Big Ten: Al-Terek McBurse

Big Ten lunch links

February, 25, 2011
2/25/11
12:00
PM ET
When I first started working here, an 8-year-old Shirley Temple taught me how to roll a cigarette.
Purdue running back Al-Terek McBurse isn't expected to return to the team for the 2011 season, coach Danny Hope told The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier on Thursday.

A team spokesman confirmed that McBurse hasn't been participating in winter workouts the past few weeks but remains enrolled in school. McBurse entered the 2010 season as Purdue's top running back but missed two games with a toe injury and slipped behind Dan Dierking and others on the depth chart. He finished the year with 189 rush yards and a touchdown on 22 carries and added five receptions for 30 yards.

Purdue planned to move McBurse to wide receiver, but Hope doesn't think the move led to the departure. McBurse, who headlined Purdue's 2009 recruiting class, could be heading closer to his home in Florida.

"He doesn’t have any problems with his coaches, his teammates or his head coach," Hope told the Journal and Courier.

The Boilers hope Ralph Bolden can carry the load at running back as he comes off of ACL surgery. Purdue loses both Dierking and Keith Carlos, but McBurse's move to receiver suggests the staff isn't overly concerned about backfield depth.

Hope isn't closing the door on a McBurse return but tells the Journal and Courier, "He has to make a bunch of workouts up to get caught up. I don’t see it going in that direction."

Meanwhile, there's still no word from the NCAA on whether All-Big Ten receiver Keith Smith will receive a sixth year of eligibility. Last week, NFL.com reported that Smith would get an answer from the NCAA on Monday, but Hope told the Journal and Courier that no decision has been finalized.

It would really be a shame if Smith can't get a sixth year at Purdue. He appeared in only two games last fall before tearing ligaments in his right knee.
We looked at the recruiting needs for the Legends division earlier today. Now let's take a look at what the teams are looking for in the Leaders division.

As a reminder, I tried to look at positions that have depth issues for the 2011 and/or the 2012 seasons.

ILLINOIS

Linebacker: Martez Wilson's early departure to the NFL leaves a void at middle linebacker, and Illinois also says goodbye to playmaker Nate Bussey and reserve Aaron Gress. Ian Thomas comes back and Jonathan Brown showed a spark, but Illinois has to rebuild some depth in its defensive midsection.

Wide receiver: Offensive coordinator Paul Petrino wants to run the ball, but quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase showed in the Insight Bowl that he can be an effective passer. A.J. Jenkins returns to serve as Scheelhaase's No. 1 option in 2011, but Illinois needs other pass-catching options to emerge.

Quarterback: The Illini have lost two scholarship quarterbacks (Jacob Charest and Chandler Whitmer) in each of the past two seasons, creating a depth issue behind Scheelhaase. Given Scheelhaase's style of play, Illinois needs other options under center and must address this position with this class.

INDIANA

Secondary: The Hoosiers simply haven't had enough Big Ten-ready defensive backs in recent seasons. This might be a recruiting need for several years as Indiana has to begin building a talent base in the secondary.

Quarterback: Kevin Wilson has done wonders with quarterbacks at his previous coaching spots, but he needs talented players who can flourish in his system. Ben Chappell's departure leaves Indiana with no proven options at quarterback. Although the Hoosiers bring back all of their reserves, they should keep looking for the right answer under center.

OHIO STATE

Wide receiver: All-Big Ten receiver Dane Sanzenbacher departs, and DeVier Posey is suspended for the first five games of 2011, pending appeal. Ohio State hasn't developed much depth at wideout in recent seasons, and a capable freshman could put himself into the mix.

Quarterback: Ohio State needs someone to take the snaps during Terrelle Pryor's suspension, and it's unknown whether Joe Bauserman or Kenny Guiton will be the answer. The Buckeyes also must address life after Pryor in this recruiting class.

PENN STATE

Offensive line: The Lions began addressing this need with last year's class and will continue to do so with the 2011 crop. Getting the offensive line in order is the biggest key to Penn State reclaiming a place among the Big Ten title contenders. Penn State loses standout guard Stefen Wisniewski and will have more departures after the 2011 season, so building depth is paramount.

Defensive line: Penn State lacked a dynamic pass rusher in 2010 and could bolster the end spot, but it can't neglect the defensive tackle position, either. Ollie Ogbu departs and Devon Still will be gone after the 2011 season. Although Jack Crawford returns at end, the depth there could be enhanced through recruiting.

PURDUE

Running back: The Boilers should avoid a depth disaster like the one they endured in 2010, but they can't take any chances, either. Coach Danny Hope and offensive coordinator Gary Nord want to run the ball a lot and they need more options to emerge around Ralph Bolden and Al-Terek McBurse. There are opportunities for freshmen to emerge here.

Tight end: Purdue should be fine at receiver in 2011, but it loses starting tight end Kyle Adams, the team's top pass catcher, as well as backup Jeff Lindsay. Expect the Boilers to address the tight end position in the 2011 class, as it is a big part of the plan on offense.

