Big Ten: Minnesota Gophers
- Braxton Miller aims to get better in the meeting room.
- Fitz Toussaint and Thomas Gordon ran well at Michigan’s pro day. New offensive coordinator Doug Nussmeier is connecting with recruits.
- Nebraska linebacker Trevor Roach is re-emerging as a leader, while senior guard Jake Cotton steps into a new role on the offensive line.
- Darqueze Dennard is out to be Michigan State’s first first-rounder in more than a decade:
- What to expect from the first spring practice of the James Franklin era at Penn State. Keys for a successful spring.
- Rutgers offers fans an opportunity to buy tickets in three-game mini-plans for its inaugural season in the Big Ten.
- A first look at Maryland uniforms that include the Big Ten logo. More trouble for Terps running back Wes Brown.
- Offensive tackle J.J. Prince learned from his first year as a contributor at Purdue.
- True freshman Michael Deiter is working with the No. 1 offensive line in his first semester at Wisconsin.
- Minnesota's battle at right tackle heats up with the emergence of Jonah Pirsig.
- Illinois gets creative with its offseason competitions.
- A breakdown of the Iowa wide receivers.
- Illinois OL Corey Lewis knew something wasn't right with his left knee and, as it turns out, he might have played the entire season without an ACL.
- Taylor Martinez is serious about pursuing his NFL dreams and, if quarterback doesn't work out, the former Nebraska QB isn't opposed to trying wide receiver.
- Michigan's student newspaper labeled the university's response to the Brendan Gibbons' incident as "shameful."
- Former Ohio State OL Nick Mangold recently took part in a video where Kate Upton took snaps from him.
- Michigan State has two or three spots left in its 2014 recruiting class, and it's still heavily pursuing about a half-dozen prospects.
- PennLive's Bob Flounders tackles the differences between Bill O'Brien and James Franklin as a recruiter.
- Rutgers' recruiting class was the third-best in the Big Ten back in August but, after a dozen decommitments, it's now 11th -- and signing day can't come soon enough.
- Jerry Kill is optimistic about his recruiting class and says he doesn't put much stock in how many stars appear next to a recruit's name.
National signing day is almost upon us and Big Ten teams have been feverishly adding prospects to their classes. Here is a look at the latest movement within the conference in the ESPN class rankings and trends from the past week.
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Here is a look at what happened within the Big Ten this past week.
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There have been commitments and decommitments across the board in the Big Ten, which means there has been movement among the class rankings.
As signing day approaches, teams will be looking to fill the final spots in their class. Here is a look at trends and a few items to watch within the conference:
Trending up: No Big Ten teams moved up in the class rankings for this week, but that doesn’t mean schools aren’t improving.
Penn State has been on a tear recently with James Franklin and his staff on board. Despite losing ESPN 300 defensive tackle Thomas Holley (Brooklyn, N.Y./Lincoln) to Florida and defensive back Troy Vincent Jr. (Baltimore/Gilman) to NC State, the Nittany Lions have added some big pieces as well.
The most recent was three-star athlete Trace McSorley (Ashburn, Va./Briar Woods), who flipped his commitment from Vanderbilt to Penn State. McSorley was originally recruited as a defensive back by Franklin at Vanderbilt, but then the offer was switched to quarterback while he was committed to the Commodores.
McSorley will add some depth and competition at the quarterback spot for Penn State, as Christian Hackenberg and early enrollee Michael O’Connor are the only other quarterbacks on the roster.
Indiana has also been on a nice run, picking up five commitments in the past week, from linebacker Tegray Scales (Cincinnati/Colerain), running back Tommy Mister (Chicago/St. Rita), athlete Waynedriko Smith (Orlando, Fla./Orangewood Christian) and defensive backs Zeke Walker (Cayce, S.C./Brookland-Cayce) and Tony Fields (Tallahassee, Fla./Godby).
Trending down: Michigan hasn’t lost any commitments in the 2014 class, but the Wolverines lost ESPN Junior 300 running back Damien Harris (Berea, Ky./Madison Southern) over the weekend.
Harris is the No. 1-ranked running back and No. 17 overall in the 2015 class. Losing Harris and fellow ESPN Junior 300 member George Campbell (Tarpon Springs, Fla./East Lake) is a big blow to the 2015 class.
Add in the fact that Michigan’s main remaining target for the 2014 class, Malik McDowell (Southfield, Mich./Southfield) could end up not picking Michigan and could end up at rival Michigan State or Ohio State, that’s more bad news for Michigan.
The Wolverines haven’t landed a commitment since August and steadily have been moving down the class rankings. If the coaches miss on McDowell, that would mean they missed on three major targets: McDowell, five-star defensive end Da’Shawn Hand (Woodbridge, Va./Woodbridge) to Alabama and in-state defensive end Jhonathon Williams (Berrien Springs, Mich./Berrien Springs) to Notre Dame.
