Big Ten: Arsenio Curry

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Purdue has dismissed wide receiver Arsenio Curry from the team and added two assistants to the football staff.

Curry, a junior college transfer who had two receptions in nine games last season, was booted for "habitual apathy towards team policies and procedures," according to a team spokesman.

Message: Don't slack off around new Boilermakers head coach Danny Hope.

The 6-foot-4, 217-pound Curry was expected to be a key contributor in 2008 along with fellow juco Aaron Valentin, who had 11 receptions, including two touchdowns.

Purdue also hired Nick Cavallo, a former defensive end with the team, as a graduate assistant. Cavallo played at Purdue from 2002-06. Former Purdue defensive tackle Jermaine Guynn is now a graduate assistant strength and conditioning coach, working with the football team.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's time to go inside five Big Ten teams preparing for the second round of league games.

Illinois: Head coach Ron Zook will increase his rotation on defense after the Illini dropped to last place in the Big Ten in points allowed (32 ppg). Linebackers Russell Ellington and Sam Carson and safety Donsay Hardeman all are expected to see more plays Saturday at Michigan (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). Zook has some versatility with Travon Bellamy, who can play both safety and cornerback. The coach attributed Illinois' run-stopping struggles (182.5 ypg allowed) to the back half as the team tries to overcome the losses of All-American middle linebacker J Leman and talented safeties Kevin Mitchell and Justin Harrison. "I don't foresee starting lineup changes," Zook said, "but I do see guys that are going to be held accountable. ... We're going to play more guys and our job is to make sure we fix it."

Michigan State: Defensive back Kendell Davis-Clark could be back soon after missing the last four games with a shoulder injury. Davis-Clark's return presents some interesting decisions for head coach Mark Dantonio, who originally shifted Davis-Clark from cornerback to safety after Roderick Jenrette was asked to take a leave of absence from the team. Danny Fortener replaced Davis-Clark in the season opener at Cal and has performed well, ranking second on the team in tackles (29) with three pass break-ups and an interception. Davis-Clark, who started 11 games at cornerback last season, is listed behind Fortener on the depth chart for Saturday's game against Iowa (ESPN2, noon ET).

Minnesota: The Gophers continue to list three players as possible starters at running back on this week's depth chart, but head coach Tim Brewster acknowledged that freshman DeLeon Eskridge has taken the lead. Eskridge racked up a team-high 131 all-purpose yards in Minnesota's league-opening loss to Ohio State last week. With five touchdowns, he's already halfway to reaching Minnesota's freshman record of 10 set by Laurence Maroney in 2003. Another freshman, Shady Salamon, and junior Jay Thomas also remain in the mix for playing time. "If you had to say one of three guys stepped out, you'd say DeLeon Eskridge," Brewster said. "The other two guys will definitely continue to play some."

Ohio State: Aside from left tackle Alex Boone, none of the spots on Ohio State's offensive line are set in stone. True freshman Michael Brewster remains the starter at center, but Jim Cordle could move back over from guard if necessary. Cordle and a healthy Steve Rehring are listed as co-starters at left guard. Right tackle Bryant Browning also can play a guard spot, and Rehring is a possibility at tackle. Freshmen tackles J.B. Shugarts and Mike Adams also could be the mix at some point as much-needed competition increases up front.

Purdue: The Boilers' spread offense is at its best with a large rotation of receivers, and they're starting to see more playmakers emerge. Senior Desmond Tardy is listed as a starter on this week's depth chart ahead of junior Keith Smith after catching 10 passes for 175 yards and a touchdown last week against Notre Dame. Purdue also has seen encouraging moments from junior college transfer Aaron Valentin. Head coach Joe Tiller wants to see more from his other juco wideout, Arsenio Curry, who brings excellent size (6-foot-4, 217 pounds) but has yet to catch a pass. Tight end remains a question mark, as starter Kyle Adams is doubtful for Saturday's game against Penn State. Adams hasn't played since he hurt his knee on the opening kickoff of the season opener.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I've never played this much attention to another man's foot, much less his toes. But Beanie Wells' right foot dominated the Big Ten headlines on Labor Day. No matter how this turns out, Buckeyes fans have to be a bit concerned about Wells' growing injury history. For a guy who is 237 pounds and freaking huge up close, Wells seems to have a lot of ailments.

Here's a quick look around the league this afternoon as several teams released their Week 2 depth charts.

