Big Ten: Bryan Bulaga

IOWA CITY, Iowa -- There was nothing ordinary about Brandon Scherff and Carl Davis when each set gargantuan foot on Iowa's campus four summers ago. The two Hawkeye linemen expect to leave the program the same way.

Iowa prides itself as a developmental program, taking the undersized and overlooked and turning them into overachievers. Rarely do the Hawkeyes get recruits who, at least physically, look like finished products.

"Carl and Brandon were two of the bigger guys we've ever had come to campus as freshmen," coach Kirk Ferentz said.

Both men supplemented their size with rare athletic ability. Scherff played quarterback and tight end for most of his high school career. He lettered in baseball, basketball and tennis and earned all-state honors in track, winning a state title in shot put as a sophomore. Scherff played solely offensive line, the position Iowa pegged him to play, as a senior at Denison (Iowa) High School.

By the time he reported for his first college practice, he looked the part: 6-foot-5 and 310 pounds.

[+] EnlargeBrandon Scherff
Kim Klement/USA TODAY SportsBrandon Scherff wants to be the nation's top offensive lineman.
Scherff might have been listed as the biggest freshman on Iowa's 2010 roster, but the actual title belonged to Davis, a 6-5, 340-pound defensive tackle from Detroit. Like Scherff, Davis also had lettered in basketball and track as a high school standout.

"We actually toyed with the idea of playing both those guys their first year," Ferentz said. "It was in their best interests to redshirt, and that's what happened."

Nearly four years later, Scherff and Davis anchor the offensive and defensive lines for a promising Iowa team that always has considered line play its lifeblood. Ferentz's best Hawkeye teams -- 2002, 2003, 2004, 2009 -- all had first-team All-Big Ten selections on both lines. His tenure is largely defined by linemen from both the offense (Eric Steinbach, Robert Gallery, Bruce Nelson, Bryan Bulaga, Marshal Yanda, Riley Reiff) and defense (Adrian Clayborn, Colin Cole, Mitch King, Matt Roth, Jonathan Babineaux).

Scherff and Davis want to add their names to the list.

"My goal," Scherff told, "is to be the best offensive lineman in the nation."

He enters his senior season as the Big Ten's most decorated offensive lineman and the favorite to win the Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year award. Scherff, who has started at left tackle the past two seasons, is the only first-team All-Big Ten offensive lineman from 2013 to return this fall.

If Scherff had opted to skip his senior season, his name could have been called Thursday night at Radio City Music Hall. Ferentz thinks the left tackle likely would have been a first-round pick -- "Late teens to mid-20s, in that range" -- if he had declared for the NFL draft.

The coach puts Scherff in the company with three other standout Hawkeye tackles: Gallery, Bulaga and Reiff. Both Bulaga and Reiff left early and were drafted No. 23 overall in the 2010 and 2012 drafts, respectively. Gallery stayed for his senior season and was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2004 draft.

"He just enjoys everything about being a college football player," Ferentz said. "We have our whole lives to work. You only get a limited window to be a college student or, in their case, a college athlete. And that's a pretty good window. In Brandon's case, he likes his life. And he's going to have a great life in the pros and somebody is going to be really lucky to have him.

"You can't pay enough for what he has."

Scherff enjoys his teammates and the hunting and fishing trips he takes during the summer. He says of the NFL, "It's work up there." And it can wait another year.

"I'm not worried about [the NFL] anymore," he said. "I came back because I think I can improve a lot: my pass game, run game, playing smart, playing faster, pretty much all the aspects of football."

[+] EnlargeDavis
Matthew Holst/Getty ImagesCarl Davis' development could take a leap this season.
While Scherff refines his game, Davis' development could take a leap this season. Injuries and conditioning limitations impeded his progress early in his Iowa career -- he had just 16 tackles in his first two seasons. But he earned second-team all-conference honors last fall after recording 42 tackles, including 4.5 for loss and a sack.

Down to 315 pounds, Davis boosted his endurance as a junior.

"He probably jumped up 30, 40 snaps," defensive coordinator Phil Parker said. "You don't like to play 80 snaps a game, but if he can give us 60, 65 good plays, that's obviously going to help."

Davis calls 60 snaps "a good start," but he wants to push himself to his limit and not just stay on the field but impact games.

"I need to be a catalyst," he said. "When we're on those third downs and everybody is tired, I need to be able to make those tackles for loss, those sacks, deflect a pass, just step up big."

Davis embraces a leadership role on a defense that loses all three starting linebackers, including co-captains James Morris and Christian Kirksey. Along with linebacker Quinton Alston, he keeps things loose at practice and seeks out struggling teammates.

If a coach blasts a player, Davis is the one telling him, Look, he wants you to get better. Let's pick it up and go. We're fine.

But when it comes to his own game, Davis sets a higher bar.

"I put a lot of pressure on myself because I want to be the greatest, honestly, to be in this program," Davis said. "I want to be one of the best guys in the country."

Like Scherff, Davis wants to be extraordinary. If both add their names to Iowa's elite lineman lineage, the Hawkeyes could be, too.
The last time the Iowa Hawkeyes walked into Ohio Stadium, they nearly left with roses in their mouths.

The Big Ten's official championship game didn't arrive until the 2011 season, but Iowa and Ohio State played for the league title on Nov. 14, 2009. Both teams entered the game 5-1 in Big Ten play, and the winner would gain a head-to-head tiebreaker, making the results of the following week irrelevant. That afternoon and early evening, a Rose Bowl berth was on the line in Columbus, Ohio.

[+] EnlargeJake Rudock
Matthew Holst/Getty ImagesJake Rudock hopes to lead Iowa to its first win in Columbus since 1991.
Although Iowa had lost star quarterback Ricky Stanzi -- and its perfect record -- the previous week, the Hawkeyes fought valiantly behind first-time starter James Vandenberg. Iowa erased a 14-point, fourth-quarter deficit behind a 99-yard Derrell Johnson-Koulianos kick return and an 8-play, 70-yard drive led by Vandenberg, just a redshirt freshman at the time.

