Spring football is in the books for B1G teams. Impressions have been made, narratives have been formed and summer storylines are in place.
Here are some thoughts from the spring that was in the B1G:
-Janarion Grant will be used a ton in 2016
The Rutgers speedster might be the best kick returner in the country, but he’ll have plenty more on his plate in Drew Mehringer’s offense. He had a whopping 11 catches for 140 yards in Rutgers’ spring game. Might I remind you, he did that in a spring game. It was clear that in this new offense, the coaching staff is going to look for any way possible to get Grant the ball in space.
It could be on bubble springs, jet sweeps, or even the occasional deep ball. But given Rutgers’ limited returning options at receiver, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Grant become the most important player in the Scarlet Knights’ offense.
-Michigan State, Wisconsin QB battles will go deep into fall camp
It’s easy to assume the more experienced quarterbacks will win their respective starting jobs. Tyler O’Connor and Bart Houston could definitely do that, but not without a fight.
Damion Terry shook off a rough start and showed why he can be dangerous in MSU’s offense. Alex Hornibrook actually out-performed Houston and displayed some impressive upside on deep throws. Both battles will remain hot topics of conversation throughout the summer, thanks in part to how their coaches handle such matters.
It would be surprising to see Paul Chryst or Mark Dantonio provide much insight on an offseason developments. Until then, we’ll speculate away.
-J.T. Barrett will have plenty of help
Losing the skill players that Ohio State did put plenty of pressure on Barrett to produce with a new cast and crew. While Barrett admittedly didn’t look his best in the spring game, there were some young Buckeye skill players who shined.
I already wrote about how impressive Mike Weber and Torrance Gibson were. Both could step into prominent roles if they continue to progress this summer, as could Terry McLaurin. Marcus Baugh might also be a new option with Urban Meyer’s desire to involve the tight end in the passing game more in 2016.
The spring game showed what many people believed. Ohio State has plenty of talented skill players for Barrett to rely on. Some national pundits and forecasters might say the Buckeyes will be a one-man show in 2016, but that won’t be the case.
Barrett will have weapons. It’ll be his responsibility to learn how to use them best.
-Nebraska’s pass coverage might not get much help
Nebraska’s defensive line is one of the B1G’s biggest question marks heading into the offseason. Losing Maliek Collins and Vincent Valentine hurt, but the news that Greg McMullen is stepping away from football was crushing for a team that lacks experience up front. Nebraska also lost the energetic Jack Gangwish, which means this unit is in need of some major repairs on the defensive line.
The pass-coverage was supposed to be improved with all that Nebraska returned at linebacker and in the secondary. But that won’t matter if the Huskers can’t get after quarterbacks. Even worse, they might have to play more guys in the box if their inexperienced line can’t get off blocks and stop the run. That group will have plenty of work ahead this summer.
-Penn State’s offense will have the biggest offensive facelift
I’m sorry if you’re sick of hearing this narrative, but it’s true. Joe Moorhead will take this group in the direction that it needs to go with Trace McSorley under center.
I’m not saying McSorley is better than Hackenberg already or that he’ll put up the numbers he did. But the spring game was an early indicator that McSorley could be a better fit with Moorhead than Hackenberg was with Franklin. McSorley’s mobility will benefit DaeSean Hamilton and Chris Godwin, both of whom could be more consistent factors in the game plan.
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We didn’t get to see how Saquon Barkley will be used in Moorhead’s offense, but you can imagine the holes he’ll run through if McSorley displays that kind of accuracy outside the hashes.
The PSU offensive line is still a work in progress, as is the rest of the offense. But Penn State fans couldn’t have asked for much more offensive optimism than what they saw in the spring game.
-Corey Clement is still capable of living up to 2015 expectations
Ok, one series is not a fair barometer for an entire season. Still, Clement showed plenty in his limited spring game action.
The Badger senior looked as healthy as he’s been in a long time. It had to be a sigh of relief for him to have the showing he did. Any lingering effects of the sports hernia surgery appeared to be gone, which is exactly what Wisconsin fans hoped to see.
He said just getting through spring practices without a setback was a victory in itself. It’s hard to argue with that after a disastrous 2015 season. Clement already said that he isn’t going to think about reaching 2,000 yards or improving his draft stock. Staying on the field and doing what he does best — perhaps better than anybody in the B1G when healthy — will take care of that.
-Jabrill Peppers will be the most fun defensive player to watch in 2016
Getting to see Peppers in Florida made one thing abundantly clear. He’s going to be everywhere in Don Brown’s defense. He has the speed and hunger for contact to operate as a modern linebacker. Peppers is plenty capable of blowing up a running back in the backfield one play and locking down a slot receiver the next.
Brown loves his versatility, and you can bet that he won’t be afraid do use it. Peppers is a special playmaker with or without the ball in his hands, which is what makes him so valuable. Everybody is excited to see what he can do on offensive or in the return game, but the real fun will be watching him do it all on defense.