Big Ten: A.J. Price
- Colleague Mark Schlabach: "For a coach who seems to be on a hot seat, [Rich] Rodriguez is getting plenty of support from his boss. [Dave] Brandon seemed to fall on the sword for a coach he didn't even hire. Brandon said he was the person to blame for Michigan's current predicament, even though he didn't start his job as athletic director until after the NCAA violations were committed."
- SI.com's Stewart Mandel: "Ultimately, Michigan's punishment fits the crime, which was never an overly egregious one. Michigan fans' greatest concern was never whether the NCAA would 'drop the hammer' on their program; it was the additional stain now associated with the already embattled Rodriguez. The school defended him to some degree Monday, but he's still the CEO of a program about to face probation."
- The Detroit Free Press' Mitch Albom: "As NCAA violations go, I'm sorry, but this is not an atom bomb. It's not cash in a suitcase. It's not falsifying grades. It's not phony jobs. It's not point-shaving. If Michigan's self-imposed sanctions are accepted by the NCAA, then how will the program change? A few less practice hours? A few less quality-control people?"
- The Detroit News' Bob Wojnowski: "This is the thin Blue line Michigan now walks, and it's about the same width as the thin line Rodriguez walks. With one hand, Michigan slapped humbly, but not too harshly. With the other hand, it delicately sought leniency in its response to the NCAA's allegations, which it will present formally to the Committee on Infractions on Aug. 13-14 in Seattle."
- Annarbor.com's Dave Birkett: "Rodriguez, clearly, was the big winner Tuesday, though his 89-page personal response read part caged animal, part blame-shifter. In his defense, he was fighting for possibly his coaching life, and had the documents to back up his claims."
- Mgoblog's Brian Cook: "Brad Labadie should be fired. Now. I'll leave the decision as to whether he should be put in stocks on the Diag up to Brandon, but I vote yes. The vastly ineffectual management of Scott Draper should also see him go out the door. If either of these individuals had competently executed his job, there is a strong possibility this whole thing never happens."
- Former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez could get his Hall pass on Thursday, Mike Lucas writes in The Capital Times. The Badgers pick up a commitment from tight end Austin Maly, Dennis Semrau writes in The Capital Times.
- Dotting the i at Ohio State and "Jump Around" at Wisconsin are two of college football's best game-day traditions, Dave Curtis and Matt Hayes write in Sporting News.
- Penn State loses its second wide receiver in a month as A.J. Price departs, Jared Shanker writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News.
- Michigan State used to be the state's troubled athletic program, but there's stability in East Lansing, Lynn Henning writes in The Detroit News.
- After the situations involving Indiana basketball and Michigan football, the Big Ten's compliance staff should take on a bigger role in policing the league, Chris Korman writes in The (Bloomington) Herald-Times (subscription required).
The 6-foot-4, 177-pound Price redshirted in 2008 and didn't catch a pass last season in six games for the Nittany Lions. He had two receptions for 26 yards in the Blue-White Game on April 24.
A Penn State team spokesman couldn't confirm Price's departure when contacted by ESPN.com earlier today. Price, a native of Reston, Va., might have worked his way into Penn State's rotation at wideout this fall.
I'm not too concerned about Penn State's wide receiver depth, even with the losses of Price and incoming recruit Levi Norwood, who opted out of his letter of intent and will play for Baylor. Derek Moye and Graham Zug are a nice 1-2 combination, and Justin Brown could be a name to watch this fall. Chaz Powell, who ranked fourth on the team in receiving last fall, moved to cornerback during spring practice.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The mailblog will be on a new day this year, so send in your questions for Fridays.
Let's kick it off.
Adam from Sterling Heights, Mich., writes: Adam, I don't understand how a few weeks ago, no one was saying that Rich Rod's seat was anything more than "lukewarm", and now all of the sudden he's on the #1 hotseat. I could understand if it was proven that he cheated in practice hours and lost to Western Michigan, but neither of those have happened yet and I don't think either of them will. Why is everyone ganging up on Rich Rod right now?
Adam Rittenberg: It hasn't been a good week for Rodriguez and Michigan, but your patient approach here is, in my opinion, the correct one. Coaches are hired and fired based on results, and until we see how the Wolverines respond Saturday against Western Michigan, Rodriguez isn't on the hot seat. Regardless of what happens in the investigation, it would take another miserable year for Michigan to cut ties with Rodriguez, and even then I'm not sure it would happen. Rodriguez has made some questionable decisions in the last few years, but he's still a heck of a coach. He hasn't forgotten how to win, and he's going to start showing it here soon.
Wallace from Cary, N.C., writes: Hi Adam,Regarding the recent Michigan controversy, do you think it is possible some boosters - who have given RichRod tepid support since the 3-9 debacle last year - are putting a bug in the ear of those players making complaints? I doubt they are doing anything different from other programs, so it seems to me likely that it's a concerted effort to run Rodriguez out of town. Thoughts?
