Spartan Nation 2006 Big Ten preview and predictions

Publish date:

Predicted 06’ Finish

      Rank      school    overall record   (Big Ten Record)

  1.           #1   Ohio State    12-0                    (8-0)
  2.           #7  Penn State    10-2                    (7-1)
  3.           #11 Iowa             10-2                    (6-2)
  4.           #19 Michigan St.  8-4                     (5-3)
  5.           #21 Minnesota      8-4                    (5-3)
  6.           #25 Michigan       7-5                     (4-4)
  7.           Illinois                  6-6                    (3-5)
  8.           Indiana                 6-6                     (2-6)
  9.           Purdue                  6-6                     (2-6)
  10.           Wisconsin            6-6                      (2-6)
  11.           Northwestern        4-8                    (0-8)


#1 Ohio State University                  Â

Letter winners Returning: 43 offense: 21   defense: 20

Starters returning:Â offense:Â 8Â defense:Â 2

So many people look at the key loss of all three LB’s and that is true. What they don’t talk about is the depth that this team had. Loaded at LB with players that could have played on ANY other Big Ten (maybe not Iowa) and the have Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. back. Of course the Wolverines don’t like them but Jim Tressel is one of the best football coaches in the nation and will have this team in the national championship game. Pittman is back at tailback and Patterson and Pitcock should make this DT class as strong as last seasons LB corps! Look for the number one recruit in the country last year Chris Wells (RB) to make a splash also. He was in for spring ball and will be more then an adequate back up for Pittman. I think that OSU will meet Oklahoma in an important bowl game: the National Championship game. The biggest newcomer this season will be Chris Wells. Wells is the #1 rated RB in the country for the 2006 recruits and he is a stud. He enrolled early, which helped him greatly in spring ball and in high school he had an incredible 27 TD’s and over 2,000 yards. The top assistant on this team is clearly Jim Bollman. He is the OC and he has not only acquired Tressel’s ear but most of all his respect. Clearly he is HC material and a great guy.


#7 Penn State University

Letter winners returning:Â 35Â offense: 13Â defense: 20

Starters returning:Â offense:Â 5Â defense:Â 4

The Nittany Lions have some questions at QB but the massive influx of talent has them poised for another great season. This team is actually deeper with raw talent then they were last season even with the losses. With Coach Hall taking this offense to another level look for big things out of University Park! The backfield and two WR’s return and so do all three LB’s including the Spartan Nation preseason All American Paul Posluszny. The offense will not be as good, but the defense can potentially be the best in the land. Notre Dame and Ohio State will be too much but with no Iowa, this will be a great year. Make no doubt about it, Lloyd Carr’s whining cost them last year when they referees put extra time on the clock for the Wolverines and they got their only loss. They don’t face Iowa and that is a plus for them. The biggest newcomer this season will be A.J. Wallace. He has blazing speed and could get some reps in the DB role. He played RB in high school but loves playing defense and hitting. Here is what one coach commented to me about him: “that kid just loves football. I can’t see him sitting he is just to good and to fast.” He also has good height for a DB at 6’1” and is a difference maker. The top assistant on this team is without a doubt the great Galen Hall. Hall came into a tough situation and held his ground with both JoePa and his son Jay. That is by no means a disrespect of Jay he is a fine coach, but Hall clearly leads the offense and the revival of Penn State can be traced to him.


#11 Iowa Hawkeyes

Letter winners returning:Â 45Â offense:Â 23Â defense:Â 20

Starters returning:Â offense:Â 7Â defense:Â 7

With a great staff and a great head coach, the Hawks are poised to get back to meeting the high expectations coach Ferentz has for himself. Enjoy each season you have with coach Ferentz hawk fan, as soon as the Penn State job comes open he is gone. Solid coaching will put these kids in a position to accomplish a lot. They have some issues that got addressed in the spring and have a solid recruiting class. That class was not spectacular but it filled needs and that is critical. A very favorable schedule will help them in 2006. Drew Tate is back and that is huge. This team will have a late season loss to their big rival Minnesota but if that could be avoided and an upset of Ohio State, then this team could be in the mix. They certainly have the talent but I still see OSU. The biggest newcomer this season will be James Cleveland. He has good speed at 4.5 but comes from high school were his head coach was Drew Tate’s Dad. He ha a great relationship with Tate that will help him immediately as far as QB/WR chemistry. He also has good size and is expected to make a noticeable impact. The top assistant on this team cannot be narrowed down. Ferentz has a great staff and is top two are the Spartan Nation’s own Norm Parker the DC and ken O’Keefe the OC. Parker enjoys being with Ferentz immensely and is treated by Ferentz as an equal. Ferentz trusts Parker and listens to him. O’Keefe clearly has HC ability at a top D1 school and with his performance in Iowa I am shocked he has yet to get the chance. The best 1-2 OC/DC combo in the Big Ten.



