Big Ten: Carson Wiggs

The Big Ten postseason position/unit rankings wrap up with the specialists. This list considers kickers, punters and returners, as well as coverage teams.

Here's how the Big Ten stacked up before the season. If you missed any of our postseason position/unit rankings, check 'em out.

Let's get started ...

[+] EnlargeJeff Budzien
Jerry Lai/US PresswireJeff Bundzien made 95 percent of his field goals and converted all 50 of his extra point attempts in 2012.
1. Northwestern (preseason ranking: 10): Northwestern fans never thought they'd see this day, but the program has improved markedly in the kicking game in recent years. Jeff Budzien was the Big Ten's most consistent kicker in 2012, connecting on 19 of 20 field-goal attempts (lone miss was a 53-yarder) and all 50 of his extra-point tries. Northwestern also led the league in punt return average (16.5) thanks to All-American returner Venric Mark, who had two runbacks for touchdowns. Northwestern ranked 19th nationally in punt coverage.

2. Nebraska (preseason ranking: 1): Brett Maher had a few hiccups but still made 20 of 27 field-goal tries and all 59 of his PATs, and averaged 41.8 yards per punt. He and Budzien shared the Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year honors in the Big Ten. Ameer Abdullah had an 81-yard punt return for a touchdown, and Nebraska had three solid options on kick returns (Abdullah, Kenny Bell and Jamal Turner).

3. Michigan (preseason ranking: 7): Here's another team that has made major strides in the kicking game in recent years. Kicker Brendan Gibbons was Captain Clutch, converting 16 of 18 field-goal attempts, including the game-winner against Michigan State, as well as all 45 PATs. Dennis Norfleet provided a boost on kick returns, and Will Hagerup led the league in punting average (45 ypp) despite limited attempts (33).

4. Michigan State (preseason ranking: 4): The Spartans' sputtering offense gave Mike Sadler plenty of work and he delivered, averaging 43.3 yards on 79 punts. MSU finished second in the league in net punting. Dan Conroy led the Big Ten in both field goals made (23) and field goals missed (9), but he hit the game-winner against TCU in the bowl game. Michigan State struggled on kick returns, but both Nick Hill and Andre Sims averaged more than eight yards on punt returns.

5. Iowa (preseason ranking: 9): Mike Meyer improved on his 2012 performance, connecting on 17 of 21 field-goal tries and all 25 of his extra-point attempts. Iowa also performed well on returns, as Jordan Cotton led the league in kick returns (28.2 ypr) and Micah Hyde averaged 7.4 yards on 16 punt returns. Punting was a weak spot as Connor Kornbrath averaged only 37.9 yards per boot.

6. Purdue (preseason ranking: 2): The Boilers definitely missed Carson Wiggs, as their kickers connected on only 9 of 14 field-goal tries this season and missed five extra-point attempts. But there were bright spots elsewhere like punter Cody Webster, who averaged 42.3 yards per punt. Purdue led the Big Ten in kickoff returns, thanks to Akeem Hunt and Raheem Mostert.

7. Ohio State (preseason ranking: 3): It was a mixed bag of big plays and big breakdowns for Ohio State on special teams in 2013. The Buckeyes had a league-high three punt returns for touchdowns but also had three punts blocked and surrendered a kick return for a touchdown against Purdue. Kicker Drew Basil was used sparingly (8 of 11 on field-goal attempts), while Ben Buchanan averaged 41 yards per punt. New special teams chief Kerry Coombs has some things to sort out.

8. Wisconsin (preseason ranking: 5): The kicking game continues to be a little inconsistent for the Badgers. Punter Drew Meyer had a solid season, averaging 41.5 yards on a league-high 80 punts. But Wisconsin kickers Kyle French and Jack Russell combined to convert only 10 of 18 field-goal attempts. Kenzel Doe led Wisconsin's multi-pronged kick return attack, which ranked third in the Big Ten, while Jared Abbrederis was decent on punt returns.

9. Indiana (preseason ranking: 11): The Hoosiers had a so-so season in the kicking game. Kicker Mitch Ewald connected on 15 of 20 field-goal attempts and missed only 1 of 43 PAT tries. Tevin Coleman tied for second in the league in kick returns, while Shane Wynn provided another option there. IU's punters didn't wow with their numbers, but the Hoosiers finished fifth in net punting.

10. Illinois (preseason ranking: 12): You know it's a rough season when you hang your hat on net punting, a statistic where Illinois led the Big Ten (39.2-yard net average). Sophomore Justin DuVernois had a heavy workload and still finished fourth in the league in punting average (41.9 ypp). Illini kickers connected on 8 of 12 field-goal tries, but the return game once again struggled mightily (118th nationally in punt returns, 107th in kick returns).

11. Minnesota (preseason ranking: 6): Troy Stoudermire became the NCAA's all-time kick return yards king and Jordan Wettstein connected for the game-winning field goal in the opener against UNLV, but the Gophers had few other special teams highlights. Wettstein finished the year just 14 of 22 on field goals, and Minnesota ranked last in the league in net punting (34.4 ypp). The return game was mediocre but Minnesota fared OK in kickoff and punt coverage.

12. Penn State (preseason ranking: 8) Sam Ficken's finish nearly kept Penn State out of the basement. Ficken connected on his final 10 field-goal tries, including the game-winner in overtime against Wisconsin. The Virginia game still stings, though, as he finished 14-for-21 for the season. Penn State struggled with its punting (11th in league in net average) and finished last in the league in kick returns (18.1 ypr). There were coverage breakdowns and muffed punts. The lack of depth following the NCAA sanctions seemed to hurt Penn State the most in the kicking game, especially early in the season.
It's Depth Chart Monday around the Big Ten as most teams revealed new or updated depth charts for their upcoming season openers. Indiana and Iowa released depth charts last week, while Nebraska's won't come out until later this week. A few more teams unveil new or updated depth charts Tuesday, and we'll break down those as they file in.

