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Big Ten Leaders: Spring Wrap-Up

On Thursday night, we published our spring recap for the Big Ten Legends Division.

Key returnees in the Leaders Division include Penn State WR Allen Robinson, Ohio State QB Braxton Miller, Indiana WR Cody Latimer and Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis

We are back today with a spring recap for the six schools in the Big Ten Leaders Division.

Much of the talk this off-season has been about how Ohio State, coming off a 12-0 season and an NCAA-imposed postseason ban, could challenge for the national championship this season.

ESPN.com’s Mark Schlabach, in this analysis, elevated Ohio State to No. 1 in his latest preseason poll. From the Leaders Division, Wisconsin also checks in at No. 25. From the Legends Division, Michigan is ninth, Nebraska is 22nd and Northwestern is 24th.

Of course, all 12 Big Ten teams will be playing to win their respective divisional championships for a chance to play in the Big Ten Championship Game. That game is set for Sat., Dec. 7, at Indianapolis’ Lucas Oil Stadium. The winner of that game will move on to either the Rose Bowl Jan. 1 or the last BCS National Championship Game Jan. 6 in Pasadena, Calif.

Here we go with our Spring Recap of the Leaders Division:

Illinois

* 2012 Record: 2-10 overall, 0-8 Big Ten Leaders (sixth).

* Starters Lost (9): Offense (2): LT Hugh Thornton, RT Graham Pocic; Defense (7): NT Akeem Spence (left early for NFL), DT Glenn Foster, DE Michael Buchanan, NB Ashante Williams, CB Terry Hawthorne, FS Supo Sanni, CB Justin Green; Specialists (0): None.

* Returning Starters (15): Offense (9): LG Michael Heitz, C Jake Feldmeyer, RG Ted Karras, QB Nathan Scheelhaase, RB Donovonn Young, WR Darius Millines, WR Ryan Lankford, WR Spencer Harris, TE Jon Davis; Defense (4): DE Tim Kynard, WLB Jonathan Brown, MLB Mason Monheim, SS Earnest Thomas; Specialists (2): K Taylor Zalewski, P Justin DuVernois.

* Spring Game Recap (April 12): The Blue team raced out to a 28-0 second-quarter lead and held on for a 35-28 win under the lights before 2,100 on a chilly Friday night at Memorial Stadium. Scheelhaase completed 24-of-32 passes for 210 yards and one touchdown, while Young rushed 19 times for 86 yards and three touchdowns for the victorious Blue squad. Monheim clinched the win with a late interception. Redshirt freshman safety Taylor Barton grabbed a pair of interceptions and recovered a fumble.

* Spring Developments: The Illini endured nine double-digit losses among their 10 defeats in 2012. Illinois was 12th in the Big Ten in scoring and total offense and 10th in total defense last year.

Accordingly, Illinois coach Tim Beckman hired former Western Michigan coach Bill Cubit as his new offensive coordinator. Cubit installed the spread offense, which produced 87 pass attempts and 601 yards in the spring game.

“I definitely think the offense is getting more comfortable," Beckman said.

Scheelhaase, a three-year starter, battled with Reilly O’Toole this spring. O’Toole threw for 362 yards but also had four interceptions in the spring game. Accordingly, Scheelhaase is still listed as the starter.

"I thought he had a great touch on the football," Beckman said. "You could hear there was some great leadership things being said on that Blue offensive team."

Young looks like the lead tailback, especially since Josh Ferguson missed time this spring with an ankle injury. With Millines out this spring due to a suspension, converted QB Miles Osei, Steve Hull and others shined at receiver.

Looking for fresh blood to make an instant impact, Beckman welcomed in five JUCO transfers and five freshmen who enrolled early in January. Early enrolling freshman include DB Dillan Cazley, OL Jesse Caldwell, OL Christian Dilauro, DB Darius Mosely and OL Austin Schmidt. JUCO transfers include WR Martize Barr, DT Abe Cajuste, NB Eric Finney, OL Dallas Hinkhouse and S Zane Petty.

