Big Ten: Arthur Ray Jr.

Big Ten lunchtime links

February, 4, 2013
I'm still impressed by that MVP performance in the big game Sunday.

Big Ten lunch links

January, 17, 2013
I'm gonna fight him. I'm gonna fight him up real nice.

Big Ten lunch links

January, 9, 2013
Happy hump day.

Big Ten lunch links

November, 16, 2012
Deviousness? I guess two can play at that game. Just like most games.

Big Ten lunchtime links

July, 18, 2012
Shut up and play the hits.

Big Ten lunch links

April, 23, 2012
Bennett vs. yours truly in the circle drill. Who ya got?

Big Ten mailblog

December, 20, 2011
Rob from Morristown, N.J., writes: Adam, two questions for you. The first I am sure you get every year, but can you give us your explanation as well as the explanation from the league (Delaney) as to why it is beneficial for the B1G to have 4 marquee teams playing at the same time on Jan. 2. Apart from tradition (this year these games are not even on New Year's Day), it doesn't make sense to me from an exposure standpoint to have all teams playing at the same time, and certainly not from the perspective of a fan of the B1G who wants to see all the teams WIN! I don't beleive ANY other conference has two teams or more playing at the same time. What ARE the benefits of this? Second question, why aren't Penn State's Assistant Coaches like LJ, Sr and Vanderlinden being considered for other open head coaching vacancies? These have been the top defensive coaches in the B1G, if not the nation over the past few years, are schools scared away from them due to the scandal?

Adam Rittenberg: Good questions, Rob. You're not the only Big Ten fan miffed by the league's Jan 1/2-heavy lineup. The league views it as a chance to "own the day," to have its product splashed on multiple TV networks during a day where college football has thrived historically. The counter-argument is that New Year's Day no longer is what it used to be, and that spreading out the Big Ten games over several days would create more overall exposure rather than flooding everything on one day. As to your second question, I think the Penn State scandal has hurt all of the current coaches as far as other jobs. I'd include Tom Bradley in that mix. It's too bad because those guys are all excellent coaches.

A.J. from Madison, Wis., writes: I was wondering if you could seed each division with how you think they'll rank next year. I think it's going to be a photo finish between Ohio State-Wisconsin and Michigan-Michigan State, but I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Adam Rittenberg: A.J., I completely agree the Leaders division will come down to Ohio State and Wisconsin. I'd give Ohio State the edge because the Buckeyes lose fewer key pieces than the Badgers, although Wisconsin has it going right now. I'd add Nebraska and Iowa to the Legends division race, which should once again be more competitive. Nebraska will host Michigan, Wisconsin and Penn State, so if the Huskers hold serve at home, they'll be in good shape.

Ashley from Lincoln, Neb., writes: Adam, I'm a little confused as to why people keep saying that Nebraska will have so much trouble with South Carolina's defensive line. I have seen no evidence that this is an elite group. Yes, the defense is 4th in total yards allowed. But if you pin it down to stats that better represent the d-line it suddenly doesn't look so good. SC is 45th in rush defense, 42nd in tfls, 43rd in sacks and 83rd in red zone defense. And all of this against very few rush-based offenses. In fact, in their only games against top 40 rushing offenses, Navy and Auburn, SC gave up 274 and 246 yards on the ground, respectively. So why exactly should Nebraska be so afraid of this defense?

Adam Rittenberg: Ashley, you bring up a good point about South Carolina's rush defense, which isn't all that great. If Nebraska can move the ball on the ground, get into its tempo on offense and stay out of obvious passing situations, it should be in good shape against the Gamecocks. The concern is that Nebraska's offensive line remains pretty inexperienced, and South Carolina defensive ends Melvin Ingram and Jadeveon Clowney are two of the better defensive linemen the Huskers will face all season. Huskers offensive lineman Yoshi Hardrick told me he's really impressed with Ingram's and Clowney's speed. It would be a bigger concern if Nebraska were a pass-first offense. If the Huskers stay out of third-and-long, they should be fine.

John from Kalamazoo, Mich., writes: Call me a little bit biased, but i don't completely understand all of Michigan state fans rights to complain about how the season ended for them and the wolverines. Sure, state won the head to head matchup in a very well played game by both teams. However, it seems everyone is overlooking how much it sucks for wolverine fans that a team that lost by double digits to teams they beat, got to play in the in the inaugural BTC. I cannot be the only person to see things this way.

