Big Ten: Darryl Stonum

Only 22 Big Ten players heard their names called during the 2013 NFL draft, the league's lowest total in nearly two decades (it had 21 draftees in 1994).

But as soon as the draft ended Saturday, the free-agent signings began. And there were plenty around the Big Ten from all 12 squads.

Here's our first look list of free-agent signings or team tryouts from the conference. As a reminder, this is not a final list, and we'll have updates later on either here on the blog or on Twitter.

Here we go ...


C Graham Pocic, Houston Texans
DE Justin Staples, Cleveland Browns
DE Glenn Foster, New Orleans Saints


C Will Matte, Kansas City Chiefs (tryout)
DE Larry Black Jr., Cincinnati Bengals
DT Adam Replogle, Atlanta Falcons


WR Keenan Davis, Cleveland Browns
OL Matt Tobin, Philadelphia Eagles
QB James Vandenberg, Minnesota Vikings


WR Roy Roundtree, Cincinnati Bengals
S Jordan Kovacs, Miami Dolphins
LB Kenny Demens, Arizona Cardinals
DE Craig Roh, Carolina Panthers
OL Elliott Mealer, New Orleans Saints
OL Patrick Omameh, San Francisco 49ers
OL Ricky Barnum, Washington Redskins
LB Brandin Hawthorne, St. Louis Rams
(WR Darryl Stonum, dismissed before the 2012 season, signed with the Kansas City Chiefs)


CB Johnny Adams, Houston Texans
DT Anthony Rashad White, Pittsburgh Steelers
OL Chris McDonald, New England Patriots


CB Troy Stoudermire, Cincinnati Bengals
TE MarQueis Gray, San Francisco 49ers
CB Michael Carter, Minnesota Vikings


DE Eric Martin, New Orleans Saints
LB Will Compton, Washington Redskins
TE Ben Cotton, San Diego Chargers
TE/FB Kyler Reed, Jacksonville Jaguars
K Brett Maher, New York Jets
DE Cameron Meredith, Oakland Raiders


OL Patrick Ward, Miami Dolphins
DL Brian Arnfelt, Pittsburgh Steelers
LB David Nwabuisi, Carolina Panthers (tryout)
WR Demetrius Fields, Chicago Bears (tryout)


CB Travis Howard, Houston Texans
S Orhian Johnson, Houston Texans
FB Zach Boren, Houston Texans
TE Jake Stoneburner, Green Bay Packers
DE Nathan Williams, Minnesota Vikings
DL Garrett Goebel, St. Louis Rams
LB Etienne Sabino, New York Giants


OL Mike Farrell, Pittsburgh Steelers
CB Stephon Morris, New England Patriots
OL Matt Stankiewitch, New England Patriots
FB Michael Zordich, Carolina Panthers


CB Josh Johnson, San Diego Chargers
QB Robert Marve, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
RB Akeem Shavers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers


CB Marcus Cromartie, San Diego Chargers
CB Devin Smith, Dallas Cowboys
S Shelton Johnson, Oakland Raiders
Ten items to track as Week 1 of the college football season kicks off.

1. Shoelace's spotlight: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has been his best when the lights are brightest, particularly early in the season. If the Wolverines have any chance to upset defending national champ Alabama in Saturday night's national showcase game, they need big things from No. 16. Robinson can put his team in the national title talk and himself at the top of the Heisman Trophy watch list by combining his typical big-play brilliance with good decision-making (i.e. no turnovers) against the Tide.

2. The scene in State College: As colleague Gene Wojciechowski wrote this week, Penn State-Ohio is hardly the game of the week, but it's undoubtedly the scene of the week, and maybe the season. After a summer of transition, transfers, sanctions and scandal residue, the Nittany Lions finally return to the field at Beaver Stadium. They'll open a season without Joe Paterno for the first time since 1949, as Bill O'Brien makes his head-coaching debut. Expect an emotion-charged day for everyone in Happy Valley.

[+] EnlargeAndrew Maxwell
Andrew Weber/US PresswireAll eyes will be on Michigan State QB Andrew Maxwell in the season opener against Boise State.
3. Maxwell's moment: The big knock against Michigan State entering 2012 is the absence of star quarterback Kirk Cousins and the team's three top wide receivers. Junior signal-caller Andrew Maxwell can quiet the doubters Friday night with a strong performance against No. 24 Boise State. Maxwell has waited more than two years for the chance to start and lead the Spartans' offense. Michigan State's defense is championship-worthy. Maxwell and the receivers need to show they won't hold the team back this fall.

4. Urban renewal: With all due respect to Woody, no incoming Ohio State coach has created the type of buzz Urban Meyer has the past nine months in Columbus. Meyer's arrival couldn't have come at a better time to energize a program that endured a year of scandal and its first seven-loss season since 1897. Buckeye fans finally get to see Meyer's team in action Saturday against Miami (Ohio). Ohio State never has run an offense remotely like Meyer's, and all eyes will be on sophomore quarterback Braxton Miller as he leads the unit.

5. A new era in Champaign: Tim Beckman's debut at Illinois won't get nearly as much attention as O'Brien's or Meyer's, but it's a significant moment for a program trying to take the next step. Beckman's team is somewhat of a mystery, particularly on the offensive side, where linemen have shuffled around to different positions and the coaches have tried to identify playmakers to surround Nathan Scheelhaase. The Illini should be wary of their Week 1 opponent, Western Michigan, which boasts a potent passing attack that will test a secondary dealing with several injured starters.

6. Hawkeye running backs: Iowa might be flying under the radar entering 2012, but everyone knows about the Hawkeyes' woes at running back, thanks to the work of AIRBHG (h/t Black Heart Gold Pants). Another offseason of attrition leaves Iowa with several unproven options entering Saturday's opener against defending MAC champ Northern Illinois at Chicago's Soldier Field. Fans are most intrigued to see true freshman Greg Garmon, a four-star prospect out of Erie, Pa. Although Iowa's offense will have more of a passing lean this fall, the program always has been at its best with a reliable ball-carrying option.

7. Coordinator carousel: The Big Ten saw an unprecedented 40 coaching changes during this past offseason, including at least one new coordinator at eight of the 12 schools. Units under new leadership Saturday include: Indiana's offense, Purdue's defense, Wisconsin's offense, Iowa's offense and defense and Nebraska's defense. Some coordinators to watch Saturday: Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis, Indiana offensive coordinator Seth Littrell, Purdue defensive coordinator Tim Tibesar and Nebraska defensive coordinator John Papuchis.

8. Danny's debut: Wisconsin won the Big Ten title with a transfer quarterback (Russell Wilson) in 2011. While no one expects Danny O'Brien to be Wilson, O'Brien can stabilize the quarterback position after transferring from Maryland. He won the job in camp and feels comfortable in the Badgers' pro-style offense, which more closely resembles what he ran with the Terrapins in 2010 (when he won ACC Rookie of the Year honors) than in 2011 (when he threw more interceptions than touchdown passes). O'Brien makes his first start for Wisconsin on Saturday, and he'll have plenty of help in the backfield with 2011 Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball.

9. Toussaint's status: Michigan coach Brady Hoke still isn't saying whether top running back Fitzgerald Toussaint will play Saturday night against Alabama. Toussaint on Tuesday pleaded guilty to driving while visibly impaired, a reduced charge stemming from his drunken driving arrest last month. Hoke has been firm on player conduct since arriving at Michigan -- he dismissed standout wide receiver Darryl Stonum in January -- but the Toussaint decision will shape how the coach is viewed in handling disciplinary cases involving key players at critical times.

