Big Ten: Alex Magee
Ekeler comes to IU from future Big Ten member Nebraska, where he coached the linebackers and helped mold players like Lavonte David and Phillip Dillard into stars. Mallory, a very familiar surname to Indiana fans, served as New Mexico's defensive coordinator the past two seasons.
Ekeler will continue to coach linebackers with the Hoosiers, while Mallory, the son of former IU coach Bill Mallory, will work with the safeties.
"I am excited to have Doug, Mike and their families join the IU football family," new Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said in a prepared statement. "They are both great additions to our program, university and the Bloomington community. Both men bring unparalleled character, energy, experience, enthusiasm and winning attitudes. This is a great start to the foundation we are building here."
These are undoubtedly Wilson's most important hires as he forms his staff at Indiana. The Hoosiers' defense has been bad for more than a decade and has prevented the program from consistently competing in Big Ten play. Wilson has the track record and the personnel to make things happen on offense at Indiana, but if Ekeler and Mallory can't get the job done on defense, it won't matter.
I like both hires as individuals -- especially Ekeler -- but I've never been a fan of co-coordinators. It didn't serve Indiana well the past few seasons with Joe Palcic and Brian George. Illinois also encountered problems with Dan Disch and Doug Mallory's brother, Curt, before Ron Zook brought in Vic Koenning as the sole coordinator last year.
Maybe this time the pairing works, but the jury is out.
I'm very interested to see how Ekeler and Mallory will work together. Mallory brings a lot of experience to the table and served as Indiana's defensive backs/special teams coach in 1994-96. Ekeler is a rising star and did great work at Nebraska under Bo and Carl Pelini, but he inherits a much tougher challenge in Bloomington.
Indiana's defensive staff also will include Mark Hagen, who moves over from archrival Purdue to coach the Hoosiers' defensive line and special teams. Although IU hasn't officially announced Hagen's hiring, it's going to happen.
Hagen spent the past 11 seasons at Purdue, the past two as the Boilers' linebackers coach. The Indiana alum is no stranger to coaching line play as he worked with Purdue's defensive tackles for most of his tenure in West Lafayette and helped to mold players like Mike Neal and Alex Magee. He's a strong recruiter in the state and in the region.
Overall, I like these hires for Wilson at IU, but it all comes down to whether the co-coordinator thing can actually work.
The Boilers have had their share of outstanding defenders the last two seasons, particularly in the front seven. Remember these names?
- All-Big Ten end Ryan Kerrigan has recorded 20 sacks, 30 tackles for loss and nine forced fumbles in the last pwo seasons.
- Tackle Mike Neal recorded 11.5 tackles for loss and 5.5 sacks last fall before becoming a second-round pick in the NFL draft by the Green Bay Packers.
- Linebacker Jason Werner racked up 14.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles last fall.
- Safety Torri Williams recorded 167 tackles in his final two seasons as a Boilermaker.
- Tackle Alex Magee was a third-round draft pick of the Kansas City Chiefs after finishing his Purdue career in 2008.
- Another lineman who played in 2008, Ryan Baker, is now with the Miami Dolphins.
With so many individual standouts, how has Purdue finished last in the Big Ten in rushing defense in each of the past two seasons?
"It's everybody against the run," co-defensive coordinator/defensive line coach Gary Emanuel told me Tuesday night. "It's not just the front seven, it's not just the back end. It's everybody, together."
Purdue has struggled to find that cohesion on a consistent basis. Gaps haven't always been controlled. The line hasn't always fit where it's supposed to. And when opposing ball-carriers break through the first wall of defenders, tackles haven't always been made.
Enter Emanuel, a seasoned defensive line coach whose extensive résumé includes a previous stint at Purdue from 1997-2004. He worked alongside current Boilers head coach Danny Hope from 1997-2001 and mentored standout linemen like Anthony Spencer, Shaun Phillips and Akin Ayodele.
When Emanuel returned to West Lafayette, he saw a defense that had the parts but didn't always play well as a whole.
The best news?
"The biggest thing is we don't have guys with a bunch of egos," Emanuel said.
Kerrigan sets the tone for the group. He's one of the nation's best pass rushers, but you'd never guess it if you met him off the field.
Emanuel sees similarities between Kerrigan and the other stars he has coached, including Spencer, Phillips and former Boiler Rob Ninkovich.
