Big Ten: Bubba Starling

Big Ten lunch links

May, 29, 2012
Summer is officially here, so the links are sizzling today.
Today's recruiting experts take a look back on the 2011 ESPNU 150 class -- our list of the top prospects in the country -- and see how they fare in their rookie seasons.

It's way too early to make judgments about these players' careers. But in some instances, we can already see the promise being delivered. In others, we wait for a major impact.

Here's a look at the players from the ESPNU 150 list who signed with Big Ten schools in February and how their first season on campus turned out:

[+] EnlargeAaron Green
Jesse Johnson/US PresswireIt appears Aaron Green will have to fight for playing time in his sophomore year.
No. 11: Aaron Green, RB, Nebraska: "With an experienced group of tailbacks above him on the depth chart, Green was the fifth-leading rusher for the Cornhuskers. He rushed 24 times in 2011 for a 4.4-yard per carry average and two touchdowns. He'll have to continue fighting for playing time because carries in Lincoln should be hard to come by in the foreseeable future." Green will have to sit behind Rex Burkhead another year and has classmates Ameer Abdullah and Braylon Heard at the same position. Wouldn't be surprised to see one of them change positions.

No. 30: Steve Miller, DE, Ohio State: "Miller played in two games this season, finishing with one tackle. The defensive end came into Ohio State as one of the Buckeyes' most-heralded recruits but sat behind a few upperclassmen. With a year to get bigger and stronger, look for Miller to have an impact season as a sophomore a year from now." Guess we'll have to wait for the Columbus version of the Steve Miller Band.

No. 46: Curtis Grant, ILB, Ohio State: "Grant played in eight games as a freshman. He made just two tackles but made several big plays on special teams. He recovered a fumble against Wisconsin off a blocked punt that helped the Buckeyes upset the Big Ten champs. He's expected to compete for a starting job at inside linebacker next fall." Grant showed flashes, but it was another freshman linebacker who really impressed for OSU. More on that in a bit ...

No. 50: Jamal Turner, ATH, Nebraska: "Turner graduated high school early and was able to enroll at Nebraska in January and participated in spring practice. After being recruited as an athlete, Turner played receiver for the Huskers and had a solid freshman season. He caught 15 balls for 243 yards while averaging a little more than 16 yards a reception." Turner had some nice moments but also disappeared in the middle of the season as his coaches didn't think he was practicing hard enough.

No. 54: Angelo Mangiro, OG, Penn State: "Mangiro did not play for Penn State this season, but he will have a chance to make an impact next season as a redshirt freshman, as the Nittany Lions will lose both their starting guards."

No. 80: Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State: "A true freshman, Miller has taken the reins as the starting quarterback and will lead the Buckeyes in the Gator Bowl against Florida on Jan. 2. Miller has thrown for 997 yards and 11 touchdowns, and rushed for 695 yards and seven scores." There were 79 better prospects than Miller last year?

No. 81: Ryan Shazier, OLB, Ohio State: "Shazier has been a major contributor on an improving Ohio State defense. He recorded 48 tackles and a team-high three sacks. Shazier isn't a regular returner on special teams, but he has returned a punt 25 yards." Here's the linebacker I referenced earlier. Shazier really came on strong late while filling in for Andrew Sweat and showed grit while battling through a knee injury against Michigan.

No. 106: Evan Spencer, WR, Ohio State: "Spencer played in 11 games, caught three passes for 78 yards and had one touchdown reception. He started one game, against Illinois." Classmate Devin Smith (12 catches, 247 yards and four touchdowns, including the game-winner against Wisconsin) was much better.

No. 108: Christian Jones, WR, Northwestern: "Jones played in all 12 games, catching 16 passes for 195 yards and averaging 13.9 yards per catch, which ranked second on the team. He earned his first career start against Iowa."