WISCONSIN

Secondary: The Badgers lose a multiyear starter at safety in Jay Valai this season, and three more starters (safety Aaron Henry and cornerbacks Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith) will depart after the 2011 season. It's important to start building depth with this class.

Wide receiver: Wisconsin benefits from Nick Toon returning for his senior year, but the overall depth at receiver isn't great. David Gilreath, Isaac Anderson and Kyle Jefferson all depart and with Toon gone after the 2011 season, the Badgers need to find playmakers to complement Jared Abbrederis.

Pass rusher: J.J. Watt's early departure to the NFL draft creates a potential depth issue at defensive end. Returning starter Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert both are good options, but the Badgers are young and unproven after those two. Young players like Beau Allen will take on bigger roles in 2011, and the team could use an incoming player or two to emerge.
The injury bug has taken no mercy with Purdue's offense this season.

How bad have the Boilers been bitten?

"I've been here a year and a half," said offensive coordinator Gary Nord, hired at Purdue on Dec. 1, 2008. "For this week's game, we don't have a quarterback that was here when I got here. We don't have a receiver that's going to play who was here when I got here. And we don't have a tailback who was here when I got here."

A quick check of Purdue's depth chart for Saturday's game at Northwestern reveals that Nord is mistaken.

Senior running back Dan Dierking, listed as the starter, is expected to play Saturday night. He had just finished his sophomore season at Purdue when Nord came to West Lafayette.

But other than Dierking, Nord is spot on. The offense Nord will send on the field in Evanston will be filled with players not part of the program less than two years ago.

  • Quarterback Rob Henry, who makes his first career start, is a redshirt freshman. He'll be backed up by true freshman Sean Robinson, who has yet to take a snap in a game.
  • Backup running back Al-Terek McBurse is a true sophomore, while third-stringer Keith Carlos is a junior college transfer.
  • The starting wide receivers consist of a junior college transfer (Cortez Smith), a true sophomore (Antavian Edison) and a redshirt freshman (Gary Bush). Purdue's No. 4 receiver is true freshman O.J. Ross.
Robert Marve
AP Photo/Journal & Courier/John TerhuneQuarterback Robert Marve is out for the season after tearing his ACL in September.
It's the type of lineup Nord expected to use in 2012, not midway through the 2010 season.

"Everybody," he said, "is inexperienced."

Purdue has little choice after knee injuries have claimed its starting quarterback (Robert Marve, out for season with torn ACL), its No. 1 wide receiver (Keith Smith, out for season with ACL/MCL tears) and its top running back (Ralph Bolden, out indefinitely with ACL tear). More bad news arrived earlier this week as coach Danny Hope said No. 2 wideout Justin Siller will miss three to six weeks with a sprained foot.

At least Purdue caught a break with the schedule, as the bye week came at an ideal time to shuffle things before opening Big Ten play.

The Boilers went back to the basics during the open week, working on alignment, stance and "all those things you take for granted that kids get better at with experience," Nord said. This week, they transitioned to game-planning.

Henry relieved Marve in Purdue's loss to Toledo and played the final three and a half quarters. The redshirt freshman has all the qualities Purdue wants in its starting quarterback -- except experience.

"His strength is his athletic ability and his intelligence," Nord said. "He understands everything. His demeanor also is very good, and he's a very confident kid. He just hasn't been a quarterback very long."

The 6-2, 198-pound Henry is Purdue's second-fastest player behind Carlos. He owns the best vertical leap and shuttle run time on the team.

"He'll be one of the best athletes on the field no matter who we play every Saturday," Nord said.

Henry is such a good athlete that the coaches considered moving him to free safety this spring. The staff felt so good about Marve and backup quarterback Caleb TerBush, who took all of the snaps with the first-team offense in spring ball, and didn't want Henry's talent to be wasted on the sideline.

Nord said Henry also has worked at both wide receiver and running back in practice. Fortunately, Purdue's staff didn't make the move, a decision that looks better now that Marve is out and TerBush is academically ineligible.

"We don’t have to call a new offense because of Rob Henry," Hope said. "Whatever we have in the playbook that we’ve been utilizing or have in our arsenal so far this season, it’s still alive. Obviously, some quarterbacks like some throws better than others and we'll hand-pick some that he likes the best, but I don’t think we're limited at all from a playbook standpoint."

The bye week also allowed Purdue to get healthier at the running back spot.

Carlos logged seven carries against Toledo and should have an increased role Saturday. The Boilers also hope to get McBurse back in the fold, though Nord said Wednesday that the sophomore hasn't done much in practice. Edison and Ross, who moved to running back in emergency roles earlier this season, are back at wide receiver.

Hope has made speed his top priority in recruiting, and because of the injuries, youth will be served Saturday night and he'll get a glimpse at Purdue's future on offense.

