Big Ten: Curtis Terry
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.
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.
- Northwestern's offensive line is filled with new faces but is slowly making progress, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune. After an exciting offseason, Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald is looking toward a bowl run.
- Ohio State wideout Brian Robiskie is fighting a shoulder injury, while Curtis Terry could be back on defense, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. An influx of talented freshmen gives Ohio State's offensive line unparalleled depth, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch. Some of those freshmen linemen have hideous haircuts, Lesmerises notes on his blog.
- A.Q. Shipley came to Penn State to play defense, but he has become a perfect fit at center, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Also, former Nittany Lions offensive linemen Josh Marks has transferred to Pitt. Penn State's young running backs will throw different looks at defenses this fall.
- Retiring Purdue coach Joe Tiller doesn't mind being called a senior this season, Al Hamnik writes in The Times of Northwest Indiana. Coach-in-waiting Danny Hope is finally getting the chance to work with a full complement of offensive linemen, Tom Kubat writes in The [Lafayette, Ind.] Journal and Courier.
- More on Wisconsin cornerback Aaron Henry's knee injury from Jim Polzin of The Capital Times. Henry "re-tore" his ACL, coach Bret Bielema said, and could end up redshirting the season. Meanwhile, Defensive end Brendan Kelly is among the true freshmen to see the field this fall for Wisconsin, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
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.
- The Big Ten Network makes its Comcast debut Friday, but Ohio State fans are still in the dark, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
- Former Iowa quarterback Arvell Nelson pleaded guilty Wednesday to a marijuana possession charge, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reported.
- It's no joke, Curtis Terry. You're moving to fullback for Ohio State, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
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:
- Rashard Mendenhall was arguably the Big Ten's most valuable player last season, but Illinois thinks it can fill the void, Dave Curtis writes in The Sporting News.
- The Champaign News-Gazette's Web site [IlliniHQ.com] is finally free, and Bob Asmussen looks at five questions to monitor at Camp Rantoul.
- Cornerback Vontae Davis has NFL scouts drooling, Lindsey Willhite writes in the Daily Herald.
- Travon Bellamy and Chris Duvalt are in the mix for starting spots at safety and wide receiver, Stu Durando writes in the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
- Quarterback Kellen Lewis returned to the practice field and hopes to redeem himself after a suspension this spring. "I want to show that I've become a better individual and will stop making selfish decisions, which is what got me into this in the first place," Lewis said.
- Lewis wasn't alone on Monday, as eight quarterbacks took snaps for the Hoosiers. Also, Florida transfer Jerimy Finch is still awaiting clearance before he can practice with Indiana, The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens writes in his blog.
- The Bloomington Herald-Times' Doug Wilson has some notes from Indiana's first practice.
- Coach Kirk Ferentz tried to keep the focus on football at the team's media day.
- No surprise here, but Iowa's running back job remains wide open as Shonn Greene returns from junior college. The coaching staff is high on Greene, but walk-on Paki O'Meara will push him.
- Quarterback Jake Christensen enters camp as the starter and has the chance to further distance himself as his primary contender, Ricky Stanzi, recovers from a shoulder injury.
- Iowa's road to redemption starts with the offensive line, Sean Keeler writes in the Des Moines Register.
- 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 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.
- Former Kansas City Chiefs star center Jack Rudnay, a Northwestern alum, addressed the team on the first day of practice.
- Heralded freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor took the practice field without a no-contact jersey Monday. But it didn't stay that way for long, Tim May writes in the Columbus Dispatch.
- Ohio State tries to get back to its roots on special teams, Ken Gordon writes in the Columbus Dispatch.
- Jim Tressel didn't say much about the status of defensive tackle Doug Worthington or cornerback Donald Washington, but he did make a key position change Monday, moving Curtis Terry from linebacker to first-team fullback, Doug Lesmerises writes in the Cleveland Plain Dealer.
- 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.
- 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,
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
Final Nevada 3 Louisiana-Lafayette 16 Final Utah State 21 UTEP 6 Final 22 Utah 45 Colorado State 10 Final Western Michigan 24 Air Force 38 Final South Alabama 28 Bowling Green 33
Final Marshall 52 Northern Illinois 23 Final Navy 17 San Diego State 16
Final Central Michigan 48 Western Kentucky 49 Final Fresno State 6 Rice 30
1:00 PM ET Illinois Louisiana Tech 4:30 PM ET Rutgers North Carolina 8:00 PM ET North Carolina State UCF
1:00 PM ET Cincinnati Virginia Tech 2:00 PM ET 15 Arizona State Duke 3:30 PM ET Miami (FL) South Carolina 4:30 PM ET Boston College Penn State 8:00 PM ET Nebraska 24 USC
2:00 PM ET Texas A&M West Virginia 5:30 PM ET Oklahoma 17 Clemson 9:00 PM ET Arkansas Texas
3:00 PM ET Notre Dame 23 LSU 6:30 PM ET 13 Georgia 21 Louisville 10:00 PM ET Maryland Stanford
12:30 PM ET 9 Ole Miss 6 TCU 4:00 PM ET 20 Boise State 10 Arizona 8:00 PM ET 7 Mississippi State 12 Georgia Tech
12:00 PM ET 19 Auburn 18 Wisconsin 12:30 PM ET 8 Michigan State 5 Baylor 1:00 PM ET 16 Missouri 25 Minnesota 5:00 PM ET 2 Oregon 3 Florida State 8:30 PM ET 1 Alabama 4 Ohio State
12:00 PM ET Houston Pittsburgh 3:20 PM ET Iowa Tennessee 6:45 PM ET 11 Kansas State 14 UCLA 10:15 PM ET Washington Oklahoma State