"Going into the Horseshoe, we just weren't sure who James Vandenberg was or what he really brought to the table," Johnson-Koulianos said in a phone interview with this week. "James was sort of born into Iowa football on that night. That's what sticks out to me most."

The Hawkeyes actually had a chance to take the lead at the end of regulation, but coach Kirk Ferentz decided to drain the final 52 seconds. Ohio State went on to win 27-24 in overtime.

"At the time, you didn't really realize how significant that was," Johnson-Koulianos said. "How close we were to having a Rose Bowl berth and how tough it is to get there, that sticks out. It's a bit disappointing."

Iowa went on to win the Orange Bowl and finished No. 7 in the final polls. Many expected the Hawkeyes to punch their ticket to Pasadena the following season, but they stumbled to 7-5 before winning their bowl game. The wins total dropped to seven in 2011 and to four last season.

Columbus once again is in the viewfinder for Iowa, which makes its first visit to No. 4 Ohio State since 2009 on Saturday. But how much farther away is Pasadena for a program that not long ago was among the Big Ten's elites?

"That was 2009; this is 2013," Ferentz said. "Every season's different, every team's different. Right now, we're a 4-2 team, trying to figure out a way to win No. 5. It won't be easy this week, but that's what our focus is."

Iowa isn't considered a serious threat for the Big Ten title this season, although it already has matched its 2012 wins total in just half the time. An offense that finished 114th in yards and 111th in points last season has shown better cohesion behind quarterback Jake Rudock, running back Mark Weisman and a solid line. The defense also is making strides, not allowing a rushing touchdown through the first six games.

The arrow is pointed up for the Hawkeyes, and the move to the West Division beginning next season should boost their chances to reach the league title game. But the program is still trying to regain the momentum it had on Nov. 14, 2009, when it started 10 future NFL draft picks against Ohio State, including three first-rounders (offensive tackles Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff, and defensive end Adrian Clayborn).

"My class surprisingly catapulted us into a winning program again, with the upper tier," said Johnson-Koulianos, who had 45 receptions for 750 yards in 2009. "We had a pretty good thing going."

It's a great team that we're playing in a very hostile environment. It'll tell us a lot. We need to give them all we've got and see if we can hang with a powerful Ohio State team.

-- Iowa tackle Brett Van Sloten

Things shifted in 2010, as the close games Iowa had grown accustomed to winning began to go the other way. After a mediocre 2011 campaign, one of the nation's most stable coaching staffs began to splinter. Ferentz had to make coordinator changes for the first time in his tenure.

More staffing moves followed after last season's clunker. Of the nine assistants at Iowa in 2009, only three -- Phil Parker, Reese Morgan and Eric Johnson -- remain.

Hawkeyes tackle Brett Van Sloten redshirted in 2009 and watched the Ohio State game from home, calling it "a competitive game in an competitive environment." Now a fifth-year senior, Van Sloten will tell his younger teammates about the great things accomplished during that season.

"You want to learn from the past," Van Sloten said. "What we, as younger guys at the time, admired about the 2009 team was their will and desire to finish games. They were in a lot of close games, but they found ways to win. You relay that to the younger guys."

Van Sloten said last week's bye allowed players to recharge after a physical game against Michigan State and figure out "where we want to go as a program." The Hawkeyes know Saturday's game against Ohio State, which has yet to lose under second-year coach Urban Meyer and remains the favorite to reach the Rose Bowl, is a measuring stick.

Iowa last won in Columbus in 1991, the year after the Hawkeyes' most recent Rose Bowl appearance.

"It's a great team that we're playing in a very hostile environment," Van Sloten said. "It'll tell us a lot. We need to give them all we've got and see if we can hang with a powerful Ohio State team."

A win Saturday would suddenly thrust Iowa back into the crowded Legends Division race before home tests against Northwestern and Wisconsin. Simply hanging with the Buckeyes would show that Iowa's road to Pasadena isn't as long as it was last season, or even before this season.

From afar, Johnson-Koulianos sees Iowa making progress. The Hawkeyes still lack game-changers on the perimeter but boast some good core pieces, including Rudock.

"This is going to be another good [test] of what this team is capable of and who they are," Johnson-Koulianos said. " I don't think they even need to win this game for us to feel good about Iowa moving forward. They need to be in this game. To get back to being a contender for Rose Bowls and BCS bowls, honestly, I don't think we’re there yet, but I do think in a year or two, we could be.

"We're heading in the right direction."
Now that spring practice is over, we're examining the most indispensable players on each Big Ten team for the 2013 season.

By indispensable, we don't necessarily mean best. We mean the players who would be hardest to replace between now and the start of the season if they got hurt or suspended or shot out of a cannon. That could be because of their value to the team or because of a lack of depth at their position.

We'll pick two players from each team, usually offense and defense but not always. Up next: Iowa

Brandon Scherff, OT, Jr.

Maybe offensive coordinator Greg Davis will surprise us and call 40 passes a game with an unproven quarterback. It's more likely Iowa relies on its running attack and -- hope AIRBHG isn't reading -- a good stable of backs led by Mark Weisman. That's where Scherff comes in. He's the team's best lineman and a guy who has the potential to follow recent Hawkeyes star tackles like Bryan Bulaga and Riley Reiff. Iowa's offense already had problems before Scherff suffered a gruesome injury last October against Penn State, but without Scherff -- and fellow lineman Andrew Donnal, who got hurt two plays later -- the unit had no chance. Not only does Scherff provide blindside protection for the Hawkeyes' new signal-caller, but he'll be instrumental in sparking a run game that showed potential when the backs were healthy in 2012. Iowa is very young at tackle behind Scherff and Brett Van Sloten, and it can't afford to lose No. 68 again.

B.J. Lowery, CB, Sr.

