Big Ten: Boston College Eagles
Who really deserves to claim the title of “Linebacker U” for the 2000s?
1. Ohio State (222 points)
Move over Penn State. Ohio State is the new “Linebacker U” -- and the Buckeyes claimed the title in a blowout. In many of these positional rankings, only a handful of points separate first and second place. At linebacker, the Buckeyes finished nearly 50 points ahead of second-place Alabama. But when your players stockpile national awards and All-America honors and then many more go on to become NFL draft picks, you put your program in position to rank at the top of this list. Players such as A.J. Hawk, James Laurinaitis and most recently Ryan Shazier have done that in Columbus.
Award winners: A.J. Hawk, Lombardi (2005); James Laurinaitis, Butkus (2007), Nagurski (2008), Lott (2008).
Consensus All-Americans: Matt Wilhelm (2002), A.J. Hawk (2004, 2005), James Laurinaitis (2006, 2007, 2008).
First-team all-conference: Joe Cooper (2000), Matt Wilhelm (2002), A.J. Hawk (2003, 2004, 2005), James Laurinaitis (2006, 2007, 2008), Ross Homan (2010), Brian Rolle (2010), Ryan Shazier (2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: A.J. Hawk (2006), Bobby Carpenter (2006), Ryan Shazier (2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Cie Grant (Round 3, 2003), Matt Wilhelm (Round 4, 2003), Anthony Schlegel (Round 3, 2006), James Laurinaitis (Round 2, 2009), Thaddeus Gibson (Round 4, 2010), John Simon (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Courtland Bullard (Round 5, 2002), Rob Reynolds (Round 5, 2004), Larry Grant (Round 7, 2008), Marcus Freeman (Round 5, 2009), Austin Spitler (Round 7, 2010), Brian Rolle (Round 6, 2011), Ross Homan (Round 6, 2011).
T-2. Alabama (174)
The Crimson Tide has claimed two Butkus Awards and has had four consensus All-Americans at linebacker since 2009, when Alabama won the first of its three BCS titles under Nick Saban. Alabama also has had three linebackers picked in the first round (Rolando McClain, Dont’a Hightower and C.J. Mosley) and five linebackers overall drafted during that run of dominance.
Award winners: DeMeco Ryans, Lott (2005); Rolando McClain, Butkus (2009); C.J. Mosley, Butkus (2013).
Consensus All-Americans: DeMeco Ryans (2005), Rolando McClain (2009), Dont’a Hightower (2011), C.J. Mosley (2012, 2013).
First-team all-conference: Saleem Rasheed (2001), Derrick Pope (2003), Cornelius Wortham (2004), DeMeco Ryans (2005), Rolando McClain (2008, 2009), Dont’a Hightower (2011), Courtney Upshaw (2011), C.J. Mosley (2012, 2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Rolando McClain (2010), Dont’a Hightower (2012), C.J. Mosley (2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Saleem Rasheed (Round 3, 2002), DeMeco Ryans (Round 2, 2006), Courtney Upshaw (Round 2, 2012), Nico Johnson (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Derrick Pope (Round 7, 2004), Cornelius Wortham (Round 7, 2005).
T-2. Oklahoma (174)
Hey, what do you know? Oklahoma is near the top of the rankings at another position. At linebacker, the Sooners’ position is largely because of the early-2000s run when Rocky Calmus and Teddy Lehman cleaned up on the awards and All-America circuit. It also helps that Oklahoma has had 12 linebackers drafted since 2001.
Award winners: Rocky Calmus, Butkus (2001); Teddy Lehman, Bednarik (2003), Butkus (2003).
Consensus All-Americans: Rocky Calmus (2000, 2001), Teddy Lehman (2002, 2003), Curtis Lofton (2007).
First-team all-conference: Rocky Calmus (2000, 2001), Jimmy Wilkerson (2001), Teddy Lehman (2002, 2003), Dan Cody (2003), Lance Mitchell (2004), Rufus Alexander (2005, 2006), Curtis Lofton (2007), Travis Lewis (2009).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Torrance Marshall (Round 3, 2001), Rocky Calmus (Round 3, 2002), Teddy Lehman (Round 2, 2004), Dan Cody (Round 2, 2005), Clint Ingram (Round 3, 2006), Curtis Lofton (Round 2, 2008), Keenan Clayton (Round 4, 2010).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Lance Mitchell (Round 5, 2005), Rufus Alexander (Round 6, 2007), Nic Harris (Round 5, 2009), Travis Lewis (Round 7, 2012), Corey Nelson (Round 7, 2014).
T-4. USC (140)
It should come as no surprise that the greater portion of USC’s linebacker point total came during its mid-2000s run, when it was an annual BCS title contender. Standout linebackers such as Rey Maualuga -- the 2008 Bednarik Award winner, consensus All-American and three-time All-Pac-10 selection -- Keith Rivers, Matt Grootegoed and Brian Cushing helped the Trojans become the nation’s most dominant program during that period.
Award winners: Rey Maualuga, Bednarik (2008).
Consensus All-Americans: Matt Grootegoed (2004), Rey Maualuga (2008).
