Big Ten Spring Wrap-Up

Spring ball is complete and with that, Scout's publishers and experts take a team by team look at the what questions remain unanswered, which players stepped forward, and who are the new faces to know in this complete wrap-up.

ILLINOIS FIGHTING ILLINI

Got clarity on: Middle linebacker. The addition of California graduate transfer Hardy Nickerson, the son of Illini defensive coordinator Hardy Nickerson, fills a huge hole in the middle of the Illini defense. He started 27 games the last three years at Cal and led the Bears with 112 tackles last season. He's strong an physical, a leader and familiar with the defense. He will start behind a strong Illini defensive line.

Question still to be answered: Who -- besides running back Ke'Shawn Vaughn -- will step up as quarterback Wes Lunt's playmakers? Star receiver Mike Dudek and No. 2 running back Dre Brown each suffered a torn ACL for the second straight spring, robbing Illinois -- which already lost 2015 top receiver Geronimo Allison -- of two of its top playmakers in space. The Illini need junior receiver Malik Turner to step up, but also need receivers Desmond Cain, Justin Hardee, Sam Mays, Dionte Taylor and Zach Grant to step up and running backs Kendrick Foster and Kendrick Foster to ease the load off of Vaughn. The Illini also will look for help on the graduate transfer market.

Surprise performer: Cameron Watkins, redshirt freshman cornerback. Before the spring, we projected Watkins as a third-string on the depth chart or possibly in the mix on subpackages. After a strong spring, Watkins put himself in the conversation for a starting spot. Watkins has track speed and is lanky, but he also showed a physicality and hard-hit ability that will at least make him a special-teams mainstay.

Best newcomer: Gabe Megginson. The redshirt freshman offensive lineman is still battling for the fifth open offensive line spot (guard), but the former four-star recruit has the strength and athleticism of a possible future pro. He'll have some ups and downs this year but looks like he has the edge for a starting spot.

INDIANA HOOSIERS

Got clarity on: The quarterback competition. Indiana continues to search for the successor of Nate Sudfeld, who got selected by the Washington Redskins in the sixth round of this year's NFL Draft and will be graduating this spring. JUCO transfer Richard Lagow distinguished himself toward the end of spring practices finishing 9 of 15 for 123 yards and a pair of touchdowns in short-yardage redone situations in the spring game. Danny Cameron played the second-most amount of snaps, followed by Austin King, Donavan Hale and Mike Fiacable. However, the most experienced quarterback, junior Zander Diamont, missed most of spring ball recovering from ankle surgery, so there will be a greater understanding of the competition

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once Diamont fully recovers over the summer and is able to compete.

Question still to be answered: How will the defense look? Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson hired Tom Allen away from South Florida to replace Brian Knorr, who served as Indiana's defensive coordinator the last two seasons. Allen will be the fifth coach to hold the title of defensive coordinator or co-defensive coordinator as Wilson enters his sixth season with the program. Allen has been implementing a 4-2-5 defensive scheme which will have a few holes that need to be filled. The biggest of those holes is the defensive line. The departures of Nick Mangieri and Darius Latham leave new defensive line coach Mark Hagen with just six upperclassmen among the 16 defensive linemen currently listed on the Hoosiers' 2016 roster. Experienced returnees such as redshirt junior Nate Hoff, redshirt senior Ralph Green III and sophomore Jacob Robinson will be counted on to generate pressure in three of the four spots along the line.  The defensive secondary is another area of concern due to injuries and inexperience. Chase Dutra, Indiana's most experienced returning defensive back entering last season. missed five games last year due to injury. His recovery and role will be key to how the secondary plays. South Carolina transfer Wesley Green sat out last year due to NCAA transfer roles, and will look to find a spot in the secondary. JUCO transfer Jayme Thompson also figures to have a prominent role. Even with experienced players returning, there still remains some uncertainty over the secondary.

