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Big Ten Leaders: Spring Preview

On Friday, we published our spring preview for the Big Ten Legends Division.

Top 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 preview for the six schools in the Big Ten Leaders Division.

In mid-January, we released our Early Top 25 for 2013 in college football.

From the Big Ten, we had five teams in the top 25 – Ohio State at No. 2, Nebraska 17th, Wisconsin 20th, Michigan 21st and Northwestern 24th. Michigan State was also listed in our next 25 teams to watch.

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.

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

Illinois

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

* Spring Dates: Practice starts, Tuesday; Spring game, April 12.

* 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.

* New This Spring: Coming off a rough first year with the Illini, coach Tim Beckman was looking for some immediate help. He added 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.

Beckman also hired five new assistants, including offensive coordinator Bill Cubit (former head coach at Western Michigan), defensive line coach Greg Colby (a former Illinois player and assistant) and outside linebackers coach Al Seamonson. He also elevated former Illinois star Mike Bellamy from an administrative role to wide receivers coach.

* Spring Headlines: There is no shortage of work to do in Champaign after the Illini endured nine double-digit losses among their 10 defeats. Illinois was 12th in the Big Ten in scoring and total offense and 10th in total defense last year.

The Illini lost two starters on the offensive line and three of them on the defensive line, so there will be a lot of experimentation in the trenches this spring. Scheelhaase returns for his fourth year as the starting quarterback, although the staff will be looking for more consistency from him and the offense. Perhaps backup Reilly O’Toole will make a move.

Ferguson and Donovonn Young could form a nice tandem at running back. Millines, second on the team in catches last year, will miss the spring due to suspension. Safety Steve Hull has moved over to receiver.

The good news on defense was Brown deciding to stay in school after considering an NFL jump. He will be held out of contact drills this spring, however. Monheim was also a great contributor at linebacker last year as a freshman. The rest of the spots, though, would be pretty wide open this spring.

* 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.

Indiana

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

* Spring Dates: Practice started, Saturday; Spring game, April 13.

* Starters Lost (3): Offense (1): C Will Matte; Defense (2): DT Larry Black, DT Adam Replogle, S Drew Hardin; 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 (8): DE Ryan Phillis, DE Zack Shaw, SLB Jacarri Alexander, MLB David Cooper, WLB Griffen Dahlstrom, CB Greg Heban, S Mark Murphy, CB Brian Williams; Specialists (2): K Mitch Ewald, P Erich Toth.

* New This Spring: Indiana coach Kevin Wilson hired James Patton to replace Mark Hagen, who was the defensive tackles coach and special teams coordinator. Patton is the STC, but he was named as the assistant defensive line coach. Jon Fabris was made the full defensive line coach. Indiana will also hire a new linebackers coach after Mike Ekeler left for USC.

The staff welcomed in several early enrollees, including MLB T.J. Simmons from Florida and a pair of JUCO transfers in DT Jordan Heiderman and LB Steven Funderburk from Iowa Western.

* Spring Headlines: Indiana rotated quarterbacks last season with Tre Roberson opening the year. After he suffered a broken leg, Coffman and Nate Sudfeld split time and, through it all, the Hoosiers generally had no problem scoring points. IU was second in the conference in total offense last season. Roberson is back to full-go and those three will compete for the starting job beginning this spring.

Latimer, a second-team All-Big Ten pick last year, returns at receiver. Wynn, Hughes, Houston and Bolser add more playmakers on the offensive side of the ball.

The biggest issue here was on defense, where IU was 12th in the Big Ten in yards and points allowed in 2012. IU loses two key contributors in Black and Replogle. The Hoosiers started six sophomores and a freshman on defense last year, so the staff will be looking for that group to grow up (and play much better) in 2013. Cooper could become a leader at the linebacker spot.

* 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.

Ohio State

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

* Spring Dates: Practice starts, Tuesday; Spring game, April 13.

* 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.

* New This Spring: OSU coach Urban Meyer retained his entire staff from last season. The Buckeyes have five early enrolling high school players in CB Cam Burrows, CB Eli Apple, DL Tracy Sprinkle, DL Tyjuan Lewis and QB J.T. Barrett. Barrett is rehabbing a knee injury and will not be full-go.

* Spring Headlines: 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 (and maybe more than that) in 2013.

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.

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. The Buckeyes need four new starters up front, although there are some young and promising candidates. Roby, who had some All-American honors last year, considered an NFL jump but decided to return.

The OSU defense played much better down the stretch in 2012. But a lot of young guys would need to step up to keep up those standards. OSU must also find a punter after verbal Johnny Townsend de-committed and signed instead with Florida.