First-team all-conference: Matt Grootegoed (2002, 2004), Lofa Tatupu (2004), Rey Maualuga (2006, 2007, 2008), Keith Rivers (2006, 2007), Brian Cushing (2008).
NFL first-round draft picks: Keith Rivers (2008), Brian Cushing (2009), Clay Matthews (2009), Nick Perry (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Markus Steele (Round 4, 2001), Lofa Tatupu (Round 2, 2005), Kaluka Maiava (Round 4, 2009), Rey Maualuga (Round 2, 2009).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Zeke Moreno (Round 5, 2001), Oscar Lua (Round 7, 2007), Dallas Sartz (Round 5, 2007), Thomas Williams (Round 5, 2008), Malcolm Smith (Round 7, 2011), Devon Kennard (Round 5, 2014).
T-4. Miami (140)
When your program has 12 players from one position drafted and four of them go in the first round, chances are you’ll rank toward the top of the board. That’s the case with Miami, which had Dan Morgan (who won three national awards and was a consensus All-American in 2000), Jonathan Vilma, D.J. Williams and Jon Beason all become first-round picks after standout careers in Coral Gables.
Award winners: Dan Morgan, Bednarik (2000), Nagurski (2000), Butkus (2000).
Consensus All-Americans: Dan Morgan (2000).
First-team all-conference: Dan Morgan (2000), Jonathan Vilma (2001, 2002, 2003), D.J. Williams (2003), Sean Spence (2011), Denzel Perryman (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Dan Morgan (2001), Jonathan Vilma (2004), D.J. Williams (2004), Jon Beason (2007).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Rocky McIntosh (Round 2, 2006), Leon Williams (Round 4, 2006), Tavares Gooden (Round 3, 2008), Darryl Sharpton (Round 4, 2010), Colin McCarthy (Round 4, 2011), Sean Spence (Round 3, 2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Darrell McClover (Round 7, 2004), Spencer Adkins (Round 6, 2009).
6. Penn State (134)
The old “Linebacker U” still makes our top 10. In fact, Penn State still has plenty to brag about at the position where it has long been known for producing stars. The Nittany Lions earned four national awards and three All-America designations between Paul Posluszny and Dan Connor, plus they had nine players drafted since 2001.
Award winners: Paul Posluszny, Butkus (2005), Bednarik (2005, 2006); Dan Connor, Bednarik (2007).
Consensus All-Americans: Paul Posluszny (2005, 2006), Dan Connor (2007).
First-team all-conference: Paul Posluszny (2005, 2006), Dan Connor (2007), NaVorro Bowman (2008, 2009), Gerald Hodges (2011), Michael Mauti (2012).
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Paul Posluszny (Round 2, 2007), Dan Connor (Round 3, 2008), Sean Lee (Round 2, 2010), NaVorro Bowman (Round 3, 2010), Gerald Hodges (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tim Shaw (Round 5, 2007), Josh Hull (Round 7, 2010), Nathan Stupar (Round 7, 2012), Michael Mauti (Round 7, 2013).
7. Georgia (110)
Two-time All-American Jarvis Jones and fellow 2013 first-round pick Alec Ogletree might get most of the glory, but this group is chock full of talent. Justin Houston is making his mark as a pass-rusher in the NFL and there are a bunch of old war horses such as Will Witherspoon, Kendrell Bell and Tony Gilbert who hung around the league for several years.
Award winners: None.
Consensus All-Americans: Jarvis Jones (2011, 2012).
First-team all-conference: Boss Bailey (2002), Odell Thurman (2003, 2004), Rennie Curran (2008, 2009), Jarvis Jones (2011, 2012), Ramik Wilson (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Jarvis Jones (2013), Alec Ogletree (2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Kendrell Bell (Round 2, 2001), Will Witherspoon (Round 3, 2002), Boss Bailey (Round 2, 2003), Odell Thurman (Round 2, 2005), Rennie Curran (Round 3, 2010), Justin Houston (Round 3, 2011), Akeem Dent (Round 3, 2011).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Tony Gilbert (Round 6, 2003).
8. Texas (108)
Texas snuck into the top 10 on the back of Derrick Johnson, who won both the Nagurski and Butkus awards in 2004 and was a consensus All-American in 2003 and 2004 before becoming a 2005 first-round draft pick. The current Kansas City Chiefs Pro Bowl linebacker accounted for 62 of the Longhorns’ 108 points in the linebacker rankings.
Award winners: Derrick Johnson, Nagurski (2004), Butkus (2004).
Consensus All-Americans: Derrick Johnson (2003, 2004).
First-team all-conference: Cory Redding (2001), Derrick Johnson (2002, 2003, 2004), Aaron Harris (2005), Sergio Kindle (2008), Emmanuel Acho (2011).
NFL first-round draft picks: Derrick Johnson (2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Roddrick Muckelroy (Round 4, 2010), Sergio Kindle (Round 2, 2010), Sam Acho (Round 4, 2011), Keenan Robinson (Round 4, 2012), Alex Okafor (Round 4, 2013).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Emmanuel Acho (Round 6, 2012).