  • Columbus Dispatch beat writers Ken Gordon and Tim May weigh in on the Beanie brouhaha, agreeing that the Buckeyes have no business playing Wells against Ohio. It might even force the coaches to think more creatively before the USC game.
  • Wells remains as the starting running back on the Week 2 depth chart (page 11) ahead of redshirt freshman Dan "Boom" Herron. Defensive tackle Nader Abdallah is still listed before Doug Worthington, who sat out the first three quarters against Youngstown State, presumably as a punishment for his DUI.
  • Purdue's depth chart for Saturday's opener against Northern Colorado shows Greg Orton, Keith Smith and Brandon Whittington as the starting wide receivers. Junior college transfer Aaron Valentin is listed behind Whittington, while fellow JUCO transfer Arsenio Curry isn't on the two-deep, but plenty of wideouts will play, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier. Keep an eye on strong safety Dwight Mclean, who won a starting safety spot opposite Torri Williams and could provide a big boost for the Boilers secondary.
  • Standout defensive tackle John Gill is listed as a starter on Northwestern's Week 2 depth chart (page 8) after being suspended for the opener against Syracuse. Coach Pat Fitzgerald's message clearly got through to Gill, who last week was named defensive practice player of the week, a distinction that usually goes to younger players still proving themselves. Gill's replacement against Syracuse, sophomore Corbin Bryant, turned in an impressive performance and is now pushing incumbent Adam Hahn for the other starting spot. Offensive lineman Desmond Taylor continues to make strides and is listed as a potential starter at both right guard and right tackle.
  • Michigan's depth chart (page 11) didn't change much at the key positions, as both Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet are listed as possible starters at quarterback and freshmen Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw are the same at running back. Linebacker Marell Evans is making a push for a starting outside linebacker spot, and freshman wideout Darryl Stonum finds himself in the mix at two receiver positions (X and Z). The Detroit Free Press' Michael Rosenberg is convinced Threet should start against Miami (Ohio).
  • Starting fullback Chris Pressley will be back for Wisconsin this week against Marshall, and tight end Travis Beckum practiced Sunday and could return. But defenders Jonathan Casillas and Aaron Henry still are a bit away from seeing the field, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Badgers Blog.
  • Penn State's matchup against Oregon State is by far the best Big Ten game this weekend, and it might not even be that great if the Beavers don't upgrade their run defense, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' Bob Flounders writes in his blog.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Every Big Ten team has a position group that generates more unease than confidence, whether it's because of personnel losses, youth or poor performances. Here's a look at the position on each squad that could make or break the season.

ILLINOIS

Running backs: The group struggled in the spring and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley let the players know about it. Junior Daniel Dufrene has stepped up in preseason camp to claim the starting job, and the Illini feel good about freshmen Jason Ford and Mikel LeShoure. But it's foolish to discount the value of Rashard Mendenhall, who finished eighth nationally in rushing average with 129.3 yards per game and 17 touchdowns last season.

Also keep an eye on: The safeties (two new starters)

INDIANA

Wide receivers: James Hardy finished his career as the most decorated wide receiver in team history, and his departure created a major void in the passing game. The coaches are counting on big things from Ray Fisher and Andrew Means, and former safety/quarterback Mitchell Evans should provide a boost. Indiana can't expect a receiver to match Hardy's production, but the group is capable of preventing a major drop-off.

Also keep an eye on: The offensive line (not much depth)

IOWA

Offensive line: What was once the program's trademark has become an area of concern. Iowa ranked 114th nationally in sacks allowed (46) last season and is still waiting for several promising linemen to hit their stride. With questions lingering at both quarterback and running back entering the season, the Hawkeyes can ill afford major blocking problems.

Also keep an eye on: The quarterbacks (Jake Christensen struggled in '07)

MICHIGAN

Quarterbacks: Every area of the Michigan offense could fit in this category, but the unit's progress must start with the quarterbacks. Neither Steven Threet nor Nick Sheridan seamlessly fit Rich Rodriguez's system, and freshman Justin Feagin needs time to mature. The Wolverines need a game manager early on and can't afford turnovers from this position.

Also keep an eye on: The offensive line (four new starters)

MICHIGAN STATE

Wide receivers: Illinois loses the Big Ten's top offensive player in Mendenhall, but Michigan State loses the league's top playmaker in Devin Thomas. Coach Mark Dantonio will lean on a young group featuring Mark Dell, B.J. Cunningham, Blair White and true freshmen Keshawn Martin and Fred Smith. The preseason has eased some doubt about this group, but the wideouts need to step up when it counts.