#19 Michigan State University

Letter winners returning: 51 offense: 24  defense: 23

Starters returning:Â offense:Â 6Â defense:Â 6

The burden is on this coaching staff that is clearly on the hot seat. Outside of the athletic directors office and the football building everyone realizes that. The best QB in the nation is the MSU QB and MSU is loaded on offense. The OL is solid, the RB position has three starter quality players in Jehuu Caulcrick, Javon Ringer and A.J. Jimmerson. WR is a place that the Spartans will also excel. The defense for the first time in a long time is loaded with playmakers. Justin Kershaw will star at the DE position, along with DT Cliff Ryan. He is a gifted tackle with speed and great feet. David Herron, Jr. will lead a good LB corps and Nehemiah Warrick is a hard-hitting DB that punishes people. Kaleb Thornhill is exactly what you want at the LB position. He is incredibly intelligent, strong and has football instincts that cannot be taught. The biggest concern with the Spartans is the coaching staff. Can they show an ability to avoid stupid mistakes and critical errors? John L. Smith is a great person and certainly I root for him but he gets a paycheck for coaching football, not being a good guy. He realizes that he has the talent and this team should win so do it. I think this team gets 8 wins and that will get John L. Smith an extension. If for ANY reason this team does not get 8 wins, then MSU will not only be getting a new A.D. (Mark Hollis) but they should also be getting a new football coach. Like I said, I don’t see that happening, John L. will get his 8 wins and an extension. The biggest newcomer this season is a total no brainer. Coach Lansing had a good class but the cream is JUCO transfer Nehemiah Warrick. He is a big head hunting strong safety and immediately got his teammates respect with his spring play after enrolling early. I had two Big Ten coaches tell me that he was all they were hearing about. Good kid and a great football player. He instantly with Otis “Bling Bling” Wiley upgrades the MSU safety position. The top assistant on this team is a toughie. You would look at the numbers and have to say Baldwin but he clearly hasn’t earned that. This is John L. Smith’s offense and this team plays conservative in tough games. Enos is a star in the making but has yet to have a year to qualify. Smeland the DC got away from coaching defense the way John L. wants it done and at one point John L. admitted to me his concern with the coordinators last season. That said, for best “on field” assistant I have to look at a rising star that people all over have asked me about and that is Derrick Jackson the LB coach that Smith stole in a great coup from NI. His players not only love him but also more importantly respect him. I also really like Mike Cox the LB coach (he has HC qualities) and Stoutland does well with the OL.


#21 University of Minnesota

Letter winners returning:Â 31Â offense:Â 12Â defense:Â 15

Starters returning:Â offense:Â 7Â defense:Â 7

Led by one of the most underrated coaches in the nation, Glen Mason, the Gophers have the program looking upward. A strong push is going on to get the Gophers an on campus stadium that every Big Ten School should be fighting against purely for selfish reasons. They lose Laurence Maroney a great back but they have another one in the stable in Justin Valentine. They also have QB Cupito back and two solid receivers and two good offensive linemen. Mason had a good recruiting class considering all that was going against him and with a solid corps of 7 starters back on defense, look out. This is a solid program and should beat Michigan at the Dome for back-to-back wins. Mason has been fighting not only Big Ten opponents but also a terrible athletic administration that strung him and the program out to dry over his contract. Mason has done more with this program then almost anyone could and his only crime as been honesty. When asked by the local media about his interest in the OSU job he said he was interested. It was his school. They hung him out to dry but without him they wouldn’t be on track for a new stadium and without him they would be about as good as Bemidji State. Who you ask? Exactly. Once the Gophs get a new stadium the sky is the limit for Mason. The biggest newcomer this season for the Gophers is going to be RB Brylee Callender. He is a JUCO transfer but should come in and make an immediate impact. Mason always has a great rushing attack and with losing 2 great backs to the NFL the last two years, he just reloads. This young man had over 100 yards rushing in the spring game and scored 3 TD’s. He is also a Minnesota kid so this is a perfect fit. He is very strong and has deceptive speed. He can turn it on and off like all good backs.  The top assistant on this team is Mitch Browning. He is one of the most versatile assistants in the country. He has produced nothing but greatness at the OL for Minnesota and that allows them to with less then superior talent control the ball and run. As the OC he also handles a multitude of other chores.


