Big Ten: Darrell Givens

Big Ten mailblog

August, 4, 2009

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Lots of great questions right now. Keep 'em coming.

Ed from Davenport, Iowa, writes: Since nobody else can answer this---Why is IOWA playing at Spartan Stadium two years in a row? By this reasoning, PSU should visit IOWA again this year.

Adam Rittenberg: It's one of the wacky things about the unbalanced Big Ten schedule. Every team has two conference byes each season, and when those byes reset every two years, you sometimes get a situation like this when games are repeated. This season marks the start of a new cycle with byes, so you get repeat matchups like Iowa at Michigan State, Northwestern at Iowa, Indiana at Penn State and Minnesota at Ohio State.

Greg from Cicero, Ind., writes: I believe your ranking of Purdue's defensive line is far off. They will be much stronger than you believe. Kerrigan and Neal are going to have great seasons. I do agree with your linebacker assessment. Purdue needs Werner to stay healthy and Carlino and Holland really have to step it up. Surely, you are going to give Purdue's secondary a better ranking. They should be pretty solid this year.

Adam Rittenberg: Purdue's line could be pretty solid this year, but aside from Ryan Kerrigan and Mike Neal, there are a bunch of unproven players. I really like the 1-2 punch with Kerrigan and Neal, but if guys like Kawann Short and Gerald Gooden don't grow up quickly, opponents will continue to run against Purdue and challenge the front seven. I agree with you that the linebackers are a concern and Jason Werner's health looms large with that group. And yes, I gave the secondary a more favorable review. Purdue's defense, like the rest of the team, is a bit of a mystery and certainly could surprise some people.

(Read full post)

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The fresh faces series wraps up with three newcomers to watch for Penn State this fall. 

OFFENSE -- Justin Brown, WR, Fr.

Penn State has tabbed several older players to step in for Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood, but the fact remains that the team loses three multiyear starters at the same position. There's a need for playmakers, and Brown should get a chance to contribute immediately as the one of the highest-rated recruits in Penn State's 2009 class. He's a big target at 6-foot-3, 209 pounds, and his physical style should translate well to the college level. 

DEFENSE -- Gerald Hodges, S, Fr. 

Along with classmate Darrell Givens, Hodges should see the field immediately this fall as Penn State loses all four starters in the secondary. Hodges will benefit from enrolling early and participating in practice this spring. He's a physical presence at safety who has the versatility to be effective in the Cover 3 and Cover 2 schemes. 

SPECIAL TEAMS -- Anthony Fera, K, Fr. 

Fera is the team's long-term solution at kicker, and he could step into the starting role this fall. Penn State loses first-team All-Big Ten selection Kevin Kelly, and Fera arrives with a good deal of hype, having been ranked as the nation's No. 2 kicker by ESPN's Scouts Inc. Junior Collin Wagner appeared to end spring ball as the projected starter, but Fera's strong leg should get him on the field soon.  

Recruiting snapshot: Penn State

February, 6, 2009

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Despite being fairly quiet on signing day, Penn State inked a quality class ranked No. 16 nationally by ESPN's Scouts Inc.

Number of recruits: 27

Key needs: Wide receiver, quarterback, offensive line, defensive line, defensive back

Highest-rated player (Scouts Inc.): Darrell Givens (No. 6 nationally among cornerbacks)

The quote: "That was important so that the [assistant] coaches could go out there and feel comfortable that they could look a kid in the eye and say, 'Look, we're all going to be around. We think we can do some things here and that there are opportunities for you, that you're going to be around the people talking to you.'" -- Head coach Joe Paterno, on the three-year contract he received after the 2008 regular season.

Quick take: Some Lions fans might be disappointed that their team didn't sign more marquee names -- the class featured two ESPNU 150 prospects in Givens and tackle Eric Shrive -- but Penn State filled the holes it needed to following the departure of a sizable senior class and two underclassmen defensive ends (Aaron Maybin, Maurice Evans). Sure, linebacker Jelani Jenkins would have taken Penn State's class to another level, but the Lions stocked up on offensive linemen and defensive backs, including Givens and Gerald Hodges. They added Justin Brown on signing day to round out a solid crop of incoming wide receivers. And perhaps most important, Penn State found a backup quarterback and possible successor to Daryll Clark in Kevin Newsome. The class might not have made a huge splash, but it should produce more than enough contributors for a program that has won two Big Ten titles in the last four seasons.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Wide receiver could be Penn State's biggest question mark heading into 2009 after the program lost three multiyear starters in Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood.

The Nittany Lions took a big step toward filling the void this afternoon as wide receiver Justin Brown from Wilmington, Del., announced he would play for head coach Joe Paterno. Brown chose Penn State over Rutgers and becomes the fourth wide receiver in the Lions' 2009 class.

The 6-foot-3, 209-pound Brown ranks as the country's 22nd best receiver, according to ESPN's Scouts Inc.