"They loved football, they didn't have egos, they loved practicing, they loved to play, they were interested in learning and they wanted to be good," Emanuel said. "He's [Kerrigan] probably one of the more coachable big-time players I've been around. He has no ego at all."
Kerrigan and junior end Gerald Gooden have taken charge of the group, but Emanuel also likes his young linemen like Kawann Short, Brandon Taylor, Justin Kitchens and Bruce Gaston, a true freshman who should see the field this fall. He hopes the sum of the parts finally stuffs the run in 2010.
"You have to do some scheming, but it’s basically fundamentals: emphasize tackling a little bit more, having a system of tackling, having a team that runs to the ball, emphasizing 11 hats to the ball," Emanuel said of his preseason plan. "It's a work in progress.
"It’s not going to be fixed overnight, but it has to be."
An official announcement from Texas A&M is expected soon.
Williams spent the past four seasons with the Boilermakers, coaching the entire D-line in 2006, 2007 and 2009, and only the defensive ends in 2008. He has overseen the development of standout linemen like Anthony Spencer, Cliff Avril, Alex Magee and, most recently, Ryan Kerrigan and Mike Neal.
It's obviously not ideal to lose a position coach so late in hiring season -- and so close to national signing day -- and head coach Danny Hope has an important decision in front of him. Williams, like every Purdue assistant, helped recruit the state of Florida. He wasn't the primary recruiter for defensive end commit Bruce Gaston, though Gaston praised Williams for his role in the recruiting process.
Purdue's next D-line coach will inherit one of the Big Ten's top pass-rushers in Kerrigan, as well as promising young players like Gerald Gooden and Kawann Short. The new coach's primary task will be finding ways to improve the Boilers' run defense, which has ranked last in the Big Ten in each of the past two seasons.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Check out these three newcomers this fall at Purdue.
OFFENSE -- Ralph Bolden, RB, So.
Bolden played sparingly last fall, but his breakout performance didn't come until spring practice. In four spring scrimmages he rushed for 420 yards and four touchdowns, putting himself right in the mix for the starting running back spot. Bolden was a standout high school back who sustained a major knee injury his senior year. Though Jaycen Taylor returns from a torn ACL, several young backs will have opportunities this fall, and Bolden leads the way.
DEFENSE -- Kawann Short, DE, Fr.
The departures of Alex Magee and Ryan Baker create some openings on the defensive line, and Short looks ready to step up. After redshirting in 2008, he received the team's newcomer award on defense during spring practice. Short boasts excellent size at 6-foot-4 and 310 pounds, but he's also a good athlete, having played basketball with Purdue standout E'Twaun Moore in high school.
SPECIAL TEAMS -- Antavian Edison, WR, Fr.
Purdue loses primary punt return man Desmond Tardy and Kory Sheets, who shared kickoff return duties with Aaron Valentin last year. Edison brings impressive credentials as a return man in high school, averaging 27.2 yards on punt returns and 35.8 yards on kickoff returns during his senior year. He also scored four return touchdowns (two punt, two kickoff). You have to think he'll get a chance in the return game.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The 2009 NFL draft was a fairly forgettable one for the Big Ten, which didn't have a top-10 pick for the first time since 2002 and had fewer first-round picks (4) than the SEC, ACC and Big 12. Michigan didn't have a player drafted until the fourth round (defensive tackle Terrance Taylor), while hoops powerhouse Connecticut already had four players drafted by that point.
The Big Ten had 28 players drafted overall and 15 in the first three rounds, the second-highest total for a league.
Here's the team-by-team breakdown of draft picks, which looks pretty good if you're an Ohio State fan.
- Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, Saints (1st round, No. 14)
- Running back Chris Wells, Cardinals (1st round, No. 31)
- Linebacker James Laurinaitis, Rams (2nd round, No. 35)
- Wide receiver Brian Robiskie, Browns (2nd round, No. 36)
- Cornerback Donald Washington, Chiefs (4th round, No. 102)
- Wide receiver Brian Hartline, Dolphins (4th round, No. 108)
- Linebacker Marcus Freeman, Bears (5th round, No. 154)
- Defensive end Aaron Maybin, Bills (1st round, No. 11)
- Wide receiver Derrick Williams, Lions (3rd round, No. 82)
- Wide receiver Deon Butler, Seahawks (3rd round, No. 91)
- Guard Rich Ohrnberger, Patriots (4th round, No. 123)
- Center A.Q. Shipley, Steelers (7th round, No. 226)
- Running back Shonn Greene, Jets (3rd round, No. 65)
- Cornerback Bradley Fletcher, Rams (3rd round, No. 66)
- Guard/tackle Seth Olsen, Broncos (4th round, No. 132)
- Tight end Brandon Myers, Raiders (6th round, No. 202)
- Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy, Raiders (3rd round, No. 71)
- Linebacker DeAndre Levy, Rams (3rd round, No. 76)
- Guard Kraig Urbik, Steelers (3rd round, No. 79)
- Tight end Travis Beckum, Giants (3rd round, No. 100)
- Cornerback Vontae Davis, Dolphins (1st round, No. 25)
- Tackle Xavier Fulton, Buccaneers (5th round, No. 155)
- Defensive end Will Davis, Cardinals (6th round, No. 204)
- Defensive tackle Alex Magee, Chiefs (3rd round, No. 67)
- Quarterback Curtis Painter, Colts (6th round, No. 201)
- Defensive tackle Terrance Taylor, Colts (4th round, No. 136)
- Cornerback Morgan Trent, Bengals (6th round, No. 179)
- Running back Javon Ringer, Titans (5th round, No. 173)
Northwestern, Minnesota and Indiana did not have any players drafted this year.
Notable Big Ten players not drafted included: Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King, Ohio State offensive tackle Alex Boone, Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer, Penn State defensive end Maurice Evans, Purdue running back Kory Sheets, Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton, Wisconsin running back P.J. Hill and Michigan State safety Otis Wiley.
A few final thoughts from the draft.
- Wells entered the 2008 season as a sure-fire top-10 pick, but his injury history dropped his stock a bit. He still ended up in a pretty good spot and should have an excellent pro career if he stays healthy.
- The draft reiterated how bad the Big Ten is at the quarterback spot, with only one signal-caller selected (Painter).
- The Giants will get a steal in Beckum if the former All-American stays healthy. I also liked Seattle's move to land Penn State's Butler, a reliable and quick target. The Bears could get a steal at linebacker with Freeman, who would have been the top defender on most college teams.
- It will be fascinating to see how Greene and Ringer perform in the pros after carrying their respective college teams last fall.
- I was shocked not to see Iowa's King get drafted. He might not fit the NFL "measurables," but he creates havoc in the middle of the defensive line and might have been the Big Ten's defensive MVP last fall.
- As I wrote in November, Northwestern's Pat Fitzgerald and Michigan State's Mark Dantonio deserved Big Ten Coach of the Year honors more than Joe Paterno. Fitzgerald guided Northwestern to a 9-4 mark without a single NFL draftee on his roster, while Dantonio posted the same record with only one draftee (Ringer).
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Three Big Ten teams held their annual pro scouting days last week, including the major talent showcase at Ohio State. In case you missed what went down, here's a look at the key developments at each school.
- Running back Chris "Beanie" Wells had the biggest day of any Buckeye, improving on his so-so 40-yard dash time from the NFL combine (4.59 seconds) by running around a 4.4 or below before scouts from 29 pro teams. Wells solidified himself as one of the top two running backs and could be taken ahead of Georgia's Knowshon Moreno in April.
- Linebacker Marcus Freeman continued his pre-draft push with another strong performance. Freeman improved his 40 time and likely boosted his stock after turning heads at the NFL combine.
- Linebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins made slight improvements in their 40 times from the NFL combine. Wideout Brian Robiskie put up similar numbers to the combine, which bodes well for him. The big issue for Jenkins is whether he'll be asked to play cornerback or safety at the next level.
- After being spurned by the NFL combine, defensive tackle Nader Abdallah stepped up on pro day. His numbers in four of the six drills would have been among the top defensive tackles at the combine. Abdallah also has dropped about 20 pounds, which should help him on draft day.
- Scouts from more than 15 teams showed up in Evanston on Thursday, and running back Tyrell Sutton improved his 40 time after a disheartening result at the combine. Still, Sutton seems to be preparing himself for the possibility of not being drafted.
