Big Ten: Antonio Banks

Most coaching transitions bring roster attrition, and Indiana has endured a mini-player exodus.

Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson confirmed the departures of three players and the indefinite suspension of another. Running backs Nick Turner and Antonio Banks and defensive tackle Marlandez Harris all recently have left the program.

Banks was one of just two true freshmen to play last season, appearing in 10 games before suffering a torn ACL. Both he and Turner had been viewed as potential answers to Indiana's chronic problems in the run game. Harris redshirted the 2010 season.

Wilson also said cornerback Peter St. Fort is indefinitely suspended following his arrest early Sunday on charges of drunken driving and marijuana possession.

The typically candid Wilson didn't hold back in describing why Turner, who had been moved to defensive back but returned to offense and had a carry last week against Penn State, left the team.
"He came in and said he didn’t want to play," Wilson said. "Thought it was a good choice because he hadn’t been practicing hard. … He came in to practice Monday, dressed and then took his clothes off and went home. Came in Tuesday and said he didn't want to play. Said he'd been thinking about it for a month or two. I said, 'Well, the way you were practicing, that's why you weren't starting at running back. That's why we put you on defense. You hadn’t made any clicks there. That’s why we put you on special teams took you off special teams.' Because he’s been going through the motions, because he's not physical. He's a nice kid. He's got good talent. He's a smart young man. I just don’t know if he wants to play. I kinda thought it was a good choice. Wished him well, had no issues."

Alrighty then.

None of the departures should sting too much, although Indiana is now down three running backs (Turner, Banks, Darius Willis) and hasn't established much of a rushing attack.
I had a chance to catch up with first-year Indiana coach Kevin Wilson on Thursday afternoon, and he told me the Hoosiers have a new addition in the backfield.

Stephen Houston, a junior college transfer who had signed with North Carolina in February, arrived in Bloomington this week. He's a 5-foot-10, 225-pounder who played at Independence (Kan.) College last season, where he rushed for more than 1,000 yards. He originally signed with Ole Miss out of high school in the Cincinnati area but did not qualify. He did not gain admission to North Carolina and was left looking for a new school this spring.

"He had to take a math course to get admitted here," Wilson said. "He just graduated [from Independence] and showed up here and was admitted."

The Hoosiers could use some more options at running back, which was like a walking wounded list this spring. Darius Willis and Antonio Banks didn't practice while healing from injuries, leaving Nick Turner and Matt Perez to get the bulk of the reps. Incoming freshman D'Angelo Roberts will join Houston as newcomers to the position this summer.

"We have some bodies now," Wilson said. "I'm anxious to see Willis and Banks to see if they're healthy. Hopefully when it shakes out, we'll have two or three, because we're going to need more than one running back to play. You'd like to think with six bodies that you'd get a couple or three to stick."

I'll have more from Wilson later this afternoon.
Beginning today, we're going to start ranking each position group in the Big Ten. These rankings will reflect the overall strength at each position, so depth matters as well as individual star power. Following each group ranking, we'll also give out our list of the top individual players at that position.

Let's start out with a look at the running back groups across the Big Ten.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball and James White
AP Photo/Morry GashMontee Ball and James White did a lot of celebrating last season, as the duo combined for 32 TDs.
1. Wisconsin: No surprise at the top. Even with John Clay gone and Zach Brown transferring, the Badgers are loaded at tailback. They've still got junior Montee Ball, who finished four yards shy of 1,000 last season with 18 touchdowns, along with reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year James White, who ran for 1,052 yards and 14 touchdowns. Throw in senior fullback Bradie Ewing and redshirt freshman Jeff Lewis, and the Badgers should be powerful on the ground yet again in 2011.

2. Michigan State: Other than Wisconsin, the Spartans have the best collection of experience and talent in the backfield. First-team All-Big Ten performer Edwin Baker ran for 1,201 yards and 13 scores last year. Le'Veon Bell, a 237-pound bruiser, complemented him as a true freshman with 605 yards and eight scores. Larry Caper is a capable veteran, and fifth-year senior Todd Anderson starts at fullback. The Spartans are deep and versatile in their rushing attack.

3. Ohio State: The Buckeyes might have earned a higher ranking if Dan Herron were eligible to play a full season. But with Herron (1,155 yards and 16 scores in '10) suspended for the first five games, Ohio State will need some youngsters to fill his shoes. The good news is that there are plenty of talented candidates. Jaamal Berry is the leading returning rusher outside of Herron, and he averaged 8.3 yards per carry in a limited role last season. Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde will also battle for more playing time, while redshirt freshman Rod Smith could emerge as the No. 1 tailback after an impressive offseason. Zach Boren is back at fullback. Things may be in flux in Columbus, but you can almost always count on a good running game from the Buckeyes.

