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Big Ten Notebook: East Division spring update

BY DANNY PAYNE | APRIL 11, 2014 5:00 AM

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While Iowa incumbent starting quarterback Jake Rudock is in a battle to regain his starting spot with sophomore C.J. Beathard breathing down his neck, the Big Ten East Division has a few quarterback controversies of its own.

Let’s start with Michigan.

The Wolverines’ spring practice ended with its spring game last week, giving the Michigan fans a look into former-Alabama offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier’s offense. Head coach Brady Hoke admittedly said Michigan was guarded on what it showed during the spring.

Even with that conservative play calling, Hoke said on Thursday’s Big Ten teleconference that the quarterback battle is a three-horse race.

The third-year head coach said incumbent Devin Gardner, whose fourth-quarter fumble against Iowa at Kinnick Stadium last November was telling of Michigan’s disappointing 7-6 season, didn’t play as well as he could have in the spring game.

Shane Morris and incoming freshman Wilton Speight are challenging Gardner. Morris completed 29-of-47 passes last season for 261 yards. Speight threw for 2,845 yards and 33 touchdowns in his senior year at the Collegiate School in Richmond, Va.

“I think that’s going to continue as a competition,” Hoke said on the teleconference. “The consistency that we need to have at all positions, but when you’re talking about the quarterback, handling the ball every play. I think that’s one where you really have to have the right guy in there.”

Rutgers is also in the midst of a quarterback battle. Head coach Kyle Flood has the task of choosing among Gary Nova, Mike Bimonte, and Chris Laviano. Nova is the only of the trio to record any career stats. He completed passes at a 45 percent rate last season and threw for 18 touchdowns and 4 interceptions.

“[They’re] vying for that first-team job,” Flood said on the teleconference. “I think all three guys have made significant progress.”

Newcomers

Rutgers and Maryland are new to the Big Ten, which creates a large number of opportunities — and problems — for the newcomers.

In terms of recruiting, Flood said the Big Ten brand is a phenomenal tool he can use to bring in highly sought after prospects.

“To be able to walk into a high school, to be able to walk into a home as a member of the Big Ten — the elite academic athletics conference in all of college athletics, there’s no doubt it’s a positive in every way,” Flood said on the teleconference.

The Rutgers headman also said that the name-recognition can help him expand his reach to states where he may not have recruited before joining the league.

On the negative side, Maryland head coach Randy Edsall said the unfamiliarity with the new competition presents a challenge to scout and prepare for the new teams.

He said he has had to stray from his team’s traditional off-season practice schedule and move some things around.

“We’ve had to start our film preparation and film study now to take a look at those teams,” Edsall said. “It presents a challenge, but you just work it into your schedule, and you get those things accomplished.”

Big Ten, Big Apple

As noted above, the 2014-15 school year will mark the beginning of Maryland and Rutgers’ tenure in the Big Ten. To accommodate those East Coast schools and expand its impact, the conference announced Thursday that it will open a second office in New York City.

The release said the offices in Midtown Manhattan will be fully functional by June 1. The current Big Ten offices are in Rosemont, Ill.


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