Big Ten: Indiana Hoosiers

Video: Indiana QB Tre Roberson

April, 17, 2014
Apr 17
10:30
AM ET
video

Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson talks about the Hoosiers' offense this spring and the continuing QB battle with Nate Sudfeld.

Big Ten Wednesday mailbag

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
5:00
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It's Wednesday. There's nothing good on TV (except for this). It's mailbag business time.

Ed from State of Rutgers writes: How would you rank B1G head coaches on the hot seat in 2014? Which assistants are in the best position for a head coaching job after this season?

Brian Bennett: Thanks for the question, Ed, and welcome to Big Ten country. We didn't see a single head coach get fired in the Big Ten last season, which was good news. But the way these things go, odds are the league won't make it two years in a row without any pink slips.

Let's answer your question by looking at this in tiers. Tier 1 includes the coaches who absolutely won't get fired this season unless there's some sort of unforeseen major scandal: Ohio State's Urban Meyer, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio, Penn State's James Franklin, Minnesota's Jerry Kill, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald, Wisconsin's Gary Andersen and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz.

[+] EnlargeKyle Flood
AP Photo/John RaouxKyle Flood could face a difficult first season in the Big Ten, but it might not be enough to cost him his job.
Tier 2 would be the guys who are most likely safe but who could feel some rising temperatures if the season goes awry. That would include: Indiana's Kevin Wilson, who seems to have the Hoosiers on an uptick but who needs to get the team to a bowl soon; Purdue's Darrell Hazell, who almost certainly won't get canned after just two years but can't afford another season as awful as last season's 1-11 debacle; and Michigan's Brady Hoke, who isn't on the hot seat now but who would definitely feel the wrath of fans and boosters if the Wolverines have another 7-5 type year and lose to Ohio State.

Tier 3 covers the coaches actually feeling some heat under their chairs. Let's evaluate them individually:

  • Tim Beckman, Illinois: This should come as no surprise. The Illini showed improvement last season, but Beckman is still just 6-18 and has seen fan support fall off a cliff. Anything less than a bowl game in 2014 could make things really dicey.
  • Bo Pelini, Nebraska: This is a well-documented situation, and many people were surprised Pelini wasn't fired at the end of last season, though athletics director Shawn Eichorst remains hard to read. The good news is that Pelini could have a very good team in Lincoln this year, and he sure doesn't appear to be sweating things this spring.
  • Kyle Flood, Rutgers: He went 9-4 his first season as head coach but just 6-7 with a dismal finish last season. He also has a new boss in town, and the Scarlet Knights will face a very difficult schedule in Year 1 in the Big Ten. He's only making $900,000, so a change wouldn't be too financially painful. The question is whether embattled new athletic director Julie Hermann has enough juice right now to make that call.
  • Randy Edsall, Maryland: This is the toughest call of the tier, as Edsall might have bought himself some time with last season's winning record and has had to deal with injuries to many star players. Yet he's still just 13-24 after three seasons, and life in the Big Ten might not be easy for the Terps. A losing record in 2014 would make things very uncomfortable in College Park.

George K. from Pittsburgh: Brian, I'm disappointed in what you wrote about Joe Paterno winning [the Big Ten coaches' tournament]. There was way too much conjecture in what you said. Please think about it. Then issue a factual restatement, please.

Scott R. from Chadron, Neb., writes: Pretty sure there was voter fraud on that Osborne/Paterno matchup. Am I the only one who noticed there were as many international votes as domestic? And that those international votes were 87% for Paterno? Every other poll on ESPN.com is about 75% domestic, 25% foreign. This one was 50/50, and the international vote was OVERWHELMINGLY for Paterno. Seems a little suspicious.

Brian Bennett: File this one under "You Can't Please Everybody, Vol. 734." For the past two weeks, my mailbag was full of comments like Scott's, claiming some sort of voter fraud as Paterno got a huge international vote against both Tom Osborne and Woody Hayes. I have neither the technical expertise nor the time to figure out whether there was some sort of computer tomfoolery going on. But you'd have to be really naive not to raise an eyebrow at the fact that more than half the votes (17,000-plus) in the title matchup came from outside the United States and that those votes were wildly in favor of Paterno. Maybe there's a simple explanation why so many non-U.S. residents care about Big Ten football -- Italians for JoePa, perhaps?