9. Boston College (104): Luke Kuechly is responsible for most of the points here. The four-time award winner in 2011, was twice named a consensus All-American, earned all-conference honors three times and became a first-round draft pick. That's a grand total of 84 points for the Carolina Panthers star. The Eagles also have an active string of first-team all-conference linebackers that started with Mark Herzlich in 2008.
Award winners: Luke Kuechly, Nagurski (2011), Lombardi (2011), Lott (2011), Butkus (2011).
Consensus All-Americans: Luke Kuechly (2010, 2011).
First-team all-conference: Mark Herzlich (2008), Luke Kuechly (2009, 2010, 2011), Nick Clancy (2012), Kevin Pierre-Louis (2013).
NFL first-round draft picks: Luke Kuechly (2012).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Kevin Pierre-Louis (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: None.
T-10. Maryland (100)E.J. Henderson accounts for more than half of Maryland’s points thanks in large part to his two national awards and two consensus All-America designations. Henderson is among three Terrapins linebackers who made the All-ACC first team twice (along with D’Qwell Jackson and Alex Wujciak), while Shawne Merriman is the only Terp during the 2000s to be selected in the first round of the draft.
Award winners: E.J. Henderson, Bednarik (2002), Butkus (2002).
Consensus All-Americans: E.J. Henderson (2001, 2002).
First-team all-conference: E.J. Henderson (2001, 2002), D’Qwell Jackson (2004, 2005), Erin Henderson (2007), Alex Wujciak (2009, 2010).
NFL first-round draft picks: Shawne Merriman (Round 1, 2005).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: E.J. Henderson (Round 2, 2003), Leon Joe (Round 4, 2004), D’Qwell Jackson (Round 2, 2006)
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Moise Fokou (Round 7, 2009).
T-10. Notre Dame (100)
There are times when a single player’s excellence is the difference between a school's spot falling near the top of the rankings and its sitting further down the list. Such is the case with Manti Te’o, who accounted for 82 points in his incredible 2012 season alone (seven national awards, a consensus All-America selection and then becoming a second-round NFL pick). Notre Dame is penalized in these team rankings by not earning points for all-conference honorees, so its spot in this top 10 speaks to how impressive Te’o’s 2012 season truly was.
Award winners: Manti Te’o, Maxwell (2012), Camp (2012), Nagurski (2021), Lombardi (2012), Bednarik (2012), Lott (2012), Butkus (2012).
Consensus All-Americans: Manti Te’o (2012).
First-team all-conference: Not applicable.
NFL first-round draft picks: None.
NFL draft picks, Rounds 2-4: Rocky Boiman (Round 4, 2002), Courtney Watson (Round 2, 2004), Manti Te’o (Round 2, 2013), Prince Shembo (Round 4, 2014).
NFL draft picks, Rounds 5-7: Anthony Denman (Round 7, 2001), Tyreo Harrison (Round 6, 2002), Darius Fleming (Round 5, 2012).
REST OF “LINEBACKER U” RANKINGS
98 – Florida State; 92 – UCLA; 72 – Florida, Stanford; 66 – Iowa, TCU, Wisconsin; 64 – Nebraska; 62 – Michigan State, Oregon State, Tennessee; 60 – LSU, Pittsburgh; 58 – Virginia Tech; 56 – West Virginia; 48 – NC State; 46 – Michigan, Ole Miss, Purdue; 44 – BYU, California, Kansas State; 42 – North Carolina; 40 – Illinois; 38 – Clemson, Iowa State, Texas A&M; 36 – Arizona, Auburn, Syracuse; 34 – Arizona State, Utah, Wake Forest; 32 – Missouri, South Carolina, Virginia; 30 – Arkansas, Georgia Tech; 28 – Kentucky; 26 – Northwestern, Vanderbilt; 24 – Colorado, Oregon; 20 – Washington; 18 – Oklahoma State, Rutgers; 16 – Mississippi State; 14 – Kansas, Louisville; 12 – Baylor; 10 – Washington State; 6 – Duke; 4 – Texas Tech; 2 – Minnesota; 0 – Indiana
Zach from Pittsburgh writes: Adam, got coaching carousel question, a.k.a by the time you get to this, it may be irrelevant, but here it goes. Every ESPN analyst is using the fact that Bill O'Brien was told by PSU officials that the Sandusky Scandal would not incur and NCAA punishment as a reason for leaving Penn State for the NFL next year. If this is the case, then why did O'Brien sign a contract extension keeping him in Happy Valley until 2020 after the sanctions came out in July?
Adam Rittenberg: Because he wanted as much job security as possible after the sanctions came down. O'Brien knew Penn State could be in for a long rebuilding phase because of the length and severity of the sanctions. As a first-year coach, he wanted to ensure he would have enough time to ride out the sanctions and eventually get the program on solid footing. O'Brien used the sanctions for leverage, which is smart in that situation. He didn't know he'd have so much success and be on the NFL coaching radar right now. As a coach, you have to think about the job you're in and how much time you have to get things right.
