Nebraska - Third Lowest Returning Starters in the Big Ten in 2011

Yesterday, Phil Steele released his list of returning starters for the 2011 season. The result - Nebraska is tied with Wisconsin close to the bottom of the conference in returning starters. 

Below is the list for the entire Big Ten: 

Offense Defense Special Teams Total
Michigan 9* 9 2 20
Purdue 7* 9 2 18
Northwestern 9* 7 1 17
Penn State 7* 8 1 16
Indiana 6 7 2 15
Minnesota 5 9 1 15
Illinois 6* 6 1 13
Michigan State 6* 6 1 13
Ohio State 8* 4 1 13
Nebraska 5* 7 0 12
Wisconsin 4 6 2 12
Iowa 5 4 1 10

* Designates returning starter at quarterback 

Obviously this is no indication of how successful any team will be in 2011 and there will be several mitigating factors as the next few months play out. 

Interesting that Michigan will head into 2011 as the second-most experienced team in the nation, just behind Vanderbilt, who returns all 11 starters on offense. New head coach Brady Hoke will have one of the most dynamic returning quarterbacks in the nation in Denard Robinson, but it will be how he uses him that will determine his effectiveness. Hoke has stated that he'll "be flexible" with the offense, but long term will probably return to the pro style offense favored by his OC Al Borges. 

New defensive coordinator Greg Mattison may be looking for new players after last year's Wolverine defense (if you could call it that) finished 110th in total defense, although it could turn out that Mattison is capable of doing what Bo Pelini did for Nebraska's defense - take a bunch of players from the previous failed coaching regime and turn them into an average defense his first season. 

Minnesota has a new head coach as well, Jerry Kill. His first season will be spent trying to install his offense and finding someone who'll play good defense. He already has a starting quarterback in MarQueis Gray, a dynamic player who split some time with Adam Weber last season. 

Iowa comes in dead last - somewhat of a pun because it's entirely unknown if they'll use the 2011 offseason to kill off some of their players during winter conditioning. 

Eight of the 12 teams returning starters at quarterback. 

How much difference does experience make? Just for fun, I took at a look at the most and least experienced teams from last season along (using Steele's list from last season) with their 2010 records. 

2010 Most Experienced Teams

Offense Defense Special Teams Total 2010 Record
Boise St. 11* 10 2 23 12-1
Ball St. 11* 8 2 21 4-8
Miami (OH) 10* 9 1 20 10-4
Syracuse 8 10 2 20 8-5
Washington 10* 8 2 20 7-6
Missouri 9* 9 1 19 10-3
North Carolina 8* 9 2 19 8-5
North Texas 10* 8 1 19 3-9
Texas A&M 8* 9 2 19 9-4
WKU 9* 9 1 19 2-10

 

Note that only three teams finished with losing records. Two of those teams lost their head coaches (Ball State's Stan Parrish was replaced by Pete Lembo, North Texas coach Todd Dodge was replaced by former Iowa State coach Dan McCarney), while the other loser, Western Kentucky was going through changes under first-year head coach Willie Taggart). 

Looking at the least experienced teams:

2010 Least Experienced Teams

Offense Defense Special Teams Total 2010 Record
East Carolina 5 3 0 8 6-7
Bowling Green 4 4 1 9 2-10
Colorado St 2 5 2 9 3-9
Alabama 8* 2 0 10 10-3
Arizona St 4 4 2 10 6-6
New Mexico 5 5 0 10 1-11
Oklahoma St 4 4 2 10 11-2
Memphis 7 4 0 11 1-11
Mississippi 4 6 1 11 4-8
ULM 6* 4 1 11 5-7
Vanderbilt 5* 5 1 11 2-10

Only Alabama and Oklahoma State had winning records. Given Nick Saban's ability to reload and award scholarships only on a yearly basis, there's no shock there. It remains to be seen whether Oklahoma State can maintain their momentum after losing offensive freak job Dana Holgersen. 

Not only did the inexperienced teams lose, but some of them were flat out horrible. 

Here's a look at the same information regarding Big Ten teams in 2010:

2010 Big Ten Returning Staters And Records

Offense Defense Special Teams Total 2010 Record
Wisconsin 10* 6 2 18 11-2
Northwestern 8 6 2 16 7-6
Michigan 7* 8 0 15 7-6
Michigan St 7* 7 1 15 11-2
Ohio State 9* 6 0 15 12-1
Illinois 5 7 2 14 7-6
Indiana 8* 4 2 14 5-7
Iowa 6* 8 0 14 8-5
Penn St. 7 5 1 13 7-6
Minnesota 9* 2 1 12 3-9
Purdue 6 5 1 12 4-8

It's pretty obvious that experience meant a lot to Wisconsin, although interesting that Michigan State's numbers don't show a sharp difference between this year and last. 

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