Big Ten: Andre Amos

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The competition at left tackle has been one of the top preseason storylines at Ohio State, which loses Alex Boone from an offensive front that needs better results this season.

Ohio State's Week 1 depth chart (page 7) is out, and it looks like junior Andrew Miller, not heralded sophomores J.B. Shugarts or Mike Adams, will protect Terrelle Pryor's blind side when the team opens the season Saturday against Navy. Miller is listed as the starter opposite senior Jim Cordle at right tackle. Guards Justin Boren and Bryant Browning and center Mike Brewster round out the starting five.

Other notable items from the Buckeyes' two deep:
  • Ray Small might be the team's No. 2 returning receiver with 18 catches last year, but the senior comes in third on the depth chart at wideout behind starter DeVier Posey and backup Duron Carter, a true freshman. Small still could be in the dog house after academic issues delayed his arrival to camp, but it's hard not to believe he'll play more than your average third-stringer.
  • The offense features only two seniors in starting roles (Cordle and tight end Jake Ballard), while five freshmen or sophomores are projected to start. Three true freshmen are listed as backups on offense -- Carter, center Jack Mewhort and left guard Corey Linsley.
  • Senior Andre Amos gets the starting nod over junior Devon Torrence at the hotly contested cornerback spot opposite Chimdi Chekwa.
  • The defensive line is simply stacked with experience, as players like Lawrence Wilson and Todd Denlinger aren't even listed as starters.
  • Small and Posey are listed as the primary punt return men, while the team's top two running backs, Dan Herron and Brandon Saine, will handle kickoff returns along with sophomore wideout Lamaar Thomas.

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)

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Spring practice is often the most competitive time of the year for a football team, and players on both sides of the ball take full advantage.

Here's a snapshot of who emerged for each Big Ten team, from what I've seen, heard and read.


Mikel LeShoure RB, So.
-- After getting his weight right, LeShoure looks like the total package at running back. He'll complement fellow sophomore Jason Ford this fall.

Tavon Wilson, CB, Sr.
-- Vontae Davis' protégé appears ready to take over as the team's top cover corner. Like Davis, Wilson welcomes contact and has improved his tackling.


Darius Willis RB, Fr.
-- Heralded recruit looked the part this spring after battling groin, shoulder and back injuries last fall. Willis rushed for 80 yards and a touchdown on only 13 carries in the spring game.

Larry Black Jr., DE, Fr.
-- Defensive tackle is a major question mark, but Black made a strong push for a starting job and finished with two sacks in the spring game.


Marvin McNutt, WR, So.
-- Converted quarterback with excellent physical tools wowed the coaches this spring and moved to the top of the depth chart.

Adrian Clayborn, DE, Jr.
-- Clayborn is a known commodity, but he elevated his play as a pass-rusher and a leader on Iowa's defensive line.


Vincent Smith RB, Fr.
-- The bite-size Smith (5-foot-6, 158) stood out in a crowded offensive backfield, showcasing tremendous speed and agility.

Stevie Brown, S/LB, Sr.
-- The hybrid role in coordinator Greg Robinson's defense suits Brown, who won the Meyer Morton Award as the senior who made the most progress during spring drills.


Brian Linthicum, TE, So. --
Clemson transfer worked himself into a crowded mix at tight end and should log plenty of field time this fall. He had six catches for 69 yards and a touchdown in the spring game.

Trenton Robinson, S, So. --
Head coach Mark Dantonio could not stop raving about Robinson, who provides even more depth in a stacked Spartans secondary.


MarQueis Gray, QB, Fr. --
With starter Adam Weber held out of contact this spring, Gray took a ton of snaps and capitalized, cementing himself as a 1a option for Minnesota. Expect the Gophers to incorporate a package of plays for Gray into every game plan.

Cedric McKinley, DE, Sr. --
McKinley built on a strong Insight Bowl performance and looks ready to take over for Willie VanDeSteeg as Minnesota's primary pass-rusher. He recorded three sacks in the spring game.


Jeravin Matthews, RB, So. --
The speedy Matthews made a smooth transition from wide receiver to running back and provides another option in a new-look backfield this fall.

Ben Johnson, LB, So.
-- Johnson cemented himself as Northwestern's third starting linebacker, impressing head coach Pat Fitzgerald with his speed and instincts. He broke up two passes in the spring game.