"We still have some firepower," Hope said. "We’re still a relatively fast offense with Rob Henry as one of our fastest players. Keith Carlos, one of our faster players, [is] available now. O.J. Ross, one of our faster players, [is] available now. We still have some redeeming qualities.

"Thank goodness the open week came when it did, because it gave us some time to get ourselves squared away."
As you might have seen earlier today, Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio will once again attempt to watch his team from the press box this week at archrival Michigan.

Dantonio, released from the hospital Monday after being treated for a blood clot in his leg, is back in the office and started his news conference today by saying, "Can't keep me down Michigan week." The 54-year-old had planned to coach from the press box last week against Wisconsin but was readmitted to the hospital Thursday after doctors found the clot.

"As long as I don't have a setback, that’s where I'll be," Dantonio said of the Michigan Stadium press box.

Dantonio feels "outstanding" and is back at the football complex after spending Sunday and Monday watching film. He watched the Wisconsin game from the hospital, where he communicated with his assistants at Spartan Stadium.

"I'll take it easy, I won’t overdo things, I’ll listen to what people are telling me, I’ll listen to my body," Dantonio said. "But at the same time, I feel very good."

It's encouraging to hear Dantonio is doing well again, and while I'm not a doctor, allowing him to spend three-plus hours on his feet Saturday following a blood clot probably isn't a wise move. Hopefully, he'll spend the game in Michigan's spacious and luxurious new press box.

Other Big Ten health nuggets:
  • Ohio State coach Jim Tressel confirmed that safety-linebacker Tyler Moeller is out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle that will require surgery later this week. Moeller is a big loss after leading Ohio State in both tackles for loss (4.5) and forced fumbles (2). I'll be stunned if he doesn't receive a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA, so we should see him back in 2011. Freshman Christian Bryant will step in for Moeller, although Tressel said Jermale Hines also can play the "star" position in Ohio State's nickel package. Nate Oliver also is getting healthy and should be able to help.
  • Buckeyes starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor should be fine for Saturday's game against Indiana. Pryor, who missed two series with a strained quad against Illinois, might be limited in practice early this week but will "get as close to 100 percent as one can be" for the Hoosiers.
  • Speaking of Indiana, starting cornerback Richard Council will miss "an extended period of time" with a knee injury, coach Bill Lynch said. Council's injury isn't season ending at this point, but Indiana will turn to others, namely Adrian Burks, as well as Greg Heben and juco transfer Andre Kates, to fill the void.
  • Not a health note, but a personnel nugget regarding Brandon Wegher. There had been some buzz about the running back returning to Iowa, but it's not happening. "If he comes back, we'll let you know," coach Kirk Ferentz said. "As far as I know, he's gone for at least this season and maybe forever."
  • Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips has completed his speedy recovery from a torn ACL in spring practice and has been cleared to play this week. Phillips moves into the No. 3 spot on the depth chart and likely would be used only in an emergency. Tight end Brian Wozniak also has been cleared after battling a shoulder injury.
  • The hits keep coming for Purdue, as coach Danny Hope said receiver Justin Siller will miss three to six weeks with a sprained foot. The good news is the Boilers are getting healthier at running back as players like Al-Terek McBurse and Keith Carlos improved during the bye week. Purdue can move Antavian Edison and O.J. Ross back to receiver.
  • Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges and receiver Curtis Drake are improving from their injuries but likely won't be back for a little longer. Tight end Andrew Szczerba (back) started to do some light jogging but won't be back as Penn State turns to true freshman Kevin Haplea as its starter against Illinois. Defensive tackle Jordan Hill (ankle) is expected to play Saturday.
  • Finally, some good news about Minnesota receiver Connor Cosgrove, who last month was diagnosed with leukemia. He's doing well and was in the locker room before last week's game against Northwestern. "The leukemia counts in his body are way down," Gophers coach Tim Brewster said. "His body is reacting positively to the chemotherapy. The outlook for Connor is really positive." Great to hear.
Purdue rushed for 203 yards in Saturday's win against Ball State, marking the first time the Boilers have recorded back-to-back 200-yard rushing games since the first two contests in 2005.

But that's not the amazing part.

Only 16 of those rushing yards came from a guy (Dan Dierking) who actually plays running back, although he's listed as a fullback on the team roster. The others came from two quarterbacks (Rob Henry and Robert Marve), a fullback (Jared Crank) and three receivers -- Antavian Edison, O.J. Ross and Justin Siller -- one of whom, Siller, used to play both quarterback and running back.

Such is life for the Big Ten's most banged-up program.

Purdue entered the season without its leading rusher from 2009, Ralph Bolden, who tore his ACL this spring and underwent surgery in May. Backup Al-Terek McBurse had a toe injury that kept him out against Ball State. Dierking has been battling sore ribs and, according to coach Danny Hope, didn't take a single practice rep last week. Keith Carlos, a receiver converted to running back, is dealing with a stress fracture in his foot.

Hope said after the game that Edison, Ross and Siller ran the ball "strictly out of necessity." And Purdue still moved the ball on the ground, as Henry led the way with 65 rushing yards on 10 carries, followed by Edison (8 carries, 55 yards).