10. Next-step quarterbacks: Nebraska's Taylor Martinez, Minnesota's MarQueis Gray and Northwestern's Kain Colter all fall under the dual-threat label, and have the skills to take over games. All three look to make big strides this season after mixed results in 2011. Martinez, who spent the offseason working on his footwork and passing mechanics, is undoubtedly the biggest key to Nebraska making a serious push in the Legends division. Minnesota expects big things from Gray in his senior season, and Colter has worked on his arm strength and has greater ownership of Northwestern's offense in his first full season as the starter. Martinez opens against Southern Miss. Gray and Colter lead their teams on the road to face UNLV and Syracuse, respectively.

Big Ten lunchtime links

July, 23, 2012
Here are your Penn State-free lunchtime links:
Earlier this week, we took a look at five players in the Leaders Division with something to prove this fall.

Let's now turn our attention to the Legends Division.

Ready, set, go ...

[+] EnlargeTaylor Martinez
Rick Osentoski/US PresswireThe pressure is on Taylor Martinez, who enters his third year as Nebraska's starting quarterback.
1. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska: To say it's all about the quarterback sounds a bit cliché, but the line truly applies to Nebraska this season. The Huskers return eight starters on offense and look strong at most of the positions, particularly running back. Nebraska's defense could replace star power with greater depth and a more detail-oriented approach. So in many ways, the Huskers' season comes down to Martinez, their third-year starter at quarterback. Martinez struggled with his passing in 2011, completing just 56.2 percent of his attempts and often looking uncomfortable in the pocket. He spent the offseason working on his footwork and drew good marks from the coaches this spring. Martinez will be operating in the same offensive system in consecutive seasons for the first time in his football career (college or high school). He's also fully recovered from the injuries that slowed him in 2010. Bottom line: his time is now.

2. Will Campbell, DT, Michigan: Wolverines fans see Campbell's size and potential as a space eater and continue to wait patiently for the big man to take the next step. There's no better time than this season as Michigan must replace standout defensive linemen Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. The Wolverines could be very good in the defensive back seven, particularly in the secondary, but there are questions up front and Campbell is one of them. Campbell has been better in getting his weight under control, but the senior needs to show he can consistently display the effort and technique needed to make a difference in the interior of the line. A former five-star recruit, the 6-5, 322-pound Campbell has one final opportunity to shine. Michigan needs a big season from No. 73.

3. Andrew Maxwell, QB, Michigan State: There's little doubt Michigan State will have one of the nation's best defenses for the second consecutive season. But the Spartans lose almost all of their key offensive skill players from 2011, and the biggest void is under center, where three-year starter and three-time captain Kirk Cousins departs. In steps Maxwell, who has spent years preparing for this moment in practice but lacks game experience (51 pass attempts in nine career games). Maxwell learned a lot from Cousins and has a personality that some liken to his predecessor. But after missing the second half of spring practice with a knee injury, he needs a strong summer as he builds chemistry with his mostly unproven receivers and tight ends. While Michigan State will be a more run-heavy team this fall with lead back Le'Veon Bell and a more seasoned offensive line, the Spartans need Maxwell to establish himself if they intend to return to Indianapolis.

4. Keenan Davis, WR, Iowa: Iowa's yet-to-be-named top running back could be listed here, but the Hawkeyes likely will be a pass-oriented team because of their uncertainty at tailback as well as the return of senior quarterback James Vandenberg. While Vandenberg seems to be adapting well to new offensive coordinator Greg Davis and the new system, he lacks many proven targets, especially after the departure of the Big Ten's top wide receiver, Marvin McNutt. Davis started 12 games last season and finished second on the squad in receptions (50) and receiving yards (713). The big question is whether he can take the next step and become a true No. 1 wide receiver. Coach Kirk Ferentz admitted Davis had an "up and down" spring, and missed the latter part of the session with an injury. Davis needs to show he can stay on the field, make consistent catches and give Vandenberg a reliable top target.

5. Roy Roundtree, WR, Michigan: The Wolverines return arguably the Big Ten's most dynamic offensive backfield in quarterback Denard Robinson and running back Fitzgerald Toussaint. The offense could be very dangerous this fall, but Michigan will need a bounce-back season from Roundtree. Michigan lacks depth at receiver following Junior Hemingway's departure and Darryl Stonum's dismissal. Roundtree flourished in the spread offense in 2010, leading the Wolverines with 72 catches for 935 yards and seven touchdowns, and earning second-team All-Big Ten honors. But his production dropped off sharply last fall in the new offense (19 receptions, 355 yards, 2 TDs). Michigan gave Roundtree the No. 21 jersey worn by Hemingway in 2011, and Roundtree will step into Hemingway's role in the offense. He's the obvious No. 1 target for Robinson, but he has to show he can get it done in this offense.

Michigan spring wrap

May, 11, 2012
2011 overall record: 11-2
2011 conference record: 6-2 (2nd, Legends Division)
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Denard Robinson; RB Fitzgerald Toussaint; WR Roy Roundtree; WR Jeremy Gallon; LT Taylor Lewan; RT Michael Schofield; DE Craig Roh; LB Jake Ryan; LB Kenny Demens; LB Desmond Morgan; CB J.T. Floyd; CB Blake Countess; S Thomas Gordon; S Jordan Kovacs.

Key losses
WR Junior Hemingway; WR Darryl Stonum; WR/KR Martavious Odoms; TE Kevin Koger; C David Molk; RT Mark Huyge; DT Mike Martin; DE/DT Ryan Van Bergen; DT Will Heininger.

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Denard Robinson* (1,176 yards)
Passing: Denard Robinson* (2,173 yards)
Receiving: Junior Hemingway (699 yards)
Tackles: Kenny Demens* (94)
Sacks: Ryan Van Bergen (5.5)
Interceptions: Courtney Avery* and J.T. Floyd* (2)

Spring answers

1. Quarterback accuracy: Denard Robinson played one series in the public spring scrimmage, but coaches raved about his improved leadership, decision-making and accuracy throughout the spring. The latter two were major issues for Michigan last season. While it is unknown whether Robinson will truly be more accurate until Sept. 1 against Alabama -- Michigan closed all of its practices to the media this spring -- offensive coordinator Al Borges was very confident in Robinson’s potential for his senior season.

2. Cornerback has depth: Two seasons ago, cornerback was the biggest question on Michigan’s team because of youth, inexperience and a lack of talent. That is no longer an issue. The Wolverines have as many as six players they could feel comfortable with come the fall, and that doesn’t include incoming freshman Terry Richardson (Detroit/Cass Tech), the highest-ranked player in Michigan’s incoming signing class. Sophomore Blake Countess could turn into a star, and fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd is the most consistent corner the Wolverines have. They’ll be the likely starters.

3. A featured back is set: Borges made no hesitation: Redshirt junior Fitzgerald Toussaint is going into the fall as his top tailback -- a marked change from what the Wolverines endured last spring and through the first half of last season. Toussaint rushed for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns last season, giving Michigan a dynamic dual running game with Robinson. With major questions at wide receiver and tight end, expect a lot of running from Toussaint and Robinson, especially early in the season.