“We had 40 football players that have never been in our spring football until this year," Beckman noted.

* 2013 Schedule: Aug. 31, Southern Illinois; Sept. 7, Cincinnati; Sept. 14, vs. Washington (at Soldier Field; Chicago); Sept. 28, Miami (Ohio); Oct. 5, at Nebraska; Oct. 19, Wisconsin; Oct. 26, Michigan State; Nov. 2, at Penn State; Nov. 9, at Indiana; Nov. 16, Ohio State; Nov. 23, at Purdue; Nov. 30, Northwestern.

* Helwagen Says: There is only one way for Illinois to go and that’s up. In the good news department, the offense seems to have enough playmakers to light up the scoreboard. Scheelhaase, for all of the games he has started, struggled at times last year. If he can come through and live up to his potential, the offense could keep Illinois in more games this year.

Brown and Monheim are back to lead a young defense. The schedule looks pretty tough with nonleague games against Cincinnati and Washington. The Illini don’t have to play Michigan and Iowa, though. Road games at Penn State, Indiana and Purdue will probably tell the tale. As I sit here today, I’d put Illinois in the four- to five-win category. Short of winning one of those two nonconference games – with UC at home and Washington at Chicago’s Soldier Field – I just don’t know where a sixth win comes from to make this team bowl-eligible.

Indiana

* 2012 Record: 4-8 overall, 2-6 Big Ten Leaders (fifth).

* Starters Lost (3): Offense (1): C Will Matte; Defense (2): DT Larry Black, DT Adam Replogle; Specialists (0): None.

* Returning Starters (21): Offense (10): LT Jason Spriggs, LG Bernard Taylor, RG Dan Feeney, RT Peyton Eckert, WR Shane Wynn, WR Cody Latimer, WR Kofi Hughes, QB Cameron Coffman, RB Stephen Houston, TE Ted Bolser; Defense (9): DE Ryan Phillis, DE Zack Shaw, SLB Jacarri Alexander, MLB David Cooper, WLB Griffen Dahlstrom, CB Greg Heban, S Mark Murphy, S Drew Hardin, CB Brian Williams; Specialists (2): K Mitch Ewald, P Mitchell Voss.

* Spring Game Recap (April 13): The Cream jumped out to a 14-0 first quarter lead and closed out Indiana's spring with a 21-7 victory. Wynn led the Cream with 22- and 16-yard touchdowns, both from Coffman. Wynn finished the game with six catches for 97 yards.

The quarterbacks rotated and played for both teams. Coffman finished the afternoon 17-of-23 for 174 yards, while sophomore Nate Sudfeld went 14-of-16 for 181 yards and a 37-yard score to Latimer, which accounted for the Crimson's lone score. Tre Roberson, coming back from a leg injury that cost him most of last year, was 7 of 18 for 63 yards.

* Spring Developments: The quarterback battle will continue into the fall with Coffman, Sudfeld and Roberson, who opened last year as the starter before being lost for the season with a leg injury.

"It’s a tough deal because I think they’ve all been pretty good," said IU coach Kevin Wilson. "It’s our problem in how to keep developing them, how to keep them in rhythm."

Indiana should light up the scoreboard all season with any of those quarterbacks to go with standout receivers like Wynn, Latimer and Hughes as well as a solid back in Houston.

The real key will be the retooled defense, which gave up 52 points to Ohio State, 62 to Wisconsin and 56 to Purdue – all teams IU will have to deal with to become a respectable force in this division. IU was 12th in the Big Ten in yards and points allowed in 2012.

A few linebackers stepped up in the spring, most notably T.J. Simmons, Steven Funderburk, Jake Michalek and Jordan Wallace. Simmons is an early enrolling freshman, while Funderburk is a JUCO transfer. Alexander, a returning starter, had five tackles and 1-1/2 sacks in the spring.