Chris from Chicago writes: I have a question on coaching stability. At Northwestern (where Jerry Brown has kept his job despite some fans incredulity over the years), the stability in the coaching staff is probably a good thing each year for recruiting, system, etc....but does it hurt come bowl time? I mean, Mississippi State has Tim Brewster (who knows Northwestern from his time at Minnesota) and a former NU grad assistant on staff....while Northwestern's guys have all been at NU for a long time. Is there some minimal amount of staff turnover that might be a GOOD thing?
Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Chris. Typically, coaching staffs that have greater continuity are better off than ones that don't. And given how much movement there is in the business, coaches are going to know one another well in almost every game, if they've worked together in the past. Brewster's knowledge of Northwestern could help a little, although his Minnesota teams never beat the Wildcats. It's up to Northwestern's staff to ensure calls have changed enough so they don't tip their hand in the game. But in general, I've seen staffs that lack continuity have way more problems than ones that don't. Coaches should be held accountable every year, and changes must be made when needed. But as a rule, continuity is good.
P.K.G. from Kuwait City, Kuwait, writes: Hey Adam, Love the blog! Had a question regarding expansion for ya. Two teams left to go. Why isn't anyone talking about T-A&M...... I know, I know, they are in the SEC. But just hear me out here: they are part of the AAU, bring a huge market in texas, have other amazing teams other than just football and good in academics as well (from the 'south' as well). Now, once the TV deals for the B1G are negotiated, which I'm guessing is going to be huge, cant Delany at least try/consider them for entry into the league? I know no one would want to leave the SEC because they get paid a lot too, but joining the B1G after the negotiations could spell HUGE amounts of money per school. Also, they will have a relatively easier path to the NC Game as opposed to in the SEC. So, all this along with the academic prestige that tags along with our conference, why shouldn't we consider T-A?
Adam Rittenberg: P.K.G., you kind of answer your own question here. Texas A&M wouldn't want to leave the SEC because the money there is pretty darn good, too. Other than maybe Missouri, which you could argue fits in with the Big Ten better than the SEC, I really couldn't see any SEC teams leaving a good situation there, even if it's for another good situation in the Big Ten. It's why the realistic expansion targets to me are all outside the two big-money leagues (SEC and Big Ten). You have to look at the ACC because of the financial differentials (current and future) with the Big Ten/SEC. We'll see if the Big 12 survives, and things certainly look better there under Bob Bowlsby's leadership. But there's the potential to have the Big Ten and SEC at one level money-wise and everyone else earning a lot less.
Hines from Fairfax, Va., writes: Hi Adam, don't care for your blog in the least but I want your opinion on something. Bill O'Brien is getting alot of credit for PSU's success this year, rightfully so given the obvious adversity he had to deal with in addition to being solely a football coach. My question deals with the attention he is getting from the NFL now. Sure, he guided PSU to an 8-4 record and made the offense go, but let's face it, the cupboard was far from bare. I would have to say that those of us who follow PSU closely are not majorly suprised about where we finished the season in the big10 ranks, given the remaining talent. Is this attention warranted at this point based only on his coaching skills, because I am pretty sure NFL owners don't give a huge crap about his PR abilities as much as wins and losses. I personally think in two more years we will have a much better gauge as to what kind of 'football coach' we have. Thanks.
Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the love, Hines. Happy New Year, bud. I agree with you about Penn State's cupboard being far from bare this season. O'Brien inherited an excellent senior class that included several future NFL defenders and an offensive line anchor in center Matt Stankiewitch. But O'Brien deserves all the credit he gets for transforming Matt McGloin into one of the Big Ten's best quarterbacks and modernizing a Penn State offense that had grown extremely stale under the previous staff. I honestly didn't know how Penn State was going to score points this year after Silas Redd and Justin Brown both transferred in the summer. O'Brien took that offense to another level. But he still has been a head coach for only a year. The problem is it might be tough to gauge him next season as the sanctions really start to impact Penn State's roster. The guy can coach -- we saw that this year. But I agree that a few more years would let us know more about O'Brien's potential both at Penn State and in the NFL.
Gabriel from Virginia Beach, Va., writes: Will the Wolverines have a Lloyd Carr-esque offensive style next year so that Gardner and Shane Morris can operate in the way that Chad Henne did?
Adam Rittenberg: Gabriel, Michigan's 2013 offense under Al Borges will look a lot more like the ones the Wolverines ran during Carr's tenure. Borges had to adjust his system because of Denard Robinson's skill set and background in the spread, but he's undoubtedly a pro-style guy who wants to run a pure pro-style system as soon as possible. Gardner should allow Borges to do that, and if Gardner performs well enough, Michigan won't have to use Morris as a true freshman.
Beth from Lino Lakes, Minn., writes: Hi Adam!Happy bowl week!As I listen to my Gophers destroy the Boston College hockey team this evening, a thought occurs to me. Do you think there's any chance the B1G might try to add Boston College? They don't add much for football (but neither does Rutgers or Maryland). What they so add is a new TV market, good academics, and great hockey. The B1G launches their hockey conference next season...could this be a fit for our inevitable 15th/16th school?