Fall questions

1. Who is catching the ball: Michigan’s coaches spoke highly of Jeremy Gallon, Jerald Robinson and Roy Roundtree during the spring as their top three receivers, but Robinson has never caught a pass, Gallon has had one season of consistent productivity, and Roundtree saw his numbers plummet last season to 19 catches for 355 yards. Tight end isn’t much better, as the position group has two career catches. Denard Robinson’s two best safety valves -- Junior Hemingway and Kevin Koger -- graduated, so even if Denard Robinson is improved, he might need to hunt to find a reliable receiving option. Incoming freshman Devin Funchess (Farmington Hills, Mich./Harrison) could be an option at tight end.

2. Who is pressuring the quarterback: Michigan took its biggest hits on the defensive line, which saw three starters graduate -- Mike Martin was a third-round draft pick, Ryan Van Bergen signed as a free agent, and Will Heininger graduated -- and its fourth starter, Craig Roh, switch positions. Michigan insists it’ll be OK there. Will Campbell and converted end Jibreel Black will likely start inside, and either sophomore Brennen Beyer or sophomore Frank Clark will start at rush end. The success of Michigan’s defense last season relied on pressure the front four created. With an almost completely new group there, how they fare against opponents will be interesting to see.

3. Punting problems: Somewhere along the way last season, Will Hagerup lost his mojo, much like kicker Brendan Gibbons the year before. A strong-legged punter, Hagerup wasn’t connecting with the ball well and eventually lost his job to freshman Matt Wile. Now entering his junior year, Michigan hopes either Hagerup regains his form or Wile becomes more consistent. The Wolverines’ offense should be fairly prolific, but with a defense searching for pressure early on, it needs to be able to control field position with the punter.
If Al Borges had his preference, Michigan would be running more of a pro-style offense. That's clearly the future for the Wolverines and the type of players they have been recruiting.

But Borges is no dummy. He knows he has Denard Robinson at quarterback for one more year. Michigan wisely did not try to cram Robinson into an ill-fitting system last year, as Borges adjusted his offense to his star player's unique talents. That worked out pretty well, as the Wolverines went 11-2 and won the Sugar Bowl.

So the full-fledged movement to a pro style can wait another year.

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesDenard Robinson will need to improve his accuracy and cut down on his interceptions in 2012.
"We have pieces of our offense that are still very pro style, like our passing game," Borges told "But we're still very much a spread because of Denard, and we'll continue to be because that is the best thing that suits his skill set. We'll have some plays under center at times, and we were very productive at those last year. But because of Denard's running ability, that will never be a prominent part of our offense."

The most frequent and often tiresome question around the Michigan offense is how much Robinson will run the ball. Borges found a nice balance last year, using it as a weapon but also keeping his quarterback mostly healthy. He sees no reason to alter that formula.

"I don't see his role changing any," Borges said. "We may up the ante a little bit with him throwing a couple more times a game. But any change will be subtle and hardly noticeable."

Robinson completed only 55 percent of his passes last season and threw 15 interceptions, the most in the Big Ten. That obviously has to improve. Borges said he's been working on Robinson's footwork and hip placement. Another year in the system should also help.

"He's probably at the top of the list of guy who just understand better," Borges said. "Last year at this time, he couldn't call the play. Now he can call the play with no problems at all. We're still working hard on his fundamentals to get him better that way, but his understanding is so much better than it was a year ago."

Borges also knows he has another strong option in the backfield in running back Fitz Toussaint, who emerged as a star midway through last season and finished with more than 1,000 yards rushing.

"He didn't really come on until the fourth or fifth game of the season," Borges said. "Now he'll be in there from the beginning and show his worth from Day 1. If he stays healthy, he can have a hell of a year."

Michigan has good depth at running back with Vincent Smith, Stephen Hopkins and Thomas Rawls returning. Borges said the coaching staff is taking "a hard look" at redshirt freshman Justice Hayes this spring.

Wide receiver isn't quite as deep with Junior Hemingway gone and Darryl Stonum dismissed from the team. Roy Roundtree, Jeremy Gallon and Drew Dileo are the returning veterans, and Borges said redshirt sophomore Jerald Robinson has looked very good early on in spring practice. Some incoming freshmen will likely have a chance to contribute as well.

Roundtree might hold the key to the group. He had 72 catches for 935 receiving yards and seven touchdowns as a sophomore but caught just 19 balls for 355 yards last season. Borges has moved Roundtree to flanker, which was Hemingway's spot a year ago.

"Playing flanker, I think you'll see Roy's numbers go back up," Borges said. "He's in great shape, running well and catching the ball right now in our first couple of practices. He's playing as well as he's played since I've been here. He's learned how to run the routes and read the coverages, and he has a big-play dimension to him. If he stays in one piece, I look for him to have a big year."

Just don't look for Michigan to change too much else this year on offense.

Spring previews: Legends Division

February, 17, 2012
The 2012 Big Ten season doesn't kick off for six-and-a-half months, but spring football is just around the corner. All 12 Big Ten squads will hit the field next month for the first of 15 spring practices. There are plenty of new faces, as the winter months brought an unprecedented number of coaching changes to the Big Ten. Should be a fun and exciting spring around the conference.

Let's take a quick look at the Leaders Division:


Spring practice start date: March 24
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • New coaching flavor: For the first time in the Kirk Ferentz era, Iowa will welcome new coordinators on both sides of the ball. Phil Parker isn't exactly new, having served as Iowa's defensive backs coach throughout Ferentz's tenure, but he now takes charge of the defense for the first time. Will he continue running Norm Parker's scheme or shake things up? Iowa also will have a new offensive coordinator (yet to be named) and several new position coaches, including Reese Morgan, who moves from offensive line to defensive line.
  • Running back auditions: Iowa once again needs to identify a featured back after Marcus Coker transferred to Stony Brook in January. Coker basically was the team's rushing attack in 2011, accounting for 77.3 percent of the rushing yards and 61.9 percent of the carries. Jordan Canzeri and Jason White will compete with several other unproven players this spring. The good news is Iowa has had little trouble developing backs. Keeping them is another story.
  • Reloading the defensive line: The running backs might get more attention, but defensive line is Iowa's most pressing need entering the spring. The Hawkeyes lose three starters from last season's squad, including NFL prospect Mike Daniels at defensive tackle. While D-line historically has been a strength for Iowa, the Hawkeyes haven't had so much uncertainty in quite some time. Morgan, who hasn't coached on the defensive side, has his work cut out this spring.

Spring practice start date: March 17
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Defensive line rotation: It's a good thing coach Brady Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison focus so much on the defensive line. The unit needs some extra attention this spring after losing standouts Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen. The defensive tackle spot will be particularly interesting. A lot of eyes will be on Will Campbell to see if the big man can finally blossom. Quinton Washington and others are in the mix.
  • Receiving orders: Michigan needs to develop more options in the passing game this spring. The team loses top wideout Junior Hemingway, and Darryl Stonum was dismissed from the squad in January following another legal issue. Roy Roundtree needs a big spring as he looks to re-establish himself as the team's No. 1 wideout after a production drop-off last season. Tight end Kevin Koger also departs, creating an opportunity for others.
  • Al Borges' offense, Take 2: The new offense had some highs and lows in Year 1, and Michigan will be looking to establish greater consistency this season. It'll be interesting to see how a full year in the system impacts quarterback Denard Robinson. Robinson must cut down on his interceptions after tossing 15 last season. The Wolverines also are looking for an offensive line anchor following the departure of All-American center David Molk.

