Big Ten: Chimdi Chekwa


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Bradley Roby came to Ohio State with a specific plan mapped out.

Redshirt the first year, in part because the Buckeyes had two senior starters returning at cornerback (Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence). Check.

Earn a starting job as a redshirt freshman and keep it throughout Year 2 in the program. Check.

Cover the Big Ten's best wide receivers -- including four selected in last month's NFL draft -- both in games and in Buckeyes practices. Check.

"That's what I put all my efforts into," Roby told ESPN.com, "and I'm glad it came to fruition."

One item not included on Roby's plan was upset a future first-round pick with both skills and trash talk. But he succeeded in doing so during Ohio State's victory at Illinois in October. Roby held Illini star receiver A.J. Jenkins to 80 yards and no touchdowns -- Jenkins came in averaging 135.8 yards and 1.2 touchdowns per game. Roby also set up Ohio State's first touchdown with a 36-yard interception return.

Roby had sparked some fireworks earlier in the week when he described Jenkins as "decent, but he's nothing special, really." Jenkins had proclaimed himself the Big Ten's top receiver earlier in the season, and he had been backing it up. Roby now says the media spun his comments "out of control" but admits his words added excitement to the game.

The Buckeyes cornerback doesn't hide the fact he likes to talk trash during games, but most of his targets don't return fire. Jenkins did.

"I guess that's because I got in his head," Roby said. "Because if they're not responding to you, most likely they’re trying to ignore you. But if they're yelling back at you, it means you're getting to them. So keep doing it."

Roby will keep yapping, and he'll continue seeking out the best competition. Last fall, he lined up across from standouts like Michigan State's B.J. Cunningham and Wisconsin's Nick Toon. He already has watched some tape of California standout Keenan Allen, a first-team All-Pac-12 selection in 2011 who will visit Ohio State in Week 3.

The 5-foot-11, 190-pound Roby also challenged himself in practice by seeking out DeVier Posey, Ohio State's top receiver. Posey played in just three games last season because of suspension, but was drafted in the third round in April.

"I always would want to go against DeVier last year to make sure I'm getting better," Roby said. "You only get better when you go against better people. If you can hang with DeVier, you can hang with any receiver in the Big Ten."

Ohio State's lack of depth at receiver entering 2012 is well documented, and asked who he sought out this spring, Roby replied, "Nobody, really." Still, he has a good eye for talent. When we talked two days before Ohio State's spring game, Roby spotted freshman Michael Thomas walking by and told me to look out for him. Thomas ended up recording 12 catches for 131 yards in the spring game.

Roby spent much of the spring working on off-man coverage, a focal point for new secondary coaches Everett Withers and Kerry Coombs. Ohio State played mostly press coverage in 2011 and will continue to do so, but off-man will be a bigger part of the scheme going forward. Roby welcomes the change.

"If you're a good athlete, anybody can play press," he said. "Coach Withers told me that's one thing in the [NFL] a lot of corners don't know how to do when they come from college. They just press, and they can't play off-man. Some teams need their corners to play off-man, so if you can't do that, you can't play. So me being able to learn this at this age, having three years left eligibility-wise, it will definitely help me by the time I get to that next level."

The next level is certainly part of Roby's plan, and broadening his coverage skills is crucial in taking that step.

"Technique, eyes in the right place, making sure you stay low," he said. "You've got to be disciplined to play off-man, because one false move, it's a touchdown."

Roby made some false moves during his first season in the fire, but he also showed he's a playmaker, tying for the team lead in interceptions (3), leading the team in pass breakups (6) and adding a forced fumble and 3.5 tackles for loss. The rapid rise didn't surprise Roby, who, in case it's not obvious, oozes confidence.

"To be a DB, you've got to have that," Buckeyes safety C.J. Barnett said. "You've got to think you're the best out there, because you don't have confidence, you're going to get beat. Roby, he exerts that. I really wasn’t surprised by what he did last year. We all knew that he was good. He just needed his time and he stepped up."

Buckeyes defense must tighten up

September, 10, 2011
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Ohio State knew it would be an adventure on offense early this season.

