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.
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.
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]
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.