While we won't break down the depth charts each week of the season, the first installments always carry a bit more weight as players have jockeyed for position during camp.

Here are some notes and thoughts from what we learned today:

MICHIGAN

Depth chart (page 13)
  • Suspended players Fitz Toussaint and Frank Clark both are listed -- Toussaint is the starting running back, Clark as a backup weakside defensive end -- but their status for the opener against Alabama is yet to be determined. Coach Brady Hoke will make a decision soon. While it seems highly unlikely Clark will play, Toussaint's status will be a big story this week.
  • Roy Roundtree is listed as a starter at receiver despite missing a chunk of camp following knee surgery. Although Michigan has some decent other options at wideout, it really needs "Tree" on the field at JerryWorld. Speaking of receivers, backup quarterback Devin Gardner is listed as a third-string receiver and should see a bit of work there against the Crimson Tide.
  • Depth is a bit of a concern for Michigan entering the season, and it's the main reason why the Wolverines list 12 true freshman on the depth chart, four in backup roles. Expect freshmen like linebacker Joe Bolden and safety Jarrod Wilson to see plenty of field time.
  • As for position battles, Quinton Washington claimed a starting defensive tackle spot, moving Jibreel Black back to the end position. Will Hagerup and Matt Wile are listed as co-starters at punter, but Hagerup will get the starting nod against Alabama.
OHIO STATE

Depth chart
  • Regarding position battles, Reid Fragel, a converted tight end, claimed the starting right tackle spot ahead of freshman Taylor Decker. Travis Howard maintained his starting cornerback spot ahead of Doran Grant. The team's starting wide receivers entering the fall are Corey Brown, Devin Smith and Jake Stoneburner, a converted tight end. Ohio State's only unsettled position is tight end, where freshman Nick Vannett and sophomore Jeff Heuerman are listed as co-starters.
  • Like Michigan, Ohio State will have plenty of youth on the field this fall. Coach Urban Meyer lists 13 freshmen on the depth chart, including highly touted defensive linemen Noah Spence and Adolphus Washington, spring game star Michael Thomas at backup receiver and backup middle linebacker Camren Williams. The Buckeyes have three freshmen listed as backup offensive linemen, underscoring the depth issues there.
  • With projected starting running back Jordan Hall (foot) out at least a week, Ohio State will start Carlos Hyde at running back. Freshman Bri'onte Dunn will back up Hyde.
WISCONSIN

Depth chart (page 13)
  • The Badgers put out a depth chart last week but made a few changes, including junior Zac Matthias and sophomore Kyle Costigan being listed as co-starters at right guard. Costigan had been listed as the starter, but Matthias made a push late in camp.
  • Backup cornerback Peniel Jean will miss four to six weeks after fracturing his foot last week in practice and undergoing surgery. Redshirt freshman Darius Hillary moves into the No. 2 role behind Devin Smith and likely will be the team's primary nickel back.
  • Sophomore Kyle French is listed as the starter for both field goals and kickoffs (he only occupied the kickoffs role last week). Coach Bret Bielema said freshman Jack Russell (great name) also will see time as a kicker in Saturday's opener against Northern Iowa.
PENN STATE

Depth chart
ILLINOIS

Depth chart
  • Safeties Steve Hull and Supo Sanni, the projected starters, aren't listed on the two-deep. Earnest Thomas and Pat Nixon-Youman are listed in their places. Both Hull and Sanni are week-to-week with injuries. Coach Tim Beckman said both would practice this week and likely will be game-time decisions.
  • Illinois shuffled its offensive linemen between positions throughout camp, and there could be more changes before game day. But ... Graham Pocic is listed as the starting center after playing mostly guard in camp. Pocic has started the past 26 games at center. Redshirt freshman Ted Karras, who has recovered from a foot injury, is listed as the starting right guard.
  • Tim Kynard will start at defensive end in place of Justin Staples, who will serve a one-game suspension against Western Michigan. Offensive lineman Simon Cvijanovic also won't play Saturday for undisclosed reasons.
  • Illinois lists co-starters at both running back (Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson) and tight end (Jon Davis and Eddie Viliunas). Both Young and Ferguson should get plenty of carries against Western Michigan.
NORTHWESTERN

Depth chart (Page 7)
  • After a strong camp, Venric Mark will start at running back for Northwestern. The 5-foot-8, 175-pound Mark, who came to Northwestern as a return specialist, moved from wide receiver after the season. Mike Trumpy, who comes off of ACL surgery, is the backup, and Northwestern likely will spread the carries around. Treyvon Green has recovered from a scary neck injury midway through camp and will play at Syracuse.
  • USC transfer Kyle Prater is listed as a backup receiver. Northwestern will start Demetrius Fields, Christian Jones, Rashad Lawrence and Tony Jones at receiver against the Orange. Prater saw some time with the first-team offense in camp and will be part of the rotation, but he still seems to be lacking a step as he gets back into game shape.
  • The Wildcats have no unsettled starting spots, and while there are a number of young players on the depth chart, only two true freshmen, defensive end Dean Lowry and superback Dan Vitale, made the two-deep. Heralded incoming freshman defender Ifeadi Odenigbo likely will redshirt and isn't listed on the depth chart.
PURDUE

Depth chart (Page 6)
  • The Boilers have four unsettled starting spots, three on the offensive side. Juniors Kevin Pamphile and Justin Kitchens are battling at the left tackle spot, while juniors Devin Smith and Cody Davis are co-starters at right guard. Junior Gabe Holmes and fifth-year senior Crosby Wright are still competing for the top tight end spot. The lone unsettled spot on defense is at end opposite Ryan Russell, as Ryan Isaac and Jalani Phillips continue to compete.
  • No surprises in the starting backfield as Caleb TerBush, Robert Marve and Rob Henry are listed at quarterback in that order. It'll be interesting to see how Purdue uses Henry this year. It doesn't make much sense to waste his talents on the bench. No Ralph Bolden on the depth chart as the senior running back is still working his way back from the knee injury. The Akeems (Shavers and Hunt) will carry the rock against Eastern Kentucky.
  • The placekicking spot is also up in the air with three players -- Sam McCartney, Paul Griggs and Thomas Meadows -- in the mix to replace standout Carson Wiggs.