Spring practice start date: March 27
Spring game: April 28

What to watch:
  • Take it to the Max: Andrew Maxwell's time has arrived as he steps in for three-year starter and three-time captain Kirk Cousins at quarterback. It's a tall order, but Maxwell has been groomed for this moment and has shown good potential in practices. He'll be working with a new set of leading receivers, including Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett, who hopes to be cleared to play for the upcoming season. Maxwell must establish himself as a team leader this spring.
  • We're not Worthy: All-American Jerel Worthy is gone, and Michigan State needs a replacement for the standout defensive tackle. While Anthony Rashad White returns at the other D-tackle spot, the Spartans don't have much overall depth at the position. It'll be interesting to see what the coaches do with Micajah Reynolds, who has bounced between defensive line and offensive line during his career. It's a big spring for Vanderbilt transfer James Kittredge and a host of players who redshirted last season, including Damon Knox.
  • Receiving orders: Arnett seemingly would be Michigan State's No. 1 receiver if he's ruled eligible by the NCAA, but there are no guarantees and the Spartans must identify other options this spring. Bennie Fowler showed promise in 2010 before being slowed by a foot injury last season. He needs a strong spring. Michigan State also is moving Tony Lippett back to receiver from cornerback, where he started several games last season. Lippett is an excellent athlete who can provide a boost on the edge. The Spartans also will be looking for more from tight end Dion Sims.

Spring practice start date: March 22
Spring game: April 21

What to watch:
  • The search for a pass rush: Minnesota should be improved on offense in Year 2 of the Jerry Kill era, but the team could sink or swim depending on the defense. It starts up front with a defensive line that hasn't generated much pressure for several years. Coordinator Tracy Claeys wants to be aggressive, but can he find difference-makers? The Gophers haven't had an elite pass-rusher since Willie VanDeSteeg in 2008.
  • Supporting cast on offense: Although quarterback Marqueis Gray had his ups and downs last season, he accounted for most of Minnesota's offense, leading the team with 966 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns. Gray needs more help if the Gophers intend to take the next step this season. Minnesota will be looking for a featured running back this spring, as Donnell Kirkwood and others are in the mix. The Gophers also need more options at receiver after losing Da'Jon McKnight.
  • Troy Stoudermire: Stoudermire turned heads last spring with some big hits from the cornerback spot. After receiving an additional year of eligibility from the NCAA in January, he'll look to deliver more punishment. Minnesota desperately needs leaders and playmakers to emerge in the secondary, and Stoudermire's return could be huge after he missed most last season with a broken bone in his forearm.

Spring practice start date: March 10
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Star search on defense: No Big Ten defense loses more star power than Nebraska, which must replace linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, the league's top performers at their respective positions. David's departure is especially critical, as Nebraska lacked depth in its defensive midsection last season. Although Nebraska played most of the past season without defensive tackle Jared Crick, it needs some difference-makers to emerge in all three levels of the defense this spring.
  • Papuchis takes over: Like Iowa, Nebraska promoted a position coach to defensive coordinator, as John Papuchis takes control of a unit that fell short of expectations last season. Papuchis is young and energetic, and his rapid rise mirrors that of his boss, Huskers head coach Bo Pelini. Although no system overhaul is expected, it will be interesting to see how Papuchis puts his imprint on the defense this spring.
  • Taylor Martinez's maturation: Despite two years as the starter and the support of his coaches, Martinez enters a pivotal spring. Although Martinez remained healthy last season and showed improved decision-making at times, he also completed just 56.3 percent of his passes and didn't break off as many long runs. A full year in Tim Beck's offense could pay off for Martinez this spring, but he needs to continue to make strides. It will be interesting to see if the coaches even entertain the possibility of a competition, or if backup Brion Carnes gets more reps.

Spring practice start date: March 3
Spring game: April 14

What to watch:
  • Colter and the QB race: Northwestern will have a quarterback competition this spring as it looks for Dan Persa's replacement, but the hope among many is for Kain Colter to take control. Colter stepped in for Persa last season and emerged as the team's best all-around offensive weapon. But he needs to improve his arm strength and his accuracy and show he can be a more complete quarterback at this level. Although Colter will be on the field no matter what in the fall, he has the opportunity in spring ball to solidify himself as the starting quarterback.
  • Young defenders: The defense has been a big problem for the past year and a half, and Northwestern needs to identify more playmakers before September. The good news is the Wildcats played a lot of young players last season, particularly late in the season. Northwestern needs its youth to mature, beginning in the spring. Keep an eye on players such as defensive end Tyler Scott, safety Ibraheim Campbell, linebacker Collin Ellis and cornerback Daniel Jones. Northwestern needs several of them to take the next step.
  • Spotlight on the secondary: Few Big Ten units struggled more than Northwestern's secondary did last season. Making matters worse, the Wildcats lose three starters, including All-Big Ten safety Brian Peters and cornerback Jordan Mabin, a four-year starter. If Northwestern ever intends to turn the corner as a program, it needs to build better depth in the secondary, whether it's through recruiting or from moving players from other positions. It'll be interesting to see how the group performs this spring.

Recruiting needs: Legends Division

January, 24, 2012
Earlier today, we took a look at the recruiting needs of every team in the Big Ten Leaders Division. Now it's time to turn our attention to the Legends Division and see what positions each team needs to restock before next week's signing day:


Running backs: Iowa's problems with keeping running backs in school has been well documented, and the Hawkeyes lost leading rusher Marcus Coker and backup Mika'il McCall after off-the-field problems last season. The team really needs some more depth in the backfield, and don't be surprised if incoming freshman Greg Garmon pushes for playing time immediately.

Defensive linemen: Iowa had three defensive linemen drafted off the 2010 team and now loses its top two guys up front in departing seniors Broderick Binns and Mike Daniels. That's an awful lot of talent to replace in a couple of years, and the Hawkeyes can't expect to improve their defense without doing so. Finding some more pass rushers off the edge will be key.

Wide receivers: Marvin McNutt had a wonderful senior season, but the passing game often stalled whenever he couldn't wiggle free. Now he's gone, leaving a void at the position. Kevonte Martin-Manley and Keenan Davis have shown promise, but James Vandenberg could use some more weapons. Iowa has secured commitments from three receivers in this class.


Wide receiver: The loss of Darryl Stonum, who was dismissed following another run in with the law, created a void at receiver, especially with top pass-catcher Junior Hemingway out of eligibility. The Wolverines will have to hope Roy Roundtree can bounce back with a big season, because all other wideout options are unproven at this point. Three receivers are committed to Brady Hoke in this class.

Defensive line: Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen were key cogs in Michigan's run to the Sugar Bowl title in 2011, and they have both moved on, along with starter Will Heininger. Hoke and defensive coordinator Greg Mattison are defensive line coaches at heart and will want to grab as many difference makers as they can at that key position. Ondre Pipkins, a 325-pound tackle, is the highest rated defensive lineman in the Wolverines' class right now.

Offensive line: While the Wolverines should be fine on the O-line in 2012, even without Rimington Trophy winner David Molk and starting right tackle Mark Huyge, they signed only four offensive linemen total in the past two classes. Since linemen are often slow to develop, they need to refill the cupboard now. Michigan has four offensive linemen committed in this class, including standout Kyle Kalis.