Adam Rittenberg: Brian recently brought up this question, asking users which team's situation is better. The vote was fairly close, as 52 percent of responders (more than 11,500 votes cast) preferred Michigan's situation to Michigan State's. Fans do care about bowl order and going to a BCS game vs. the Outback Bowl does make a difference. Then again, Michigan State was a play away from its first Rose Bowl appearance in 24 years. The Spartans had earned that right, and they now have a division championship that follows a co-Big Ten championship. It certainly means something, even if Michigan gets more love during the bowl season.

Steiny from Iowa writes: Adam, how is it that Iowa is in a lose lose situation. Everyone is saying that if Iowa wins its bowl game, Oklahoma just wasnt motivated to be there, and if they they lost well it was goin to happen anyways. Doesnt anyone want to give Iowa credit for anything if they win, and u honestly think bob stoops is goin to lay down for Iowa?

Adam Rittenberg: Steiny, I see what you're saying, and many would spin it that way if Iowa upsets Oklahoma. But it still would go down as a win in the record book, Iowa's fourth consecutive bowl victory. It would give the Hawkeyes their fourth consecutive season of eight or more victories and possibly serve as a springboard for the team heading into the 2012 campaign. But we've seen many examples of teams that don't look like they want to be in certain bowl games. It's fair to ask whether Oklahoma will be fired up because of where the Sooners began the season. But Stoops' teams rarely let up. OU should be ready.

Ryan from Geneva, Ohio, writes: Have you heard anything about whether Urban Meyer is keeping DC Jim Heacock on his staff for next year? Heacock and I share an alma mater, DIII Muskingum University, and I was curious where my fellow Fighting Muskie might end up.

Adam Rittenberg: Ryan, it doesn't look like it, although things could change if Luke Fickell gets a head-coaching job elsewhere. Fickell is planning to stay on in a coordinator capacity and make Ohio State's defensive play calls. North Carolina interim coach Everett Withers is also a likely addition, so a co-coordinator situation with Fickell and Withers could be how it pans out. Heacock is a terrific coach and should find a spot somewhere as a coordinator.

Shawn from Lansing, Mich., writes: Thank you for your articles on Arther Ray. We met him a couple of years ago when our son was also battling cancer. Our son passed away two years ago, Arthur was and has been still an inspiration for our family. Recently I was in intensive care and he tried to come by and visit but I was not feeling very well at the time. Arthur and the entire MSU family have been a blessing to us.

Adam Rittenberg: Shawn, thanks for your note. Arthur is one of the finest people I've covered in college football. It's great to see his story turning out so well. Good things happen to good people, and Arthur deserves everything he's getting right now.
File this under "feel-good story" and "extremely well-deserved."
Michigan State's Arthur Ray Jr. has been named the winner of the 2011 Discover Orange Bowl/FWAA Courage Award. Ray, a senior offensive lineman from Chicago, returned to football this season, four years after bone cancer derailed his career.
The award will be presented Jan. 3, 2012, at the AVMed Orange Bowl Coaches Luncheon in Miami. Ray will be honored again Jan. 4 on the field during the Discover Orange Bowl.
"This is a tremendous award for a young man who has conquered all of the odds up against him," Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio said. "He's played in games this year and has participated on the practice field daily. It's been a long road. He was on crutches for almost two years, from 2007 to 2009. He's really a living example to our football team on what you can do with a positive attitude and if you just continue to work, how you can conquer all obstacles."

I wrote about Ray's comeback from cancer in the spring of 2010. At that point, his status to see the field for the Spartans remained in doubt. He was cleared to practice in August and started the season opener against Youngstown State as senior Joel Foreman admirably gave up his spot for Ray.

Amazing story. Amazing kid. It's great to see Ray's story being recognized nationally.

Weekend rewind: Big Ten

November, 21, 2011
Saw you so much clearer, once you were in my rear-view mirror.

Team of the week: Michigan. The Wolverines flexed their muscles and blew out Nebraska 45-17 in their best performance and arguably biggest win of the season. Michigan is now the Big Ten's best hope for an at-large BCS bid. Michigan State sure liked what happened in Ann Arbor this week, too.

