Good News/Bad News: Big Ten East

Submitted by Ace on August 25th, 2016 at 3:02 PM

Previously: Big Ten West


Good riddance. [Bryan Fuller]

We're still taking a look at the strongest and weakest units of each Big Ten squad, this time focusing on the East division. These are still in order of Bill Connelly's power rankings. You'll like this order.

MICHIGAN

Good News: [looks at defensive line depth chart] [cackles for several minutes]

Bad News: I know we all believe Ben Bredeson is going to be quite good, but I'd be lying if I said the news that a true freshman might start at left tackle doesn't give me the willies.

MICHIGAN STATE

Good News: Linebacker, as usual, should be a strength, even if Ed Davis's dubious claim for a sixth year—we'll know for sure soon—doesn't go through. Riley Bullough isn't quite in that top tier of Big Ten MLBs, but he's close, and I think Jon Reschke is a quality player on the strong side. Sophomore Andrew Dowell is a player I really liked coming out of high school; he's stepping into the "STAR" spacebacker role after flashing promise as a freshman. Pulling some NCAA voodoo to get Davis another year could take this group from good to great.

Bad News: There are some major question marks (and ORs) on the depth chart on both lines, but for me the main area of concern is still the passing game. Tyler O'Connor has won the starting QB job; unless he improves dramatically from his (admittely limited) time of the field last year, there will be a noteworthy dropoff from Connor Cook. The bigger issue, though, might be the receiving corps. Cook's binky, Aaron Burbridge, is also off to the NFL, as is MacGarrett Kings Jr., leaving slot RJ Shelton as the only returning wideout with more than two catches last year. Experience is very important at both receiver and quarterback; State doesn't have much at either.

[Hit THE JUMP]

OHIO STATE

Good News: While JT Barrett had a down year as a passer in 2015, his struggles can largely be attributed to circumstances—both the season-long QB battle and the loss of Tom Herman—that should be mitigated this season. He's still one of the best running QBs in the country, and if he can come close to his freshman passing production he'll be easily the best QB in the conference.

Bad News: After so much roster turnover, there are a lot of spots on the depth chart where you can point to a lack of experience, but it's hard to expect huge drops in play given the combination of ridiculous talent and coaching in the program. That said, starting a true freshman on the O-line is a big red flag, and the Buckeyes are poised to do just that with Michael Jordan (NTMJ) at left guard. The Viking horde that is Michigan's interior D-line should have (excessively violent) fun with that matchup.

PENN STATE

Good News: Sophomore RB Saquon Barkley would be a Heisman contender on a better team. He won't have to carry the entire workload, either. PSU's passing game could very well improve with new faces at both offensive coordinator and quarterback. Meanwhile, they signed five-star RB Miles Sanders, who should immediately become the second half of one of the best tailback tandems in the country.

Bad News: Penn State had the best pass-rush in the country due to the exploits of Carl Nassib, Austin Johnson, and Anthony Zettel. All of those guys are gone. The only remaining starter, Garrett Sickels, had a pedestrian year in 2015, and only two returning DTs saw any action at all last season. PSU has some very good linebackers; they're going to need to be great to make up for the losses up front.

INDIANA

Good News: Opponents are going to spend a lot of time chasing after this receiving corps if JuCo transfer QB Richard Lagow is any good. Simmie Cobbs Jr. is the big downfield target; he's both high-volume (110 targets in 2015) and high-efficiency (9.4 yard per target). A cadre of slot types surround him; 5'10" Ricky Jones, 5'7" Mitchell Paige, and 5'8" J-Shun Harris II (returning from a season lost to injury) will give Lagow plenty of options when opposing defenses focus on Cobbs.

Bad News: The entire secondary returns. This secondary:

Meanwhile, the rush defense was somehow worse than the pass defense in 2015, and IU loses five of their top seven defensive linemen. Another year of CHAOS is all but guaranteed.

MARYLAND

Good News: Maryland should be strong up the gut on defense. They were 36th in power success rate in 2015, have a couple burly DTs in Azubuike Ukandu and Kingsley Opara, and Jermaine Carter is one of the best inside linebackers in the country.

