It's May. Nobody in college football is taking a snap in anger for nearly four months. That's a lot of time for everybody -- fans and media alike -- to kill waiting for something tangible to talk about. Thankfully, we have spring practice.
Sure, spring practice is helpful for coaches and players to figure things out, but the primary reason for its existence is to draw wild conclusions from it with little evidence. Did the team's Twitter account post a video of your transfer WR making a sweet one-handed catch? Heisman! Did your local beat reporter see both quarterbacks fighting for the No. 1 job miss throws during the 10 minutes of practice they were allowed to watch? Worst passing offense ever! Need to hit the portal and gather some NIL money to buy Caleb Williams from USC!
We're all at our dumbest in May. Let's take a look at the kind of overreactions that could be going on around the message boards of Big Ten country right now.
Luke Altmyer is the program's best QB since Jeff George: Illinois is coming off its best season in years, thanks mostly to one of the best defenses in the country. If the Illini want to maintain that, however, they need to improve on offense. Tommy Devito was an excellent one-year option at QB last season, but Ole Miss transfer Luke Altmyer looked good this spring, and the Illini passing attack looks like it should be more dangerous in 2023.
Andre Carter will be the Hoosiers' first Day 1 draft pick in 30 years: Indiana's defense wasn't nearly disruptive enough last season, and coach Tom Allen addressed it by hitting the transfer portal to snag Carter from Western Michigan. The defensive lineman was a terror with the Broncos last year, finishing with seven sacks, 13.5 TFL and 11 QB hurries. He looked just as good with the Hoosiers this spring.
The Hawkeyes will never score a single point on offense: A lot was made of the contract stipulation for offensive coordinator Brian Ferentz and the Cade McNamara and TE Erick All from Michigan. None of it was on display this spring -- at least not publicly. McNamara was a limited participant in the only open practice of the spring, and many expected starters on the offensive line were out. As a result, Iowa's offense was extremely vanilla, even for Iowa.the Hawkeyes need to score this year. There was also a lot made about changes to the offense and newcomers like QB
WR Tyrese Chambers will be All-Big Ten: Maryland has a lot of work to do along the offensive line after players moved on to the NFL or transfer portal, and none of it was solved by the end of spring. So let's ignore that and focus on the transfer receivers! While West Virginia's Kam Prather is the more prominent name, Chambers showed out the most during the spring game. Chambers is a Maryland native who caught 96 passes for 1,618 yards and 13 touchdowns in the last two seasons with FIU.
QB J.J. McCarthy is taking it to another level: McCarthy led the Wolverines to another Big Ten title and College Football Playoff appearance last season, but he had some clunkers in November; against Rutgers, Nebraska, Illinois and Ohio State, McCarthy threw seven touchdowns with no interceptions but completed only 50% of his passes. He also threw two critical interceptions in the CFP semifinal loss to TCU. After a slow start in the spring game, McCarthy found a groove and made some impressive throws to all parts of the field. If he does improve on his consistency and performance, like many around the program believe he will, it could prove to be the difference between "playoff contender Michigan" and "national title contender Michigan."
All the most important offensive players are gone: Shortly after spring practice ends, the window for players to enter the transfer portal does the same. That's why we see a flurry of action afterward. Most of the time, players with concrete evidence that they're buried on the depth chart take off. Unfortunately for Michigan State, that isn't the case. Starting QB Payton Thorne and leading WR Keon Coleman entered the portal, and the Spartans already lost their other good WR, Jayden Reed, to the NFL. That's a bitter pill to swallow heading into the summer, particularly when you're coming off a 5-7 season while watching your rival win the Big Ten and reach the College Football Playoff in each of the last two seasons.
Wait ... you can throw the ball? Coach P.J. Fleck has been successful at Minnesota, and he's experienced most of that success running the football. Minnesota has run the ball on 63.4% of its plays over the last four seasons. Only the three service academies run the ball more often. The Gophers are one of only two Power Five programs that have run the ball more than 60% of the time (the other is Minnesota's good friend, Wisconsin). Well, that could change this year. With a new QB and the team's top two rushers gone, receivers starred in Minnesota's spring game. Charlotte transfer Elijah Spencer looked great, as did Western Michigan transfer Corey Crooms. Tight end Brevyn Spann-Ford led the team in receptions last year and will also be a factor. The Gophers will still run the ball, but maybe they won't have to do it nearly as often this season.