More depth chart fun comes your way Tuesday, so be sure and check in.
Tags:

Purdue Boilermakers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Big Ten Conference, Northwestern Wildcats, Indiana Hoosiers, Illinois Fighting Illini, Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin Badgers, Crosby Wright, Supo Sanni, Roy Roundtree, Kyle Prater, Brady Hoke, Paul Jones, Urban Meyer, Robert Marve, Quinton Washington, Devin Smith, Jake Stoneburner, Pete Massaro, Patrick Nixon-Youman, DaQuan Jones, Tony Jones, Carlos Hyde, Caleb TerBush, Shawney Kersey, Mike Trumpy, Jibreel Black, Devin Gardner, Corey Brown, Cody Davis, Carson Wiggs, Eddie Viliunas, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Rob Henry, Travis Howard, Alex Kenney, Tim Beckman, Jordan Hall, Earnest Thomas, Rashad Lawrence, Gabe Holmes, Peniel Jean, Venric Mark, Will Hagerup, Justin Staples, Jeff Heuerman, Demetrius Fields, Doran Grant, Alex Butterworth, Deion Barnes, Kevin Pamphile, Justin Kitchens, Steve Hull, Reid Fragel, Jalani Phillips, Akeem Shavers, Jon Davis, Akeem Hunt, Treyvon Green, Matt Wile, Donovonn Young, Josh Ferguson, Eugene Lewis, Joe Bolden, Bri'onte Dunn, Noah Spence, Camren Williams, Thomas Meadows, Paul Griggs, Simon Cvijanovic, Ryan Isaac, Frank Clark, Kyle French, Evan Lewis, Darius Hillary, Adolphus Washington, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Jesse James, Taylor Decker, Trevor Williams, Steven Bench, Tim Kynard, James Terry, Jarrod Wilson, Kyle Costigan, Adam Gress, Stephen Obeng-Agyapong, Jake Fagnano, Ted Karras, Matt Marcincin, Dean Lowry, Jack Russell, Nick Vannett, Mike Farrell, Dan Vitale, Sam McCartney, Zac Matthias

Purdue spring wrap

May, 11, 2012
5/11/12
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2011 record: 7-6
2011 conference record: 4-4 (third place, Leaders Division) Returning starters: Offense: 9; Defense: 9; kicker/punter: 1

Top returners
DT Kawann Short, CB Ricardo Allen, QB Caleb TerBush, QB Robert Marve, QB Rob Henry, RB Akeem Shavers, RB Ralph Bolden, DE Ryan Russell, WR Antavian Edison, DT Bruce Gaston, OT Trevor Foy

Key losses
LB Joe Holland, S Albert Evans, LT Dennis Kelly, OG Nick Mondek, WR Justin Siller, K Carson Wiggs

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Ralph Bolden* (674 yards)
Passing: Caleb TerBush (1,905 yards)
Receiving: Antavian Edison* (584 yards) Tackles: Joe Holland (94) Sacks: Kawann Short* (6.5) Interceptions: Ricardo Allen* (3)

Spring answers

1. Healthy QBs: After two years of dealing with injuries and inexperienced signalcallers, Danny Hope finally had enviable depth at the position this spring. With Robert Marve healthy, last season's starter Caleb TerBush a year wiser, and Rob Henry on the mend from a torn ACL, Purdue has three former starters at quarterback. Hope said the depth made for much improved offensive execution this spring, which should carry over into the fall. Now he just has to figure out whom to play and when, as it's likely more than one will see the field in the same game.

2. Defensive front and back set: The Boilermakers have a chance to be very good up front defensively, and it all starts with defensive tackle Kawann Short. He passed up the NFL draft, and could work his way into first-round status with a big senior season. Bruce Gaston returns along side him in the middle, and sophomore defensive end Ryan Russell looks like a future star after coming on strong at the end of last season. The secondary is also in great shape, with returning cornerbacks Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson possibly forming the best tandem in the league, according to Hope. Nickel back Normondo Harris had a big spring game, and Max Charlot returns at safety. Purdue should have the ability to generate a pass-rush and defend the ball in the air.

3. More confidence: There's little doubt that there's more confidence in the air around West Lafayette. That comes from the team making -- and winning -- its first bowl game under Hope last season, and returning 18 offensive and defensive starters. This is Hope's deepest team, and it should be his best. Some are picking Purdue as a potential Big Ten sleeper, and the players believe that talk is justified.

Fall questions

1. Linebacker Who? While the defense looks stout up front and in the secondary, questions remain at linebacker. Joe Holland, the team's leading tackler a year ago, graduated. Dwayne Beckford missed the bowl game after a DUI arrest, and his status for the fall remains in flux. Will Lucas is the only returning starter guaranteed to suit up in September. There's talk of using some 3-4 looks under new defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar, who implemented his system in practices closed to the media this spring. Does Purdue have enough linebackers to make it work?

2. Offensive line chemistry: The Boilers' offensive line didn't get a lot of hype last season, but it produced two NFL draft picks in Dennis Kelly and Nick Mondek. Trevor Foy is moving from right to left tackle, and Kevin Pamphile and Rick Schmeig worked at multiple positions this spring. Purdue will mix in some new faces and some veterans in new places this fall, and how well that unit comes together will have a large say in how the offense flows.

