Big Ten: A.J. Wallace

College football all-star season is nearly upon us, as ESPN's Scouts Inc. is covering all of the preparations for Saturday's East-West Shrine Game in Orlando.

Don't forget about the Texas vs. The Nation All-Star Challenge, to be played Feb. 6 at Sun Bowl Stadium in El Paso, Texas. As its title suggests, the game pits all-stars hailing from Texas against those from around the country.

Eight Big Ten players are scheduled to participate in the game, all for the Nation squad.

They are:

  • Penn State CB A.J. Wallace (also listed as a return man)
  • Ohio State K Aaron Pettrey
  • Indiana S Nick Polk
  • Minnesota LB Simoni Lawrence
  • Minnesota LB Nate Triplett
  • Penn State LB Josh Hull
  • Indiana DE Jammie Kirlew
  • Penn State OL Dennis Landolt

The full game rosters can be found here.

Big Ten all-bowl team

January, 12, 2010
A strong Big Ten bowl season leaves me with some tough choices for the All-Bowl team. We can certainly debate some of these, especially the O-linemen, but here are my selections.


[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Harry How/Getty ImagesTerrelle Pryor acccounted for more Rose Bowl yards than Oregon's team did.
QB: Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State
He came of age in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi, delivering a complete performance as both a passer and a runner. Pryor accounted for 338 total yards; Oregon had 260.

RB: John Clay, Wisconsin
Clay gave Miami a taste of Big Ten football by bulldozing the Hurricanes for 121 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries in the Champs Sports Bowl.

RB: Brandon Wegher, Iowa
It seemed like no running back could stay healthy for Iowa this year, but Wegher came up huge in the FedEx Orange Bowl. The true freshman had 113 rush yards on 16 carries, including the clinching 32-yard touchdown run with 1:16 left.

WR: DeVier Posey, Ohio State
I saw a future NFL receiver when I watched Posey in the Rose Bowl. He had eight receptions for 101 yards, including a leaping 17-yard touchdown that all but sealed Ohio State's victory.

WR: Andrew Brewer, Northwestern
Brewer saved his best game for last, hauling in eight receptions for 133 yards and scoring on receptions of 35 and 39 yards in the Outback Bowl.

TE: Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern and Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin
Dunsmore had nine receptions for 120 yards, including an electrifying 66-yard touchdown dash through the Auburn defense. Garrett Graham might be the first-team All-Big Ten selection, but Kendricks stole the show in the Champs Sports Bowl with seven receptions for 128 yards.

C: John Moffitt, Wisconsin
Moffitt moved back to center because of a teammate's injury and helped the Badgers overpower Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl. Wisconsin racked up 430 total yards and held the ball for 39:15.

G: Justin Boren, Ohio State
Boren led a big and nasty Buckeyes line that generated push for the run game and helped Pryor attempt a career high 37 passes in the win against Oregon.

G: Joel Foreman, Michigan State
The Spartans' offensive line stepped up nicely in the Valero Alamo Bowl, helping to generate 148 rush yards and allowing only one sack against a Texas Tech team that rushes the passer extremely well. Foreman, an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection, deserves some props.

OT: Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
Bulaga showed why he's jumping to the NFL draft with a terrific performance against Georgia Tech star defensive end Derrick Morgan in the FedEx Orange Bowl.

OT: Dennis Landolt, Penn State
Landolt and his linemates did a good job against LSU's blitz and protected Daryll Clark on a muddy field in Orlando. Penn State allowed only one sack and rushed for 124 yards.


DL: Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
Clayborn was an absolute beast in the Orange Bowl, recording nine tackles (all solo) and two sacks as he disrupted Georgia Tech's triple option attack.

DL: J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
Watt led an aggressive Badgers defensive front with a sack, two tackles for loss, two pass breakups, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery against Miami.

DL: O'Brien Schofield, Wisconsin
Schofield was disruptive all season and showed it in the bowl game, recording two sacks and forcing a fumble that led to a crucial field goal in the fourth quarter.

DL: Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State
The Buckeyes defensive front made life miserable for Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, and Gibson stepped up with two tackles for loss in what proved to be his final collegiate game.

LB: Navorro Bowman, Penn State
Bowman had a game-high nine tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and forced LSU into a critical penalty in the final minute as the Lions preserved a Capital One Bowl win.