Surprise performer:The defense. The biggest question mark of the team has also been the most surprising performer. Allen has been charting individual defensive players' production and emphasizing takeaways. It paid off, as the defense had three takeaways in the spring game, including a fumble returned for a touchdown. Redshirt junior linebacker Marcus Oliver, who forced the fumble and returned it for a touchdown, continues to have a knack for for by the ball and create those takeaways.

Best Newcomer: Richard Lagow (pictured) was hailed as one of the top junior college quarterbacks in the country last year when he signed with Indiana. The spring game in mid-April showcased Lagow's ability to throw the deep ball with a 46-yard completion to junior wide receiver Simmie Cobbs on the opening drive. That game was also the most comfortable Lagow appeared with the offense to date, as he's had to get caught up due to being able to get in just a handful of practices before the Pinstripe Bowl. Still, he looked comfortable with the plays he was given and like he belonged out there.

IOWA HAWKEYES

Got clarity on: The free safety spot. Miles Taylor is the strong safety but the free safety job is open due to the departure of Jordan Lomax. Walk-on Brandon Snyder played some last year and was penciled in there at the end of the season. He's taking it by the horns and has owned it and should start in the defensive backfield in the season opener.

Question still to be answered: There's a couple spots. Who steps up at wide receiver alongside Riley McCarron, Matt VandeBerg, and Jerminic Smith. They only have those three proven guys and the rest is a mystery. Special teams is also a question mark. Both Marshall Koehn and Dillon Kidd depart and the kicker and punter jobs have yet to be decided.

Surprise performer: Defensive end Anthony Nelson. He will be just a redshirt freshman but he's rising quickly and drawing raves from the coaching staff. The Iowa staff loves his pass rushing ability and he could press for playing time at defensive end this Fall.

Best Newcomer: Anthony Nelson could go here as well but cornerback Michael Ojemudia fits as well. He's just a redshirt freshman but actually played linebacker in high school. With Josh Jackson limited, Greg Mabin out with an injury, and Maurice Fleming transferring, Ojemudia got a lot of time in the Spring and showed very well. At the very least he'll be very prominent on special teams but he should also figure into the rotation at cornerback.  - Derek Young

MARYLAND TERRAPINS

Got clarity on: A month or two before spring ball at Maryland, the Terps had one -- count 'em -- one returning running back on roster with experience. And he was only a true freshman, speedster Ty Johnson, who burned his redshirt in his rookie campaign last fall at College Park. Talk about a position of need. But then Maryland caught some breaks, including the winter transfer of fifth-year graduate senior and power back Trey Edmunds from Virginia Tech, who will be eligible this fall, as well as senior back Wes Brown, a sometime starter the last three seasons, who won his appeal of a year suspension this winter. Then, 2016 signee Jake Funk (pictured), an early enrollee in January, surprised everyone with his quick feet and work ethic in spring camp, and is expected to play this fall, according to head coach D.J. Durkin, be it in the backfield or in the return game. The Terps also return senior fullback Kenny Goins, who looks like he could run some one-back given the new, up-tempo spread under offensive coordinator Walt Bell doesn't use the fullback much. Suddenly, Maryland's thinnest spot became one of its strengths heading into the 2017 season, Durkin's first at College Park. 

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Question still to be answered: The defense lost a ton, including defensive back Sean Davis (second round to Pittsburgh Steelers), rush end Yannick Ngakoue (third round to Jacksonville Jaguars) and defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson (fifth round to Seattle Seahawks), among others, as D.J. Durkin prepares for his inaugural season at Maryland. Especially hit was the safety corps, where the Terps lost both three-year starters, as well as several key reserves. That leaves converted corner and rising junior Josh Woods and converted "Star" outside linebacker Denzel Conyers as the spring starters at the safety positions, and little quality or proven depth behind them. The Terps are attempting to land a fifth-year senior safety transfer this spring, and have hosted a few on campus visits this month. Safety remains Maryland's most unknown and precarious spot. 