Dierking is getting healthier, but McBurse and Carlos likely will be held out of practice again this week. There's an outside chance they could play Saturday against Toledo, but Purdue likely needs to get creative again.

"There's still no telling who we're going to have available at the running back spot," Hope said Tuesday. "To reach [200 yards] with a new offensive line and a bunch of guys, most of them weren't running backs on our roster, is real credit to our offensive coaches. It was a real testament to our recruiting efforts paying off."

Purdue did get some good news on the injury front as Marve will be fine after sustaining a bruised knee in the first half against Ball State. He returned to the field after halftime but left again as the swelling and soreness increased.

"He'll be a little bit limited early in practice this week," Hope said, "but we feel like he's going to be OK for the game."

Big Ten Week 2 rewind/Week 3 preview

September, 13, 2010
9/13/10
2:00
PM ET
Let's look back at Week 2 before looking ahead to Saturday's completely full slate (11 games) of Big Ten action.

[+] EnlargeRicky Stanzi
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallRicky Stanzi and the Hawkeyes had their way with Iowa State on Saturday.
Team of the week: Iowa. Ohio State and Michigan drew more national attention, as usual, but Iowa delivered the most impressive performance of the day. The Hawkeyes annihilated in-state rival Iowa State, storming out to a 35-0 lead behind Adam Robinson and Ricky Stanzi. Iowa State supposedly had improved since last year's meeting, but the Hawkeyes once again victimized quarterback Austen Arnaud for three interceptions. After walking the tightrope every week in 2009, Iowa isn't letting inferior teams hang around. It'll be interesting to see how the Hawkeyes perform Saturday at Arizona.

Best game: Michigan at Notre Dame. For the second consecutive season, the Wolverines and Irish provided plenty of drama. And once again, a young quarterback became the hero for the Maize and Blue. Denard Robinson's brilliance helped Michigan overcome a late defensive breakdown and rally for a 28-24 victory in South Bend. The game featured plenty of plot twists, as Notre Dame jumped ahead early, lost quarterback Dayne Crist to injury, got him back and took the lead before falling. Just great theater in one of college football's great cathedrals.

Biggest play: Going with three of them this week. Robinson set a Notre Dame Stadium record with his 87-yard touchdown run in the second quarter, a beautiful display of pure speed. And who doesn't like to see a defensive lineman rumble? That's exactly what Ohio State's Cameron Heyward did on an 80-yard interception return against Miami early in the third quarter with the game still very much in doubt. Purdue running back Al-Terek McBurse also deserves props for keeping his balance while rolling over a Western Illinois defender and then scooting into the end zone for a 40-yard touchdown run.

Specialist spotlight: Michigan State entered the season with major questions at the kicker spot after losing standout Brett Swenson. Dan Conroy eased the concern Saturday against Florida Atlantic, converting field goal attempts of 50, 44 and 41 yards. Conroy is 4-for-4 on field goals for the season. Ohio State kicker Devin Barclay tied a team record with five field goals before missing his sixth attempt. "It was the first time I've ever been in a game where the kicker cramped up," Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said afterward.

Game balls (given to players from winning teams not selected for helmet stickers):

  • Northwestern QB Dan Persa: Robinson and Terrelle Pryor get all the pub, but Persa is leading the nation in pass efficiency with an amazing rating of 212.06. He has completed 86.4 percent of his passes with five touchdowns and no picks. It's still early, but Persa is answering NU's biggest question mark entering the fall.
  • Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan: Kerrigan is continuing his dominant play from 2009 and recorded four tackles for loss with a sack and a forced fumble against Western Illinois. He leads the league in both tackles for loss (6.5) and forced fumbles (2), and ranks fifth in tackles (19).
  • Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure: Another player who has carried over his success from last fall, Leshoure racked up 115 rushing yards and two touchdowns on only 15 carries against Southern Illinois. Imagine what he'll do if he ever gets a full carries load.
  • Michigan State WR/KR/PR Keshawn Martin: Martin showed against Florida Atlantic why he can be so dangerous for the Spartans this year. He had a 42-yard reception, a 46-yard kickoff return and a 47-yard punt return. He finished with a game-high 204 all-purpose yards.
  • Michigan WR Roy Roundtree: Labeled as doubtful last Monday after taking a huge shot against UConn, Roundtree not only played against Notre Dame but led Michigan with eight receptions for 82 yards and a touchdown. Plus, he took another big hit in the game. Gutsy performance.
  • Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt: Watt is performing like an All-Big Ten player so far this season, and he came up big against San Jose State with 2.5 tackles for loss, a quarterback hurry and a blocked field goal attempt.
  • Purdue RB Dan Dierking: Dierking eased some concerns about the Boilers' run game with 14 carries for 102 yards and two touchdowns against Western Illinois. He broke career bests for rushes, rushing yardage and touchdowns for the second straight game.
How bizarre: The entire Miami-Ohio State game fits into this category. Ohio State allowed a kickoff return touchdown and a punt return touchdown in the same game for the first time in team history. Miami's Jacory Harris threw four interceptions and still had a chance in the second half. Pryor completed just 12 of 27 passes but still put up great yardage totals for both passing (233) and rushing (113). Just a very weird game at The Shoe, but the Buckeyes will take the W.