After all, the Buckeyes lost starting quarterback Terrelle Pryor and had three starters suspended for the first five games.

The Ohio State defense, despite losing seven starters of its own, was supposed to be the pillar on which the offense could lean. Ohio State had proven time and again it could reload on defense, and this year didn't appear to be any different, especially after the Buckeyes blanked Akron in the season opener.

But Toledo is making Ohio State look mortal on defense, and the Rockets have reclaimed the lead 22-21 in the third quarter. Coach Tim Beckman has been fearless with two fourth-down calls in the second half, both of which Toledo converted. Beckman is going for it today, and who can blame the former Ohio State assistant?

This marks the first time Ohio State has allowed more than 20 points to an in-state foe since 1999.

While the Buckeyes remain stout against the run, their personnel losses in the secondary -- Jermale Hines, Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence -- seem to be hurting, as Toledo's passing attack has clicked for 213 yards.

No matter how this one turns out, Ohio State has to be a bit concerned about its defense before next week's trip to Miami.
Tyler Moeller could be called the resident historian of Ohio State's defense.

No Buckeyes defender has been on the roster longer than Moeller, who enters his sixth season this fall.

[+] EnlargeTyler Moeller
Greg Bartram/US PresswireRecovered from a chest injury, linebacker Tyler Moeller is excited about Ohio State's defense.
Since his arrival in 2006, Moeller has been part of units that have ranked 12th, first, 14th, fifth and fourth nationally in yards allowed. He has seen Ohio State finish fifth, first, sixth, fifth and fifth nationally in points allowed.

On paper, the 2011 version of the Buckeyes' D might have a tough time continuing such an impressive run. The unit says goodbye to seven starters, including first-round pick Cameron Heyward and four other players selected in April's draft (Chimdi Chekwa, Brian Rolle, Ross Homan and Jermale Hines). Ohio State's defense must fill gaps in all three levels.

But Moeller isn't concerned about the unit's outlook. Just the opposite.

"I'm more excited about this defense than any defense since I've been here," he said. "The guys we're bringing back, the guys that are stepping up, even the people who you don't see in the first lineup, they're great."

Moeller rattles off names like lineman John Simon, linebacker Etienne Sabino, cornerback Dominic Clarke and safety Christian Bryant.

"We have a lot of playmakers," Moeller said. "At any position, anyone can make a turnover or a big play at any time."

One of the biggest reasons for optimism is Moeller himself. He returns to action after missing the final eight games of last season with a torn pectoral muscle.

Limited both in the weight room and on the field this spring, Moeller has been cleared for full participation. Unable to bench press for years because of the pectoral muscle, which began to tear before the 2008 season, Moeller is boosting his bench press and his body in preparation for camp next month.

"Compared to last year, I feel like I'm 10 times better," he said. "I was 200, 205 last season going in after my head injury, and I'm 219 today. I definitely got some mass back, my strength feels great, I feel almost 100 percent right now and we still have three, four more weeks until camp starts."

Although Moeller has played in only five games since 2008 -- he missed the entire 2009 season with a head injury after being assaulted in a Florida restaurant -- he showed good promise in limited action. He recorded two forced fumbles, an interception and 4.5 tackles for loss last season, despite an injury that kept getting worse until it tore.

Moeller played the "star" position, a safety in Ohio State's oft-used nickel package, last season. He could see time this fall at star or as an outside linebacker, a position he played in the first part of his Buckeyes career. He recently spent time watching film with new Buckeyes linebackers coach Mike Vrabel, who "gives a whole new perspective of what to look at," Moeller said.

Moeller doesn't care where he lines up.

"They’re really the same thing," he said. "Hopefully, the coaches will put me in a position where I can go out there and be the type of player I am."
Let's delve a bit deeper into the Big Ten secondaries by breaking down the league's top cornerbacks entering 2011.

This group could be one of the league's best, as it features a nice mix of established veterans and budding young players. Only two Big Ten cornerbacks -- Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard and Wisconsin's Antonio Fenelus -- made the preseason watch list for the Jim Thorpe Award, but I expect several more players to make their way onto the radar in the coming months.