[+] EnlargeNebraska's Rex Burkhead
Eric Francis/Getty ImagesJunior Rex Burkhead averaged 5.5 yards per carry last season and scored seven TDs.
4. Nebraska: The Cornhuskers led the Big 12 in rushing last season with 247.6 yards per game on the ground, good for ninth in the FBS. Leading rusher Roy Helu Jr. is gone, but junior Rex Burkhead returns after a 951-yard campaign. He will occasionally line up at receiver or take snaps in the Wildcat. The Cornhuskers lack experience behind him but are expecting big contributions from incoming freshmen Aaron Green and Amer Abdullah. ESPN Recruiting ranked Green as the No. 11 player overall in the Class of 2011.

5. Penn State: Yes, the school's all-time leading rusher has moved on, as Evan Royster graduated. But the Nittany Lions still feel confident about their running game, which should be led by sophomore Silas Redd. He ran for 461 yards and 5.7 yards per carry as a true freshman, showing a physical style. Senior Stephfon Green will be asked to take on a larger role, and Brandon Beachum is back after missing last season with a knee injury. Joe Suhey and Michael Zordich are productive players at the fullback spot.

6. Purdue: The Boilermakers' stock in this chart could go up if Ralph Bolden successfully returns from injury. So far, so good for Bolden, who was a second-team All-Big Ten performer in 2009. Rob Henry led the team in rushing last year with 547 yards, but fullback Dan Dierking graduated. Junior college transfer Akeem Shavers got a lot of carries this spring and should contribute, and Reggie Pegram also is in the mix.

7. Iowa: Running back depth is a serious issue for Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes. Adam Robinson, who would have been the leading returning running back in the Big Ten in terms of yards per game, was dismissed from the team following a December arrest. Marcus Coker could emerge as a superstar, however, after starting four of Iowa's final five games as a true freshman. He was the offensive MVP of the Insight Bowl with 219 rushing yards on 33 carries and has drawn comparisons to former Doak Walker Award winner Shonn Greene. There's virtually no proven experience behind him, though, and three-year starting fullback Brett Morse is no longer around.

8. Michigan: If only we could count Denard Robinson as a running back. Brady Hoke plans to cut down on Shoelace's carries, which means the Wolverines' tailbacks will get more of a chance to shine. The question is who will step up. Senior Michael Shaw and junior Vincent Smith split time as starters last season, while Stephen Hopkins and Michael Cox are in the mix for more carries. Can celebrated recruit Justice Hayes contribute right away?

9. Illinois: Mikel Leshoure's dash to the NFL left the Illini with uncertainty at running back. Senior Jason Ford, the most likely successor, sat out much of spring ball with a hurt knee, while Troy Pollard's promising spring was cut short by a concussion. Incoming freshman Donovonn Young will get a look this fall.

10. Northwestern: Like Nebraska and Michigan, Northwestern relied on its quarterback -- in this case Dan Persa-- for a heavy chunk of the rushing yards. Mike Trumpy came on late in the year as a freshman and solidified his starting spot with a strong spring. Sophomore Adonis Smith, senior Jacob Schmidt and junior Tyris Jones will fight for carries behind him.

11. Minnesota: There was healthy competition at tailback this spring with a mixture of veterans and fresh faces. DeLeon Eskridge led the team last year with 698 rushing yards, while Duane Bennett added 529. They're being pushed by redshirt freshmen Donnell Kirkwood and Lamonte Edwards. New coach Jerry Kill will look to improve on the Gophers' paltry 3.6 yards per carry average last season. This is a group that could make a major move up the rankings.

12. Indiana: New Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson has a challenge in figuring out this group. Three of the top candidates for the starting tailback job, Darius Willis, Antonio Banks and Xavier Whitaker, all suffered season-ending knee injuries in 2010 and missed spring practice. IU's leading rusher last season finished with just 352 yards. Nick Turner and Matt Perez got the bulk of the reps in the spring. Perhaps Wilson's high-tempo offense will improve the stats for Indiana ball carriers.