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Here are a few takeaways after reading some of the Senior Bowl coverage:
- Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman has impressed a lot of folks in Mobile and strengthened his case to be a first-round pick in May's draft. Hageman blossomed as a senior for the Gophers, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors, and has shined alongside other defensive linemen like Pitt's Aaron Donald (who won the Outland Trophy, Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy and Lombardi Award). At 6-foot-6 and 318 pounds, Hageman has a unique frame and unique abilities that are showing up right now.[+] EnlargeJesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsMinnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman has impressed scouts this week at the Senior Bowl practices.
- Kain Colter played mostly quarterback at Northwestern, but his cameos at wide receiver underscored his ability to excel at the position. He's playing exclusively at wideout during Senior Bowl week and has caught the eye of the ESPN Scouts Inc. crew, which sees him as a slot receiver who compares in some ways to another former Big Ten quarterback-turned-NFL-receiver, one-time Indiana star Antwaan Randle El.
- Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland is another player generating buzz. Borland's height continues to be a topic of discussion, but as he did throughout a decorated Badgers career, he's getting it done on the field in impressive fashion. The Zach Thomas comparison is being made, and some also liken Borland to former Boston College standout Luke Kuechly, who has transitioned very well to the pro level with the Carolina Panthers.
- While everyone continues to talk about Richard Sherman, another cornerback with a similar build to Sherman stood out at Monday's practice. Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who like Sherman began his college career at wide receiver, impressed onlookers with his length in press coverage. NFL Media's Gil Brandt described Jean-Baptiste as "like a clone of Richard Sherman." At 6-3 and 215 pounds, Jean-Baptiste is part of the new wave of larger cornerbacks.
- Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz has drawn praise from Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage and others following some good practices. Fiedorowicz has told reporters in Mobile that there's more to his game than he displayed at Iowa, where he was used primarily as a blocker before emerging to record 75 receptions his final two seasons. His size has always jumped out, and he's showing how well he can catch passes this week.
There's much more to come from Mobile, so be sure to follow all of our Senior Bowl coverage.
Here is a look at what took place within the conference on the recruiting trail this past week:
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- Urban Meyer and James Franklin are building the "SEC North" in the Big Ten, writes Fox Sports' Clay Travis.
- Nebraska tailback Ameer Abdullah decided to stay in school for another season, and that comes as a huge boon to the Huskers.
- Philip Nelson's surprise transfer from Minnesota leaves the door wide open for quarterback Mitch Leidner.
- The son of Ohio State's new defensive line coach, Larry Johnson Sr., discusses the family's move from Penn State and why it was made.
- As part of an ongoing series on Rutgers' transition to the Big Ten, NJ.com's Dan Duggan talked to former coaches about welcoming the Scarlet Knights -- and the New York media market.
- James Franklin isn't right to poach his former Vanderbilt commits ... but he isn't wrong either.
- A way-too-early look at Michigan's depth chart on defense.
- Michigan State's Darqueze Dennard is a physical corner with a chip on his shoulder, and he "should be a good corner in the NFL for a long time."
- Athlon Sports offers early predictions for the 2014 Big Ten season.
- Maryland announced three new additions to its coaching staff, including two-time Pro Bowl wideout Keenan McCardell.
- If and when James Franklin does become the new head coach at Penn State, that could spell big trouble for B1G newcomer Maryland. It also wouldn't be good news for Rutgers.
- CBS' Gregg Doyel writes how Franklin is the perfect coach for Penn State. USA Today's Christine Brennan writes how he's the wrong choice for Penn State.
- Braxton Miller is returning for his senior season, and he needs to take his passing to the next level for the Buckeyes to find success.
- OSU linebackers coach Mike Vrabel is headed to the Houston Texans, and that's bound to impact the Buckeyes' recruiting efforts.
- Michigan's new offensive coordinator, Doug Nussmeier, has worked in the Big Ten before and left a strong impression at Michigan State when he coached from 2003-2005.
- The Gophers have improved in each of Jerry Kill's first three seasons, and Kill once again believes Minnesota will be even better in 2014.
- Michigan State's strength coach is already trying to get the team to move past the Rose Bowl win, telling players, "I was done with that win as soon as we got on that plane."
- A look at potential names to know in Wisconsin's recruiting class and how things might play out before signing day.
- Nebraska landed New Orleans WR recruit Jariah Tolbert, who his coach said has the biggest upside of any of his players.
- Iowa is increasing the price of football tickets by a dollar, and the three hot home tickets for next season appear to be against Iowa State, Wisconsin and Nebraska.
- Bill O'Brien and the Houston Texans have agreed to an interview, according to a report by NFL Network's Ian Rapoport. Still, O'Brien's potential jump to the NFL is "far from a sure thing."
