Ohio State Introduces Urban Meyer

Big Ten spring storylines


Thanks in large part to the biggest “free-agent signing” in college last year, Wisconsin staked its claim to a win in the first-ever Big Ten championship game.  With Russell Wilson one-and-done in Madison, however, the conference generally and the Leaders (chuckle) division specifically are up for grabs yet again.

The only certainty for the 2012 race to Indianapolis?  Ohio State won’t be involved, thanks to its well-publicized NCAA issues.

The story of the conference headed into the spring is, of course, a pair of newcomers.  Bill O’Brien takes over a Penn State football program tainted by the Jerry Sandusky child-sex abuse scandal, while Urban Meyer returns to his home-state Buckeyes after hitting the pause button on his coaching career following the 2010 season.

Below are a handful of Big Ten storylines we’ll pay at least some attention to this spring:

Leg up in the Legends?
While Michigan State claimed the division’s spot in the first Big Ten title game, it will likely be its in-state rival that will carry the frontrunner tag heading into the upcoming season.  And why not?  All Brady Hoke did in his first year at Michigan was lead the Wolverines to the most wins (11) since 2006, taking an immense first step in erasing the stench left behind by the RichRod regime.  Beginning in the spring, though, Hoke must find and identify new playmakers at the wide receiver position.  Additionally, Denard Robinson must find a way to reduce his turnovers, although a second year in the same system could very well alleviate that issue on its own.  Fortunately — and by “fortunately” I mean “get down and thank the Good Lord Greg Robinson is not around” — the defense is in the very capable hands of Greg Mattison and, even with some attrition in the trenches, should be a strength of the 2012 edition of the Wolverines.

Monumental change in Happy Valley
For the first time since Lyndon Baines Johnson was sitting in Oval Office, a head coach not named Joe Paterno will direct the Nittany Lions football program through spring drills.  Charged with the task of replacing a coaching legend is Bill O’Brien, who will not only be taking over a program rocked by scandal over the past several months, but will be a head coach for the first time at any level of football.  With O’Brien at the helm, one will actually watch the Nittany Lions field a (gasp!) modern style of offense, replete with passing and excitement and the like.  While keeping some continuity on the defensive side of the ball by retaining Larry Johnson Sr. cannot be understated, all eyes in the spring will be on the number of footballs piercing the Happy Valley air.  Just who will be doing the majority of the flinging remains to be seen; Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden will once again battle for the starting job, with Paul Jones possibly getting himself into the mix as well.  While that crucial battle will begin in the spring, it likely won’t be finished until deep into summer camp.

(Insert “Urban development/renewal” pun here)
Penn State’s not the only Big Ten school preparing to cannonball into 21st century offensive football.  Urban Meyer will bring his version of the spread offense to the Buckeyes, implementing the new system after bringing an SEC mindset to the recruiting game.  Unlike the Nittany Lions, however, there is no question who will be the new offense’s triggerman as true sophomore-to-be Braxton Miller has all of the tools to flourish under the tutelage of Meyer and his offensive coaching staff.  Certainly there are other questions that need answered — filling holes on the offensive line chief among them — and there’s no postseason to play for, but the foundation laid by Meyer & Company this spring will certainly benefit the program in 2013 and beyond.  Provided another sabbatical is not in the offing, of course.

Uncertainty under center
Just because Wisconsin and Michigan State met in the first Big Ten title doesn’t make them the favorites for a return engagement in the second.  A big reason why?  Replacing the talent and experience lost at the quarterback position.  The Badgers, of course, will be looking for a replacement for Russell Wilson, and could very well turn its attention to the East Coast yet again for a QB solution; UW is reportedly one of the handful of schools Danny O’Brien is considering as he transfers from Maryland.  The Spartans, on the other hand, will definitely look from within for a replacement for Kirk Cousins, who started the past three seasons and was widely considered MSU’s heart and soul.  Barring an unexpected development, Andrew Maxwell,  a four-star member of the Spartans’ 2009 recruiting class, is Cousins’ heir apparent.  Whether he’s ready for his new, more visible role remains to be seen.

Report: Baylor regents say Art Briles failed to report alleged assaults

WACO, TX - SEPTEMBER 26:  Head coach Art Briles of the Baylor Bears leads his team against the Rice Owls at McLane Stadium on September 26, 2015 in Waco, Texas.  (Photo by Tom Pennington/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

Baylor’s ongoing scandal involving sexual assaults at the school took yet another turn for the worse on Friday.

In a report from The Wall Street Journal, school regents told the paper that 17 women reported sexual or domestic assaults in alleged incidents involving 19 football players since 2011. The regents, which went on the record to discuss some of the detailed findings from law firm Pepper Hamilton’s in-depth report into the matter for the first time, also said there were four alleged gang rapes involving players in the same time frame.

Former head coach Art Briles was fired by the school as the result of the Pepper Hamilton investigation but has maintained that while he made mistakes, he tried to do the best he could in his position. However the WSJ report disputes that notion by saying that Briles did not notify police, the school’s judicial affairs or Title IX offices of at least one alleged gang rape involving another Bears athlete after being notified of the allegation.