"Get to a mini-camp," said Sutton, predicted to be a sixth- or seventh-round pick. "Getting drafted means nothing. A lot of guys in the league have gone undrafted and proven a lot."
- It was somewhat surprising that John Gill didn't get a combine invite, but the defensive tackle seems to be building his case. Gill, considered a legit pro prospect before the 2008 season, put up better numbers in the short shuttle and 3-cone drill than any defensive tackle at the combine. He also has met with the Chicago Bears, according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Brad Biggs.
- Wide receiver Eric Peterman was interviewing for a job at American Airlines in December, but he might have a shot at an NFL roster after a strong pro day performance. According to the Sun-Times, Peterman ran 40 times of 4.45 and 4.47.
- Linebacker Anthony Heygood seemed disappointed in his performance at Purdue's pro day after not being invited to the NFL combine.
"I may have done these drills before over the course of my training but when you're out here doing the real thing and everybody is watching you, it's different," Heygood said. "Usually, I'm really good under pressure but I didn't have the day I wanted."
- Defensive tackle Alex Magee boosted his stock in front of representatives from 23 NFL teams, according to profootballtalk.com.
- Quarterback Curtis Painter also seemed pleased with his performance after a solid effort at the combine last month.
"This was probably one of my best workouts through this offseason and my training," Painter said. "I feel good about what I've done both here and at the Combine and hopefully I'll get some opportunities for some individual workouts between now and the draft."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
For those of you who didn't spend the last few days glued to a TV or a computer for up-to-the-minute NFL combine updates, here's a snapshot of how Big Ten players fared at the premier pre-draft event.
The NFL lists the top performers in seven different categories. Keep in mind that not every Big Ten player and position group participates in every event.
- Purdue's Curtis Painter, tied for sixth among quarterbacks, 4.87 seconds
- Purdue's Kory Sheets, third among running backs, 4.47 seconds
- Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells, tied for 10th among running backs, 4.59 seconds
- Penn State's Deon Butler, fourth among wide receivers, 4.38 seconds
- Illinois' Xavier Fulton, third among offensive linemen, 5.04 seconds
- Penn State's Gerald Cadogan, tied for fourth among offensive linemen, 5.12 seconds
- Ohio State's Wells, tied for sixth among running backs, 25 repetitions
- Purdue's Greg Orton, third among wide receivers, 22 reps
- Penn State's Derrick Williams, 10th among wide receivers, 15 reps
- Wisconsin's Travis Beckum, tied for first among tight ends, 28 reps
- Ohio State's Alex Boone and Penn State's A.Q. Shipley, tied for fourth among offensive linemen, 33 reps
- Iowa's Rob Bruggeman, tied for 10th among offensive linemen, 30 reps
- Michigan's Terrance Taylor, first among defensive linemen, 37 reps
- Purdue's Alex Magee, tied for eighth among defensive linemen, 30 reps
- Ohio State's Marcus Freeman, tied for second among linebackers, 30 reps
- Wisconsin's Jonathan Casillas, tied for 10th among linebackers, 24 reps
- Michigan State's Brian Hoyer, sixth among quarterbacks, 32 inches
- Iowa's Shonn Greene and Purdue's Kory Sheets, tied for fifth among running backs, 37 inches
- Penn State's Jordan Norwood and Purdue's Orton, tied for sixth among wide receivers, 38 inches
- Ohio State's Brian Robiskie, seventh among wide receivers, 37.5 inches
- Illinois' Fulton and Penn State's Shipley, tied for sixth among offensive linemen, 31 inches
- Penn State's Aaron Maybin, third among defensive linemen, 38 inches
- Illinois' Derek Walker, fourth among defensive linemen, 37.5 inches
- Michigan State's Hoyer, tied for sixth among quarterbacks, 9'1"
- Ohio State's Wells, first among running backs, 10'8"
- Iowa's Greene and Purdue's Sheets, tied for fifth among running backs, 10'1"
- Purdue's Orton, seventh among wide receivers, 10'5"
- Illinois' Fulton, tied for first, 9'3"
- Purdue's Painter, tied for fourth among quarterbacks, 7 seconds
- Michigan State's Javon Ringer, tied for fifth among running backs, 6.87 seconds
- Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton, 10th among running backs, 6.94 seconds
- Ohio State's Brian Hartline, tied for second among wide receivers, 6.65 seconds
- Ohio State's Robiskie, fifth among wide receivers, 6.72 seconds
- Penn State's Norwood, tied for eighth among wide receivers, 6.8 seconds
- Illinois' Fulton, second among offensive linemen, 7.35 seconds