#25 University of Michigan

Letter winners returning:Â 48Â offense:Â 21Â defense:Â 24

Starters returning:Â offense:Â 6Â defense:Â 8

Make no mistakes that the Wolverines year in and year out have some of the best talent in the nation. Talent is NEVER the issue in Ann Arbor. I like Lloyd Carr and I admit I am not a Wolverine fan but I cannot understand how the outpouring of love for Bo can continue and the venom for Lloyd flow? Certainly the microscope is unfair at UM as Lloyd is expected to always do more then Bo ever did. That said, they always have at least one loss each season that you scratch your head at wonder. I see no way that they beat Notre Dame at Notre Dame, I also think they have the head scratch loss in Minneapolis at the Dome. I see this team losing to Iowa and ending the season with a loss to an Ohio State team on their way to the national championship game. Hart is a game changer as a RB and Henne is a very good QB (3rd best in the Big Ten) but that doesn’t take care of the intangibles that hurt this team. New coaching blood is non-existent even with a change. They bring Mike Debord up to the OC position but he failed terribly at Central and that mess is just finally getting cleaned up. They still are stuck in a bubble that even with all the talent, LaMarr Woodley is a Spartan Nation pre season All American, but that won’t save the season. My pick is not based on being a MSU fan, I have predicted UM to win it before. My issue is that this team is stuck and it struggles to get up. The biggest newcomer this season for the Wolverines is Justin Boren. He played center in the spring game and they have questions at C with Mark Bihl. Boren is very strong and is to good on a two shallow line to not get reps and possible be a starter by the end of the year.   The top assistant on this team is Ron English. Carr’s staff is in bad need of an overhaul and he puts Debord at OC and I do not like him as a coach at all. I do however like English who brought in some badly needed new blood and has done well. I think he will do well as the DC if Carr doesn’t micromanage him.


University of Illinois

Letter winners returning: 44Â offense:Â 23Â defense:Â 19

Starters returning:Â offense:Â 10Â defense:Â 10

This team is on the rise. There is no secret that Zook is a great recruiter and Reggie Mitchell is a great coach in his own right. I think they will lose to Wisconsin at Wisconsin but they are on their way and get into a bowl game. That being what it is, this team is on its way up. In two seasons I think you will see just how powerful Zook is as a recruiter and coach. If the Illini faithful support this guy he will have a great career at Illinois. He has told me on three different occasions that he won’t leave Illinois and I believe him. The biggest newcomer this season for the Illini will be Marques Wilkins. He is a quality WR that should begin the season (or at least by time the Big Ten starts) as a starter. He has all the tools and the Illini staff is very high on this young man. He is great addition to a good Illini recruiting class.   The top assistant on this team is the Spartan Nation’s own Reggie Mitchell. Put a great recruiter like Zook and Mitchell together and the sky is already turning blue. He is tireless and loyal and can also coach well. Never was really allowed to “fit in” with the Smith staff at MSU and was certainly not “encouraged" to stay with the Spartans. He is a great man and a very good coach. Zook told me: “I rely heavily on Reggie. He is a great coach and person and I certainly see him as my trusted assistant.” Enough said!


Indiana University

Letter winners returning: 36Â offense:Â 17Â defense:Â 15

Starters returning:Â offense:Â 7Â defense:Â 6

It surprised no one nationally that Coach Hoeppner demonstrated his ability to lead a quality program. He could have waited and got his pick of choice jobs but he wanted to go to IU and did. Well the fans in the basketball crazed school bought what the ball coach was selling and they improved. This season, they will get back to a bowl and will more importantly for them and the program, will end the season beating archrival Purdue at Purdue. Blake Powers is a fine QB and this team will be very much improved. Hoeppner is not a good coach, he is great and it will be a long rebuilding process in Bloomington because he basically inherited a bottom half MAC talent program. He can and will do it if the faithful let him. The biggest newcomers this season for the Hoosiers will be the Twin Turbos as they are affectionately called in Hoosier land. Aaron (DB) and Adrian (RB) Burks are twins with great speed and athleticism. They come in with a lot of spunk and fire and put playmakers in a Hoeppner system that needs them. These two will bring a lot of excitement and that is critical from out in Arizona to Bloomington.   The top assistant on this team is Brian George. Coach George is a very solid coach and does a solid job at DC. He came with Hoeppner from Miami of Ohio and is a trusted assistant and makes great adjustments when he has the talent he is one of the best.