Adam Rittenberg: I generally like to steer clear of conspiracy theories, Wallace, but there's enough smoke here. There's a contingent that doesn't want to see Rodriguez succeed at Michigan. I doubt it's necessarily boosters telling players to complain, but there's clearly a faction that hasn't welcomed the changes Rodriguez has brought. I'm fascinated by this question: Can Michigan truly accept an outsider? Rodriguez isn't part of the Michigan Man fraternity. He does things that don't jibe with the team's tradition. He also isn't going to win Big Ten titles right away. Will Michigan give a proven coach enough time to win? We'll find out.
Penn State's Week 1 depth chart is out, and most of the familiar names are where they're supposed to be: quarterback Daryll Clark, running back Evan Royster, linebackers Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee and defensive tackle Jared Odrick.
There were a few notable items on the two-deep for Saturday's opener against Akron:
- Juniors Graham Zug and Brett Brackett and sophomore Derek Moye are listed as the starters at the three wide receiver spots. Backups are Chaz Powell (Brackett), A.J. Price (Moye) and Patrick Mauti (Zug). Also, it was a bit surprising to see Mickey Shuler and Andrew Quarless listed as co-starters at tight end. Quarless is on the preseason watch list for the Mackey Award.
- Center Stefen Wisniewski and left tackle Dennis Landolt are no-surprise starters, but here's the rest of the revamped line: right tackle DeOn'tae Pannell, right guard Lou Eliades and left guard Matt Stankiewitch.
- A lot of people will be rooting for fifth-year senior Jerome Hayes, who's listed as a starting defensive end opposite promising sophomore Jack Crawford. Hayes has had some terrible luck with knee injuries and gets one final chance to shine this fall.
- Penn State's new-look secondary features Knowledge Timmons and D'Anton Lynn as the cornerbacks and Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay as the safeties. Timmons is listed ahead of senior A.J. Wallace, who likely will be suspended for the first game or two because of cutting class this summer.
- Backup running back Stephfon Green and Powell will handle kickoff returns, while Astorino serves as the punt returner. Former star wide receiver Derrick Williams was a difference maker at both spots last year.
- Junior Collin Wagner is listed as the starting place-kicker ahead of true freshman Anthony Fera.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Listening to Joe Paterno, you'd think Penn State would be lucky to go .500 this season.
The defending Big Ten co-champs lose a sizable senior class, including the entire starting secondary and entire starting wide receiving corps. Penn State brings back national award candidates such as linebacker Navorro Bowman, defensive tackle Jared Odrick and running back Evan Royster, but all the turnover has taken a toll this spring.
"I don't think we've had a very great spring," Paterno said Wednesday. "We had a great winter program. The kids started out well. We've had a problem with the weather. ... And we've got some areas that we're not even adequate. That's the offensive line right now, the secondary has got a long way to go, and we've got to improve.
"Some of the good things are we've got kids that are working hard."
Paterno is feeling 100 percent physically following hip-replacement surgery in November, but his team's health hasn't been as promising. The Lions have had "more injuries this spring than I can remember in a long time," Paterno said, and they've been spread across the board.
The injured include linebacker/defensive end Jerome Hayes (knee), cornerback A.J. Wallace (hamstring), center Doug Klopacz (knee) and tackle Nerraw McCormack (knee).
There have been several bright spots, namely the play of Royster, quarterback Daryll Clark, a new-look wide receiving corps and the defensive line, led by Odrick. But for a team that still lists national titles and Big Ten championships as its goals, there's a ton to do in the final six spring workouts and the summer.
"Our running back situation's good, our tight end situation's good, our quarterback situation's good, we've got a chance to have a couple pretty good wideouts," Paterno said. "We're very, very shallow at the offensive line, not even close to being good enough. Same way with our secondary. The linebacker's are good, I think our kicking game will be good.
"That should cover everything."
I didn't sit down with Paterno in person today -- some obligations kept him at home until practice, which was closed -- but we discussed several other topics over the phone.
Here are a few notes:
- Clark has thrown the ball extremely well this spring, and a new-look group of receivers are making plays. Paterno likes the fact that Penn State has some bigger wideouts -- Brett Brackett (6-foot-6), Derek Moye (6-5), A.J. Price (6-4) and Graham Zug (6-2) are bigger targets -- who allow for some different things in the offensive scheme.
The only concern for Paterno is that the wideouts aren't facing the best competition this spring.
"People are going to bang 'em around, and they're going to need some experienced game time," Paterno said. "We're trying to give them as tough situations as we can, but the secondary is not as aggressive as I would like. So I'm not so sure just how good the receivers are. They've worked hard, they catch the ball well and they have ability, but they haven't really been challenged yet."
