I'm deep in the process of writing opponent previews for the 2019 Hail Varsity Yearbook–deep enough that I'm not sure I'll ever emerge, which is a common feeling based on past experience–so I guess I'm in a Big Ten state of mind. You get one lovingly crafted synopsis done, and some news breaks that subtly changes the whole thing. If you are anxiously awaiting some sort of news on your favorite team, just ask me to write about them.
Because I'm in Yearbook mode, I'm more attuned to Big Ten news than usual and there's been some interesting tidbits this week. Here's a quick recap.
Good, Ohio State Needed Another SEC QB
Ohio State's quarterback situation didn't look great on April 19. Matthew Baldwin announced he was transferring that day, which meant that Georgia transfer Justin Fields, already the presumed starter, was now the presumed starter almost by default. Chris Chugunov, a West Virginia transfer, was still on the roster but the spring was largely a two-horse race between Fields and Baldwin and one of those horses bolted.
Since then, Ryan Day has added two graduate transfers. Gunnar Hoak joined Ohio State in late April. The Kentucky transfer had only thrown 26 passes as a Wildcat, but the news was a disappointment in Lexington nonetheless.
But you know what they say: If you have two former SEC quarterbacks, you don’t really have any. So, Ohio State added Jagger LaRoe who spent last season, his first season, at Texas A&M. LaRoe is joining the program as a walk-on, which means under the new rule he's immediately eligible. And just like that, Ohio State’s quarterback room is full.
Scary News at Illinois
The University of Illinois confirmed this week that defensive end Bobby Roundtree suffered a "severe" spinal injury while swimming over the weekend in his home state of Florida.
"Bobby Roundtree is exactly what you want in a student-athlete," Illinois coach Lovie Smith said in a prepared statement. "He is a hard worker, dependable, a dedicated student and a leader. This is devastating to his teammates, the entire Fighting Illini family and his family and friends. We will give Bobby all the support possible as he battles through his recovery. Please keep Bobby and his family in your thoughts and prayers."
None of this matters at all at this moment, but Roundtree was an excellent football player. He ranked third on the team in tackles last year (as a defensive end!) and led the Illini in sacks, tackles for loss and pass breakups, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors last season.
A Strong-but-Murky Year Ahead
The national preview magazines are out and Athlon released its updated preseason top 25 online this week. The rankings include seven Big Ten teams, but good luck using this to come up with any clarification about what continues to look like a strong-but-murky year in the Big Ten.
The top four teams in the East lead the way––No. 4 Michigan, No. 5 Ohio State, No. 14 Penn State and No. 16 Michigan State. Then comes the West morass, No. 17 Nebraska, No. 18 Iowa and No. 19 Wisconsin. Unless Phil Steele has something spicy cooking with his preseason rankings, 17th is probably about as high as you'll find the Huskers in the preseason.
The view of the Big Ten as a whole here looks like it's going to be pretty much the preseason consensus by the time August rolls around. I've seen a ranking or two that includes an eighth conference team in the top 25––sometimes Minnesota, sometimes Northwestern––and that doesn't feel terribly out of whack. There's a lot of potentially good teams in the league this year.
Is there a great one? One that can end the Playoff drought? We shall see.
The Grab Bag
- AD Bill Moos says Nebraska’s facilities are “more than adequate,” but he’s got his eye on what things might look like in five years.
- His teammates say pitcher Nate Fisher has a “dog” mentality to him. Fisher’s just fine with that as the Huskers head to the Big Ten Tournament.
- Greg Smith looks at the Huskers’ options at tight end on the recruiting trail.
- Jacob Padilla continues his breakdown of the new Nebrasketball roster with a look at Matej Kavas. (This is a really good series, BTW.)
Today’s Song of Today
Brandon is the Managing Editor for Hail Varsity and has covered Nebraska athletics for the magazine and web since 2012, Hail Varsity’s first season on the scene. His sports writing has also been featured by Fox Sports, The Guardian and CBS Sports.