LB: Ross Homan, Ohio State
Homan ended the season as one of the Big Ten's top linebackers and turned in a terrific performance in Pasadena with 12 tackles and an interception that set up a field goal just before halftime.

LB: Pat Angerer, Iowa
The triple option will test a middle linebacker, but Angerer stepped up for Iowa with a game-high 10 tackles, including one for loss, against Georgia Tech.

DB: Kyle Theret, Minnesota
Theret was the Gophers' MVP in the Insight Bowl, recording seven tackles (all solo), two interceptions, a tackle for loss and a 40-yard reception on a fake punt that set up the team's first touchdown.

DB: Ross Weaver, Michigan State
The Spartans' secondary struggled against Texas Tech, but Weaver recorded a team-high seven solo tackles and had a forced fumble and an interception that led to 10 Michigan State points in the second half.

DB: Kim Royston, Minnesota
Royston recorded a career-high 15 tackles, tying the Insight Bowl record, including 14 solo stops against Iowa State. He also forced a fumble that turned into a Minnesota field goal.

DB: Sherrick McManis, Northwestern
McManis made plays throughout his career and finished it in typical fashion with an interception and a fumble recovery, both occurring in Northwestern's end of the field.


K: Collin Wagner, Penn State
The horrible field conditions didn't bother Wagner, who went 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts and drilled the game winner with 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

P: Blake Haudan, Minnesota
Haudan averaged 49.6 yards on five punts and completed a 40-yard pass to Theret on a well-timed fake in the third quarter.

Returner: Keshawn Martin, Michigan State
Martin blossomed as the Big Ten's most dangerous kick return man this fall and averaged 24.8 yards per runback with a long of 36 against Texas Tech.

Honorable mention -- WISCONSIN: QB Scott Tolzien, RB Montee Ball, P Brad Nortman, LB Chris Borland, TE Garrett Graham, starting offensive line. MINNESOTA: WR Da'Jon McKnight, LB Lee Campbell. NORTHWESTERN: QB Mike Kafka, WR Zeke Markshausen, WR Sidney Stewart, CB Jordan Mabin, LB Quentin Davie. PENN STATE: QB Daryll Clark, RB Stephfon Green, TE Andrew Quarless, LB Sean Lee, DT Jared Odrick, CB A.J. Wallace, starting offensive line. OHIO STATE: DE Cameron Heyward, DT Doug Worthington, RB Brandon Saine, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, K Devin Barclay, K Aaron Pettrey, P Jon Thoma, starting offensive line. MICHIGAN STATE: RB Edwin Baker, WR Blair White, P Aaron Bates, LB Greg Jones, starting offensive line. IOWA: QB Ricky Stanzi, TE Tony Moeaki, P Ryan Donahue, DT Karl Klug, LB A.J. Edds, DE Broderick Binns, starting offensive line.

It's game day at Michigan Stadium

October, 24, 2009
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Greetings from Michigan Stadium, where in a few hours No. 13 Penn State will face Michigan in what figures to be a very exciting game.

Both teams have plenty to prove in today's contest.

Penn State needs to show it can win here, something it hasn't done since 1996, and confirm itself as a legitimate contender for the Big Ten title or possibly an at-large BCS bowl. The Lions snapped a nine-game losing streak to Michigan last year in Happy Valley, but the Wolverines hold a 10-4 edge in the all-time series, which marks Penn State's worst record against an opponent (minimum 10 meetings).

Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez is still searching for his first signature Big Ten victory. A win today combined with an Iowa loss to Michigan State could open the door for Michigan to vault back into the league title race with games against both Ohio State and Wisconsin still left on the schedule.

The weather could be a factor, as light rain is likely this afternoon with winds around 15 miles an hour.

Injuries: Penn State will be without backup running back Stephfon Green, who didn't make the trip because of an ankle injury. Lions linebacker Sean Lee tweaked his sprained knee last Saturday against Minnesota but practiced this week and expects to play. Michigan running backs Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor and center David Molk are all probable for the game. Molk has been out since Sept. 19 with a broken bone in his foot.

One other personnel note: Michigan cornerback Boubacar Cissoko is eligible for the game after being suspended the last two contests. Cissoko won't start but could play.