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

Penn State

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

* Spring Dates: Practice starts, March 18; Spring game, April 20.

* 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.

* New This Spring: Defensive coordinator Ted Roof left and took the DC job at his alma mater, Georgia Tech. DBs coach John Butler was promoted by head coach Bill O’Brien to defensive coordinator. Penn State hired former Georgia State defensive coordinator Anthony Midget as its safeties coach.

Early enrollees include TE Adam Breneman, RB/WR Richy Anderson, DB Anthony Smith, DB Jordan Smith and JUCO transfer QB Tyler Ferguson.

* Spring Headlines: Penn State dealt with its NCAA sanctions and came away with an eight-win season in O’Brien’s first year in State College. But the postseason ban will continue for three more years. Scholarship limitations are also looming beginning in 2014. Rumors were rampant that O’Brien might consider a jump back to the NFL, but he is staying put.

McGloin’s departure will create a competition at quarterback this spring with Ferguson and sophomore Steven Bench going toe-to-toe. Highly touted signee Christian Hackenberg will join the competition in the fall.

Robinson and Carter were each selected as first-team All-Big Ten picks on offense. Breneman and redshirt freshman Eugene Lewis will also join the fray this spring. Urschel, a first-team All-Big Ten pick, also returns to lead the offensive line.

On defense, 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.

* 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; Oct. 26, at Ohio State; Nov. 2, Illinois; Nov. 9, at Minnesota; Nov. 16, Purdue; Nov. 23, Nebraska; Nov. 30, at Wisconsin.

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.

* Spring Dates: Practice starts, March 18; Spring game, April 12.

* 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.

* New This Spring: Former Kent State head coach and Ohio State assistant Darrell Hazell takes over for Danny Hope as the Boilers’ new head coach. Hazell hired Greg Hudson as his defensive coordinator and John Shoop to coach quarterbacks and coordinate the offense.

Purdue has three early enrollees in quarterback Danny Etling, defensive end John Strauser and running back David Yancey.

* Spring Headlines: Hazell worked a near miracle at Kent State, where they had only one winning season since 1987 before his team went 11-3 and played for the MAC title in 2012. Now he moves up to the Big Ten, where he was an assistant for Jim Tressel at OSU for seven years.

Job One will be to identify the new starting quarterback. Senior Rob Henry, hampered by injuries, will be in the mix as well as redshirt freshmen Austin Appleby and Bilal Marshall and the early enrolling freshman Etling. Ross, one of the team’s top returning receivers, will be out this spring after he was suspended indefinitely.

Purdue was 11th in the Big Ten in total defense last year. Short was a key playmaker up front. The Boilers need Gaston to lead that group and for Lucas and Gilliam to step up at linebacker. Allen, a second-team All-Big Ten pick last year, keys the secondary.

* 2013 Schedule: Aug. 31, at Cincinnati; Sept. 7, Indiana State; Sept. 14, Notre Dame; 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.

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.

* Spring Dates: Practice starts, March 9; Spring game, April 20.

* Starters Lost (7): Offense (3): RB Montee Ball, LT Rick Wagner, C Travis Frederick (left early for NFL); Defense (4): WLB Mike Taylor, CB Marcus Cromartie, SS Shelton Johnson, CB Devin Smith; Specialists (0): None.

* Returning Starters (18): 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 (7): DE David Gilbert, 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.

* New This Spring: Days after leading Wisconsin to a third straight Big Ten title and second consecutive conference championship game win, Bret Bielema stunned AD Barry Alvarez and all of Badger Nation by taking the head coaching job at Arkansas. But Alvarez did well by hiring Utah State’s Gary Andersen, who won big with the Aggies.

Andersen retained two of Bielema’s assistants in Thomas Hammock (assistant head coach/running backs) and Ben Strickland (secondary). He hired Dave Aranda as the defensive coordinator and Andy Ludwig as the offensive coordinator. He was stung this week as newly hired Jay Boulware (special teams/tight ends) bolted for a similar job at Oklahoma.

Early enrolling freshmen in for spring drills include CBs Sojourn Shelton and Keelon Brookins.

* Spring Headlines: 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.

The big battle will be at quarterback. 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. Curt Phillips, approved for a sixth year of eligibility in 2013, started the last five games. Those three will all be in the running as well as redshirt freshman Bart Houston. Talented JUCO transfer Tanner McEvoy will arrive in the summer.

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

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. Four returning seniors are back as starters up front to set the tone, led by Allen and Gilbert.

* 2013 Schedule: Aug. 31, Massachusetts; Sept. 7, Tennessee Tech; Sept. 14, at Arizona State; Sept. 21, Purdue; Sept. 28, at Ohio State; 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.

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