Michigan State

Offensive tackles: Thanks in large part to injuries, Michigan State had to move a defensive lineman (Dan France) to tackle last summer and plug in a junior-college transfer (Fou Fonoti) into the other tackle spot. That the Spartans won the Legends Division title despite that is kind of amazing in retrospect. France will be a junior in 2012 and Fonoti will be in his final year of eligibility. They need more depth at the position, and they've got commitments from two offensive tackles so far in this class.

Wide receivers: Two of the most successful receivers in school history are gone as Keshawn Martin and B.J. Cunningham finished off wildly productive careers. Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett is seeking a waiver to play immediately and will help the future even if he has to sit out a year. Michigan State is looking to sign three other receivers in this class to fill out the future two-deep.

Running back: Edwin Baker's early entry to the NFL draft came as a surprise. Michigan State is still in good shape at tailback for 2012 with Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper. But after not signing a running back in last year's class, Mark Dantonio could use at least one more option in the backfield.


Defensive backs: It was no secret that Minnesota's pass defense was brutal at times in 2011, and top tackler Kim Royston leaves a hole at safety with his graduation. Getting Troy Stoudermire back for an extra year helps, but Jerry Kill needs to upgrade the talent in the secondary. That's why he has signed three junior-college defensive backs and secured commitments from four high school safeties so far.

Defensive tackle: One of the reasons the pass defense was so bad was a lack of pass rush applied by the front four. The Gophers had only 19 sacks this season, a year after registering just nine. Making matters worse, both starting tackles were seniors this season. Kill signed a junior-college defensive tackle and has two prep tackles committed. He needs to find guys who can find their way to the quarterback.

Overall talent and depth: Kill has said there are gaps in the Gophers' classes, and depth issues could plague the team during his rebuilding efforts. Including six junior-college players signed to help right away, Minnesota has a class of 28 right now. Minnesota simply needs more bodies everywhere.


Linebacker: Lavonte David leaves some rather large cleats to fill. Not only was he Nebraska's leading tackler the past two seasons, he was the only linebacker who played at a consistently high level. The Huskers' starters at the other two linebacker spots will be seniors this year, and depth is thin behind them. So it's little wonder why Bo Pelini has used four spots so far in what is expected to be a small class to fill that position, led by four-star prospect Michael Rose.

Tight end: Three of the top four options at tight ends will be seniors in 2012, leaving very little behind them. Sam Cotton, son of offensive line coach Barney Cotton and younger brother of current Huskers tight end Ben, is on his way to help.

Quarterback: Taylor Martinez is entrenched as the starter going into his junior year, and Nebraska never had to worry about playing Brion Carnes in a big spot this year after Bubba Starling opted for baseball. Still, it's dangerous to not have depth at quarterback, and so the Huskers need to add at least one signal caller in this class.


Defensive backs: The Wildcats were burned repeatedly in the passing game in 2011, and their best defensive back (safety Brian Peters) won't be around next season. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald has commitments from three safeties in this class already.

Defensive playmakers: Northwestern was shockingly short on guys who could blow up another team's offensive play in 2011, so Fitzgerald's main mission had to be finding more guys who played like he did in college. That aim got a big boost when stud defensive end Ifeadi Odenigbo committed to play in Evanston. That's a good start.

Wide receivers: Highly productive star receiver Jeremy Ebert is gone, along with starter Charles Brown. Venric Mark and Christian Jones have a lot of potential as the next big passing targets, but Northwestern's spread offense feeds off of speed and depth at the receiver position. Four receivers have given the Wildcats their pledge in this class.

Big Ten lunchtime links

January, 20, 2012
Are you ready for some meatballs?

Big Ten Thursday mailbag

January, 19, 2012
Empty your noggins here:

Josh from WPAFB, Ohio, writes: Brian, I agree with the fact that it was the right decision for Brady Hoke to release Darryl Stonum. However, when I read your article it looked like he was a horrible person. I feel bad because I think in an NCAA with players who accept money and prostitutes, clothes, tattoos, and beat other students up at bars, Darryl Stonum seemed to be a legitimately nice kid who made poor choices. ... While I think drinking and driving is one of the dumbest, selfish things one can do, his last violation after nine solid months was driving to a probation meeting because he couldn't find a ride. I don't know what I would do in that scenario because missing a meeting is also a violation. All in all, I respect the fact that he said, "I understand only I am responsible for my actions." I just wanted to know your personal feelings about it since I could easily be wrong and you don't think he's an awful person.

Brian Bennett: Josh, I don't know Stonum personally, and I agree with you that we're not exactly dealing with an axe murderer here. But Stonum clearly is guilty of making some very poor decisions. It's hard for me to buy the argument that he couldn't find a ride. I'm pretty sure they have cabs and buses in Ann Arbor, and don't you think he could have hooked a ride from a teammate or an assistant coach, especially if he explained the severity of the situation? (If I'm Denard Robinson, I'm offering to drive Stonum anywhere as long as he stays out of trouble).

Michigan takes its reputation seriously, and therefore it needed to do something about a player who had spent nearly two weeks in jail on probation violations alone. Plus, Hoke needs to set a tone for discipline, even if many of Stonum's problems pre-date his arrival. The best thing the Wolverines can do is continue to support Stonum so he can graduate. Hopefully, this serves as a wake-up call so he will make better decisions going forward. We all have to grow up sometime.

Shazor from Findlay, Ohio, writes: I feel like Ohio State is getting a lot of hate from around the B1G for swaying players who have already been committed to other schools. While I understand the frustration, it happens to everyone and everyone tries to steal from other schools. ... I see it mostly like this: some or most of the players that Ohio State is swaying probably would have been Ohio State leans before the whole tat-gate fiasco -- Taylor Decker and Se'Von Pittman come to mind most in this sense -- and some of these late guys re-opened their recruitment following JoePa's firing, so they are fair game to everyone. Bottom line: people can say what they want (haters gonna hate), but it is all just part of the game.

Brian Bennett: I couldn't agree more. Until a player signs a letter of intent, he is fair game as a recruit. Many star prospects were understandably leery about Ohio State last summer, given the NCAA investigation and an unstable coaching situation. Urban Meyer wouldn't be doing his job if he didn't try to re-recruit those players, and many of them are obviously open to his pitch. It's up to an individual recruit to honor his original commitment, and he can simply ignore the calls and texts from a rival coach.

Mick from Santa Cruz, Calif., writes: Brian, your joining the Big Ten blog was the greatest gift to me in 2011! Thanks for adding so much more to what was already a great blog (thanks to Adam for that!). What do you make of Bret Bielema's new hire for the offensive coordinator position? Will Matt Canada be able to keep the Wisconsin offensive as explosive as it has been under Paul Chryst while adhering to the pro-style system? Also, do you think his experience running spread offense in the past can attract more talented and versatile quarterbacks and receivers to UW?

Brian Bennett: Thanks for the kind words, Mick. Most of all, I'm excited for all the Canada puns I can make in the near future (Adam is not; he was already rolling his eyes at the corny jokes I bombarded him with earlier this week). It was an interesting hire, especially because of Canada's extensive experience with the spread offense, something Bielema says he has no interest in running.

But a comment from Bielema on Wednesday that caught my eye was this: Wisconsin has a system it can recruit to, and that's power football with big, talented offensive linemen. Canada is no dummy. He'll stick to that system and adapt to it. I like the balance his offenses had at Northern Illinois, and if he can teach the quarterbacks a few new tricks, all the better. The Russell Wilson experience should show all quarterbacks that their talents can blend into the Badgers' style, and that's an easy recruiting pitch for Canada to make.