Adam Rittenberg: Happy bowl week, Beth! The Big Ten can't make hockey a top priority in expansion, even with the new hockey league coming soon. Is Boston College as a whole a good addition? Meh. My concern is that college sports really don't matter in the Boston market, even less so than they do in New York/New Jersey or Washington D.C. I remember covering Boston College's undefeated basketball team against Notre Dame during the 2004-05 season, and then Eagles coach Al Skinner talking about how the team was basically an afterthought in the market. The other question is demographics. Is the population growing in Boston like it is in the southeast? No. Is Boston as strong of a recruiting area as potential ACC markets like Atlanta and Raleigh/Durham? No. So while it would be great to have Boston College hockey in the Big Ten, I'm lukewarm on the addition as a whole.
Boston College (1-1) at Northwestern (2-0): The Wildcats seek a 3-0 start, all against BCS AQ opponents. Their defense took a step up last week against Vanderbilt, though head coach Pat Fitzgerald said he wants to see a much more physical effort overall this week. Venric Mark is blossoming into one of the most dangerous all-around weapons in the Big Ten, and Northwestern has successfully managed to rotate quarterbacks Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian to match their respective strengths. Boston College lost 41-32 to Miami in the opener but has shown much better offensive ability than last year's team.
Navy (0-1) at Penn State (0-2): Maybe no team in the country is as hungry for a victory as the Nittany Lions, who lost to Ohio in the opener and dropped a heartbreaker at Virginia last week following a torturous offseason. Penn State's defense will be on the spot here against the Navy option attack, but the passing game is what has caused the Lions trouble so far this year. Kicker Sam Ficken looks to rebound after going just 1-for-5 last week and missing the potential game-winner. Navy has had two weeks to prepare after getting shellacked by Notre Dame in Ireland in Week 1. These two teams haven't played since 1974.
Northern Iowa (1-1) at Iowa (1-1): The Hawkeyes need a win and a good offensive performance after scoring just one touchdown in their first two games. It won't be easy against Northern Iowa, a good FCS team that took Wisconsin to the wire in Week 1. The last time these two met was 2009, when Iowa had to block field-goal attempts on the final two plays of the game to hold on for a one-point victory. It could be just as close this year unless James Vandenberg, Damon Bullock and the Hawkeyes offense find more ways to move the ball and score in the red zone.
UMass (0-2) at No. 17 Michigan (1-1): The Wolverines have opened the season with two difficult tests, against Alabama and Air Force. Here lies the reward. UMass, playing its first full season in the FBS, might well be the worst team in the country at this level, having scored only six points total in blowout losses to UConn and Indiana. Denard Robinson and the Michigan offense should have their way with the Minutemen, and this might be a good time to get Fitz Toussaint untracked.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Penn State's annual Lift for Life fundraiser takes place Friday, as Nittany Lions players participate in a strength and conditioning competition to raise money and awareness for the Kidney Cancer Association. The event has raised more than $300,000 during its first six years, with last year's competition generating more than $70,000.
Several FBS teams have founded chapters of Uplifting Athletes, the organization that aligns college football in the fight against rare diseases. Boston College is holding a similar Lift for Life event on July 30 to benefit Ewing's Sarcoma, the rare form of cancer Eagles star linebacker Mark Herzlich is battling.
I wrote about last year's event at Penn State and hope to attend one in the future. If you're in the State College area Friday, definitely stop by Holuba Hall.
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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
After somewhat of a slow start, Michigan State's recruiting has really picked up in recent days.
Still buzzing from William Gholston's pledge last week, the Spartans reportedly have added quarterback Joe Boisture to their 2010 recruiting class. According to Scout.com, Boisture switched his commitment from Boston College to Michigan State, giving head coach Mark Dantonio another solid in-state prospect.
Boisture grew up in Saline, Mich., and his grandfather, Dan, coached at Michigan State under Duffy Daugherty.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
FCS mania continues throughout the Big Ten, and South Dakota continues to be a popular choice for nonconference scheduling.
Northwestern announced Monday it will host South Dakota in 2012, though an exact date has not been determined.
South Dakota also plays Minnesota in 2010 and Wisconsin in 2011. Northwestern has an FCS opponent on the schedule in each of the next four seasons, which won't aid the team's struggles in attendance but should help in the win column.
The Wildcats are upgrading their nonleague schedule during the next few seasons, which is long overdue. The 2012 schedule features home games against both Boston College and Vanderbilt and a trip to Syracuse.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
After shuffling nonconference games to accommodate Miami (Ohio) and finalize the 2009 schedule, Northwestern is looking ahead to the future.
The team has released tentative schedules for 2010 and 2011, which thankfully appear to pack a bit more punch than this year's slate. Northwestern rivals Penn State for one of the softest non-league slates among BCS teams, with games against Towson, Eastern Michigan, Syracuse and Miami (Ohio).
Northwestern still needs a home game in 2010, but it will play:
- at Vanderbilt (Sept. 4)
- Illinois State (Sept. 11)
- at Rice (Sept. 18)
In 2011, the Wildcats play:
- at Boston College (Sept. 3)
- Eastern Illinois (Sept. 10)
- at Army (Sept. 17)
- Rice (Nov. 26)
Upcoming contracts with Vanderbilt, Boston College and a likely improved Syracuse team give Northwestern a more attractive non-league slate, which could remedy the school's constant struggles with home attendance. The team's annual rivalry against Illinois has been shuffled around, with the 2011 game taking place Oct. 15, the earliest meeting in at least a decade.
