Rise and shine, friends. Here's what's going down in the Big Ten today.
Ohio State Buckeyes
The pads are cracking in Day 4 of Ohio State's spring practices, and we've got a battle shaping up at safety between senior Orhian Johnson and juniors C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant, all of whom have significant starting experience. I wasn't terribly impressed by Johnson last year, but he could have one last big year in him.
Penn State Nittany Lions
The Patriot-News' Dustin Hockensmith lists five ways the Penn State offense can improve even without Danny O'Brien in the fold. There's no mention of "Paul Jones is better than Matt McGloin so that's an improvement right there," so that's a disappointment, but the basic gist is that Bill O'Brien is very creative and that can make things easier, and he's right.
Nebraska's getting some alternate uniforms for one game next season, and the Omaha World-Herald's Tom Shatel is begging Nebraska not to throw tradition out the window. We'll have more on this later today, but for now, word to Mr. Shatel: When it comes to trying to stop alternate uniforms from happening, you might as well be yelling at a wall.
On Monday we talked about Kenny Demens' April Fools' prank, saying he was out for the season with the hand injury that has him in a cast. Well, not only is he going to be out of the cast in a couple weeks, he's not even out at all; Demens is still practicing every day—playing through pain. I like it; I can sympathize. I've got a sore hip from sleeping on a floor over the weekend, but I'm still over here blogging. Kenny Demens and I, we're basically the same.
Illinois Fighting Illini
ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg has a cool story (bro) about new Illinois coach Tim Beckman essentially recruiting his top juniors from heading to the draft early. Obviously, Whitney Mercilus was going pro, but fellow defensive linemen Michael Buchanan and Akeem Spence are still on board; likewise, center Graham Pocic (who's quite high on my list of Top 150 Big Ten players) is back in the mix, as is cornerback Terry Hawthorne. Keeping those four guys (so long as they stay mostly healthy) will have a significantly positive effect on Illinois' record in 2012. Count on it.