Bad News: The Terps will roll with Perry Hills as their starting quarterback in the season opener. Yes, that Perry Hills.

He'll be a better fit in new OC Walt Bell's up-tempo, spread-to-run system. Given his struggles completing passes to the correct team last year, though, that's probably not going to be enough.

RUTGERS

Good News: New head coach Chris Ash, in all likelihood, won't try to get a player's grade changed by meeting a professor on campus in the fail-proof disguise of "I'm not literally wearing team-issued clothing." 

Bad News: Rutgers has to replace all of their starting linebackers from an abject defense. This is how that was going in the spring:

Jay Niemann on LB depth chart: 'It's a mess'

They've settled on three true sophomores with a combined one career start. It's gonna be a mess.

Comments

Santa Clause

August 25th, 2016 at 3:07 PM ^

What the hell is Brian's problem with true freshman? If the man can play, let him play. It's not like the 1960s where Freshman weren't even allowed to play and sucked coming in. These new generation of kids are the most college ready that they've ever been. Plus, Bredeson was a borderline 5 star and is being coached by one of the best in the business. I just don't understand it.

tampablue87

August 25th, 2016 at 3:14 PM ^

If Newsome were to win the LT job, most would be okay with that. The fact that Bredeson *could be better than him at this stage is icing on the cake. By the middle of the season, it's hard to consider a guy like Bredeson a true freshman these days. So much training year round, fall camp, etc.. 

mjv

August 25th, 2016 at 4:00 PM ^

Offensive line and QB are the two spots that require the most development to be game ready. 

For OL, it is a unique requirement of both physical size and strength, technique and teamwork.  each of these things takes time to develop.  While speed for certain skill positions can be there from age 16 or so, getting to be a well conditioned 300+lb lineman (not just a fat blob), takes time.  This makes the lack of time in a collegiate S&C program is a huge issue.  At most they have had 8 months (assuming early enrollment).  

And the level of team work required with the other OL takes time playing together.  And these guys frequently have questionable technique because so many of them got by on being physically dominant against future doctors, engineers and accountants.  

SalvatoreQuattro

August 25th, 2016 at 4:14 PM ^

Most people who play high school are not doctors, engineers, and accountants. Numerically-speaking those relatively rare jobs that are filled mostly by people who,if they even played a sport in high school, played in a far less physically demanding sport.

Football is a working class game played by the working class.

Sent from MGoBlog HD for iPhone & iPad

HarbaughsLeftElbow

August 25th, 2016 at 6:11 PM ^

Most would be fine with their perception of Newsome as a guy who was decent from limited playing time next year and who held onto his job (meaning that it was likely he had improved). The fact that a true freshman beat him could easily mean that most people's perception of Newsome (which they were okay with) was inaccurate and we could be in a worse position than what was commonly thought. It isn't necessarily "icing on the cake" or a positive. 

uncle leo

August 25th, 2016 at 3:18 PM ^

If O'Connor is an area of serious concern for MSU, then not having a starting QB is probably worse.

There is more "bad news" areas other than starting Bredeson on the O-line. Thin LB core, some shifting on the O-line, no idea who the starter is at QB. Love the team, think they can go to the playoff, but there's more than just that for bad news.

BluePhins

August 25th, 2016 at 3:23 PM ^

The way I'm reading reports isn't that the QB's are a concern, it's that we have 2 viable starters that are both ahead of where Rudock was at this point last year. 

So, our starter is going to be good maybe great and if someone gets injured, we'll be fine. 

uncle leo

August 25th, 2016 at 3:49 PM ^

Trumps whatever else you want. You wouldn't be a lick concerned if they had to travel somewhere challenging week 2 and had a QB with basically no experience?

The scheule set up incredibly nice for the QBs to get into a decent rhythm, but they will be dumped with cold water when the tough road games set in and they haven't played anyone of value.

LJ

August 25th, 2016 at 3:50 PM ^

Rudock was a Big Ten starter for nearly two years before he came to us.  Totally different situation.  You're extrapolating a lot from one statement from the OC.