1. Don't lose contain on QBs: Michigan quarterbacks Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson both are best on the move, and it's important for Penn State's defensive front seven to keep them in the pocket. The defensive line has played very well in recent weeks, particularly tackles Jared Odrick and Ollie Ogbu, but they'll be tested by Michigan's overall speed.

2. Stop Brandon Minor: Minor was limited in practice this week because of a lingering ankle injury, but he should be ready for the game. The senior rushed for 117 yards and two touchdowns last year against Penn State, and he gashed Iowa's talented defense in the third quarter on Oct. 10.

3. Daryll Clark in the clutch: Clark has accomplished a lot in his two years as Penn State's starting quarterback, but the senior still needs to prove he can win a close game. He struggled against Iowa the last two seasons and left last year's close win at Ohio State with a concussion. This game figures to come down to the fourth quarter, and Clark will need to make clutch throws.


1. Give Forcier the chance to create: Forcier has been at his best when freelancing, and most of his big plays come outside the pocket. Michigan's offensive line gets Molk back and gained confidence from the Iowa game, but left tackle Mark Ortmann admitted this week that Penn State's defensive front is more athletic.

2. Attack Penn State's secondary: It's hard to find weaknesses with Penn State's defensive line or linebacking corps, so Michigan should target the secondary as much as possible. Penn State did a great job containing Minnesota star wide receiver Eric Decker last week, and cornerback A.J. Wallace seems to have hit his stride. But Michigan has more weapons than the Gophers and needs to use them.

3. Stop Evan Royster: The Lions are a bit thin at running back and don't like to run Clark as much as they did last season. They'll want to pound the football with Royster, who is due for a huge game. Michigan's front seven will need to be disciplined and keep Royster from moving the ball and controlling the clock.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Penn State's defense has flown under the radar because of a cushy schedule and some early struggles from the Nittany Lions offense.

But after today's 20-0 shutout against Minnesota, it's safe to say this unit is pretty darn good.

Penn State entered Saturday ranked sixth nationally in scoring defense, allowing just 10.2 points a game. That average dropped to 8.7 points after the Lions held an opponent scoreless for the first time since a 31-0 blanking of Temple in 2007.

Linebacker Sean Lee (sprained knee) returned to the field and cornerback A.J. Wallace turned in a huge performance for a defense that held Gophers star wideout Eric Decker to only one catch for 42 yards. Penn State still hasn't allowed a first-half touchdown all season.

Credit the Lions' offense for dominating possession time with running back Evan Royster and quarterback Daryll Clark, who continues to show why he's the Big Ten's best signal-caller. Wideout Derek Moye (6 catches, 120 yards) had a big day as Penn State held the ball for 37:59. The Lions were very balanced and piled up 464 total yards despite very lousy weather.

Minnesota's offense continues to be a problem, and it will be interesting to see where head coach Tim Brewster goes from here. He changed the offensive philosophy from the spread to a pro-style set, but the running game has been incredibly inconsistent this season, producing only 37 yards Saturday. Junior quarterback Adam Weber endured another rough day, and the calls for backup MarQueis Gray undoubtedly will increase in the Twin Cities.

Penn State's defense faces a much bigger test next week at Michigan, which leads the Big Ten in scoring (37.3 points per game).
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

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's Adam Rittenberg

Joe Paterno is all for second chances, but the legendary Penn State head coach doesn't tolerate academic missteps of any kind. So it's no surprise that Paterno will discipline cornerback A.J. Wallace for cutting classes.

Wallace likely will be suspended for Penn State's first game or two because of his academic issues.  So the Nittany Lions probably will be without one of their most experienced defensive backs when they open the season Sept. 5 against Akron.

"I've told A.J. I might not play him in a game or two because he had cut classes and if he cuts anymore classes he won't play," Paterno said Thursday at media day. "I think you've gotta send a message and there's no sense sending a message to someone who's not a player. He's obviously one of our better players. ... Now when I play him will depend on what I hear back from our academic advisers."

Penn State will crush Akron and Syracuse whether or not Wallace is on the field, but it's important for a new-look secondary to build chemistry as quickly as possible. Sophomore D'Anton Lynn could get an opportunity to shine in a starting role early, though I'd expect Wallace to have the top job most of the season.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The final seven Big Ten teams open preseason camp, including defending co-champs Penn State and Ohio State.