Indiana spring wrap

May, 4, 2011
5/04/11
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Indiana

2010 overall record: 5-7

2010 conference record: 1-7 (11th)

Returning starters

Offense: 7; defense: 6; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

WR Damarlo Belcher, WR Duwyce Wilson, RB Darius Willis, T Andrew McDonald, G Justin Pagan, DE Darius Johnson, LB Jeff Thomas, S Donnell Jones, DT Adam Replogle, K Mitch Ewald

Key losses

QB Ben Chappell, WR Tandon Doss, OT James Brewer, WR Terrance Turner, LB Tyler Replogle, CB Richard Council, S Mitchell Evans

2010 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Trea Burgess (352 yards)

Passing: Ben Chappell (3,295 yards)

Receiving: Damarlo Belcher* (832 yards)

Tackles: Tyler Replogle (87)

Sacks: Darius Johnson* (4.5)

Interceptions: Mitchell Evans (3)

Spring answers

1. Cup of Kofi: It wasn't a huge surprise, but Kofi Hughes really solidified himself as one of Indiana's top receivers this spring alongside Damarlo Belcher and Duwyce Wilson. Hughes, who recorded only seven receptions last season, made several big plays in scrimmages and became a favorite target of quarterbacks Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker. Receiver will be Indiana's strong group this season, and Hughes adds to it.

2. LB tandem emerges: Indiana's defense needs significant upgrades, but the Hoosiers should have some pieces to build around at linebacker. Senior Jeff Thomas and Leon Beckum both drew favorable reviews from the staff this spring. Both players have grasped the new defense, and Thomas is more than willing to take a greater leadership role in the fall. The key now is for IU to find a third starter at linebacker.

3. Young DBs show promise: The Hoosiers' secondary has a long way to go, but several young players provide hope for the future. Greg Heban came on strong toward the end of last season, recording 40 tackles, an interception and five passes defended. He continued to show promise this spring. Cornerback Lawrence Barnett had an interception return for a touchdown and a pass breakup in the spring game. Both sophomores should play big roles this fall.

Fall questions

1. Quarterback: New Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson made it clear that starting jobs must be earned, and no quarterback earned the starting spot this spring. Kiel and Wright-Baker will continue to compete for the No. 1 job in preseason camp after mixed results in spring ball. During my visit to Bloomington, I got the sense Kiel has the edge, but this race could last until mid-to-late August.

2. Running back: This might be Indiana's biggest question mark entering the fall, as lingering injuries limited the group in spring practice. Darius Willis, Antonio Banks and Xavier Whitaker all are coming off season-ending knee injuries, and none has been evaluated on the field by the new staff. Willis boasts the most experience but also the most injury problems. Matt Perez and Nick Turner participated in spring ball and will be in the mix.

3. Grasping the systems: Wilson really made the spring about attitude and understanding the new demands from the staff. At times, he'd call the same play over and over just to see who stepped up and who caved in. The next few months will be critical as Hoosiers players start to grasp the schematics on both sides of the ball. This might be a bigger challenge on offense, as Wilson likes to play extremely fast, but the defense also needs a lot of work after struggling for so many years.

Big Ten personnel updates

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
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Some personnel nuggets from around the league as we spin toward Week 12.

MICHIGAN STATE

True freshman defensive end William Gholston will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Coach Mark Dantonio said Gholston could have played out the season with the injury, but the surgery would have kept him out for spring practice.

"We felt like, because he's a true freshman and has such a big upside, we needed to have him there for spring ball," Dantonio said.

Gholston, a decorated recruit who began preseason practice at linebacker before moving to defensive end, has appeared in all 10 games this fall and has recorded 13 tackles, five quarterback hurries, a pass breakup and a tackle for loss.

The good news is the Spartans will get dynamic receiver/return man Keshawn Martin back from a foot/ankle injury.

"Keshawn's a huge playmaker for us, a big-play guy, so it'll be a huge boost for us," Dantonio said.

PENN STATE

The Lions will stick with Matt McGloin as their starting quarterback despite the sophomore's struggles in the second half against Ohio State. McGloin tossed two first-half touchdown passes and completed 12 of his first 15 pass attempts against the Buckeyes, but he went just 3-for-13 with two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the second half.

I think Penn State needs to watch McGloin closely against Indiana. He should be able to make plays against the Hoosiers' defense, but it also presents an opportunity to get Rob Bolden some valuable reps.

Linebacker Michael Mauti (elbow) likely will miss the Indiana game, which is a big loss, while reserve running back Stephfon Green should play, Paterno said.

