replogle and Larry Black. The secondary is deep, but it has to start making more big plays and picks and has to keep the deep balls to a minimum.

What Needs Working On: The defense has to get nastier. It’s a try-hard group that hustles and tries to do everything right, but it was beaten to a pulp in several ways last season. Wisconsin ripped off 564 yards and seven scores one week, and then Penn State was bombing away for 395 yards and four touchdowns before Purdue came up with 373 passing yards and five scores. With just 13 takeaways, there wasn’t much help coming when the offense wasn’t clicking.

Ohio State
Start: March 5, Spring Game: April 13

Why To Be Excited: Yeah, yeah, yeah, the offense is expected to be special after leading the Big Ten in scoring and with nine starters returning, but don’t sleep on a pass defense that could surprise. The secondary gave up yards but rarely got beaten deep, allowing 15 touchdown passes and coming up with 14 picks. There were a few lapses – oddly enough, Miami University, Indiana and Penn State had the best passing days against the Buckeyes – but overall the secondary did a nice job. Three starters return, and while there’s work to do up front, there’s enough athleticism to come up with a good pass rush.

Why To Be Grouchy: There might be an adjustment period up front. It’s Ohio State, so the lost star talent will be replaced by new start talent, but it’ll still sting for a while with all four starters gone including John Simon and Nathan Williams on the ends and Johnathan Hankins on the inside. Throw in the losses of linebackers Zach Boren and Etienne Sabino, and the front seven is going to be the focus throughout the spring.

What Needs Working On: Protecting Braxton Miller. The offense is loaded with talent and experience, the depth is there across the board with a terrific set of young options for the line and several good position battles for time at all the skill spots except quarterback. While Kenny Guiton proved he could come in cold and save the day against Purdue, the difference between a good season and a possible national championship run depends on keeping Miller alive and kicking. He takes way too many big pops and was sacked way too often. Being tough as nails is one thing, but he’s not built like Tim Tebow – its asking too much to expect him to last the season if he’s getting blasted.

Penn State
Start: March 18, Spring Game: April 20

Why To Be Excited: After last year, trying to deal with adversity this season should be a piece of cake. For the most part the focus is on football – as much as it can be – allowing Bill O’Brien to spend more time on trying to build up a team that’s not going to feel the effects of the sanctions personnel-wise for another season or so. With 16 returning starters and enough holdover prospects to provide a little bit of depth, it should be like a more normal football season up until the end of November. O’Brien had far bigger problems last season.

Why To Be Grouchy: The offensive line that was such a key part to the success last season gets the left side back intact with tackle Donovan Smith and guard Miles Dieffenbach leading the way, but the right side needs a few replacements and center Matt Stankiewitch is done. Defensively, the linebacking corps is going to be a focus with Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges done. Glenn Carson and Mike Hull are good ones to start with, but with tackle Jordan Hill and end Sean Stanley done, it’s going to take a little while to find the right pieces for the front seven.

What Needs Working On: Special teams. The quarterback situation will be the biggest key to the spring session with Steven Bench and JUCO transfer Tyler Ferguson trying to show what they can do before super-recruit Christian Hackenberg arrives on campus, but for a team that’s likely going to be involved in several close battles, the special teams have to be better. The return game was abysmal finishing last in the league in kickoff returns and near the bottom in punt returns, while the punting game averaged a mere 34.45 yards per punt. Kicker Sam Ficken is mostly known for the Virginia game, but he rallied and finished hitting 14-of-21 kicks.

Purdue
Start: March 19, Spring Game: April 13

Why To Be Excited: Darrell Hazell is a great get. Many had him pegged for bigger jobs after his terrific season at Kent State, but he was snapped up by Purdue and there’s a renewed enthusiasm. With eight starters back on defense and seven returning on offense, there’s enough veteran talent to come up with a good spring without having to start from scratch in several areas. This might have been a bowl team last season, but now it’s time to start closing a few of the tighter battles after having Notre Dame in trouble and Ohio State on the ropes. Hazell could be the difference.

Why To Be Grouchy: There’s still a ton of work to do on the offensive consistency. Seven starters return, and that doesn’t include veteran Rob Henry, who’ll be in a battle for the starting quarterback job. However, the speed at the skill positions didn’t translate into big plays, and a hit-or-miss season from the line was the reason for way too many fizzles. The Boilermakers only scored more than 28 points once over the final nine games – beating Indiana 56-35 – and it was almost never physical. Hazell is going to have to change that.

What Needs Working On: The pass rush has to be better and has to come on a regular basis. It’s no coincidence that the Boilermakers were ripped up in games when the defensive front didn’t get behind the line. There weren’t any sacks generated against Michigan, Wisconsin, Minnesota or Indiana, and there was only one against Penn State. Meanwhile, the secondary struggled without the steady help. The three picks against the Hoosiers were the only interceptions in the last six games. Considering Hazell’s Kent State team lived off of turnover margin, generating big defensive plays will be a focus.

Wisconsin
Start: March 9, Spring Game: April 20

Why To Be Excited: Don’t just hand the Leaders title to Ohio State quite yet. There’s no reason to expect the music to stop just because there’s a new coaching staff. It’s a bit of an overstatement to suggest that Bret Bielema wore out his welcome with two straight Big Ten championship game wins and three straight trips to Pasadena, but the hiring of Gary Andersen should change around the mood. The Badgers are still going to pound away with the running game, the defense is still going to be tough and hard-nosed, and there were still be the bully attitude.

Why To Be Grouchy: Ohio State is eligible for the Big Ten title again. On the field for Bucky, the secondary that was such a positive last year needs to come up with some big replacements. The defensive front should quietly grow into one of the Big Ten’s best, and the linebacking corps should be terrific despite the loss of tackling machine Mike Taylor, but corners Marcus Cromartie and safety Shelton Johnson are gone from a group that finished 18th in the nation against the pass.

What Needs Working On: There isn’t a Russell Wilson or a Scott Tolzien under center to make teams pay for cheating up against the run, and that proved costly last year. This time around, the passing game has to be tighter and more efficient. The quarterback situation will be in the spotlight with five decent options battling for the job, but the bigger key could be the No. 2 receiver situation. Jared Abbrederis was a one man gang with some help coming from tight end Jacob Pedersen. The third best target was Jordan Frederick with a mere 17 catches for 196 yards and a score. Basically, when Abbrederis was erased or was out hurt, the passing game and the offense went into a funk.

2013 Big Ten Spring Preview
- CFN 2013 Spring Preview - Legends 
- CFN 2013 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Leaders Rankings
- CFN 2013 Pre-Preseason Big Ten Legends Rankings
- 2013 Big Ten Leaders Schedule Breakdown & Analysis 
- 2013 Big Ten Legends Schedule Breakdown & Analysis
- 2013 Big Ten Composite Schedule & Week Rankings