The bottom line is that we placed no rules on this tournament, other than the most votes wins. If someone was ingenious enough to rig it, more power to them. Paterno certainly had the résumé and accomplishments that were deserving on their own. I had no personal stake in the outcome, and I found it to be a fun exercise to go along with March Madness. I hope everyone enjoyed it.


Andrew from Columbus, Ohio, writes: While it is still possible that Ohio State-Michigan State could be a night game, what prevented it from being in the first batch of announced games? Since it would feature the two most compelling teams in the league from last year, it seems to me that it would be the marquee matchup the B1G has been looking to highlight.

Brian Bennett: Andrew, I can't say I understand all the intricacies here at play, either, except that there are apparently some other details to iron out. That game still seems like a natural choice for a prime-time selection. It's still only mid-April. Stay tuned ...


Mike K. from Penn State writes: With Penn State losing Allen Robinson and Brandon Felder at the WR position, along with some great O-linemen to the draft, do you think the team can still succeed in the Big Ten solely based on defense?

Brian Bennett: I have great respect for what Bob Shoop and his staff accomplished at Vanderbilt and expect him to do a great job as the Nittany Lions' defensive coordinator. From what I saw last year, however, I don't think there's enough top-shelf talent on that defense for Penn State to pull a Michigan State and simply dominate everyone on defense. At least not at a championship level. I don't worry as much about the receiving group, because I think with Geno Lewis, some of the talented freshmen and those tight ends, they can piece together people for Christian Hackenberg to target. My biggest concern is the offensive line, which is thin and has some troubling injuries. It's nearly impossible to win at a high level in the Big Ten without a decent offensive line.


Tommy from Savannah, Ga., writes: March Madness is one of the greatest times of the year, most people live for it. Why wouldn't the NCAA FBS decision makers want something like that with those ratings over the course of a few weeks? Definitely not 68 teams, but eight or 16 teams with a selection show, bracket challenge, Cinderellas, and endless coverage and hype. They already do it for FCS.

Brian Bennett: You'll find no bigger NCAA tournament fan than me, Tommy, and my wife is really happy it's over so she can see me again. Still, it's hard to compare the sports. Football simply is a much more physical game, and so adding more games to the schedule becomes problematic, along with the logistical problems caused by Christmas break and the semester changes. I do believe we will eventually have an eight-team tournament, with the five power conference champions getting an automatic berth along with the top champion of the other leagues plus two wild cards. That's a perfect setup. But it took us decades just to get to a four-team playoff, and that semifinal day on Jan. 1 (most years) will instantly become one of the best days on the sports calendar.

Besides, I could argue college football already has March Madness all fall long, and the ratings reflect that. Before the Final Four began, the NCAA tournament averaged a reported 9.8 million viewers, which was a big increase. By contrast, the Big Ten championship game drew 11.6 million viewers, while the Auburn-Alabama game attracted 13.8 million. The men's basketball final (aired on network TV) between UConn and Kentucky got 21.2 million viewers, compared to 25.6 million for the BCS title game (aired on ESPN) between Florida State and Auburn. We could see record ratings for the inaugural rounds of the College Football Playoff.

Big Ten lunch links

April, 16, 2014
Apr 16
12:00
PM ET
Is this heaven? Nope, still Iowa. But happy to be back.

Big Ten's lunch links

April, 15, 2014
Apr 15
12:00
PM ET
Heading to Hawkeye Country later today. Any recommendations?
video
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- Quick trivia question: Which Big Ten receiver had the most touchdowns last season?

You might have said Penn State's Allen Robinson or Nebraska's Quincy Enunwa, and those would be fine guesses. Only those paying particularly close attention would know the correct answer: Indiana's Shane Wynn.

[+] EnlargeShane Wynn
AJ Mast/Icon SMIWherever Indiana lines up receiver Shane Wynn is a potential win for the Hoosiers.
Wynn scored 13 touchdowns in 2013 -- 11 of them receiving, one rushing (on a swing pass that turned into a lateral) and one on a kick return. If you didn't know that, don't feel bad. The Hoosiers senior has been overlooked -- both figuratively and literally -- most of his career.

But that might be about to change.

Indiana lost Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes and Ted Bolser from arguably the league's top set of pass-catching targets a year ago. That leaves Wynn as the most experienced receiver on the team and one who could develop into a true go-to option.

"I think he's one of the better players in our league," IU coach Kevin Wilson told ESPN.com.