“There was a cultural issue there that was putting winning football games above everything else, including our values,” said J. Cary Gray, a lawyer and member of the Baylor board of regents. “(Briles) said, ‘I delegated down, and I know I shouldn’t have. And I had a system where I was the last to know, and I should have been the first to know.’”

Briles’ lawyer told the paper that the comments appeared to violate a non-disparagement section of the school’s termination agreement with the coach. Briles, athletic director Ian McCaw and university president Ken Starr all resigned or were fired over the summer as the result of their handling of the matter.

With numerous lawsuits already filled and plenty more likely to come up, it figures to be some time before Baylor can move on and put this scandal behind them. On the field, the Bears travel to face Texas on Saturday after starting this season 6-0 under interim head coach Jim Grobe.

Florida RB Mark Thompson cited for pot possession

GAINESVILLE, FL - OCTOBER 15:  Mark Thompson #24 of the Florida Gators rushes for yardage during the game against the Missouri Tigers at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on October 15, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida.  (Photo by Sam Greenwood/Getty Images)
Getty Images

And now we know a little bit more of the rest of the story.

Friday afternoon, Florida announced that Mark Thompson would not travel with the rest of the team to Jacksonville for Saturday’s game against Georgia.  The only reason given was “some choices and decisions he’s made.”

According to the Orlando Sentinel, one of those choices was smoking weed, with that decision resulting in a citation for possession of marijuana.  The citation was issued after the running back ran a stop sign very early Thursday morning and was pulled over by a university police officer.

From the Sentinel:

UFPD spokesperson Maj. Brad Barber said the officer smelled the odor of marijuana in the car and after a search discovered Thompson in possession of fewer than 20 grams of the substance.

Thompson was given a notice to appear for the misdemeanor violation and also cited for failure to stop at a stop sign and failure to provide proof of insurance.

Thompson, a 6-2, 237-pound redshirt junior, is currently third on the Gators in rushing yards (262) and second in rushing touchdowns (two). This is the back’s first season in Gainesville after transferring in from the junior college ranks earlier this year.

Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp set to return after two-game absence

LINCOLN, NE - SEPTEMBER 10: Wide receiver Jordan Westerkamp #1 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers grabs a touchdown pass against linebacker D.J. May #7 of the Wyoming Cowboys at Memorial Stadium on September 10, 2016 in Lincoln, Nebraska. Nebraska defeated Wyoming 52-14. (Photo by Steven Branscombe/Getty Images)
Getty Images
Leave a comment

When undefeated and seventh-ranked Nebraska takes the field for its biggest game of the 2016 season thus far, it’ll do so with one of the most experienced and productive pieces of its passing game back in action.

Jordan Westerkamp sustained an injury to his back during the Week 5 win over Illinois, and was briefly hospitalized after being hit by an Illini defender. The wide receiver missed the Week 7 win over Indiana and the Purdue win the following Saturday because of the injury.

This week, however, Westerkamp practiced without any type of restrictions ahead of the Week 9 game against No. 11 Wisconsin in Madison. Westerkamp, who stated his injuries included tiny fractures on the transverse process in his spine as well as what was described as a deep muscle bruise, confirmed the obvious, that he will suit up for the Cornhuskers and play against the Badgers in the huge Big Ten West matchup.

“It’s been good,” Westerkamp said, by way of the Omaha World-Herald, of his return to practice. “My confidence is at an all-time high and we’re ready to go get back with the team and kick butt this Saturday.”

At the time of the injury, Westerkamp led the Cornhuskers in receiving touchdowns (four) and tied for the team lead in receptions (13). His 228 receiving yards were second behind Alonzo Moore‘s 310.
Last season, Westerkamp led the ‘Huskers in all three of those categories.

‘Due to some choices and decisions he’s made,’ Florida RB Mark Thompson won’t play vs. UGA

GAINESVILLE, FL - SEPTEMBER 17: Mark Thompson #24 of the Florida Gators in action during the second half of the game against the North Texas Mean Green at Ben Hill Griffin Stadium on September 17, 2016 in Gainesville, Florida. (Photo by Rob Foldy/Getty Images)
Getty Images
1 Comment

Sounding very similar to a disappointed parent, Florida has announced that one of their kids will be in timeout instead of on the field this weekend.

Ahead of Saturday’s annual rivalry game with Georgia, Florida announced via Twitter that running back Mark Thompson not only won’t play this Saturday but won’t even make the trip to Jacksonville for The World’s Largest Outdoor Cocktail Party.  Why? “[D]ue to some choices and decisions he’s made.”

The school, obviously, will not go into any further details as to the issue or issues that will sideline the player.

Thompson, a 6-2, 237-pound redshirt junior, is currently third on the Gators in rushing yards (262) and second in rushing touchdowns (two). This is the back’s first season in Gainesville after transferring in from the junior college ranks earlier this year.