Big Ten: Dana Howard
Ready for some spring football links? Here ya go ...
- Great news: Indiana WR Isaac Griffith is back in school and soon could return to the football field.
- Wisconsin RB Corey Clement finally got his wish: to be hit in practice.
- James Franklin is candid about Penn State's depth challenges. Penn State's 2015 recruiting surge keeps on rolling.
- The Malik McDowell saga remains unresolved as the deadline to sign a national letter of intent arrives.
- Raheem Mostert and Danny Anthorp record scoring returns in Purdue's kick scrimmage.
- Rutgers' defensive linemen must match the size they'll see in the Big Ten.
- A position-by-position breakdown of Nebraska midway through the spring. The Huskers offensive line is green but intriguing.
- David Haugh writes that there are some negative repercussions to the Northwestern unionization push. A good look at the tax question in the union debate.
- Michigan's defensive tackles know they have to impact games more this fall.
- Iowa's latest recruit from Illinois could play inside several linebacker spots. The Hawkeyes must strike fear in their opponents.
- Former Illinois star Dana Howard talks about being on the College Football Hall of Fame ballot.
- If Michigan QB Denard Robinson earns Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors this fall, he would become just the second player to do so in back-to-back seasons, joining former Indiana tailback Anthony Thompson (1988-89). Including Thompson, just four players have successfully defended their Player of the Year awards. Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis (2007-2008), Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald (1996-1997 and Illinois linebacker Dana Howard (1993-1994).
- Nebraska enters the season opener with victories in each of its past 25 season openers. The Huskers' streak leads the nation, bettering Florida's 21 straight wins. Nebraska's last loss in a season opener was a 17-13 setback against Florida State at Memorial Stadium in 1985.
- With Caleb TerBush poised to be the starter against Middle Tennessee, the Boilermakers will have a different quarterback under center to begin a season in four consecutive years, and TerBush will be the fifth Boiler QB to garner a start in less than a calendar year (Robert Marve, Rob Henry, Sean Robinson, Justin Siller, TerBush).
- Iowa's defense has ranked among the national leaders in forcing turnovers in recent seasons. Over the last three seasons Iowa has collected 63 interceptions, a total that ranks second in the nation over that span (Florida leads with 68). In addition, in each of the last four seasons, Iowa has had more interceptions than touchdown passes allowed.
- Illinois opens the season at home for the first time since 2006 has have eight home games on the schedule in 2011 for the first time in the Memorial Stadium era and for the first time since 1903, when Illinois played nine home games.
- Penn State has a 64-14 (.821) record in non-conference games overall since starting Big Ten play in 1993. The Nittany Lions have won 18 of their last 21 nonconference games, with the lone losses coming to USC in the 2009 Rose Bowl, at Alabama (2010) and to Florida in the 2011 Outback Bowl.
- Michigan State fifth-year senior receiver B.J. Cunningham needs just 10 more catches to become the team's all-time leader in receptions (record: 148 by Matt Trannon, 2003-06). The 6-foot-2, 215-pound Cunningham already ranks among the school’s career leaders in catches (third at 139), touchdown receptions (tied for 10th with 13) and receiving yards (1,780).
- Minnesota enters the season only carrying 41 upperclassmen on the roster.
Here's the full breakdown of each class for the Gophers: freshmen -- 53; sophomores -- 25; juniors -- 21; seniors -- 20.
- The last 20 Ohio State coaches are 19-0-1 in their debuts. The last Ohio State coach to lose his debut was Jack Ryder, who suffered a 40-4 loss at Oberlin in 1892. No pressure, Luke Fickell.
- Northwestern boasts 31 offensive and defensive players who have made a combined 378 career starts. That is a significant jump from last season, when 30 players with starting experience combined for 276 starts at the start of the season.
- Indiana allowed just 12 sacks last season, the 11th fewest total in the nation. The offensive line surrendered one sack per 42.8 pass attempts, which led the Big Ten. All five of this season’s projected starters are in at least their fourth year with the program.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Illinois rounds out the list of team-by-team Rushmores. I'll take a look at the Big Ten's Rushmore on Tuesday.
Despite struggling for the better part of the last 15 years, Illinois boasts several of college football's all-time greats.