3. X-factors on offense: Some things we simply don't yet know include the following: Can Ralph Bolden successfully return from knee surgery? If not, is Akeem Shavers a capable every-down back? What will happen to leading receiver Antavian Edison after his arrest on weapons charges this week? Will fellow wideout O.J. Ross make it back from academic suspension? Can kick returning dynamo Raheem Mostert make an impact at receiver? Purdue has a lot more options on offense than in the recent past, but there also remains a lot of question marks.
Several Big Ten players who didn't hear their names called in New York during the weekend still received some good news about their football futures. As soon as the NFL draft concluded, the undrafted free agent scramble began.

Here's an initial list of Big Ten UFA signings. Every Big Ten squad except Indiana had a player signed through free agency. We'll be sure to post more as they become official.

ILLINOIS
IOWA
MICHIGAN
MICHIGAN STATE
MINNESOTA
NEBRASKA
NORTHWESTERN
OHIO STATE
PENN STATE
PURDUE
WISCONSIN

Several players seem to be in good situations, whether it's playing for their hometown team (Kinnie, Netter) or near a family member (Lynn, whose dad, Anthony, coaches running backs for the Jets). It's still shocking to see Brewster on this list rather than the draft one. I'm also surprised Moye, Wiggs, Linthicum and Dimke didn't get drafted.

Other Big Ten players have tryouts with NFL squads, such as Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa (Tampa Bay), Minnesota wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight (Minnesota Vikings), Indiana offensive lineman Chris McDonald (Miami, Green Bay) and Minnesota safety Kim Royston (Minnesota Vikings).

Big Ten lunchtime links

April, 26, 2012
4/26/12
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Many Bothans died bringing us this information.
Our series ranking each position group from the 2011 Big Ten season comes to a close today with the final group, and one that is often overlooked but is always important: special teams.

Special teams is a broad spectrum, so we're combining performances in punting, kickoffs and field goals to come up with each team's position on this list.

And away we go:

1. Nebraska: Boy, did we mess this up in the preseason by ranking the Huskers 11th out of 12. Though we wrote at the time that Nebraska would almost certainly outperform its low rankings, we thought replacing star punter/kicker Alex Henery would be tough. Not really, as Brett Maher was one of the best punters and kickers in the league and the country. Freshman Ameer Abdullah was a star in kick returns, finishing ninth nationally in that category. So just remove one of the ones from that preseason number, and then we've got it right.

[+] EnlargeRaheem Mostert
Mark Cunningham/Getty ImagesRaheem Mostert took a kickoff return back 99 yards for a score in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl.
2. Purdue: The Boilermakers were mostly mediocre on offense and defense but did some great work on special teams. Freshman Raheem Mostert led the nation in kickoff returns, while sophomore Cody Webster finished second in punting. The strong-legged Carson Wiggs tied Maher for most field goals made in the league, though he still needs to improve his accuracy. Blocked kicks helped secure wins over Middle Tennessee and Ohio State, but Purdue lost on a blocked field goal try at Rice.

3. Penn State: When Anthony Fera returned from suspension and took over field goal duties, the Nittany Lions' special teams became truly special. Fera hit 14 of 17 field goals after Penn State had looked very shaky in that area early in the year, and he was also one of the league's top punters. Chaz Powell and Justin Brown were dangerous return men.

4. Ohio State: The Buckeyes ranked among the top third of Big Ten teams in just about every special-teams category. Field goal kicker Drew Basil made a dozen in a row at one point, and Ben Buchanan was solid at punter. Jordan Hall added some big returns.

5. Michigan State: We ranked the Spartans No. 1 in the preseason, and they came up with some game-changing plays, particularly in the first game against Wisconsin and in the Outback Bowl win over Georgia. But statistically speaking, Michigan State was average in most aspects of the kicking game. But Mike Sadler had some big moments punting, and Keshawn Martin did excellent work on punt returns.

6. Wisconsin: A tough team to rank, as there was both good and bad here. Jared Abbrederis led the nation in punt return average at 15.8 yards per attempt. Brad Nortman was a very reliable punter, while Philip Welch made five of his six attempts at field goals, something the Badgers didn't need very much with Montee Ball assaulting the end zone. But we can't ignore the big special-teams breakdowns against Michigan State and Ohio State that had as much as anything to do with ruining a potential undefeated season.

7. Michigan: The Wolverines weren't outstanding at any one area on special teams, but they proved much better than the No. 12 ranking we saddled them with in the preseason. Brendan Gibbons solidified what looked like a scary place-kicker situation and played a large role (along with brunette girls) in the Sugar Bowl victory. Michigan was also strong in punt returns and kick coverage, though its punting and kickoff returns left much to be desired.

8. Iowa: The good news first: Iowa led the league in net punting, thanks to a strong showing by senior Eric Guthrie in his first year starting. Now the bad: The Hawkeyes ranked second-to-last in kickoff coverage, and Mike Meyer missed six of his 20 field goal attempts, including both tries in the humbling loss to Minnesota.

9. Minnesota: Even without premier return man Troy Stoudermire, who missed most of the year with an injury, the Gophers ranked fifth in the league in kickoff returns, and they led the league in kickoff coverage. But a team that punted as much as Minnesota did in 2011 needed to do better than 11th in the conference in that category. Bonus point for the perfectly executed onside kick in the Iowa win.

10. Northwestern: The Wildcats' defense got the brunt of the blame in Northwestern's losses, but special teams didn't hold up its end of the bargain, either. Northwestern made only six field goals all year and ranked near the bottom of the conference in most categories. The bright spot was a league-best punt return unit.

11. Indiana: Mitch Ewald went 13-of-16 on field goals, but the Hoosiers weren't very good in most other areas. They returned more kickoffs than anyone in the Big Ten -- a product of a crummy defense -- but didn't do enough with them in finishing 108th nationally in that stat.

