Big Ten spring game wrap-ups

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Some news, notes, quotes and other assorted tidbits from the three spring games contested across the Big Ten Saturday afternoon…

MICHIGAN STATE
To say that the Spartans’ quarterbacks struggled somewhat during today’s spring game would be an understatement of mammoth proportions.

MSU quarterbacks combined to go 22 of 53 for 386 yards, two touchdown and two interceptions.  Last year’s starter and presumptive front-runner for the job this season, Andrew Maxwell, completed just nine of his 20 attempts for 120 yards and the game-winning touchdown pass.  The strong-armed Connor Cook, who has gained some ground on Maxwell this spring, threw for 217 yards and a scoring toss but also completed less than 40 percent of his passes (10-26).  Redshirt freshman Tyler O’Connor completed five of six passes — three to his offensive teammates, two to his defensive teammates.

All in all, it was rough outing at a position where the Spartans may have more questions exiting spring than they did entering it.

Head coach Mark Dantonio said that the incumbent would top the depth chart entering summer, but stopped short of anointing him as the season-opening starter.

“I think you leave here at the end of spring saying that (Andrew) Maxwell comes into the summer camp number one based on knowledge and consistency in terms of performance.”

For his part, Maxwell feels as if he’s done enough to retain the job.

“I feel like I’ve done everything that I could do to make my case to the coaches to be the guy, and I feel like every day I came out and got better,” the player said. “I took a competitive mindset to every practice, and the ultimate decision is with Coach D.”

— The Spartans’ defense accounted for two touchdowns in the Green team’s 24-17 win over the White squad: a Chris Laneaux 25-yard interception return and a fumble recovery by Kyler Elsworth that was returned 41 yards.  On the other side of the ball, Aaron Burbridge caught five passes for 113 yards.

— Former MSU quarterback great Kirk Cousins, now Robert Griffin III‘s backup in Washington, returned to the East Lansing campus as color analyst for the Big Ten Network’s coverage of the game.  Based on Cousins’ comments, it doesn’t appear this will be his last rodeo in the booth.

“I want the football thing to last as long as it possibly can, but at the same time, in the offseason it makes a lot of sense to pursue other opportunities and prepare yourself for whenever football ends,” Cousins said. “And that’s why I’m here today, and it’s just a bonus I get to be back in familiar territory, watching the team that I love.”

— One of the coolest parts of the Spartans’ spring game was their helmets.  Specifically, the stickers on the back of the helmets honoring those who were killed or injured by the bombings at last Monday’s Boston Marathon.  Very classy gesture:

Michigan State Helmets

PENN STATE
If you were an individual looking for some clarity at the quarterback position coming out of the Nittany Lions’ spring game, you are likely somewhat disappointed at this point in time.

Following the game, head coach Bill O’Brien stated very firmly that neither Steven Bench nor Tyler Ferguson (pictured) had grabbed hold of the starting job and the competition would continue into the “voluntary” workouts and on into summer camp.  Both players completed nine of 15 passes, with Bench throwing for 99 yards and Ferguson 90.  Ferguson tossed two touchdown passes to Bench’s one.

As has been the case for most of the spring, the second-year coach was, for the most part, pleased with the duo’s performance.

“I thought they both (Bench and Ferguson) produced,” O’Brien said. “I thought both had some nice throws. Like everybody, coaches and players included, in every game you play, you wish you had some plays back. I’m sure they do too. I thought they both did some decent things out there today.”

In his post-game talk with reporters, O’Brien made it perfectly clear where the competition stands.

“I’d say, no, I’m not any closer as I sit here right now,” the coach said when asked about naming a starter. “Eventually, I’ll have to make a decision.”

O’Brien added that he will now go back and look at all of the spring practice tapes as they work toward naming a starter at the position.

The real competition, though, won’t begin until August; Christian Hackenberg, a five-star 2013 recruit rated as the No. 2 pro-style quarterback in this year’s class, will join the competition this summer, with most expecting the Virginia product to make a very serious run at the starting job as a true freshman.

