Big Ten: Curtis Terry

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

After USC's Mark Sanchez had his way in a 35-3 victory last September, Ohio State's defensive linemen convened and made a pact.

The Trojans had won the battle at the line of scrimmage, leaving the Buckeyes beaten and bruised. Senior defensive end/linebacker Curtis Terry did the talking.

"He was really, really honest and put it all on the line," Ohio State defensive tackle Doug Worthington recalled. "We just had a heart-to-heart, so to speak, and just tried to decide what we wanted to do and what we wanted to be for the rest of the season. We kind of turned it around."

Ohio State ended up finishing in the top 20 nationally in both rushing defense and scoring defense, and finished sixth nationally in points allowed (13.9 ypg). The Buckeyes held Penn State's powerful offense to season lows in both points and yards, and limited Texas to just 24 points and 54 rushing yards in the Fiesta Bowl.

The Scarlet and Gray might have fallen short of its goals in 2008, but to no fault of the defensive line.

Ohio State's front four is unquestionably the team's strength this fall, returning seven of its top eight players from last season. The group has combined for 78 career starts, led by Worthington (23) and defensive end Cameron Heyward (21).

The line has drawn comparisons to previous Buckeye fronts in 2002 and 2003, seasons that ended with a national title and a Fiesta Bowl victory.

"Playing with those guys the last few years, being in practices, just hanging with them off the field, has been a great experience for me," said Worthington, a co-captain this fall. "I just know when I'm on the field, and I've got Dex [Larimore] to my right and Thad [Gibson] to my left, that I'm comfortable with those guys.

"It's just a level of comfort when you have a guy you know is very productive and wants it as bad as you do."

Ohio State needs the front four to be at its peak in Saturday's rematch against No. 3 USC (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET). The Trojans no longer have Sanchez, but they're extremely talented on the offensive line and boast an endless supply of running backs, led by Joe McKnight and Stafon Johnson.

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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Happy birthday to me. I'll wish for ... a bunch of links. Here ya go:

  • Projected starting wideout Jeff Cumberland missed Illinois practice with a sore foot, Bob Asmussen writes in The [Champaign, Ill.] News-Gazette. Also, Asmussen takes a look at the defensive tackles, where Josh Brent looks to step into a starting spot after Sirod Williams' season-ending knee injury. Illinois is returning to its roots as a football school, Mark Tupper writes in the Decatur Herald & Review.
  • Indiana kicker Austin Starr fends off the one-and-done perception about the Hoosiers, Mike Lucas writes in The Capital Times. Here's a breakdown of Indiana's defense from The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens.
  • Standout tight end Tony Moeaki is expected to rejoin the mix at Iowa this fall, Susan Harman writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. There's a report he's injured again, which will be clarified on Saturday at the open scrimmage.
  • Here's a look at Michigan Stadium's steel-clad facelift from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. The Wolverines go bowling next week to raise money for the paralyzed brother of offensive lineman Elliott Mealer, John Heuser writes in The Ann Arbor News.
  • Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichol could set up an interesting competition at quarterback with Kirk Cousins next year at Michigan State. Here's a look at Nichol's journey, courtesy of Andrew Mouranie in the Lansing State Journal. The Spartans are getting local for the 2010 recruiting class, Matt Dorsey writes in the Detroit Free Press. 
  • If you didn't know already, the Big Ten Network launches on Comcast today, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press. 
  • Former Minnesota star safety Dominic Jones, now serving jail time for sexual assault, will address the team next week, Dennis Brackin writes in the [Minneapolis] Star Tribune. Jones requested the chance to talk about his experience.
"I think it will be a very positive message, and I know that I'm looking forward to it,'' head coach Tim Brewster said. "The exciting thing for me is that it seems like he's really trying to make something positive out of this. You look at different situations and try to learn from them, because that's all you can do.''
Minnesota's defensive renaissance hinges on better line play, Marcus Fuller writes in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- I'm headed home, but I'll have much more on Purdue, Illinois and the rest of the Big Ten in the coming days.

There was some news today out of Wisconsin, where former Badgers running back Lance Smith was sentenced to 20 days in jail. Smith, dismissed from the team Aug. 4, violated the terms of a first-offender program he entered after pleading guilty to misdemeanor charges of battery and disorderly conduct. He was arrested last July following a physical altercation with his girlfriend. Here's more on the case from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and The Capital Times.

Elsewhere:

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Day 2 of practice around the Big Ten is in the books, and my tour of Michigan has finished. Up next is Northwestern for practice and media day on Thursday before a weekend with the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison.