12. Illinois: Ron Zook didn't help his case to be retained as head coach through the performance of his special teams, a part of the game that was supposed to be his field of expertise. Illinois was simply dreadful in creating advantageous field position, finishing last in the nation in kickoff returns and third-to-last in punt returns. The Illini also weren't very good at kickoff coverage, though at least Derek Dimke made 10 of 12 field goals. Even that was marred by his missed 42-yarder at the end of a 10-7 loss at Penn State.

Big Ten lunch links

February, 22, 2012
2/22/12
12:00
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Chatting right now. It's not too late to join.
The North team recorded a 23-13 win against the South in Saturday's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and several Big Ten players contributed to the victory.

Big Ten players factored in all the scoring for the North squad. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson and Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins both fired touchdown passes, and Purdue kicker Carson Wiggs connected on three field goal attempts, including a 28-yarder that helped seal the win with 4:11 left. The North starting offensive line featured four of five players from the Big Ten.

Other than Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins and Illinois left tackle Jeff Allen, all of the Big Ten players in the game competed for the North squad.

Wilson started for the North and led three offensive series, two of which resulted in points. He finished the game 4 of 7 passing for 45 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Cousins was the third quarterback from the North squad to see the field and fired a 41-yard touchdown pass to Arizona State's Gerell Robinson early in the third quarter. Cousins finished the game 5 of 11 passing for 115 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Wiggs connected on field goal attempts of 27, 28 and 32 yards and missed a 37-yard try in the closing minutes.

Other Big Ten notables:
  • Michigan State safety Trenton Robinson had two tackles and a fumble recovery
  • Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey had a 33-yard reception
  • Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David had four tackles
  • Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford had three tackles
  • Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin had three tackles
  • Illinois wideout A.J. Jenkins had a 26-yard reception
  • Michigan State tight end Brian Linthicum had a 9-yard reception
  • Penn State cornerback D'Anton Lynn had two tackles
  • Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman averaged 43.7 yards on three attempts and also had one kickoff, while Wiggs had five kickoffs.
  • Ohio State running back Dan Herron had six carries for 14 yards and two receptions for 4 yards
  • Wisconsin long-snapper Kyle Wojta had one tackle
  • Wisconsin fullback Bradie Ewing had one carry for 1 yard

North team starters included: Wilson, Ewing, Linthicum, Ohio State left tackle Mike Adams, Ohio State center Mike Brewster, Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler, Penn State guard Johnnie Troutman, Crawford, Martin and Robinson. Jenkins and Allen both came off the bench for the South squad.
National Signing Day is barely a week away, and Big Ten teams will be stockpiling for the future (and, in some cases, the present). Today we'll take a look at the recruiting needs of each Big Ten team, starting with those in the Leaders division. These needs are based on current rosters and anticipated departures in the near future. And to save you some email time, we do realize teams have already addressed needs in compiling their 2012 classes.

Let's get started ...

ILLINOIS

Wide receiver: The Illini lose A.J. Jenkins, who accounted for 90 of the team's 226 receptions in 2011. No other Illinois player had more than 26 catches, so there certainly are opportunities for young players to emerge and make an immediate impact for the new coaching staff.

Linemen: Illinois loses two starters from an offensive line that struggled down the stretch of the regular season. It's important to build depth there going forward. Despite Whitney Mercilus' early departure to the NFL draft, the defensive line returns some talented players. Still, defensive end Michael Buchanan is entering his senior year, and defensive tackle Akeem Spence is a bona fide NFL prospect who could enter the draft with a strong 2012 campaign.

Safety: The Illini defense didn't have many weaknesses in 2011, but safety was a liability at times. The team returns experience for 2012, but will lose some key players after the season. An impact defensive back or two in the 2012 class would really help.

INDIANA

Defensive back: This has been a primary recruiting need for the past few seasons, and it remains a pressing concern after Indiana surrendered a league-worst 8.5 yards per pass and a league-high 26 passing touchdowns in 2011. Indiana needs impact players and depth among the back four to be able to limit Big Ten offenses.

Defensive front seven: Sense a theme here? Indiana needs defenders in the worst way, and the front seven is a huge piece to the puzzle. The Hoosiers return some experience at defensive tackle, but lose top linebackers Jeff Thomas and Leon Beckum. The coaches showed in 2011 that they're not afraid to play young players, and they need more contributors on the defensive side.

Quarterback: Starter Tre Roberson returns, but Indiana needs bodies here after Dusty Kiel and Ed Wright-Baker both opted to transfer earlier this month.

OHIO STATE

Offensive line: Three multiyear starters depart at center, left tackle and right tackle, so Ohio State's offensive line will have a very different look in 2012. The Buckeyes could use some immediate-impact linemen, like center Mike Brewster in 2008, and they'll look to build depth here.

Defensive end: Ohio State appears loaded at defensive tackle for 2012 and beyond, but the team needs some more pure pass-rushers on the edge. John Simon, who had four more sacks than anyone on the squad in 2011, will be a senior this coming season.

Wide receiver: The Buckeyes lacked reliable receiver options in 2011 and had their best wideout, DeVier Posey, for only three games because of suspension. Posey departs and Ohio State needs to build depth and increase competition in what should be a more wide-open offense under Urban Meyer.

PENN STATE

Quarterback: New coach Bill O'Brien might be the quarterback whisperer Penn State has waited for, but he also needs to upgrade the talent on the roster. Matthew McGloin and Rob Bolden both must make significant strides, and while Paul Jones is an intriguing player, we've yet to see him in a game. Penn State needs more options here.

Wide receiver: Top target Derek Moye departs, and Penn State returns only two players with decent but not great production in Justin Brown and Devon Smith. Brown looks like a potential impact player in 2012, but Penn State needs more options in the passing game.

Defensive back: Penn State loses all four starters, although returning players like Stephon Morris, Malcolm Willis and Adrian Amos have logged playing time. Still, the Lions need some more players here to build depth and increase competition.