- Penn State's Shipley, tied for fourth among offensive linemen, 7.46 seconds
- Iowa's Seth Olsen, ninth among offensive linemen, 7.59 seconds
- Michigan State's Hoyer, tied for sixth among quarterbacks, 4.42 seconds
- Michigan State's Ringer, third among running backs, 4.11 seconds
- Ohio State's Hartline, fourth among wide receivers, 4.12 seconds
- Ohio State's Robiskie, eighth among wide receivers, 4.19 seconds
- Penn State's Norwood, ninth among wide receivers, 4.2 seconds
- Indiana's Andrew Means, 10th among wide receivers, 4.21 seconds
- Penn State's Shipley, second among offensive linemen, 4.4 seconds
- Illinois' Fulton, sixth among offensive linemen, 4.56 seconds
- Purdue's Sheets, sixth among running backs, 11.7 seconds
- Ohio State's Hartline, first among wide receivers, 10.92 seconds
- Penn State's Butler, third among wide receivers, 11.32 seconds
The combine is only one component of the draft evaluation process, yet a very important one. Here are my thoughts on these results:
- Why did Purdue struggle so much on offense last year? Painter clearly had more athleticism that he showed, and Sheets proved to be a valuable player as well. Orton likely helped his draft stock as well at the combine.
- For a guy that took a ton of criticism last year, it was interesting to see Hoyer perform well at the combine. He clearly has some good athleticism, and if he can get a bit more consistent in the passing game, he could find a spot at the next level. His win-loss record at Michigan State should not be overlooked.
- Arguably no Big Ten player helped his draft stock more than Fulton, who placed among the top offensive linemen in five different categories. The second-team All-Big Ten selection might not have had the dominant senior season he expected, but his combine performance makes up for it.
- Beanie Wells can jump. Anyone who watched him hurdle Illinois safety Donsay Hardeman on Nov. 15 already knew that.
- Ringer underwent knee surgery last month but still performed well, finishing second in the 20-yard shuttle run.
- Some wondered why Hartline turned pro a year early. His combine performance should silence the critics. Ohio State clearly didn't maximize what it had at the wide receiver position last year with Hartline and Robiskie.
- Despite an injury-plagued senior season, Beckum should still go pretty high in the draft. His benchpress victory can't hurt his cause.
- Penn State's Shipley also had a good combine, showing good speed and agility.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The official list of players invited to the 2009 NFL scouting combine later in Indianapolis has been finalized. The Big Ten will be sending 46 players to Indianapolis from Feb. 18-24.
Not surprisingly, Penn State and Ohio State led the way with eight participants each, followed by Wisconsin (7), Illinois (5) and Iowa (5). Minnesota is the lone Big Ten team not sending a player to Indy.
Here's the team-by-team rundown.
- Cornerback Vontae Davis^
- Defensive end Will Davis
- Tackle Xavier Fulton
- Defensive end Derek Walker
- Wide receiver Andrew Means^
- Center Rob Bruggeman
- Cornerback Bradley Fletcher
- Running back Shonn Greene^
- Defensive tackle Mitch King
- Guard Seth Olsen
- Long snapper Sean Griffin
- Defensive end Tim Jamison
- Defensive tackle Terrance Taylor
- Cornerback Morgan Trent
MICHIGAN STATE (3)
- Quarterback Brian Hoyer
- Running back Javon Ringer
- Safety Otis Wiley
- Running back Tyrell Sutton
OHIO STATE (8)
- Tackle Alex Boone
- Linebacker Marcus Freeman
- Wide receiver Brian Hartline^
- Cornerback Malcolm Jenkins
- Linebacker James Laurinaitis
- Wide receiver Brian Robiskie
- Cornerback Donald Washington
- Running back Chris Wells^
PENN STATE (8)
- Wide receiver Deon Butler
- Tackle Gerald Cadogan
- Defensive end Maurice Evans^
- Defensive end Aaron Maybin^
- Wide receiver Jordan Norwood
- Cornerback Lydell Sargeant
- Center A.Q. Shipley
- Wide receiver Derrick Williams
- Defensive end Alex Magee
- Wide receiver Greg Orton
- Quarterback Curtis Painter
- Running back Kory Sheets
- Tight end Travis Beckum
- Linebacker Jonathan Casillas
- Running back P.J. Hill^
- Guard Andy Kemp
- Linebacker DeAndre Levy
- Defensive end Matt Shaughnessy
- Guard Kraig Urbik
Who got snubbed from the combine? Here are a few names surprisingly left off the list: Illinois center Ryan McDonald, Iowa defensive tackle Matt Kroul, Minnesota punter Justin Kucek, Northwestern defensive tackle John Gill, Penn State guard Rich Ohrnberger, Purdue linebacker Anthony Heygood and Wisconsin cornerback Allen Langford.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
As was the case throughout the 2008 season, the Big Ten took a backseat to other conferences in the Under Armour Senior Bowl.