Here are three questions for the remaining seven squads during the next four weeks. If you missed Part I, check it out.


Camp opens: Monday

1. Will true freshman Tate Forcier create some early separation in the quarterback competition?

Forcier enters camp as the frontrunner after a solid spring, and he could further cement himself as the Wolverines' top quarterback in the coming weeks. He'll face some real competition now as junior Nick Sheridan returns from a broken leg and athletic freshman Denard Robinson joins the mix.

2. Who will step up alongside Brandon Graham on the defensive line?

Michigan brings back a potential All-American in Graham, who has 18.5 sacks the past two seasons. He'll need help up front, though, and the Wolverines need strong camps from Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen and William Campbell.

3. How many true freshmen see the field this fall?

The Wolverines will be much more experienced at several positions, but head coach Rich Rodriguez brought in a strong recruiting class, and several freshmen should contribute immediately. Along with Forcier, Robinson and Campbell, running back Vincent Smith impressed this spring and hopes are high for safety Vladimir Emilien. Defensive end Craig Roh also could be one to watch.


Camp opens: Monday

1. Will we see any separation at quarterback before Sept. 5?

Head coach Mark Dantonio isn't planning on it and fully intends to play both Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol during non-league play. The two signal-callers paced one another throughout spring ball, but there's a chance one man might be ready to take the job.

2. Can true freshmen Edwin Baker and Larry Caper emerge as the top running backs?

None of Michigan State's older players really took charge in the spring, though Caulton Ray's emergence is intriguing. Many expect Michigan State's heralded recruits to emerge as potential starters by the end of training camp.

3. How will the secondary look by the end of camp?

Dantonio has a very good problem in the secondary -- loads of experience. Eight returning players have starting experience, and that doesn't include safety Trenton Robinson, the story of the spring on defense. The competition in the back four should be fun to watch.

(Read full post)

Big Ten Friday mailblog

August, 7, 2009

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

While I chat with Iowa players and coaches, you chat with me.

Tyler from Omaha writes: Are Abe Koroma and Aj Wallcace off the Penn State roster?

Adam Rittenberg: Abe Koroma is no longer with the team and will be taking the 2009-10 school year off because of personal issues. Wallace has some academic issues he must resolve, but he's expected to participate in training camp and be ready for the season. Penn State's depth at defensive tackle looks pretty decent to me, but the Nittany Lions need Wallace on the field in a new-look secondary that appears to be the team's weakest unit right now.

Jonathan from Westerville, Ohio, writes: Adam, coach [Jim] Tressel is opening practice to the media for at least the first week (maybe more).Do you think Tommy Lee Jones and Will Smith zapped coach Tressel with the little light thing or is he opening up a little more (perhaps under a grand plan)?

Adam Rittenberg: You mean this little light thing? Perhaps. Or maybe Tress is channeling his inner Pete Carroll. Whatever it is, I hope Ohio State's open-door policy continues. It really helps the media get a better feel of the team, and I think a lot of coaches are way too paranoid about open practices. USC is probably the most accessible team in the country and the most successful team this decade. The Trojans aren't worried about state secrets slipping out during practices. Definitely a welcome change in C-Bus.

(Read full post)

Big Ten mailblog

August, 4, 2009

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Lots of great questions right now. Keep 'em coming.

Ed from Davenport, Iowa, writes: Since nobody else can answer this---Why is IOWA playing at Spartan Stadium two years in a row? By this reasoning, PSU should visit IOWA again this year.

Adam Rittenberg: It's one of the wacky things about the unbalanced Big Ten schedule. Every team has two conference byes each season, and when those byes reset every two years, you sometimes get a situation like this when games are repeated. This season marks the start of a new cycle with byes, so you get repeat matchups like Iowa at Michigan State, Northwestern at Iowa, Indiana at Penn State and Minnesota at Ohio State.

Greg from Cicero, Ind., writes: I believe your ranking of Purdue's defensive line is far off. They will be much stronger than you believe. Kerrigan and Neal are going to have great seasons. I do agree with your linebacker assessment. Purdue needs Werner to stay healthy and Carlino and Holland really have to step it up. Surely, you are going to give Purdue's secondary a better ranking. They should be pretty solid this year.