PURDUE

Offensive line: This is one of few areas where Purdue loses a decent amount of production from 2011, as tackle Dennis Kelly and Nick Mondek both depart. Two more starters exit after the 2012 season, and Purdue wants to be a run-based offense. It's important to build some depth up front with the 2012 class.

Kicker: Purdue loses the bionic-legged Carson Wiggs, who did more than make field goals from ridiculous distances. He also kicked off and served as a backup punter, attempting 45 punts over the past two seasons. The versatile Wiggs leaves a major void, and Purdue must address the specialist spot.

Defensive back: The Boilers say goodbye to both of their starting safeties from the 2011 team. They also will lose starting cornerback Josh Johnson after the 2012 season, while Ricardo Allen might be an early entry candidate with a big junior year. While this isn't a pressing need right now, it could soon become one.

WISCONSIN

Quarterback: Russell Wilson saved Wisconsin in more than one way in 2011, and his departure is significant. The team's most experienced signal callers, Jon Budmayr and Curt Phillips, both are coming off of major injuries. Wisconsin typically doesn't play younger quarterbacks, but needs more options after a season where Wilson showed what the offense could be.

Wide receiver: The Badgers typically get by with 1-2 good wideouts and an excellent tight end or two, but they could use more depth at the receiver position. Top target Nick Toon departs, and Wisconsin is pretty thin at receiver aside from Jared Abbrederis.

Defensive speed: Oregon makes a lot of teams look slow, but the Rose Bowl spelled out what the Badgers must do to take the next step as a program. Wisconsin needs to upgrade its speed at all three levels of the defense, particularly the back seven, to prevent explosion plays. Michigan State also exposed Wisconsin's defense, so the need for speed certainly is there.
Pre-draft season is right around the corner, and the nation's premier all-star game, the Senior Bowl, takes place Jan. 28 in Mobile, Ala.

The Senior Bowl on Wednesday announced the 24 Big Ten players who will be participating in this year's game. Eight Big Ten squads are sending players to Mobile.

Here's the full list (part of which had been revealed earlier):

IOWA
MICHIGAN
MICHIGAN STATE
NEBRASKA
OHIO STATE

PENN STATE
PURDUE
WISCONSIN


*injured and will not participate in game

It's a strong contingent that features the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (Still) and 21 all-conference selections.
My apologies for posting this a bit late, but the initial invitations list is out for the 2012 NFL scouting combine, which takes place next month in Indianapolis. This list does not include the five Big Ten juniors who have declared for the draft.

Let's check out which players made the initial list (a full list will come out later this month).

Quarterbacks
Running backs
Wide receivers
Offensive linemen
Defensive tackles
Defensive ends
Outside linebackers
Cornerbacks
Safeties
  • Trenton Robinson, Michigan State
Kickers
Punters

There are no Big Ten tight ends, inside linebackers or long snappers on the initial list.

I'm a bit surprised not to see several names, including Penn State WR Derek Moye. Still, wide receiver was a position of strength for the Big Ten in 2011, along with defensive tackle.
Here's a look at three keys for Purdue during Tuesday's Little Caesars Pizza Bowl matchup against Western Michigan in Detroit.

1. Establish the run without Bolden: Boilers leading rusher Ralph Bolden is out (torn ACL), but the team has other backs capable of attacking a Western Michigan defense ranked 107th nationally against the run. Akeem Shavers will be Purdue's primary ball carrier, and Jared Crank and Reggie Pegram also should get some touches. Purdue needs to take the pressure off of its quarterbacks and consistently move the chains against the Broncos. One potential problem area is the red zone, where Western Michigan plays its best defense (sixth nationally at 70 percent scoring conversions). Purdue has scored touchdowns on 30 of its 47 red zone opportunities, so the Bolden-less backfield must cash in when opportunities arise.

2. Contain Jordan White: The Western Michigan senior receiver leads the nation in both receptions per game (10.58) and receiving yards per game (137.2). White will be a factor, and quarterback Alex Carder will get him the ball, but Purdue must prevent the Broncos star from taking over the game. Boilers sophomore cornerback Ricardo Allen has covered several other standout receivers this season -- Notre Dame's Michael Floyd, Iowa's Marvin McNutt and Illinois' A.J. Jenkins among them -- and will be assigned to White for most of the game. Allen's aggressive style could result in big plays for Purdue or for Western Michigan, but he's the type of corner you want against a talent like White.

3. Gain the edge on special teams: Purdue's season has been largely defined by special-teams plays, both the good and the bad. A blocked kick has both cost Purdue a chance at victory (against Rice) and preserved a chance for an eventual win (against Ohio State). The Boilers need strong performances from specialists Carson Wiggs and Cody Webster in kicker-friendly Ford Field, and they must avoid breakdowns against Western Michigan, which has been solid on both punt returns and kick returns this season. If Wiggs converts some lengthy field goals, Webster puts Western Michigan in tough field-position situations and Raheem Mostert breaks off a long return or two, Purdue will be in good shape in what should be a close game.

Season report card: Purdue

December, 20, 2011
12/20/11
11:00
AM ET
It's time to pass out season grades for the Purdue Boilers.

OFFENSE: C

After major injuries ravaged the offensive depth chart in 2010, Purdue found greater consistency this season but didn't put up many "wow" numbers. The Boilers ranked in the middle of the Big Ten in total offense (seventh), scoring offense (seventh), rushing offense (sixth) and pass offense (sixth). They kept a quarterback on the field for an entire season in Caleb TerBush and also used Robert Marve under center quite a bit, including in the signature home win against Ohio State. Coordinator Gary Nord used a lot of personnel as seven players recorded 20 or more rushes and eight players recorded 11 or more receptions. The unit really lacked star power but got the job done for the most part. Put simply, Purdue had an average offense, which is a step up from 2010.

