Big Ten West Round-Up April 3rd

Written By T.J. Inman (@TJHoosierHuddle)

B1G West Spring Round-Up

-Wisconsin Badgers-

Spring Game: April 25

-The Wisconsin Badgers are in the middle of their first Spring practices under new head coach Paul Chryst. The Spring has been all about the players getting to know the new staff (and vice versa).

-Melvin Gordon was sensational but is there any doubt that the Wisconsin running game will be great, once again, in 2015? New running backs coach John Settle (he coached at Wisconsin from 2006-2010 and is back for another stint in Madison) likes what he sees. “There’s potential,” Settle said. “I’ve liked what I’ve seen. We have to bring along Dare (Ogunbowale) and find a number three, before we can say we have a three-headed monster, but I think we have potential.” Corey Clement will be the starter and has the potential to be another star and it appears Dare Ogunbowale and Taiwan Deal will probably back him up and rotate in.

-Offensive coordinator and offensive line coach Joe Rudolph spoke to the media as well and emphasized that competition for every starting spot was very real. “The competition is real and there’s going to be a fight for all those spots. We’ve got to get better. Competition helps you to get better.” For the first two weeks, the starters have consistently been Ray Ball, Tyler Marz, Michael Deiter, Walker Williams and Hayden Biegel.

-Tanner McEvoy is an interesting player who could have a very interesting 2015 season. The Senior played some quarterback last season when Joel Stave struggled with “mental yips”. Stave is back at QB (and has apparently been up and down during scrimmages) but McEvoy has moved to safety and is also taking reps at wide receiver. It appears likely that he’ll be a safety on this squad but he’s worth keeping an eye on as the offseason progresses.

 -Illinois Fighting Illini-

Spring Game: April 18

-Illinois has seen a decrease in attendance for their home openers for each season that Tim Beckman has been in charge. As a result, the Illini are moving their 2015 home opener against Kent State to Friday, September 4. Illinois AD Mike Thomas said that the move was a way to “explore new ideas and improve in-game atmosphere and trying to make the games as enjoyable as possible.”

-In another move to generate some local interest, Illinois is holding an open practice at Homewood-Flossmoor High School on Friday, April 3 at 6:00.

 -Iowa Hawkeyes-

Spring Game: April 25

-As I wrote about yesterday, former Iowa starting QB has officially transferred to Michigan. That means this team is now unquestionably CJ Beathard’s, for better or worse. Beathard spoke about Rudock, “I felt like I showed the best I can do. Obviously, we both had mistakes here and there. In my mind, I felt like I was the better athlete and I could do more things. I think the coaches see that too.” (quote from

-Former running back Jonathan Parker has been moved to wide receiver. He’s not a big guy by running back standards but the speed is there and his size should be adequate for receiver. If he can catch (kind of important for the position!), he could be used in the passing game this Fall.

-The Hawkeyes offense needs to improve and getting some increased production from their tight end position is something they think can help. Tight ends coach LeVar Woods spoke about how this season could be different for the position. “Different formations; deploying, use that word, deploying guys in different spots….I’ll have to try to feature them to get them the ball. I definitely foresee that. And it’s just a matter of when their number is called and we throw them the ball, execute and then catching the ball and making the play.”

 -Minnesota Golden Gophers-

Spring Game: April 11

-One of the biggest strengths of Jerry Kill’s program at Minnesota is the consistency of the coaching staff. They have very little staff turnover and that familiarity helps the Gophers in recruiting, in practice and in the Fall on the field.

-That lack of staff change doesn’t mean the Gophers don’t try new things. Minnesota’s staff has been implementing a no-huddle offense that will be used as a change of pace to help get the offense moving and provide some different looks for opposing defenses. The Gophers have worked on it during Spring practice and they plan on using it in games in the 2015 season.

-Minnesota’s defense is going to be really good. They are very athletic, very physical and return much of a unit that impressed in 2014. According to reports from their Spring practices so far, the defense has outperformed the offense in every practice and the secondary has overwhelmed Minnesota’s young receiver corps.

 -Nebraska Cornhuskers-

Spring Game: April 11

-Mike Riley’s first Spring practices in Lincoln have been a time to implement new systems, get to know personnel and build relationships. Offensive coordinator Danny Langsdorf believes things are starting to come together. “We’ve been able to repeat some concepts and I think the quarterbacks are getting more comfortable. I just think there’s a comfort level that’s clear to some guys that it’s coming around,” Langsdorf said.

-Tommy Armstrong has struggled a bit with back spasms but he is back at practice and, for the moment, feeling good. “It feels great,” Armstrong said. “Spring Break helped us a lot; me in particular.” The depth chart at quarterback has still not been determined so the health of the incumbent starter is something to watch.

-Terrell Newby (JR from California) has impressed observers at practice. Imani Cross figures to be the starter but with the departure of Ameer Abdullah, the Huskers are going to need multiple guys to step up at RB.

-On the defensive side of the ball, defensive end Freedom Akinmoladun has had “as good of a spring as anybody” (according to 247sports’ Michael Bruntz).

-Northwestern Wildcats-

Spring Game: April 11

-Northwestern’s  emerging star running back Justin Jackson suffered a lower body injury in March and subsequently had “minimally invasive knee cleanup”. Jackson is expected to be 100% in August but you never like to have your star player with injury problems of any kind.

-Christian Jones (SR from Texas), a wide receiver expected to be relied upon in 2015, was forced to sit out all of 2014 with an ACL tear in Fall camp. Jones had an arthroscopic procedure on the same knee and is out for the remainder of the Spring.

-Tommy Fuessel (WR) and Eric Joraskie (DL) have decided to retire from football and are no longer with the Northwestern football program.

 -Purdue Boilermakers-

Spring Game: April 18

-Purdue lost a lot of firepower at running back as Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert graduated after the 2014 season. Those two both had explosive speed and they were the lone bright spots for a fairly anemic Purdue offense. Who will emerge as the running back in 2015? The leading returning rusher is Keyante Green (only 27 carries last season) but, according to Brian Bennett from, D.J. Knox (RS FR from Georgia) is emerging as the most productive of the backs this Spring. Knox is only 5’7” but the coaches like his interior running ability as the Boilers continue to attempt to make themselves into a smashmouth squad.

-Purdue is also attempting to replace a pair of starting safeties as Landon Feichter (probably their best defensive player a year ago) and Taylor Richards have graduated. Leroy Clark (JR), Robert Gregory (JR) and a pair of redshirt freshmen in Tim Cason and Brandon Roberts are attempting to win the starting jobs. Purdue has big questions in the secondary (I mean, they have big questions in most areas of the field).