Brandon Saine, RB, Jr. --
The wait for big things from Saine might be over as the gifted junior stayed healthy this spring. He showcased excellent moves and wasn't afraid to take on tacklers and get right back up.

Devon Torrence, CB, Jr.
-- A physical corner with good athleticism, Torrence will continue to push Andre Amos for a starting spot this summer. The big question is whether he wants to continue playing baseball in the Houston Astros organization.


Derek Moye, WR, So.
-- Moye has all the tools to be a top receiver in the Big Ten, and he seemed to seize the opportunity this spring as Penn State rebuilds at receiver.

Jack Crawford, DE, So. --
The Larry Johnson factory might have churned out another superstar pass-rusher as Crawford turned in a very impressive spring. He's still a little raw but has the skills to do major damage.


Ralph Bolden, RB, So.
-- Few players in the country had as good a spring as Bolden, who came out of nowhere to record 420 rushing yards and four touchdowns in scrimmages. He might be the frontrunner for the starting running back job entering the fall.

Kawann Short, DT, Fr.
-- Short made a strong push for a starting spot alongside Mike Neal on a solid Boilers defensive line. He can draw double teams and boasts impressive strength to generate push off the line.


Nick Toon, WR, So.
-- Wide receiver was a major question mark entering spring ball, and Toon made the most of his opportunity with an excellent performance. He boasts excellent size, speed and hands, and should enter the summer as a starter.

J.J. Watt, DE, So.
-- The Central Michigan transfer transformed his body during the offseason and saw dividends this spring, as he claimed a starting spot on the defensive line. Watt can play both end and tackle.

Ohio State spring wrap

May, 6, 2009

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State Buckeyes

2008 overall record:10-3

2008 conference record: 7-1

Returning starters

Offense: 5; Defense: 7; Special teams: 0

Top returners

QB Terrelle Pryor, C Michael Brewster, TE Jake Ballard, DE Thaddeus Gibson, DT Doug Worthington, S Kurt Coleman, S Anderson Russell, DE Cameron Heyward

Key losses

RB Chris "Beanie" Wells, WR Brian Robiskie, WR Brian Hartline, LT Alex Boone, DT Nader Abdallah, LB James Laurinaitis, LB Marcus Freeman, CB Malcolm Jenkins, P A.J. Trapasso

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Chris "Beanie" Wells (1,197 yds)
Passing: Terrelle Pryor* (1,311 yds)
Receiving: Brian Robiskie (535 yds)
Tackles: James Laurinaitis (130)
Sacks: Thaddeus Gibson* (5)
Interceptions: Kurt Coleman* (4)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Navy
Sept. 12 USC
Sept. 19 vs. Toledo (at Cleveland)
Sept. 26 Illinois
Oct. 3 at Indiana
Oct. 10 Wisconsin
Oct. 17 at Purdue
Oct. 24 Minnesota
Oct. 31 New Mexico State
Nov. 7 at Penn State
Nov. 14 Iowa
Nov. 21 at Michigan

Spring answers

1. Pryor develops -- Terrelle Pryor quieted concerns about his passing ability with a strong spring capped by an excellent performance in the well-attended spring game at Ohio Stadium. Pryor made significant improvement with his footwork and looked better on the high-percentage throws that dogged him at times last season. His first full offseason as a college player appears to have paid off, and Pryor looks primed for an All-Big Ten season.

2. Boom and Zoom -- Running back is the biggest void on the Buckeyes' depth chart, but Dan Herron ("Boom) and Brandon Saine ("Zoom") appear ready to carry the load. Herron built off his experience last fall as a backup and performed well this spring, while Saine finally appears healthy and ready to showcase the explosiveness that made him such a heralded recruit coming out of high school.

3. Big bad Boren -- Justin Boren will always be in the spotlight because he transferred from Michigan, but the left guard generated plenty of buzz with his play this spring. Boren brings brute strength and an edgy attitude to an offense line that needs a jolt after a subpar 2008 season. He has quickly become a favorite of Pryor's and his fellow linemen, and should bring a nasty attitude to the front five this fall.

Fall questions

1. Cornerback -- Chimdi Chekwa has a starting spot locked up, but the other position remains open entering the summer. Senior Andre Amos has a slight edge because of experience, but Devon Torrence, who played minor league baseball in the Astros organization the last two summers, made a strong push this spring. If Torrence focuses solely on football, the starting job could be his.

