Big Ten: Carson Butler

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A quick programming note that the lunch links will no longer appear every day until spring practice kicks off in March. If there are links worth linking, I'll link 'em. But you'll get your daily diet again in March. 

Here's today's sampling. 

"The only promise sought by Boyd -- the throwing/running threat led Phoebus to a state championship and then shared the MVP award in the U.S. Army All-American game on Jan. 3 in San Antonio -- is a chance.

"'I just want an opportunity to play early,' Boyd said. 'That's going to be a big part of it because I feel like I am one of the top players in the country and I really don't want to sit.'"

"One key question was answered Monday: If NU wants to move its game Nov. 20, 2010, against Illinois from Ryan Field to Wrigley, it does not need Illinois' approval.

"'The only time a school would need approval is if it wanted to have a date changed,' said Big Ten Associate Commissioner Mark Rudner."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Sorry I missed this one from the weekend, but Michigan head coach Rich Rodriguez met with reporters at halftime of the school's basketball game against Duke and had some personnel updates.

Rodriguez expects tight end Carson Butler to enter the NFL draft and running back Avery Horn to transfer. As for running back Sam McGuffie, who missed Michigan's annual football bust event, Rodriguez said the freshman remains enrolled at Michigan but needs to work through some things.

"He's still looking at what he needs to do," Rodriguez said. "I've talked to Sam before the break and after the break. We have several concerns. Sam has concerns at home, and we have concerns because he's had multiple concussions, three of them, so there's a lot of concerns there."

Don't be surprised if McGuffie opts to transfer closer to home. His high school coach Ed Pustejovsky told me last week that he's tried to get in touch with McGuffie the last few weeks but hasn't been successful. Pustejovsky also has heard the whispers that McGuffie might be leaving Michigan.

Though McGuffie showed flashes of promise this season, if this is the extent of Michigan's attrition after a miserable season, Rodriguez probably will be relieved. Butler had issues with the coaching staff for the last two seasons and never came close to maximizing his ability. Horn was buried on the depth chart.

Rodriguez expects star defensive end Brandon Graham to return in 2009. Graham would be Michigan's only returning starter up front.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Sam McGuffie saga took another twist Thursday night as the Michigan freshman running back was a no-show at the team's football banquet. McGuffie's absence added to speculation that he will transfer from the program.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez declined to discuss personnel issues or potential staff changes when he met with reporters before the banquet. Rodriguez said last week that McGuffie, who briefly left the team to attend a family funeral before the Ohio State game, was on track to return for his sophomore season. McGuffie ranked second on the team in rushing with 486 yards and three touchdowns.

Other absences at the banquet included tight end Carson Butler and running back Avery Horn.

Some depth chart tidbits

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
9:39
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

More to come on these personnel issues after the Big Ten coaches' call later today, but a few interesting items on the depth charts released Monday.

