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February 28, 2008
Ohio State is reloading, Michigan is rebuilding, Iowa hopes it will be rebounding and Michigan State and Illinois appear to be resurfacing.
Overall, though, the Big Ten's image seems in need of repair its 3-5 bowl record in 2007, which included some lopsided losses. Perhaps 2008 will be rejuvenating.
The work starts now. Here is our Spring Preview for the Big Ten.
BIG TEN SPRING DATES
Indiana: March 25-April 19
Iowa: March 26-April 19
Michigan: March 15-April 12
Michigan State: March 17-April 19
Minnesota: March 26-April 19
Northwestern: April 1-April 26
Ohio State: March 24-April 19
Penn State: March 24-April 19
Purdue: March 26-April 19
Wisconsin: March 9-April 19
Rich Rodriguez, Michigan: Rodriguez was incredibly successful at West Virginia. His teams posted 61 victories in seven seasons – including 11 wins in each of the past three seasons. Rodriguez inherits a Wolverines team that loses almost all of its top players and returns players that may not be good fits for his version of the spread offense. Remember, West Virginia went 3-8 in Rodriguez's first season there.
Biggest Position Battles
Five Players Who Could Emerge
Illinois DT Josh Brent: With Mike Ware and Chris Norwell gone, sophomore Josh Brent is expected to take over a starting role. Some view Brent, who played some as a true freshman last season, as having All-American ability. He'll get a chance to prove it.
Iowa LB Jacody Coleman: Coleman played well as a true freshman when Mike Klinkenborg was out last season. Now that Klinkenborg is gone, Coleman will step in full-time and could prove to be a star in the making.
Penn State DE Jerome Hayes: He posted 17 tackles and 2.5 sacks in a reserve role as a redshirt freshman last season. His numbers and presence will be greater as a starter.
Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward: Heyward had a solid freshman year with 33 tackles and 2.5 sacks, but he could become dominant as a sophomore.
Michigan WR Greg Mathews: Though not a speed demon, he has tremendous hands. He caught 39 passes in 2007, and his production should increase dramatically as he elevates to starter status as a junior.
Five Impact Newcomers
Michigan State DE Trevor Anderson: Anderson, who will be a junior this season, sat out 2007 after transferring from Cincinnati to follow coach Mark Dantonio. The Spartans lose three defensive ends, including starters Ervin Baldwin and Jonal Saint-Dic, and Anderson is expected to help ease those losses.
Minnesota S Tramaine Brock: A junior college All-American at Mississippi Gulf Coast last year, the speedy Brock should provide an immediate boost in the secondary, the weakest area of a weak defense in 2007.
Iowa TB Nate Guillory: He rushed for more than 2,600 yards in two junior college seasons and is joining a team whose top returning rusher gained just 40 yards last season.
Michigan QB Steven Threet: A former four-star prospect, the strong-armed redshirt freshman is the odds-on favorite to emerge as the Wolverines' starting quarterback. Threet signed with Georgia Tech in 2007 and enrolled early, but he left after spring ball. Incoming freshman quarterback Justin Feagin is a rushing threat who may be a better fit in Rodriguez's offense, but Feagin won't arrive until August.
Purdue WR Aaron Valentin: Somebody has to catch all those passes thrown in coach Joe Tiller's offense, but the Boilermakers lost four of their top five receivers from 2007. The departures set the stage for Valentin – a junior college transfer – to contribute immediately.
Olin Buchanan is the senior college football writer for Rivals.com. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.