Here's the rundown ...

1. Alfonzo Dennard, Nebraska, senior: He's the final member of Nebraska’s triumvirate on defense along with tackle Jared Crick and linebacker Lavonte David. Dennard earned second-team All-Big 12 honors in 2010 after recording 30 tackles, four interceptions and seven passes defended. After working alongside All-American Prince Amukamara, Denard is ready to take center stage.

[+] EnlargeRicardo Allen
Andrew Weber/US PresswirePurdue's Ricardo Allen, 21, shown returning an interception for a TD last season against Michigan State, is one of the Big Ten's top cornerbacks.
2. Ricardo Allen, Purdue, sophomore: Get to know this name, Big Ten fans. Allen is one of the nation’s most dynamic young defensive backs. He recorded three interceptions in 2010, returning two for touchdowns, and finished fourth on the team with 73 tackles. Just 5-foot-9 and 175 pounds, Allen uses an aggressive style that's a lot of fun to watch.

3. Shaun Prater, Iowa, senior: Prater considered a jump to the NFL before returning to Iowa, where he'll lead a new-look secondary in 2011. He earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2010 after recording four interceptions, 10 passes defended, a fumble recovery and 68 tackles. After losing two multiyear starters at safety, Iowa needs Prater to shut down one half of the field this fall.

4. Antonio Fenelus, Wisconsin, senior: Fenelus played an integral role in the Badgers' overall improvement as a playmaking secondary in 2010. He led the team in both interceptions (4) and passes defended (11) and finished second in fumbles recovered (2). The media rewarded Fenelus by selecting him first-team All-Big Ten. He forms a solid cornerback tandem with Devin Smith.

5. D'Anton Lynn, Penn State, senior: Lynn took a significant step forward in 2010 and should contend for All-Big Ten honors this fall. He emerged in the second half of the season and finished with 75 tackles, three interceptions, seven passes defended and a fumble recovery. Penn State's secondary will be a strength this fall, and Lynn will showcase his talents against the Big Ten's top receivers.

6. Johnny Adams, Michigan State, junior: Here's another player who appears to be on the verge of big things in 2011. Adams surged throughout spring practice and was the first player selected in Michigan State's spring game draft. He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches last season after recording three interceptions and 10 passes defended. Adams also had a forced fumble and recovered a blocked punt that helped cap Michigan State's come-from-behind win against Purdue.

7. Jordan Mabin, Northwestern, senior: Mabin is the Big Ten's most experienced cornerback, as he enters his fourth season as a starter and boasts 37 career starts. After a so-so-sophomore season in 2009, Mabin earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors last season, as he led the Big Ten and tied for 12th nationally in passes defended with 15 (1.15 per game). He capped his season with a pick-six in the TicketCity Bowl and should be in the mix for All-Conference honors this season.

8. Travis Howard, Ohio State, junior: This is a projection pick, as Howard moves into a featured role this fall after playing behind Chimdi Chekwa and Devon Torrence. He showed some promise in 2010 with two interceptions, four passes defended and a fumble recovery in limited action. There's a lot of buzz about Howard entering the fall as Ohio State looks for its next shutdown corner.

9. Tavon Wilson, Illinois, senior: A rash of injuries forced Wilson to move to safety in 2010, but he's back at his preferred position entering the fall. He recorded 74 tackles, an interception and seven pass breakups at cornerback in 2009 and continued to make plays at safety last season, leading the team in passes defended (9) and adding an interception and two fumble recoveries. Wilson brings versatility to a secondary that might take a big step forward this season.

10. Josh Johnson, Purdue, junior: Allen garnered much of the attention in 2010, but Johnson forms a nice complement on the other side. He tied for second in the league with three forced fumbles and added an interception, seven passes defended, a fumble recovery and 53 tackles. Johnson's playmaking ability should come in handy, especially if opposing teams start throwing away from Allen.

Just missed the cut: Minnesota's Troy Stoudermire, Michigan's Troy Woolfolk, Illinois' Terry Hawthorne, Wisconsin's Devin Smith.