The South team beat the North, 35-18, and no Big Ten players were involved in the scoring for the North squad. But there were some bright spots for the Big Ten in the nation's premier postseason all-star showcase.
- Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman recorded a game-high eight tackles for the North team. As teammate James Laurinaitis sat out the game, Freeman likely improved his pro stock with a solid effort.
- Penn State wide receiver/return man Derrick Williams racked up a game-high 124 all-purpose yards. Williams had 89 yards on three kickoff returns, including a 44-yard burst. He also had an 11-yard punt return, caught two passes for 19 yards and had a five-yard carry. Williams' speed and versatility certainly will help his cause on draft day.
- Purdue running back Kory Sheets had a team-high seven carries for 31 rushing yards. He also notched the game's longest kickoff return, a 61-yarder in the fourth quarter, and caught four passes out of the backfield. Filling in for injured Michigan State star Javon Ringer, Sheets finally got some national exposure after being overlooked on a poor Purdue team this fall.
- Ohio State wide receiver Brian Robiskie finished as the game's No. 2 receiver with 47 yards on three receptions.
- Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King had four tackles and a quarterback hurry in the game, while Michigan defensive end Tim Jamison had three stops and Purdue defensive end Alex Magee recorded an assisted tackle.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Danny Hope doesn't hide his fondness for speed and athleticism, and he'll try to find those qualities in his first recruiting class as Purdue's head coach.
Hope has already shown a willingness to travel a good distance for what he wants, particularly to the state of Florida. Purdue's 2009 recruiting haul will have a very different look than previous classes.
The Boilers' biggest recruiting needs come on defense, as they lose three starting linemen and three starting defensive backs. Ryan Kerrigan looks like a budding star at defensive end, but Hope must add pieces around him through the 2009 class. End Alex Magee and tackles Mike Neal and Ryan Baker will be missed, and there's not much left over in the interior line. Safety also will be a priority for Hope as the Boilers lose Torri Williams, the team's second leading tackler, and Frank Duong.
Wide receiver jumps out as Purdue's biggest need on offense as the team loses Desmond Tardy and Greg Orton, who combined for 136 receptions and 10 touchdowns last season. Hope mentioned in August that he wants more speed at the inside receiver spots and will look to add some in this class. The new coach also prioritizes speed and athleticism over size at the offensive line spots, saying he wants "guys that are good enough to play on defense but are big enough to move to offense."
The Boilers also might look to add a quarterback or two in this class. Three-year starter Curtis Painter graduates, backup Joey Elliott is a senior and Justin Siller had mixed results in limited action last year, so another signal caller wouldn't be a bad move.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Michigan State's Javon Ringer won't be participating in the Under Armour Senior Bowl later this month, but the Big Ten running back fraternity still will be represented in Mobile, Ala.
Purdue running back Kory Sheets will replace Ringer in the game. Senior Bowl public relations director Kevin McDermond said an injury issue prevented Ringer from participating.
Sheets was originally scheduled to play in the East-West Shrine Game but now will shift his focus to the Senior Bowl on Jan. 24 (NFL Network, 7 p.m. ET). He finished fifth in the Big Ten in rushing (94.2 yards per game) and fourth in scoring (8.5 points per game).
Boilermakers defensive tackle Alex Magee also reportedly will play in the Senior Bowl. The Big Ten's official list will be announced Thursday.