Also keep an eye on: The cornerbacks (two new starters)

MINNESOTA

Defensive backs: After finishing 115th nationally against the pass (289.3 ypg), the entire secondary needed major upgrades and got them from the junior college ranks. Two JUCO players are projected to start in safety Tramaine Brock and cornerback Traye Simmons, and hopes are high for cornerback Marcus Sherels, a converted wide receiver. The talent is there for a jump in production, but chemistry could be a challenge with so many new faces.

Also keep an eye on: The offensive line (lost three starters)

NORTHWESTERN

Offensive line: By far the biggest question mark on a veteran team, the line can't afford many growing pains to keep a bowl berth in the viewfinder. Three new starters join the group, including two on the all-important left side, so jelling quickly will be a challenge. If redshirt freshmen Al Netter and Ben Burkett meet expectations, the Wildcats should have a dominant offense this fall.

Also keep an eye on: The linebackers (new middle linebacker)

OHIO STATE

Defensive tackles: Not a lot of weak spots for the defending Big Ten champs, but the interior line looks a little iffy. Coordinator Jim Heacock has defended the group, pointing to its youth, but the Buckeyes need more play-making this fall from Cameron Heyward, Doug Worthington and Nader Abdallah.

Also keep an eye on: The safeties (more big plays)

PENN STATE

Quarterbacks: The Nittany Lions usher in a new offense, the Spread HD, and need a capable trigger man in starter Daryll Clark or backup Pat Devlin. Both likely will play, though Clark starts Saturday against Coastal Carolina. The good news is the quarterbacks have plenty of weapons at the skill positions and play behind a veteran offensive line, but the inexperience at the position could lead to turnovers and other mistakes.

Also keep an eye on: The linebackers (inexperienced)

PURDUE

Wide receivers/tight ends: Purdue loses Dorien Bryant, who claimed 23 school and Big Ten records in his career, as well as underrated tight end Dustin Keller. Greg Orton is the only wideout with ample experience, and the Boilers will need help from Desmond Tardy, junior college transfers Aaron Valentin and Arsenio Curry and little-used seniors Brandon Whittington and Joe Whitest.

Also keep an eye on: The
linebackers (no depth)

WISCONSIN

Defensive backs: The Badgers lose their best cover man in Jack Ikegwuonu and endured their share of injuries at cornerback. Tackling has been a concern at the safety spots and Wisconsin needs continued growth from Shane Carter and Jay Valai. If cornerback Allen Langford remains healthy and regains his 2006 form, the secondary should be solid.

Also keep an eye on: The wide receivers (too many drops)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten preseason has seemed downright boring compared to the rest of the country.

There's no Mark Sanchez or Ben Olson crisis in this league, and though Ohio State has endured a few recent off-the-field incidents, the Buckeyes have nothing on Georgia. None of the four major quarterback competitions -- Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State and Indiana -- are settled, and the one in Ann Arbor could drag on for some time. Wisconsin dismissed running back Lance Smith, but the Badgers remain well-stocked at the position. Penn State dismissed defensive tackles Phil Taylor and Chris Baker but still have depth at the position.

If the first two weeks of preseason practice have revealed anything, it's that a position that seemed weak in the league could be much better than forecasted.

The Big Ten lost seven of its top 10 receivers from last season, a group that included three-time league receptions leader Dorien Bryant, big-play dynamo Devin Thomas, Indiana career receiving leader James Hardy and Michigan stars Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington. Aside from Ohio State, Penn State and Northwestern, every Big Ten team entered camp with some degree of uneasiness about the wide receivers.

Michigan State and Indiana lost superstars. Michigan lost almost everybody. So did Purdue. Illinois and Minnesota needed second options. Iowa welcomed back several prominent pass-catchers from injuries. Wisconsin was very young at the position.

The anxiety level has dropped quite a bit.

Illinois, which will stress the pass more this fall, has produced several good candidates to complement Arrelious Benn, including juniors Jeff Cumberland and Chris Duvalt, sophomores Chris James and Alex Reavy and freshmen Jack Ramsey, A.J. Jenkins and Cordale Scott. Highly touted Fred Smith will make an impact this fall at Michigan State, but he's been overshadowed a bit by classmate Keshawn Martin. Michigan's young wideouts impressed first-year coach Rich Rodriguez from the get-go, and the Wolverines will lean on players like Darryl Stonum, Martavious Odoms, Terrance Robinson, Toney Clemons and Junior Hemingway come Aug. 30.