Big Ten NFL draft wrap-up

May, 2, 2011
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The 2011 NFL draft is in the books, and it's time to take a look back at how the Big Ten fared in the selections. In case you missed it, check out my breakdown of the six Big Ten players who heard their names called in the first round.

All in all, 29 Big Ten players were drafted this year. New Big Ten member Nebraska had seven selections.

Let's start off with a rundown of the picks. I'll have some quick thoughts after each round.

[+] EnlargeJ.J. Watt
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireWisconsin defensive lineman J.J. Watt was the first Big Ten player selected in the NFL draft this year.
First round

Quick thoughts: The Big Ten had its largest first-round output since 2007, and several players look like good fits for their teams. Chicago had to be thrilled Carimi was still available, and San Diego felt the same about Liuget, projected by many as a top-15 pick. Kerrigan likely needs to contribute immediately for the Redskins, while Clayborn and Heyward enter situations where they can ease into the transition.

Second round

Quick thoughts: Mouton's selection was a surprise for many folks, but it's a testament to a good player who impressed the scouts despite playing for a lousy defense in 2010. Wisniewski enters a good fit in Oakland, where his uncle, Steve, is an assistant offensive line coach. I really like Leshoure in Detroit, where he'll enter a competitive situation at running back.

Third round

Quick thoughts: Wilson, who entered the draft after his junior season, might have been a bit disappointed to fall to the third round. But he enters a good situation in New Orleans and should have some time to develop.

Fourth round
Quick thoughts: Ballard reportedly tested positive for marijuana use and likely paid a price as he dropped down at least a round. Still, the Iowa standout should help the Vikings early in his career. I really like the Doss fit in Baltimore, which can use more playmakers at receiver. It'll be interesting to see how quickly Chekwa sees the field in Oakland.

Fifth round
Quick thoughts: What a round for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Although Stanzi waited a little longer than expected, he joins a team in Kansas City that has a lot of connections to the New England Patriots, the squad many thought would draft the Iowa quarterback. Klug is a solid player who can play either line position. I'll be interested to see how he fares with the Titans.

Sixth round

  • Penn State RB Evan Royster, Washington, No. 177 overall
  • Michigan State LB Greg Jones, New York Giants, No. 185 overall
  • Michigan State CB Chris L. Rucker, Indianapolis, No. 188 overall
  • Ohio State LB Brian Rolle, Philadelphia, No. 193 overall
  • Iowa S Tyler Sash, New York Giants, No. 198 overall
  • Ohio State LB Ross Homan, Minnesota, No. 200 overall
  • Michigan G Stephen Schilling, San Diego, No. 201 overall
Quick thoughts: This marked the Big Ten's biggest round as seven players heard their names called. Jones, the former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, went a little later than expected, and Sash also dropped down a bit after entering the draft after his junior season. Homan, who missed some time last season with a foot injury, could end up being an excellent addition for the Vikings. Really like that pick.

Seventh round

  • Illinois LB Nate Bussey, New Orleans, No. 243 overall
  • Wisconsin G/C Bill Nagy, Dallas, No. 252 overall
Quick thoughts: While I was surprised several other Big Ten players didn't get drafted, both Bussey and Nagy are deserving. Both players played integral roles in their teams' success last fall, and both were overshadowed by other draftees (Liuget and Wilson for Bussey, Carimi and Moffitt for Nagy).

NEBRASKA'S DRAFTEES

Husker fans, I didn't forget you or your team. Nebraska actually had more draft picks (7) than any Big Ten team, and here they are.

  • CB Prince Amukamara, New York Giants, No. 19 overall (first round)
  • RB Roy Helu Jr., Washington, No. 104 overall (fourth round)
  • K Alex Henery, Philadelphia, No. 120 overall (fourth round)
  • DB Dejon Gomes, Washington, No. 146 overall (fifth round)
  • WR Niles Paul, Washington, No. 155 overall (fifth round)
  • OT Keith Williams, Pittsburgh, No. 196 overall (sixth round)
  • DB Eric Hagg, Cleveland, No. 248 overall (seventh round)
Quick thoughts: Think there might be a few "Husker Power!" chants at Redskins games this season? The Mike Shanahan-Bo Pelini connection likely played a role in the three Nebraska players heading to the nation's capital. Henery soon will succeed David Akers in Philadelphia, and the Giants had to thrilled that Amukamara still was on the board at No. 19.