Also, Northwestern finishes the 2011 season with home games against Michigan and Rice. The school wants to hold a home game at Wrigley Field if the field can accommodate football. If Northwestern gets the go-ahead, expect one of these contests to be played at The Friendly Confines.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Much has been written in this blog and other places about the Big Ten's weak scheduling.
The league ties for the national lead with five 3-0 teams and six unbeaten squads overall, and only one of the 11 members (Michigan) sits below .500. But aside from Wisconsin's big road win against Fresno State, the league lacks signature victories and hasn't boosted its national reputation. Then again, even if Purdue had upset Oregon on Saturday, both the Boilers and Badgers would have been overshadowed by Ohio State's collapse against USC.
It's important to note that scheduling is extremely tricky and it's hard to knock teams like Penn State and Northwestern for scheduling Oregon State and Syracuse. When those contracts were done, the matchups looked solid. But Oregon State has struggled this season and Syracuse is a complete disaster, so the games don't help.
Fortunately for the Big Ten and those of us who love Big Ten football, the weak schedules could soon be a thing of the past. Illinois' announcement of a two-game contract with Fresno State is an important step in beefing up the nonleague slates. The Illini also showed some flexibility, agreeing to play at Fresno State on Dec. 5, 2010. The introduction of a bye week means that the Big Ten schedule normally will stretch past Thanksgiving, which will upset the traditionalists but puts the league on par with the other BCS conferences. If more teams are willing to take risks and think outside the box, the league could benefit down the line.
Other reasons for optimism:
- Minnesota, which historically feasts on cupcakes more than any other BCS program, plays Cal next year and Colorado in 2012. Washington State also should be better by the time the Gophers face the Cougars in 2010 and 2011.
- Penn State faces Alabama in 2010 and 2011 before traveling to Virginia in 2012.
- Iowa takes on Arizona the next two years and consistently averages two BCS opponents per season, which should be the standard for Big Ten teams.
- Illinois will continue to open against rival Missouri and begins a series with Arizona State in 2011.
- Wisconsin will play several Pac-10 opponents beginning in 2010, when Arizona State visits Madison.
- Northwestern faces a Syracuse team that should improve the next three seasons and adds Boston College to the mix in 2011 and 2012. Stanford and Vanderbilt aren't powerhouses but are similar programs to Northwestern that will provide good matchups down the line.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Brian Hoyer doesn't need to be reminded. He's seen the movie before. Six times, to be exact.
Despite making strides last season, Hoyer and Michigan State dropped six games by seven points or fewer, including a 24-21 decision against Boston College in the Champs Sports Bowl. The multiple near misses made the top offseason priority painfully clear -- getting better in the clutch. Michigan State labeled its offseason program "the fourth quarter," and players emphasized the endgame in voluntary workouts.
At the end of 7-on-7 drills, the offense tried to drive 60 yards against the defense. The competitions usually went best two out of three, though the losing unit rarely walked away quietly.
"Half the time it would be 1-1 and it would come down to the last series," Hoyer said. "You sort of put yourself in situations where things matter, where you're playing for something. That's as close as you can go to the fourth quarter. ... They'd get pretty competitive. Depending on who loses, it was like, 'C'mon! Let's go again, best out of five.'"
Cornerback Kendell Davis-Clark remembered one particularly intense day on the indoor practice field where wideout Mark Dell caught a touchdown at the end of the workout.
"Everybody [on defense] wanted to go again, but the offense is like, 'No, no. We're done, we've been out here too long,'" Davis-Clark said. "They quit on us."
"Hoyer always wants to end on a touchdown, and we always want to end on an interception," safety Otis Wiley said. "But it always [ended] on a good offensive play."
Hoyer hopes to get the last laugh more often this fall after drawing criticism for not making enough crunch-time plays last season. He eclipsed 250 passing yards in three of the final four regular-season games, but most remember a four-interception clunker in the bowl game.
The senior hasn't forgotten how the season ended, but he didn't lose confidence.
"He owned up to it and he's just going to move forward," quarterbacks coach Dave Warner said. "He believes in himself and he's just anxious to maybe get that totally out of his system and get things going this year."
Hoyer admits he would rather suffer a blowout loss than drop a heartbreaker, but he recognizes what his next step needs to be.
"Coach [Mark] Dantonio made a comment, the difference between the Joe Montanas and the John Elways from other quarterbacks is that they did it at the end of the games, at the end of the fourth quarters," Hoyer said. "That's something I aspire to be, like those guys, to perform in the clutch when my team needs me the most."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
PARK RIDGE, Ill. -- Here's the second half of my interview with Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany.
Are you pretty satisfied with the Big Ten's current bowl agreements or would you like to see some changes?