  • Free safety Nick Polk is not listed on Indiana's depth chart for Minnesota, possibly indicating he'll miss another game with a knee injury. Polk has an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery this season. Strong safety Austin Thomas is listed as the starter after missing the last two games with a leg injury. Brandon Mosley started in place of Thomas against Michigan State, but Jerimy Finch played a lot.
  • Ohio State true freshman Mike Brewster has made a good impression so far and remains the co-starter at center even though Steve Rehring could be back from a foot injury. Brewster and junior Jim Cordle are listed as co-starters at center, while Cordle and Rehring are co-starters at left guard. The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises thinks Ohio State might move Cordle to right guard to keep him on the field. The Buckeyes also have co-starters at one cornerback spot (Chimdi Chekwa and Donald Washington) and defensive tackle (Doug Worthington and Nader Abdallah).
  • Penn State wide receiver Jordan Norwood is listed as probable for the Purdue game after sitting out against Illinois with a hamstring injury. Quarterback Daryll Clark said Norwood did some light jogging at Monday's practice. "It's a day-to-day thing if he's going to play or not," Clark said. "He tweaked a hamstring really good."
  • Sophomore Ricky Stanzi remains the definitive starter at quarterback on Iowa's depth chart. Brandon Myers and the oft-injured Tony Moeaki are co-starters at tight end for the Michigan State game.
  • Physically gifted junior tight end Carson Butler has dropped to third string on Michigan's depth chart. Butler, who was ejected from a Sept. 13 game at Notre Dame for throwing a punch, dressed for last Saturday's game against Wisconsin but didn't play. Fifth-year senior Mike Massey and true freshman Kevin Koger, who caught a touchdown pass against the Badgers, are ahead of Butler. Head coach Rich Rodriguez called the move a coach's decision.
  • Linebacker Jason Werner, who recently underwent minor back surgery, isn't listed on Purdue's depth chart for Penn State. Frank Duong and Dwight Mclean are listed as co-starters at strong safety.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- As usual, Wisconsin is not winning any style points, and the Michigan offense has started to show a pulse.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez rotated veteran running backs Carlos Brown and Kevin Grady with freshman Sam McGuffie, and the combination seemed to work on a 14-play, 80-yard scoring march.

After a miserable first half, quarterback Steven Threet settled into a mini-rhythm, moving better in the pocket and making more authoritative throws. Threet threw a nice ball to freshman tight end Kevin Koger for a 26-yard touchdown, and Michigan avoided its first home shutout since 1967 against Michigan State. Starting tight end Carson Butler has yet to play and still could be in the doghouse for the punch he threw against Notre Dame.

The Wolverines probably don't have enough firepower to come all the way back, but their defense is keeping them close. Wisconsin doesn't have top tight ends Travis Beckum and Garrett Graham, but the offense gained only 34 yards in the third quarter, all on the ground.

Quarterback Allan Evridge has shown a greater willingness to run, though an option call on third-and-1 from the Michigan 37-yard line was a head-scratcher. He's also getting no help from his receivers, who have continued their preseason habit of dropping passes.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A light news day around the league. More answers will come later today.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Former walk-on Nick Sheridan will start at quarterback for Michigan in today's season opener against Utah. Sheridan and redshirt freshman Steven Threet had been competing for the starting job throughout training camp. True freshman Sam McGuffie will start at running back ahead of classmate Michael Shaw.

The son of a former Michigan defensive assistant, Sheridan appeared in two games last season and did not attempt a pass. Threet, who came out of spring ball with a slight edge in the competition, has never appeared in a college game after transferring to Michigan from Georgia Tech. Coach Rich Rodriguez expects both quarterbacks to play today.

Other previously undetermined starters include wide receiver Greg Mathews, right guard David Moosman, center David Molk, tight end Carson Butler and wide receiver Darryl Stonum.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The man who will take the first snap for Michigan in the Rich Rodriguez era remains a mystery. So does the guy who will take the first handoff.

Rodriguez listed no definitive starter at either running back or quarterback on his depth chart for the season opener against Utah, which was released Monday.

It's no surprise that an "OR" separates quarterbacks Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan, but true freshmen running backs Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw also have the same designation. It's significant that both true freshmen were listed ahead of veterans Brandon Minor and Carlos Brown on the depth chart, showing Rodriguez's confidence in his young skill players, who might better fit his system than the returnees.

We aren't the only ones wondering who will start under center.

"I don't know who the quarterback is," junior wide receiver Greg Mathews said Monday. "I just try in practice to go with both of them, to get my timing down with both of them because you never know. One could go in there and throw a couple interceptions and then you have to bring the next one in. You have to be prepared for everything."

Mathews said both quarterbacks have been practicing with the first-team offense, as is the case for most of Michigan's skill players. Though the offense won't be huddling nearly as much as in years past, both quarterbacks have shown different styles of leadership so far.