I think QB will be fine too, but to pretend it's not an unknown with a downside possibility is putting your head in the sand.

Blue In NC

August 25th, 2016 at 4:53 PM ^

From the post: we are looking at the strongest and weakest units..."

The identified weakness is, in the writer's opinion, the biggest or most noteworthy weakness, not necessarily the only one.  The writer believes (based on Harbaugh) Michigan will have servicable QB play but LT could be a real weak point.  For MSU, strong QB play reall kept MSU afloat last year whereas that unit could really take a step back this year.

I don't see your point.  It's not like Rutgers has only one weakness either.

 

Yinka Double Dare

August 25th, 2016 at 7:07 PM ^

O'Korn looked better on the field as a freshman than O'Connor ever has. Michigan's QB will also have great targets to throw to; MSU's throwing to a lot of questions. I like their running back a lot, but last time MSU had dicey QB, new receivers, and a great RB (Le'Veon Bell), their offense was bad and they went 7-6. Corley probably turns out to be a good receiver, but true freshmen receivers rarely are really good right away.

I kinda wonder if they don't get off to a good start and O'Connor isn't all that good if their redshirt freshman, or even de Weaver, might get a look with an eye toward next year, as this is O'Connor's last year. Terry is dollar store Denard basically (dual threat, but worse at throwing and not ludicrously good at running like Denard), he's not their solution, unless they want to run an offense from 100 years ago.

grumbler

August 25th, 2016 at 7:52 PM ^

As long as the LB corps is fine, I don't care if the LB core is thin or not.

And your lack of ideas on who the starting QB might be doesn't create a problem for the team; in fact, I'd bet they are completely ignorant of your inability to have an idea on the topic.

Santa Clause

August 25th, 2016 at 3:26 PM ^

Maybe it's the fact that 15-20 years ago, if you had a true freshman starting on your oline, then there was cause for concern. But now, especially with the way these high schoolers are more college ready then ever, it's OK to start them. Bredeson's ceiling is very high, and the earlier you let him play (assuming he's ready by which all accounts he is) the more experience he will have and the better off the team is. 

evenyoubrutus

August 25th, 2016 at 3:44 PM ^

Michigan has burned the redshirt on very few offensive linemen in the last 20 years or so. In fact, up until recently, the only one I know of since 2000 was Justin Boren. This includes the disastrous years of 2008 and 2013, arguably the worst offensive lines in Michigan history. Coincidentally the last two years we have seen a true freshman play but I think that is part of the reason Brian is so dubious about freshmen on the o line.

However, it is not unheard of for true freshmen to play and play well. I don't have anything to reference at the moment but I know that Alabama has had success with true freshmen as well as OSU in recent years.

Blue in Denver

August 25th, 2016 at 4:13 PM ^

We're saying it's unlikely.  The vast majority of true freshman OL starters in P5 conferences are average-at-best that year.  

They may become great linemen, but it's vanishingly rare for an 18yr old player to be ready both physically and mentally to play tackle in the B1G at a high level.

Indonacious

August 26th, 2016 at 12:46 AM ^

To me, it's not so much about just Bredeson vs. Newsome but rather the LT vs. backup Center... If Bredeson/Newsome is good enough (even average Big 10 caliber) to be out there, it frees up Cole to play at a position he can add a lot of value at both because he apparentely has an ideal skillset for the position and he is reportedly farther ahead of the backup center than he would have been ahead of Bredeson vs. Newsome. Based on the fact that they moved Cole (having all of spring etc to make that decision, it follows Newsome was enough for the coaches to make that call).

The strange thing is that if we had fast forwarded to this year and hypothetically Cole stayed at LT and the line was Cole, Kalis, Kugler (as a RS Jr), Braden, Mags...I doubt anybody really would have been so freaked out. People just need to have some faith that coaches feel that overall strength of line is boosted with current configuration.