Game of the week: Penn State 20, Ohio State 14. Ultimately, this game had no bearing on the Big Ten title race, but try telling these two teams that. In a week without many thrillers, the Nittany Lions and Buckeyes played an old-school, physical game that featured no second-half points but plenty of hold-your-breath moments. Given the backdrop of what Penn State had been dealing with back home, it was far from meaningless.

[+] EnlargeJustin DuVernois
Bradley Leeb/US PresswireIllini punter Justin DuVernois is tackled by Wisconsin's Conor O'Neill after a game-changing fumbled snap Saturday.
Biggest play: Illinois led Wisconsin 14-0 in the second quarter when punter Justin Duvernois dropped the ball after catching the snap. The Badgers' Conor O'Neill tackled him at the 2-yard line to set up a Montee Ball touchdown run and finally give Wisconsin some momentum. Who knows how the game would have unfolded differently had the Illini taken a 17-0 lead into half instead of 17-7. And for a team that had special-teams breakdowns in losses to Michigan State and Ohio State, it was good for Wisconsin to get one back in the kicking game.

Best call: Lions turning into Wildcats. Interim coach Tom Bradley and his staff decided to use Curtis Drake and Bill Belton in the Wildcat formation against Ohio State, something Penn State hadn't shown much of all season. By the time the Buckeyes adjusted to it, Penn State had piled up 254 yards and 20 points in the first half. The defense did the rest in the second half. Question: Would the Nittany Lions have used that kind of creativity if Joe Paterno was still the head coach?

Toughest call: Robert Marve's touchdown-no-fumble near the end of the Purdue-Iowa game. The Boilers quarterback scrambled and dived for the end zone with 1:27 left in the game, losing the ball just as he hit the pylon. The officials on the field ruled it a touchdown, which would have cut the lead to 31-27 with an extra point giving Purdue a chance to get within a field goal. But after a review, the play was ruled a lost fumble in the end zone, which gave the ball to Iowa and basically ended the game.

Boilermakers coach Danny Hope brought a still picture of the play to his Sunday media briefing, saying it showed Marve's hand hitting the pylon and the ball out of bounds. Other angles and replays seemed to validate the replay officials' ruling. You can watch the video of it here at the 1:40 mark. Either way, Purdue simply made too many mistakes in the game to be whining about one call, no matter how crucial it was.

Big Men on Campus (Offense): Wisconsin's Ball and Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson. Ball had career highs in rushes (38) and yards (224) and scored three more touchdowns, becoming just the fifth player in FBS history to reach 30 touchdowns in a season. Robinson bounced back from a couple of rough outings to account for four touchdowns and 263 total yards of offense against Nebraska. He has now won six Big Ten player of the week honors, third-most in league history.

Big Man on Campus (Defense): Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland. The sophomore made a career-high 16 tackles, including 1.5 tackles for loss and two forced fumbles against Illinois. His second forced fumble gave the Badgers a short field to set up their second touchdown, and he helped lead a defensive effort that shut out the Illini in the second half and forced four turnovers. A special shout out also goes to Northwestern's Brian Peters, who forced and recovered a fumble and made an interception despite wearing a cast on one arm against Minnesota.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Penn State's Anthony Fera. He made a 43-yard field goal and a 46-yarder at the end of the first half to account for the margin of victory in the Nittany Lions' 20-14 win against Ohio State. He also had three punts downed inside the 20-yard line, including one on the 3-yard line. How good has Fera been this season? This is third Big Ten weekly honor of the season.

Strangest moment: It's not often you see an offensive guard taking a handoff and running a sweep. But Michigan State's Joel Foreman did just that on Saturday in a nice gesture from Mark Dantonio.

The Spartans were up 48-3 on Indiana when Foreman lined up at tight end and came around the left side for a three-yard gain. Dantonio said he thought of the idea in practice Thursday as a way to honor Foreman, a fifth-year senior who has started 46 career games at left guard.

"That was for every big guy out there who ever wanted to run the ball," Foreman told reporters. "I'm averaging three yards a carry, broken tackle. I think that's more than [quarterback] Kirk [Cousins] has, so I'm doing all right."