I doubt I'll get much argument with these selections, though there were some tough choices. Illinois enjoyed periods of success during the 1920s, 1960s and 1980s.
I realize my list challenges the historian inside each of you, but Illinois' not so recent past was simply too impressive to ignore.
- Red Grange -- Quite possibly the most dominant player in college football history, Grange earned All-America honors in each of his three seasons with Illinois and was the first recipient of the Big Ten MVP award in 1924. Grange accounted for 2,646 yards of offense and 34 touchdowns at Illinois. He's a charter member of both the pro and college football Halls of Fame and was ESPN's pick as the greatest college football player ever.
- Dick Butkus -- The namesake of the Butkus Award remains one of college football's greatest defensive players. Butkus twice earned first-team All-America honors, won the Big Ten MVP in 1963 and led Illinois to a Rose Bowl win on Jan. 1, 1964. He averaged 14.4 tackles a game in his Illini career and finished third in Heisman Trophy voting in 1964. Butkus and Grange are the only Illinois players to have their numbers retired.
- Jim Grabowski -- A two-time All-American, Grabowski finished his career as the Big Ten's all-time leading rusher. Like his teammate Butkus, he placed third in the Heisman Trophy voting and claimed Big Ten MVP honors, both in 1965. He won Rose Bowl MVP honors after rushing for 125 yards in Illinois' win against Washington. Grabowski also excelled as a student and was a longtime radio analyst for Illinois football.
- Robert Zuppke -- Zuppke laid the foundation for Illinois' early success on the gridiron, serving as head coach for 29 years. He was an offensive innovator and coached Illinois to four national titles and seven conference championships. The field at Memorial Stadium is named after Zuppke, who coached Grange and was inducted into the College Football Hall of Fame in 1951.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
|Jeff Gross/Getty Images|
|Brit Miller is looking forward to playing in front of former Illini greats on Saturday.|
The 2008 Rose Bowl was still several days away, and former Illinois great Dick Butkus tried to stay calm as he talked football with a group of Fighting Illini players.
"He didn't want to get his jazz up too much in front of us," Illinois linebacker Brit Miller recalled. "It was like a Wednesday or something, so it was still a little early to get really excited."
But it didn't take long for Butkus to have a Butkus moment.
"He kind of raised his head up and stared at the guys on the team and said, 'That's when you take 'em and you break 'em,'" Miller said.
"That was giving me chills right there. When a guy like Dick Butkus says that, you know you're part of a tradition when he's talking to you and he wants the best for you."
Butkus wants to see Miller and the other Illini linebackers at their best Saturday when he watches Illinois take on Eastern Illinois at the renovated Memorial Stadium.
To celebrate the completion of a $121 million face-lift to the 85-year-old stadium, Illinois will have dozens of past players on hand as the team honors the 10 greatest players in Memorial Stadium history at each position. The team will wear throwback jerseys from the Butkus era (1962-64) in another attempt to blend past and present.
As of Thursday afternoon, Illinois expected 42 former players to attend Saturday's celebration. The list includes Butkus and his nephew, Mark, linebackers Kevin Hardy and Dana Howard, quarterbacks Jack Trudeau and Jeff George, running backs Jim Grabowski and Howard Griffith, defensive lineman Ed O'Bradovich and tight end Ken Dilger.
Who knows, maybe Red Grange will show up. He's called the Galloping Ghost for a reason.
"We seem to believe he's always around," Miller said.
The reunion holds special meaning for Miller, who grew up watching Hardy, Howard and Simeon Rice and heard about Butkus from his father. Miller has sensed similar excitement from sophomore linebacker Martez Wilson, who he describes as "a laid-back fellow" but someone who could one day hold similar legend status at Illinois.
Even players like defensive end Will Davis, who don't hail from the state, look forward to performing in front of Butkus.
"Since I've been here as a freshman, he's the main person you hear about," Davis said. "That's a name that rings far."
Illini defenders have added motivation this week after a sloppy performance in a 52-42 loss against Missouri. Miller said he missed at least four tackles in the game, three of which turned into big plays.
"We've got to represent," he said. "We let too many yards go this past weekend. These guys that are coming back, they used to run shop. They don't want to come back and see people get ran over. Those are guys I really look up to because that was Illinois football at its peak right there. We're still trying to get back to that."