Jim Delany: Yeah, pretty satisfied. We're just into it two years. The Insight Bowl in Arizona is new for us, we've got the new Champs (Sports) Bowl in Florida. Certainly we think we've got a great bowl partners in Arizona with the Fiesta group, great bowl partners in Orlando with the Bank One group, that seem to be able to manage multiple events. Florida, Arizona, Texas and California are where our people are, and then we've got the regional bowl (Motor City) in Detroit. So I think so, but there are a lot of bowls and a lot of good teams and a lot of great bowl teams, but not everybody's created equal. So when we sit down, hopefully there'll be some competition and we'll continue to be able to grow those relationships.
Will there ever be enough bowls?
JD: Well, there could be as many as there are teams. It's not unheard of. Everybody says there's too many, but I've seen teams under .500 in the NCAA (basketball) tournament and teams at .500 in the NIT. College football is pretty unique. To say that every single bowl is a healthy bowl is probably not true, but to say every single first-round men's basketball tournament game has got a significant followership is probably not true.
As far as scheduling, you look at the Pac-10 and their nonconference schedules are very, very competitive. Are you satisfied with the scheduling in the Big Ten?
JD: If you look at where we were forty years ago -- I was looking at the schedules from 1966 -- we had far fewer games and far fewer mismatches, really sturdy kinds of opponents. Even if you maybe take a look at that twenty years ago, in the late eighties, they're stronger schedules than they are today. Again, fewer games, stronger matchups, more games with the Pac-10, more games out East. Historically, we really haven't played the SEC, in the regular season or in the postseason. So it's something we tried to do in the postseason, but they've got big stadiums, we have big stadiums. Big stadiums typically don't play big stadiums just because of the value of the gate. Everyone talks about TV, but the turnstiles are what drives the revenue, which is what drives the athletic department. Michigan is already playing an away game every other year (at Notre Dame), Ohio State is as well. Penn State historically has, but not recently. In my heart of hearts, I'm the guy that's largely behind the (ACC/Big Ten) Challenge, I'm the guy that's largely behind the Big Ten-SEC bowl games. They weren't here before. I'm the guy who wants to play the SEC, the Big 12, the Pac-10. So if anything, I could be accused of overscheduling, not underscheduling, but our schools are going to be the ones who determine what's best for building their programs. (Some) programs are a stage where they're trying to get respect, others are trying to get a bowl game, others are trying to pay for all of the programs. The one thing that hasn't changed in the 20 years since I've come here is that football and basketball still provide 98 percent of the revenues. We've grown women's opportunities, we've gotten better at other sports, we've won championships in other sports. But the fact of it is, they're going to have to pay their way, and that means healthy football and healthy football means winning football. So that time means you have to manage you've got to manage your schedule in a way that makes sense.
Is there a model for scheduling in the Big Ten?
JD: I don't think there is a model. The Pac-10 has got a good situation, but they've got the 5-4, they can play a full round robin. I like that. I would tend to be more in that direction, but I also understand that Minnesota, Indiana, Northwestern, Purdue, have historically been in the second division. They don't have the legacy of the bowls in the way that Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan will have. What we've seen overall, with the growth of television and the growth of bowls and perhaps, maybe, weaker nonconference scheduling, is the growth of the middle class in terms of their own brand, in terms of their own strength, in terms of the perception. So you have to be careful when you say, 'You should be playing Oregon.' The fact of it is, Indiana did beat Oregon a couple years ago in the preseason (2004). But they're much more likely to beat Ball State than they are to beat Oregon. From a TV perspective, are those games better? But it's a combination of what the fan base demands, what the athletic director believes is appropriate. How much is stepping out? If you have them into a bowl game just twice in the last decade, you're going to put that pretty high on your priority list and not necessarily just (schedule) the best game. People do point out the Pac-10 and the Pac-10 maybe plays (a tough schedule) year in and year out, but they have far fewer choices because there are only four conferences that are east of the Mississippi. The other thing is I don't see everybody's feet being held to the fire with regard to nonconference scheduling. Some people don't even leave their own state. Our top teams have always played Notre Dame and historically, those have been good challenges. We've played lots of Pac-10 teams and we used to play more teams in the East, more Boston Colleges, more Syracuses, and I've encouraged our teams. We've got some that are playing N.C. State, have played North Carolina, Virginia. But also, you have to have two people who want to play.
How important is that first month of the season for the league, just with the negative perception nationally?