It was a particularly appropriate way to end the home season for Foreman, who let cancer survivor Arthur Ray Jr. begin the game in his place in the season opener despite his consecutive starts streak. After Foreman's run, he jogged to midfield with the ball under his arm, saluted and then came out of the game. Ray was one of the first players to greet him.

"He got the game ball for that," Dantonio said of Foreman. "He took it, as a matter of fact."
Instant analysis from No. 17 Michigan State's 28-6 home win over Youngstown State on Friday night:

How the game was won: It wasn't a particularly pretty performance by the Spartans, especially in the first half. They committed seven penalties in the half and turned the ball over on a muffed punt, leading to a Penguins touchdown. If not for a missed PAT and botched field goal by Youngstown State, the halftime score could have been a lot closer than 14-6. Michigan State cleaned up its mistakes in the second half, the offense found a little bit better rhythm in the third quarter and the defense kept the Penguins from making more of an upset bid.

Turning point: Isaiah Lewis intercepted a Kurt Hess pass with a little more than eight minutes left and Michigan State clinging to a 21-6 lead. Lewis returned it to the Penguins' 17, and Le'Veon Bell scored his second touchdown of the game two plays later to salt the game away.

Player of the game: Spartans wide receiver B.J. Cunningham had a career night. He caught nine passes for 129 yards and a touchdown. With that performance, Cunningham now is tied for the most career receptions in Michigan State history, an impressive feat at a program that has produced the likes of Plaxico Burress, Charles Rogers and Andre Rison.

Key stat: Quarterback Kirk Cousins was sharp in the opener, completing 18 of 22 passes for 221 yards and a score.

Best moment: Cancer survivor Arthur Ray Jr. got a surprise start at left guard when Joel Foreman surrendered his spot to his fellow senior. Ray -- who had never appeared in a college game before Friday -- was visibly choked up before the game when he found out he would start. Ray played the first offensive snap for Michigan State -- a 7-yard gain -- before heading to the sidelines in favor of Foreman.

What it means: OK, so it wasn't all that impressive of a victory. But it was a difficult week for head coach Mark Dantonio, whose father passed away just days ago. Some sloppiness was to be expected by the offense with three new starters on the offensive line, and things got better later in the game. The defensive line should have dominated more, and it's surprising that the Spartans couldn't manage a single sack against an FCS opponent. Bottom line: a win is a win, and though the Spartans have some things to clean up and work on, that's the same for virtually every team after Week 1.

Best of the Big Ten spring

May, 4, 2011
As we put a bow on spring football in the Big Ten, here's a look back at several things that stood out from the past few weeks.

[+] EnlargeArthur Ray Jr.
Matthew Mitchell, MSU Athletic CommunicationsArthur Ray Jr. (73) is working his way back into playing shape.
Best comeback: Michigan State offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr., who beat leg cancer at the start of his college career, got the green light April 8 to practice with his teammates for the first time. Ray had been cleared in the winter but needed the go-ahead from the NCAA. "It was great, one of the best days of my life," Ray told

Best hype-building performance:: Ohio State freshman quarterback Braxton Miller won over a chunk of the Buckeyes' faithful at the spring game by leading three scoring drives and completing 7 of 12 passes for 73 yards and a touchdown. The Buckeyes saw little separation among the men vying to replace Terrelle Pryor for the first five games, but Miller remains right in the mix.

Top flip: Nebraska freshman receiver Jamal Turner flipped into the end zone after scoring an electrifying 49-yard touchdown catch and run in the spring game. Sure, he drew a penalty, but it was fun to watch. Turner starred in the game with four receptions for 93 yards to go along with returns of 59 yards (punt) and 54 yards (kickoff). Turner finished with 228 all-purpose yards.

Top T-shirt: New Minnesota coach Jerry Kill introduced the "Minnesota Loafer" T-shirts, worn by players who missed a class, showed up late to a workout or erred in some other way. The front of the shirt reads: "I let my teammates down." The back: "Minnesota Loafers." All the lettering is pink. "That brown shirt with those pink letters doesn't look too good," Gophers quarterback MarQueis Gray said.

