Yes, Danny O'Brien is now in the fold and presumed to take over the starting quarterback job once he steps foot on campus in the summer. That won't stop Bret Bielema and Co. from insisting that the competition is still wide open, especially as they continue spring practices with just Joe Brennan and Joel Stave under center.
Unfortunately, the facade of open competition is a little difficult to maintain when the level of play is ... subpar. Jeff Potrykus' practice report from Saturday doesn't paint a very rosy picture. It took 11 pass attempts for either quarterback to complete a pass past the line of scrimmage. During the red-zone segment of practice, the offense failed to score even once. Stave twice ran the top unit, and twice saw possessions end on third down. Brennan was given just one opportunity and it ended after five plays. All this happened with O'Brien at practice looking on.
Bielema tried to put a positive spin on the day afterwards:
"They are light-years ahead of where they were a year ago," Bielema said. "Obviously we want them to always tbe better, but I think they can continue to grow."
The quote has an air of damning by faint praise, unfortunately. With the news sounding dire on Jon Budmayr, we may need an impressive medical turnaround by Curt Phillips to provide O'Brien anything resembling a competitive push in practice this summer.
The good news? At least the running game appears to clicking on most cylinders.
Then again, Tom Oates points out that Brennan and Stave actually looked okay before Saturday, so who knows:
So even though their road to the starting job just got a lot tougher, both young quarterbacks responded the way you want players to respond. And it's not just talk, either, because they're getting better. In the two spring practices open to the media so far, it is clear that both have made significant strides since last fall and certainly last spring.
Tom Mulhern runs down the state of the Big Ten for this upcoming season, and gives a small Spring preview for each team.
Tim Beckman is using food as a motivational tactic at Illinois.
Jarrod Uthoff talked with the State Journal about his decision to leave the program. No ill will towards the coaches, players or school. No worries about competing with Sam Dekker. Just didn't see himself fitting into the system (as hard as that it to believe for a 6'8 inside-outside threat).
Andy Katz may need to pump the brakes just a bit. He has already released an update to his way-too-early basketball rankings for next season. Wisconsin drops a spot to No. 22 for some reason. Indiana still holds the top spot, and Michigan moves up to No. 5 thanks to some generous reappraisals of their already great recruiting class. Ohio State and Michigan State fall to No. 8 and No. 10, respectively. Minnesota checks in at No. 24 overall.
The women's basketball team landed Micala Johnson this weekend, a transfer from UConn. Johnson played sparingly during an injury-plagued season, but was recruited by the Huskies so is probably pretty good when healthy. She averaged 16.9 points, 10.5 rebounds and 4.0 blocks while shooting 72 percent (!) her senior year in high school. Sister Malayna will also enroll next season as a freshman.
The athletic department got the okay to add another $9.4 million to its budget for the new Student Athlete Performance Center on the north end of Camp Randall.
Wrapping up: This might be the best news I heard all week. BTN's "The Journey" series will now cover football as well.