Seven Big Ten teams extend QB competition
By Eric Olson
The Associated Press
The week started with nine of the 14 Big Ten teams coming out of spring practices planning to continue quarterback auditions in August. The number was down to seven by Friday.
First-year coach Ryan Day of defending conference champion Ohio State insisted after the Buckeyes’ spring game last Saturday he hadn’t decided between Georgia transfer Justin Fields and redshirt freshman Matthew Baldwin, who spent much of last season rehabbing a knee injury. Baldwin announced he would transfer on Thursday, erasing any doubt that Fields, the biggest acquisition of the offseason, would be the starter.
Penn State appears set to go with junior Sean Clifford after fifth-year senior Tommy Stevens entered the NCAA transfer portal. His father told the Centre Daily Times his son is “certainly leaving.”
Two incumbents in the East Division face challenges. Indiana’s Peyton Ramsey is competing against redshirt freshmen Michael Penix Jr. and Utah transfer Jack Tuttle. Rutgers’ Arthur Sitkowski will try to hold off challenges from freshman Cole Snyder and possibly Boston College transfer Johnny Langan, who is applying for a waiver to become eligible immediately.
At Maryland, new coach Mike Locksley looked at Tyrrell Pigrome, Max Bortenschlager and Tyler DeSue this spring before Virginia Tech graduate transfer Josh Jackson arrives this summer.
Defending West Division champion Northwestern must replace four-year starter Clayton Thorson, and former Clemson backup Hunter Johnson is expected to have the inside track against fifth-year senior TJ Green.
Wisconsin freshman Graham Mertz has come on strong and is in position to beat out Jack Coan. The junior started four games in place of an injured Alex Hornibrook, who left for Florida State as a graduate transfer.
Zack Annexstad and Tanner Morgan, who split the job as freshmen, will continue their competition at Minnesota; and MJ Rivers, Matt Robinson and Coran Taylor are in a battle at Illinois with four-star freshman Isaiah Williams arriving in the fall.
SINDELAR SHUT DOWN
Purdue quarterback Elijah Sindelar, set to take over for David Blough, put a scare into the Boilermakers when he hyperextended his left knee. He was hurt when defensive lineman Grant Hermanns stepped on his left foot during a drill.
Sindelar won the starting job in preseason camp last year but kept it only two games because of knee tendinitis and an injured oblique muscle. He didn’t take another snap the rest of the season. He said last week he would be ready for summer conditioning.
OHIO STATE O-LINE
Offensive line is Ohio State’s biggest concern entering fall. Only one starter returns — left tackle Thayer Munford — and he didn’t participate in spring practice because of injury. Five-star recruit Harry Miller and graduate transfer Jonah Jackson from Rutgers are among the offensive linemen who will join the team this summer.
“We’ve got the cavalry coming,” Day told reporters.
SPEED UP, SLOW DOWN
Michigan’s offense, often criticized for being stodgy, is being revamped. New offensive coordinator Josh Gattis is putting in the no-huddle, spread system featuring lots of run-pass options.
“It’s night and day,” quarterback Shea Patterson said. “As far as the similarities, I think there are very few of them.”
At Indiana, new offensive coordinator Kalen DeBoer may slow things down. Whoever wins the QB job — Ramsey or one of his two challengers — will take snaps from under center at times instead of out of the shotgun.
Ramsey said he likes having the freedom to audible out of bad plays, something he had less ability to do the previous two seasons. Slowing down also should help the Hoosiers control the clock, which could help keep the defense fresher late in games.
KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY
Nebraska’s defensive line has two sets of brothers in major roles. Twins Carlos and Khalil Davis are going into their third seasons and Darrion Daniels, a graduate transfer from Oklahoma State, joins Damion this year. Darrion Daniels started 10 games two years ago but was limited to four games last season because of a pinky injury that required surgery.
“It’s just a good feeling to see my brother with the same color of jersey again, being on the sideline with him, coaching him up, him coaching me up, giving each other tips, calming each other down when we get heated,” Darrion said. “It’s something special.”
The Big Ten has four new offensive coordinators and six new defensive coordinators.
Offense, with previous job: Michigan, Gattis, co-offensive coordinator and receivers coach at Alabama; Michigan State, Brad Salem, Spartans’ quarterbacks coach; Maryland, Scottie Montgomery, East Carolina head coach; and Indiana, DeBoer, offensive coordinator at Fresno State.
Defense: Ohio State co-coordinators, Greg Mattison, Michigan defensive line coach, and Jeff Hafley, San Francisco 49ers defensive backs coach; Maryland, Jon Hoke, Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive backs coach; Indiana, Kane Wommack, Hoosiers’ linebackers coach; Rutgers, Andy Buh, Maryland defensive coordinator; and Minnesota, Joe Rossi, defensive line coach and interim coordinator.