“I want to see us gain more swagger as a defense,” Wilson said.

* 2013 Schedule: Aug. 29, Indiana State; Sept. 7, Navy; Sept. 14, Bowling Green; Sept. 21, Missouri; Oct. 5, Penn State; Oct. 12, at Michigan State; Oct. 19, at Michigan; Nov. 2, Minnesota; Nov. 9, Illinois; Nov. 16, at Wisconsin; Nov. 23, at Ohio State; Nov. 30, Purdue.

* Helwagen Says: Because Ohio State and Penn State were ineligible for the Leaders Division title last year, Indiana entered November in the thick of the race to represent the division in the Big Ten title game – despite being 4-5 at the time. Reality returned, though, with lopsided losses to Wisconsin, Penn State and Purdue to end the year.

Indiana is going to score points by the gobs. But can the Hoosiers improve defensively and hold opponents in check just enough to come out with more wins? The nonconference home game with Missouri will be telling. IU does not play Nebraska or Northwestern. Home games with Minnesota, Illinois and Purdue will be pivotal.

In the final analysis, there are enough winnable games here to say Indiana could go 6-6 or 7-5 and qualify for a bowl. Indiana has been to one bowl game in the last 20 years. It could happen this year … but that defense must be markedly better.

Ohio State

* 2012 Record: 12-0 overall, 8-0 Big Ten Leaders (first).

* Starters Lost (11): Offense (2): WR Jake Stoneburner, RT Reid Fragel; Defense (8): DE John Simon, DT Garrett Goebel, DT Johnathan Hankins (left early for NFL), DE Nathan Williams, MLB Zach Boren, OLB Etienne Sabino, NB Orhian Johnson, CB Travis Howard; Specialists (1): P Ben Buchanan.

* Returning Starters (14): Offense (9): WR Philly Brown, WR Devin Smith, QB Braxton Miller, RB Carlos Hyde, LT Jack Mewhort, LG Andrew Norwell, C Corey Linsley, RG Marcus Hall, TE Jeff Heuerman; Defense (4): OLB Ryan Shazier, CB Bradley Roby, S C.J. Barnett, S Christian Bryant; Specialists (1): K Drew Basil.

* Spring Game Recap (April 13): Miller threw for two touchdowns and ran for another to lead the Scarlet to a 31-14 victory over the Gray before 37,643 at Cincinnati’s Paul Brown Stadium. The game was played there due to renovations at Ohio Stadium. Miller, who was 16 of 25 passing for 217 yards, threw scoring passes of 20 yards to Smith and 3 yards to Brown, and also rushed for a 3-yard score. Smith caught five passes for 76 yards. Chris Fields caught a touchdown pass and ran for a score.

Sophomore defensive ends Adolphus Washington (four sacks) and Noah Spence (three sacks) came up big, but it should be noted the quarterbacks were not live.

* Spring Developments: After a perfect 12-0 season in 2012, Ohio State is being considered as a national championship contender. OSU served its one-year postseason ban due to NCAA sanctions and will be eligible to play for the Big Ten title in 2013.

But with six single-digit wins last year – and two of those were in overtime (Purdue and at Wisconsin) – the Buckeyes were far from a pat hand in 2012. Meyer drove his team to improve fundamentally.

“There is no doubt we can improve,” Meyer said. “Probably the most difficult thing from last year was we always took great pride in being very fundamentally sound. We weren’t and that bothered me in the off-season.

“We went on a mission. We are chasing to be the best fundamental team in football. I think we made some strides on that this spring.”

OSU had the Big Ten’s highest scoring offense and with Miller, the Big Ten MVP and fifth in the Heisman Trophy balloting, returning at quarterback the Buckeyes could push a 40-point average in 2013. Hyde leads a crowded house at running back. Brown became a difference maker at receiver. The offensive line, with four starters back, could be among the nation’s best.

