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2013 Big Ten Spring Preview - Legends
Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde
Ohio State RB Carlos Hyde
CollegeFootballNews.com
Posted Mar 4, 2013


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

2013 Spring Preview   

Big Ten Legends

 
2013 Big Ten Spring Preview
- CFN 2013 Spring Preview - Leaders
- 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  
 
Iowa
Start: March 27, Spring Game: April 27

Why To Be Excited: The defense wasn’t completely awful. It wasn’t great, but it showed promise at times considering it didn’t get any help whatsoever from the miserable offense. Nine starters return including a terrific looking combination of James Morris in the middle and Christian Kirksley and Anthony Hitchens on the outside. All seniors, those three should form one of the Big Ten’s best linebacking corps. Corner Micah Hyde is gone, but the rest of the secondary returns. If there’s any pass rush from the line, there could be a huge jump up in production.

Why To Be Grouchy: The passing game was ugly and inefficient, but the two decent parts of the puzzle were quarterback James Vandenberg and receiver Keenan Davis – they’re both gone. The Hawkeyes are starting from scratch with no experience whatsoever under center, and now it’s going to be a fight all offseason to see if sophomore Jake Rudock or JUCO transfer Cody Sokol can make the offense go for new coordinator Greg Davis.

What Needs Working On: The pass rush has to be far better. The awful offense has to improve and the team needs to find ways put points on the board, but things can’t be any worse. The defense returns loaded with veterans, and now they have to figure out how to get into the backfield after finishing last in the Big Ten with 53 tackles for loss and a pathetic 13 sacks. The one guy who did do a little bit to come up with some disruptive plays, end Joe Gaglione, is one of only two starters gone off the defense after leading the team with five sacks with nine tackles for loss. The pressure will be on senior Dominic Alvis to come up with a big year on the outside.

Michigan
Start: March 16, Spring Game: April 13

Why To Be Excited: The near future. There might be some big holes to fill on both sides of the ball, but the talent is quickly rising under Brady Hoke with the latest class taking things to a whole other level. Expect a more spirited spring ball than normal for some of the veterans considering there are a slew of big-name recruits on the way who might be good enough to play right away. Derrick Green was the nation’s top running back recruit, and he could provide an instant jolt of power and speed to an attack that relied too much on Denard Robinson. Shane Morris might be groomed for next year’s starting quarterback job, but a bad camp by Devin Gardner could start the speculation. It’s going to be an interesting August.

Why To Be Grouchy: The offensive line needs to rebuild and reload in a hurry. Taylor Lewan’s stunning decision to return for his senior season gives the line its anchor at left tackle, and Michael Schofield should get the call on the right side, but the interior needs to be replaced. The defensive front has to come up with a steady defensive tackle to replace Will Campbell and a pass rusher to take over for Craig Roh. The secondary needs to replace strong safety Jordan Kovacs and corner J.T. Floyd.

What Needs Working On: The offense has to get a lot tighter with the ball, and it’ll start with Gardner keeping the picks to a minimum after giving up one a game over the last five outings. While Denard Robinson’s four interception day against Notre Dame and the three picks thrown against Nebraska by Russell Bellomy had a lot to do with it, the offense had a big problem with turnovers giving away 19 interceptions and eight fumbles. Putting the ball on the ground wasn’t a huge issue until the three giveaways against Ohio State and the one against South Carolina, but going into the season, ball security needs to be a priority. It would be nice if the defense could come up with a few big plays, too, after failing to pick off a pass in the final five games and taking the ball away just 18 times on the year.

Michigan State
Start: March 19, Spring Game: April 20

Why To Be Excited: Loaded, loaded, loaded. The Spartans were full of veterans last season, and while the 7-6 record might have been disappointing, five of the losses were by four points or fewer. The offense loses running back Le’Veon Bell and tight end Dion Sims early to the NFL, but eight starters are back including four on a good line. Pass rusher William Gholston might be done, but eight starters return to the Big Ten’s best defense. After ranking fourth in the nation, the potential is there for the D to be even better.

Why To Be Grouchy: The O line might be terrific, and the defense might be nasty, and the passing game can’t help but be better, but can the team survive without Bell? He carried the offense to bail out one of the nation’s most inefficient passing games, and he’s going to be sorely missed with the smallish Nick Hill and junior Jeremy Langford needing to pick up the slack. It’s asking for the world for those two to combine to match Bell’s 1,793 rushing yards and 12 scores. Hill had the team’s only other rushing touchdown.

What Needs Working On: Can the receivers actually catch the ball, and is Andrew Maxwell going to be the one to throw it? It was the team’s Achilles’ heel last season, and it’s going to be the big concern and the big area of focus throughout spring ball. It wasn’t Maxwell’s fault that the passing game stunk – the receivers had an awful year – but a late drive in the win over Wisconsin was the only time he seemed able to find a groove. After completing just 6-of-15 passes for 28 yards against TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl, he got the hook for Connor Cook, who led the way to the game-winning field goal but was miserable completing just 4-of-11 passes. To put it simply, the passing game has to be better.