JD: It cuts two ways. To be honest with you, we've run up some pretty impressive records, but if you're not playing people, you're not going to get the credit, and I don't think necessarily that you should. I was always a strength-of-schedule, computer guy inside the BCS, but you looked at Kansas and they made a lot of progress without playing a lot of people. And whenever the computers trump the people, the fans don't like it. That's one of the things we've found. So we've really lowered the power of the computer and let the so-called experts, whether they're coaches or the Harris (Poll) people, try to figure out what those games mean. I don't have the magic formula on scheduling. I, like every other fan, like to see great teams play. The one thing that could help us, and we just can't get there with the coaches -- I guess we could get there with the interactive -- is just to delay (the rankings). But everybody wants to print their poll and they're all influenced by polls. So if you're Southern Mississippi or Fresno State and you take on the world and you beat (No.) 4, (No.) 11 and (No.) 28, you should be ranked No. 1 in the country, in my opinion. But none of the bloggers, none of the experts, none of the television people, do that. They go to Southern Cal and Florida and Michigan and Ohio State, and maybe that's right. But they don't necessarily go clean slate, start fresh, reward people who beat people and then delay their evaluation. Because that's what happens in the basketball tournament. The evaluations are made subsequent to the games. College football, quite to the opposite. Evaluations are made based on tradition. And I think we've improved that. The bowl system is so much better than it was 15 or 18 years ago. We've got a 1-2 game, we've got elite challenges. Coaches aren't setting up the games anymore. Bear Bryant used to set up the games. We went 50 years with I think nine 1-2 games. Of course, no one cared about 1-2. In '64, when Wisconsin played USC, it was a 1-2 game and if you listen to a replay of the game, they didn't even mention it. So things have changed.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
After examining the four teams -- Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan and Iowa -- that enter preseason camp with varying degrees of uncertainty at quarterback, it's time to look at the rest of the league. The popularity of the spread offense has dramatically changed the QB spot in the Big Ten, but big numbers don't always correlate to the best players, and quarterbacks are heavily judged on their team's performance.
Ohio State's Todd Boeckman, for example, ranked 10th in the league in passing average (182.5 ypg) but led in passing efficiency (148.9 rating) and took his team further than any other signal caller (the BCS title game). The league's top four passers -- Northwestern's C.J. Bacher, Purdue's Curtis Painter, Minnesota's Adam Weber and Indiana's Kellen Lewis -- all played for teams that finished in the league's bottom half. So it's a bit tricky.
Here's the rundown:
1. Kellen Lewis, Jr., Indiana -- He has the league's best combination of arm strength, decision-making and athleticism. Last season, he eclipsed 3,000 passing yards with 28 TDs and only 10 INTs, to go along with a team-high 736 rushing yards and nine touchdowns. Time away from the team (suspension) could hurt him, but the second-team All-Big Ten selection will catch on soon enough.
2. Todd Boeckman, Sr., Ohio State --If Boeckman trims his interceptions total, he'll likely vault to the top of the list. After waiting his turn, the 24-year-old helped Ohio State return to the BCS title game, completing 63.8 percent of his passes for 25 touchdowns with 14 interceptions. He ranked 13th nationally in pass efficiency and seems ready for a stellar senior season, though he might have to share time with Terrelle Pryor.
3. Curtis Painter, Sr., Purdue -- You can't question the numbers: 8,763 career pass yards, 59.9 percent career completion ratio, 10 300-yard passing games, only 35 interceptions in 1,269 career attempts. The next step for Painter is winning big games. He's 0-7 against Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Wisconsin. Purdue's challenging schedule provides Painter with plenty of chances to remove that label -- and move up this list.
4. Juice Williams, Jr., Illinois -- It wouldn't be surprising if Williams finishes higher than No. 4 at season's end. He improved his completion percentage by 18 points last fall and led Illinois to the biggest win in recent program history, a road upset of No. 1 Ohio State, and the Rose Bowl. Williams' growth as a passer complements his elusiveness as a runner, and with top target Rejus Benn healthy, the junior could have a huge year. He still must improve his TD-INT ratio (13-12 last season) and prove he can lead the offense without Rashard Mendenhall.
5. C.J. Bacher, Sr., Northwestern -- Bacher led the Big Ten and set a single-season school passing record (3,656 yards) last fall, but the big numbers masked an inconsistent performance. He must force fewer throws and exploit a talented receiving corps after tossing as many touchdowns (19) as interceptions in 2007. Bacher has a first-rate arm and will benefit with a healthy Tyrell Sutton. If he makes better decisions, particularly under pressure, the Wildcats' offense will surge.
6. Brian Hoyer, Sr., Michigan State -- As coach Mark Dantonio said this spring, Hoyer's next step is closing out games. He was efficient in helping the Spartans back to a bowl game, but the team went 2-7 in games decided by seven points or fewer. He threw four interceptions and lost a fumble in the Champs Sports Bowl loss to Boston College. If Hoyer displays better poise in the clutch as a senior, he'll move up this list, even without Devin Thomas at his disposal.
7. Adam Weber, So., Minnesota -- The potential is there with Weber, who ranked second nationally among freshmen in both passing touchdowns (19) and passing yards (2,895). Like Lewis, he also led his team in rushing and set several school records. But to get to Lewis' level, Weber must reduce his interceptions and get the offense to the end zone more often. He can make the home-run throw, but checking down for the sure thing will pay off more often than not.
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
12:00 PM ET Iowa Pittsburgh 12:00 PM ET Eastern Michigan 11 Michigan State 12:00 PM ET Western Illinois Northwestern 12:00 PM ET Southern Illinois Purdue 12:00 PM ET Bowling Green 19 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET Maryland Syracuse 3:30 PM ET Utah Michigan 3:30 PM ET Rutgers Navy 4:00 PM ET Massachusetts Penn State 4:00 PM ET San Jose State Minnesota 4:00 PM ET Texas State Illinois 4:00 PM ET Indiana 18 Missouri 8:00 PM ET Miami (FL) 24 Nebraska