“I thought at times that Braxton Miller and a couple of the wideouts, particularly Philly Brown, did very well,” Meyer said. “That was a continuation of what started all spring. If we can figure out (the passing game), I would be disappointed if we are not the best offense in the Big Ten.”

The defense will be under the microscope. Shazier, a first-team All-Big Ten pick last year, is the only returning starter in the front seven. He and Roby, who had some All-American honors last year, each missed good portions of the spring nursing nagging injuries. It appears that Washington and Spence will be vital at the end spots and junior Curtis Grant (10 tackles in spring game) is the new starter at middle linebacker.

* 2013 Schedule: Aug. 31, Buffalo; Sept. 7, San Diego State; Sept. 14, at California; Sept. 21, Florida A&M; Sept. 28, Wisconsin, 8 p.m. (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2); Oct. 5, at Northwestern, 8 p.m. (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2); Oct. 19, Iowa; Oct. 26, Penn State, 8 p.m. (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2); Nov. 2, at Purdue; Nov. 16, at Illinois; Nov. 23, Indiana; Nov. 30, at Michigan.

* Helwagen Says: Miller and the offense will be fun to watch. He has improved his fundamentals in the throwing game and could again push for 1,000 yards rushing as well. Playmakers have emerged all around him. One wild card is senior RB Jordan Hall, who got a medical redshirt last year due to injuries. If he can answer the bell, he gives OSU one more dynamic guy in the spread attack.

The defense will be young, however. By the end of last season, they figured things out and were able to at least contain some good offenses. How long will that process take in 2013? Luckily, the schedule is as soft as a baby’s bottom. OSU does not play Nebraska or Michigan State. The road game at Northwestern could be touchy, but OSU could well be 11-0 when it heads north to Michigan on Nov. 30.

The Buckeyes may need two wins over Michigan in an eight-day stretch to get to Pasadena – either for the Rose Bowl or the BCS national title game. Hmmm.

Penn State

* 2012 Record: 8-4 overall, 6-2 Big Ten Leaders (second).

* Starters Lost (9): Offense (4): C Matt Stankiewitch, RT Mike Farrell, QB Matt McGloin, FB Michael Zordich; Defense (5): DT Jordan Hill, DE Sean Stanley, OLB Gerald Hodges, OLB Michael Mauti, CB Stephon Morris; Specialists (0): None.

* Returning Starters (16): Offense (8): LT Donovan Smith, LG Miles Dieffenbach, RG John Urschel, RB Zack Zwinak, TE Kyle Carter, WR Allen Robinson, WR Brandon Moseby-Felder, WR Alex Kenney; Defense (6): DE Deion Barnes, DT DaQuan Jones, MLB Glenn Carson, CB Adrian Amos, FS Malcolm Willis, SS Stephen Obeng-Agyapong; Specialists (2): P Alex Butterworth, K Sam Ficken.

* Spring Game Recap (April 20): The Blue-White game scoring system again added an intriguing dimension to the culmination of spring practice, as the Blue (defense) knocked off the White (offense), 67-47, before an estimated 28,000 fans on a day that featured snow, rain, wind and sunshine in Beaver Stadium.

The defensive unit tallied nine sacks (each worth four points), including two apiece from Brad Bars, Austin Johnson and Evan Schwan; 12 tackles for a loss (each worth two points) and two interceptions (each worth six points). Johnson and linebacker Charles Idemudia paced the defense with five tackles in the victory.

On the offensive side of the ball, the White squad tallied 455 yards of total offense and four touchdowns en route to a total of 47 points in the feature scoring system. Sophomore Deron Thompson tallied 97 yards on 12 carries to lead the running attack.

At the quarterback spot, sophomores Steven Bench and Tyler Ferguson took the bulk of the reps under center. Bench finished with 99 yards on 9-for-15 passing. He connected with a diving Jesse James on a 27-yard touchdown in the second quarter. Ferguson finished 9-for-15 with two touchdown passes and 90 yards.