Earl from Washington, D.C., writes: Re: your article on Joe Paterno's interview with Sally Jenkins, did you actually infer Paterno was a liar? Why do you find it so hard to take him at his word? Geez, he's the only person in this whole mess that had the integrity to take some blame and say he wished he had done more. And for that bit of integrity the Trustees immediately fired him - but they still love the donations he gives the University! Look, let's shift the focus back to the perpetrator and the victims (especially), and let's stop blaming Paterno.

Brian Bennett: Let's remember that the interview was conducted with Paterno's attorney present, so if you don't think he was coached up on what to say beforehand, you're being naive. And that's understandable and perfectly OK. People often try to present the version of events that make them look best. I thought Paterno was pretty revealing in much of the interview, but there were parts of his explanation and wording I just didn't buy. I find it incredibly difficult to believe that no one on the Penn State staff, especially Paterno himself, didn't have at least some suspicions about Jerry Sandusky. You can disagree with me on that, but that's my opinion based on an understanding of how close-knit football staffs work are, especially considering how long the same Nittany Lions coaches worked together. And there was another answer that rang false for me ...

Clint H. from Shreveport, La., writes: Even though I am 43 years old, I can relate to Coach Paterno not knowing how to handle the news that a coach was caught with a young boy. My grandparents whom I was very close to were shocked at some of the things that they learned was in the outside world such as talking about sex in public, people having fetishes,, etc...... So I totally believe Coach Paterno. More people should be helping him restore his image instead of letting it be torn down.

Brian Bennett: There's a lot of truth in that, Clint. Paterno has been married to the same woman for decades and wasn't exactly the most worldly guy when it came to different social lifestyles. I can understand why Mike McQueary was hesitant to talk to Paterno about the details of what he allegedly witnessed. But here's why I can't totally believe Paterno's comments that he "never heard of rape and a man" and had no idea what that meant: JoePa has always been known as a practicing and very active Catholic, and he's certainly a well-read person. Are we to believe somehow that he had not heard of the Catholic molestation scandals that made world news and produced headlines throughout the East Coast in 2002? That never came up at all on Paterno's radar? I'm highly skeptical, to say the least.

Brandon from Las Vegas writes: The NCAA bowl ban "won't hurt OSU in their pocketbook"? Really? Do you realize how much they would make if they reached a BCS bowl?With the amount of money OSU has contributed to the other Big Ten schools over their dominance this past decade, who cares! Every one else profited from the 2010 Sugar Bowl. OSU payed their share back. Consider this an interest payment.

Brian Bennett: Actually, Brandon, the Big Ten pools all bowl revenue and distributes equally among member schools. Since most teams either lose money or make a small amount on bowl trips because they have to spend so much on travel and ticket expenses, Ohio State might actually earn a bigger profit by staying home and cashing the league's postseason check. As long as the Big Ten keeps getting two teams in the BCS, as it did this year with no help from the Buckeyes, the conference won't be hurt, either.

Allen from Lima, Ohio, writes: Brian, someone asked you Thursday if OSU went 12-0 could they win the AP title. Your answer was no because of this: Miami of Ohio, Central Florida, California, UAB. Hard to argue with that. But think of another possibility, what if heading into the game against Michigan, the Wolverines are also 11-0, having beat a defending national champ in Bama (let's say handily, and let's say Bama goes on to win the SEC), and the Buckeyes beat Michigan by a couple scores. Do you think that may help overcome the ugly non-conf schedule? Obviously you would need a year where nobody from the SEC/Big 12/Pac-12 conferences finished unbeaten as well. It's at least plausible right? (along the lines of you're sayin' there's a chance!)

Brian Bennett: Sure, anything is possible. Two other reasons besides the nonconference schedule would damage the Buckeyes' chances, however. One, there's a national perception among media and fans, fairly or unfairly, that Ohio State can't win the big games out of conference, thanks to some failures in the BCS title game. That would almost certainly hurt the Buckeyes in the polls since they wouldn't be able to prove otherwise on the field. Secondly, the SEC is all but guaranteed a spot in the BCS title game if its champion has only one loss based on (deserved) reputation alone. And then someone would have to beat the SEC in the title game. Even in your scenario, if Alabama were to win the BCS championship, the pro-SEC bias is so strong that it would probably still help the Tide finish No. 1 in the AP poll. After all, Alabama did lose at home in November this season and still was allowed to play for the BCS title in a rematch.

Oh, and let's not forget Ohio State is coming off a 6-7 year, so any talk of 12-0 in 2012 seems more than a bit optimistic.

Fox from Burbank, Calif., writes: Northwestern was disappointing this year and it's no secret what the big problem was -- the defense was just terrible. What do you think is the key to solving this problem? Is it a matter of recruiting, coaching, or is there a need for a fundamental change in approach or game plan?

Brian Bennett: Let's face it: Northwestern is probably never going to sign a bunch of 310-pound defensive tackles who can run 4.4s. There are certain limitations in Evanston. But the overall talent and depth needs to improve on that side of the ball. I believe it's easier to hide talent deficiencies on offense with innovative schemes than it is on defense. Pat Fitzgerald needs to find more players who play like he did.

Max from Toronto writes: Congratulations on the engagement! However, may I caution you that Zooey's divorce is probably still a bit raw, you may just be a rebound guy for her. :)

Brian Bennett: Well, then, call me the round mound of rebound! Actually, Zooey Deschanel had to settle for being my No. 2 choice. With that and the divorce, it's been a rough year for her. At least "New Girl" is doing well in the ratings, and I expect her heartbreak over my impending nuptials to produce some very interesting tunes on the next She & Him album.
The folks at ESPN Recruiting stepped into the rewind machine Wednesday and looked back at the ESPNU 150 from 2008 Insider to see which heralded recruits panned out and which did not.

From a Big Ten slant, this exercise is essentially a referendum on Ohio State's class, which ranked sixth nationally that year Insider and featured eight ESPNU 150 prospects, headlined by quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Several other Big Ten squads had prospects in the 150 as well.

Overall, the results are mixed. Some players matched their hype, like Ohio State center Mike Brewster and, when healthy, Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti. Others did not or have not, once again proving that recruiting rankings should be viewed with caution.

Here's a look.

Prospects ranked from 1-25 Insider

No. 4: Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State -- Helped Buckeyes win three Big Ten championships and two BCS bowls before departing in June because of multiple NCAA rules violations.

No. 18: Etienne Sabino, LB, Ohio State: -- Started the 2011 season after redshirting in 2010. Hasn't been a difference-maker for Buckeyes, but ended with a strong performance in the Gator Bowl and could be a key player in 2012.

Prospects ranked from 26-50 Insider

No. 42: Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State -- Four-year starter undoubtedly paid off for Ohio State. Brewster earned All-Big Ten honors and was an All-America candidate his final two seasons.

No. 48: Andrew Sweat, LB, Ohio State -- Sweat had a solid but unspectacular career for Ohio State. He was the team's top linebacker in 2011, and Ohio State missed him late in the season.

Prospects ranked between 51-75 Insider

No. 56: J.B. Shugarts, T, Ohio State -- Started the final three seasons at right tackle but never earned All-Big Ten honors.

No. 58: Michael Mauti, LB, Penn State -- Plagued by knee problems, but very effective when healthy. He turned in a strong 2010 season and entered 2011 as an All-America candidate before tearing his ACL in September. He'll be back in 2012.