Adam Rittenberg: Purdue's line could be pretty solid this year, but aside from Ryan Kerrigan and Mike Neal, there are a bunch of unproven players. I really like the 1-2 punch with Kerrigan and Neal, but if guys like Kawann Short and Gerald Gooden don't grow up quickly, opponents will continue to run against Purdue and challenge the front seven. I agree with you that the linebackers are a concern and Jason Werner's health looms large with that group. And yes, I gave the secondary a more favorable review. Purdue's defense, like the rest of the team, is a bit of a mystery and certainly could surprise some people.

(Read full post)

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

After a long weekend off, it's time to dive back into the Big Ten position rankings. The secondary units are up next.

The top two look absolutely stacked, and the top four or five all will be solid. Quarterback play should be much better in the Big Ten this fall, and the secondaries will need to elevate their play.

1. Iowa -- Three starters return from a unit that helped Iowa lead the Big Ten in takeaways (32) and allow the fewest passing touchdowns (9) in 2008. Junior Amari Spievey is the league's best cover corner, and he'll be joined by safety Tyler Sash, who shared the league lead in interceptions with teammate Pat Angerer last fall. Bradley Fletcher will be missed and depth is a mini concern, but the back four will anchor Iowa's D.

2. Northwestern -- The Wildcats boast the Big Ten's deepest secondary and possibly the league's best. I covered a string of woeful Northwestern secondaries earlier this decade, and it's a major testament to assistants Mike Hankwitz and Jerry Brown that the unit has come this far. All four starters return, led by safety Brad Phillips and corner Sherrick McManis. Northwestern can go at least nine deep and boasts capable reserves like Brian Peters.

3. Ohio State -- It's a bit of a mixed bag for the Buckeyes, who return the Big Ten's top safety tandem but look thin at cornerback. Safeties Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell both will contend for All-Big Ten honors after solid junior seasons. Ohio State loses Thorpe Award winner Malcolm Jenkins and hopes Chimdi Chekwa can fill the void. Several young players will get a chance to shine this fall, including Travis Howard and Ohrian Johnson.

4. Michigan State -- All-Big Ten safety Otis Wiley departs, but there's a lot to like about the Spartans secondary. Perhaps only Northwestern boasts more depth than Michigan State, which can go at least eight deep in the secondary. Corners Chris L. Rucker and Ross Weaver should have big seasons, and safety Trenton Robinson was the story of the spring and will earn major playing time.

5. Purdue -- Pop quiz: Which team led the Big Ten in pass defense last fall? It might surprise some to know Purdue topped the chart (183.2 ypg). A poor run defense contributed to the numbers, but the Boilers still look very strong in the back four entering 2009. Safety Torri Williams received a sixth year of eligibility during the offseason, and he'll join returning starters David Pender, Brandon King and Dwight Mclean.

6. Minnesota -- Minnesota led the Big Ten in takeaways for much of last season, and the secondary was the biggest reason why. Playmaking cornerback Traye Simmons leads a unit that returns three starters and could be deeper than it was in 2008. Senior corner Marcus Sherels and junior safety Kyle Theret have loads of experience, and Simmons is thrilled about the arrival of Wisconsin transfer Kim Royston at safety.

7. Wisconsin -- Easily the toughest unit to rank. The Badgers have the playmakers to be a top 4 secondary this fall. Cornerback Niles Brinkley recorded four interceptions last season, backup safety Shane Carter had a league-leading seven picks in 2007 and safety Jay Valai might be the Big Ten's hardest hitter. But consistency and depth are major concerns for Wisconsin. A lot depends on how cornerback Aaron Henry returns from knee problems.

8. Michigan -- Junior cornerback Donovan Warren could have a huge year or a really quiet one. See, Warren is easily the team's most experienced defensive back, and for that reason, opponents might try to avoid him and attack the Wolverines' unproven players. Michigan boasts a lot of young talent in the secondary -- corner Boubacar Cissoko, safety Troy Woolfolk, safety Vladimir Emilien -- and those players need to grow up fast.