Some might expect to see a linebacker here, as Iowa returns starters James Morris, Anthony Hitchens and Christian Kirksey. But the Hawkeyes have strength in numbers with their defensive midsection, and if one player were to go down, the others are there to pick up the slack. Iowa doesn't enjoy the same type of depth at cornerback, especially after losing Micah Hyde, the 2012 Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year and a fifth-round pick in last month's NFL draft. After recording 50 tackles and an interception last season, Lowery capped a strong spring with an interception and three pass breakups in Iowa's spring game. Head coach Kirk Ferentz said the team's quarterbacks avoided throwing toward Lowery in practices, and he showed why in the scrimmage. Iowa has some questions at the other cornerback spot and not much overall depth at the position, so it needs to keep Lowery on the field this fall.

More indispensable:

Michigan State
Ohio State

Big Ten lunchtime links

April, 27, 2012
Happy birthday to Rogers Hornsby, Ulysses S. Grant, Enos Slaughter, George "Iceman" Gervin, Chris Carpenter, Sheena Easton and ... I know I'm forgetting somebody. Who could it be?
The NFL draft begins Thursday night. You probably weren't aware of that, because the draft, like most things associated with the National Football League, gets very little media coverage. Ahem.

Luckily, Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett are stepping into this void to talk about the draft, and specifically the Big Ten prospects hoping to hear their name called over the long weekend.

Brian Bennett: Adam, we usually leave draft talk to people with better hair than us, like Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. But let's give it a shot. You know the NFL is a different game when Iowa's Riley Reiff is widely expected to be the top player taken from the Big Ten. Reiff is an excellent player and terrific pro prospect, no doubt. But if you would have asked league fans to pick a most valuable player from the conference this season, Reiff probably wouldn't have cracked the Top 10.

Speaking of the Top 10, the Big Ten hasn't had a player selected in that range for the past three years and is likely to make it four this year. What, if anything, does that say about the talent the league has been producing? And is Reiff the first guy you would take from the conference if you had an NFL team? (I'll resist from making wisecracks about your Big Ten fantasy team management last year).

Adam Rittenberg: Hey now, Year 2 will be different, my friend. The Shorties are coming for you. The Big Ten's Top 10 drought is certainly noteworthy, and I think it stems in part from the league producing fewer elite pro-caliber quarterbacks and cornerbacks in recent years. It does surprise me that the Big Ten hasn't had a defensive lineman in the top 10 recently, as the league has been very strong at both line spots. I think that will change in 2013. As for Reiff, he was about as under-the-radar as an elite player could get during his time at Iowa. He certainly performed well, but you didn't hear much about him, even compared to previous Hawkeyes standout linemen like Bryan Bulaga. Reiff is a masher, though, and while some say he's not the most dominant tackle, he should be able to help an NFL team this coming season.

I'd want to start my team with a potential difference-maker on the defensive line. The Big Ten has plenty of options, but Illinois' Whitney Mercilus is a natural pass-rusher who can put up big numbers. Have Merci? Yes, please. What's your view of the Big Ten's defensive line crop entering the draft?

BB: We both agreed that the defensive line, especially on the interior, is where the league's true strength lay in 2011. I'm a bit surprised that some mock drafts don't have Michigan State's Jerel Worthy, who has the chance to be a major presence on defense, in the first round and that Penn State's Devon Still, who was wildly productive last season, is being projected as a second-rounder at best. I'd rather take one of those guys than roll the dice on Memphis' Dontari Poe, a combine wonder who did next to nothing in college. And though Michigan's Mike Martin is a little short by NFL standards, I have little doubt he'll be a productive pro.

[+] EnlargeIowa's Riley Reiff
Jeffrey G. Pittenger/US PRESSWIREIowa's Riley Reiff could be the first Big Ten player selected in the NFL draft.
I'm also interested in seeing how the centers get drafted. Wisconsin's Peter Konz, Michigan's David Molk and Ohio State's Michael Brewster were arguably the top three centers in the nation last year. Molk, of course, publicly said he's the best of the three, and he did win the Rimington Trophy. Konz likely will go first, but I will be fascinated to see who ends up having the best career.

You mentioned quarterbacks. What do you think about Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson as potential NFL players? And will Dan Persa get a shot somewhere?

AR: Cousins should be the first Big Ten quarterback off the board, and many projections have him going in the second round. He clearly improved his stock during the predraft process. While everyone raves about the character of both Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin -- and for good reasons -- Cousins, as we both know, certainly fits into the same category as those two. He's not the fastest or most athletic guy, but he's extremely smart and played in a pro-style system at Michigan State. He could end up being a solid pro quarterback.

The issue for both Wilson and Persa is size, Persa more so than Wilson. While Wilson boasts tremendous arm strength and athleticism, his height scares teams. He does a tremendous job of extending plays and can make all of the throws, but he'll have to prove himself as a consistent pocket passer in a league where everyone is really big and really fast. Looks like a midround selection. Whether or not Persa gets drafted at all will be interesting. The guy obviously has a ton of heart and tremendous leadership skills, but he's small and suffered a major injury at Northwestern. I think Todd McShay summed up the sentiment about Persa when he told the Chicago Tribune, "I want to like Persa, but as an NFL prospect, he is limited." Persa will find his way onto a roster, but he'll have a lot to prove.

We've read a lot of draft evaluations in recent weeks. Which Big Ten player could be a real steal for a team this weekend?

BB: The guy whom I think is really undervalued is Iowa's Marvin McNutt. I've seen him going as late as the fifth or sixth round, which seems (Mc)nuts to me. Sure, it's a deep draft for receivers, and McNutt might not have blazing speed. But we saw him make some absolutely spectacular catches last season, and he closed his career as the Hawkeyes' all-time leader in receiving touchdowns. He has good size and produced 1,300 receiving yards in what was clearly not a gimmicky, pass-happy offense. If I were a GM and he was sitting there in Round 4 or later, I'd happily grab him.

Two other guys I think can be big bargains for teams are Nebraska's Lavonte David and Ohio State's Mike Adams. Both are being projected as second-rounders for different reasons (David because of size, Adams for off-the-field issues in college), but I think both will have long and stellar careers. They'll bring first-round value without the price.