- Night games at Beaver Stadium are a Penn State trademark, but the Lions will kick off only one contest under the lights this fall -- the Big Ten opener against Iowa. Last year, Penn State played three prime-time games. In 2007, Penn State had night games at home against Notre Dame and Ohio State.
"It doesn't make a difference, we've got to show up," Paterno said. "But the fans have a lot of fun at night. I don't know why we don't have one more. I guess it's all television."
- Paterno is a bit worried about the depth on the defensive line, but for the most part, he shares the same opinion as most of his fans -- that assistant Larry Johnson will find a way to succeed with the front four. Odrick anchors the middle of the line, and Jack Crawford, Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham are emerging at defensive end.
"We've got some talent there," Paterno said. "They're all right."
- Paterno also sees talent along the offensive line, though that group typically takes longer to develop. Stefen Wisniewski has shifted from right guard to center, and right tackle Dennis Landolt is the only other returning starter up front.
"We've just got to get a couple more kids to come forward," Paterno said. "There's some talent there. They're not comfortable, they're not confident, they're not aggressive, they're not sure of themselves. And obviously, that's why you practice. But I think they'll come along."
- The 82-year-old coach joked that maybe Penn State was better off when his assistants ran most of the practice, but he's clearly feeling a lot better than he did last fall, when he coached the final eight games from the press box and could barely walk. When the Lions take the field Sept. 5 against Akron, Paterno expects to be running out of the tunnel.
"Right now, I'm concerned about this football team," he said. "We're not very good right now, we've got a lot of work ahead of us and we're running out of time. But I'm sure when it's a day or two before [the game], and I start thinking about going back out on the field, I'll be excited."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Some questions and answers for you on this Good Friday/Passover.
C.J. from Philly writes: Adam, help em out here. Being a fan/alum of a Big 10 Football School is akin to being in love with a great girl who comes with the baggage of having a family you cannot stand. This conference does everything in its power to keep traditions from 70 years ago in tact at the expense of progress and what its fans want: 1. Still probably the biggest roadblock to a playoff is due to the Big 10 and its insistence of holding onto the Rose Bowl. 2. Wants all of the games to end before Thanksgiving although most other D1 teams play until December. May also be the reason that Big 10 teams struggle in the BCS since they have alonger break than most teams. 3. Now, they want to stop having night games in November even though the atmosphere at these games is electrifying. Probably due to old rich alumni who do not want to be in the cold more than anything. The Progress Train for College Football wants to leave the station yet the Big 10 keeps wanting to delay it. No wonder we get such a bad rap.
Adam Rittenberg: Ha, love the analogy, C.J., and you make some excellent points. The Big Ten tends to chain itself to tradition too often, especially when it comes to scheduling flexibility. Things do get a little better starting in 2010 with the permanent bye week, but we won't see a championship game until a 12th team is added, which is highly unlikely at this point. Though the Big Ten's marketing model shouldn't be questioned by any league, it needs to be willing to give a little, especially as its national reputation continues to struggle.
John from Washington D.C. writes: Adam, I am so sick and tired of the Big11Ten administrators who whine about national prominence while tying their own hands behind their backs. First there's the no-conference-games-after-Thanksgiving rule, which is dumber than dumb. Now there is the no-night-games-in-November rule. Really? You're saying the best conference games of the year in the best and biggest stadiums in the country won't be allowed primetime exposure? That's a great way to overcome negative press and stereotypes! The worst part is that it's us, the fans, who suffer the most. We're the ones on the frontline arguing with our friends, defending our schools and our conference against the negative national perceptions, and frankly, against our teams' poor showings recently. We all know the Big11Ten is an upper-echelon conference with elite talent playing for some of the most storied and successful programs in history, but until the administrators realize that college football of the 21st century is not college football of the 1960s we're all going to pay the price of their arrogance and failures. I don't really have a question, I guess, except how can we, as fans, get our frustrations across to the Jim Delaneys that continually make decisions that only hurt the quality and integrity of the conference?
Adam Rittenberg: Again, you make some good points here, John, and the way to air your frustrations is to write this blog (shameless self promotion). The one thing I'd point out is that the Big Ten's November prime time policy isn't exactly new, and most of the league's top games that month have kicked off at 3:30 p.m. ET or even noon on some occasions. But I agree that the no-night-games policy does take away some of the drama, especially as the Big Ten adopts a permanent bye week and more teams (Penn State, Michigan State) enter the spotlight on a regular basis. If the Big Ten continues to struggle nationally and sees leagues like the Big 12 and SEC continue to get top billing with their prime-time Saturday games, the policy could be revisited. What could hurt the Big Ten -- and we saw it last year -- is when Michigan-Ohio State isn't the premier game on the last Saturday of the conference season. Does Michigan-Ohio State always move to noon if Michigan State-Penn State takes top billing? What about if Iowa-Minnesota affects the league title race? There could be some tough decisions.