No. 109: Charles Jackson, CB, Nebraska: "Jackson's high school coach, Drew Svoboda, said Jackson never made it to Lincoln because the NCAA questioned some classes he retook over this past summer. He's working on passing the test in an effort to get qualified. He's also staying in shape at home in Klein, Texas. 'The bottom line is they said he didn't qualify,' Svoboda said. 'His clock has not yet started, and he's working towards meeting those standards and gaining his eligibility. He's still optimistic that he will be there [Nebraska] for spring ball. That's his plan.' Nebraska could use some depth at CB with the loss of Alfonzo Dennard.

No 115: Bubba Starling, QB, Nebraska: "On Aug. 14, Starling signed a three-year, $7.5 million contract with the Kansas City Royals; he had been the No. 5 pick in June's Major League Baseball draft. The Nebraska commit was an all-state selection in football, baseball and basketball."

No. 127: Michael Bennett, OG, Ohio State: "Bennett played all 12 games at defensive line this season and was tied for third on the team in tackles for loss (5) and sacks (3). He had 16 tackles." Bennett looked impressive at times and should help continue the defensive line tradition in Columbus. And with a great last name like that ...

No 132: Bill Belton, ATH, Penn State: "Belton played in seven games this year with 27 rushing yards on seven carries. He also attempted a pass (incomplete) and had a 15-yard kick return." Played a huge role in the Wildcat formations that led the Lions to a win at Ohio State. Will be interesting to see how he's used next season and beyond.

No. 138: Jon Davis, ATH, Illinois: "Davis played all 12 regular-season games and was third on the team in receptions (21) and fourth in yards (187). Davis also caught a touchdown pass." And touchdowns were hard to come by the final six games for Illinois.

No. 150: Lawrence Thomas, ILB, Michigan State: "Thomas injured his shoulder early in summer camp and was forced to take a redshirt." All three starting linebackers return for Michigan State next year, so Thomas will have to earn his way into the lineup.

Video: Bubba Starling's decision

August, 16, 2011

Bubba Starling signs with Kansas City Royals instead of playing quarterback at Nebraska.

Big Ten mailbag

August, 16, 2011
Here's a tech-savvy tip for you Mac users out there: Don't spill a cup of iced tea on your Macbook. It does not in fact create a delicious, digital Arnold Palmer but in fact destroys your hard drive. It's been a rough 24 hours. But at least I've got enough leftover technology to answer some of your emails:

Robert R. from Philadelphia writes: Brian, in regards to your post about the B1G and expansion, you are COMPLETELY wrong. 1. Adding Texas A&M to the SEC adds TELEVISION SETS to the SEC footprint and expansion is about money first and foremost. Also, it gets SEC teams to play in Texas -- a prime recruiting state -- on a regular basis. 2. It IS going to happen...the big question remaining is who will the other team be. Most likely won't be Clemson, FSU or any other team in a state represented by a current SEC team (although that's not locked in stone) but more likely a Mizzou or someone that can grab some mid-USA TV sets.

Brian Bennett: Robert, I think you missed the point of that post. And that is, with all the expansion that happened last year and is potentially in the works now, the Big Ten still comes out ahead with the best move. You can't tell me Texas A&M, Missouri or Clemson is a better addition than Nebraska, even if the Cornhuskers aren't in a huge TV market. Nebraska simply makes the Big Ten stronger and is a perfect fit. That doesn't mean that expansion isn't coming or that the Big Ten shouldn't look to add more teams if other leagues get supersized. But getting it right is more important than getting left behind.

Dan the Badger in Gopherland writes: Texas A&M stays put for now, so the tectonic plates of the college football landscape only tremor and we do not experience an all out earthquake...yet. But word is Oklahoma is not happy with the Longhorn Network at all and is looking for options as well. Delany and the B1G would be shrewd to add OK, bring in another "home-run" football school, re-unite the OK and NE rivalry, and further expand the conference recruiting base to the valuable South. Is the B1G looking into this, because they need to be.

Brian Bennett: Dan, other than Notre Dame, Oklahoma is the one school out there that makes the most sense. Texas is a little too big for its britches when it comes to the Big Ten, and Nebraska wouldn't like that at all. Oklahoma makes sense, though the school might not be a great fit for the Big Ten. I would imagine the Sooners might look to the Pac-12. But it's something the Big Ten definitely has to stay on top of.