Who do you see as underrated, or possibly overrated, from the Big Ten in this draft?

AR: I would have put Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler in the underrated category, but it seems like teams have caught on to how good he can be. He'll likely be a late first-round pick. Same with Konz and maybe Adams. It baffles me why Devon Still isn't projected higher in the draft. Two others I'd put in the underrated category are Michigan's Martin and Iowa's Mike Daniels. You don't have to be Vince Wilfork to be an effective NFL defensive tackle. Both Martin and Daniels are smaller defensive tackles, but they're both extremely strong physical and play with sound fundamentals. Both men have been tutored by excellent defensive coaches, and the teams that select them will be inheriting very hard workers.

Two of the more intriguing Big Ten prospects are Ohio State receiver DeVier Posey and Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick. Posey, who I chatted with briefly last week in Columbus, played only three games last fall because of suspensions stemming from NCAA violations. He's clearly a gifted guy, but it'll be interesting to see how much the off-field issues and lack of playing time impact his draft position. Crick entered 2011 as an All-America candidate but missed most of the season with injury. He definitely can help an NFL team, but like with Posey, there are question marks.

OK, time to wrap up this draft discussion. What do you think the major story line regarding the Big Ten will be coming out of this weekend's festivities?

BB: I'll go out on a limb and say Reiff is not the first Big Ten player drafted, as someone reaches for Mercilus, Worthy or Konz first. And I think the other big stories will be with the quarterbacks, as Cousins is drafted in the second round and Wilson is picked higher than people expect. What are your predictions?

AR: I wouldn't mind if that someone landing Reiff or Mercilus is my Chicago Bears, but that's another debate. Worthy's selection will be fascinating, as his stock has been pretty volatile throughout the process. I think both Martin and Daniels go earlier than expect, while Wilson has to wait a while. It'll be fascinating to see where Molk ends up. No matter where he's selected, he'll feel overlooked. As a short guy myself, I'm definitely rooting for the vertically challenged (Molk, Wilson, Persa, Martin, Daniels etc.). Another story line: Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, whose draft stock already had dropped before his arrest over the weekend.

Should be a fun weekend.
The Big Ten postseason Top 25 player countdown keeps chugging along. As a reminder, we're basing these rankings on 2011 performance and impact and not other factors like NFL potential.

That said, it's time to spotlight an Iowa player who happens to have excellent NFL potential ...

No. 13: Riley Reiff, LT, Iowa, Jr., 6-6, 300

Preseason rank: No. 8

2011 numbers: Reiff started all 13 games at left tackle and ended his career with 34 consecutive starts and 37 overall.

Why he's here: Offensive linemen are usually spotlighted for bad things like penalties or sacks allowed, so the fact we didn't hear much about Reiff in 2011 underscores his steady play. Although Iowa's offense had its good moments and its struggles, Reiff provided a consistent presence at left tackle. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and the media, and appeared on several postseason All-America squads. Reiff protected the Big Ten's No. 3 passer in James Vandenberg and helped running back Marcus Coker rush for 1,384 yards.

A physical player with polished fundamentals, Reiff contained several of the nation's top pass-rushers in his career. With little to prove, he declared for the NFL draft in early January. Like his Iowa predecessor Bryan Bulaga, Reiff will forgo his final season, and he's expected to be the first Big Ten player selected in April.


No. 14: B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State
No. 15
: John Simon, DL, Ohio State
No. 16: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan
No. 17:
Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
No. 18:
A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois
No. 19:
Gerald Hodges, LB, Penn State
No. 20
: Kevin Zeitler, G, Wisconsin
No. 21
: Marcus Coker, RB, Iowa
No. 22
: Silas Redd, RB, Penn State
No. 23
: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
No. 24
: Mike Taylor, LB, Wisconsin
No. 25
: Fitz Toussaint, RB, Michigan
As you'd expect, Twitter is buzzing with reaction to the resignation of Jim Tressel as Ohio State's coach earlier Monday.

Ohio State held a team meeting Monday morning to announce the change, but several current and former players have tweeted about Tressel's departure. Most of the reaction is very positive.

Here's a look at some of the comments:
There are also these notable tweets:
  • Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin: The head of the scarlet and grey Demon has been cut off!
  • Michigan cornerback Troy Woolfolk: Tressel resigned, well I guess it got too hot in the kitchen. Lol
  • Former Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga: @OfficialAJHawk are you going to help select the new coach at OSU. I am sure they will be askig for your professional opinion.
  • Former Michigan running back Mike Hart: Great day for America! Sad day 4 Big 10, Hate OSU but tressel was a great coach! Would rather beat them when he's the coach than some1 else
  • Former Ohio State receiver Ray Small: Lol what y'all gone do 2 me that man resigned his self if u don't like me [bleep] u!!

Again, much more to come on Tressel's resignation.

Big Ten recruiting rewind to 2007

January, 31, 2011
As signing day approaches, it's fun to take a look back at how some of the Big Ten's top recruits from years past fared on the college stage.

ESPN Recruiting took a comprehensive look back at the 2007 recruiting class: how the top players fared, who met expectations, who exceeded them and who turned out to be a bust. It also revised the team recruiting class rankings.

Here's how some of the Big Ten recruits in the ESPNU 150 fared:

Illinois LB Martez Wilson (No. 5 nationally): After recording 73 tackles as a sophomore for the Fighting Illini, Wilson's junior season was cut short due to a herniated disc and he was granted a medical hardship. In 2010, he had 104 tackles, four sacks and two forced fumbles.

Michigan QB Ryan Mallett (No. 12): As a true freshman, he played in 11 games for Michigan before transferring to Arkansas. After sitting out a year due to transfer rules, Mallett started all 13 games in 2009 and threw for more than 3,600 yards and 30 touchdowns. He completed an Arkansas single-season record 242 passes in 2010 and is expected to be drafted in the first round of the 2011 NFL draft.