Now, let's take a quick look at the Week 2 slate ...

Massachusetts (2-0) at Michigan (2-0): What will Robinson do next? Tune in for the first half, as he might not be around for much of this one. The real subplot should be how Michigan uses backup quarterbacks Devin Gardner and Tate Forcier.

Ohio (1-1) at Ohio State (2-0): Frank Solich's Bobcats gave the Buckeyes a real scare two years ago, but Ohio is coming off of a home loss to Toledo. Can't see Ohio State letting Ohio hang around very long.

Kent State (1-1) at Penn State (1-1): The Lions should finally be able to get Evan Royster and the run game going, right? One problem: Kent State leads the nation in rush defense, allowing just 11 yards per game.

Northern Illinois (1-1) at Illinois (1-1): The Illini looked great against Southern Illinois and try to continue maintain their unbeaten record (12-0) against public schools from the state. NIU coach Jerry Kill could miss the game after being hospitalized Sunday.

Ball State (1-1) at Purdue (1-1): Life without star wide receiver Keith Smith begins for the Boilers, who still are looking for more consistency on both sides of the ball. Can Dierking nail down Purdue's top running back spot?

USC (2-0) at Minnesota (1-1): These are the big-ticket games Tim Brewster wants to play at Minnesota, but the heat is rising on the fourth-year coach after an embarrassing loss to South Dakota. USC's Matt Barkley takes aim at a Gophers' secondary that made South Dakota's Dante Warren look like superman.

Arizona State (2-0) at Wisconsin (2-0): Steven Threet sparked Wisconsin's downward spiral in 2008 after leading Michigan to a historic come-from-behind win at the Big House. Now Threet leads the Sun Devils into Madison looking for an upset.

Indiana (1-0) at Western Kentucky (0-2): Remember the Hoosiers? It feels like months since they last played. All-Big Ten wideout Tandon Doss is expected to make his season debut as Indiana hits the road for the first time.

Northwestern (2-0) at Rice (1-1): The Michigan-Big Ten reunion continues as former Wolverines running back Sam McGuffie faces Northwestern. This could be a tricky game for the Wildcats, but if Persa continues to perform like he has, they should be fine.

Notre Dame (1-1) at Michigan State (2-0): We should learn a lot more about the Spartans in this prime-time affair, as Notre Dame should test a secondary that struggled mightily in 2009. Linebacker Greg Jones and the Michigan State seniors try to go 3-1 against the Irish.

Iowa (2-0) at Arizona (2-0): Stay up late for this one, people. Both teams have looked dominant so far, and Iowa will have to adjust to the elements in the desert. Nick Foles and the Arizona offense will test Adrian Clayborn & Co., but Arizona also must contend with an Iowa offense that looks very strong so far.
Best call:

How bizarre: The entire Miami-Ohio State game fits into this category. Ohio State allowed a kickoff return touchdown and a punt return touchdown in the same game for the first time in team history. Miami's Jacory Harris threw four interceptions and still had a chance in the second half. Terrelle Pryor completed just 12 of 27 passes but still put up great yardage totals for both passing (233) and rushing (113). Just a very weird game at The Shoe, but the Buckeyes will take the W.

The good stuff is about to get started around the Big Ten, but five games are already in the books.

I'll weigh in on Minnesota-South Dakota in a bit, but here's what happened in the other four contests.

Wisconsin 27, San Jose State 14: For the second consecutive week, Wisconsin walks off the field with a win but knowing it has a lot to clean up. Up 17-0 at halftime, the Badgers struggled to put away a San Jose State team that got crushed by No. 1 Alabama seven days earlier. Wisconsin's offense achieved tremendous balance and running back John Clay had another big game (23 carries, 137 rush yards, 2 TDs), rumbling for a first down that allowed the Badgers to run out the clock. Scott Tolzien threw an interception for the second consecutive game but still had decent numbers and hooked up with tight end Lance Kendricks three times for 60 yards and a touchdown. The defense played decently until late in the third quarter, when San Jose State's Chandler Jones broke several tackles on a 37-yard touchdown. All in all, not bad, but I'm a little concerned about the Badgers heading into the Arizona State game.

Michigan State 30, Florida Atlantic 17: The Spartans improve to 2-0 thanks to another impressive effort from the run game and specifically sophomore Edwin Baker, who piled up 183 yards on 15 carries, including an 80-yard touchdown run. As Larry Caper sits out with a hand injury, Baker has certainly made a good case that he should be Michigan State's starting running back. Florida Atlantic dominated possession time, but Michigan State cashed in on its opportunities. There were some negatives, namely two turnovers and some shaky pass defense against Florida Atlantic quarterback Jeff Van Camp. But overall, a solid "road" win. The Spartans also have to be extremely pleased with kicker Dan Conroy, who converted attempts from 50, 44 and 41 yards. The performance establishes Conroy as the starter as Michigan State tries to replace standout kicker Brett Swenson.