Penn State's class likely is complete with 27 members, headlined by top defenders Glenn Carson and Darrell Givens.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

If you haven't done it already, check out our signing day primer. As part of the story, I was asked to identify several Big Ten recruiting superlatives, including the league's best recruiter.

Former Illinois offensive coordinator Mike Locksley owned the title before he left to become New Mexico's head coach, and several Big Ten assistants could lay claim to the designation. Most of Michigan's staff is new to the league, so it's hard to judge their recruiting clout just yet. I settled on Penn State defensive line coach Larry Johnson, who has landed several top prospects from the Maryland/Washington, D.C., area and elsewhere.

Here's my list of top recruiters for each Big Ten team. Many of you follow recruiting as closely or more closely than I do, so please e-mail me your suggestions and votes and I'll post the responses later in the week.


Running backs coach Reggie Mitchell -- Illinois might have lost its pipeline to D.C. with Locksley's departure, but Mitchell continues to get the top players from the Chicago area. The team's recruiting coordinator has brought linebacker Martez Wilson and others to Champaign, and was instrumental in landing 2009 top prospects Terry Hawthorne and Kraig Appleton. The departure of O-line coach Eric Wolford hurts Illinois' recruiting, but co-defensive coordinator Dan Disch does well in Florida.


Wide receivers coach Billy Lynch -- The head coach's son is responsible for nearly half of Indiana's 2009 recruiting class. He recruits locally extremely well and last year brought running back Darius Willis to Bloomington.


Offensive line coach Reese Morgan -- Iowa has a tradition of recruiting and developing elite offensive linemen, and Morgan is a big reason why. He recruits the state extremely well and brought in players like Jordan Bernstine and Tyler Sash to go along with seven commitments for 2009. Assistant linebackers coach and recruiting coordinator Eric Johnson successfully recruits the surrounding states and has brought players like quarterback Marvin McNutt and Christian Ballard to Iowa City.


Quarterbacks coach Rod Smith and wide receivers coach Tony Dews -- As I stated earlier, it's a bit premature to make final determinations on Michigan's staff. Running backs coach Fred Jackson is a holdover and has recruited the Detroit area well in past years. But both Smith and Dews have distinguished themselves on the recruiting trail, luring top 2009 prospects like Tate Forcier, William Campbell and Craig Roh to Ann Arbor.


Running backs coach Dan Enos -- The former Spartans quarterback has played an instrumental role in upgrading the program's recruiting, which will play dividends Wednesday with a potentially program-changing class. Enos recruits the Detroit area extremely well and has brought in players like wideout Fred Smith and quarterback Kirk Cousins, as well as 2009 prospects like Edwin Baker, Larry Caper and Dion Sims.


Defensive line coach Tim Cross -- The team's associate head coach and lead recruiter played a key role in signing Minnesota's nationally ranked 2008 class, landing players like Troy Stoudermire and Keanon Cooper. Head coach Tim Brewster does much of the heavy lifting in recruiting, but Cross and co-defensive coordinator Ron Lee chip in as well.


Superbacks coach Adam Cushing -- He coaches a group rarely used in Northwestern's offense, but Cushing's contributions as a recruiter have been invaluable. Cushing serves as the team's recruiting coordinator and landed players like defensive end Vince Browne, safety David Arnold, linebacker Brett Nagel and top 2009 prospect Patrick Ward.


Co-defensive coordinator/linebackers coach Luke Fickell -- Several recruiters stand out on Jim Tressel's staff, but Fickell repeatedly lures top prospects from the Cleveland area and far-flung regions like Georgia and Florida. Quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels landed Terrelle Pryor last year, and wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell is a proven recruiter. Cornerbacks coach Taver Johnson is a rising star on the recruiting trail.


Defensive line coach Larry Johnson -- Johnson gets the nod after bringing in players like Aaron Maybin, Maurice Evans, Navorro Bowman and Jared Odrick. No assistant played a bigger role in Penn State's 2009 nationally ranked class than Johnson, who recruited Derrick Thomas and Darrell Givens, among others. No wonder Ron Zook wanted Johnson to join his staff at Illinois.


Defensive line coach Terrell Williams -- This is another mostly new staff to the Big Ten, and coach Danny Hope does much of the recruiting himself, but Williams has proven to be a major asset so far. Williams helped to land half of Purdue's incoming recruiting class, including top running back Al-Terek McBurse. He recruits Florida extremely well, which falls right in line with Hope's approach.


Offensive line coach Bob Bostad -- Health issues forced top recruiter Henry Mason away from the program in 2007, and his absence is missed. Head coach Bret Bielema has a strong reputation as a recruiter, and Bostad is doing a solid job early in his tenure. Bostad's fingerprints were all over Wisconsin's 2008 class, as he landed offensive lineman Peter Konz and others. Defensive line coach Charlie Partridge and defensive coordinator Dave Doeren are also solid recruiters.