2009 Spring Preview
Key Big Ten Questions Answered, Part 2
2009 Big Ten Spring Analysis
- Does the Big Ten stink?
- Big Ten Questions
Answered ... Part 1
Q: What was more the
reality for Illinois; the Rose Bowl season of 2007 or last year’s
disappointment? Is the offense going to still be all Juice, all the
time? What’s the most important position battle to watch for this
By Frank Frangie of
InsideIllini.com … I was more
surprised by last year's collapse than the 2007 season. They played
tight last year, like a team that finally had escaped the abyss and
didn't know what to do now that they were out. They panicked at playing
with a target on their chest, so unlike the year before when they were
free and easy. Most agree that is the big thing.
This year, I
think you will see the offense simplified. Because Juice was so good
toward the end of the 2007 season, Locksley put in stuff he probably
can't do -- lots of reads, lots of progressions in the passing game,
etc. It will be back to basics under Mike Schultz.
But they love
their receivers. Arrelious Benn, one of Illinois' few five-star
recruits, has been the only real star since he got there, but Florida
transfer Jarred Fayson, another five-star, may be just as good. And last
year as a freshman, A. J. Jenkins showed he may have star potential.
Plus they have very good depth there. So with that position so loaded,
they have to go down the field some.
Lot of good spring battles,
but the battle in the secondary is as good as any. The safeties weren't
very good last year and Donsay Hardeman, the best of the bunch, is
injured and out for spring. Nate Bussey, Garrett Edwards, Bo Flowers,
Travon Bellamy and newcomers Supo Sanni and possibly converted
cornerback Ashante Williams will battle for the other spot.
Q: At Iowa, who’s replacing Shonn
Greene? Was last year the start of a run, or was it a one-season wonder
for the program? What’s the most important position battle to watch for
A: By Jon Miller from
HawkeyeNation.com … The 2009 team
enters the season with as few questions as any Ferentz team has since
Iowa's 11-2 Big Ten Championship season in 2002.
will be Iowa's primary ballcarrier next year, but he will likely split
time with freshman Jeff Brinson. Prior to the start of last year,
not many would have predicted that Hampton would have been the freshman
to play, but he won out over Brinson and some others, so Brinson
redshirted. Hampton averaged well over 5 yards per carry last year
and found the endzone quite a bit when you consider how many times Shonn
Greene scored. I am of the opinion that Hampton could have gained
over 1200 yards last year, if he would have had the touches.
Iowa's offensive line might not be as excellent as this year's was,
which was Ferentz's second best offensive line in my opinion, but next
year's crew is going to be in the discussion of Ferentz's best when all
is said and done. During the Ferentz era, Iowa has had two backs
splitting reps more often than not, with Fred Russell and Shonn Greene
being the lone 'featured' backs. Even in 2002, which was Iowa's
best year under Ferentz and the best line in school history, Russell had
over 1300 yards, but Jermelle Lewis had nearly 900. I think that
is what Iowa likes to do.
As for position battles, the cornerback
spot opposite Amari Spievey will be up for grabs. Shaun Prater
took himself out of the running with an OWI (DUI) this past weekend.
Junior Jordan Bernstine was the favorite to win that spot anyway, but I
really liked what Prater did last year as a true freshman.
The center position will also be one to watch. Rafael Eubanks
was a two-year starter there before being supplanted by a former walk on
this past year in Rob Bruggeman, although Bruggeman is probably just
behind Bruce Nelson for the best center of the Ferentz era.
Bruggeman got hurt in Spring of 2007, otherwise he would have started
that year, too. Will Eubanks move back to center from guard, where
he split time last year but was relegated to the bench at the end of the
year? Will it be James Ferentz, who will be a RS frosh? Will
it be walk on Josh Koeppel, if he can gain 20 pounds? That is one
to watch. Iowa's right guard position is also open.
defensive line, Iowa loses Mitch King and Matt Kroul, quite a bit of
production. But this is a position of strength for Iowa, as Adrian
Clayborn and Christan Ballard return at end...one may move inside, as
they are both upwards of 280. That makes room for Broderick Binns
at one of the ends, and he came on real strong last year, splitting time
with Ballard at end by the last quarter of the season. Those are
three of your four DL starters right there, with Chad Geary, Cody
Hundertmark, Mike Daniels and a few others throwing their hat into the
Iowa loses just three starters on defense. The
Hawks lose five on offense, but I feel comfortable at each of those
positions. 1st team All Big Ten Brandon Myers is gone, but Tony
Moeaki is back, and I think he has a long term NFL career ahead of him.
If he can stay healthy, he can put together one of the best seasons a
tight end has ever had at Iowa. He just has that ability.
Allen Reisner also showed flash last year, having perhaps the best hands
on the team.
Is it really Tate Forcier or bust for
Michigan? The focus is on the offense, but what else is missing that
requires major attention? Besides quarterback, what’s the most important
position battle to watch for this spring?
By Tom Beaver of
... No, it's not that cut and dried when it comes to Forcier. Last
year’s part-time starter will go into spring ball with a
knows-the-offense advantage, but already-enrolled Freshman Tate has by
far the better arm. And don't forget Denard Robinson who'll come in in
June and is probably the best runner of the three. For Michigan,
quarterback will quite possibly be a three-way situation for quite a
while - maybe all the way through 2009.
Overall, besides the offense, the focus will be on
defensive coordinator. In 2008 it was the
veteran Michigan D that let the team down in their biggest games. Now
the Wolverines have a new coordinator in former Syracuse headman Greg
Robinson, who has defensive coordinator experience both at Texas and in
the pros. The 2009 U-M defense will be far younger than the '08 unit,
but has to be far better for the team to improve overall.
Q: Can Northwestern QB Mike Kafka
throw? What does Pat Fitzgerald most want to change before to get the
Wildcats to where he wants them? What’s the most important position
battle to watch for this spring?
A: By Roy Lamberton of
We’ve all seen Kafka
heave a ball 50 or 60 yards. He’s got the “arm” but can he hit a spot is
the question. Now, remember that he beat out Andrew Brewer and Eric
Peterman for the backup role – Peterman and Brewer were the other two
QBs signed with Kafka.
Kafka will definitely
be the #1 going into Spring – how much the other QBs, particularly Persa,
push him will determine how long he remains in front.
Kafka also came into
Spring camp three years ago (2006) as the #2, but due to an injury to
C.J. Bacher` he started the first 4 games of 2006 before being injured.
At that time the Cats were 2-2 under Kafka. WR Andrew Brewer then
started 3 games – all losses - that year at QB before moving to WR. 2006
is the year the Randy Walker died suddenly during the summer. A 100%
C.J. came in and finished the season 2-3. Since 2006, Kafka has been the
“clean up” guy and had to jump in when Bacher` went down at Indiana.