Surprise performer: D.J. Durkin didn't dole out too much "sugar" towards individuals this spring, rather he focused on building the "team" concept first. But the few times he did, well he spoke the most highly of rising true sophomore receiver D.J. Moore, who burned his redshirt last year as a first-year player. A physical talent with speed to burn, Moore burst on the scene last fall as a big target who could go over the middle and grab or high-point contested balls, as well as break loose for the end zone. On a unit with many "smallish" guys, Moore is a welcome sight in the physical game/over the middle.  

Best Newcomer: This has to go to the aforementioned true freshman early enrollee Jake Funk, the former three-star running back out of Damascus High School, who Durkin heaped much praise on this spring. Funk, who reminds many of former Terps All American Steve Suter (but not quite as fast) showed out in winter conditioning and lifting, impressing the new staff, and then took it to the field in March in spring camp. He is already in the mix in the backfield, and may also return punts. Suter was the Terps slot receiver/return ace who helped lead Ralph Friedgen to New Years bowls in his first three seasons, and sported a 4.3 40-yard dash. Funk isn't that fast, but like Suter, Funk has great "football IQ" and versatility.


MICHIGAN WOLVERINES

Got clarity on: Jabrill Peppers and what his role will be in Don Brown's defense. He will line up at SAM linebacker, and while he will have some linebacker responsibilities and he had to learn to read linebacker keys, he will will resemble what would be considered a NICKEL in most other defenses. There will be some times where he's in coverage on a slot or slide back and play deep middle as a safety, but other times -- and this was the biggest revelation -- he will frequently be blitzing the quarterback. Moreso than we saw him do that last year for sure, and by the looks of it, he will be one of Michigan's primary pass rushers.

Question still to be answered: Quarterback. I think a lot of people expected John O'Korn would come in and just blow everyone out and that didn't take place. O'Korn had a good spring, all things considered, but he was on the scout team all last year, wasn't working with Michigan's offense and wasn't working with top receivers on the team, so he has playbook knowledge to gain and comfort and chemistry with the receivers to gain. Those are things Wilton Speight had. Speight was consistent with short/intermediate throws and good on the deep ball even though John has a little stronger arm. O'Korn has some things that still give him a slight edge in the battle, one is that he is much more mobile.

Surprise performer: Amara Darboh may have been the most impressive performer of the spring. He caught everything and got deep at will against a really good secondary. Harbaugh said last year that Jehu Chesson was clearly the top wide receiver on the team, and even though Jehu missed the spring rehabbing from injury, he still said even if Chesson were healthy, Darboh, based on the spring, was the best receiver on the roster, he was that good. He's ready to break out and be an All-Big Ten guy.

Best Newcomer: Devin Bush. He came in and showed that he is a violent tackler. He's a striker, not a grabber and he's a guy that coaches had to tell him to lighten up at practice at times because he was tackling guys in non-contact stuff. He has good speed. He will play a lot this year. He's not very big, so that's the biggest issue for him at the moment, is taking on blockers, but fortunately for him, he has a big defensive line in front of him, so he should b able to get to plays cleanly. But over the course of the spring, we saw that he was already one of the biggest hitters on the team.  - Sam Webb

MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS

Got Clarity On: Many wondered if there would be a quarterback battle between Tyler O’Connor and Damion Terry during the spring with the departure of Connor Cook to graduation.  After the Spartans Green-White Game, it was clear O’Connor was the front runner for the job.  However, Mark Dantonio stressed he would not name a starter at this time leaving the door open for Terry or even redshirt freshman Brian Lewerke to push forward when camp opens in August.  But from the look of things O’Connor’s 10-of-16 for 138 yards and one touchdown performance in the spring game pushed him to the top of the depth-chart.

Question Still To Be Answered: How will the offense perform without Connor Cook at the helm?  Cook was the constant for the Michigan State offense the past three seasons leaving the program as its all-time winningest quarterback.  While Cook took hits from the media and some so-called NFL scouts for a lack of leadership, we’ll have to wait and see how the Spartans fair without him.  The Spartans will have questions along the offensive line but look strong at running back with a handful of options.