Northwestern 37, Illinois State 3: Sure, it's Illinois State, but Northwestern looked much better on both sides of the ball in a rare blowout victory. Quarterback Dan Persa continued his very impressive start, completing 19 of 23 passes for 240 yards and two touchdowns with a rushing touchdown. Wideout Sidney Stewart had a big day, and Northwestern got talented superback Drake Dunsmore (2 TD receptions) more involved. Northwestern had its second-team offense in the game midway through the third quarter. The defense also looked very good, recording three interceptions, two by senior linebacker Quentin Davie. Northwestern also ran the ball a bit better, as sophomore Arby Fields had 96 rushing yards and a touchdown on 22 carries. The ground game remains a work in progress, but with the way Persa is throwing the ball, it doesn't matter.

Purdue 31, Western Illinois 21: Kind of an odd game in West Lafayette. A Robert Marve interception spotted Western Illinois an early lead before the Boilers gradually came back and took control. The defense did a nice job until struggling in the fourth quarter, allowing two touchdowns. Purdue appeared to find its running back as senior Dan Dierking racked up 103 yards and two touchdowns on the ground. Dierking has been somewhat overlooked in the running back race, but he's a big, tough runner with experience. Al-Terek McBurse also had a nice touchdown run that seemingly put away the game in the fourth quarter. Marve had a similar performance to Week 1, completing a lot of passes (23) but struggling to stretch the field (only 5 yards per pass). Purdue needs to find ways to get Keith Smith, Cortez Smith and Justin Siller in space. The Boilers are a work in progress right now, but their schedule sets up well the next month.

Big Ten predictions: Week 2

September, 9, 2010
9/09/10
9:00
AM ET
Nobody beats Mr. Perfect ... Nobody!

I achieved perfection in Week 1, which can mean only one thing: a rough week ahead. The competition gets tougher around the Big Ten on Saturday, which makes the games tougher to predict.

Let's see if I can keep the streak alive.

Wisconsin 45, San Jose State 10: The Badgers put forth a much cleaner performance in their home opener, as quarterback Scott Tolzien completes 75 percent of his passes and fires touchdowns to Lance Kendricks and Isaac Anderson. Running back John Clay once again eclipses 100 rushing yards as Wisconsin rolls to 2-0.

Michigan State 31, Florida Atlantic 20: Don't be fooled by those white jerseys, as Michigan State will feel right at home in Ford Field despite technically being the road team Saturday (ESPNU, noon ET). I don't see a rout as Florida Atlantic is a decent team that won at UAB last week. The Owls make some noise early before Spartans backs Edwin Baker, Larry Caper and Le'Veon Bell take over in the second half.

Northwestern 35, Illinois State 17: Former Purdue defensive coordinator Brock Spack has his team prepared, and the Redbirds hang around for a half before Northwestern's offense gets going. Quarterback Dan Persa finds Sidney Stewart for two touchdowns and the Wildcats finally have a breakaway run from scrimmage (not sure who carries the ball).

Minnesota 31, South Dakota 13: The Gophers employ a similar plan to Week 1 and control the line of scrimmage and possession time with their offensive line and running back Duane Bennett. A young defense stays off the field and Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber establishes a good rhythm with receiver Da'Jon McKnight.

Purdue 44, Western Illinois 10: Expect a big game from Robert Marve and the Purdue offense, which stretches the field early and often against Western Illinois. Marve tosses three touchdown passes and no interceptions and the Boilers get a boost from Al-Terek McBurse in the run game.

Iowa 24, Iowa State 13: Last year's final score (35-3) was a bit misleading because Iowa State threw five interceptions and Iowa cruised despite admittedly not playing well up front on defense. Star defensive end Adrian Clayborn answers the bell Saturday with 2.5 sacks, and Iowa pulls away a bit in the third quarter behind running backs Jewel Hampton and Adam Robinson. Both teams play conservatively on offense and keep the score down.

Michigan 31, Notre Dame 30: For the second consecutive year, these two teams provide the most exciting game on the Week 2 slate. Notre Dame attacks Michigan's young secondary early and has success with Michael Floyd, but the Wolverines rally in the second half. The Irish have no answer for Denard Robinson's speed, and Vincent Smith breaks away for a long fourth-quarter touchdown run to put Michigan in front.

Ohio State 27, Miami 20: I expect a better Jacory Harris and a better Miami team than the one Wisconsin totally outclassed in the Champs Sports Bowl. But there are too many reasons to like Ohio State in this one. Terrelle Pryor and Brandon Saine combine for three rushing touchdowns as Ohio State wins the game at the line of scrimmage. Jermale Hines comes up with a fourth-quarter interception to seal it for the Scarlet and Gray.