DEFENSE: C-

The defense certainly missed star end Ryan Kerrigan, who showed how good he is this season with the NFL's Washington Redskins. Kawann Short stood out at defensive tackle with 17 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks, but Purdue didn't get enough from the edges and recorded only 21 sacks, down from a league-high 33 last season. The run defense also was a bit of a disappointment. Purdue had more experience in the secondary and some veterans at linebacker but didn't show great playmaking ability, recording just 14 takeaways all season, the second-lowest total in the league. The unit had some good moments in wins against Illinois and Ohio State and had some nice individual pieces in Short and cornerback Ricardo Allen.

SPECIAL TEAMS: B-

Purdue was truly a mixed bag on special teams this season. The Boilers excelled in both punting and punt coverage. Freshman Raheem Mostert led the Big Ten in kick return average (31 ypr) and bionic-legged kicker Carson Wiggs booted 16 field goals, six from 40 yards or longer with a long of 53. But Wiggs also had a potential game-winning kick blocked at Rice, the Boilers struggled on kickoff coverage, and special teams miscues proved costly in a 23-18 loss at Penn State. Then again, a special teams play arguably saved Purdue's season as Bruce Gaston Jr. blocked an extra-point try by Ohio State that could have secured a Buckeyes victory. Overall, there was more good than bad here.

OVERALL: C

Purdue was an average football team this season, but average equals bowl berth, which the Boilers will gladly accept for the first time in four seasons. The offense didn't get derailed by Rob Henry's preseason injury, and the defense and special teams made some key plays at key times. It's fair to ask where Purdue football is headed under coach Danny Hope, and the team's performance against Western Michigan in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl will help determine the direction heading into a pivotal 2012 campaign.
The Big Ten announced its 2011 all-conference teams and individual awards Monday night. The winners for Offensive Player of the Year, Defensive Player of the Year, Freshman of the Year and Coach of the Year will be announced Wednesday.

Here are the All-Big Ten teams ...

First-team offense thoughts: I'm a bit surprised Wisconsin running back Montee Ball is the only unanimous selection with the media and coaches. Both groups got the running backs and wide receivers right. It seems like the offensive tackle spot is a bit weak this season, but Reilly Reiff and Josh Oglesby are good players. Tough call at center between Wisconsin's Peter Konz and Michigan's David Molk, and I'm not surprised to see a split there.

First-team defense thoughts: The first-team defensive line selections are solid. I would have gone with Ohio State's John Simon ahead of Purdue's Kawann Short for the fourth spot, but both men had outstanding seasons. There's also a tough call at linebacker. Nebraska's Lavonte David has to be a first-team selection. So should Wisconsin's Mike Taylor. I would go with Penn State's Gerald Hodges over Wisconsin's Chris Borland, although Borland had a very good season.

There were some curious choices at defensive back. Michigan State cornerback Johnny Adams absolutely should be on both lists but was placed on the second team by the media. I'm very surprised the coaches didn't include Michigan State safety Trenton Robinson on the first or second team. Nebraska's Brett Maher is a consensus first-team selection as both a kicker and a punter.

Second-team offense thoughts: The coaches and media split on quarterback, as the coaches went with Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and the media picked Michigan's Denard Robinson. It's a tough call, but I would have gone with Cousins. I don't see how Wisconsin tight end Jacob Pedersen misses the coaches' second team. Same goes for Northwestern wide receiver Jeremy Ebert. Ohio State left tackle Mike Adams made the coaches' team despite missing the first five games because of a suspension.

Second-team defense thoughts: The media made a good call with Illinois linebacker Jonathan Brown. I'm glad to see defensive tackle Mike Martin and defensive ends William Gholston and Michael Buchanan make both teams. Both Purdue specialists -- kicker Carson Wiggs and punter Cody Webster -- made the coaches' list, while the media went with Penn State's Anthony Fera, who had a nice season, and Webster.

Here are the honorable mention selections:

COACHES

ILLINOIS: Jeff Allen, Jonathan Brown, Derek Dimke, Terry Hawthorne, Ian Thomas; INDIANA: Mitch Ewald, Jeff Thomas; IOWA: Broderick Binns, James Ferentz, Eric Guthrie, Micah Hyde, James Morris, Markus Zusevics; MICHIGAN: Kenny Demens, J.T. Floyd, Kevin Koger, Junior Hemingway, Denard Robinson, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Ryan Van Bergen; MICHIGAN STATE: Denicos Allen, Le’Veon Bell, Keshawn Martin, Trenton Robinson, Marcus Rush; MINNESOTA: Kim Royston; NEBRASKA: Will Compton, Ben Cotton, Spencer Long, Marcel Jones, Baker Steinkuhler; NORTHWESTERN: Jeremy Ebert, Jordan Mabin, Brian Mulroe, Al Netter, Dan Persa, Brian Peters; OHIO STATE: Johnathan Hankins, Dan Herron, Jack Mewhort, Jake Stoneburner; PENN STATE: Drew Astorino, Anthony Fera, Jordan Hill, D’Anton Lynn, Derek Moye, Chima Okoli, Chaz Powell, Johnnie Troutman; PURDUE: Dennis Kelly, Joe Holland; WISCONSIN: Jared Abbrederis, Patrick Butrym, Antonio Fenelus, Peter Konz, Brad Nortman, Jacob Pederson, Ricky Wagner.