Also, Michigan State confirmed that safety Otis Wiley will not play in the Shrine Game as he takes some extra time to rest.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten entered the season with two ways to improve its national image. The first called for a veteran-laden Ohio State team with 20 returning starters to finish what it started the previous two years and win a national championship. The other option ultimately was more important to the league's long-term health, but seemed difficult.
Other teams needed to show they could close the gap with the Buckeyes and compete well on the national stage. If Ohio State was far and away the class of the league but continued to flop against elite opponents, national respect would be in short supply. Well, Ohio State flopped big-time on the grandest stage Saturday night, not even managing a touchdown against top-ranked USC in a 35-3 loss at the L.A. Coliseum. The Buckeyes will get Chris "Beanie" Wells back and still make a run for a BCS bowl, but the door is open for other Big Ten teams to carry the banner.
Wisconsin and Penn State certainly look up to the task. The Badgers claimed a gutsy road win against always-tough Fresno State and Penn State, despite weak competition so far, has simply blown teams away.
Here's a look at five lessons from Week 3:
1. Big Ten title goes through Madison -- Wisconsin survived its biggest road test of the season by overcoming several obstacles, including the officials, at Fresno State. The power run game came through at critical moments and the defense, led by linebacker DeAndre Levy and tackle Jason Chapman, contained Tom Brandstater and the Bulldogs. The Badgers now benefit from a home schedule that includes Ohio State, Penn State and Illinois. Wisconsin hasn't lost at home under coach Bret Bielema.
2. Ohio State's offense needs more than Beanie -- There's no doubt Wells makes Ohio State a much better offense, not only from a productivity standpoint but because of the confidence he gives others and the on-field leadership he provides. But the USC game showed that the unit has several areas to repair. There's still not nearly enough creativity in the scheme. A veteran line crumbled against the Trojans, surrendering five sacks. And Todd Boeckman had another rough night when the team desperately needed strong quarterback play.
3. Fear the Lions -- The real season begins Sept. 27 against Illinois, but Penn State's offense has shown no signs of slowing down. Syracuse became the latest punching bag for Daryll Clark, Evan Royster and their teammates, as Penn State scored 35 points in less than 28 minutes. The Lions' road poise will determine how far they go this fall, as they travel to both Wisconsin and Ohio State, but there's little doubt the Spread HD offense makes them a much better team.
4. Purdue better, but still Purdue -- The Boilermakers' defense deserved better, as a top defender lamented as he stood outside Ross-Ade Stadium on Saturday night. Purdue showed it could keep pace with speedy Oregon, thanks to a much-improved secondary and strong line play from Alex Magee and Ryan Baker. But once again, Purdue couldn't come through in a big game. Quarterback Curtis Painter has had a fine career, but the signature win continues to elude him.
5. Defenses flex their muscles -- Ohio State couldn't stop Mark Sanchez and Michigan never got much chance to stop Notre Dame, but the rest of the league showcased its defensive prowess. Michigan State blanked Rusty Smith and Florida Atlantic in the rain, Iowa kept in-state rival Iowa State out of the end zone, Illinois needed a defensive touchdown by Brit Miller to outlast Louisiana-Lafayette and Northwestern continued to improve under new coordinator Mike Hankwitz. Purdue wasted a tremendous defensive performance against Oregon and Penn State continued to excel without Maurice Evans and Abe Koroma.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- I'm covering Purdue's media day festivities throughout the morning. Check back later for plenty of Boiler updates (I always wanted to write that).
For now, here are three questions facing Purdue this fall:
How will the team navigate its challenging schedule?
The Boilermakers didn't make it easy on Tiller in his final season. A normally manageable nonconference schedule turns treacherous this fall, as Purdue plays Oregon, Central Michigan and annual rival Notre Dame. Purdue also has road games against Ohio State and Michigan State. The good news is both the Oregon and Central Michigan games are at home, where Purdue went 5-2 last season. Having a senior quarterback like Curtis Painter usually helps, but the schedule provides both Painter and Tiller several chances for validation. Big games have recently been the knock on Purdue, and the slate is filled with them.