Alabama 26, Penn State 16: This is my Game of the Week. I'll explain my selection in a video post later today.

Illinois 24, Southern Illinois 20: The Illini are on upset alert against one of the nation's better FCS programs. Expect another slow start from the offense, but quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and running back Mikel LeShoure get it together in the second half. The defense holds off the Salukis long enough, and both Scheelhaase and LeShoure reach the end zone in the fourth quarter.

Bye: Indiana

Last week: 11-0

Season record: 11-0 (1.000)

Big Ten lunch links

September, 8, 2010
9/08/10
12:00
PM ET
Is it Saturday yet?

Nuggets from Purdue practice

August, 27, 2010
8/27/10
5:34
PM ET
I've had the chance to review the Big Ten Network's preview of Purdue, as Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith visited Boilermakers' practice last week.

Here are some quick notes and observations:
  • DiNardo raved about the changes head coach Danny Hope has brought to Purdue, particularly from a recruiting standpoint. Although he called the Boilers a "developmental team" through the first half of the year, he's really excited about the future. And the schedule works in Purdue's favor, as the team opens with a big game at Notre Dame before facing several manageable foes. "This schedule is their best friend," DiNardo said.
  • It was hard not to come away extremely impressed with quarterback Robert Marve. The Miami transfer has a big-time arm, and he showcased it on several throws. He fired a bullet to Antavian Edison in team drills and also threaded a pass to former quarterback Justin Siller. The BTN crew all talked about his good body language, and it's clear that Marve is having a great time so far at Purdue. "I love the spread offense," said Marve, who has cut his hair since Big Ten media days. "I love throwing the ball 40 times a game."
  • Marve ran the offense extremely well during team drills. It was interesting to see Purdue operate exclusively with a silent cadence, but there weren't many penalties. "Danny Hope talks about discipline a lot, and it’s evident that it’s worked," DiNardo said.
  • Now-ineligible quarterback Caleb TerBush was still practicing at the time of the BTN's visit, but DiNardo noted that he might not be the team's No. 2 quarterback. "Rob Henry got a lot of reps today," Griffith said. That's a good sign because Henry is now Marve's backup.
  • Offensive line, running back and defensive back are Purdue's three main areas of concern, and the line clearly stood out in this practice. Mammoth guard Ken Plue seems to be moving better at a svelte 333 pounds, and DiNardo listed tackle Nick Mondek, a converted defensive lineman, as his under-the-radar player this fall. "They’ve closed the gap more than any other position," DiNardo said. "This is the unit that's furthest along out of the three that needed to be rebuilt."
  • The defensive backs had their ups and downs, but the picture is beginning to take shape. Revsine noted that Albert Evans and Logan Link likely will enter the fall as the starting safeties, and freshman cornerback Ricardo Allen has made an immediate impression. Allen defended wideout Gary Bush well in one drill, and drew praise from both Griffith and head coach Danny Hope. Junior college transfer Mike Eargle also should see time at corner, and DiNardo likes Charlton Williams.
  • DiNardo was down on the running backs, and for good reason. Ralph Bolden will miss at least part of the season and possibly all of it, and Al-Terek McBurse practiced with his lower left leg wrapped. True freshman Reggie Pegram impressed the BTN crew, aside from a near fumble in team drills, and has taken advantage of increased opportunities. Pegram has nice size at 5-11, 222. "He would be the starter or [the backup] if McBurse was [healthy]," DiNardo said. It's also worth nothing that Purdue will incorporate the fullback more this year in the offense.
  • As expected, Keith Smith and the other wide receivers looked good. Smith is a superb route runner, Siller seems to be catching on well and Edison looked very impressive, hauling in a tipped pass during one drill and sitting down nicely in the zone in another. Edison should contribute at slot receiver. "No one's going to be able to double-cover anyone," Smith said.
  • DiNardo didn't feel the defensive line or linebackers were overly physical. Star end Ryan Kerrigan beat Mondek on several plays, and freshman tackle Bruce Gaston Jr. made a good impression on the BTN crew. "He’s a big, physical guy," DiNardo said. "He's just once example of how Danny Hope is changing the talent level on defense." Middle linebacker Dwayne Beckford stood out the most among that group.
  • Hope talked about the upgrade in team speed, saying that 18 players have 4.5 speed or better, as opposed to only about six when his staff first arrived. He expects to play quite a few freshmen as well as the juco arrivals. "We could have as many as 10 new faces on the field this year," he said.

Big Ten lunch links

August, 12, 2010
8/12/10
12:00
PM ET
We begin the links with a Tweet from the Big Ten Network's Dave Revsine, who left Penn State's practice very impressed with a certain young quarterback.

  1. Dave Revsine
    BTNDaveRevsine It would not surprise me one bit if Robert Bolden is PSU's starting QB. Looks really good - poised, athletic, and has fantastic arm strength


Very interesting.