9. Penn State -- This is easily the weakest unit on a team with Big Ten title aspirations. Penn State loses all four starters from a secondary that got exposed late in a loss to Iowa and early in a Rose Bowl beating against USC. The Lions need cornerback A.J. Wallace to straighten out his academic situation before Sept. 5. Safety Drew Astorino is ready to lead, but Penn State must identify capable pieces around him.

10. Illinois -- As expected, Vontae Davis bolted to the NFL a year early, leaving Illinois without a lock-down cornerback. The safeties also struggled at times last year, which creates plenty of questions heading into the fall. Illinois would certainly benefit from having a healthy Donsay Hardeman at safety, while cornerback Tavon Wilson showed some promising signs during spring ball.

11. Indiana -- It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Indiana finished much higher in my end-of-year rankings, but there are too many uncertainties entering camp. How will safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk respond from serious knee injuries? Has Ray Fisher successfully transitioned from wide receiver to cornerback? Will Florida transfer Jerimy Finch finally emerge as an impact player? The answers could determine whether Indiana survives on defense this fall.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- Before calling it a day here at the Hyatt Regency, a few tidbits from the first of two Big Ten media sessions. 

There wasn't a ton of huge news that came out of media days, but here are a few items not covered in earlier posts. 

And finally, some of the day's best quotes.

Penn State's Joe Paterno, on Twitter: "You guys have to talk about something. The fans have got to put something on those, what do you guys call those things, Twittle-do? Twittle-dee? I haven't got the slightest idea what you're looking at."

Michigan's Rich Rodriguez, on his first game against Ohio State in Columbus: "We saw a few old ladies hold up some hand signals while we were driving in, but I had seen that before, too."

Wisconsin's Bret Bielema, on playing at Iowa's Kinnick Stadium: "I graduated from there. I've got a tattoo of a Hawkeye on my calf; it was a great idea when I was 19. Their fans are right on top of you. They're coming at you and calling me names I've never heard before."

Minnesota's Tim Brewster, on Big Ten expansion: "I look forward to the day when we add a team and we split the divisions and we play for a championship on national TV on a Saturday night in December."

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Here's the second half of my interview with Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley. If you missed it, check out Part I

Navorro Bowman had such a big year last season when Sean [Lee] was out. Is building chemistry a key thing for them, just being on the field together for contact, or is that not a concern?

Tom Bradley: Sean doesn't care where he plays, which makes it easy. Navorro doesn't care where he plays. None of them have egos. They could care less. It's just, 'Just tell me what to do.' I remember when we moved Paul [Posluszny] a couple years ago. They said, 'Oh, geez, you're moving the Butkus [Award] winner and all this. How'd that go?' I said, 'It took two minutes.' I told him, 'Here's what we're doing.' And he said, 'I want to help the team. Good. See ya.' So it's the same with Sean and Navorro, which makes it nice. We've got three linebacker positions and they'll play any one of them. It gives us some flexibility.

Navorro has had some setbacks personally in the last few years. Do you feel OK about where he's at heading into the summer? 

TB: I'm not worried about him. He'll be fine. He's grown up a lot, he's been through a lot. No one would be a better person for it. 

With Jared [Odrick] in the middle of the defensive line, how good can he be? Is there anyone he reminds you of with his ability to stuff the run?

TB: He's one of the best three-technique tackles in the country. People forget he can play a five technique, he could play defensive end. He could do just about anything.

Coach [Joe] Paterno expressed some concern about the secondary this spring with all the young guys back there. Where's your confidence level with those guys? Is it still a wait-and-see thing?

TB: [Drew] Astorino and A.J. Wallace have both played. They've been in games, so we're going to have to count on those guys to really be guys that can start right away and step up. We've got to develop some chemistry back there quickly. We've gone through this before a few years ago, where we just didn't have anybody, all new starters. It's always interesting. Thanks for ruining my nice summer day [laughs]. 

It seems like Drew wants to be a leader back there. 

TB: Has there ever been a kid in the history of sports who had a better high school senior year? My man scores the touchdown to win the state championship in football, and with two seconds on the clock, he makes a shot to win the state championship in basketball. The guy's living the life, huh? 

I know you can't talk specifics, but how encouraged are you with the start to recruiting for 2010? Penn State has had a lot of success, especially within the state. Have you guys changed the strategy at all?