Greg Orton was often overshadowed by Bryant, but the senior has been consistent and should fit in nicely as a featured receiver. Purdue will ask for more from Desmond Tardy and continued contributions from running back Kory Sheets, who caught 30 passes last season. The spotlight also will be on junior-college transfers Aaron Valentin and Arsenio Curry, who weren't brought in to watch. Valentin joined the team this spring and got adjusted to the system, while Curry must play catchup in camp. Keller was a unique talent and can't be duplicated, but junior Kyle Adams brings some experience to the tight end spot.
Who will fill the playmaking gaps on defense?
The Boilermakers lost their best pass rusher in end Cliff Avril and their best overall defender in cornerback Terrell Vinson. Of the two units, the line looks to be in better shape to fill the void, especially with Alex Magee and Ryan Baker occupying the interior. The secondary is a different story, but Brandon King's move from safety to corner could be a good solution, especially if safety Torri Williams can finally stay healthy. Junior-college transfer Dwight Mclean should provide depth at safety, but Purdue will look for more from cornerbacks David Pender and Royce Adams.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
|AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall|
|Iowa DT Mitch King is the Big Ten's top interior lineman.|
Several e-mailers have asked me why I left Iowa standout Mitch King off the list of the Big Ten's top defensive ends. Well, it's because King plays defensive tackle, and he's one of the best (see below). King, Michigan's Terrance Taylor and Wisconsin's Mike Newkirk headline this year's crop of interior linemen.
Here's a look at the Top 10:
1. Mitch King, Sr., Iowa -- A rare four-year starter, King earned first-team All-Big Ten honors last season after recording 4.5 sacks, seven pass breakups and five quarterback hurries. He has recorded 11 or more tackles for loss in each of his three seasons with the Hawkeyes.
2. Terrance Taylor, Sr., Michigan -- Second-team All-Big Ten selection last season has started 24 games at nose tackle. Last season Taylor led all Wolverines defensive linemen with 55 tackles (8.5 for loss). How he adjusts to new defensive coordinator Scott Shafer and the 4-3 alignment will be key, but Taylor is consistently around the ball.
3. Mike Newkirk, Sr., Wisconsin -- He's one of several key Badgers defenders coming off an injury (shoulder), but if healthy, Newkirk can be disruptive. As a junior he ranked second on the team with 10.5 tackles for loss and had five quarterback hurries. After playing most of the season at end, Newkirk switched to tackle for the Outback Bowl and is projected to start there this fall.
4. Matt Kroul, Sr., Iowa -- Kroul has started more consecutive games than King (37) and gives opposing offensive lines another threat to worry about. Though King makes more big plays, Kroul led Iowa's defensive linemen and ranked fourth on the team with 74 tackles last season. The four-year starter's consistent play and leadership are invaluable for Iowa's defense.
5. David Lindquist, Sr., Illinois -- The former walk-on has solidified a spot in the middle of Illinois' talented line. He recorded 4.5 sacks and seven tackles for loss as a junior, and should take on a greater role as the Illini try to replace mainstay Chris Norwell.
6. John Gill, Sr., Northwestern -- Haven't heard of Gill? NFL scouts and draft analysts have. The Northwestern senior drew high marks from Mel Kiper Jr. last season and didn't disappoint, recording four sacks and 8.5 tackles for loss. Gill consistently gets into the backfield and should have a strong senior season, especially if his linemates improve.
7. Chris Baker, Jr., Penn State -- Baker remains suspended and his playing status seems to hinge on summer school grades. If cleared, he gives Penn State a legitimate threat in the middle of the line. Baker ranked third on the team in sacks (4.5) and fifth in tackles for loss (8) last season.
8. Alex Magee, Sr., Purdue -- The veteran defensive tackle anchors Purdue's line and forms a strong tandem with Ryan Baker. Magee has recorded eight tackles for loss, three fumble recoveries (one for a touchdown) and two forced fumbles in the last two seasons.
9. Jason Chapman, Sr., Wisconsin -- Health is once again the concern here, as Chapman comes off a knee injury that shortened his junior season and kept him out of spring ball. He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in 2006, finishing second on the team with five sacks. If he's at full strength, Wisconsin could rival Iowa for the league's top tackle tandem.
10. Will Johnson, Sr., Michigan -- The switch to the 4-3 provides more opportunity for defensive tackles, and Johnson looks ready to cash in after a strong summer. He started every game last fall and racked up 40 tackles, including 2.5 for loss.