- Linebacker Max Bullough's surprise absence from the Rose Bowl is sure to impact Michigan State, but no one likely feels worse about the situation than Bullough.
- Ohio State players and coaches agree: There's a little of Woody Hayes in Urban Meyer.
- Jake Rudock has a tough final exam in the form of a bowl game against LSU, but the Iowa quarterback and microbiology/pre-med major possesses smart study habits.
- Shane Morris will start Saturday in place of injured Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner, so the Detroit Free Press' Jeff Seidel takes a closer look at Morris' journey from middle school to the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl.
- Wisconsin coach Gary Andersen is hoping to tap a recruiting pipeline in Florida and, in two to three years, would like to see 20 or more players from the Sunshine State.
- Minnesota would like to win a bowl game for a change, and defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman believes having nine wins would be a program changer.
- Bo Pelini was all business as Nebraska arrived at its bowl site and said that "obviously, not everybody made the trip" -- although he wouldn't specify who.
- With Danny Etling, Purdue's future at quarterback is promising (subscription required).
- BTN's Sean Merriman takes a look at the main storyline for every Big Ten bowl game.
As the calendar year winds down, there is still plenty to talk about within recruiting. Big Ten teams have been on a roll on the recruiting trail as of late, and each program is hoping that continues into signing day.
Here are five things for fans to watch as we head into the holiday season.
Under Armour Game
There are six Big Ten teams represented in the Under Armour All-America game this year with Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska, Ohio State and Penn State all having commitments scheduled to play in the game.
The game will be played Jan. 2 in St. Petersburg, Fla., but there will be plenty to watch before the big game. The participants will go through tough practices and skill competitions leading up to the event, which always has some interesting storylines.
The practices put the best players in the country against each other, so it’s a good measuring stick of top prospects.
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- How did Michigan State manage to find the kind of success not seen since the 1950s or 1960s? Look no further than the coaches.
- More than 31,000 requests were put in for the Spartans' 24,000 allotted Rose Bowl tickets, meaning there will be no public sale, so the secondary market is proving to be an expensive option.
- Maryland will not receive distributed bowl revenue from the ACC because the situation regarding its exit fee hasn't yet been resolved.
- Melvin Gordon could leave early for the NFL ... or he could follow the lead of former Wisconsin RB Ron Dayne.
- The Badgers must open up the competition at quarterback next season, writes the Wisconsin State Journal's Tom Oates.
- Ameer Abdullah injured his ankle in Nebraska's seventh game, but that lingering injury -- and the accompanying pain -- couldn't keep him off the field.
- Michigan TE Jake Butt looked as if he was headed toward a redshirt season but gained 37 pounds since last winter and now believes the "sky's the limit."
- Jerry Kill's battle with epilepsy hasn't kept him from taking Minnesota to new heights.
- Someday, CBS columnist Gregg Doyel writes, Penn State guard John Urschel will do something that makes the world stand up and applaud. But first he's going to play in the NFL.
- Braxton Miller is mulling whether to declare for the NFL draft, and here are five reasons why he should.
Minnesota Golden Gophers (8-4) vs. Syracuse Orange (6-6)
Dec. 27, 6 p.m. ET, Houston (ESPN)
MINNESOTA GOLDEN GOPHERS BREAKDOWN
The Gophers were the surprise team in the Big Ten this year, as they overcame low expectations and fought through uncertainty surrounding coach Jerry Kill to clinch their first eight-win season in a decade.
It's not as though this team is loaded with stars. Only one player -- DT Ra'Shede Hageman -- was a unanimous selection on the All-Big Ten team. But, week after week, the Gophers relied on a bend-but-don't-break defense (No. 17 in the nation in the red zone) and a run-heavy offense (200.9 ypg) to find a way to win.
Their bread and butter has been the run game, but the Gophers have played their best football when they have struck a balance. During their key four-game winning streak during the conference season -- against Northwestern, Nebraska, Indiana and Penn State -- the Gophers averaged 182.5 passing yards per game compared to 121.5 yards outside of that streak.
Minnesota is still not one of the best teams in the Big Ten, as it lost to both Wisconsin and Michigan State. But, behind quarterback Philip Nelson and tailback David Cobb, the Gophers have taken a step forward -- and are now hoping for their first bowl win since 2004. -- Josh Moyer
SYRACUSE ORANGE BREAKDOWN
The Orange not only had key personnel losses to fill when the season started, they also had a new head coach and a new conference to call home. Doubters wondered how Syracuse would get back to a bowl game given all the questions.
It was not pretty at times. Drew Allen started the season at quarterback but threw too many interceptions and was benched after three starts. Hunt was better, but he was nowhere near elite. He didn’t throw his first touchdown pass in league play until the second-to-last game of the season. There were ugly losses to Clemson, Florida State and Georgia Tech, too.