Surprise Performer:  The return of Vayante Copeland to the Spartans secondary during the spring was a major surprise.  The Dayton, Ohio native suffered a fractured vertebrae against Oregon this past season forcing him to miss the rest of the season and leaving a major gap in the Spartans secondary.  Many, including former Spartan and Jim Thorpe Award winner Darqueze Dennard feel Copeland has the skill set to be a first-round NFL draft pick.  Getting Copeland on the field in the spring should help him feel comfortable when the season opens giving the Spartans the much needed defender they missed last season.

Best Newcomer: Early enrollee wide receiver Donnie Corley was the talk of the spring.  Coaches praised the former top recruit and All-American throughout the spring.  While Corley only had one catch for 18-yards in the spring game, expectations are high for the Detroit native to be a star early in his MSU career. - Dave Berk

MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS

Got clarity on: Minnesota had both cornerback spots open following the departures of Briean Boddy-Calhoun and Eric Murray, and after signing three high school corners back that'll arrive in June, it seemed likely that the battle would extend into fall camp. Senior Jalen Myrick has locked down one spot and that's was certain after playing extensively the last two seasons, but it was sophomore KiAnte Hardin who played well enough that I feel confident right now in projecting him as the starting corner alongside Myrick heading into the fall. 

Question still to be answered: How will the offensive line look? Minnesota still has to figure out how it's offensive line will shake out this fall. JUCO's Garrison Wright and Vincent Calhoun figure to be starting along the line after Minnesota lost eight scholarship offensive linemen from 2015. The question will be, where will they start? Wright was injured for the first half of spring ball, but then started to settle in at left tackle, while Calhoun moved all around, but looking to have found a home at right guard. The starters for Minnesota won't be a question as I believe things are solidified with the five starters being Garrison Wright - Connor Mayes - Tyler Moore - Vincent Calhoun and Jonah Pirsig, the question really is who backs them up? The biggest question mark of this entire Gopher Football team this fall may be the offensive line, and if they can't find a few guys to back them up when injuries happen, it could be a long year. Junior Chad Fahning had a great spring under new offensive line coach Bart Miller and figures to be the swing tackle for the Gophers this fall. The interior of the OL is still up for grabs. Will be it be a number of Minnesota's 2015 signees just finishing up their redshirt seasons, or will Jared Weyler or walk-on Ryan Just provide some help on the interior. Minnesota still could add another body on the offensive line prior to the season, but they need to figure out the two deep on the offensive line. 

Surprise performer: Two guys that took step forwards this spring were wide receiver Rashad Still and linebacker Julian Huff. Both Still and Huff had niche rolls for Minnesota this past fall as true freshmen, but both have added more to their game and are much more complete players than they were a few months ago. Still is more and more in the conversation of the Gophers top receiver after showing consistent ability to create separation from defenders, high point the ball, and pull away after the catch. If Still can keep amping up his preparation off the field, he could be in for a special season. Julian Huff was a third down rushing specialist for the Gophers last fall, and he's evolving his game to a more complete player. Huff showed the ability to stay with offensive players in coverage, and also tackle well in open space one on one. If Minnesota does go some 3-4 this fall, Huff should be able to excel as a blitzing linebacker. Could be a big season for the Illinois native.  

Best Newcomer: The guard position for Minnesota the last couple of season has almost been a revolving door at times due to injury and play, but Vincent Calhoun has come in and been a force for the Gophers at the right guard position. Calhoun is athletic enough to move well on the pulls in Minnesota's power scheme and is strong enough to protect the A or B gap during pass pro. I think he'll be able to provide stability to a position that's been troublesome for the Gophers in recent years. 

NEBRASKA CORNHUSKERS

Got clarity on: At least one of the guard spots as former four-star recruit Jerald Foster solidified himself as one of the starters. While the other spot is still to be determined, this home-grown prospect impressed through spring ball..