I was extremely impressed after watching Wisconsin sophomore David Gilreath, a big-play threat with tremendous speed. Though I didn't see Purdue practice after media day, junior-college transfer Arsenio Curry certainly looks like he can contribute alongside Greg Orton. Playmaker Andy Brodell is back in the fold at Iowa, and sophomore Colin Sandeman looks to be pushing incumbent Derrell Johnson-Koulianos for the starting job. Ray Fisher and Andrew Means headline a group of Indiana wideouts that also include some promising freshmen.

There has been so much buzz about the spread offense sweeping through the Big Ten. It looks like the league will have the moving parts to make those schemes work this fall.

Three questions for Purdue

August, 14, 2008
8/14/08
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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.

Who will step up to replace the production of wide receiver Dorien Bryant and tight end Dustin Keller?

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

 
 Doug Benc/Getty Images
 Ed Zaunbrecher enters his first season as offensive coordinator after sharing coordinator duties the last two seasons.

As Purdue coach Joe Tiller made his final appearance at Big Ten media days last week, many of the tributes from his colleagues focused on the revolutionary spread offense he brought to the Big Ten back in 1997. Tiller's system produced stars like Drew Brees and caught on around the league. Aside from two seasons, Purdue's offense has ranked among the top 25 nationally.

So how will the Boilermakers' offense look in Tiller's final go-round?

Purdue has a senior quarterback (Curtis Painter) being pumped for the Heisman Trophy and two veteran running backs (Kory Sheets and Jaycen Taylor). But there are questions at wide receiver/tight end after the departures of Dorien Bryant and Dustin Keller. Injuries ravaged the offensive line during the offseason, leaving coach-in-waiting Danny Hope a tough task as he oversees the group in training camp.

Ed Zaunbrecher enters his first season as offensive coordinator after sharing coordinator duties the last two seasons. He previously served on Ron Zook's staff at both Florida and Illinois, and also worked as Marshall's offensive coordinator. The list of quarterbacks he's coached includes Rex Grossman, Chad Pennington and Byron Leftwich. I caught up with Zaunbrecher earlier this week and discussed Purdue's upcoming season.

What's your sense of Coach Tiller's mind-set going into his last year? Is he the same guy as always, or has he gotten more philosophical?

Ed Zaunbrecher: I'm sure it's been on his mind. He enjoys coaching and he's going to continue to do that all the way till the last game that he coaches. We hope he does enjoy it all the way. But as far as coaches and players, we're going to be concentrating on the games, just like we always do. It'll be something that he'll be involved in much more than we will right until the end, when it's actually time. The last banquet will probably be a pretty profound moment for everybody involved.

Looking at your offense for this year, it obviously starts with Curtis. What are your expectations for him?

EZ: I expect him to continue to improve. He works hard and is a guy that keeps trying to work on the details of things to make him better at his position and to help the team get better. It's not just him being a better quarterback. It's being a better football player and leader and everything else. Being the guy with the most experience of anybody on the entire team, he's a guy people will look to to be a productive player for us and to continue that improvement. If he improves like he did last year, it'll be a noticeable impact on the team.

He's going to have some different wide receivers this year. How much of an adjustment will that be for him, or is your system one where you can always plug in new guys and expect good results?

EZ: The guys who have been here, even though they might not have played as much, should have a pretty good idea of what's going on. The new guys coming in, who have a chance to play, those are the ones who have to catch up. Obviously, we'll make a big push to do that so they can use the abilities that they have and see if they're good enough. You don't play with just two or three guys in this system. You have to have a lot of guys ready to go, so there's opportunities for people to come in. The style of play lets a guy come in and do things, as long as he understands the basic concepts. We'll be moving along pretty fast, our pace of installing and stuff like that, so they'll have to work hard to keep up, but we'll have time to teach 'em.

Who are some of those young guys you're hoping can catch on quickly?

EZ: We've got a couple of new receivers. Aaron Valentin was here in the spring. He made some good plays, but his learning curve was still taking place. Obviously, being here should make a big difference in the fall because guys usually make their most improvement over their first summer. And then Arsenio Curry is a new guy coming in, and we're looking forward to him contributing, a big receiver. But we've got some guys that have been here. They may not be household names. Greg Orton's a returning guy with the most experience. Kyle Adams at tight end has played a lot. Desmond Tardy, Brandon Whittington both were in the rotation last year and would get in games and play. Joe Whitest is another guy that's gotten a lot of work in practice especially. He got better in the spring and we're looking forward to him taking the next step. So we have some guys who know what to do, and some other guys can catch up.

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