[+] EnlargePenn State's Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarMatt McGloin (11) and Rob Bolden (1) are again competing to be Penn State's starting quarterback.
Best quarterback race: Several teams ended the spring with no clear No. 1 quarterback, while others had players take charge (Purdue’s Rob Henry, Iowa's James Vandenberg). Penn State didn't name a starter before spring ball concluded, but the coaches were pleased with Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin throughout the session. Bolden and McGloin not only looked more comfortable in the offense but displayed the type of leadership Penn State lacked in 2010. "As far as the quarterbacks, I think we're in good shape," coach Joe Paterno said.

Best position switch: Turner's move from quarterback to receiver certainly seemed to work out well. Michigan's Cameron Gordon was on the move once again, this time to linebacker, and like last spring, he drew impressive reviews. Michigan State's Dan France switched from defense to offense and landed the starting left tackle position.

Best two-way performer: Michigan State's Tony Lippett generated a ton of buzz this spring, as he played both cornerback and receiver. The Spartans' coordinators are fighting over him, and a near roster switch in the spring game draft caused uproar. Expect the redshirt freshman to see the field a lot this fall.

Best quote: "Like Mickey told Rocky, 'The worst thing that can happen to a fighter is to get civilized. You've got to get back to old school.' In my opinion, we've got to get back to a little bit of old school. That's what we've got the rest of spring practice to do." -- Illinois defensive coordinator Vic Koenning, on the team's linebackers

Best fashion revelation: New Michigan coach Brady Hoke told that he never wore red, "Ohio's color," when he coached at both Ball State, his alma mater, or at San Diego State. Cardinal is one of Ball State's school colors, and red is one of San Diego State's. "People understood," Hoke said. "They got the message, I guess. Right, wrong or different, that's me."
Spring football has provided a lot of interesting stories around the Big Ten, but my personal favorite is a no-brainer. Two weeks ago, the NCAA reversed Arthur Ray Jr.'s medical disqualification status and cleared the Michigan State offensive lineman to resume practicing. It marked a major milestone for Ray, who battled cancer in his leg and only got off of crutches last spring. Ray is cancer free and participating at guard in most drills during practice while he eyes the ultimate goal: suiting up for the Spartans in a game.

I caught up with Ray this week to talk about his amazing comeback.

Arthur Ray Jr.
Matthew Mitchell, MSU Athletic CommunicationsArthur Ray Jr. looks forward to the day he puts on the green and white in a game.
What has it been like to be back out there practicing?

Arthur Ray: It's going great. I've been waiting for this for a long time.

When did you feel like this was real? Was it being on the practice field again? Getting the clearance from the doctors?

AR: It didn't hit me until I really walked on the field. It's a feeling I can't even describe. It was great, one of the best days of my life. I got the [medical] clearance in January, so I just waited for everything. It was a dream come true. I always knew I'd be able to practice. I had to wait to get clearance from the NCAA and Big Ten. I had to go through that whole process. But I knew I could practice again.

How did you find out?

AR: Coach [Mark Dantonio] called me, and I didn't answer because I was in class. He left me a voicemail, so I stepped out, listened to it and man, I just started crying. I called my mom. It was a great day. We had a team meeting and they announced it to the team and everybody just went crazy, so it was good.

When did you feel like you reached a turning point in your comeback?

AR: The turning point had to be once I finally got off crutches last spring, and I was allowed to walk around a little bit. I knew getting off crutches would be big, and I knew once I started walking that I'd definitely be able to run after moving around and strengthening up my leg.

What type of approach did you take in the weight room throughout the process?

AR: I took an attack approach to the weight room. I always attack every workout aggressively, and I wanted to take that same approach on the field. Even when I couldn't do so much, I always was going to work hard in the weight room.

What are you able to do in practice so far?

AR: Practice is just about getting my feet back underneath me, banging of course, going out there and hitting my guys, I'm allowed to do that a little bit. I'm just trying to get better every day. I'm doing all O-line drills and half-line, one-on-ones. Just none of the team or group stuff. I can't do that yet.

[+] EnlargeArthur Ray Jr.
Matthew Mitchell, MSU Athletic CommunicationsArthur Ray Jr. (73) is working his way back into playing shape.
What was it like to get hit for the first time?

AR: Great. A feeling only a football player would know. It's a feeling I haven't felt in a while. I got the butterflies out, and I'm ready to go.