Big Ten picks by team

  • Nebraska: 7 (players competed in the Big 12)
  • Iowa: 6
  • Ohio State: 5
  • Wisconsin: 5 (four picks in first three rounds)
  • Illinois: 4
  • Michigan State: 2
  • Indiana: 2
  • Michigan: 2
  • Penn State: 2
  • Purdue: 1
  • Northwestern: 0
  • Minnesota: 0
By position (excluding Nebraska)

  • DL: 7
  • OL: 7
  • LB: 6
  • DB: 4
  • RB: 2
  • WR: 1
  • TE: 1
  • QB: 1

Nebraska had three defensive backs, a running back, an offensive lineman, a wide receiver and a kicker drafted.

Draft snubs

Quite a few Big Ten players didn't hear their names called during the weekend, and they'll enter the shaky world of free agency. I was absolutely stunned no one drafted Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher. He was the Big Ten's top receiver last fall and brings a combination of football IQ and toughness that should appeal to football people not overly obsessed with measurables.

Wisconsin running back John Clay was the Big Ten's only non-senior who entered the draft but didn't get selected. Clay struggles with weight and his ankle problems might have contributed to him slipping through the draft.

Other Big Ten draft snubs include: Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien, Ohio State guard Justin Boren, Iowa tight end Allen Reisner and Purdue receiver Keith Smith. Nebraska's Pierre Allen and Ricky Henry also will go the free-agent route.
Four more Big Ten spring games are on tap Saturday, and I'll be previewing all of them throughout the day.

Let's kick things off with Ohio State, which will pit the offense against the defense in the Jesse Owens Spring Game.

The vitals: 1:30 p.m. ET Saturday at Ohio Stadium, tickets are $7 in advance and $15 on the day of the game, parking is free.

More details: Fans can attend Ohio State's lacrosse game at 11 a.m. ET, and the FanFest starts at 10:30 a.m. outside St. John Arena. You can find out more information here.

Three things to watch

1. The quarterbacks: Terrelle Pryor remains sidelined as he recovers from offseason foot surgery, and Ohio State must identify who will replace the three-year starter during his five-game suspension to begin the season. Fans can get a glimpse of the four candidates -- Joe Bauserman, Kenny Guiton, Taylor Graham and Braxton Miller -- on Saturday at The Shoe. Bauserman has backed up Pryor the past two seasons, and Guiton has a bit of game experience, but Graham has drawn favorable reviews this spring and Miller, an early enrollee, likely is the most talented of the bunch. Ohio State likely won't name a "starter" until preseason camp, but the spring game provides a showcase opportunity for all four players.

2. The running backs: While the quarterback situation understandably makes some Buckeyes fans nervous, the running back group gets them excited, and for good reason. Although senior Dan "Boom" Herron will miss the first five games, Ohio State boasts talent and depth behind him. Sophomore Jaamal Berry and freshman Rod Smith stood out in the first spring scrimmage, and Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde also are in the mix. The Buckeyes have variety at the position and likely will need multiple backs early in the season, given the lack of depth at receiver. This is a very healthy competition and it will be interesting to see how the carries are dispersed Saturday and who steps up.

3. New faces on defense: OK, not exactly new faces, but several players will be stepping into more featured roles as Ohio State must replace seven starters on defense. It's the most production the Buckeyes have lost on defense since A.J. Hawk, Bobby Carpenter and others departed after the 2005 season. Who fills in for standouts like Cameron Heyward, Brian Rolle, Ross Homan, Chimdi Chekwa and Jermale Hines? Andrew Sweat and Etienne Sabino look like the leaders at linebacker. Travis Howard and Dominic Clarke have worked as the first-team cornerbacks this spring, but Bradley Roby and Dionte Allen also are in the mix. C.J. Barnett is in line to fill Hines' starting spot. Johnathan Hankins should help the situation up front. I'll be watching these players to see how they perform in a game setting.
There's little doubt that the first Big Ten player drafted in April will be a defensive lineman.