Illinois WR Arrelious Benn (No. 17): He was named Big Ten Freshman of the Year and followed that up in 2008 by earning first-team All-Big Ten honors, as well as being named team MVP. He was given honorable mention All-Big Ten as a junior and drafted in the second round of the 2010 NFL draft by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He is currently the team's No. 2 WR.

Michigan WR Junior Hemingway (No. 19): Hemingway played in 10 games as a freshman and redshirted in 2008 due to mononucleosis. Hemingway was the Wolverine's fourth-leading receiver in 2009 and third-leading receiver in 2010. He has started 18 contests at wideout in his career.

Wisconsin T Josh Oglesby (No. 28): After redshirting in Oglesby he played in 13 games as a sophomore and started every game in 2009. However, a knee injury in Week 2 ended his 2010 season.

Ohio State S Eugene Clifford (No. 37): After playing in four games for the Buckeyes in 2007, he was suspended for violating unspecified team rules and then kicked off the team before the 2008 season after being charged with assault. He transferred to Tennessee State where he finished his career with 204 tackles and was named as a first-team FCS All-American in 2010.

Minnesota QB Clint Brewster (No. 45): After redshirting in 2007, Brewster went to the College of Sequoias in 2008. He joined the Tennessee Tech roster in July 2008, but has sat on the bench since.

Illinois DT D'Angelo McCray (No. 64): McCray redshirted at Illinois in 2007, before transferring to Eastern Illinois. After playing in 2008 for Eastern Illinois, he transferred to Coffeyville Community College in 2009 and then transferred to Memphis University in 2010 totaling six tackles.

Michigan CB Donovan Warren (No. 86): In 2007, he played in all 13 games and totaled 35 tackles and one forced fumble. He was on the Freshman All-America Team and was named the Big Ten Defensive Freshman of the Year. In 2008, he started 10 games at corner and one at safety, recording 36 tackles. As a junior, he started all 12 games at corner, totaling 66 tackles, four interceptions and 11 pass breakups.

Michigan S Mike Williams (No. 94): After not seeing any game action in 2007, he played in 11 games in 2008, including nine at safety. In 2009, he started nine games at safety and played in 10, registering 56 tackles. In 2010, he appeared in two games before missing the rest of the season due to a head injury.

Iowa T Bryan Bulaga (No. 96): He played in seven games as a true freshman, starting five. In 2008, he started all 13 games at left tackle, earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. As a junior, he made 10 starts at left tackle and was named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. He was drafted No. 23 overall by the Green Bay Packers in 2010 and is the team's starting right tackle.

Ohio State moved up to No. 7 in the revised class rankings, while Michigan fell out of the top 10.

Michigan's Hemingway and Jerimy Finch, a safety who signed with Florida before transferring to Indiana, are listed among the recruiting busts of the 2007 class.

Opening camp: Iowa

August, 6, 2010
Schedule: Kirk Ferentz and the Hawkeyes hit the field for their first practice at 11:30 a.m. ET today.

What's new: The offensive line certainly has a new look after the departures of Bryan Bulaga, Kyle Calloway, Dace Richardson and Rafael Eubanks. Iowa will be breaking in a new right tackle, most likely Markus Zusevics, and the center spot is up for grabs between Josh Koeppel and James Ferentz. The only other spot that gets a major overhaul is linebacker, as standouts Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds both depart. Iowa is one of only 11 FBS programs to return its coaching staff fully intact for 2010.

Sidelined: Iowa enters camp relatively healthy, although linebacker Ross Petersen won't participate in full-contact drills for at least a week because of a torn pectoral muscle.

Key battle: The competition at center between Koeppel and Ferentz should be good, but Iowa really needs to identify a second starting cornerback opposite Shaun Prater. Amari Spievey leaves a huge void, and the Hawkeyes will be looking to players like Micah Hyde and Jordan Bernstine to step up. Bernstine missed all of last season with an ankle injury, but he played as a reserve in his first two seasons. The situation at running back also should be very interesting to watch during camp.

New on the scene: Iowa doesn't typically play many true freshmen, but heralded tight end recruit C.J. Fiedorowicz should see the field following the departure of standout Tony Moeaki. Homegrown product A.J. Derby is a very interesting young prospect, but indications suggest he'll redshirt this fall.

Back in the fold: Jewel Hampton entered last summer as the projected successor to All-American Shonn Greene at running back, but a series of knee problems ended his season before it began. Hampton is back in the fold but must beat out Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher for the starting job. He'll miss the season opener because of a suspension, but we should finally see Hampton's return in Week 2 against Iowa State.

Breaking out: Iowa opened up its passing attack last season and saw Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos emerge as legitimate deep threats in the Big Ten. Johnson-Koulianos likely will finish as Iowa's all-time leading receiver, and McNutt averaged 19.8 yards per reception with eight touchdowns. Both players could have even bigger years in 2010. Along the defensive line, everyone knows about Adrian Clayborn, but watch out for Broderick Binns, Karl Klug and Christian Ballard, who should see increased opportunities to make plays this fall.

Quotable: "We tend to be a developmental team. We were 9-0 at one point last year, and we were a good team, we had played some great football, but we weren't a great team at that point. In January, we were a pretty good team. We really grew. So it's a race against time. I don't know where we stack up in that race right now." -- Head coach Kirk Ferentz

The Revolving Door: Iowa

June, 28, 2010
Eleventh in a series examining key players departing, staying and arriving at Big Ten schools in 2010.

Going ...

Pat Angerer, LB: Angerer was the heart and soul of Iowa's defense in 2009, racking up 145 tackles (sixth nationally), two forced fumbles and an interception. He earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors, first-team All-America honors from several outlets and was a finalist for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy. Angerer always found himself around the football and had some of his best games (Penn State, Georgia Tech) against some of Iowa's better opponents.

Bryan Bulaga, LT: Despite missing three games in September with a thyroid condition, Bulaga won Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors and protected Ricky Stanzi's blind side. He started for two and a half seasons at left tackle/left guard and would have provided valuable experience for Iowa's line had he returns for his senior year. Bulaga earned first-team All-American honors from several outlets in 2009.

