It's one of those weird calendar years for college football. The fall includes two bye weeks and the first full Saturday of football lands in August. This spring, 10 of the 12 Big Ten teams holding spring games will do that the weekend of April 13 (same as Nebraska's). No slow drip here.
That means just about every team is practicing right now and, as we looked at a month ago, there's a lot to be sorted at quarterback among Nebraska's division rivals. It can be a lot to keep up with, so here's a quick refresh on spring quarterback battles in the Big Ten West, which includes an injury worth keeping an eye on in the months ahead.
Illinois: The Illini appear to be in no hurry to name a starter, which isn't a surprise. Prized freshman Isaiah Williams doesn't show up until summer. For now, three players are taking snaps with sophomore M.J. Rivers II having the advantage of starting three games last year. (Spring game: 4/13)
Iowa: The Hawkeyes are good, thanks, as far as quarterback but they won't be holding a spring game this year as the turf at Kinnick Stadium is being replaced. (Spring game: No)
Minnesota: "I don't know if you start from scratch . . .," Gophers head coach PJ Fleck said of having two returning quarterbacks in camp this spring, but he made it clear that there's a competition between sophomores Zack Annexsted and Tanner Morgan. There are also two freshmen in the mix. There hasn't been much practice-by-practice jockeying, at least any that's been reported, and that's probably more than fine by Fleck. In fact, it's likely by design. "Championships are bred through competition," he said this spring. (Spring game: 4/13)
Northwestern: The Wildcats will return from a two-week spring break/finals break on April 2 and wrap up drills on April 13 without holding a spring game (as is tradition). Clemson transfer and former 5-star recruit Hunter Johnson is still the heavy favorite to win that job, but Pat Fitzgerald said he hadn't won it yet before Northwestern went on hiatus. (Spring game: No)
Purdue: No need for full-on alarm bells yet, but presumed starter Elijah Sindelar was shut down last week for the rest of spring football after "tweaking" his knee. However, coach Jeff Brohm said it's the same knee that required surgery at the end of 2017 (ACL tear) and kept him out most of 2018. The Boilermakers have a handful of other options, but Sindelar has showed some promise when he's healthy. (Spring game: 4/6)
Wisconsin: There are four QBs taking snaps this spring, but, really, there are two. There's the sorta experienced guy, junior Jack Coan (four starts), and the wunderkind, early enrollee Graham Mertz. This will shock you, but Paul Chryst is downplaying the battle this spring. I, however, find it to be pretty fascinating. With überrunningback Jonathan Taylor back for another year, and maybe only one more year, there has to be some sense of urgency to try and take a run at the biggest prizes out there with such a talent. Which quarterback offers the best complement to that, the presumably steadier Coan or the presumably splashier Mertz? (Spring game: 4/13)
Over the weekend, NJ.com ranked the Big Ten teams based on their quarterback situations. Nebraska and Adrian Martinez came in third behind Michigan and Iowa.
The Grab Bag
- I wrote about Nebraska’s suddenly very competitive coaching salary combo now that Fred Hoiberg is in place.
- Two more Hoiberg pieces not to miss: Derek Peterson dives into the numbers and Jacob Padilla on recruiting and roster management.
- Drama-free is good, right? Nebraska’s tight ends are drama-free.
- Kyle Kardell offers three takeaways from Nebraska baseball’s weekend series with Minnesota.
Today’s Song of Today