Sam from Wisconsin writes: Hey, Brian, which game will bigger in the eyes of fans and media across the nation, Michigan vs ND, or Wisconsin vs Nebraska?

Brian Bennett: It's definitely Wisconsin-Nebraska, with the only caveat being that neither team can afford embarrassing stumbles before their showdown. Notre Dame-Michigan will get some attention for being the first night game in the Big House and the traditions they bring to the table. But the Wolverines won't even be ranked for that game, whereas the Badgers and Huskers could easily both be in the top 10. Add in that it's Nebraska's first Big Ten game, and it becomes even more important.

Tim D. from Detroit writes: It has been said that if the B1G wants Notre Dame to join the conference then the should stop scheduling games with ND. With coming of a 9 game conference schedule do you think that that will cause the dropping of games against ND? IF so, would that really cause them to join?

Brian Bennett: I talked to Notre Dame athletic director Jack Swarbrick last week, and he's definitely concerned about the rise of superconferences. He said scheduling is probably the hardest part of his job. The Irish fiercely cling to their independence, but if the landscape changes to where there are massive leagues and Notre Dame can't schedule or get a path to the BCS, its hand would be forced. By the way, a reader asked me last week if the Irish would be willing to move the Michigan State or Michigan games if the Big Ten goes to earlier conference games. Swarbrick told me Notre Dame has no problem with that concept and would welcome the added flexibility with its schedule.

Drew M. from Clarksville, Tenn., writes: Which game for the Ohio State Buckeyes will be most defining? At Miami or at Nebraska? Does he start Joe B or Braxton Miller, Kenny Guiton, or Taylor Graham?

Brian Bennett: It's got to be the Nebraska game. Not only is that a key league game, but the Buckeyes will have all their suspended players back, and we'll get our first look at the team with all its parts. I believe Joe Bauserman will start the season, but I'm not so sure he ends it.

William B. from Norfolk, Va., writes: I am in the U.S. Navy and the other college football fans onboard and I were wondering about Ohio State's self-imposed sanctions. I heard somewhere part of it was two years' probation. What exactly is probation and what other sanctions were imposed? I can't find the answers anywhere. Thanks so much!-All College football fans aboard USS Mahan (DDG-72) Naval Station

Brian Bennett: Cheers to all you sailor boys. William, probation in college sports is a lot like it is in real life. You're free to go about your business, but if you get in trouble while you're on probation, look out. A program can be ruled a repeat offender if it is found guilty of violations while on probation or even not long after it has gone off probation, and that means stiffer penalties. Of course, Ohio State doesn't have to check in with a probation officer. But wouldn't it be fun if the NCAA had one?

Jan from Falls Church, Va., writes: Interesting debate on where the Big Ten is deepest. You make compelling arguments for DT, but corner is close, better than C, in my opinion. Dennard, Prater, Lynn, Fenelus, Ricardo Allen, Johnny Adams, Jordan Mabin, Tavon Wilson -- there will be plenty of talented guys not getting any All-Conference accolades. It will also be interesting to see how all these new QBs adapt to it.I think DT has more high end talent, but corner has far more quality depth.

Brian Bennett:You make some good points, Jan. Cornerback is a really strong position, especially with Dennard coming into the league. There are several experienced receivers, too, so we can expect some good matchups in the passing game this year.

Matt from Columbus, Ohio, writes: The position of power post had me thinking about individual battles. What do you think could be the best individual matchups this year? I'm officially nominating Mike Brewster vs Jared Crick when Ohio State visits Lincoln.

Brian Bennett: That's an outstanding one, Matt, and I don't think I can come up with a better matchup. I would like to see some open field matchups, like Denard Robinson vs. Lavonte David or Montee Ball against Trenton Robinson, but those aren't guaranteed to take place.

Lance from Greensboro, S.C., writes: In your article about Bubba Starling I'm surprised you didn't mention the most famous baseball to college football guy -- Josh Booty. I think they were both picked around the same spot in the MLB draft, so might be the best parallel.