TB: Every year's different in recruiting. The thing that's so misconstrued, is if you have 10 great linebacker prospects within your state but you aren't recruiting linebackers, you're not going to take 'em. It's what your needs are. Sometimes you can't recruit a kid because maybe it's an academic thing or maybe it's something else you know about the person. There's a million different things. Sometimes it falls into place. Everybody makes such a gigantic deal about numbers and this and that. This year, there were people we wanted in our state. 

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Biggest reasons for hope -- Daryll Clark and Sean Lee

You couldn't pick two better leaders for Penn State in 2009, and it certainly helps that one plays quarterback and the other middle linebacker. Clark comes off a superb junior season in which he established himself as the undisputed leader of the offense. His guidance will be huge as Penn State breaks in a new group of starting wide receivers as well as several new contributors on the offensive line. Lee missed last season with a torn ACL, but he stayed involved as an honorary coach and should be at full strength for the fall. If he's close to the form he showed in 2007, Penn State will be very strong at linebacker.

Biggest reason for concern -- The secondary

The defensive backs got exposed in both of Penn State's losses last season, and all four starters are gone, which could be good or bad. The group certainly lacks experience heading into 2009, and Penn State will need players like safety Drew Astorino and cornerback A.J. Wallace to step up. Expect opposing teams to repeatedly challenge Penn State's pass defense early on, and the group must build some confidence in the first three games before Iowa visits Happy Valley on Sept. 26. Hawkeyes quarterback Ricky Stanzi made several big throws in the fourth quarter of last year's victory in Iowa City.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Fifteen spring practices still don't mask all the warts a team has, and every head coach has a position group that keeps him awake at night. After looking at where each Big Ten team got help this spring, here's a look at the positions that still look a little shaky around the league.

Illinois' offensive line -- The Illini boast arguably more offensive firepower than any Big Ten team, but they'll struggle without improvement up front. There's youth throughout the front five, and while players like Jeff Allen boast loads of potential, there are a few unknowns heading into the fall. The line allowed five sacks and 16 tackles for loss in the spring game.

Indiana's wide receivers -- Kellen Lewis' dismissal from the program after spring practice creates a major void at receiver. Lewis was pegged to be Ben Chappell's top target, and with Ray Fisher moving from wideout to cornerback, the Hoosiers need big things from young players like Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher.

Iowa's defensive tackles -- This position will be a question mark for the Hawkeyes right up until the season opener, and most likely beyond. Iowa must find a way to replace mainstays Mitch King and Matt Kroul, and it lacks much experience besides Karl Klug. The team needs continued development from guys like Mike Daniels and Cody Hundertmark.

Michigan's defensive line -- Brandon Graham should be one of the nation's top pass-rushers this fall, but he needs some help up front. Michigan likes what it has in young linemen like Ryan Van Bergen, Mike Martin and incoming freshman Craig Roh. Those players will need to grow up fast so the defense can generate consistent pressure.

Michigan State's running backs -- Few players meant more to an offense than Javon Ringer did to Michigan State last fall, and the search for a replacement remains a bit murky. Aside from a brief surge by Ashton Leggett, the running back room remains very crowded as Caulton Ray entered the mix this spring. Two heralded freshmen arrive during the summer in Edwin Baker and Larry Caper.

Minnesota's offensive line -- The Gophers have the bodies up front, but they've still got a long way to go in picking up the new offensive system/philosophy. It's a fairly dramatic change for returning starters like Dom Alford and Ned Tavale, so growing pains are expected. But a talented Gophers team can't take another step forward if its offensive line doesn't come together.

Northwestern's wide receivers -- Three starters are gone at receiver, and no one really wowed during spring practice. Northwestern should get better here as Jeremy Ebert returns from hip surgery, but it's time for experienced players like Andrew Brewer and Sidney Stewart to step up as primary targets for new starting quarterback Mike Kafka.

Ohio State's offensive line -- Michigan transfer Justin Boren undoubtedly had a positive effect on the offensive line this spring, but questions remain about a group that underachieved for most of 2008. Can Mike Adams complement his physical gifts with a toughness needed to play left tackle in the Big Ten? How will Jim Cordle and Bryant Browning adjust to new positions when the games begin? Stay tuned.