Paterno isn't sure if No. 2 running back Silas Redd will play after the freshman was cited for public urination earlier this week.

ILLINOIS

Sophomore linebacker Evan Frierson has been dismissed from the team two days after his arrest for aggravated battery. Check out more details here, but Frierson is alleged to have punched two people on a street near the Illinois campus early Sunday before fleeing the scene.

"As I have always done, I review each situation on an individual basis and make sure I have all the information," Illinois coach Ron Zook said in a prepared statement. "After a full review, I think it's in Evan's best interest to concentrate on his academics and his legal issues, and he no longer remains a part of our football program."

Frierson isn't a major loss for this year, as he has only six tackles in nine games played. But his departure could thin Illinois' linebacker depth for the future, as Illinois loses Nate Bussey after the season and fourth-year junior Martez Wilson could opt to enter the NFL draft.

PURDUE

The good news is that quarterback Rob Henry's hand seems better this week and the redshirt freshman should take on an increased role Saturday at No. 12 Michigan State. Purdue wants to use Henry as much as possible but will go with true freshman Sean Robinson if necessary.

"We think he's further along now than he has been, obviously, since the Ohio State game, and feel a lot better about him to go out and execute the run offense as well as a pass offense this weekend," coach Danny Hope said. "That hasn't been the case the last couple of weekends."

Justin Siller, meanwhile, likely won't return for Purdue's final two regular-season games after reaggravating his foot injury on the first play from scrimmage against Michigan. Siller made a surprise start at quarterback but left after one play.

INDIANA

Quarterback Ben Chappell didn't practice Monday, which has been the case for the last 4-5 weeks. Coach Bill Lynch remains very optimistic that the senior will play Saturday against Penn State.

That's a very good thing after Chappell left the Wisconsin game in the second quarter with a hip injury.

"As a football team, we did not handle him leaving the game," Lynch said. "As a result, we had no offensive production."

Freshman Antonio Banks will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL. Banks is the third Hoosiers freshman back to suffer a major knee injury, joining Matt Perez and Xavier Whitaker.

All three players likely will miss spring practice, Lynch said.

Big Ten Monday health report

October, 18, 2010
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A few bits of injury news to pass along from around the Big Ten.
  • Wisconsin starting linebacker Mike Taylor is expected to play Saturday at No. 15 Iowa after injuring his ankle and knee against Ohio State. Badgers coach Bret Bielema said Taylor underwent X-rays that showed no structural damage after he rolled his ankle and hyperextended his knee. Defensive tackle Jordan Kohout (foot) and tight end Lance Kendricks also should be fine for the trip to Iowa.
  • Indiana expects running backs Trea Burgess, Nick Turner and Antonio Banks to be ready for this week's trip to Illinois, but the news along the offensive line isn't so good. Coach Bill Lynch said starting right tackle James Brewer (ankle) likely will miss another week, and reserve Josh Hager also likely is out, putting sophomore Marc Damisch in the starting role. Depth also could be an issue up front, as Dustin Dopirak writes. Defensive backs Richard Council and Chris Adkins remain out.
  • Northwestern defensive end Vince Browne participated in Monday's practice and will play Saturday against No. 7 Michigan State, coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
  • Michigan's bye week comes at a good time, as quarterback Denard Robinson (shoulder) and others have time to heal. Coach Rich Rodriguez said Robinson, who dealt with shoulder soreness last week in practice, "should be fine" for the Penn State game on Oct. 30. Center David Molk, defensive tackle Mike Martin and running back Michael Shaw also should be fine for Penn State.
  • Middle linebacker Jeff Tarpinian (stinger) once again isn't listed on Iowa's depth chart. Troy Johnson is pegged to start against Wisconsin with James Morris backing him up.

Indiana spring wrap

May, 5, 2010
5/05/10
10:30
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Indiana

2009 overall record: 4-8

2009 conference record: 1-7 (T-10th)

Returning starters

Offense: 8, defense: 4, kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Ben Chappell, WR Tandon Doss, WR Damarlo Belcher, RT James Brewer, RB Darius Willis, LB Tyler Replogle, DT Larry Black Jr.