* Spring Developments: Penn State enters the second of four seasons under NCAA sanctions, including scholarship restrictions and a postseason ban. McGloin’s departure leaves a void at the quarterback spot. Bench and Ferguson competed this spring, but Bench announced after the spring game he would pursue a transfer.

That seems to indicate that highly touted incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg, who will arrive in June, is the odds-on favorite to be the starter.

“We will integrate him right in there,” said PSU coach Bill O’Brien. “Only one quarterback can play at a time. When training camp starts we have to get Christian some reps and let him get in there and compete and see how that goes. We are a long way off from that but it is a decision that has to be made at some point and time.”

Robinson and Carter were each selected as first-team All-Big Ten picks on offense. Urschel, a first-team All-Big Ten pick, also returns to lead the offensive line.

On defense, secondary coach John Butler was promoted by O’Brien as the new defensive coordinator. Mike Hull filled in when Mauti went down with a late-season injury. He will be counted upon to step up. Carson should provide some stability in the middle with Nyeem Wartman taking a spot as well.

* 2013 Schedule: Aug. 31, vs. Syracuse (at Met Life Stadium; East Rutherford, N.J.); Sept. 7, Eastern Michigan; Sept. 14, Central Florida; Sept. 21, Kent State; Oct. 5, at Indiana; Oct. 12, Michigan, 5 p.m. (ESPN or ESPN2); Oct. 26, at Ohio State, 8 p.m. (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2); Nov. 2, Illinois; Nov. 9, at Minnesota; Nov. 16, Purdue; Nov. 23, Nebraska; Nov. 30, at Wisconsin.

* Helwagen Says: You have to have tremendous respect for the way O’Brien took on the challenge at Penn State and just went to work last year. Then, for Penn State to open 0-2, things could have gotten even rougher. But he and his staff righted the ship and Penn State was very respectable the rest of the way.

This is going to be an uphill battle in the years to come until Penn State can put the sanctions in the rear view mirror. But there is an air positivity again in Happy Valley. There has to be great optimism as well to see if the freshman Hackenberg can be the answer going forward at quarterback.

The opener against Syracuse at MetLife Stadium will be interesting. Penn State hosts Michigan and Nebraska in crossover games, but must visit Ohio State and Wisconsin in division games. I think eight wins is well within reach – provided Ferguson or Hackenberg can solidify that quarterback spot. If the offense sputters, the verdict just as easily be 6-6.

Purdue

* 2012 Record, Bowl: 6-7 overall, 3-5 Big Ten Leaders (fourth); lost to Oklahoma State 58-14 in the Heart of Dallas Bowl.

* Starters Lost (8): Offense (5): WR Antavian Edison, LG Peters Drey, C Rick Schmeig, QB Caleb TerBush, RB Akeem Shavers; Defense (3): DT Kawaan Short, SLB Robert Maci, CB Josh Johnson; Specialists (0): None.

* Returning Starters (16): Offense (6): WR O.J. Ross, LT Justin Kitchens, RG Devin Smith, RT Trevor Foy, TE Gabe Holmes, WR Gary Bush; Defense (8): DE Ryan Russell, DT Bruce Gaston, DE Ryan Isaac, WLB Will Lucas, MLB Joe Gilliam, CB Ricardo Allen, SS Landon Feichter, FS Taylor Richards; Specialists (2): P Cody Webster, K Paul Griggs.

* Spring Game Recap (April 13): Akeem Hunt scored on a 15-yard rush and Rob Henry connected with Shane Mikesky on a touchdown reception for Team Black in a 14-0 shutout of Team Gold in the spring game before 6,427 at Ross Ade Stadium.

Hunt, who finished the game with 134 yards rushing on 19 carries, capped off an eight-play drive to open the scoring as time expired in the first quarter to stake Team Black to a 7-0 lead. Henry then found Mikesky from eight yards out with 7:20 left in the second quarter.