Did the guys take it easy on you?

AR: In the locker room, I told them not to take it easy on me because [if they do], I can't get any better. My goal is to play, and I want to play at a high level.

What's your plan for the rest of the spring and what's the outlook for this season? Can you play this fall?

AR: I'm taking it day by day this spring, see what I need to work on all summer and go through the summer and get better and continue to work hard. If I'm up to it and I sit down and talk to the coaches and they feel confident just from watching me, yeah, we'll give it a shot this year. But right now, I'm just excited to have this opportunity.

From a football standpoint, what are the biggest things you need to work on?

AR: Getting back in football shape. I'm in pretty good health shape, and my cardiovascular is pretty good from working out, running when I could going into winter conditioning. So it's getting back into football shape and strengthening my left leg a little more. My left leg's actually pretty strong. I feel like my upper-body strength is way stronger than it ever was.

And as far as your medical stuff, are you in the clear there?

AR: Aug. 12, surgery day. On Aug. 12, 2011, it'll be four years since I had my cancer removed. I still get six-month checkups, MRIs, CT scans, bone scans. After five years, I won't have to go through that anymore. So four years remission and I'm going strong.

What has been the reaction from everyone to seeing you out there again?

AR: Everybody's just excited. I love the support I have here at Michigan State. Coach D from Day 1 and everybody, all my teammates and the staff, they've been surrounding me and helping me 100 percent.

What will it be like to play in a game again?

AR: Probably the greatest day of my life to this point, when I finally run out there. I run it through my head constantly. When I go to sleep, I dream about it. It's a day I'm really looking forward to.

Big Ten lunch links

April, 20, 2011
The links can wait. The Big Ten chat cannot. Join in!

Big Ten lunch links

April, 8, 2011
Three Big Ten teams, four days, three states. Bringin' it this week.
Arthur Ray Jr. was in class Thursday when the news he had waited years for finally arrived.

The NCAA had granted a waiver to remove the medical disqualification tag from Ray, and the Michigan State offensive lineman who battled leg cancer finally could practice with the team. He'll start counting against the team's scholarship limit, and no player in the country will relish the opportunity more than him.

Ray went through his first practice as a Spartan on Thursday afternoon.

[+] EnlargeMichigan State's Arthur Ray
AP Photo/Matthew MitchellOffensive lineman Arthur Ray, right, went through his first practice with Michigan State on Thursday following a battle with leg cancer.
"It was the greatest feeling in the world," Ray said in comments released through Michigan State on Thursday night. "It felt so good because it just represents so much now. I just feel like I have to represent everybody that's still dealing with bad things, like chemo. I still remember some of my guys that are still in the hospital."

Upon hearing the news from coach Mark Dantonio, Ray "cried tears of joy."

Ray is cancer free after a rough stretch in 2007-08. He had targeted this spring for his return, and he went through individual drills Thursday.

Dantonio told local reporters that Ray won't scrimmage this spring but will gradually work toward full participation.
"You know, when you want something bad enough, there's a greater chance of you getting it done," Dantonio said. "I think it's an example to a lot of people that are going through a lot of tough times in their life, that if they can just persevere, good things can happen for them. Because this guy, he's had four, five, six operations. He was on crutches for two years. You know, there was a lot of doubt whether he was gonna be able to walk again, let alone play football."

Quarterback Kirk Cousins shared his reaction when Ray returned to the practice field.
"At first when I saw the No. 73 and the helmet and the knee braces on him, I didn't know who it was at first. I had to look closer and it was Arthur. So it was strange, but it was awesome to see him out there. It's a testament to who he is, his family. And what he's battled through has been more than what you'd ask any 18-year-old to deal with."

As the Lansing State Journal's Joe Rexrode points out, Ray probably will redshirt this coming season, have a chance to play in 2012 and apply for a sixth year of eligibility -- the NCAA would be heartless not to grant one -- in 2013.

Ray's incredible story will be complete if and when he plays a game for Michigan State. But Thursday was a huge moment for the Spartans' offensive lineman.

"I'm using spring ball to get my feet back underneath me," Ray said. "I went out there today and did a few drills, a little bit of hitting. It felt great. I'm not that far off, I just have to keep working."

After what Ray has been through, you know he will.