(Not including Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, who played his entire career in the Big 12.)

Who will hear his name called first? Wisconsin's J.J. Watt? Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan? Illinois' Corey Liuget? Iowa's Adrian Clayborn? Ohio State's Cameron Heyward?

I'll have more on the hopefuls as we get closer to draft night, but colleagues Todd McShay and Mel Kiper are always dissecting the draft and have come out with their latest three-round mock selections.

Here's McShay's mock draft and where the Big Ten players fall:

First round
  • Illinois DT Corey Liuget, No. 14 overall to St. Louis
  • Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan, No. 16 overall to Jacksonville
  • Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt, No. 17 overall to New England
  • Wisconsin T Gabe Carimi, No. 21 overall to Kansas City
  • Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn, No. 24 overall to New Orleans
  • Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward, No. 32 overall to Green Bay
Second round
Third round

Here's a look at Kiper's mock draft and where the Big Ten prospects fall:

First round
  • Watt, No. 10 overall to Washington
  • Liuget, No. 14 overall to St. Louis
  • Kerrigan, No. 20 overall to Tampa Bay
  • Carimi, No. 23 overall to Philadelphia
  • Clayborn, No. 27 overall to Atlanta
  • Heyward, No. 30 overall to New York Jets
Second round
  • Wilson, No. 34 overall to Buffalo
  • Leshoure, No. 53 overall to Indianapolis
  • Doss, No. 64 overall to Green Bay
Third round
  • Ballard, No. 67 overall to Denver
  • Kendricks, No. 68 overall to Buffalo
  • Moffitt, No. 77 overall to Tennessee
  • Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa, No. 81 overall to Oakland
  • Ohio State LB Ross Homan, No. 85 overall to Philadelphia
  • Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski, No. 93 to Chicago

Some interesting stuff here. Both McShay and Kiper think the Colts' Big Ten pipeline will continue, and both also like Buffalo to draft Big Ten players. Kiper includes three players McShay leaves out -- Chekwa, Homan and Wisniewski -- while McShay includes one player (Brewer) who Kiper leaves out. It also stands out how teams like Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin have more high-level draft prospects this year than Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska.

Amukamara is the only Nebraska player included in both mock drafts. Both McShay and Kiper have Amukamara going 13th overall to Detroit, where he'll reunite with former Huskers' teammate Ndamukong Suh.
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 12: Chimdi Chekwa, CB, Ohio State, Sr., 6-0, 190

2010 numbers: Led Ohio State in interceptions (3), pass breakups (9) and passes defended (12); recorded 42 tackles, including four for loss and a sack; tied for second in the Big Ten and 41st nationally in passes defended; earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors.

[+] EnlargeOhio State Buckeyes defensive back Chimdi Chekwa
Andrew Weber/US PresswireOhio State defensive back Chimdi Chekwa led the Buckeyes in interceptions, pass breakups and passes defended.
Preseason rank: Unranked in preseason Top 25 players

Why he's here: The Big Ten lacked a ton of truly elite defensive backs in 2010, but Chekwa certainly fit the description following an outstanding senior season. His ability to make plays and take away a side of the field proved invaluable for a Buckeyes secondary that endured several season-ending injuries but still ranked 15th nationally in pass defense (179.3 ypg) and tied for 12th in takeaways (30). Chekwa's 2010 honors included: consensus first-team All-Big Ten, first-team FWAA All-American and semifinalist for both the Thorpe Award (nation's top defensive back) and the Bednarik Award (Defensive Player of the Year). He was named National Defensive Player of the Week following a two-interception performance against Miami. Often overshadowed by other top cornerbacks, Chekwa gets his due in these rankings and should go on to have a strong NFL career.

  • No. 12: Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
  • No. 13: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
  • No. 14: Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • No. 15: Michigan C David Molk
  • No. 16: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward:
  • No. 17: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 18: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 19: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 21: Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • No. 22: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • No. 23: Wisconsin RB James White
  • No. 24: Ohio State LT Mike Adams
  • No. 25: Indiana QB Ben Chappell

Big Ten lunch links

March, 2, 2011
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Marching toward spring ball.