Staying ...

Adrian Clayborn, DE: Several opposing Big Ten coaches were shocked that Clayborn passed up the NFL draft for one more year in Iowa City. The consensus first-team All-Big Ten lineman could have a monster season in 2010 after recording 11.5 sacks, 20 tackles for loss, four forced fumbles, nine quarterback hurries and two blocked kicks. The Orange Bowl MVP should contend for national awards this fall as he tries to lead Iowa to a Big Ten championship.

Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, WR: DJK isn't short on personality or big-time receiving numbers. He has led Iowa in receiving for three consecutive years and will take aim on two team receiving records this fall. Johnson-Koulianos needs only 31 receptions and 401 receiving yards to break Kevin Kasper's records. If Iowa continues to air it out with Stanzi, DJK should have a big year.

Coming ...

C.J. Fiedorowicz, TE: Iowa loses a very valuable piece in Tony Moeaki, a tight end who looked like an All-American at times last year. Fiedorowicz is Iowa's most decorated recruit and boasts tremendous size and athleticism. Iowa likes to feature multiple tight ends, and Fiedorowicz might be the perfect complement for Allen Reisner if he can improve his blocking.

A.J. Derby, QB: A heralded recruit who grew up right in Iowa City, Derby is already generating a ton of buzz among Hawkeyes fans. He was one of only two incoming freshmen to enroll early and go through spring practice. Although he's staying at quarterback for now, he has the skills to contribute in several ways. Derby is a great candidate to run the Wildcat or shake things up on offense with a special package of plays.

More revolving door ...
The Big Ten preseason player rankings, based on past performance and 2010 potential, continue with ...

No. 11: Gabe Carimi, LT, Wisconsin, 6-7, 315

2009 numbers: Earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media after starting all 13 games at left tackle; anchored a line that helped Wisconsin lead the Big Ten in rushing (203.8 ypg), scoring (31.8 ppg) and total offense (416.9 ypg).

Most recent ranking: Unranked in the 2009 postseason player rankings.

Making the case for Carimi: The Big Ten needs a premier left tackle after Bryan Bulaga's early departure to the NFL draft, and Carimi certainly is capable of filling the role. He has started 36 games for the Badgers; two stretches of 18 consecutive starts broken up by a three-game stretch on the sideline because of a knee injury in 2008. After earning All-Big Ten honors as a junior, Carimi has been named to the Rotary Lombardi Award preseason watch list and is listed as a preseason All-American by Phil Steele and several other outlets. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. projects Carimi as the nation's No. 2 tackle for the 2011 NFL draft, and several others have him as the first Big Ten offensive lineman selected in April. Carimi has all the tools -- size, strength, intelligence -- to be special, and he'll lead a veteran Badgers line that will block for Heisman Trophy candidate John Clay this season.

The rundown
  • No. 25: Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt
  • No. 24: Illinois RB Mikel LeShoure
  • No. 23: Iowa DT Karl Klug
  • No. 22: Northwestern LB Quentin Davie
  • No. 21: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 20: Ohio State LB Brian Rolle
  • No. 19: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
  • No. 18: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 17: Ohio State WR DeVier Posey
  • No. 16: Wisconsin LB Chris Borland
  • No. 15: Wisconsin G/C John Moffitt
  • No. 14: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 13: Purdue WR Keith Smith
  • No. 12: Ohio State LB Ross Homan
Last week's NFL draft rekindled a hot topic on this blog -- the 2009 Big Ten Coach of the Year race between Iowa's Kirk Ferentz and Ohio State's Jim Tressel.

As we all know, Ferentz won the award, his third after claiming the honor in both 2002 and 2004. Tressel amazingly has never won the award despite leading Ohio State to six Big Ten titles, a national title, seven BCS bowl appearances and a 59-13 mark in conference games since he took over as head coach in 2001.

Let the record show that I endorsed Ferentz for the 2009 award, though I wouldn't have made a fuss if it had gone to Tressel. I cited Iowa's ability to overcome a brutal road schedule and several key injuries as primary reasons why the award should go to Ferentz. Plus, Ferentz and his assistants regularly take average recruits and turn them into All-Big Ten performers.

"Ferentz had so many things working against him this season, namely a brutal road schedule and several unfortunate injuries. ... Ferentz readily admits Iowa isn't the most talented or deepest team in the Big Ten, but he and his assistants got the most out of the Hawkeyes this fall. ... Tressel deserves to win this award one of these seasons, and he did a great job turning things around after Purdue and worked his November magic yet again. I'd be happy for Tressel if he got the nod tonight, but the honor should go to Ferentz."

So how does the NFL draft change this, if at all?

Well, Iowa had six players drafted, including a first-round pick in left tackle Bryan Bulaga, a second-round pick in linebacker Pat Angerer, two third-round picks in cornerback Amari Spievey and tight end Tony Moeaki, and a fourth-round pick in linebacker A.J. Edds.

Ohio State, meanwhile, had its weakest draft in recent memory. The Buckeyes had no players drafted in the first three rounds and only one, outside linebacker Thaddeus Gibson, drafted before the seventh round.

The draft also mirrored the 2009 All-Big Ten selections, which included only two first-team selections from Ohio State (safety Kurt Coleman and guard Justin Boren) and five first-team selections from Iowa (Bulaga, Spievey, Angerer, defensive end Adrian Clayborn and safety Tyler Sash).

Despite having a weak senior class, at least according to NFL potential, and one of his least decorated teams at Ohio State, Tressel won another Big Ten title, not to mention a Rose Bowl championship.

Did he deserve the Coach of the Year Award over Ferentz?

I've heard plenty from both fan bases on this topic, and I'll attempt to summarize the viewpoints.

Ohio State fan argument: It's ridiculous Tressel has never won the award despite dominating the Big Ten since his arrival. Why should he get penalized for Ohio State recruiting well and being the preseason favorite all the time? Look at the 2009 season. Iowa had more than twice as many first-team All-Big Ten selections, and a much stronger NFL draft class. And Ohio State still beat the Hawkeyes head-to-head to win the Big Ten championship and then the Rose Bowl. This was one of Tressel's best coaching jobs, and if he can't win the award in a year like this one, he'll never get it. O-H!