QB Jeff Sims is who Adrian Martinez was supposed to be: Adrian Martinez, like Scott Frost, arrived in Lincoln with a lot of hype, and the early returns were promising. Then things never got better. In some ways, they only got worse. Now both Martinez and Frost are gone, and here's Georgia Tech transfer Jeff Sims, who was so good this spring that last year's starter, Casey Thompson, hit the transfer portal. Sims was among the top players in the 2020 class and surprised many by committing to Georgia Tech. He made smart decisions with the football during the spring game, which is something Nebraska fans haven't seen from their QB often enough.
Everybody is going to run over the Wildcats: Northwestern has a lot of question marks this spring. That's usually the case when you've gone 4-20 with a 2-16 mark in the Big Ten in two seasons since winning the West. However, one of the biggest concerns has to be on the defensive line. Adetomiwa Adebawore was the most disruptive force on the line last season, but he's off to the NFL. Defensive lineman Austin Firestone was a big recruiting win for the Cats in their 2022 class, but after appearing in only three games last year, he transferred to Missouri. The Wildcats also replaced D-line coach after 12 years. It's a lot of change in one offseason, and you can understand why fans are skeptical the defense that allowed a Big Ten-worst 191.3 rushing yards per game last season will be any better in 2023.
The offensive line is an actual problem spot: Six Ohio State players were taken in the NFL Draft this year, and three of them were on the offensive line. It shows how good the line was for the Buckeyes last year, but the flip side is a lot of good linemen need replacing and things looked shaky this spring. Ohio State's been active in the portal looking for help at tackle for a reason. While the team was dealing with injuries and players sitting out, Ryan Day said the shaky play fans saw up front in the spring game was common in practice, too. While nobody expects the offense to be bad, it's the kind of thing that could haunt the Buckeyes in their biggest games.
Nobody has a better running back duo in the country: It's ironic that Drew Allar, The QB Prince Who Was Promised, finally gets to take the reins from 15-year starter Sean Clifford, but it's the rushing attack that will likely lead the Nittany Lions in 2023. In other words: Even with the five-star QB, don't expect Penn State to look like Ohio State as much as it'll look like Michigan. Nick Singleton and Kaytron Allen combined for 1,928 yards rushing and 22 touchdowns last season. With a young QB, a strong offensive line and a nasty defense this year, they're likely to lead the way on offense. And that's probably a smart choice because both are pretty dang good.
Hudson Card is a taller, more athletic Drew Brees: There are a lot of changes with your defending Big Ten West champions. Coach Jeff Brohm left for Louisville and QB Aidan O'Connell is in the NFL. In their place is new coach Ryan Walters, who helped turn around Illinois as the coordinator of one of the best defenses in the country. Wanting to keep Purdue's offensive tradition alive, Walters brought in Air Raid aficionado Graham Harrell as OC, and Hudson Card transferred from Texas to run it. While Purdue had plenty of success on offense under Brohm, it's easy to argue Card is the most talented Boilermakers QB in a long time. If he does what he's capable of and Walters helps improve a mediocre defense, the Boilermakers might make another run at the division.
The Scarlet Knights will have to run the ball more than Minnesota: If, as I mentioned earlier, Minnesota runs the ball less often this season, maybe Rutgers will pick up some of those carries. While the weather stunk, neither of the two players battling for the QB job -- Gavin Wimsatt and Evan Simon -- looked all that impressive in the spring game. New offensive coordinator Kirk Ciarrocca -- who came from Minnesota! -- hasn't been able to dig deep into the playbook yet, but from what has been seen, it looks as if running the ball will be Rutgers' most likely path toward success on offense in 2023.
The Dairy Raid is unstoppable! All hail the Dairy Raid! Listen, I'm not a Wisconsin fan, and even I'm excited to see what this offense will look like. New coach Luke Fickell has made major changes, and the Badgers aren't going to look like the Badgers you're used to seeing. This spring was the first glimpse anybody received at the new-look offense, and while some wrinkles must be ironed out, nobody expected things to be firing on all cylinders this quickly. Plus, let's be honest: New OC Phil Longo may have aired the ball out at previous stops, but that was due to the personnel at those places. You can still spread out on offense and run power. In fact, it might even be easier. So the Badgers will still be running the dang ball.