Minnesota
Start: March 26, Spring Game: April 27

Why To Be Excited: The offense might have struggled to consistently put up points with more than 17 just twice over the final ten games, but there’s hope for a big improvement. Quarterback/wide receiver MarQueis Gray is off to the NFL, and fullback John Rabe is done. That’s it. The rest of the offense is back including all five starters on an offensive line that quietly came up with a terrific season. Quarterback Philip Nelson got his feet wet and should be ready to roll, and running back Donnell Kirkwood should take on a bigger role. But while the offense should be fantastic …

Why To Be Grouchy: The defense takes a hit. The O still has to find productive receivers and needs a boost in the passing game, but it should be okay in time. It was a good year for a defense that took huge steps forward, finishing 12th in the nation in pass defense and 33rd overall. The biggest losses are at linebacker with leaders and playmakers Mike Rallis and Keanon Cooper done, but not having end D.J. Wilhite and corners Michael Carter and Troy Stoudermire will hurt. JUCO transfers will try to boost the linebacking corps, but corner will be more of a problem.

What Needs Working On: The special teams have to improve. Minnesota will be better on both sides of the ball, but it won’t be good enough to overcome problems in close games if the third phase isn’t better. Kicker Jordan Wettstein was just okay, but now he’s gone meaning big Chris Hawthorne has to prove he can handle the work. The Big Ten’s worst punting game needs more out of Christian Eldred, and the return game has to replace kick returner Troy Stoudermire and punt returner Michael Carter after underwhelming seasons.

Nebraska
Start: March 2, Spring Game: April 6

Why To Be Excited: The offense that led the Big Ten in yards and finished second in scoring comes back full of talent and options. Rex Burkhead might be done, but Ameer Abdullah proved last season that he could step up and produce in his place. Taylor Martinez is back for his final year under center, and he has a terrific receiving corps to work with led by Kenny Bell on the outside and Quincy Enunwa at flanker. Throw in the four returning starters to a line that paved the way for the league’s best running game, and the Husker offense should be even stronger.

Why To Be Grouchy: The defense loses a ton of talent. On the plus side, it’s a new day for a D that completely and totally melted down over the final two games of the season, but outside of the loss to Ohio State, it was a good year before the Big Ten championship debacle against Wisconsin. The entire starting linebacking corps is gone along with big-hitting safety Daimion Stafford and running mate P.J. Smith. The top pass rushers up front – end Eric Martin and tackle Cameron Meredith – also have to be replaced. The biggest loss could be in the kicking game with star punter and placekicker Brett Maher done after a terrific career.

What Needs Working On: Turnover margin. The running game just couldn’t seem to hang on to the ball with a steady stream of fumbles throughout the season. There weren’t any lost fumbles in the opener against Southern Miss and in the thrilling win over Michigan State – that was it. With 22 on the year to go along with 13 interceptions, turnovers put the team in a hole time and again. Those games against USM and MSU were the only two without two giveaways, while the defense failed to come up with a fumble recovery in the final four games of the year.

Northwestern
Start: February 27, Spring Game: April 13

Why To Be Excited: There’s a feeling that Northwestern football is on the verge of taking an even bigger step forward in the near future. The 10-3 season could’ve been much better with late losses to Penn State, Nebraska and Michigan all coming in painful fashion, but for a program that was desperate for a bowl win, coming up with a 14-point win over Mississippi State – take that, SEC – was huge. With state-of-the-art facilities being put together and Pat Fitzgerald’s strongest recruiting class yet, the expectations are starting to grow. This year, with 14 starters returning, another ten-win season is a reasonable goal.

Why To Be Grouchy: The offensive line needs retooling. Most of the top skill stars are back and the defense should be solid, but the line that did such a great job in pass protection and paving the way for the nation’s 19th best ground attack has to find replacements for guard Brian Murloe and tackle Patrick Ward on the left side and guard Neal Deiters on the right. Linebacker David Nwabuisi, end Quentin Williams and tackle Brain Arnfelt are gone from the defense that did a nice job up front.

What Needs Working On: Deep safety help. The Wildcats lost to Penn State after giving up 22 points in the fourth quarter, hurt mostly by quarterback Matt McGloin and a slew of third down conversions. The Cats had Michigan dead until a miraculous 53-yard pass play by the Wolverines set up overtime, and Nebraska was done until Taylor Martinez connected on two big passes on late scoring drives. Ibraheim Campbell returns but fellow safety Jimmy Hall is gone and top corner Nick VanHoose is trying to get healthy.

2013 Big Ten Spring Preview
- CFN 2013 Spring Preview - Leaders
- 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