Good morning and welcome to March. The steady crawl out of winter continues this week with three more Big Ten teams kicking off their spring practice sessions. Maryland (Monday), Minnesota (Tuesday) and Nebraska (Saturday) are all returning to football soon.
1. Ohio State junior Armani Reeves is cutting his football career short due to concussions. The Buckeyes said Reeves would probably stop playing in early February. This weekend he told the Columbus Dispatch that head injuries started to affect his schoolwork and his personality during Ohio State’s run to national title last fall.
Reeves was the team’s top nickel back. Stepping away from football could not have been easy, but it’s a decision that is becoming more common for college athletes. Two Northwestern players, sophomore Dwight White and senior Collin Ellis, elected to end their playing careers early during the 2014 season. Their decisions are a good sign that better education about concussions is making players aware of the danger of trying to “tough it out.” It also speaks well for the universities that these players feel they have other options.
As more student-athletes start to carefully weigh the value of continuing their careers against potential long-term harm after an injury, it’s important that schools find ways to help their players understand options and have a plan in place to help those that decide to transition away from football. Reeves, for example, will keep his connection to the team by helping out as a student assistant coach.
2. Nebraska coach Mike Riley has one more spot to fill on his staff. It’s a position that the new coach says is crucial for him.
Riley is hunting for a member of the support staff who can help the Cornhuskers find walk-on talent from the state of Nebraska and foster relationships with local coaches. The Oregon State transplant doesn’t want to waste time waiting for his West Coast staff to develop those ties themselves. When instant success is expected, instinct credibility in the backyard is a must.
"We want this guy to be the expert. So when we have that meeting about local recruits, he knows the top-20 guys in Nebraska,” Riley told the Lincoln Journal Star. “I don't want guys leaving here and going to Iowa and being a good player. That might happen, but it won't happen without a fight."
That sounds like a less-than-subtle reference to Hawkeye defensive lineman Drew Ott, a Nebraska native who starred in Iowa’s front seven last fall.
The job opening isn’t a new idea. Most Big Ten programs have at least one member of its staff in charge of running camps and clinics, creating a connection to make sure their home field advantage extends to recruiting wars. The difference with Riley’s approach is, again, his transparency. Most schools hire their player personnel director without much public acknowledgement of who he is or what he’ll be doing. Riley and his staff have been refreshingly open when discussing their recruiting operations since landing in the Midwest in December. So far, it has served as good advertising for the new regime.
And now, onto the links...
Penn State sent five former players to the NFL combine. Here's a look at some current Nittany Lions that could take their place next year.
Spartan defensive back Montae Nicholson can cover a lot of ground in a hurry. The freshman leaped nearly eight yards in a sixth-place finish at the Big Ten indoor track championships this weekend.
Former assistant John Settle is expected to return to Wisconsin to coach the Badgers' running backs.
The intensity level at Michigan's first spring practices is noticeably higher than in the past, says linebacker Joe Bolden.
Illinois staffer Ryan Cubit gets two years of probation for driving drunk in October.
Purdue’s athletic budget got a nice boost over the weekend, which should lead to cheaper tickets for students.
Maryland plans to switch to a 4-3 defensive front moving forward.
Former Rutgers starter Raymond Pilch, now a police officer, helped save an infant's life last week.
Minnesota holds it pro day Monday, a chance for several Gophers to separate themselves from draft competition.
Hayden Fry, on the eve of his 86th birthday, told Iowa fans he’s still thawing from his many winters in Iowa City.