Brian Bennett: There have been numerous examples, and it's pretty amazing how many guys have failed at baseball only to come back and be pretty good quarterbacks. It's been said that quarterback is the hardest position to master in sports. I think it's harder to hit a curveball.
It's time to ship Bubba Starling off to the MLB bloggers. But not until we say goodbye to the former hyped Huskers recruit with some reaction from around the Web:

Lincoln Journal Star's Brian Christopherson:
Just around 5 p.m. Monday, the name "Bubba Starling" was the No. 1 search item in the U.S., according to Google Trends, momentarily getting even more searches than "Kim Kardashian wedding."

Earlier in the day, Starling's name was brought up plenty at Nebraska's football practice when the media gathered around offensive coordinator Tim Beck.

"We're supporting whatever he does," Beck said after the team's morning workout. "He is such a great young man and comes from a great family. Whatever he does, we're behind him all the way."

The answer came almost 12 hours later.

It's not the first time Nebraska has lost a highly touted quarterback recruit to a pro baseball team.

Carl Crawford also chose baseball over football back in 1999. Granted, Crawford did it in early June, sapping much of the drama out of that decision.'s Dick Kaegel:
"This guy is without a doubt one of the best athletes to play the game of baseball in many years," Royals general manager Dayton Moore said.

Moore was quoting the refrain he heard often from director of scouting Lonnie Goldberg and assistant general manager J.J. Picollo, who spearheaded the pursuit of Starling.

The $7.5 million deal was the largest to be conferred on a Draft pick by the Royals.

Moore said the deal with the 18-year-old Starling wasn't struck until "five or six minutes" before the deadline of 11:01 p.m. CT.

"It really hasn't sunk in yet, but I know tomorrow we're going to wake up with smiles on our faces," Moore said. "We look forward to moving on in Bubba's development through our system."
Kansas City Star's Martin Manley:
As you surely know if you are in the KC metro area, Starling may be the best athlete to ever come out of here. He’s a multi-sport star. He averaged 14 yards per carry in football, 28 points a game in basketball and he hit .480 in baseball – including some home runs that were mistaken for UFOs on the Missouri side of the border.

As one who has spent a lot of time looking at and thinking about what the Royals have in the minors, this is extremely exciting news. Naturally, it will likely be a couple years before we get a chance to benefit from his bat in the majors. But, so what? It keeps the pump primed.

Of course, he may also be a bust. That happens. It happens all the time in baseball. But, odds are good he would have gone even higher than #5 in the draft had there not been the potential for him going to Nebraska to play quarterback.
Omaha World Herald's Tom Shatel:
The Royals are not in an enviable spot with Starling. How fast do they bring Bubba along in the farm system? What promises do they make? What promises do they break? How much rope do they give a young talent to groom himself?

K.C. has some nice, young talent on the roster, but there have been just as many mistakes and busts along the trail. If the Royals don't handle Starling just right, he's got a hammer over them. He's got options. Namely, a football career at Nebraska and a love for the program, the school and the fans.

Alex Gordon might be the wrong example. But Gordon was frustrated with his situation at times. What if Starling is rushed up, as Gordon was, and then flails away at major league pitching and is bounced around between Omaha and K.C.? If things don't go exactly right, if he has a bad experience, could Starling chuck it all — with signing bonus already in pocket — and head to Lincoln?

It not only could happen, it's going to be a factor in the back of everyone's mind. Starting now.
Bubba Starling had millions of reasons to sign with the Kansas City Royals. He had really only one reason to play football for Nebraska: his love of the game.

Hey, love gets you only so far. Starling is a Royal. Would you turn down $7.5 million, as it has been reported Starling agreed to over three years, for a chance to play quarterback for the Cornhuskers?

Starling's decision isn't the least bit surprising and became even less so when he and his family decided he shouldn't practice with Nebraska before the Aug. 15 deadline to sign with the Royals. Especially with agent Scott Boras leading the charge, Starling was going to get a big contract offer. And although I do believe he really wanted to experience college football, this kind of money ensures the future for him and his family. By staying with the Huskers, he risked injury or poor performance on the baseball field that could have reduced his earning potential.

