Big Ten: Alex Kanellis

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

When the pieces come together as seamlessly as they did for Iowa's defense last season, it's critical to maintain an edge and guard against a letdown. 

As long as Pat Angerer and Amari Spievey are on the field, the Hawkeyes shouldn't worry. 

 
  Stephen Mally/Icon SMI
  Iowa's Pat Angerer (above) and teammate Amari Spievey will anchor the defense for the Hawkeyes.
Arguably no two Iowa players appreciate the game more than Angerer and Spievey, both of whom have turned their careers around to earn All-Big Ten honors in 2008. It took a trip to rock bottom for one and a trip to community college for the other, but both players learned the same lesson. 

"You don't take nothing for granted," Spievey said.

"Absolutely nothing," added Angerer.

Spievey, a junior cornerback, and Angerer, a senior linebacker, hope their fellow defenders take the same approach into the fall. Iowa comes off a 9-4 season in which it won six of its last seven games, including the Outback Bowl against South Carolina.

The Hawkeyes return eight starters from a defense that ranked fifth nationally in points allowed (13 ppg), ninth against the run (94 ypg) and 12th in total yards allowed (291.3 ypg). They bring back four players who earned all-conference honors, including second-team selections in both Angerer and Spievey. 

But replicating last year's performance doesn't interest either Hawkeyes defender. 

"We lost four games," Angerer said. "That's on us. If they wouldn't have scored, we would have won. Obviously, last year wasn't good enough."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

If things pan out as expected, which is never a given in recruiting, Michigan State's 2009 class could be a program-changer.

ESPN's Scouts Inc. currently ranks the Spartans' class 21st nationally, the program's highest rating in quite some time.

As national signing day approaches, here are five recruiting moments from the last five years that made a significant impact on Big Ten teams and/or the league.

1. Terrelle Pryor signs with Ohio State, 2008 -- One of the most hyped high school recruits in college football history ended his prolonged courtship by signing with Ohio State six weeks after signing day. Pryor chose the Buckeyes over two other Big Ten schools (Michigan and Penn State) and Oregon, giving Ohio State its quarterback of the future.

2. Illinois inks stellar 2007 class -- Despite only four victories in his first two seasons as Illini coach, Ron Zook flexed his recruiting muscle with a superb 2007 haul, ranked 12th nationally by Scouts Inc. Zook's class made national news and brought playmakers like Arrelious Benn, Martez Wilson and Josh Brent to Champaign.

3. Penn State signs Derrick Williams, 2005 -- Coming off consecutive losing seasons, Penn State seemed an unlikely destination for Williams, considered the nation's No. 1 prospect. But Williams turned down offers from everywhere to play for the Lions and helped Penn State win 40 games and two Big Ten titles in his career.

4. Iowa signs top-15 class in 2005 -- After winning 31 games between 2002-04, Iowa was rewarded in 2005 with one of the nation's top classes. Offensive linemen Dan Doering and Dace Richardson headlined the group along with tight end Tony Moeaki and defensive tackle Alex Kanellis. Unfortunately for the Hawkeyes, the 2005 class hasn't panned out, though some of its less-heralded members (Shonn Greene, Pat Angerer) have stepped up.

5. Roundtree spurns Purdue for Michigan, 2008 -- It remains to be seen whether Roy Roundtree becomes a major factor at Michigan, but his eleventh-hour decision to pick the Wolverines after originally committing to Purdue made waves around the league. Purdue coach Joe Tiller sounded off about the need for an early signing date, which would prevent "another outfit with a guy in a wizard hat selling snake oil get a guy at the last minute." Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez joked later at Big Ten media day that he "can't wait to see Joe because I've been working all summer on my new snake-oil concoction."

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