Every week (or so) on The Big Ten Blog, we will feature questions from the B/R inbox, Twitter and email. Do you have questions for next week's Q&A? Send them to Big Ten lead blogger Adam Jacobi via the B/R inbox, on Twitter @Adam_Jacobi or at email@example.com.
Hello again, friends. Did you enjoy national signing day? You should have, especially if you're an Ohio State or Michigan fan. Or Nebraska or Penn State, perhaps. Even Wisconsin, Michigan State and Indiana were decent. Otherwise, if you enjoyed national signing day, we probably need to have a talk, because something's not quite right with you. Let's talk recruiting and other things on this gorgeous Friday afternoon!
I'm glad you asked. Five stand out in particular.
Danny Friend - Indiana TE: Don't let the name fool you—if you're on the other side of the ball, he will become your Danny Frenemy very quickly.
Reggie Spearman - Iowa LB: Of course the guy named Spearman plays linebacker. Annnnnd his last name has already been flagged 15 yards for unnecessary roughness. Rude.
Ra-Zhan Howard - Purdue DT: We're big fans of the unique portmanteau first names, and suffice it to say we have never met a "Ra-Zhan." We're 80 percent sure that's the name of an Egyptian god.
Courtney Love - Nebraska LB: May this Courtney Love's career go much, much better than the last one's.
De'Niro Laster - Minnesota WR: You know who names their kid after Robert DeNiro...and goes for the "DeNiro" part of the name to do so? Someone with absolutely impeccable taste. Robert DeNiro is an American treasure and now so is De'Niro Laster. Welcome to the Big Ten, son.
I'm glad you asked! Unfortunately, the duck-sized horses tested positive for horse hormones and the horse-sized duck never made it past the NCAA Clearinghouse—some questions about "quacking" as a legitimate high school class—so they're out of the picture. And they're still more likely than Danny O'Brien to start.
Tanner McEvoy is a special player, and one that was highly recruited as a result. 6'6" quarterbacks just aren't supposed to move like that, and if he gets beat out in the QB race, he should give a long, hard look at spending time at WR while he waits to make another run at the QB spot. His arm strength and accuracy are very good (even though his mechanics aren't great), and he's a real weapon in the open field. Physically, he's amazing.
But he's also got by far the least time spent with Wisconsin's receivers, and there is a glut of talent already at the QB spot. Curt Phillips got a sixth year, so he's back for one last hurrah—and he played over Joel Stave in the Rose Bowl. Bart Houston should be healthy; he's a former 4-star QB who redshirted last season as he rehabbed a knee injury. He looked like the heir apparent to the starting role before McEvoy showed up, and now he may have been rendered irrelevant. Or he could still start.
And furthermore, Stave earned that starting role and only gave it up thanks to the injury fluke that is a broken collarbone. He was Wisconsin's best passer last year, and like McEvoy, he's got three years left to play.
We don't know who's going to start here, and we strongly doubt Gary Andersen knows either. We do know that there are four starting-quality QBs on that roster right now, three of whom have a lot of eligibility left, and so once that competition is settled, don't be surprised if at least one QB transfers. That's just an overload of talent at that position, and there's no way to work around it.
¿Uno mas? ¡Uno mas! Onward!
One team that should raise expectations is Michigan State. That team was extraordinarily unlucky, losing close game after close game while apparently good offensive game plans ended up botched time after time by poor QB or WR play—and it didn't help when reliable TE Dion Sims went out with an injury.
The offensive line there is more or less intact, and while there are some impact losses on defense, the majority of the starting 11 is still there, and there's still some talent. Max Bullough and Denicos Allen are now our favorite Big Ten linebacking duo until further notice, and Darqueze Dennard is set to make the leap as the next big-time lockdown corner in the Big Ten.
On the flip side of expectations is Nebraska. That offense is loaded, and Taylor Martinez is probably going to have one of the most underappreciated, amazing seasons in recent memory in 2013. It's going to be underappreciated because no matter how much he accomplishes, how many yards he racks up and how many touchdowns he throws for, Nebraska's gutted defense is going to force the offense to score at least 31 points a game basically every time the Huskers take the field.
This could be an all-time bad defense for Nebraska—and yes, we remember 2007. In Nebraska's four losses in 2012, the "vaunted" "Blackshirt" "defense" gave up an average of 53.5 points per game. In the 10 wins, it was 17 PPG, yes. But those wins came against some pretty awful teams.
Okay, now take that defense, the one that got nuked by every decent offense it played—and now take away basically every good player it had, thanks to graduation. Only four starters return on that defense in 2013, and none of them were impact players last season. It's a starting defense full of a bad defense's backups from a year ago.