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Big Ten spring wrap

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Anyone who thinks spring football is simply an SEC pastime didn't attend Ohio State's spring game on April 25.

A spring game record crowd of 95,722 showed up at Ohio Stadium to see Jim Tressel's hideous Hawaiian shirt and a bunch of new starters on both sides of the ball for the Buckeyes. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor didn't let down the fans, showcasing his improved footwork and mechanics.

There was similar intrigue in other Big Ten cities this spring, as Penn State tried to reload, Michigan tried to rebuild and teams like Iowa, Michigan State, Northwestern and Minnesota tried to continue the momentum generated from last fall.

Here are five lessons from this spring:

1. Quarterback play will be better -- It couldn't get much worse, but the development of players like Pryor, Iowa's Ricky Stanzi and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol bodes well for the fall. Penn State's Daryll Clark picked up where he left off after earning first-team all-conference honors in 2008, and Illinois' Juice Williams will be solid. Minnesota and Wisconsin should be deeper at the quarterback position, as freshmen MarQueis Gray and Curt Phillips came on strong toward the end of practice. Although the league lacks elite wide receivers, the Big Ten will pass the ball better this fall.

2. JoePa is back -- He never really left, but the 82-year-old Penn State head coach feels like himself again following hip-replacement surgery in November. Paterno was back on the practice field this spring and fully intends to return to the sideline Sept. 5 against Akron. His assistants deserve most of the credit for last year's championship team, but the lead Lion is back and has plenty on his plate this summer as Penn State tries to replace standouts at offensive line, wide receiver and defensive end.

3. Wolverines feel great with Tate -- Michigan's quarterback competition is far from over, but Rich Rodriguez can feel a bit better about the position after the way true freshman Tate Forcier developed this spring. Forcier, an early enrollee, had his growing pains but also showcased the mobility and creativity Michigan needs at quarterback and sorely lacked in 2008. The freshman left Michigan fans feeling good after tossing four touchdown passes and running for another score in the spring game.

4. This is still a running back's league -- Despite losing five of its top six rushers, including Doak Walker Award winner Shonn Greene, the Big Ten once again appears to be loaded at running back entering the fall. In addition to known commodities like Evan Royster and John Clay, several backs developed nicely this spring, including Ohio State's Brandon Saine and Dan Herron, Illinois' Jason Ford and Mikel LeShoure, Purdue's Ralph Bolden and Northwestern's Jeravin Matthews. Michigan might have the league's deepest running backs corps after true freshman Vincent Smith blossomed this spring.

5. Indiana schools could be in trouble -- The Hoosier State could have another rough season after both Purdue and Indiana lost major contributors on offense. Purdue sophomore quarterback Justin Siller, who started three games last season and brought tremendous athleticism to the backfield, was dismissed from school for violating academic policy. Indiana said goodbye to former record-setting quarterback Kellen Lewis, who was dismissed for a second violation of team rules. There will be a lot riding on Joey Elliott and Ben Chappell this season as the Boilers and Hoosiers try to climb out of the Big Ten cellar.