Monday, April 13, 2009
Recapping the Big Ten weekend scrimmages
By ESPN.com staff
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
While Michigan held its annual spring game, other teams around the Big Ten conducted scrimmages this weekend.
Here are some highlights from around the league.
- The Illini held their third annual Chicago area scrimmage at Oak Park-River Forest High School, where former Illinois coach Robert Zuppke served before coming to Champaign.
- Illinois' offense scored three touchdowns on five drives, including a 27-yard scoring pass from Juice Williams to Jarred Fayson and a 4-yard run by Mikel LeShoure. LeShoure continued his stellar spring with 14 carries for 123 yards, while Fayson is closing in on a starting wideout spot.
- After struggling in Wednesday's practice, Williams completed 13 of 20 passes for 167 yards with a touchdown and no interceptions.
- Defensive end Doug Pilcher and linebacker Russell Ellington each recorded two sacks. Linebacker Nate Bussey, a converted safety, tallied a team-high nine tackles.
- For more on the scrimmage, including linebacker Martez Wilson's first comments this spring, click here and here.
- The Hoosiers' ground game surged for the second consecutive scrimmage, racking up 169 yards on 30 carries (5.6 ypc), and the defense bounced back from a slow start to record three sacks, two interceptions and a fumble.
- Quarterback Ben Chappell completed his first eight pass attempts and hit Damarlo Belcher for a 22-yard touchdown. Chappell and the passing attack continued to progress, as 10 different receivers hauled in receptions.
- Trea Burgess is making a strong push for Indiana's top running back spot and racked up 69 rush yards and a touchdown on nine carries. Redshirt freshman running back Darius Willis, a heralded recruit, participated in his first scrimmage after battling a groin problem and had 20 rush yards.
- Cornerbacks Chris Adkins and Richard Council recorded interceptions, and linebacker Jamie Lukaszewski forced a fumble.
- For more on the scrimmage, click here (subscription required).
- The good news for projected starting quarterback Mike Kafka is he gets to work against one of the Big Ten's top defenses this spring. But that's the bad news, too. Kafka struggled in Saturday's 82-play scrimmage, failing to lead the first-team offense to the end zone on 11 drives. On the second play of the scrimmage, he threw an interception that cornerback Jordan Mabin returned for a touchdown.
- Northwestern's defense forced three turnovers, as Mabin and safety Brian Peters recorded interceptions and safety Jared Carpenter forced a fumble.
- Quarterback Dan Persa and the second-team offense fared better, scoring two touchdowns, including a 45-yard pass from Persa to Zeke Markshausen. Persa completed his first eight pass attempts and finished 10-for-14 for 104 yards and a touchdown.
- Keep an eye on sophomore running back Jeravin Matthews, who continued a strong spring with 113 rush yards, including a 49-yarder, on 15 carries for the second-team offense. Matthews, a converted wide receiver and one of only two true freshmen to play last season, might be the team's fastest player and will push Stephen Simmons for the starting job.
- For more on the scrimmage, click here.
- After the Boilers' offense dominated the previous scrimmage, the defenders struck back on Saturday. Improved tackling and some new blitz packages led to a better day for the Purdue defense, particularly end Ryan Kerrigan (two sacks) and tackles Mike Neal and Kawann Short.
- Projected starting quarterback Joey Elliott completed just 13 of 27 passes for 129 yards, while promising redshirt freshman Caleb TerBush took snaps for both the first- and second-team offenses and completed 15 of 30 passes for 106 yards. Despite the low completion rates, head coach Danny Hope praised the progress of the passing attack.
- Starting wideout Keith Smith and Jeff Lindsay had a game-high five receptions, while tight end Kyle Adams and Aaron Valentin both caught touchdowns.
- For more on Purdue's scrimmage, click here.
- Senior quarterback Dustin Sherer continued to take the snaps with the first-team offense in Saturday's scrimmage. He threw an interception to safety Jay Valai on the first series of the scrimmage but also led the unit to five scores (three touchdowns, two field goals) on nine drives. Sherer threw a 41-yard pass to tight end Lance Kendricks and scored on bootleg.
- Sherer is in line for the starting job, but Wisconsin needs to find a way to use redshirt freshman Curt Phillips, who had an 89-yard touchdown run against the second-team defense. The speedy Phillips led the second-team offense to three touchdowns and drew praise from head coach Bret Bielema after the scrimmage. Scott Tolzien played less than the other two quarterbacks, and freshman Jon Budmayr sat out with an injury.
- After avoiding dropped passes for much of the spring, Wisconsin's wide receivers fell into old habits Saturday with several drops. Sophomore Nick Toon continued his strong spring with three receptions of 29 yards or longer. Th
e Badgers' tight ends -- Garrett Graham, Kendricks and Mickey Turner -- continued to impress.
- The Badgers committed 14 penalties during the scrimmage, prompting Bielema to give players a heavy dose of conditioning afterward.
- For more on the scrimmage, click here and here.