In part because of Wynn's playmaking abilities, and in part because of the lack of experience elsewhere, Wilson shifted Wynn from his normal inside slot position to outside receiver this spring. That was an unconventional move, because Wynn is listed at just 5-foot-7 and 167 pounds.

Wynn admitted that the change has been frustrating at times this offseason.

"I've been in the slot here for three years," he said. "It's just a whole different world. When you're inside for that long, you know everything that goes on, every coverage. Then you go outside, and it's like opening a new book.

"It can only help me in the long run, though."

Wilson has had Wynn work exclusively on the edge all spring but says that might not be where he always lines up this fall.

"Right now, we're doing it totally because he's been inside the whole time," Wilson said. "I think when push comes to shove, he'll be all over the field. We need him to be one of our guys."

Wynn might not fit the mold of a wideout, but then again Jeremy Gallon had lots of success for Michigan at a listed 5-8. Wynn also pointed to Oklahoma's Jalen Saunders and Duke's Jamison Crowder (both listed at 5-9) as examples of shorter receivers who have thrived.

"I feel like nobody can check me," he said. "With all the work I've been doing since I was 8 years old, I feel like I can do everything.

"You can't teach speed. Once you've got that and know how to use it, you're lethal."

Speed is never in question for Wynn, who is one of the quickest players in the Big Ten. That's why he has been able to produce big plays like his 68-yard touchdown vs. Missouri or his punt return score in the opener against Indiana State a year ago. Lining him up outside just means more space for him to use his speed.

"He's fast as a bullet," Hoosiers cornerback Tim Bennett said. "He runs pretty good routes and he's not afraid to go and get the ball, even at his height. He has great hands as well."

Nor does Wynn lack for confidence. Few Indiana players talk more junk to defensive teammates than him. At the end of a recent practice, he was still yelling stuff to the linebackers across the field as he prepared for an interview. Wynn promised to brag for days about how the team he helped draft for Saturday's spring game came out on top.

"There are a few guys who ain't gotta turn it on," Wilson said. "He's got it cut on every time he walks in the building."

Indiana plans to cut Wynn loose on the field this season, wherever he lines up. It might prove difficult to overlook him any longer.

Spring game recap: Indiana

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
9:30
AM ET
We're recapping all the spring game action from over the weekend today. Next up: Indiana.

The Cream team beat the Crimson 24-14 before a crowd of 9,200 at sunny Memorial Stadium. You can find coverage of the game here, here and here.

Star of the game: Wide receiver Shane Wynn had five catches for 141 yards and one touchdown.

How it went down: Wynn took some grief for his choices and deliberation during Friday's player draft but delivered a big game that included catches of 60 and 56 yards, plus a 16-yard touchdown, all from Tre Roberson.

"I always trust Shane,” Roberson said. “We talk before when we’re on the sideline. If he knows he can go deep, we’ll just look at each other. We’ll send him deep, and I’ll throw the ball as far as I can. He’s so fast. You can’t really out-throw him.”

Looking for some clarity on who the starting QB might be? Don't bother. Head coach Kevin Wilson is fine with playing two guys, and there's little to separate the duo of Roberson and Nate Sudfeld. Roberson went 10-of-22 for 176 yards and an interception and also had a 65-yard scoring run, while Sudfeld was 29-of-40 for 273 yards with one score and two picks.

"We better manage the quarterback deal good," Wilson said. "That's my job. And I attack it in a positive way with those guys.”

Star tailback Tevin Coleman took only three carries but gained 61 yards. Anthony Davis added 41 yards on five carries with a 30-yard score, and Myles Graham had two touchdown runs.

The Cream team averaged better than nine yards per carry, which is not a great sign for the defense. But the Hoosiers like the progress on that side of the ball. Defensive tackle Nate Hoff led all defenders with seven tackles, plus a sack, while sophomore corner Rashard Fant had six tackles, an interception and a pass breakup. They're both backups, and Indiana is hopeful that more depth and competition will lead to a better overall defense this season.

“I’ve been coaching at a lot of different places, and this is as physical a spring as I’ve ever been a part of, as far as just the fundamentals of teaching guys to get off blocks,” new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr said.

Spring game preview: Indiana

April, 11, 2014
Apr 11
1:00
PM ET
Ten league squads wrap up spring practice this weekend, and we’re taking a look at each spring game or scrimmage. Next up: Indiana.