Henry finished the game 6 for 9 for 75 yards with the touchdown throw. Team Black teammate Danny Etling was 5 of 7 for 54 yards and one interception in his first action as a Boilermaker. Gold Team quarterback Austin Appleby completed 6 of 18 passing attempts for 52 yards with one interception.

* Spring Developments: Darrell Hazell, fresh off a huge season at Kent State, swooped in as the new Purdue coach in January. This spring was a bit of a learning curve for the Boilers working for a new staff.

“Anytime you put in three different schemes, there's a little bit of a learning curve for the first couple weeks," Hazell said. "You could see guys start to really get comfortable the last five or six practices."

The quarterback battle seems to be the most interesting with Henry, a former starter who dealt with injuries the last couple of years, and true freshman Etling fighting in out. Redshirt freshman Austin Appleby could get in the mix as well. Etling might get the call because he gives the offense more options.

Former walk-on Dolapo Macarthy looks to be a huge part of the offense with his combination of size and speed. Hunt should be a solid asset as well at running back after his big showing this spring.

Redshirt freshman offensive lineman Jordan Roos was named most improved on offense. Sophomore defensive tackle Ryan Watson was named most improved on defense.

Redshirt sophomore Robert Kugler will be the anchor the offensive line despite four seniors returning. Junior defensive end Ryan Russell was the number one pick for the spring game, where the seniors picked underclassmen to be on their respective squads. Both won the "Pitbull Award" for "sustained tenacity and intense play throughout spring practices."

No major injuries when considering playing time this fall. A few returning starters, especially on defense, sat out most of spring practice due to injuries like Feichter, Allen, Isaac, Gaston and linebacker Sean Robinson.

* 2013 Schedule: Aug. 31, at Cincinnati; Sept. 7, Indiana State; Sept. 14, Notre Dame, 8 p.m. (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2); Sept. 21, at Wisconsin; Sept. 28, Northern Illinois; Oct. 12, Nebraska; Oct. 19, at Michigan State; Nov. 2, Ohio State; Nov. 9, Iowa; Nov. 16, at Penn State; Nov. 23, Illinois; Nov. 30, at Indiana.

* Helwagen Says: I got to know Hazell very well during his recent stint as an assistant for Jim Tressel at Ohio State. What he did at Kent State -- where the Golden Flashes had just one winning season since 1987 – was nothing short of a miracle. Hazell deserves this opportunity to try and build a winner in the Big Ten. He is going to run a tight ship at Purdue.

Danny Hope lost the Purdue faithful as his teams were blown out four teams in the middle of last season. The Boilers rallied with three wins to get bowl-eligible, but the damage had been done. This first year may be difficult for Hazell and the key will be for him to get players to fit his system to want to play at West Lafayette.

The nonconference is difficult with a trip to Cincinnati and a home game with Notre Dame. Crossover games against Nebraska and Iowa at home and at Michigan State will also be tough. My initial thought is that five wins could be the high water mark. A bowl bid of any sort would have to be viewed as a great debut season.

Wisconsin

* 2012 Record, Bowl: 8-6 overall, 4-4 Big Ten Leaders (third in division, but played in and won Big Ten championship game); lost to Stanford 20-14 in Rose Bowl.

* Starters Lost (8): Offense (3): RB Montee Ball, LT Rick Wagner, C Travis Frederick (left early for NFL); Defense (5): DE David Gilbert (career cut short by foot injury), WLB Mike Taylor, CB Marcus Cromartie, SS Shelton Johnson, CB Devin Smith; Specialists (0): None.

* Returning Starters (17): Offense (9): QB Joel Stave, FB Derek Watt, WR Jared Abbrederis, WR Jordan Fredrick, WR Kenzel Doe, TE Jacob Pedersen, LG Ryan Groy, RG Kyle Costigan, RT Rob Haverstein; Defense (6): DT Beau Allen, DT Ethan Hemer, DE Tyler Dippel, SLB Ethan Armstrong, MLB Chris Borland, FS Dezmen Southward; Specialists (2): P Drew Meyer, K Kyle French.