Big Ten lunch links

August, 10, 2010
8/10/10
12:00
PM ET
We talkin' bout practice.

Opening camp: Purdue

August, 6, 2010
8/06/10
2:00
PM ET
Schedule: Purdue will hit the field for its first practice at 4:25 p.m. ET Saturday.

What's new: The Robert Marve era is under way, as the Miami transfer enters camp as Purdue's clear-cut starting quarterback. Marve has done everything right off the field, and after admittedly being concerned about his surgically repaired knee this spring, he should be able to push himself in camp. Purdue made an important staff change during the offseason, as former assistant Gary Emanuel returns as co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach. Emanuel will play a big role in trying to boost the Big Ten's worst rushing defense. The Boilers also have a completely new-look secondary as all four starters depart.

Sidelined: Starting running back Ralph Bolden is out indefinitely following ACL surgery in early May. Head coach Danny Hope hasn't ruled out Bolden's return this season, but this is Bolden's second ACL injury in the past five years. Also, defensive tackle Kevin Pamphile, a projected starter after the spring, will be out until October after surgery to help a stress fracture in his foot.

Key battle: The secondary and the offensive line are the two position groups to watch this month. Safety Albert Evans is Purdue's lone returning defensive back with legit game experience, so there will be major competition at both cornerback spots and one safety spot. Purdue has two returning starters along the offensive line in left tackle Dennis Kelly and right guard Ken Plue, but the other three spots are wide open. Keep an eye on junior Nick Mondek, who tops the preseason depth chart at right tackle despite only switching from defensive tackle this spring.

New on the scene: Defensive tackle Bruce Gaston has impressed the coaches with his speed and will compete to fill Pamphile's starting spot during his recovery. Also keep an eye on two high school teammates from Florida -- wide receiver O.J. Ross and defensive back Ricardo Allen -- who could see the field early.

Back in the fold: After a year-long suspension from school, Justin Siller is back with the team and poised to make a big difference this fall. Michigan fans certainly will remember Siller, who started three games at quarterback in 2008 and also played some running back. He's listed as a wide receiver and could be a dangerous No. 2 option behind All-Big Ten selection Keith Smith. Purdue will find a way to get the ball in Siller's hands.

Breaking out: Al-Terek McBurse was a heralded recruit who took a little longer to make an impact last fall because of some initial eligibility issues. McBurse will get the first shot at running back after showing impressive burst on kickoff returns in 2009, averaging 24.6 yards per runback with a touchdown. Everyone knows about defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, but keep an eye on Purdue's other D-linemen, namely Gerald Gooden and Kawann Short.

Quotable: "When he came to Purdue, it was as a transfer from Miami, and a lot of things [were] written about him, a lot of controversy. He's done a great job fitting in. The team has embraced him. His teammates love him. Exceptional player and exceptional athlete and great teammate. We like everything about Robert Marve, and we certainly think he has the potential and talent for us to win on Saturday." -- Purdue head coach Danny Hope
The depth chart means a lot everywhere, but especially at Purdue.

Head coach Danny Hope has been known to post a different depth chart at the entrance to Purdue's practice field every day of spring ball or preseason camp. Boilermakers players constantly know where they stand with the coaches, and that they can't let up, even for one practice.

Given the ever-changing nature of Purdue's depth chart, the pre-camp version revealed Tuesday (page 16) should be studied accordingly. Still, it provides some clues about what the coaches are thinking entering preseason practice, which kicks off next month.

We already knew that Robert Marve will enter camp as Purdue's No. 1 quarterback, but here are a few more notes:
  • Ralph Bolden is still listed at Purdue's starting running back despite undergoing ACL surgery in May. From the moment Bolden went down, Hope has remained very optimistic about the junior's status for the season despite the severity of the injury. Al-Terek McBurse is listed as the backup but likely will start the opener Sept. 4 against Notre Dame. Former wide receiver Keith Carlos is the third-string running back.
  • Former quarterback Justin Siller, who rejoined the team this summer after a year-long dismissal from the university, is listed as a starting wide receiver alongside Keith Smith and Cortez Smith.
  • The offensive line figures to feature some competition this summer, and here's how the starting five looks entering camp: left tackle Dennis Kelly, left guard Justin Pierce, center Peters Drey, right guard Ken Plue and right tackle Nick Mondek, who switched to offensive from defensive tackle this spring.
  • The secondary is another group with some question marks. Charlton Williams and Josh Johnson are listed as the starting cornerbacks, while Albert Evans and Logan Link are tabbed as the starting safeties. Evans looks like the guy at strong safety, but the other three spots are fluid.
  • Redshirt freshman Kevin Pamphile is listed as a starting defensive tackle next to Kawann Short. It'll be interesting to see if Pamphile maintains the top spot throughout camp, as there should be some good competition.
  • Carson Wiggs could once again be a busy man this fall. He's listed as Purdue's starting kicker and a co-starter at punter with freshman Cody Webster. Wiggs or freshman Jonathan Linkenheimer will handle kickoffs.

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