Question still to be answered: Who's going to be the opposite defensive tackle from Kevin Maurice? Two who were in the competition are no longer on the roster as Greg McMullen left the team due to "inner struggles," and Kevin Williams transferred. Both were expected to be in the rotation. One of the twins, Khalil or Carlos Davis, two former four-star recruits and redshirt freshmen, could end up winning the job or it may go to Mick Stoltenberg.

Breakout performer: Tanner Farmer returned to form this spring. A former outstanding high school wrestler, he picked the sport back up this spring, wrestling for the Cornhuskers and dropping 40 pounds in the process. He has now solidified himself as a favorite to be the starting guard opposite Foster.

Best newcomer: Khalil Davis, the aforementioned redshirt-freshman defensive tackle. He received a lot of first team reps with the injury bug and has a really solid chance of being a starter. - Josh Harvey


NORTHWESTERN WILDCATS

Got clarity on: The defensive end position and although the team graduated Dean Lowry and Deonte Gibson, the Wildcats are going to be just fine. Ifeadi Odenigbo may be new to the starting

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lineup, but he is not new to the field as he has played a lot of minutes behind Lowry and Gibson the last few years. Opposite of him Xavier Washington got his feet wet last season, but now has a full spring as the starter under his belt. Behind them, several young players, notably Joe Gaziano and Trent Goens, got valuable reps and look like they will provide quality depth.

Question still to be answered: What will the wide receiver rotation be like? The Wildcats moved Solomon Vault, Marcus McShepard and Steven Reese all to wide receiver this year, this is in addition to Austin Carr returning to lead the unit along with young players like Flynn Nagel, Charlie Fessler, Cam Green and Jelani Roberts. In the Fall, two good-sized freshmen, Ramaud Chiaokhiao-Bowman and Ben Skowronek and one fast one, Riley Lees, join the group too. 

Breakout performer: Blake Hance (pictured). Hance started seven games at left tackle last season as a redshirt freshman, so he was a known commodity, but with an entire spring as the man there, he looks poised to position himself as one of the top young players in the conference.

Best newcomer: Gaziano - there was only one early enrollee, Tommy Carnifax, and he was injured, so we'll give this to Gaziano, a redshirt freshman who is making noise at end and will play a lot even if he doesn't win the job outright. Along with Goens and defensive tackle Jordan Thompson, he gives Wildcat fans a lot to be excited about in the coming years of this defensive line.


OHIO STATE BUCKEYES

Got clarity on: Ohio State had both tackle spots open following the departures of Taylor Decker and Chase Farris, and signing five-star JUCO prospect Malcolm Pridgeon – who doesn’t arrive until June – made it seem likely that the battle would extend into fall camp. Pridgeon (6-8, 325) and Isaiah Prince (6-7, 305) both have ideal builds but it was junior Jamarco Jones (6-5, 310) who played well enough that Urban Meyer named him the left tackle in a post-spring press conference.

 

Question still to be answered: How will the defense look? Ohio State still has to figure out how its defensive line rotation will shake out. Defensive end snaps will be tough to come by thanks to the presence of Tyquan Lewis and Sam Hubbard (who combined for 14.5 sacks in 2015) and rising stars Jalyn Holmes and Darrius Slade. That doesn’t even take into account incoming freshmen like five-star Nick Bosa and four-star Jonathon Cooper. Defensive tackle is more of a logjam because of inexperience than talent, with high school ends Jashon Cornell and Dre’Mont Jones. Those redshirt freshmen will have to fend off upperclassmen Tracy Sprinkle and Michael Hill, as well as fellow redshirt freshmen Robert Landers and Davon Hamilton. The defensive secondary is another spot of concern thanks to injuries and uncertainty. Gareon Conley is penciled in at one cornerback spot, but the other is up for grabs with Marshon Lattimore and Denzel Ward battling for playing time. Safety will have two new starters, and it’s still anyone’s guess how the move of cornerbacks Damon Webb and Eric Glover-Williams to safety will shape that position battle, especially considering Erick Smith and Cam Burrows are still working their way back from injuries.