Besides, football will still be there for him if the baseball thing doesn't work out. We've seen guys such as Chris Weinke, Brandon Weeden and Joe Bauserman come back and play college football after spending time in the minor leagues. Starling is a higher-rated prospect than those guys, but there's no guarantee he can learn to hit a major league cut fastball. Adding some age and experience, along with a nice portfolio, never hurts.

Starling is an amazing athlete, but this might not hurt Nebraska in the short term. Sophomore Taylor Martinez is entrenched as the starter, and Brion Carnes is a redshirt freshman right behind him. While Starling would have added depth and competition and possibly would have beaten out those two guys down the road, the Huskers are well situated for the next few years at that position.

Coach Bo Pelini seemed to take the news in stride in his official statement after the announcement:
"Everyone associated with our football program at Nebraska wishes Bubba nothing but the best in his future with the Kansas City Royals organization. I know this decision has been very difficult for Bubba and his family, as it would be for anyone in his position. In the end, Bubba was in a win-win situation regardless of his choice, and we respect the decision he has made. I personally will root for Bubba in every game except when he plays against the Indians!”

Big Ten lunchtime links

August, 15, 2011
Hope everybody had a great weekend. Only a couple more of those left without football.
The Kansas City Royals have until 12:01 a.m. ET Tuesday to sign No. 1 draft pick Bubba Starling, the Nebraska quarterback who is sitting out preseason practice until his sporting situation is resolved.

A resolution likely won't come until late Monday night.

Royals general manager Dayton Moore expects the negotiations with the fifth overall pick in the 2011 First-Year Player Draft to go right up to the deadline.

"There's nothing -- there won't be anything until the final hour of August 15," Moore said in a phone interview Thursday.

This isn't a surprise, as big-money negotiations often go down to the wire.'s Adam Holt points out that the Royals' first-round picks in 2007 and 2008, Mike Moustakas and Eric Hosmer, didn't sign until minutes before the deadline. Both men are clients of agent Scott Boras, who is serving as Starling's adviser.

It'll be an interesting Monday in Husker Country. While I'd be pretty surprised if Starling turns down the big bucks in baseball, anything can happen.
We're all about the quarterbacks today on the Big Ten blog, so let's have some fun with superlatives about the league's signal-callers in 2011.

Best dual threat: Michigan's Denard Robinson. You could make a case for Northwestern's Dan Persa and Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase, but Robinson in 2010 became the first player in NCAA history to eclipse 2,500 pass yards and 1,500 rush yards in a season. Whether he can maintain the same production in a new system remains to be seen.

Best drop-back passer: Michigan State's Kirk Cousins. He fits the traditional Big Ten quarterback mold better than most, and he has put up good numbers in two years as the starter. Cousins completed 66.9 percent of his passes for 2,825 yards with 20 touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 2010, despite playing hurt for the second half of the season. He always has a lot of weapons and spreads the ball around well. Iowa's James Vandenberg could fit this description by season's end.

Fastest: I'd love to see a footrace between Robinson and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez. Both men displayed incredible speed in 2010, particularly in the first half of the season. Both men had highlight reel runs such as Robinson's 87-yard score at Notre Dame Stadium and Martinez's pair of 80-yard touchdown dashes against Washington and Kansas State, respectively.

Most accurate: Northwestern's Dan Persa. He set a Big Ten record for completion percentage in 2010, connecting on 73.5 percent of his passes. Persa completed more than 70 percent of his attempts in seven of 10 games, hit on 19 of 21 passes in the opener at Vanderbilt and threw only four interceptions in 302 pass attempts.

Best all-around athlete: There are several nominees here, but I'm going with Minnesota's MarQueis Gray. The guy started at wide receiver in 2010 and finished second on the team in receptions (42), receiving yards (587) and receiving touchdowns (5). He now transitions to quarterback, his natural position, and showed promising signs this spring. At 6-4 and 229 pounds, Gray is a specimen.