MEDIA

ILLINOIS: Derek Dimke, Terry Hawthorne, Tavon Wilson; INDIANA: Mitch Ewald; IOWA: Mike Daniels, James Ferentz, Adam Gettis, Eric Guthrie, James Morris, Tyler Nielsen, Shaun Prater, Markus Zusevics; MICHIGAN: Kenny Demens, J.T. Floyd, Kevin Koger, Jordan Kovacs, Taylor Lewan, Craig Roh, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Ryan Van Bergen; MICHIGAN STATE: Le’Veon Bell, Max Bullough, Dan Conroy, Kirk Cousins, Darqueze Dennard, Brian Linthicum, Chris McDonald, Chris Norman, Kevin Pickelman, Marcus Rush; MINNESOTA: Chris Bunders, Kim Royston; NEBRASKA: Mike Caputo, Austin Cassidy, Will Compton, Ben Cotton, Marcel Jones, Cameron Meredith, Daimion Stafford, Baker Steinkuhler; NORTHWESTERN: Kain Colter, Jordan Mabin, Brian Mulroe, Al Netter, Dan Persa; OHIO STATE: C.J. Barnett, Mike Brewster, Johnathan Hankins, Jack Mewhort, Tyler Moeller, Andrew Norwell, Jake Stoneburner, Andrew Sweat; PENN STATE: Drew Astorino, Quinn Barham, Jack Crawford, Anthony Fera, Jordan Hill, D’Anton Lynn, Chima Okoli, Chaz Powell, Nate Stupar, Johnnie Troutman; PURDUE: Ricardo Allen, Dwayne Beckford, Joe Holland, Dennis Kelly, Carson Wiggs; WISCONSIN: Jared Abbrederis, Patrick Butrym, Aaron Henry, Brad Nortman, Nick Toon, Ricky Wagner, Philip Welch.

Finally, here are the individual award winners ...

Griese-Brees Quarterback of the Year: Russell Wilson, Wisconsin

Richter-Howard Receiver of the Year: Marvin McNutt, Iowa

Ameche-Dayne Running Back of the Year: Montee Ball, Wisconsin

Kwalick-Clark Tight End of the Year: Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern

Rimington-Pace Offensive Lineman of the Year: David Molk, Michigan

Smith-Brown Defensive Lineman of the Year: Devon Still, Penn State

Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year: Lavonte David, Nebraska

Tatum-Woodson Defensive Back of the Year: Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska

Bakken-Andersen Kicker of the Year: Brett Maher, Nebraska

Eddleman-Fields Punter of the Year: Brett Maher, Nebraska

Weekend rewind: Big Ten

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
1:00
PM ET
For the final time in the 2011 regular season, let's press the rewind button:

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
Mary Langenfeld/US PresswireRussell Wilson's one season at Wisconsin was surely something to smile about.
Team of the week: Wisconsin. The Badgers had an uphill climb after losing back-to-back games against Michigan State and Ohio State to end October. But they battled back to win their final four games in impressive fashion, including Saturday's 45-7 blowout of Penn State in Madison. Now they're just one win away from their second straight Rose Bowl appearance.

Game of the week: Michigan 40, Ohio State 34. Five lead changes, more than 800 yards of offense, a duel between two super-athletic quarterbacks and a game that came down to the final two minutes in a huge rivalry. Yep, this one was a no-doubter this week. Best edition of The Game since 2006.

Biggest play: Josh Johnson's interception of Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson late in the fourth quarter. The Hoosiers had moved the ball well all day and only trailed Purdue by eight points as they started their final drive. Johnson and receiver Nick Stoner caught Roberson's pass simultaneously, but Johnson ripped the ball away when they hit the turf. That allowed the Boilermakers to run out the clock, get back the Old Oaken Bucket, clinch bowl eligibility and quite possibly save Danny Hope's job. Good thing for them the play was not reviewable by rule.

Best call: Nebraska's decision to let Rex Burkhead break the school record for carries with a kneel down for No. 38 against Iowa. Burkhead, who hadn't played for several minutes after scoring a touchdown on his 37th carry, was typically humble when asked to go in for the record, telling his teammates he didn't want to get it that way. But offensive lineman Marcel Jones convinced him to do it for the seniors. Burkhead wasn't anywhere near 100 percent for last week's game but has been one of the biggest warriors in the Big Ten all season. He deserves as many places in the Nebraska record book as he can get.

Big Men on Campus (Offense): Michigan's Denard Robinson and Wisconsin's Montee Ball. These two share the award for a second straight week, and with good cause. Robinson accounted for five touchdowns and more than 330 yards of total offense, becoming just the fourth player in NCAA history to gain 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in a season twice in his career. He ran for 170 yards in the 40-34 win over Ohio State. Ball just keeps on piling up the touchdowns, adding four more in the win over Penn State. He ran for 156 yards on 25 carries and set the NCAA record with multiple touchdowns in 12 straight games. He has 34 touchdowns on the season, second-most of any FBS player in history and just five short of Barry Sanders' record of 39.

Big Men on Campus (Defense): Minnesota's Kim Royston and Nebraska's Lavonte David. Royston had 13 tackles against Illinois, the eighth time this season he finished a game with 10 or more stops. He also had his first sack of the season and a pass breakup while finishing the season with 123 tackles, the most by a Gopher since 2001. David capped his spectacular regular season with eight tackles and a sack, along with two pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, as the Huskers nearly shut out Iowa.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Purdue's Carson Wiggs. He made four field goals -- from 48, 43, 29 and 22 yards -- in the Boilers' bowl-clinching 33-25 win over Indiana.

Best moment: It wasn't quite "Rudy," but it was close at Camp Randall on Saturday.

Wisconsin senior defensive end Greg Russo served two tours in Iraq before walking on to the Badgers last spring. For almost the entire season, he'd been waiting for the NCAA to clear him to appear in a game.

He finally got on the field for the first time with about a minute left in the win over Penn State. He didn't record a tackle like Rudy, but he didn't care.

"We stand on the field every day for practice," Russo told the Wisconsin State Journal. "But tonight, standing in the middle of the field and looking around and seeing the fans there and knowing I was a part of something that big, a part of being the Leaders Division champs, it was a totally different feeling, like I was on a completely different field and I was in a completely different place."

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