Key losses

LT Rodger Saffold, DE Jammie Kirlew, LB Matt Mayberry, DE Greg Middleton, CB Ray Fisher, SS Austin Thomas, FS Nick Polk, LB Will Patterson

2009 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Darius Willis* (607 yards)

Passing: Ben Chappell* (2,941 yards)

Receiving: Tandon Doss* (962 yards)

Tackles: Matt Mayberry (108)

Sacks: Jammie Kirlew (6.5)

Interceptions: Austin Thomas (4)

Spring answers

1. End game: Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton formed one of the Big Ten's most productive defensive end tandems during the last three seasons, and their departures raise a red flag about the defensive end position. So why isn't co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic concerned? He has tons of faith in Darius Johnson and Kevin Bush, the favorites to start at the two end spots. Bush, a 24-year-old redshirt sophomore, spent three plus seasons in the military before joining the Hoosiers. "I'm telling you, they're both going to end up being better than Jammie Kirlew," Palcic said.

2. Hoosiers switch to 3-4: Despite losing two veteran linebackers, Indiana employed more of the 3-4 alignment on defense this spring in an effort to capitalize on its athleticism. The switch allows the Hoosiers to rotate more players up front. Among the players to be featured in the 3-4 are Johnson, Bush, Damon Sims, Fred Jones and Adam Replogle, a big, athletic defender who moved from tackle to end this spring.

3. Receiving orders: Indiana entered the spring loaded at wide receiver, and the Hoosiers added more depth on the perimeter. First-team All-Big Ten selection Tandon Doss turned in a stellar spring, and redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson worked his way into a rotation that also includes Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner. Junior Dre Muhammad also stepped up, as he and Wilson combined for 10 catches in the spring game.

Fall questions

1. The secondary: There were some bright spots this spring, like the play of redshirt freshman cornerback Lawrence Barnett, but the secondary is far from settled heading into the summer. Indiana loses two multi-year starters at safety as well as Ray Fisher, its top cover corner. Junior college transfer Lenyatta Kiles went through spring ball, and another juco corner, Andre Kates, arrives for preseason camp. It will be interesting to see where those two fit in and whether Jerimy Finch finally blossoms at safety.

2. Run game: The pistol formation was supposed to ignite Indiana's rushing attack, but it hasn't happened yet. And while there's little doubt the Hoosiers can light up defenses through the air, their running game is a major question mark. Darius Willis shows flashes but struggles to stay on the field because of ankle problems. Indiana needs a strong camp from Willis and continued production from other backs like Antonio Banks, who had a nice spring.

3. Offensive line: Indiana must replace arguably the Big Ten's most underrated player in left tackle Rodger Saffold, who nearly worked his way into the first round of April's NFL draft (he was the first pick of the second round). Junior Andrew McDonald is Saffold's projected successor, but other players are in the mix, including starting guard Justin Pagan. The Hoosiers also must replace veteran guard Pete Saxon, so building chemistry will be key in preseason camp.
Indiana wrapped up spring practice Saturday night with the Cream & Crimson game at Memorial Stadium. Before getting to the game itself, some of the more interesting news from Bloomington took place outside the lines.

The Hoosiers unveiled their new uniforms for the 2010 season. The new jerseys still will have "Hoosiers" on the front, but the stripes move from the pants to the shoulders of the jersey. The numbers will be in block narrow font, originating from Indiana's 1967 unis, worn when the team made its only Rose Bowl appearance.

The atmosphere at the spring game also appeared to be significantly upgraded, as new athletics director Fred Glass continues to enhance the experience of going to Memorial Stadium. The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens has a good account of the event, which featured contests, prizes and music.

Back to the game, which the Crimson squad won 17-10 following Ben Chappell's 21-yard touchdown pass to Charles Love III. The Crimson defense stepped up with two interceptions, a forced fumble, six sacks and only 116 yards allowed. Neither team scored an offensive touchdown until Trea Burgess reached the end zone on a 6-yard run midway through the third quarter.

The defensive surge had to be encouraging for a team that has struggled to stop its opponents for more than a decade. Cornerback Lenyatta Kiles, a junior college transfer, recorded two interceptions, while safety John Connelly and safety Aaron Burks both recorded one pick. Defensive end Fred Jones had four tackles for loss and three sacks. Other defensive standouts included defensive end Adam Replogle (2 sacks), linebacker Jamie Lukaszewski (11 tackles, 1 TFL) and linebacker Chad Sherer (10 tackles, 2 TFLs, 1 sack).

On the flip side, Indiana's run game continued to struggle. Starting running back Darius Willis sat out the game with an ankle injury, and the teams combined for minus-38 rushing yards in the opening half. There's little doubt that Indiana will have one of the Big Ten's top passing attacks in 2010, led by quarterback Ben Chappell and wide receiver Tandon Doss, but the Hoosiers need more balance in their offense.