No. 69: Dann O'Neill, T, Michigan -- Redshirted as a freshman before transferring to Western Michigan, saying Michigan wasn't the right fit. He earned third-team All-MAC honors in 2011.

No. 71: Darryl Stonum, WR, Michigan -- Turned in a nice year in 2010, but found himself in off-field troubles throughout his Michigan career. Wolverines coach Brady Hoke on Tuesday dismissed Stonum after his latest infraction that resulted in jail time.

Prospects ranked 76-100 Insider

No. 88: Mike Adams, T, Ohio State -- One of the Big Ten's top offensive linemen during his final two seasons, earning first-team all-conference honors in 2010 and second-team honors in 2011 despite playing in only seven games. He had some off-field issues with the Buckeyes and was part of the Tat-5 with Pryor.

Prospects ranked 101-125 Insider

No. 107: Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State -- An excellent weapon when used in the Ohio State offense. He recorded a team-high seven touchdown receptions in 2011, but had only 14 overall receptions. He returns in 2012 and should have a bigger role in a more wide-open offense.

No. 115: Brandon Moore, TE, Michigan -- Moore has two receptions in three years as a reserve tight end for the Wolverines. He could see a bigger role in 2012 as Kevin Koger departs.

No. 119 Baker Steinkuhler, DT, Nebraska -- Started the past two seasons on the Huskers' defensive line and recorded 40 tackles, including five for loss and two sacks, during the 2011 season. He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors and will be called upon to take a leading role for Big Red in 2012.

Prospects ranked 126-150 Insider

No. 128: Patrick Nixon-Youman, CB, Illinois -- Hip surgery a few years ago slowed Nixon-Youman's progression, but he appeared in 11 games in each of the past two seasons in a reserve role. He could play a bigger role in 2012.

No. 130: Keanon Cooper, LB, Minnesota -- Started in 2011 for Minnesota and recorded 77 tackles, including six for loss, as well as two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He enters his third season as a starter in 2012 and will need to be a big contributor for the Gophers' defense.

No. 135: Travis Howard, CB, Ohio State -- Took on a bigger role in 2011 and recorded 44 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and five pass breakups for the Buckeyes. He'll enter the 2012 season as a projected starter and could end his career with a flourish.

No. 141: J.B. Fitzgerald, LB, Michigan -- Started only three games in his career, but appeared in 50 contests and was a valuable reserve and special teams performer for Michigan in 2011.

No. 148: Tyler Westphal, DE, Wisconsin -- Had a serious shoulder injury following his redshirt year in Madison and eventually transferred to North Dakota State.

Minnesota linebacker Brendan Beal, who has yet to play for the Gophers after transferring from Florida, is No. 133 in the rankings.
Michigan coach Brady Hoke said earlier this month he was still gathering information on wayward receiver Darryl Stonum's latest run-in with the law and would make a decision on Stonum's status.

Today, that decision came down, and it was really the only one to make: Hoke has dismissed the troubled Stonum from the team.

"I love Darryl and wish him nothing but the absolute best," Hoke said in a statement. "However, there is a responsibility and a higher standard you must be accountable to as a University of Michigan football student-athlete. That does not and will not change. It's unfortunate because I believe he has grown a great deal as a person since the beginning of the season. My hope is that maturing process continues."

Stonum's maturation process was severely called into question yet again when he was sentenced to 10 days in jail on Jan. 6 for violating his probation. Stonum was arrested for drunken driving as a freshman in 2008, then spent three days in jail in the summer of 2010 for violating probation. In the latest incident, he was stopped for driving on a suspended license while going to a probation meeting, and then lied to his probation officer about how he got there. At least he doesn't lack for nerve.

As Hoke mentioned in this statement, there is a standard for playing at a program like Michigan and others in the Big Ten, and having a guy who has now spent nearly two weeks in jail on probation violations alone falls short of this standard. Hoke inherited the Stonum mess, but cleaning it up was his first major disciplinary litmus test as Wolverines coach. He has set a good tone by not allowing Stonum to come back, proving he doesn't value winning over everything.

Stonum has started 25 games and played in 36 during his career, catching 76 passes for 1,008 yards and six touchdowns. He also returned 62 kickoffs for 1,538 yards and holds the single-season kickoff return mark with 39 returns for 1,001 yards in 2009. He redshirted this past season in response to his legal troubles.

"I appreciate everything the University of Michigan, Dave Brandon and Coach Hoke have done for me," Stonum said in the school's release. "I look forward to continuing my football career down the road, but more importantly, right now I'm focused on graduating from Michigan this spring. I understand only I am responsible for my actions. I'm sad about how all of this turned out, but I completely understand. I love this school and my team and will miss them all greatly. But I'll always be a Wolverine. I know I have grown and matured as a person over the last nine months, and I will continue to learn and grow every day. I want to thank everyone for all of their support, and I hope they will support me in the future."

We sincerely hope Stonum views this as a wake-up call and stops making poor choices. Perhaps he can transfer to a lower-level NCAA school and finish his college career, or take his chances as an NFL free agent. He could have been an important playmaker for the Michigan offense next season, especially with productive receiver Junior Hemingway graduating. Jeremy Gallon had a nice sophomore season but is a slot guy at 5-foot-8. The Wolverines will have to hope that Jeremy Jackson continues to improve, that Roy Roundtree can bounce back with a better senior season and that some youngsters come through at wideout, a position that looks a little shaky heading into spring ball.

But there are some things that are more important than experience and talent on the depth chart. Stonum earned his way out of the Michigan program, and good for Hoke for recognizing that.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

January, 6, 2012
Hope you have a great weekend. Lord knows I need one.

Joe from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Adam, regarding your big ten bowl column what do you think about Delaney twisting the arm of a few conference sponsors to create a bowl game in Indianapolis and/or Chicago and dumping more money into the Detroit bowlto attract higher profile opponents? Then get a tie in with the Pinstripe Bowl. Drop the Gator and TicketCity Bowls. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Joe, it wouldn't surprise me to see another bowl game or two take place in the Midwest besides the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl in Detroit. It's almost a guarantee the Big Ten's next bowl lineup, beginning in 2014, will feature more tie-ins with the Pac-12 besides the Rose. Kraft Fight Hunger in San Francisco makes a lot of sense for the Big Ten. Pinstripe also could be a possibility. They'll have to evaluate whether Gator and TicketCity are worth continuing or not.

Steiny from Dow City, Iowa, writes: Adam, youve posted many of my topics, so they must be good enough to post, hers a new one....what are the chances iowa goes after tom bradley, and second would he come to iowa? scale of 1-100 . I give it an 80 that kirk will try to obtain bradley and maybe one other penn state guy for the d-line whatcha think?

Adam Rittenberg: I think Bradley would be a great choice for Iowa, but the tricky part is determining how long he'd want to stay there. He has head-coaching aspirations and was a candidate for the Pitt vacancy last year. Kirk Ferentz likes staff continuity and would prefer not to have a guy bolt after one year. But I think Bradley, Larry Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden all would be good fits for defensive coordinator posts in the Big Ten or elsewhere.

Dan from O'Fallon, Ill., writes: Adam...I'm a PSU alum who would've liked to see Tom Bradley become head coach at PSU, but I don't understand a few things: 1. why does the media that follows PSU think they are owed information about what the hiring committee is doing...their shock at a new coach being hired without someone giving them the scoop first is bombastic and tiring. 2. I've been a PSU football fan for over 30 years, and I get that past players have a strong connection to the program, but it isn't their job to hire/fire the coach. Lavar Arrington and others need to get over themselves. I appreciate his loyalty, but his emotions are misplaced. Am I missing something?