"Nick's definitely a comedian," Mathews said. "He's the funniest kid ever. He just likes to keep everybody loose and joke around. Steven Threet, he's more of a serious guy, but I enjoy both of them."

This is notable because Mathews isn't the first player to describe the two quarterbacks in this manner.

Sheridan is the former walk-on with no recruiting hype who most thought would never come close to having a chance to start at quarterback, but he seems loose and confident. Threet is the guy projected to win the job all along. He's got the size, received a decent amount of recruiting attention coming out of high school and has some familiarity running the spread. But an all-business approach could be a sign of nervousness.

Here's how starting right tackle Stephen Schilling described the two when we talked last week.

"Nick might be a little more relaxed, laid back, trying to find guys. Steve's a little more serious. But they both want to work hard and they both want to bring a lot of energy to the huddle."

Other Wolverines depth chart notes include:

  • The starting spots at center and right guard remain open, though David Moosman is listed at both places and should start at one.
  • Freshman Martavious Odoms is the only wide receiver to have locked up a starting spot. Mathews and freshman Darryl Stonum continue to compete at the "X" receiver, while Stonum and junior LaTerryal Savoy are listed as potential starters at the "Z" spot. Expect Stonum to play and contribute immediately.
  • Junior Carson Butler and fifth-year senior Mike Massey continue to compete for the starting tight end spot. What's somewhat surprising -- other than Butler not cementing himself is the starter -- is that freshman Kevin Koger also could start there.
  • As expected, the defense is much more defined. Obi Ezeh is listed ahead of John Thompson at middle linebacker and will be flanked by Austin Panter and Marell Evans. The starting safeties are Stevie Brown at free and Brandon Harrison at strong.
  • Harrison and Morgan Trent are the primary kickoff returners and Donovan Warren will start off returning punts, but Odoms is in the mix at both spots.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Just got back from watching about 70 minutes of Michigan's first practice, including the first six periods. We saw more than I thought, but you can't take too much away from it.

The biggest news was that reserve running back Kevin Grady participated in the workout despite being suspended from the team following a drunken driving arrest July 2.

Head coach Rich Rodriguez will address Grady's situation when he meets with the media around 5:45 p.m. ET. Rodriguez said at Big Ten media days that Grady had been suspended and had to meet certain demands to get reinstated. It appears as though he's met them.

"It's kind of on a week-by-week basis on him getting back," Rodriguez said July 24. "He has to do certain things internally within the program to get back on the team. And then once he does that, there will be some playing-time penalties as well and then he's on a strict kind of a watch. He has to earn his way on the team, and we'll take it from there."

Grady, who police said had a blood-alcohol level of 0.281 at the time of his arrest, pleaded not guilty to a misdemeanor drunken driving charge July 9. His next court date is set for Aug. 14, and he faces up to 93 days in jail if convicted.

The 5-foot-9, 228-pound Grady worked alongside Brandon Minor, Carlos Brown, Sam McGuffie and the other backs.

Other observations:

  • True freshman quarterback Justin Feagin already has changed numbers twice, so it was hard to spot him right away. Some of us thought safety Stevie Brown was taking snaps at quarterback until informed Feagin now wears No. 3 after previously donning Nos. 14 and 5. Feagin and Brown are among several pairs wearing the same number.
  • Feagin's speed is immediately noticeable, and he looked comfortable running some of the basic option pitches and throws in the spread offense. My guess is he'll be used to run some option this fall.
  • Four players rotated at quarterback -- Steven Threet, Nick Sheridan, David Cone and Feagin. Brown, a quarterback in high school who ran the spread, also took some snaps after missing the spring with a broken finger. Threet has a smooth throwing motion and excellent size, but he's not the fastest quarterback on the field. Both Threet and David Cone tower above Feagin and Nick Sheridan, who looked a bit shaky on some of his passes.
  • The media entered the sweltering practice field to the sweet sounds of Motown, being played from a golf cart driven by a team official. Like many teams, Michigan blares music to simulate crowd noise. We were treated to Marvin Gaye's "How Sweet it is" and several other hits.
  • Tight end Carson Butler looks great, slimmer and stronger. He should be a major asset for Rodriguez and the new starting quarterback.
  • Sophomore Toney Clemons stood out among the wide receivers. He's got excellent size (6-foot-3) and should be able to stretch the field. I made a point to watch freshman Darryl Stonum, who drew praise from offensive coordinator Calvin Magee following an out route. I was also impressed with LaTerryal Savoy, who has good size.
  • Rodriguez spent most of the media viewing period with the offense, primarily watching the four quarterbacks. He also worked with a group of wide receivers on how to read different coverages. After Threet ran an option play, Rodriguez went over and told him to take a different angle.
  • Almost no one was watching the defense, and I fell victim to it a little bit. But the first-team defensive line -- ends Tim Jamison and Brandon Graham, and tackles Terrance Taylor and Will Johnson -- looked good. Taylor is a big, big boy.
  • Freshman Michael Shaw seemed to be getting a lot of work at wide receiver. It's a little weird to see No. 20 in maize and blue who isn't Mike Hart.
  • We were greeted by new strength coach Mike Barwis as we entered the practice field. Yes, his voice really does sound like that.
  • Walking through Michigan's weight room on the way out, I stopped to check out the team-high totals for several categories. Johnson tops the bench-press chart at 500 pounds, Taylor squatted a team-best 625 pounds and cornerback Morgan Trent ran a 4.13 in the 40-yard dash.
Check back later as Rodriguez and several players address the media.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- This probably needs a disclaimer, so here it is.

Michigan won't go 3-9. Michigan won't have the nation's worst rushing offense for most of the season. Michigan won't go three plus games without scoring an offensive touchdown. Michigan won't allow a nation-high 58 sacks.

But from a pure personnel standpoint on offense, there are some obvious parallels between what Michigan lost after last season and what Notre Dame lost following 2006. And unlike the Fighting Irish, the Wolverines are adjusting to a new coach (Rich Rodriguez) and a new system. That should be a good thing, given the conservative play-calling and wasted talent of recent seasons, but it's still something to consider.  

Here's a position-by-position look at the two offenses, who was lost and who returned.

MICHIGAN 2008
 
Quarterback
Who's gone
  • Chad Henne: Four-year starter, school's career passing leader, last fall went 162-for-279 passing, 1,938 yards, 17 TDs, 9 INTs, 130.5 rating
  • Ryan Mallett: Started three games last season, completed 61 of 141 passes, 892 yards, 7 TDs, 5 INTs, 105.7 rating. Transferred to Arkansas.
Up next
  • Steven Threet, Fr.: No statistics in college, Georgia Tech transfer sat out last season as per NCAA rules.
  • Nick Sheridan, So.: Appeared in two games last season, did not attempt a pass, served as backup holder.
  • Justin Feagin, Fr.: Dual-threat combined for 44 touchdowns (25 rushing, 19 passing) as a high school senior.
Running back
Who's gone
  • Mike Hart: Four-year starter, school's career rushing leader, last season had 265 carries, 1,361 rushing yards, 14 TDs.
Up next
  • Brandon Minor, Jr.: Appeared in 12 games last season, had 90 carries for 385 yards, 1 TD.
  • Carlos Brown, Jr.: Started three games last season, 75 carries for 381 yards (5.1 ypc average), 4 TDs.
  • Kevin Grady, Jr.: Currently suspended after DUI arrest, missed 2007 season with knee injury, had 187 rushing yards on 55 carries in 2006.
Wide receiver/tight end
Who's gone
  • Mario Manningham: Three-year contributor had team-high 72 catches for 1,174 yards (16.3 ypr) and 12 touchdowns last season.
  • Adrian Arrington: Second-leading receiver with 67 catches for 882 yards and eight touchdowns.
Up next
  • Greg Mathews, Jr.: Third-leading receiver last season with 39 receptions for 366 yards, 3 TDs.
  • Carson Butler, Jr.: Tight end started six of final seven games, had 20 catches for 246 yards, 2 TDs.
  • Mike Massey, Sr.: Tight end started four games, caught four passes for 38 yards.
  • Junior Hemmingway, So.: Caught four passes for 37 yards in 10 games last season.
  • LaTerryal Savor, Jr.: Had one catch for nine yards last season.
  • Darryl Stonum, Fr.: Freshman had 1,910 receiving yards and 26 touchdowns in prep career.
Offensive line
Who's gone
  • Jake Long: All-American left tackle went No. 1 overall in the NFL draft
  • Adam Kraus: All-conference left guard made 35 starts.
  • Justin Boren: Yep, he's definitely gone after starting the first eight games at center last fall.
  • Jeremy Ciulla: Started five games at right guard last season.
  • Alex Mitchell: Started five games at right guard last season.
Up next
  • Stephen Schilling, So.: Only returning starter primarily played right tackle with two starts at right guard last season.
  • Mark Ortmann, Jr.: Projected left tackle made two starts at right tackle in 2007.
  • Tim McAvoy, Jr.: Made only start at right guard last season.
  • David Moosman, Jr.: Backup center has appeared in seven career games.
  • Cory Zirbel, Jr.: Has appeared in 21 career games, played all offensive line positions except center.
 