Letter winners returning: 41Â offense:Â 21Â defense:Â 20

Starters returning:Â offense:Â 7Â defense:Â 4

This program is spiraling and the assistant coaches jumped ship like a bunch of rats. Tiller is a good guy but will suffer in all facets of the game with a boatload of new coaches. I have nothing good to say about the program or it’s outlook. I could say that Tiller is a nice guy and that would be absolutely true, but that is all I can say that is good. This team is going to struggle. It is not Tiller’s fault he has done a lot with a Purdue program that had nothing. The beating he has taken is pathetic. The biggest newcomer this season for the Boilermakers is Selwyn Lymon. A BIG WR that stands 6’4”. He enrolled in Purdue in 2005 after not qualifying but he will be playing for the Boilers in 06. This young man screams of electricity and he will help especially in the system that Tiller runs. This was a great addition for Tiller. The top assistant on this team is hard to judge. The Staff jumped ship last season like rats and Tiller is in a tough spot. That said returning as DC his Brock Spack. He is a very solid coach and excels at teaching. Tiller is brilliant with offense and he needs a guy like Spack to compliment him.


University of Wisconsin

Letter winners returning: 50Â offense:Â 18Â defense:Â 29

Starters returning:Â offense:Â 3Â defense:Â 8

Bret Bielema is in a situation that he cannot win. He is replacing a legend in Badgerland in Alvarez and Barry got out with the cupboard bare. The Badger faithful will not tolerate failure and he will be on a short lease. Like those who follow Bo at UM, they will never do better in the perception battle even if they do better on the field. Defense will be O.K. and the special teams should be sufficient, but this will be a rough year in Madison. He is fortunate to have the embarrassing preseason schedule that Alvarez favored. I have no love for the new regime and I was a huge Alvarez guy. This year will not be great and look for the fans to not give Bielema the love they gave Alzarez. He will win 6 games and the Badger fans will not be real happy. The biggest newcomer this season for the Badgers is Jake Bscherer. He is a big strong left guard that should compete and win the starting LG position by seasons end. He allowed 0 (ZERO) sacks in high school and he is the man. I had him rated in the top 35 OL for the 06’ recruiting class and he is the man. Wisconsin loves to run the ball and I don’t see that changing and you need the big horses like this fella to do it. May with his height struggle at first with keeping his body square and not standing up (keeping low) but he is an athlete and will adjust well. The top assistant on this team is another difficult choice because with Bielema being new, you have to wait and see how relationships will develop. With Bielema being so young however I think that Henry Mason the longtime WR coach will be critical for him.


Northwestern University

Letter winners returning:Â 46Â offense 23Â defense:Â 22

Starters returning:Â offense:Â 8Â defense:Â 8

I had this team rated much higher before the death of my friend Randy Walker. Coach was a huge part of the psyche of this team and I cannot see them recovering from such a huge loss. Marquice Cole is an NFL type CB and will be fun to watch, but the Cats will have to many off field issues to save the season. Sad. That is all I can say. I would love for these kids to rally and do much better as I originally thought they would but I don’t have the faith. I love this school and program and I hope it does not go backwards. The biggest newcomer this season for the Wildcats is a kicker. Yes folks for a first time ever I am naming a kicker as a team’s best newcomer. Stefan Demos has a booming leg and should compete right away for the starters role. If he doesn’t win the starters job then he still remains the best by pushing Howells to improve. This team will struggle this year with the loss of Walker and this should be an area of great need. The top assistant on this team is also very difficult. With the passing of Randy the LB/Recruiting coach Pat Fitzgerald was promoted to head coach. That said, if he maintains the relationship that Walker had with his staff then I can clearly say OC Garrick McGee and DC Greg Colby will fill that role. Walker had great relationships with his staff and Fitzgerald was well liked by Walker and the staff. Those two great CO should be a great help to the capable but young Fitzgerald.


Spartan Nation Pre Season All Big Ten Team



QB Drew Stanton, MSU

RB Antonio Pittman, OSU

RB Mike Hart, UM

C Trevor Rees, NWU

G Kyle Cook, MSU

G T.J. Downing, OSU

T Kirk Barton, OSU

T Levi Brown, PSU

TE Matt Spaeth, MN

WR Ted Ginn, Jr., OSU

WR James Hardy, IU



DT Cliff Ryan, MSU

DT Quinn Pitcock, OSU

DE Justin Kershaw, MSU

DE Ken Iwebema, IOWA

LB Paul Posluszny, PSU

LB LaMarr Woodley, UM

LB John Kerr, OSU

CB Marquice Cole, NWU

CB Leon Hall, UM

S Roderick Rogers, UW

S Nehemiah Warrick, MSU



P Brandon Fields, MSU

K Kyle Schlicher, IOWA

Spartan Nation pre season offensive player of the year:

Drew Stanton, QB MSU

Spartan Nation pre season defensive player of the year:
LaMarr Woodley, UM