Adam Rittenberg: Dan, your first point is valid, and while we in the media would like more information, it's not unusual for schools to be tight-lipped. Think the issue is the delay in confirming anything. The whole process has taken a lot longer than normal, even the process to confirm Bill O'Brien's hiring after ESPN reported it Thursday night. And there seems to be a lack of transparency not just with the media but with the current coaches and players. Tom Bradley deserved to be informed earlier than he was. Agree with your second point to an extent, but I also see why players want to be involved. They feel like Penn State is totally divorcing itself from the Joe Paterno era, and that stirs up emotions. Would there have been any harm done by just listening to them and what they had to say?

Martin from Michigan writes: After all the flack you gave MSU and Chris Rucker last year over him being allowed to play after one mistake, you let Stonum and UofM off the hook essentially after his 5th mistake. Show some journalistic integrity why don't you. Stonum should be gone. Bad enough he got off with just red-shirting a year.

Adam Rittenberg: Martin, I will weigh in more after Brady Hoke makes a decision on Stonum. I believe Stonum should be dismissed from the team. He has had several chances and has blown them. Now he's going back to jail for the second time. There should be consequences. If Hoke doesn't dismiss Stonum, I'll weigh in, just like I weighed in last year after Dantonio allowed Rucker to play. I love these fans who demand equal outrage on these situations, as if it somehow wipes away a poor decision made by their coach. It's silly.

Tim from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Hey Adam,Why is Ohio State ineligible for the B1G title game? As Alabama proved, bowls have NOTHING to do with winning your conference. Without expansion, OSU could win it (when standings determine the champ), why ban them with a conference championship game?

Adam Rittenberg: Not sure I understand your last point, but the Big Ten doesn't want its signature event to feature a team banned from a bowl for violating NCAA rules. Think the Rose Bowl committee wants to invite the team that loses to Ohio State in the Big Ten title game? That would be more than a little awkward. Makes perfect sense not to allow Ohio State in the Big Ten title game. Alabama is the exception rather than the rule. Imagine if this year's Big Ten title game featured a team banned from the bowls? Would be a little less on the line.

Stephen from Harrisonburg, Va., writes: Hey Adam the reports that I have seen have said that O'brien will continue to coach the Patriots for the rest of the season. How will he be able to recruit during these next three weeks if he is busy preparing for playoff games that could last through early February?

Adam Rittenberg: It poses quite the challenge, Stephen. He'd have to do most if not all of his recruiting over the phone, much like Charlie Weis did in 2005 when he took the Notre Dame job while continuing to coach with the Patriots through their Super Bowl run. He would need to get his assistants on board ASAP and have them out on the road as much as possible between now and signing day.

Vivek from Cambridge, Mass., writes: Adam, you and Brian both disappointed me in your discussion of Big Ten bowl performance. Brian especially wrote something to the effect that Big Ten teams should simply be better so that they aren't underdogs. I believe that the issue is more structural and hence not even a problem. Big Ten schools have huge alumni bases and fans willing to travel south (especially) in the winter, so they are attractive to bowl organizers; they are fundamentally more attractive to bowls than the quality of their teams. This will make them typically overmatched. But the fans enjoy the trips. Why is this something to be solved?

Adam Rittenberg: Maybe it shouldn't be solved, Vivek. But in that case, Big Ten fans should accept the losing bowl records and the national criticism that comes with it. What I'm saying is that to expect broadcasters to spend four hours talking about the Big Ten's tough bowl lineup and how the matchups aren't favorable and how Big Ten fans travel so well and how we should cut the Big Ten slack isn't realistic. I think there are lineups that maintain some high-profile games but don't make it so difficult overall. Right now, it's extremely tough for the Big Ten to post a winning record in the bowls. Maybe that doesn't matter, but it does shape perception like it or not. The Big Ten shouldn't get rid of the Rose Bowl or the Capital One or the Outback. But beyond that point, there could be some tweaks to make things a bit easier.

Ryan from San Francisco writes: Any chance we will get the end of the year power rankings for the big ten?

Adam Rittenberg: Absolutely, Ryan. Check the blog Tuesday late morning.
Darryl Stonum is headed back to jail, as a judge on Friday sentenced the Michigan wide receiver to 10 days for violating his probation.

Stonum, who received two years' probation following a drunken-driving arrest in May, was stopped Thursday by police for driving on a revoked license while en route to a probation meeting. He then lied to his probation officer about how he arrived for the meeting.

This is the same player who served three days in jail in summer 2010 for probation violations stemming from a drunken-driving arrest he had as a Wolverines freshman in 2008. Michigan coach Brady Hoke indefinitely suspended Stonum after his May arrest, and the receiver redshirted the 2011 season. After Michigan's win Tuesday night at the Allstate Sugar Bowl, Stonum told the Detroit Free Press that his "life is way different" and that his offseason would be "extremely focused."

Hoke told reporters Thursday that Stonum's status hadn't changed, adding that he's still gathering information. He also said he's not concerned about Stonum's decision-making.

Judge Charles Pope spelled it out pretty clearly for Stonum on Friday, admonishing Stonum for his behavior pattern and particularly for lying to his probation officer.
"To have somebody with four encounters with the criminal justice system involving the use and abuse of alcohol at the age of 21 is extremely unusual," Pope told Stonum. "You're less than one percent of the population as a result of that."

From colleague Michael Rothstein's story:
When sentenced, Stonum attempted to explain to the judge that he had just begun classes for the semester. He mumbled through most of his court appearance and told the court "I was stuck," which was why he drove himself to court.
To which Pope responded: "You were stuck because your actions have led to now."

Stonum has left Hoke with a big decision to make. And it might be a clear-cut decision.

Players have been dismissed from teams for a lot less. There have been examples at Big Ten schools throughout the season. Players rarely get third chances with the same program.

Few would be surprised if Hoke booted Stonum from the team. Although Stonum by all accounts had conducted himself well between his May arrest and Thursday's citation, there are consequences for poor decisions and for lying.

Let's see what Hoke decides ...
Michigan coach Brady Hoke told reporters Thursday that there's no change to Darryl Stonum's status at this time following the wide receiver's latest legal issue.

Stonum, who is on probation for operating a vehicle while visibly impaired, was stopped by Ann Arbor police Thursday morning for driving on a revoked license. He will appear in court Friday for a regularly scheduled probation hearing, and Thursday's incident, described in one report as a probation violation, could be addressed.

Hoke indefinitely suspended Stonum following his drunken driving arrest in May and eventually redshirted the wide receiver. Stonum, the team's second-leading receiver in 2010, has one year of eligibility remaining.

Stonum has had several missteps at Michigan. As a freshman in 2008, he was charged with operating a vehicle while intoxicated and driving with a suspended license. He spent three days in jail in summer 2010 because he didn't comply with terms of his probation.

Despite the latest issue, Hoke said Thursday he's not concerned with Stonum's decision-making.

When is it time to get concerned?



Saturday, 12/20
Monday, 12/22
Tuesday, 12/23
Wednesday, 12/24
Friday, 12/26
Saturday, 12/27
Monday, 12/29
Tuesday, 12/30
Wednesday, 12/31
Thursday, 1/1
Friday, 1/2
Saturday, 1/3
Sunday, 1/4
Monday, 1/12