NOTRE DAME 2007
 
Quarterback
Who's gone
  • Brady Quinn: Four-year starter, school's career passing leader, in 2006 completed 289 of 467 passes for 3,426 yards, 37 TDs, 7 INTs, 146.7 rating.
Up next
  • Jimmy Clausen, Fr.: True freshman ranked as nation's No. 1 recruit after passing for 3,428 yards and 49 touchdowns as a prep senior.
  • Evan Sharpley, So.: Had two collegiate pass attempts as Quinn's backup in 2006.
  • Demetrius Jones Fr.: Second-year player considered dual threat after racking up big numbers in high school.
Running back
Who's gone
  • Darius Walker: Three-year starter, in 2006 had 255 carries for 1,267 yards, 7 touchdowns.
Up next
  • Travis Thomas, Sr.: Former reserve running back switched to linebacker in 2006 before returning to offense.
  • James Aldridge, So.: Team's second-leading rusher with 142 yards on 37 carries.
  • Armando Allen, Fr.: True freshman missed senior season in high school with injury. 
  • Robert Hughes, Fr.: True freshman had 1,780 rushing yards and 22 touchdowns as a high school senior.
Wide receiver/tight end
Who's gone
  • Jeff Samardzija: School's career receiving leader had 78 receptions for 1,017 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2006.
  • Rhema McKnight: Four-year starter had 67 receptions for 907 yards and a team-high 15 touchdowns in 2006.
  • Darius Walker: Running back ranked third on the team in receptions (56) for 391 yards.
  • Marcus Freeman: Backup tight end had nine receptions for 98 yards and two touchdowns.
Up next
  • David Grimes, Jr.: Ranked fourth on the team in receptions (27) and receiving yards (224) as a sophomore. 
  • John Carlson, Sr.: Mackey Award finalist in 2006 ranked third on the team with 634 receiving yards, scored four touchdowns. 
  • George West, So.: Had two receptions for 14 yards and scored on an 11-yard run as a freshman. 
  • Robby Parris, So.: Appeared in seven games and caught one pass in 2006.
Offensive line
Who's gone
  • Ryan Harris: Mainstay at left tackle started all four seasons.
  • Dan Santucci: Two-year starter at guard.
  • Bob Morton: Multiyear starter at both center and guard.
Up next
  • John Sullivan, Sr.: Started the final two and a half seasons at center. 
  • Sam Young, So.: Started as a true freshman at right tackle before moving to the left side.
  • Paul Duncan, Jr.: Appeared in 12 games as a reserve in 2006.
  • Mike Turkovich, Jr.: Played sparingly in nine games as a sophomore, limited by neck injury.
  • Eric Olsen, So.: Appeared in eight games as a backup guard in 2006. 