Iowa fan argument: It's ridiculous that Tressel has never won Big Ten Coach of the Year, but Ferentz deserved the award in 2009, just like he did in 2002 and 2004. Look at where Iowa's recruiting classes rank next to Ohio State's year after year. Ferentz consistently does more with less talent, while Tressel wins the league because he has the most gifted recruits. It goes back to recruiting and player development, and a coach should be judged by what he does with players after they come under his watch.

Both sides bring up great points, and both coaches certainly did enough to deserve the award last fall.

I took a look at who was winning Coach of the Year in other conferences. Specifically, I wanted to see how often the award went to the coach from the dominant team, or the team that recruited the best.

  • Pete Carroll won Pac-10 Coach of the Year honors three times during his dominant USC tenure. He claimed the award outright in 2006 and shared it with Washington State's Bill Doba in 2003 and UCLA's Karl Dorrell in 2005.
  • Oklahoma's Bob Stoops has won Big 12 Coach of the Year four times, while Texas' Mack Brown won his second award last season. The Sooners and Longhorns have dominated the league in the last decade.
  • Florida's Urban Meyer has never won SEC Coach of the Year, making him the closest parallel to Tressel. Nick Saban has won or shared the award three times, once with LSU and twice with Alabama.
  • Virginia Tech's Frank Beamer won back-to-back ACC Coach of the Year awards in 2004 and 2005. Beamer and the Hokies have been the league's dominant team since moving over from the Big East.

This shows that dominant head coaches can win Coach of the Year awards in their leagues, although Tressel and Meyer both have been passed over.

Pretty much everyone agrees that Tressel deserves this award, but unless Ohio State takes a nosedive on the field or in recruiting, his drought likely will continue.
It's never too early to look ahead to the 2011 NFL draft and where Big Ten players project.

Scouts Inc.'s Todd McShay always has his eyes on the draft, and he recently listed his top 10 offensive prospects and top 10 defensive prospects for 2011.

Let's start on the defensive side, where Iowa end Adrian Clayborn appears as McShay's No. 1 prospect. Clayborn would have been a first-round pick had he entered the draft after the 2009 season, and his stock will go even higher with a dominant senior season.

McShay writes:
Clayborn is looking to build on the momentum from a breakout 2009 season, which included an MVP showing in the Orange Bowl win over Georgia Tech. Clayborn is a massive defensive end with an unusual combination of speed and athleticism for his size. He is mature and plays the game with fire.

McShay brings up an important point about Clayborn. If you stand next to the guy, as I did recently in Iowa City, you'll notice his size, but he doesn't look like an elite athlete. Clayborn's athleticism catches you by surprise, and he showed off his speed in several games last year, most notably against Penn State and Georgia Tech.

Wisconsin left tackle Gabe Carimi makes McShay's list of top offensive prospects, coming in at No. 4. Carimi earned first-team All Big Ten honors from the media last season, and with Bryan Bulaga gone, he'll be the league's premier offensive tackle in 2010.
Carimi is a massive left tackle prospect with 36 career starts under his belt. He shows good natural mobility for his frame, but Carimi must continue to improve his lower-body strength and hand usage in order to solidify a spot in Round 1.

Other top draft prospects from the Big Ten -- seniors only -- include Ohio State defensive lineman Cameron Heyward, Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones, Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, Penn State running back Evan Royster and Ohio State guard Justin Boren.

Big Ten mailblog

April, 27, 2010
Bring it.

Tim from Happy Valley, Pa., writes: Adam,After the Blue and White game this past weekend many questions still remain at quarterback and along the offensive line. While Matt McGloin and Kevin Newsome seem to be the front runners for the job they were very shaky at the game and it seemed to me Paul Jones gave the best performance. I know it wasn't against the first team defense but i don't understand why it seems Jay and Joe Paterno have written this kid off from starting next year. He seems to already posses the physical tools to perform at the next level and if its experience that is worrisome McGloin has never started a game plus Newsome has only played in garbage time. With three away games against top ten opponents i don't think we are making a run at a national championship this year, would it really be that bad if we started a freshman?

Adam Ritenberg: Jay Paterno sounded open to the idea of playing Jones after the Blue-White Game, and certainly Penn State can't close the door on any of its quarterbacks right now. I would give the coaches the benefit of the doubt. They've seen these guys every day in practice, Jay has charted every pass thrown and graded them out. Jones played well in the spring game, but how did he perform in the other 14 practices? While most of the players who spoke to reporters last week only talked about Newsome and McGloin, the opportunity for Jones seems to be there. True freshmen start at quarterback these days in the Big Ten, and I would hope Penn State coaches wouldn't be na´ve to what's happening around them.

Ian from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: Overall, I like MSU's new digs. The bronze is a little much and the fonts are overstyled, but really the changes aren't as dramatic as they could be. Football aside, I'm really disappointed that the basketball jerseys say "Spartans" and not "State." MSU basketball owns that tittle. New fonts, new colors aside, the basketball team deserves to be known nationwide as "State."

Adam Rittenberg: I agree, Ian. Things certainly could have been worse, and some of the changes provide a better look. I definitely agree with Michigan State's mission to get uniformity with its brand for athletics. The school can't please everyone with the changes, but overall, it did a good job. But I'm with you about the basketball jerseys. The "State" on the front was so recognizable and brought prestige with it.

Joe from Toledo writes: Hey Adam, what do you think of Donovan Warren not getting drafted? And now he signed with the Jets who have Revis Island, picked up Cromartie, and just drafted Kyle Wilson in the first round, will he make the team or even see the field??