Other nuggets:

  • The game's first touchdown came on special teams, as redshirt freshman Jamonne Chester picked up a dropped snap on a punt and raced 38 yards to the end zone.
  • Freshman Antonio Banks provided the only spark in the run game with a 30-yard burst. Banks, an early enrollee who had an impressive spring, finished with 49 rushing yards on 11 carries.
  • Several players left the game with injuries, including right tackle James Brewer, wide receiver Duwyce Wilson and safety/return man Jerimy Finch.
  • The competition at kicker should be interesting to watch this fall. Returning starter Nick Freeland went 1-for-2 on attempts Saturday, connecting from 45 yards out but missing a 32-yarder. Mitch Ewald converted his only attempt, from 44 yards out.
Five Big Ten teams will hold their annual spring games Saturday, so let's take a quick look at each event.

INDIANA

The vitals: The Cream & Crimson game kicks off at 6 p.m. ET at Memorial Stadium. Fans can choose to cheer for the Cream or Crimson squads and will be able to sit on opposite sides of the stadium. Admission is free and gates open at 5 p.m. ET. Everything you need to know can be found here.

What to watch:
  • The defense is Indiana's top priority this spring, and there's plenty of competition in the secondary as three starters depart. Although safety Mitchell Evans and cornerback Matt Ernest are limited and cornerback Lawrence Barnett is out with an injury, it'll be interesting to see which defensive backs step up on Saturday. I'll keep an eye on junior college transfer Lenyatta Kiles and safety Jerimy Finch, who I'm told is having a solid spring.
  • The Hoosiers' defensive front seven also should be intriguing. IU knows what it has in linebacker Tyler Replogle, but junior college transfer Jeff Thomas and others are competing for the other two starting linebacker spots. Co-defensive coordinator Joe Palcic had some very high praise this week for defensive ends Darius Johnson and Kevin Bush, two players worth watching.
  • Indiana should have one of the Big Ten's top passing offenses in 2010, but there are big questions with the run game. Can Darius Willis stay healthy and become a star? Is freshman Antonio Banks the real deal? We'll find out a little bit more on Saturday night.
IOWA

The vitals: Iowa will hold a two-hour practice capped by a controlled scrimmage at 1 p.m. CT at Kinnick Stadium. Fans can sit in the west and south grandstands, and gates open at 11:30 a.m. ET. Check out all the information here.

What to watch:
  • Fans get a glimpse of the new-look Iowa offensive line, which is replacing four players who started at least part of the 2009 season. Head coach Kirk Ferentz said six players have separated themselves from the pack, but keep an eye on right tackle Markus Zusevics and centers Josh Koeppel and James Ferentz. The line goes up against one of the nation's best defensive fronts Saturday, so it should be a good test.
  • You won't see much from Iowa's top running backs, but the scrimmage should provide some clues about the cornerback spot, as the Hawkeyes try to replace All-Big Ten selection Amari Spievey. Micah Hyde has the edge on Jordan Bernstine for the starting job opposite Shaun Prater.
  • Iowa knows what to expect from Ricky Stanzi in crunch time, but the quarterback wants to trim his interceptions total in 2010. The Hawkeyes could be very dynamic in the passing game this fall, so it'll be interesting to see how Stanzi looks in a game simulation.
MICHIGAN

The vitals: Michigan's spring game kicks off at 1 p.m. at Michigan Stadium and will be streamed live on bigtennetwork.com. Fans can tour the locker room Friday from 6:30-8 p.m. and Saturday from 7-9:30 a.m. Michigan's alumni football game takes place at 11 a.m. You can find all the information here.

What to watch:
  • You might have heard, but there's a legit quarterback competition going on in Ann Arbor this spring. Fans can get a look at Denard Robinson and Devin Gardner, while Tate Forcier might sit out with a sprained foot. A decision on a starter won't be made until the fall, but the spring game provides an important platform for the candidates.
  • There has been a lot of buzz about the 3-3-5 defensive alignment, but I'm more interested in Michigan's personnel, especially in the secondary. Safety Cameron Gordon, a converted wide receiver, has garnered a lot of praise this spring. Fans can check out Gordon, cornerbacks J.T. Floyd and Troy Woolfolk and others in the scrimmage.
  • Brandon Graham's departure leaves a huge void in the pass-rush department. Sophomore linebacker hybrid Craig Roh could help in that area, and it'll be interesting to see how he's used in the spring game. Mike Martin's injury this spring has freed up reps for other defensive linemen.
PURDUE

The vitals: The Black & Gold Game kicks off at 1 p.m. ET at Ross-Ade Stadium, with the gates opening at noon ET. Among the day's events is the family fun fest (11 a.m.-12:15 p.m. ET), where kids can participate in six stations run by the football team. All your info can be found here.