Additionally, we have a slew of TEs, and I'm sure that if need be they can help out on DEs who are more elite though I don't think there are any of the Bosa/Calhoun/Nassib variety returning in the big ten (though admittedly some will emerge).

AZBlue

August 25th, 2016 at 4:14 PM ^

Well Robinson came in with rating higher than R. Gary (over 100) on the 247 composite - not sure about Tunsil. I am sure they were more "very good" than great, and both of those guys had a prototype LT body which Bredeson does not (a little too short, arm-length not ideal).

In a situation where Bredeson was grabbing any guard spot or RT position over an older but inexperienced player the worries would be less. Bredeson starting at LT would signify that we don't have a better lineman on the team for the 1st or 2nd most important position on the O-line (depending on how you rank Center). BB will most likely be a guard in the NFL, Tunsil and Robinson will be LTs.

TrueBlue2003

August 25th, 2016 at 6:01 PM ^

got beat pretty badly by good rush ends on one of the worst offensive lines in the country.  To be bad or ok as a RS freshman is the norm and the good ones are the very rare exceptions.  That's Ace's point.  Nothing is certain but this is a red flag. Especially because he's not necessarily beating out a proven guy.  He's 50/50 with a true sophomore that looked bad in the spring game and lacks meaningful experience.

Blue In NC

August 25th, 2016 at 5:02 PM ^

Sure but did we really think we were going to get much better than Meh from Newsome?  Yes it's a weakness but one we have known about.  Virtually every team has some weaknesses.  A the end of the year, if we can say that BB had a servicable year at LT and the QBs performed as expected, I think Michigan has a very good year.

TrueBlue2003

August 25th, 2016 at 6:33 PM ^

to get much better from Newsome. After they burned his RS last year just to be a part of some 6 man lines, you'd think it was a lock that he'd be in line to start the following year, but alas, he had a tough spring game and is now about to get beat out by a true freshman for the spot that was meant to be his.

And yes, virtually all teams have weaknesses but that's why most teams are not playoff contenders.  For us to have potential weaknesses at the two most important positions on the field is concerning for playoff hopes.  I'm confident in Harbaugh that the QB position will be fine, and sounds like Ace is as well.  So LT is the biggest concern per the article.

BlueKoj

August 26th, 2016 at 9:18 AM ^

You're right that neither option is "seasoned." Still, Newsome has more seasoning than Bredeson. Cole as a Soph had much more seasoning than Newsome. UM is an NC-caliber team with an LT who will have to survive against opponents NC-caliber DLs.

GoBlueTal

August 25th, 2016 at 3:46 PM ^

Let's move you to a new company.

Same job as you do now, but bigger company. 

Your new company got to see your work, but they handle much more complicated cases than you did at your old job.  They have high hopes for you, expect bright things, but again, you've never actually worked at this level.  (near 5* freshman recruit)

They let you get your first week of work in, so you know where the bathroom is, you've met the team, found a decent place to have lunch, etc. (summer camp) 

Day 1 week 2 you're handed the lead role on one of the key clients of the company - on what is one of the most complicated positions in the team.  (starting offensive lineman)

I don't care how good your training has been - some people, even if they "could" handle the workload, can't handle that pressure.  (% of freshmen, even near 5* freshmen, even with current training, who just can't handle the college game, much less those asked to start, much less those asked to start on an offensive line, much less those asked to start on an offensive line for a team who has - if not a mandate - certainly an eye on the playoff) 

 

Santa, I feel comfortable saying all of us would be very happy with our stockings if you could deliver this young man 2 years of seasoning as an early Christmas present.  

 

Tyrone Biggums

August 25th, 2016 at 4:33 PM ^

I have to agree that freshman can't play this or that spot because it will equal doom is an outdated paradigm. Football players more than ever, have access to conditioning, coaching, competition(camps). If you play football you are considerably bigger, stronger and faster than the majority of players from just 20 years ago and that is at any level. 

I agree that there is no substitute for experience but the competancy of athletic skill today is unrilvaled historically. Add to that, technique for skill positions is much more accesible and you have freshman and rookies starting in P5 and in the NFL all the time now.