When: 3 p.m. ET Saturday

Where: Memorial Stadium

Admission: Free. Fans are asked to enter the East side of the stadium and to sit in the East stands. Gates 4, 5 and 6 will be open. There will be a youth clinic from 1:30 to 2:30 p.m. for kids 12 and a pre-game tailgate party from 1:30 to 2:45 p.m., with free food for the first 3,000 fans in attendance or while supplies last.

TV: Streamed live on BTN2Go.com.

Weather forecast: Mostly sunny, with a high near 76.

What to watch for: Coach Kevin Wilson will have the seniors draft teams this afternoon, though he said some players could end up playing for both the Crimson and Cream squads at times. This won't actually be the end of Indiana's spring session, as the Hoosiers will have one more practice next week.

IU has the kind of explosive offense that can make the spring game fun, and since Nate Sudfeld and Tre Roberson still are virtually even, both teams in the game are guaranteed to have a good quarterback. Wilson is looking for some wide receivers to step forward and replace the production of departed top targets Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes and Ted Bolser. Shane Wynn has moved from slot to the outside this spring and will be one of the go-to guys, but most everyone else is unproven and still needs to learn how to make the tough, competitive catches. The tight end position has been hampered by injuries this spring.

But scoring and moving the ball shouldn't be a problem for the Hoosiers. Fans want to know if the defense, which has struggled mightily for three years under Wilson, has made any strides. There's a new boss on that side of the ball in Brian Knorr, who will use a 3-4 base that incorporates several different looks and fronts. Ten starters are back on defense, though safeties Mark Murphy and Antonio Allen have been held out of contact work this spring, creating reps for youngsters there. The Indiana defense has some beef up front and improving group of linebackers, but it still has a whole lot to prove.

That's why this is one instance where a low-scoring spring game might actually provide some optimism, because if the Hoosiers can stop their own offense, that's saying something.

Video: Indiana DC Brian Knorr

April, 10, 2014
Apr 10
5:00
PM ET
video
ESPN.com's Brian Bennett talks to new Indiana defensive coordinator Brian Knorr about the Hoosiers' progress on that side of the ball this spring.
Head coaches from the Big Ten East Division, along with a player from each team, addressed the media this afternoon on teleconferences. The West Division players and coaches spoke Wednesday.

Here's a closer look at the East:

INDIANA
  • Defense has been a lingering Indiana concern for years, but coach Kevin Wilson believes he's starting to see a change, thanks to new defensive coordinator Brian Knorr. The scheme hasn't changed radically, but the Hoosiers return 10 starters there -- and Wilson's seen a promising spring so far with an added focus on competition and communication: "They've for sure held their own on a daily basis -- and, in some ways, probably even better -- against the offense."
  • Wilson believes teams need to invest scholarships into the kicking game, but he thinks it's also too risky to offer recruits straight out of high school. If you look at the NCAA's top 25 kickers, Wilson estimated at least 15 started out as walk-ons. So he's hoping to find some walk-ons who are willing to work for a scholarship, rather than be granted one right away.
  • At 5-foot-7, Shane Wynn is the Hoosiers' leading returning receiver, and he's transitioning to playing the outside. It's been a little different for Wynn, who said he's had to watch more film as a result. He's reading the corners now, instead of the safeties, as just one example.
MARYLAND
  • Maryland coach Randy Edsall is confident in his offense and believes the Terrapins have enough options so that opponents can't focus on just one person. If defenses lock on to wideout Stefon Diggs, then quarterback C.J. Brown can take off running or receiver Deon Long can pick up some slack. "The No. 1 thing I do like," Edsall said, "is we can spread the field."
  • Maryland's staff has already started looking at film of Big Ten teams, so they know what to expect when the conference season begins. Edsall said he wants to at least get a feel for their personnel and what kind of schemes he'll face. He's also confident the Terps will be ready: "We fully expect to be able to compete when we get into the Big Ten this year."
  • Brown said one of the main reasons he committed to Maryland was the coach who recruited him at the time, former Terps assistant and current Penn State coach James Franklin. He's looking forward to squaring off against Franklin this season, and Edsall said there's no question he would like to develop a rivalry with the Nittany Lions.
MICHIGAN
  • The quarterback derby will continue, and Brady Hoke included all three of his options in the discussion heading into the offseason. The Wolverines coach did acknowledge, though, that Devin Gardner “probably would be” the starter if there was a game on the schedule this weekend. There isn’t, so Shane Morris and Wilton Speight will continue to be in the conversation.
  • The first opponent on the schedule will always stir emotions for Michigan fans, but Hoke didn’t attach any revenge or sentimentality to his reasons for wanting to take on Appalachian State in the opener this fall. “We needed a game,” Hoke said. “I thought it would be a good game.” Defensive end Frank Clark was certainly aware of the history between the programs, even though he was still years away from joining Michigan and getting a shot at making up for the upset loss in 2007 -- which he called “shocking” and “shows how hard those guys play.”
MICHIGAN STATE
  • Michigan State is coming off a Rose Bowl victory, but coach Mark Dantonio and quarterback Connor Cook would prefer not to think about that any longer. Dantonio said they've talked a lot these last four months about not growing complacent, and Cook only echoed his coach. "A lot of people keep bringing up the Rose Bowl," Cook said. "But we're past that. We're focusing on the now."
  • The offensive line has made some big strides since January, at least according to Cook. He felt like he had no time in the pocket last spring and said the pass rush was getting to him every time. This spring? He doesn't feel rushed in the pocket, and he thinks that's pretty indicative of how far this line has come.
  • Jeremy Langford earned a lot of praise from Cook, who said the running back has become a much bigger part of the passing attack. "He's improved a lot with catching the ball," Cook said, complimenting Langford's versatility. "He's done so many different things for us."
OHIO STATE
  • There is still work to be done in addressing the most glaring weakness on the team last season, but Urban Meyer called Ohio State’s pass defense “drastically improved” and will be watching closely for more signs of progress in Saturday’s spring game. The Buckeyes will play a traditional game, but the emphasis will be on throwing the football and assessing the skill players on both offense and defense -- giving Meyer a chance to evaluate backup quarterback Cardale Jones in a live setting in addition to checking out the secondary.
  • Arguably the strongest part of last season's team is undergoing a transition without four senior starters, and the offensive line is somewhat of a concern for Meyer heading into the offseason. With guard Pat Elflein the only other player to have earned a first-team slot to play alongside junior Taylor Decker at this point, that competition is likely to spill over into preseason camp in August. Both tackle Darryl Baldwin and guard Antonio Underwood were praised for their work by defensive tackle Michael Bennett, and Billy Price and Jacoby Boren are dueling at center.
PENN STATE
  • Franklin said he knew exactly what he was getting into at Penn State, in terms of the current depth and sanctions. He and former coach Bill O'Brien worked together at Maryland, and he said the two had a lot of honest conversations about the current state of the Nittany Lions. The two have continued to talk since.
  • Derek Dowrey and Brian Gaia are both making transitions from defensive tackle to offensive guard, and Franklin said he has been pleased with their performances so far: "They're doing a good job for us -- and they have to. We're thin at that position."
  • Franklin said he feels especially comfortable with the talent at running back and defensive line. Middle linebacker Mike Hull was more specific about naming the players who impressed him, pointing to backup linebacker Gary Wooten and cornerback Da'Quan Davis. Hull said Wooten is always around the football and that Davis, who missed part of the spring with a hamstring injury, has come up with several interceptions.
RUTGERS
  • Another open competition at the most critical position on the field -- quarterback -- is still playing out at Rutgers, and coach Kyle Flood isn’t ready to declare a winner in what would seem to be a wide-open battle. Flood indicated that Gary Nova, Mike Bimonte and Chris Laviano are all “really vying for that first-team job.”
  • The change in conference affiliation has been welcomed with open arms by the Scarlet Knights, who can “feel the energy” as theypractice for their first season in the Big Ten. Defensive tackle Darius Hamilton said the team was already buzzing with excitement about the opportunity, and Flood called joining the league a “positive in every way.” The move also presents the opportunity for a rivalry to develop with new divisional neighbor Penn State, with both Flood and Hamilton citing the proximity between the schools as a bonus.

Big Ten's lunch links

April, 7, 2014
Apr 7
12:00
PM ET
Big Ten is desperate for a title. Which one of you is willing to make the sacrifice?

Links time ...

Big Ten's lunch links

April, 2, 2014
Apr 2
12:00
PM ET
Warren Buffett called. My bracket was so bad, he says I owe him $1 billion. D'oh!

Big Ten lunch links

March, 31, 2014
Mar 31
12:00
PM ET
College basketball season is over in the state of Michigan, but the party continues in Wisconsin.

Ready for some spring football links? Here ya go ...
 