2. Kicking game -- It's no secret how important special teams has been to Jim Tressel's success at Ohio State, and the head coach is focused on replacing his starting specialists. Aaron Pettrey looks capable at kicker, but the punting job is a bit of a mystery with Jon Thoma and Ben Buchanan competing for the top spot.

3. Linebacker rotation -- Ohio State has plenty of exciting options at linebacker, namely Etienne Sabino and Brian Rolle, both of whom had very solid springs. The key will be finding the right combinations of 'backers and not being afraid to use younger players like Sabino ahead of veterans who played behind Laurinaitis and Freeman for years. It will be tough to replace the lost production, but Ohio State has enough depth, as long as players are used the right ways.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Midway through an interview Thursday, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel received a text message from former Buckeyes star James Laurinaitis.

  Leon Halip/US Presswire
  Ohio State coach Jim Tressel knows it's not the name that wins championships.
Laurinaitis, a standout hockey player in high school growing up in Minnesota, was looking for tickets to a Columbus Blue Jackets NHL playoff game next week. Tressel and Laurinaitis were supposed to attend a Jackets' game together several weeks ago, but Laurinaitis backed out at the last minute to attend a family function in Dayton.

"He threw me under the bus," Tressel joked. "Now they're in the playoffs, so now he wants to go. I'm going to ignore him for a couple hours."

Laurinaitis had to suffer for a while, but he'll probably get his wish from Tressel. After everything he gave to Ohio State during the last five seasons, the linebacker deserves it.

Tressel's current players don't share the same sense of entitlement as Laurinaitis.

Ohio State got a lot younger during the offseason, and the spring depth chart is filled with underclassmen. Though the Buckeyes have won or shared the last four Big Ten titles and maintain the same expectation for 2009, championships don't just magically appear by wearing scarlet and gray.

"If we've got a room full of guys that think, 'Well, that's what you do. You come to Ohio State and you're Big Ten champs,' if that's the reality in their mind, then we're going to have a problem," Tressel said. "Because it is hard. People that know just how hard it is are gone. Because they're the ones that traversed that mountain.

"It's our job to get guys to understand how difficult it's been. It's not, 'Wish upon a star and I'm entitled to that.' That's the fun of raising kids up, helping them understand that goals are wonderful, but the plan and the action taken toward those goals it what it's all about."

Defensive coordinator Jim Heacock has never seen a problem with work ethic during his tenure at Ohio State. But to hammer home the importance of going to work every year for a goal, he tells the defenders to simply look around.

"This year, it's easy," Heacock said. "You lose Malcolm [Jenkins] and you lose James [Laurinaitis] and you lose Marcus [Freeman], big production guys. You lose the key, main names that everybody has been hearing.

"And you end up with a group of guys, you had to use the cliché, no-names, but guys that don't have quite the reputation. This group is a very young group, but boy, they're energetic and they're anxious to learn."

Some other notes from my conversation with Tressel (who wore a pullover fleece, not a sweater vest), Heacock and several Buckeyes players.

  • There has been a lot of buzz about Ohio State overhauling the offense in Year 2 of the Terrelle Pryor era, but Tressel downplays the changes. Though a player like Pryor challenges the coaches to be more flexible, the Buckeyes won't look like a completely different offense in 2009. Running back Dan "Boom" Herron smiled and shook his head when I brought up the Wildcat offense, but he admitted the team continues to run some plays out of the pistol formation, which Ohio State used last fall.
"With Terrelle, you're tempted to say, 'Hey, I wonder if we can do this or that,'" Tressel said. "But you reign it back in and say, 'OK, let's look at the whole group. What are the things the whole group can be best at.' What is it that [Dane] Sanzenbacher does best? What it is that [DeVier] Posey does best? But we haven't gotten crazy."
  • Senior tackle Jim Cordle said the offensive line is ahead of where he thought it would be at this point after a "disappointing" 2008 performance. Cordle, a former center and left guard, is working at both tackle spots this spring but likely will line up on the right side. Former right tackle Bryant Browning moves to right guard, and Michigan transfer Justin Boren has all but locked up the left guard spot. Despite sophomore starting center in Mike Brewster and sophomore Mike Adams working at left tackle, the group is playing with more of an edge.
"Fights will break out and those types of things, but that's just how we compete now," Cordle said.
  • Heacock said Andre Amos is the frontrunner in the competition for the starting cornerback spot opposite Chimdi Chekwa, but Devon Torrence also has had a good spring. Safety Anderson Russell singled out redshirt freshman cornerback Travis Howard and safety Orhian Johnson for their performances this spring.
  • Ohio State has been relatively injury-free this spring. Pryor is fine after overworking his throwing arm, and safety Kurt Coleman returned to practice Tuesday after an ankle problem. Sanzenbacher has a high ankle sprain.
  • Before our interview Heacock was watching film of NFL defenses scoring touchdowns and planned to make a highlight tape for his players. He also has a sign in his office that reads: "No Ohio State team has defeated Michigan 5 times in a row," with the 5 crossed out and replaced by a 6. Interesting.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor missed two or three practice periods Friday but should be fine after having what head coach Jim Tressel described as a tired throwing arm.