Big Ten NFL combine wrap-up

March, 2, 2011
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The NFL scouting combine wrapped up Tuesday with the defensive backs going through drills.

Let's check out the Big Ten's top performers:

CORNERBACKS
  • Ohio State's Chimdi Chekwa tied for third in the 40-yard dash at 4.4 seconds; Nebraska's Prince Amukamara tied for fifth at 4.43 seconds;
  • Ohio State's Jermale Hines (listed as a cornerback for the combine) tied for 10th in bench-press reps with 19
  • Amukamara tied for fifth in the vertical jump at 38 inches
  • Amukamara tied for second in the broad jump at 10 feet, 8 inches; Chekwa tied for sixth at 10 feet, 6 inches
  • Nebraska's Eric Hagg finished 10th in the 3-cone drill at 6.73 seconds
SAFETIES
  • Iowa's Tyler Sash tied for fourth in the 40-yard dash at 4.62 seconds
  • Sash tied for fifth in the vertical jump at 33 inches
  • Sash tied for second in the 3-cone drill at 6.9 seconds

Now that the combine is finished, let's see which Big Ten players ranked in overall top performance.

BIG TEN TOP COMBINE PERFORMANCES (all positions)
  • Chekwa tied for eighth in the 40-yard dash at 4.4 seconds; Nebraska running back Roy Helu Jr. finished 13th at 4.42 seconds; Amukamara finished 14th at 4.43 seconds
  • Wisconsin defensive end J.J. Watt tied for fourth in bench-press reps with 34; Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan tied for 10th with 32; Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan tied for 12th with 31
  • Indiana receiver Terrance Turner tied for fifth in vertical jump at 41 inches
  • Amukamara and Turner tied for ninth in broad jump at 10 feet, 8 inches
  • Ohio State receiver Dane Sanzenbacher finished third in the 3-cone drill at 6.46 seconds
  • Sanzenbacher finished sixth in the 20-yard shuttle at 3.97 seconds; Helu tied for 11th at 4.01 seconds
  • Sanzenbacher finished fourth in the 60-yard shuttle at 10.94 seconds; Helu tied for ninth at 11.07 seconds

Big Ten lunch links

March, 1, 2011
3/01/11
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It was epic. The run I was on made Sinatra, Flynn, Jagger, Richards, all of them look like droopy-eyed armless children.

(Keep 'em coming, Charlie)

Big Ten lunch links

February, 28, 2011
2/28/11
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Most of today's links are combine related, so I've split things into two categories.

BIG TEN COMBINE LINKS
NON-COMBINE LINKS
The Big Ten's best recruiting class just got even better.

Linebacker Curtis Grant announced he will sign with Ohio State instead of Florida, North Carolina and Virginia. ESPN Recruiting rates Grant as the nation's No. 3 linebacker and No. 46 overall prospect. Ohio State now has seven ESPNU 150 prospects, tops in the Big Ten.

Grant appeared headed to Florida a few months ago, but Urban Meyer's resignation put Ohio State at the top of his list. Several of Ohio State's top defenders in recent years have come from Florida, including linebacker Brian Rolle and cornerback Chimdi Chekwa.

Grant and quarterback Cardale Jones are the late additions to Ohio State's 2011 class, although Jones will be a grayshirt and enroll in a prep school this fall before coming to Columbus.

ESPN.com's 2010 All-Senior Big Ten team

January, 24, 2011
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As we gear up for the Senior Bowl, I wanted to piggyback off of an excellent post by colleague Chris Low from last week.

It's time to identify an All-Big Ten team comprised only of seniors. There were easy picks like Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi and Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones, but several positions created some tough choices.

Reminder: This team includes only fourth-year or fifth-year seniors, not redshirt juniors.

Bowl performance is included in this rundown, if applicable.

In case you forgot, my All-Big Ten team included only 12 seniors, all of whom will appear below. I also selected 14 underclassmen.

Without further ado ...