Big Ten lunchtime links

March, 28, 2014
Mar 28
12:00
PM ET
Hope your bracket is faring better than mine ...
The best offenses can threaten defenses at the quarterback, running back and wide receiver positions. Brian Bennett on Tuesday examined the triple-threat combinations from the Big Ten's new West Division.

Now let's turn our attention to the East Division and rank the triple-threat combinations. The division is strong at quarterback but lacking elite wide receivers.

1. Indiana

QB Nate Sudfeld, RB Tevin Coleman, WR Shane Wynn

The Hoosiers featured the league's No. 2 offense in 2013 and top this list even though top receiver Cody Latimer bolted for the NFL draft. They have two options at quarterback, but Sudfeld, who had nearly 1,400 more passing yards than teammate Tre Roberson, gets the nod here. Coleman brings explosiveness to the backfield after rushing for 958 yards and 12 touchdowns in only nine games. Wynn finished near the top of the league in receiving touchdowns (11) and had 46 receptions for 633 yards.

2. Ohio State

QB Braxton Miller, RB Ezekiel Elliott, WR Devin Smith

You would think a team with the back-to-back Big Ten offensive player of the year at quarterback would be rated higher, but the Buckeyes lose a huge piece at running back in Carlos Hyde, as well as top receiver Corey Brown. Elliott, who had 262 rushing yards last season, is competing for the starting position this spring. Smith has been Miller's big-play target throughout his career and had eight touchdown catches and averaged 15 yards per reception last fall. Tight end Jeff Heuerman provides another weapon in the pass game.

3. Michigan State

QB Connor Cook, RB Jeremy Langford, WR Tony Lippett

The skinny: A year ago, Michigan State's offense looked like a mess. Cook began the season as the backup but emerged to lead the Spartans to nine Big Ten wins, all by double digits, and a Rose Bowl championship. Langford answered Michigan State's running back questions with 1,422 yards and 18 touchdowns. There's no true No. 1 receiver on the roster, and while Macgarrett Kings (513 receiving yards in 2013) could claim the role, Lippett gets the nod after leading the team in receptions (44) and finishing second in receiving yards (613) last year.
4. Penn State

QB Christian Hackenberg, RB Zach Zwinak, TE Jesse James

The Lions have the Big Ten's top pocket passer in Hackenberg, the league's freshman of the year in 2013. But Hackenberg loses his favorite target in Allen Robinson, and wide receiver is a major question entering the fall. The tight end position looks much stronger with James, Kyle Carter and Adam Breneman. Penn State also has options at running back, but Zwinak has led the team in rushing in each of the past two years, finishing with 989 yards and 12 touchdowns last fall.

5. Maryland

QB C.J. Brown, RB Brandon Ross, WR Stefon Diggs

Don't be surprised if Maryland finishes higher on the postseason triple-threats list as long as their top players stay healthy, which is hardly a guarantee after the past two seasons. Brown is a veteran dual-threat player who had 2,242 passing yards and 13 touchdowns last year. Ross leads a potentially deep group of running backs after leading the team with 776 rushing yards. Although Levern Jacobs led Maryland in receiving last year and returns, Diggs is the team's top threat after averaging 17.3 yards per catch before a season-ending injury in October.

6. Michigan

QB Devin Gardner, RB Derrick Green, TE/WR Devin Funchess

Gardner is capable of putting up some big numbers, as he showed last year, but he loses top target Jeremy Gallon. The run game is a major question mark for new coordinator Doug Nussmeier, although hopes are high for Green, a heralded recruit who had 270 rushing yards as a freshman. At 6-5 and 230 pounds, Funchess is a tight end who plays like a wide receiver. He finished second on the team in receptions (49), receiving yards (748) and touchdowns (6).

7. Rutgers

QB Gary Nova, RB Paul James, TE Tyler Kroft

New coordinator Ralph Friedgen tries to spark an offense that finished 77th nationally in scoring and 95th in yards last season. Nova is competing this spring to retain the starting job, which he has held since the middle of the 2011 season. James averaged 5.6 yards per carry last season and can be very effective when healthy. Rutgers is scrambling at bit at the wide receiver position but returns a solid option at tight end in Kroft, who led the team in both receptions (43) and receiving yards (573) last fall.

Big Ten's lunch links

March, 26, 2014
Mar 26
12:00
PM ET
Eyes closed, head first, can't lose.

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