Tressel said Pryor didn't appear on his medical report Tuesday morning and should be fine for practice Tuesday afternoon. The reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year reportedly had his elbow wrapped at the end of Friday's practice.

"He'd been doing so much throwing," Tressel said on the Big Ten spring coaches' teleconference. "He's one of those guys, he's just an extremely hard worker. He just overdid it a little bit. ... I assume he'll be fine."

Other Buckeyes notes:

  • Wide receiver Dane Sanzenbacher will miss the next few practices with a sprained ankle but should be fine by next week.
  • Tressel likes what he has seen from the Buckeyes' defensive line, which becomes the most experienced part of the defense after losses at linebacker and cornerback.
  • Tressel singled out Jermale Hines, Travis Howard, Andre Amos and freshman Garrett Goebel as defenders who have performed well this spring. Linebacker Brian Rolle also has impressed in place of returning starter Ross Homan, who has a hamstring injury.
  • Offensive standouts have included wide receiver Jake Stoneburner and and wideout Lamaar Thomas, who Tressel said has "made significant improvement" during the first seven spring practices.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

It's no secret Ohio State gets a lot younger this season, and the team's youth is reflected in its spring depth chart, unveiled Friday.

Five sophomores and a freshman are listed as starters on offense. The defense is older but has only five seniors listed with the first team. Check out the full depth chart (page 10), but here are several items to note.

  • Michigan transfer Justin Boren is listed as a starting guard along with Bryant Browning, who moves from starting right tackle to guard. Jim Cordle, who started at center in 2007 and played guard most of last season, is now listed as a starting tackle opposite Mike Adams. J.B. Shugarts, one of several heralded 2008 offensive line recruits, isn't listed on the depth chart because of an injury. So besides center Mike Brewster, there's movement along the offensive line, which should be an interesting area to watch.
  • Sophomore Dan Herron, who started in place of the injured Chris "Beanie" Wells for three games last fall, is the No. 1 running back ahead of Brandon Saine.
  • Dynamic sophomore DeVier Posey and reliable junior Dane Sanzenbacher are the starting wide receivers, with senior Ray Small as a third option behind Sanzenbacher. Sophomore Lamaar Thomas is third string, a bit of a surprise. It was perplexing why Posey didn't get more work in 2008, but it shouldn't be a problem this fall. Small also will be a bigger part of the passing attack.
  • With Lawrence Wilson out for spring as he recovers from a torn ACL, junior Thaddeus Gibson slides into a starting defensive end spot opposite Cameron Heyward. Gibson made a huge difference when he began playing more midway through 2008, so don't be surprised if he holds onto the top spot even when Wilson returns.
  • Fifth-year senior Andre Amos, who has battled injuries throughout his career, is listed as a first-team cornerback opposite Chimdi Chekwa. If Amos can stay healthy, he should be able to help fill the void left by Malcolm Jenkins and Donald Washington.
  • Fifth-year senior Austin Spitler and junior Tyler Moeller join returning starter Ross Homan as the first-team linebackers, with Spitler in the middle and Moeller on the strong side. Sophomore Etienne Sabino, listed as the backup middle linebacker, figures to push the others for playing time.
  • No return men are listed, but Small was dynamic on punt returns last year and Thomas likely will serve as the primary kickoff return man.
  • Oh, yeah, and Terrelle Pryor is still the starting quarterback, in case you were wondering.