Best play extender: Wisconsin's Russell Wilson. Those who watched Wilson at NC State know what I'm talking about. Although he doesn't run for a ton of yards, he does an excellent job of extending plays in the pocket. Wilson can buy time for his receivers to get open and alleviate the pressure on his offensive linemen to keep pass-rushers away.

Most fearless: Iowa's James Vandenberg. The situation was set up for a young quarterback to crumble. Iowa traveled to Ohio State in November 2009 to play for a trip to the Rose Bowl. Ricky Stanzi's injury forced Vandenberg, a redshirt freshman, to make his first career start. But Vandenberg responded by passing for 233 yards and two touchdowns (with three interceptions) as Iowa nearly upset Ohio State in overtime. Vandenberg earned respect in Columbus that should help him as he becomes Iowa's new field general. Penn State's Matt McGloin deserves a mention here, too.

Most improved: Illinois' Scheelhaase. You could see Scheelhaase make strides during the 2010 season and particularly before the Texas Bowl, where he completed his first 13 pass attempts and finished the game 18-for-23 passing for a career-high 242 yards in a rout of Baylor. The sophomore continued to develop as a passer during spring ball. Purdue's Rob Henry deserves a mention as coach Danny Hope called him the Boilers' most improved player this spring.

Biggest mystery man: Penn State's Rob Bolden. We haven't seen much of Bolden since he suffered a concussion against Minnesota in Week 8 last season. Since then, he has tried to leave the program, gone through a spring that earned him high marks, kept the door open for a possible departure and then recommitted himself to Penn State last month. Bolden must beat out Matt McGloin for the starting job in camp, and if he does, it will be interesting to see how much he has improved when the games begin. Purdue's Robert Marve fits in here, too. He comes off of his second ACL tear and has played in just three plus games since 2008.

Most talked-about freshman: It's a close call between Ohio State's Braxton Miller and Nebraska's Bubba Starling. Miller is competing for the starting job in camp following the June departure of three-year starter Terrelle Pryor. Starling, a No. 1 draft pick of the Kansas City Royals, must decide whether to sign a lucrative contract to play pro baseball or help provide depth at quarterback behind Martinez.

Big Ten lunch links

August, 9, 2011
Going campin' throughout Big Ten country.
The Bubba Starling watch at Nebraska will become more of a quiet wait and see.

The freshman quarterback who was drafted No. 5 overall by the Kansas City Royals in June did not practice and was not listed on the roster as the Huskers took the practice field for the first time on Saturday. Head coach Bo Pelini said Starling, who arrived in Lincoln last month, won't practice until he decides whether he will sign with the Royals. Kansas City must sign him by Aug. 15.

"He's got a lot at risk," Pelini told reporters. "We communicated with the family and decided this is the best way to go about this. We're on the same page."

Pelini sounded a different tune at Big Ten media days last week, saying Starling's advisers weren't running the program. But it makes sense for both parties. Starling shouldn't risk an injury now with the possibility of signing for millions of dollars on the immediate horizon. And though Nebraska would love to get him acclimated as quickly as possible, it doesn't seem like a great idea to give him important reps in practice if he's going to leave in less than 10 days.

It also means that should Starling stay with the Huskers, he'll be pretty far behind in his development. Though he's not expected to play right away with Taylor Martinez and Brion Carnes ahead of him, he could still provide depth at a position that took a hit in that area when Cody Green transferred.

Big Ten lunch links

July, 13, 2011
The links aren't going anywhere, but the Big Ten chat starts right now!
I'm back from vacation, and so is the Big Ten chat.

We have an appointment to chat today at noon ET. Let's talk Mike Vrabel, Bubba Starling, Russell Wilson or whatever else is on your mind related to Big Ten football.

See you there.

Big Ten lunch links

July, 11, 2011
Links, oh how I missed thee.

Big Ten lunchtime links

July, 8, 2011
Last links of the week ...
  • Bubba Starling's dad says the quarterback will report to Nebraska this weekend for conditioning, but there are no guarantees that he stays there. Ex-Huskers QB Cody Green is looking at USC, along with Baylor and Tulsa.