— In front of 28,000 or so fans who braved the rain and snow and cold, the the Blue team (defense) dropped the White squad (offense), 67-47.  It was the second straight year the defense has “won” the spring game.

A big reason for the defensive win?  The Nittany Lions’ defense accounted for nine sacks, which counted four points apiece in the scoring system utilized by O’Brien.

— Youth was certainly served for the Nittany Lions as the school noted that all six players who ran, caught or threw a touchdown will be a freshman or sophomore this season.  Both of the front-runners for the starting QB job will be sophomores.

— Another of the young ones was running back Akeel Lynch, who led all rushers with 83 yards on his 13 carries.

— “I feel terrible because I love that city,” O’Brien said of the tragic events in Boston this past week. “I grew up 20 minutes north of that city and my brother Tommy is heavily involved in that city and so is my older brother and my dad and my mom so I feel terrible for them. … Boston is a very resilient city and we caught him last night so that was good.”

WISCONSIN
At the end of Gary Andersen‘s first spring as the Badgers’ head coach, and in the midst of a crowded quarterback competition, it was UW’s defense winning most of the plaudits in Madison Saturday afternoon.

Thanks to the “unique” scoring systems that are all the rage during spring games, the final score appears to be a high-scoring offensive affair: Cardinal 61, White 47.  The former team consisted of the Badgers’ defense, the latter the offense.

The game wasn’t a true measure of either unit, however, as Andersen lamented afterwards that “[w]e’re basically missing six starters right now on the defensive side that didn’t play a snap today, and four or five on the offensive side.”

Also, the fact that the game was televised on the Big Ten Network led Andersen to keep his team’s cards very close to his vest.

“I will say this: Defense today was very vanilla. Offensively, we were very generic, and defensively, we were very generic,” the former Utah State head coach said. “We did throw the ball, bottom line, and we did catch the ball better than we have all spring, and that was very encouraging.”

— The Cardinal team totaled 11 tackles for loss and seven sacks in the game.  As those plays were worth two points apiece, the defense scored 36 of its 61 points off those two types of plays.  They also earned 24 points off of eight three-and-outs.

— As far as the quarterback battle goes, two players, Joel Stave and Curt Phillips, received the vast majority of the reps.  Stave completed 15 of his 20 passes for 161 yards and a touchdown, while Phillips went 8-of-13 for 82 yards.  The other quarterbacks on the roster, including former Maryland Terrapin Danny O’Brien, attempted just three passes each.

— Running back Melvin Gordon, who will be charged with the task of replacing Montee Ball, ran for a team-high 74 yards and scored the game’s only touchdown on the ground.  He also added three catches for 35 yards.

— “Yeah, we’re in a good spot,” Andersen said when asked if his team is where he thought it’d be at the end of the spring.  “You’re never going to get everything you want. You’re never going to have it perfect. We wanted consistency. I think we got that. We wanted effort. I think we got that.”

Stanford down to its third-string QB for Week 8 matchup with UCLA

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If they haven’t already, Stanford may want to consider encasing Jack West in some industrial-strength bubble wrap.

Some type of head injury sidelined season-opening starter K.J. Costello for the USC game in Week 2, although he was able to return the following weekend.  However, after playing in two straight games, a thumb injury kept him out of the Week 5 win over Oregon State and the Week 6 upset of Washington.

In that win over the Huskies, though, Costello’s backup, Davis Mills, suffered a calf injury.  Despite coming off a bye, Costello had already been ruled out of the Week 8 matchup with UCLA; Mills’ injury still lingers as well as, Wednesday night, the Cardinal announced that West (pictured) is expected to get the start against the Bruins.

It will mark the redshirt freshman’s first career start.

West has attempted just five passes during his collegiate career, which came during his true freshman season last year.  While he played for nearly an entire quarter in replacing the injured Mills Oct. 5, West did not throw a pass.