OFFENSE

QB: Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin
RB: Evan Royster, Penn State
RB: Dan Dierking, Purdue
WR: Dane Sanzenbacher, Ohio State
WR: Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Iowa
TE: Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin
C: Bill Nagy, Wisconsin
T: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
T: D.J. Young, Michigan State
G: John Moffitt, Wisconsin
G: Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State

DEFENSE

DL: Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue
DL: Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
[+] EnlargeEric Gordon
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesEric Gordon narrowly edged out Ross Homan for a spot on the All-Senior Big Ten team.
DL: Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
DL: Karl Klug, Iowa
LB: Greg Jones, Michigan State
LB: Brian Rolle, Ohio State
LB: Eric Gordon, Michigan State
CB: Chimdi Chekwa, Ohio State
CB: Chris L. Rucker, Michigan State
S: Jermale Hines, Ohio State
S: Brett Greenwood, Iowa

SPECIALISTS

K: Collin Wagner, Penn State
P: Aaron Bates, Michigan State
Returns: David Gilreath, Wisconsin

Some thoughts:

  • I really struggled with the quarterback spot. Tolzien ultimately made fewer mistakes than Iowa's Ricky Stanzi, who had superior statistics and had fewer weapons surrounding him. You can make a good case for Stanzi or Indiana's Ben Chappell, but Tolzien gets a slight edge.
  • No disrespect to Royster or Dierking, but the Big Ten really struggled to produce many decent senior running backs this season. Perhaps that's a promising sign for the future, but typically there are more experienced ball-carrying options. Royster was the only senior ranked among the Big Ten's top 10 rushers. I thought about Ohio State's Brandon Saine, but Dierking did more as a ball carrier.
  • The No. 3 linebacker was a really tough call between Gordon and Ohio State's Ross Homan. Ultimately, Homan missing time with a foot injury and Gordon displaying remarkable consistency alongside Greg Jones made Gordo the pick.
  • Another tough call was DJK ahead of Indiana's Terrance Turner, who had 21 more receptions but fewer yards and seven fewer touchdown catches.
  • The deepest position among Big Ten seniors (by far): offensive guard. I went with Moffitt and Carimi, but players like Ohio State's Justin Boren, Michigan's Stephen Schilling, Iowa's Julian Vandervelde and Illinois' Randall Hunt all were good options.
  • Five teams didn't produce selections: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Minnesota and Northwestern. Is that a good omen or a bad one for 2011?
Selections by team: Wisconsin (6), Ohio State (5), Michigan State (5), Iowa (4), Penn State (3), Purdue (2)
NEW ORLEANS -- Solomon Thomas' bowl-clinching interception marked a fitting end to the season for Ohio State's defense.

Few units in the Big Ten endured more challenges with personnel than the Buckeyes' defense, and each time, someone answered the bell.

Ohio State remained a top-10 pass defense despite losing several players, including nickel safety Tyler Moeller, to season ending-injuries. The Buckeyes didn't miss a step after losing senior linebacker Ross Homan to a foot injury for several weeks in the middle of the season.

More challenges arrived Tuesday night against Arkansas in the Allstate Sugar Bowl.

All-Big Ten cornerback Chimdi Chekwa left the field late in the first quarter with a serious elbow injury sustained after a gorgeous pass breakup. Ohio State also lost No. 3 cornerback Travis Howard (cramps) and All-Big Ten safety Jermale Hines (toe) for stretches. Freshman defensive back Christian Bryant saw his first action since Oct. 16, while No. 5 cornerback Dominic Clarke recorded three tackles in the win.

And then there was Thomas, a reserve in Ohio State's defensive line rotation who recorded his first interception at any level to seal the 31-26 victory.

"We had a ton of guys out of there," defensive coordinator Jim Heacock said. "It was nice to get the win and some of those young guys had to play. Dominic Clarke had to play. It was good."

Safety Orhian Johnson told me Sunday that Ohio State lives by a simply philosophy on defense: When you're in the game, you're considered a starter.

The Buckeyes' reserves performed like starters all season, and the team's defensive depth is quite possibly the biggest reason it won 12 games.

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