WHY MICHIGAN WILL BE BETTER

Michigan returns more at running back and should be able to field a stronger group of wide receivers to help the new starting quarterback. The biggest key for the Wolverines will be developing the offensive line. Notre Dame's primary error in 2007 was not emphasizing physical play up front in the preseason. Michigan has made strength and conditioning the focus of the winter, spring and summer. The Wolverines should see it pay off this fall. Though both teams lost record-setting playmakers and Rich Rodriguez historically struggles in his first season at a new school, Michigan should adjust easier.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg 

The e-mails are flowing in, and it's obvious that Big Ten fans are geared up for the 2008 season.

Let's see what's on your mind:

Shadd, from Toledo, Ohio, writes: Adam, Do you see Ohio State using Terrelle Pryor in a "read option" type of offense when he comes into the game, or do you see the OSU coaches having him execute the same dropback style gameplan that Boeckman plays? Seems like Jim Bollman can be thick headed sometimes when it comes to play packages with different personnel.

Adam Rittenberg: Pryor's skills definitely translate for a read option system, much like the one Illinois uses at times with Juice Williams. It's the reason Michigan wanted Pryor so badly for its new offense. Though he will be used in those situations, I think Ohio State also will have Pryor operate in a more traditional system as he progresses. The first two games, Youngstown State and Ohio, provide excellent opportunities for Pryor to get playing time and run the team's standard offense. If he shows he can pass effectively against college defenses, the Buckeyes should gradually increase his workload. His transition as a runner and a playmaker will be easier than as a drop-back passer, but he's got to learn sometime.


Andrew from Pittsburgh writes: First off, the 2005 field goal kicking meltdown occurred at MSU, not at Michigan. I was at that game, and at the Ohio State game a week later, and I can personally say that the OSU match-up was infinitely more heartbreaking. However, those two losses pale in comparison to the agony of Notre Dame, 2006. I vaguely remember the feeling of happiness while building a lead, but otherwise the entire evening is nothing but a cold, dark, and lonely sinkhole of a memory that haunts me to this day.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks to Andrew and several other e-mailers for pointing out that the 2005 Michigan-Michigan State game did take place in East Lansing, not Ann Arbor. Like Minnesota, Michigan State has had too many traumatic losses in recent years. I covered the Notre Dame game in 2006, and it was a total collapse for the Spartans. The game began under clear skies, but the rain came at halftime and gradually increased. Michigan State led 37-21 with 10 minutes to play, but then went ultra-conservative on offense down the stretch as Notre Dame rallied. Drew Stanton didn't throw a pass in the fourth quarter until three minutes remained, and ND cornerback Terrail Lambert intercepted it and scored the game-winning touchdown. The loss spelled the end for coach John L. Smith and sparked one of the greatest radio rants I've ever heard.


David from Champaign, Ill., writes: Do you believe the matchup this year between Illinois-Indiana at 8pm in Champaign will be one of the more exciting games in the Big ten this year? Everyone around here is really looking forward to it! Also, what are your thoughts on Greg Middleton and rising star LB Matt Mayberry? How can we slow down the two quick defenders this year?

Adam Rittenberg: David, as an Illinois fan, you might want to be a little more concerned about Missouri, Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State than the Hoosiers, but that game will definitely be worth watching. I've gotten several e-mails about Mayberry, a junior middle linebacker who made 42 tackles as a reserve last season. It seems like hopes are very high for him to solidify Indiana's defensive midsection. Middleton is a beast, but Xavier Fulton can hold his own at left tackle. Should be a great matchup. I'm also interested to see two of the league's most versatile quarterbacks, Juice Williams and Kellen Lewis.