But first-year coach Scott Shafer was able to keep his team together. What got his team four ACC wins was its physical play. Jerome Smith had 840 yards and 11 touchdowns on the season, and the rushing defense played inspired. In three of those wins, Syracuse held its opponents to a combined 13 points.
In addition, Jay Bromley posted nine sacks and forced three fumbles to lead the defense. The Orange ended up in a tie for third in the Atlantic Division. Certainly not a bad way to open Year 1 in the ACC.
-- Andrea Adelson
Minnesota (8-3, 4-3) at No. 11 Michigan State (10-1, 7-0), BTN: The Spartans will be in the Big Ten title game no matter what, but a loss eliminates their hope for an at-large BCS berth. Minnesota has been the biggest surprise in the conference this season, and a victory would cement its status as one of the bigger surprises in the BCS. But the Gophers' run-first offense could have quite a bit of trouble against Michigan State's top-ranked run defense.
No. 3 Ohio State (11-0, 7-0) at Michigan (7-4, 3-4), ABC: This has not been a season to remember for the Wolverines -- but that's also what makes The Game so great. If Michigan can somehow pull off the upset, then you have to consider this year a success on some level. The Wolverines have twice knocked off a a heavily favored, undefeated OSU team in series history -- and Brady Hoke sure could use a landmark victory here. The Buckeyes have their sights set on a national title, though, and Braxton Miller will do everything possible to ensure his team a spot.
Penn State (6-5, 3-4) at No. 15 Wisconsin (9-2, 6-1), ESPN: The Badgers defense still remembers last season, when Zach Zwinak carried the ball 36 times and rumbled for 179 yards in a Penn State win -- and they want revenge. Gary Andersen's squad is a three-touchdown favorite, and Penn State's defense has struggled against running backs who like to bounce outside. Bill O'Brien is looking to build off something for the future, but he won't have an easy time at Camp Randall.
Purdue (1-10, 0-7) at Indiana (4-7, 2-5), BTN: There's not really a whole lot to play for here, outside of saving some embarrassment. The Boilermakers haven't beaten an FBS team for 53 weeks and, if they lose here, they will undoubtedly go down as one of the worst Big Ten teams of the 2000s. Indiana's uptempo offense has given something for fans in Bloomington to be excited about ... but the defense is among the worst in the country. Both of these teams have a lot of work to do during the offseason.
Northwestern (4-7, 0-7) at Illinois (4-7, 1-6), BTN: It seems like an eternity ago when Pat Fitzgerald's name graced national headlines and debates were circulating about whether the Wildcats had finally taken that step from good to great. The season started somewhat similarly in Illinois after a 3-1 start and finally looked like it had gone from punching bag to bowl contender. But the teams have combined for just one victory since October. Now, both teams are looking for something -- anything -- to build from before they head into the long offseason.
The season hasn't been kind to a lot of Big Ten teams, but the weather sure is cooperating for the last week of the regular season. It'll be especially nice in Bloomington, Ind., and Champaign, Ill., where it's mostly sunny with temperatures climbing to the mid-40s.
All the other Big Ten destinations will see similar weather -- some clouds with temperatures in the high-30s. No precipitation appears to be on its way to any home field today.
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- Michigan upset a heavily favored Ohio State team twice in the past, Detroit Free Press' Mark Snyder writes, and another landmark victory here could define the future.
- The Buckeyes are setting offensive records left and right, but the young defense is also within range of the single-season sacks record -- and it hopes to get a few more against a struggling Michigan offensive line.
- Saturday's Ohio State-Michigan matchup will be played 50 years to the day when the rivalry suddenly felt small, back when The Game was played following John F. Kennedy's assassination. The Toledo Blade's David Briggs takes a closer look at the emotions surrounding that game.
- This isn't the season that Michigan State senior Andrew Maxwell envisioned, but he's quietly endured and gained the respect of his teammates.
- Mark Dantonio patiently built his program over seven years on defense, and Minnesota coach Jerry Kill is hoping to emulate that.
- Neither Northwestern, Michigan nor Penn State can match Iowa's rushing attack, the Des Moines Register's Andrew Logue writes, and that's why the Hawkeyes will upset the Huskers.
- Nebraska has won at least nine games in each of the last five seasons -- something only Alabama, Boise State and Oregon have done -- and Bo Pelini is staking claim to win No. 9 on Saturday.
- Wisconsin's pre-snap movement has given fits to opposing offensive lines, even if the Badgers were a bit reluctant at first to embrace the new style.
- Temperatures should hover around the mid-30s for Penn State, which -- for some reason -- makes for perfect short-sleeve weather for many of the Nittany Lions.
- Illinois defensive coordinator Tim Banks has dealt with plenty of question marks this season, but the man who watched as his triplets didn't survive premature births knows what real losses are.