What to watch:
  • Fans get their first look at Miami transfer Robert Marve, the projected starter at quarterback for 2010. Marve and fellow quarterbacks Caleb TerBush and Rob Henry will be on display Saturday, and they'll get plenty of work in the passing game as Purdue's top running backs are all injured.
  • The offensive line is one of few groups that has avoided the injury bug, which is good because Purdue has a lot to replace. It'll be interesting to see who gets the most playing time up front and the line's rotation in the scrimmage.
  • Purdue loses all four starters in the secondary from 2009, and safety Albert Evans, one of few reserves with experience, is out this spring. Who's competing for starting jobs at safety and cornerback? We'll find out more on Saturday.
WISCONSIN

The vitals: Wisconsin's spring game kicks off at 2 p.m. CT at Camp Randall Stadium. The game will be streamed live on bigtennetwork.com. A Kids Fair will be held from noon-2 p.m., and football players will be on hand for the first hour. For more, click here.

What to watch:
  • Wisconsin's quarterback depth is a question mark, and backup Jon Budmayr should get plenty of work Saturday. Budmayr struggled a bit in last week's scrimmage, but Wisconsin needs him to be capable of stepping into a game if anything happens to Scott Tolzien.
  • The competition along the defensive line should be interesting to track, as Wisconsin loses three starters up front. The Badgers have a future star in J.J. Watt but need to see good signs from the defensive tackle spot as well as ends Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert.
  • Heisman Trophy candidate John Clay won't be out there, but Wisconsin's pass-catching threats will be in action. Can Lance Kendricks be an All-Big Ten tight end? Who will join Nick Toon as a go-to wide receiver? We should find out more Saturday.
Saturday was scrimmage day around the Big Ten, as teams from State College to Minneapolis engaged in several forms of game-like simulations. Though no Big Ten team has officially held a spring game -- five are on tap Saturday -- these scrimmages are often just as important, if not more so.

Nine of the 11 Big Ten teams provided media access and/or statistics from Saturday's scrimmages. Michigan's official Web site has some video and tidbits from Saturday's 115-play closed scrimmage, and Mgoblog has a few reports as well. Iowa's official site also has some video and interviews from Saturday's scrimmage.

Here are some tidbits from the other nine scrimmages, from reports around the league:

ILLINOIS

Illinois let its quarterbacks get hit Saturday, but the offense delivered most of the damage. Nathan Scheelhaase continued to make a strong case for the starting job with a 40-yard run, a 30-yard touchdown pass to Zach Becker and a 22-yard pass to A.J. Jenkins. Jacob Charest also remains very much alive in the QB race and connected on several long passes, including a 50-yarder to Jenkins. The running game also looked good as Mikel Leshoure had a 65-yard run. Cornerback Tavon Wilson provided a defensive highlight by picking off a Scheelhaase pass. It's encouraging to see this type of progress from Illinois' offense, which lost several key pieces from 2009 and returns virtually no experience at quarterback.

INDIANA

Defense is the primary focus for IU this spring, and the unit stepped up in Saturday's scrimmage, holding the offense to only one touchdown. Defensive tackle Adam Replogle recorded two sacks and three tackles for loss, and linebacker Jeff Thomas, a junior college transfer, forced a fumble. Safety Kyle Dietrick recorded the lone interception of the scrimmage. The Hoosiers continue to see good things from freshman running back Antonio Banks, who had 42 rushing yards and a touchdown Saturday. The backup quarterback competition continued as Dusty Kiel recorded a touchdown pass and a 35-yard completion, while Edward Wright-Baker completed 8 of 10 pass attempts. Nick Zachery, who moved from safety to wide receiver just last week, had four catches for 46 yards.