 

Surprise performer: Joe Burrow showed that he’s more than capable of stepping in if J.T. Barrett were to ever go down with an injury. The redshirt freshman quarterback drew plenty of praise all spring from Meyer and quarterbacks coach Tim Beck and then backed it up by out-dueling Barrett in the spring game. In leading the Gray team to a victory, Burrow completed 14 of 23 passes for 196 yards, three touchdowns and one interception. Another person who stands out in this regard would be redshirt sophomore safety Malik Hooker, who wreaked havoc all spring in practices and then made two interceptions in the spring game and returned one for an 82-yard touchdown. 

 

Best Newcomer: Austin Mack was consistently praised throughout spring practice and at the very least deserves a mention here, but it’s hard to ignore the fact that an early enrollee has positioned himself for a chance to start on the offensive line as a true freshman. Maybe it’s all in the name, but Michael Jordan has taken Ohio State by storm since arriving in January. He occasionally ran with the ones during open practices and is a legitimate contender to win one of the starting guard spots. Most importantly, he played with the other four projected starters during the spring game and looked like he belonged out there. It’s hard to see what more he could have done, especially because his spring ended with Meyer saying he will for sure play this fall – something very few true freshman offensive linemen have done during Meyer’s time at Ohio State. - Ryan Ginn

PENN STATE NITTANY LIONS

Got Clarity On: Though PSU coach James Franklin said the battle to replace Christian Hackenberg will carry on into the preseason, redshirt sophomore Trace McSorley received the bulk of the first-team reps in spring ball and then dominated the Blue-White Game (23 of 27 for 281 yards, four TDs and one pick). McSorley is undersized, but his mobility and quick decision making mesh well with new offensive coordinator Joe Moorhead’s spread, up-tempo system. Redshirt freshman Tommy Stevens has plenty of upside, but in August he’ll be facing an uphill climb in the fight for the starting QB job.

Question Still To Be Answered: What will the starting offensive line look like? Veteran Andrew Nelson moved from right to left tackle in the spring, and seems like the sure starter there. Likewise, former guard Brian Gaia now appears to be entrenched at center. But nothing else is set in stone. We’re guessing redshirt freshman Ryan Bates gets the nod at left guard, after looking good there in the spring. Over on the right side, the guard (Derek Dowrey and Brendan Mahon) and tackle spots (Paris Palmer and Noah Beh) are still wide open.

Surprise Performer: Junior WR Saeed Blacknall averaged 19.1 yards per catch but made only eight receptions in 2015. All reports out of spring ball suggest that Blacknall rounded out his game and — with 2015 leading receiver Chris Godwin not quite at 100 percent while recovering from a minor injury — was the best overall receiver in drills and scrimmages. Blacknall backed it up by making five catches for 45 yards and a TD in the Blue-White Game.

Best Newcomer: LB Kevin Givens was a late addition to Penn State’s Class of 2015, flipping from Pitt when he received a Nittany Lion offer less than 24 hours before Signing Day. He redshirted last year, bulked up, and moved to defensive end and then D-tackle. Now a powerful 6-foo-1, 270 pounder who spent most of the spring as a first-team tackle, Givens is looking like an absolute steal for Franklin and company. He probably won’t start this fall, what with veteran Parker Cothren returning from an injury and massive JUCO Tyrell Chavis in the coming on board. But as he continues to add mass and improve technique, Givens figures to make an impact at tackle for years to come. - Mark Brennan

PURDUE BOILERMAKERS

Got clarity on: The quarterback situation. David Blough took the majority of 1st team reps in the spring and finished that off with a good performance in the spring game. Redshirt freshman Elijah Sindelar also played well in the spring and the spring game, but for now, it appears as though that performance should give Boiler fans confidence in their depth more than it should create controversy as Blough's experience gives him the edge.

Question still to be answered: Cornerback was a big question coming into the spring, but that position solidified more than the offensive line, which could be the make or break spot for this Purdue team come Fall. The bad news was that the defense got a lot of pressure and penetration in the spring game. The good news is that two JUCO linemen, Tanner Hawthorne and Jalen Neal, will arrive in the Fall.