Maryland TE Tyler Devera says he has entered transfer portal

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It seems the transfer portal season never really ends. On Wednesday, one of the newest addition to the transfer portal was Maryland tight end Tyler Devera. Devera announced his entry to the portal on his Twitter account.

Devera was a three-star recruit in Maryland’s Class of 2019 and has yet to appear in a game for the Terrapins.

Entering the transfer portal allows Devera to have contact with any other college football program looking to recruit him. It is worth noting Devera had committed to Rutgers before ending up heading to Maryland. Devera decommitted from the Scarlet Knights after his older brother, Brendan Devera, was dismissed by (now former ) Rutgers head coach Chris Ash. Whether or not Rutgers is back in play given the program will (eventually) have a new head coach remains to be seen.

Even though Devera has not played a game this season, he would have to sit out the 2020 season if he transfers to another FBS program, per NCAA transfer rules and barring any potential waiver that receives approval for immediate eligibility. When Devera is eligible again in 2021, he will still have three years of eligibility after using 2019 or 2020 as a redshirt season.

Uniform updates: Rutgers wearing long sleeved jerseys, Texas Tech throwing it back to 1976

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The Texas Longhorns won’t be the only school wearing a throwback style this weekend. Add Texas Tech and Rutgers to the mix of teams adopting a look that pays tribute to a certain era in program history.

Rutgers, the birthplace of college football, will be doing neer before seen in the modern era of college football. The Scarlet Knights will wear long-sleeve jerseys. The long sleeves mimic the style of uniform worn by the earliest college football players, although these uniforms will be made of a much more athletic material compared to the gear worn by those in 1869. The red long sleeve jerseys will be topped by a white helmet with a classic “R” logo. From head to toe, it is quite a unique look for the Scarlet Knights.

Texas Tech won’t be wearing long sleeves, but they will be wearing a look similar to the one worn during the bicentennial. The retro uniforms to be worn by Texas Tech this weekend take a page from the 1976 Red Raiders with a white helmet and red double-T logo, complete with red stars. Texas Tech claimed a Southwest Conference title in 1976, so the design choice is appropriate for the Red Raiders.

Not to be forgotten, Boston College has been teasing its own throwback look for this weekend too. I’m just guessing it will be one Doug Flutie would appreciate.

Teams suiting up in uniforms designed to pay tribute to a previous generation of program history has been a thing for a while now, but it is great to see so many schools getting in on the fun in the 150th anniversary season of college football. Every team should make it happen.

But wait, there’s more! Boise State is going to wear a uniform similar to the one they wore during their Fiesta Bowl victory over Arizona in 2014.

C’mon Boise State. If you’re going to do a Fiesta Bowl throwback look, it is required by law that it must be the uniform worn in the win against Oklahoma.

Alabama removes Class of 2019 five-star defensive lineman Alfano from roster

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The writing may have been on the wall for much of the season, but Alabama freshman defensive lineman Antonio Alfano appears to no longer be a part of the Alabama football program. Alfano’s name went missing from the team’s online roster, as noted by BamaOnLine.com on Wednesday.

Alfano was among the prized recruits in Alabama’s Class of 2019, but a suspension led to head coach Nick Saban eventually saying Alfano “basically quit” the team. Rumors of his pending entrance to the NCAA transfer portal were ignited following quotes from his family, but BamaOnline reports Alfano has yet to formally have his name added to the portal.

So, uh, what gives?

It’s hard to say for now. Alfano was suspended for unknown reasons early in the season and had yet to play a game for Alabama. His removal from the team’s online roster suggests he will not be making a return to the Crimson Tide. That would suggest an entry to the transfer portal is imminent, especially since his parents previously stated Alfano was doing just that (and publicly saying he should stay at Alabama).

Whatever the future holds for Alfano, there will likely be a number of programs willing to take a look and see if he’s ready to get back on the field in a new environment. If he does transfer, he would have to sit out the 2020 season before being ruled eligible to play again in 2021 with three years of eligibility remaining.