MICHIGAN STATE

The Spartans' defense rallied to win the jersey scrimmage as a secondary that struggled mightily last fall saw two players, Marcus Hyde and Mitchell White, return interceptions for touchdowns. Hyde picked off starter Kirk Cousins, while White intercepted an Andrew Maxwell pass and raced 40 yards for a touchdown. Cornerback Chris L. Rucker also had a big day with an interception, a pass breakup and a tackle for loss. Michigan State's defense got a big lift from end Denzel Drone, who stuffed Edwin Baker on fourth-and-1 from the 1-yard line to seal the win. Cousins completed 19 of 30 passes for 188 yards with two touchdowns, including a 30-yarder to Keith Nichol, and two interceptions. Maxwell, who played some with the first-team offense, threw for 199 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Wide receivers Keshawn Martin (12 catches, 109 yards), Bennie Fowler (nine catches, 84 yards, 48-yard rush) and Nichol (four catches, 70 yards) stood out.

(Read full post)

Big Ten recruiting scorecard

July, 7, 2009
7/07/09
11:10
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Not surprisingly, there has been plenty of recruiting news throughout the Big Ten since the last scorecard. Here's a snapshot of what went down during the last two weeks. 

ILLINOIS

  • 2010 verbal commits: 7
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Corey Cooper, quarterback Chandler Whitmer
  • Quick take: After landing several dynamic skill players, Illinois bolstered its line with guards Andy Gallik and Dexter McDonald. The Illini now have four in-state commits. 

INDIANA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 9
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Defensive end Jibreel Black highlights a very strong recruiting push for the Hoosiers. Black, whose older brother Larry will contend for a starting job on the Hoosiers' D-line this fall, had offers from 25 other schools, including Michigan State. Matt Perez and Antonio Banks give Indiana some depth at running back.  

IOWA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end Matt Hoch
  • Quick take: Hoch is the latest addition to a Hawkeyes defensive line that appears to be getting stronger and stronger for the future. He passed up a chance to join his older brother at Missouri and stayed home with the Hawkeyes. 

MICHIGAN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 15
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Devin Gardner, wide receiver Jeremy Jackson, wide receiver Ricardo Miller, guard Christian Pace, safety Marvin Robinson
  • Quick take: Things have finally slowed down for Michigan, which has stocked up on skill players for the 2010 class. It would be nice to see a few more linemen added, though it's clear speed will always be Rich Rodriguez's top priority in recruiting. 

MICHIGAN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 7
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end William Gholston, linebacker Max Bullough, quarterback Joe Boisture
  • Quick take: The quarterback position got another boost as Boisture switched his commitment from Boston College to the Spartans. All seven commits hail from the state of Michigan, and Boisture, Bullough and Gholston rank among the state's top 10 prospects. 

MINNESOTA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: The Gophers haven't made a huge splash yet, but they continue to add solid prospects, especially in the trenches. Tim Brewster's commitment to better line play and the power run game is paying off, as offensive linemen Mark Lenkiewicz and Zac Epping pledged maroon and gold. 

NORTHWESTERN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: What the Wildcats lack in quantity, they make up for with quality prospects, most recently offensive lineman Paul Jorgenson. Offensive line continues to be Northwestern's best position in recruiting, though the team still needs a few more wide receivers. 

OHIO STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Tackle Andrew Norwell, linebacker Jamel Turner, defensive end David Durham, running back Roderick Smith
  • Quick take: Smith is a very impressive addition for Ohio State, bringing an impressive blend of size and speed to the backfield. Ohio State beat out several of its Big Ten brethren for his services. After making a run at several 2010 quarterbacks, the Buckeyes finally landed one in Taylor Graham.

PENN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 11
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Wide receiver Adrian Coxson, running back Silas Redd, center Miles Dieffenbach, defensive end Kyle Baublitz, defensive tackle Evan Hailes
  • Quick take: Hailes gives Penn State as many Top 150 prospects as Michigan, and possibly just as strong a class as the Wolverines. The Lions have found a nice balance between linemen and skill players, picking up Jordan Norwood's little brother Levi at wide receiver. 

PURDUE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 6
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Robert Marve (2007 watch list)
  • Quick take: Things picked up quickly for the Boilermakers, who added five high school players in the last two weeks. Quarterback Sean Robinson highlights the group of new commits and gives Purdue another option if Marve doesn't pan out. The Boilers got some help for their quarterbacks with tight end De'Ron Flood and two wideouts. 

WISCONSIN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 6
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Frank Tamakloe
  • Quick take: Tamakloe is an excellent get for the Badgers, who are restocking their defense in the 2010 class. At 6-2 and 172 pounds, Tamakloe should grow into his frame and be a force in the secondary. He'll contend for immediate playing time along with Konrad Zagzebski.

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