Adam Rittenberg: Joe, I was surprised that Warren went undrafted, and I feel bad for him. He got some poor advice along the way, but on the other hand, he seemed ready to move on. Of the six Big Ten underclassmen in the draft -- Bryan Bulaga, Amari Spievey, Arrelious Benn, Navorro Bowman and Thaddeus Gibson -- only Warren didn't hear his name called in New York. The five others went in the fourth round or higher. There was talk Warren could be a second-round selection at one stage, but his stock clearly dropped as the draft approached. It's never easy for undrafted free agents to make a team, particularly one stacked at cornerback like the Jets, but Warren has some ability and got plenty of good experience at Michigan going against top wideouts from the Big Ten.

Greg from Austin, Texas, writes: Does the absence of any Buckeyes drafted in the first three rounds finally put to rest any idea that Tressell wins the Big Ten mainly because he has more talent? Are some voters finally going to wake up and give him a richly deserved Big Ten Coach of the Year award? After all, both Iowa and PSU had more players drafted and I believe eight different Big Ten teams had a player drafted before the Buckeyes, yet the Buckeyes won another Big Ten title. Sounds like good coaching to me.

Adam Rittenberg: Greg, I have to agree with you that Ohio State's poor draft showing definitely strengthens the case that Jim Tressel should have been 2009 Big Ten Coach of the Year rather than Iowa's Kirk Ferentz. The problem for Tressel is he should have plenty of first-team, All-Big Ten players as well as first-round draft picks on the 2010 team, which will be the Big Ten preseason favorite. Could he finally win COY as a lifetime achievement award this fall? He deserves to, but I'd bet if a team like Michigan State or Purdue or even Penn State challenges for the Big Ten title, the award will go elsewhere again.

Bit Guru from Washington D.C. writes: One way to solve all the expansion problems and get the BTN into several lucrative TV markets is to simply merge the Big Ten and the Pac Ten. (Could even ruthlessly eject Northwestern, Stanford, and say Minnesota to yield two 9-team divisions for round-robin football perfection.) Sure it will never happen, but hypothetically what do you think?Seriously, one of the stories you linked to a while back made a good case for Colorado. Good enough that I was pretty much convinced. But is Colorado now off the expansion radar?

Adam Rittenberg: Uh, no. Not happening. The Pac-10 has much bigger problems than the Big Ten as far as marketing its teams on a national level and raising its overall profile. USC is a big deal, but how many folks who live East of the Rockies see Oregon, Cal, Oregon State or Arizona play much? I grew up a Pac-10/Cal fan, and I have to stay up until 2 a.m. to see the Bears finish night games. The Big Ten has no need to share its success with the Pac-10, which brings on more risks than potential rewards. And the idea of ejecting teams like Northwestern, Stanford and Minnesota is silly for both leagues. Colorado would be a good addition for the Pac-10, but I highly doubt the Big Ten would look to the Buffs for expansion.

Bill from Marshall: where's all the spring game coverage? Stop slacking off!!There were a bunch of spring games. You should have a TON of material ready. Get off your nerdy backside and do something

Adam Rittenberg: Hmmm, should I fire on Bill or let you guys handle him for me in the comments section ... tough decision. Bill, you can criticize me for a lot of things, and you'd be correct on some of them. But saying I don't work hard enough, seriously, dude? I've got a little assignment for you. Go back and read this blog. Then go and try to find another one out there with more content year-round. You won't. I'll recap all the spring games eventually, but I don't place nearly as much of an importance on them as the fans do. They're glorified scrimmages that rarely mean anything when the season rolls around.

John from Dominica, West Indies, writes: Love the blog! Nearly as good as the Caribbean weather...until I read your recent post! Does Michigan State have a REAL quarterback?! I just read that Cousins said "Football is not my life" and it irked me, especially since Keith Nichol was quoted as saying he would "rather be on the field than play quarterback" If neither one of them cares THAT much about it, how vulnerable are we at QB?

Adam Rittenberg: John, I think the island air is getting to you. Just kidding. But I do think you're misinterpreting comments from two very upstanding guys in Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol. Cousins meant that football isn't the only thing in his life. He has his faith, his education, his family, etc. The guy gives maximum effort in every area of his life, but he's not going to be a football robot or delusional about life after he's done playing. As for Nichol, he wants to help the team in any way he can, and right now that's at wide receiver. Trust me, he'd play quarterback in a heartbeat and give it everything he had if that's where the coaches wanted him, but he can best serve the team as a wideout. He could complain about it, but instead, he's taking it in stride. Lastly, can you send some of that Caribbean weather my way?

Most mock drafts had Michigan's Brandon Graham, Iowa's Bryan Bulaga and Penn State's Jared Odrick being selected in the first round. So there were no major shockers as the first round played out.

The only mini surprise from Thursday night's NFL draft was the order of Big Ten picks.

Graham, the outstanding Michigan defensive end who will play outside linebacker in the pros, was the first Big Ten player drafted, going at No. 13 to the Philadelphia Eagles. The Eagles landed the Big Ten's most dominant player of 2009, but Graham was surprised Philadelphia wanted him, telling, "The Eagles never showed any interest at all."

Bulaga had been pegged as high as No. 5 on some draft boards, and most prognosticators listed him as the first Big Ten player to be selected. But the Iowa left tackle, who won Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors last fall, had to wait until No. 23, when the Green Bay Packers picked him. Bulaga's stock certainly dropped in the days before the first round, but's Don Banks writes that he had a "soft landing" and should fit in perfectly with Green Bay.

Should Bulaga have stayed another year at Iowa? He could have helped himself a little, but I can't fault him for leaving, especially after his health scare early in the season.

There were too many teams at the bottom of the first round that loved Odrick, and Miami pulled the trigger at No. 28. Here's some reaction from Odrick and analysis from around the media. I'd be stunned if Odrick isn't an excellent pro, and he should be able to help the Dolphins right way in their interior defensive line.

Check out ESPN's analysis of the first round here, here and here.

Indiana left tackle Rodger Saffold and Illinois wide receiver Arrelious Benn were the Big Ten's other first-round possibilities. Their wait should be over early tonight as Round 2 begins.



Saturday, 12/27
Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12