Stan in Grand Haven, Mich., writes: OK, I'm a UM fan so I hope you won't write this off before reading it. WR/TE rankings: did you forget about Carson Butler? Injury and his attitude lessened his p.t. a bit last year, but the dude is one of the best in the conference at his position. Also, why factor in the QB when ranking the unit? That makes no sense--it's like discounting a RB because his line isn't that good. Think Barry Sanders. Finally, all you have to ask yourself when ranking units is which one you'd trade for the other. I guarantee if you were Michigan's coach and you traded your receiving unit for that at Northwestern, you'd be fired instantaneously. 'Nuff said.

Adam Rittenberg: Stan, I'll never write you off, but I've got a hard time bumping up the Wolverines because of Carson Butler. He had a nice grab in the Capital One Bowl, but 39 catches in two years? Even with the off-field stuff and the injury, I need to see more from him. These preseason rankings are largely based on what these players have showed in the past, and besides Greg Mathews and Butler, Michigan hasn't shown much. It doesn't mean with additions like Darryl Stonum, Michigan won't have one of the league's top receiving corps in November. But judging the Wolverines against experienced groups, including Northwestern's, it's hard to put them higher right now. Rich Rodriguez shouldn't want to trade any of his players, but I'm sure he'd love more experience at that position.


Brian from New York, N.Y., writes:I'd like to comment on Penn State's returning DL if I may as I truly believe this could prove to be the best Penn State Defensive Line any of us have ever seen. Of course, every CFB fan knows who Maurice Evans is due to the terrific job he did in earning All-Conference honors last year as a true sophomore. But are outsiders aware of the fact PSU actually returns 52 starts from last year across the line? This represents every player from a unit that finished 2nd in the nation in sacks (46) and 7th in rush D, so we're talking about much more than just Mo Evans here. Opposite Evans at DE is Josh Gaines who started all 13 games and racked up 5 sacks while splitting time with situational pass rusher redshirt freshman Aaron Maybin who had 4 1/2 sacks of his own. And the depth inside - fuggadaboutit! Larry Johnson basically has five proven starter quality DTs in his arsenal including: Jared Odrick, Ollie Ogbu, Abe Koroma, BIG Phil Taylor and Chris Baker. The thing to remember with this group is four of the five were merely 2nd year players last fall meaning, redshirt freshmen or true sophomores. Have I mentioned freshmen Devon Still and Chimaeze Okoli yet? Let's just say the word this spring is both freshmen are "impressive". Anyways, just want to mention PSU's returning DL before you and others "lock" Wisconsin or somebody else into the #2 conference finish spot behind OSU in the Big Ten this preseason because last year's youngsters in the Blue and White are certain to be even better in '08.

Adam Rittenberg: Brian, that's a quality breakdown of Penn State's defensive line. The Nittany Lions have the league's best defensive front in my view, just ahead of both Ohio State and Illinois. There's experience and talent throughout the line, and the front four will help Penn State survive the loss of linebacker Sean Lee. I ranked Wisconsin at No. 2, but the Badgers are by no means a lock, particularly with all the injuries they had in spring ball. Penn State could jump into that spot, but a reliable quarterback must be identified in preseason camp.


Steve from Anchorage, Alaska, writes: I think Steve Breaston should have been a special teams addition to the All-Lloyd list in the Free Press. When he was healthy, Breaston was a threat every time he touched the ball. That sick return against Illinois where he watched it bounce toward the sideline, grabbed it just before going out, then made 10 guys miss back and froth acros
s the field before scoring stands out.

Adam Rittenberg: Steve, glad to hear Big Ten football is alive and well in Alaska. Breaston would have been a solid addition to the All-Lloyd team. He was the league's most feared return man for several seasons. After seeing your note, I checked out Breaston's highlights on YouTube this afternoon. The Illinois return is third on the rundown. What a play. By the way, any highlight clip with Kool Moe Dee rapping in the background will find its way to this blog.

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