Penn State's secondary -- Head coach Joe Paterno didn't hide his concern for this group, which lost all four starters from 2008. Breakdowns in the secondary doomed Penn State in its only two losses last fall. Safety Drew Astorino should be ready for big things, but cornerback A.J. Wallace must find a way to stay healthy and become a legit shutdown guy on the outside.

Purdue's quarterbacks -- Joey Elliott boasts the knowledge to be an effective Big Ten starter, but does he have the skills to get it done? He has spent a lot of time on the sideline during his college career, and Purdue would benefit from having another viable option at quarterback. Justin Siller's dismissal really stings, and the development of backup Caleb TerBush looms large this summer.

Wisconsin's linebackers -- The Badgers lose a lot of production in DeAndre Levy and Jonathan Casillas, and they don't have much proven depth at linebacker. They can ill afford an injury to Jaevery McFadden or Culmer St. Jean, and it's imperative to develop more linebackers during preseason camp.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

We've already looked at players to watch and spring surprises. Now it's time to look at the guys who didn't do much during spring practice but will play vital roles for Big Ten teams this season.

Who needs to step up for each team?

Donsay Hardeman, S, Illinois -- Neck surgery sounds pretty scary, but Hardeman likely will return to the field this fall after undergoing the procedure during the offseason. He can provide experience at the all-important safety spot after recording 44 tackles, an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery last fall.

Deonte Mack, DT, Indiana -- Any number of players could fit in this spot for the injury-plagued Hoosiers, but Mack, who missed spring ball following hip surgery, must provide leadership at an extremely thin position. Pass-rushers Greg Middleton and Jammie Kirlew will only be effective if opponents have to worry about the interior line.

Tony Moeaki, TE, Iowa -- It's hard not to pull for Moeaki, a heralded prospect who has endured injury after injury with the Hawkeyes and was on crutches during spring ball. He's expected to return this summer and possibly fill a key role after Iowa lost first-team All-Big Ten tight end Brandon Myers.

Jonas Mouton, LB, Michigan -- Michigan's improvement on defense must start with the linebackers, and Mouton returns to the mix after shoulder surgery kept him off the field this spring. Mouton finished second on the team in tackles last fall (76) and could form a solid linebacker tandem with Obi Ezeh.

Jeremy Ware, CB, Michigan State -- One of several contributors in the Spartans' secondary to miss spring ball with injuries, Ware will be a key name to monitor during the summer. He emerged nicely last season, recording an interception and six pass breakups.

Eric Decker, WR, Minnesota -- Decker wasn't hurt this spring, but he spent the time playing center field for the Gophers' baseball team. There's little doubt he's one of the nation's best receivers, but he must absorb a new offensive system installed this spring and re-establish rhythm with quarterbacks Adam Weber and MarQueis Gray.

Corey Wootton, DE, Northwestern -- How Wootton recovers from ACL surgery could shape Northwestern's defense this fall. The All-Big Ten selection missed spring ball but is ahead of schedule on his recovery and expects to practice this summer. With questions on offense, the Wildcats need Wootton to return to top form.

Dane Sanzenbacher ,WR, Ohio State -- A projected starter in the slot, Sanzenbacher missed the latter part of spring practice with a high ankle sprain. He might be Terrelle Pryor's most dependable target heading into the fall, so a strong summer will be vital for the junior.

A.J. Wallace, CB, Penn State -- The secondary remains the biggest question mark for Penn State, and Wallace can ease some of head coach Joe Paterno's concerns with a strong preseason camp performance. Hamstring problems once again slowed Wallace this spring, but the Lions sorely need his speed in pass coverage.

Jaycen Taylor, RB, Purdue -- Taylor has by far the most experience of any Boilermakers running back, so his return this summer from a torn ACL looms large. Ralph Bolden put himself in the mix for the starting job with a stellar spring, but Taylor gives new head coach Danny Hope with a proven ball-carrying option.

Louis Nzegwu, DE, Wisconsin -- Unlike a year ago, the Badgers avoided many major injuries this spring, but they'll certainly be watching Nzegwu during the coming months. The immensely gifted sophomore improved his body and impressed the coaches early on during spring ball until sustaining a torn MCL on March 31.



Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12