Breakout performer: Da'wan Hunte was one of the primary reasons the cornerback spot is not such a question anymore. Hunte was named the team's most improved player in the spring. Head coach Darrell Hazell noted his improvement as well as his leadership skills and while there is an ongoing battle at the other corner, Hunte appears to have solidified once side.

Best newcomer: Cornerback Kamal Hardy was one of a couple mid-year guys and while slot receiver Jack Wegher turned some heads as well, it is Hardy who has the best chance to earn a starting spot. He's fighting it out with several other players for the cornerback spot opposite of Hunte, and his 6-foot-1, 185-pound frame gives the team a little more size in the back seven. Whether or not he wins the job outright, it is a good bet Hardy will see the field this Fall.

RUTGERS SCARLET KNIGHTS

Got clarity on: Linebacker makeover -- Rutgers reboots the line backer position in 2016 after it loses all three starters from last season. Rutgers coach Chris Ash has three or four that separated themselves in spring camp. Sophomore Deonte Roberts bulked up and moved inside to middle linebacker. Sophomore Najee Clayton moved from  safety to SAM linebacker with an impressive camp. T.J. Taylor and Trevor Morris likely battle for the final slot.

Question still to be answered: Quarterback -- Quarterback has  been the hot topic at Rutgers for a decade, and this offseason was no different. Incumbent starter Chris Laviano held down the first-team job but did not show enough to formally win it in spring. As Rutgers transitions into a spread offense, the competition remains open for training camp.

Surprise performer: Defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph went from another guy on the defensive line to a potential Big Ten beast. Joseph locked down the nose tackle job early in camp, and every bit looks the part of a future problem for opposing offensive linemen. Joseph is finally healthy and refocused under a staff with more focus on defense.

Best Newcomer: Running back Trey Sneed -- Sneed wins this by default as the only early enrollee to see significant time with the starters. The Florida running back exploded onto the scene when he returned from injury halfway into camp. There is a role for Sneed immediately in Drew Mehringer's offense, and it could be a big one if summer is as strong as spring. - Sam Hellman

WISCONSIN BADGERS

Got clarity on: The offensive line. A position of weakness a year ago looks to once again be a strength of Wisconsin. The Badgers are projected to have three redshirt sophomores, who received a considerable amount of reps a year ago, starting on the line and found an answer at left tackle in Ryan Ramczyk

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(pictured), a transfer from Stevens Point who is described as a "freak athlete" by his teammates. The biggest question on the line is will fifth-year senior Dan Voltz start at left guard or center once he returns from ACL rehab, as Michael Deiter has developed into an All-Big Ten caliber player at center.

Question still to be answered: Who will start at quarterback? This competition was always designed to go deep into fall camp, but the competition between fifth-year senior Bart Houston and redshirt freshman Alex Hornibrook looks more muddied than ever. Houston has the edge in experience and was fairly consistent throughout camp, but Hornibrook came on strong over the final two weeks by limiting the mistakes and showing the ability to hit the deep pass. Head coach Paul Chryst let both quarterbacks push themselves outside their comfort zone, causing more mistakes to be made, with the hope of seeing both players improve. That was indeed the case, so August will be critical for both when the race for the starting job really heats up. 

Surprise performer: Wide receiver George Rushing. Wisconsin hasn't got much out of Rushing's first two seasons and receivers coach Ted Gilmore said two weeks into camp that Rushing's big problem was taking two steps back after taking two steps forward. That changed over the final three weeks, as Rushing began to get in sync with the offense and perform well in the scrimmages. Finishing the spring with two touchdowns in the spring game, he has the chance to add depth to a receiver spot in need of playmakers.

Best Newcomer: Tight end Kyle Penniston. Wisconsin went into the spring not having an established tight end outside of junior Troy Fumagalli but saw enough positives from the redshirt freshman to where they feel better about the options at the position. While he still has work to do with his blocking, Penniston showed a good understanding of the concepts and consistency catching the football to where he'll factor into the offense.  - Ben Worgull


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