1. What was the most encouraging aspect of Saturday’s practice in West Des Moines?
The fact that you didn’t see a lot of Jake Rudock and several other offensive starters. Established teams with experienced players don’t have to put on a show in the spring. As coach Kirk Ferentz explained later, you don’t need to see how they’ll react when defenses are allowed to go full speed.
2.Will we see a lot of Derrick Willies this fall?
The freshman receiver was a scene stealer Saturday, splitting the secondary and finding his way to the end zone. It’s not in Ferentz’s nature, however, to tilt the game plan in any player’s direction with such a small sample size. I get the feeling Willies could be this year’s Damond Powell. We know he has breakaway ability, but is he a complete receiver?
3. Was there a breakout player on defense?
Yes. Quinton Alston. We’d heard the senior linebacker was a leader who could provide a veteran-type presence. He did that at Valley Stadium, keeping the younger guys up to speed schematically and setting the proper emotional tone. You could hardly tell he’s a first-time starter. Alston has just 24 career tackles at Iowa and he played in just two games as a high school senior because of an injury.
4. Has the tide truly turned in the Great Lakes State, from Michigan to Michigan State?
The Spartans should reign supreme in 2014 after capping last season with a Rose Bowl victory. For the Wolverines, it’s a case of be careful what you wish for. Remember how some complained that former coach Lloyd Carr wasn’t meeting expectations? Michigan posted a 56-20 record (a .737 winning percentage) in Carr’s last six seasons. The Wolverines have gone 41-35 (.539) in the six seasons since then.
5. Is Big Ten expansion complete?
I’m guessing no. The trick is determining when conference commissioner Jim Delany might make a move. Right now there are too many variables, starting with challenges to the economic model college sports has followed for decades. The possibility of unionization and/or player-likeness fees could cause a divide among NCAA schools. So it only makes sense for Delany to wait and see how all of that shakes out. Once the dust settles, I expect another shift in the conference landscape.
HAWKEYE NATION, YOUR FEEDBACK WANTED
You can steer the conversation this spring by e-mailing comments and questions to me at firstname.lastname@example.org, or via Twitter (@AndrewMLogue). Let me know what you’ll be paying attention to, and what you think I should keep an eye on. Some of those thoughts will appear in this notebook. Please include your hometown.
Last week’s reader question: In light of Jordan Lomax moving to free safety, is there another position change that would make sense for the Hawkeyes? Who would you move where, and why? Here’s what @TheHawkHeaven said via Twitter: “Weisman to FB, might not be a fan favorite, but a smart move. Nico Law to OLB. He hits like a LB, might as well try him there.”
This week’s question(s): If you were coaching the Hawkeye special teams, who would use as a kick returner? Jordan Canzeri? Damond Powell? Kevonte Martin-Manley? E-mail your comments to email@example.com or Twitter @ AndrewMLogue. Please include your hometown.
BIG TEN BUZZ
When it comes to earning public relations points, Nebraska coach Bo Pelini is the spring leader. Pelini mimicked a fake Twitter account in his name by holding a cat while walking onto the Memorial Stadium field. … Ohio State quarterback Braxton Miller caused a Twitter stir when he took a screen shot of Michigan’s spring game attendance (15,000) and topped it with the crowd number from the Buckeyes’ game (61,000). … As Rutgers’ top three running backs deal with injuries, Desmon Peoples has emerged as a candidate for carries this fall. He played in just two games as a freshman, running the ball six times for 16 yards. … Tom Dienhart of the Big Ten Network wrote a summary of the Wisconsin spring game and seemed impressed with backup quarterback Tanner McEvoy. “It looks like McEvoy may have a real shot to win this job in the fall,” Dienhart wrote. “The staff has often said it wants a dual-threat quarterback. McEvoy is the closest thing to that on the roster right now.” … Penn State has added a 12th commit to a 2015 recruiting class that some services are ranking as the best in the nation. One of the headliners is Steven Gonzalez, an offensive lineman from Union City, N.J. … The unexpected transfer of Philip Nelson has left Minnesota in a quarterbacking quandary. Coach Jerry Kill will have to choose from a trio of Mitch Leidner, Chris Streveler and Conor Rhoda.