* Spring Game Recap (April 20): The Cardinal team, composed of Wisconsin's defensive unit, forced their offensive counterparts on the White squad to go three-and-out on three straight possessions around halftime, a swing that -- given the game's unique scoring system -- proved to be the difference in a 61-47 win in front of 12,050 fans at Camp Randall Stadium.

A pair of sacks by DL Pat Muldoon and DB Joe Schobert late in the fourth put things out of reach for the White squad.

Melvin Gordon had 17 carries for 74 yards and a touchdown. QB Curt Phillips was 8 of 13 passing for 82 yards, while Stave was 15 of 20 passing for 161 yards and a score. Doe was the leading receiver with eight catches for 93 yards.

* Spring Developments: Bret Bielema, literally a day or two after leading Wisconsin to an upset of Nebraska in the Big Ten title game, bolted to become the new head coach at Arkansas. Barry Alvarez, the former coach and athletic director, took over for the Rose Bowl and, most importantly, convinced Utah State’s Gary Andersen to make the jump to Madison.

The focus much of the spring was on settling the quarterback issue. Maryland transfer Danny O’Brien opened the year before Stave, then a redshirt freshman, supplanted him. Stave started six games before going down with an injury. Phillips, approved for a sixth year of eligibility in 2013, started the last five games. The battle seems to have boiled down to Stave and Phillips as spring wound down, although JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy will arrive this summer.

“The way they’ve separated themselves is simply production,” Andersen said. “They know exactly where they sit and so does the rest of the team.”

Ball’s running back spot will fall to senior James White and sophomore Melvin Gordon. Abbrederis, Doe, Pedersen and Fredrick all return in the passing game.

New defensive coordinator Dave Aranda showed a lot of pressure as he installed a 3-4 defense. Early enrolling freshman Sojourn Shelton pushed for early playing time at cornerback.

Wisconsin was third in the Big Ten in scoring and total defense last year. But the Badgers lost three of four starters in the secondary, including Smith and Cromartie at corner. Taylor, a prolific tackler at linebacker, is also gone but Borland and Armstrong should lead that unit. Three returning seniors are back as starters up front to set the tone, led by Allen. But Gilbert’s departure due to a foot injury hurts.

Andersen liked what he saw of the defense this spring.

“I think they have competed day in and day out,” he said. “They’re moving to more man coverage, moving to playing dog coverage and blitzing sometimes. It doesn't sound like a lot, but it's a lot to put on a kid's plate. They've got better every single day."

* 2013 Schedule: Aug. 31, Massachusetts; Sept. 7, Tennessee Tech; Sept. 14, at Arizona State; Sept. 21, Purdue; Sept. 28, at Ohio State, 8 p.m. (ABC, ESPN or ESPN2); Oct. 12, Northwestern; Oct. 19, at Illinois; Nov. 2, at Iowa; Nov. 9, BYU; Nov. 16, Indiana; Nov. 23, at Minnesota; Nov. 30, Penn State.

* Helwagen Says: Wisconsin has been to three straight Rose Bowls and will be shooting for a school-record fourth straight Big Ten title in 2013. The Badgers will be without the prolific Ball at running back and a pair of All-Big Ten offensive linemen in Wagner and Frederick.

Andersen is a pretty good college football coach and, just as Bielema carried on after Alvarez retired as the coach, it is now on him to keep the Badgers in the hunt on an annual basis.

The nonconference slate includes a trip to Arizona State and a home game with BYU. UW does not play Nebraska, Michigan or Michigan State, which is pretty favorable. But, more than likely, the Leaders Division title could come down to the Sept. 28 night game at Ohio State. Wisconsin, honestly, could win 10 games if everything clicks in. But that game in Columbus is the one Andersen – a former Urban Meyer assistant – will want to win the most.

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