Let's hop on the Big Ten bus:

  • Wisconsin's team leadership should be more solid this season, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas served as a captain last year, but he'll share the load with linebacker DeAndre Levy and fullback Chris Pressley.
  • The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises tuned into the Big Ten Network for coverage of Ohio State's practice on Tuesday. What did he see? Linebacker Tyler Moeller practiced with the first-team defense, reserve running back Brandon Saine isn't getting hit yet and Curtis Terry is working with the first-team offense at fullback. The Columbus Dispatch's Ken Gordon also watched practice from his couch and liked what he saw from reserve quarterback Joe Bauserman.
  • Cornerback James Scott didn't make Ohio State's 105-man roster for training camp, which seems a bit odd, The Columbus Dispatch's Gordon writes in his blog.
  • Kirk Ferentz still has the same coordinators at Iowa, but the rest of his coaching staff shuffled around quite a bit during the offseason, Andy Hamilton writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
  • Minnesota's freshmen are getting immediate opportunities to play at both wide receiver and along the offensive line, Marcus Fuller writes in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The line will have to be a group effort this season, as coach Phil Meyer experiments with different combinations, Kent Youngblood writes in The [Minneapolis] Star Tribune.
  • Quarterback Ben Chappell is running with Indiana's first-team offense, but Kellen Lewis looks to be closing the gap quickly. 
  • The Detroit Free Press' Shawn Windsor goes inside Michigan's first preseason practice under coach Rich Rodriguez.
  • The Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen has an extensive report from Illinois practice, including a breakdown of the team's wide receivers.
  • Chris Burke of The Diag blog released his preseason top 25. He's not too high on Georgia but has Wisconsin higher than most prognosticators.
  • Will Indiana retire James Hardy's number? No one has claimed it so far in preseason practice, The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens writes in his blog.
  • Man, I love these photo galleries from the Detroit Free Press. Here's one that chronicles Michigan State's top wide receivers of the last 30 years. Not surprisingly, Plaxico Burress is No. 1.
  • When Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio split the team into classes to sing the fight song earlier this week, the freshmen filled the stage while the crowd of seniors was sparse. Not surprisingly, Dantonio is looking for leadership from the younger players, Dave Dye writes in The Detroit News.
  • Yes, this story is about a punter. But at Wisconsin, both punter and placekicker are in the spotlight after the losses of two All-Big Ten players.
  • The Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries had some issues with my list of top Big Ten rivalries, but I'm not bitter. And besides, they followed up by putting together a list of the league's coolest rivalry trophies. Mmmm, bacon.
  • The Ohio State blog Eleven Warriors takes a look at the Buckeyes' projected starting offense and defense, complete with diagrams. Some good analysis here.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- My Big Ten tour continues Tuesday at Michigan State, which begins its media day around 8 a.m. ET. Offensive players and coaches are up first, followed by defensive players and coaches. Head coach Mark Dantonio meets the media at 11:30 a.m. ET, and I'll head to watch the first portion of practice this afternoon. 

For the e-mailers ragging me for flooding the blog with Michigan material Monday, this is how it's going to work. When I'm at a particular school, that school's team will be featured throughout the day. I'll try not to neglect what's going on around the league, but one team will take precedence. The good thing is I'm going to visit almost every Big Ten school before the season, so if you're wondering when Ohio State or Penn State get top billing, just be patient.

It was a busy Monday around the Big Ten as 10 teams opened practice. Here's a look at each one:

ILLINOIS

INDIANA

IOWA

MICHIGAN

  • Michigan's media rights belong to IMG, which paid $86 million in a 12-year deal, John Ourand writes in Sports Business Journal. IMG already owns Michigan's radio rights but will pick up corporate sponsorships and coaches' endorsements.

MICHIGAN STATE

  • Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones has bulked up during the summer, the Lansing State Journal's Joe Rexrode writes in his blog. 
  • The team on the field isn't the only thing looking glossy at Michigan State. The football team's new headquarters is getting rave reviews, Steve Grinczel writes. 

NORTHWESTERN

  • Former Kansas City Chiefs star center Jack Rudnay, a Northwestern alum, addressed the team on the first day of practice. 

OHIO STATE

PENN STATE

  • Who will win Penn State's quarterback job? Who steps up at defensive tackle after the dismissals of Phil Taylor and Chris Baker? The Philadelphia Enquirer's Jeff McLane takes a look
  • Mark Wogenrich of The (Allentown) Morning Call weighs in on what to watch in Penn State's camp.

WISCONSIN

  • Reserve running back Lance Smith has run out of chances at Wisconsin after his latest slip-up. He remains eligible and will look to play elsewhere, but his Badgers' career is over. Coach Bret Bielema really had little choice here after sticking his neck out for Smith last summer. The Badgers still have enough depth at running back, though an injury to P.J. Hill or Zach Brown could raise the anxiety level. 
  • The Capital Times' Jim Polzin breaks down the first day of practice. Junior cornerback Josh Nettles and two incoming freshmen aren't on the roster,

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