Let's face it. Now that the Senior Bowl and shrine games are over, and national signing day is well in the rear view mirror, we have no extra-team competition of any kind to look forward to for over half a year. Sure there will be developments that merit attention -- spring practice, depth chart adjustments, spring games, league media days, and fall camp are a few that stand out -- but give me a break. They're nothing like the genuine article. And no matter how many times I try to tap into my dormant fall fanaticism during the layoff, I can't imitate the risks and rewards.
The result leaves true blue obsessives like me frantically searching for a pulse, and reading into anything and everything that might affect the season to be. One of the things I pay way too much attention to are injury and personnel reports. The reason is obvious: the well-being of a team's component parts directly affects its overall competitive output. Players battling injuries or facing discipline are less likely to make important mental and physical gains in the offseason.
To that end, here's a few relevant developments affecting the Big Ten in next year's out of conference and league play.
1. Terrelle Goes Under the Knife
The good news is... The procedure was routine, was referred to as a "success," and Pryor is expected to be 100 percent before Spring Practice, so he's not expected to miss a beat.
On the other hand... You never want to see your quarterback anywhere near a scalpel, especially not a team whose lofty ambitions rest squarely on his shoulders. If Pryor's "speedy recovery" gets sidetracked, he'll miss crucial opportunities to get much needed developmental reps.
The Verdict: Slightly negative/neutral. If Pryor is wearing cleats April 1 and his pain has subsided, this actually might be a net positive. Then again, you never know. The short-term effects of the surgery spell anxiety in Columbus.
(Insert Cameron Heyward here)
2. Hurricane Damage in Miami
We knew in December that Miami's star running back Graig Cooper would miss the spring and possibly the entire fall because of a knee injury sustained in a Champs Sports Bowl loss to Wisconsin. But just last week, news broke in Coral Gables that quarterback Jacory Harris would also sit to nurse a pesky thumb injury in his throwing hand.
The good news is... Harris will participate in non-throwing drills to keep his mind sharp, and is more than expected to be rehabilitated by fall camp. Additionally, Graig Cooper has not been definitively ruled out for 2010.
On the other hand... Harris is a young quarterback, prone to sporadic glimpses of brilliance and episodic meltdowns. The Champs Sports Bowl showed he needs all the preparation he can get to learn to stay calm in the pocket. If Harris thought Wisconsin's defensive line was scary, wait until he meets Ohio State's on September 11th.
The Verdict: Bad news for Miami, good news for the Buckeyes. Although I always want to play teams full strength, Hurricane health issues have the potential to significantly handicap the team's development in the offseason. Miami is Ohio State's most difficult out of conference opponent in 2010, and if the Buckeyes get by Randy Shannon's club, only the Big Ten will stand in their way of a return to Glendale.
3. Clayborn and the Cabbie
Iowa star defensive end Adrian Clayborn will reportedly plead guility to a misdemeanor charge of assault causing bodily injury, or some lesser offense on March 19th, stemming from an incident with a cab driver in 2009.
The good news is... Despite allegedly clocking a cabbie, Clayborn remains in good standing with the team, and does not appear to be at risk of suspension.
On the other hand... An admission of guilt could automatically trigger team punishment for a player that is integral to Iowa's success in 2010.
The Verdict: Slightly bad news for Iowa, slightly good news for the rest of the Big Ten. Although Kirk Ferentz seems to be standing by his man, there's a chance things will change once Clayborn's guilt is adjudicated. Iowa, frankly, cannot afford to lose the FedEx Orange Bowl MVP.