Big Ten: Desmond Taylor

Northwestern injury report

November, 19, 2009
11/19/09
5:30
PM ET
Northwestern has issued its official injury report for Saturday's home contest against No. 16 Wisconsin (Big Ten Network, 3:30 p.m. ET).

OUT

Despite Smith's continued absence from the starting lineup, this is the healthiest Northwestern has been since the opening weeks of the season. Linebacker Ben Johnson and guard Desmond Taylor, both of whom have started games this season, are off the injury report after missing the last few games. Smith told me Wednesday that he expects to play in Northwestern's bowl game, which is good news for the playmaking senior. Brian Peters once again gets the start in Smith's spot alongside Brad Phillips. Taylor is listed as the backup right guard on this week's depth chart, while Johnson could see some time at linebacker as Northwestern tries to bring down Wisconsin star running back John Clay.

Northwestern injury report

November, 12, 2009
11/12/09
6:09
PM ET
Northwestern has issued its official injury report for Saturday's game at Illinois (ESPN Classic, noon ET).

OUT
  • RB Alex Daniel, ankle (out for season)
  • LB Ben Johnson, leg
  • S Brendan Smith, thumb
  • G Desmond Taylor, shoulder

These are the same four names as last week, which in a sense is good news for a team that has dealt with injuries all season. Backup quarterback Dan Persa doesn't appear on the report despite leaving last week's game against Iowa with an injury to his throwing hand that appeared serious at first. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald said Persa has progressed well this week, and Northwestern might not need him as much since starter Mike Kafka is now two weeks removed from a hamstring injury. Smith's absence hurts in the secondary as Northwestern faces a talented group of Illinois wide receivers, led by Arrelious Benn. The Wildcats need safeties Brad Phillips and Brian Peters to be healthy and effective. The offensive line held up decently last week despite Taylor's absence.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Northwestern has issued its official injury report for Saturday's game at No. 4 Iowa (ESPN, noon ET).

OUT
  • RB Alex Daniel, ankle (out for season)
  • LB Ben Johnson, leg
  • S Brendan Smith, thumb
  • OL Desmond Taylor, shoulder

The big news is here no Mike Kafka. The Wildcats starting quarterback doesn't appear on the report despite leaving last week's loss to Penn State with a pulled left hamstring. Kafka didn't practice a ton this week, but the Big Ten passing leader is expected to give it a go against the Hawkeyes. Both Kafka and head coach Pat Fitzgerald said Monday that Kafka will play. Still, I'd expect backup quarterback Dan Persa to get a decent amount of snaps on Saturday. Kafka's mobility likely will be limited, and Persa can spark the option attack. The other notable absence from the report is cornerback Sherrick McManis, who has battled leg problems. Northwestern will need McManis, its top cover man, against Iowa's talented wide receivers. Smith will be missed in the secondary, and Brian Peters will get the start opposite Brad Phillips. Taylor appeared as a co-starter at right guard on this week's depth chart, but Doug Bartels will get the start.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Northwestern's post-spring depth chart is out, and there aren't too many revelations.

Senior Mike Kafka remains the top quarterback and junior Stephen Simmons the top running back. Sophomore Jeravin Matthews and redshirt freshman Alex Daniel are competing for the No. 2 running back spot, though I could see either player claiming the top job at some point.

The only significant change is senior wide receiver Zeke Markshausen moving into a starting job at inside receiver ahead of Charles Brown. Northwestern boasts good depth at superback (tight end/fullback), with Josh Rooks still the starter ahead of both Drake Dunsmore and Brendan Mitchell.

Position battles to watch include right tackle (Kurt Mattes or Desmond Taylor) and defensive tackle (Adam Hahn or Marshall Thomas or Jack DiNardo). The starting linebacker corps appears set, though Northwestern might want to take a look at Matthews as a kickoff return man alongside Simmons and Sherrick McManis.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

EVANSTON, Ill. -- The sun was shining, AC/DC had been cranked up and Northwestern players gathered for the always entertaining "board drill" just as I rolled up to the practice field.

What perfect timing.

For those who don't know, the board drill is the ultimate display of testosterone. It calls for a series of offensive and defensive players to line up across from each other, separated by a board. The object is pretty simple: push the other guy back.

Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald, who absolutely loves this drill, determined the winners. Not surprisingly, the defense seemed to have the edge in Thursday's session. As "Thunderstuck" played in the background, cornerbacks Jordan Mabin and Mike Bolden, and defensive tackle Niko Mafuli won their board-drill matchups.

Other thoughts from Northwestern's hyped-up workout:

  • Running back is the team's biggest question after the loss of four-year starter Tyrell Sutton, and junior Stephen Simmons took most of the reps with the first team. Simmons performed well during team drills, showcasing his skills as both a runner and a receiver, much like Sutton did. He caught several screen passes and had a 15-yard touchdown run during the red zone work.
  • Redshirt freshman Alex Daniel is a bit banged up, so sophomore Jeravin Matthews got a lot of work at running back with the second-team offense. Matthews, one of only two true freshmen to see the field last fall, moves over from wide receiver and brings top-end speed to the backfield.
  • Projected starting quarterback Mike Kafka looked good to me, firing several passes to senior Andrew Brewer, the starting slot receiver who might finally be ready to be a No. 1 target. I heard after the workout that Kafka wasn't thrilled with his performance, but I didn't see too many mistakes. He hit Brewer on a deep out route early in team drills and had a touchdown run late in the workout.
  • Quarterback Dan Persa got a lot of work and looked very strong both on throws and as a runner. Persa made a nice throw to Zeke Markshausen on a post route and hit superback Brendan Mitchell for a touchdown during the red zone portion.
  • It's no secret that the defense will be the strength of this team once again this fall. Though All-American candidate Corey Wootton watched from the sideline -- he's recovering from ACL surgery -- several players stood out. Senior safety Brendan Smith recovered a fumble against the second-team offense, and cornerbacks Mabin and Sherrick McManis both broke up passes.
  • Northwestern will be deep in the secondary, and Brian Peters, who was very active Thursday, provides a third option at safety behind Smith and Brad Phillips. Ben Johnson also has generated some buzz at linebacker, as well as Jack DiNardo at defensive tackle.
  • Athletic director Jim Phillips stopped by to chat about a variety of topics. He plans to meet Chicago Cubs chairman Crane Kenney and several architects in the next few weeks at Wrigley Field to determine whether the field is large enough to accommodate a college football game. If so, Phillips said Northwestern definitely will play a late-season game at the Friendly Confines, most likely in 2010 or 2011. He wants to have enough time to promote the game and ensure all the logistics are in place at a stadium that hasn't held a football game since 1970.
  • Phillips also said a new contract/extension for Fitzgerald is "No. 1 on my to-do list." Conversations are under way and going well, so expect something to be finalized before preseason camp in August.
  • Defensive tackle Adam Hahn hobbled onto the field on crutches with a large cast over his right foot. Hahn broke a bone in his foot the first week of spring ball and had surgery. D-line coach Marty Long doesn't expect him to be out long. Defensive tackle Corbin Bryant and Wootton both are making progress following knee injury, with Bryant already starting to jog a bit.
  • The first-team offense: Mike Kafka at quarterback, Stephen Simmons at running back, Andrew Brewer at wide receiver, Sidney Stewart at wide receiver, Charles Brown at wide receiver, Kevin Frymire at wide receiver, Al Netter at left tackle, Doug Bartels at left guard, Ben Burkett at center, Keegan Grant at right guard and Kurt Mattes at right tackle. Desmond Taylor, a candidate to start at right tackle, is out for the spring with an injury. When Northwestern used superbacks, Brendan Mitchell and Josh Rooks got most of the work.
  • The first-team defense (keep in mind several starters are injured): Vince Browne at defensive end, Kevin Watt at defensive end, Jack DiNardo at defensive tackle, Marshall Thomas at defensive tackle, Ben Johnson at linebacker, Nate Williams at linebacker, Chris Jeske at linebacker, Sherrick McManis at cornerback, Jordan Mabin at cornerback, Brendan Smith at safety, Brian Peters at safety.
  • Jeske's work with the first-team defense is notable. He came to Northwestern as a blue-chip recruit but endured recurring back problems that have kept him on the field. Linebacker is the one thin position on the defense, so Jeske could provide a major boost.
  • After a play finished a little too close to where we were standing on the sideline, Fitzgerald ordered all spectators to the bleachers overlooking the practice field. The coach then came over and singled me out, joking that he didn't want to pay ESPN's insurance bill if I went down. Thanks, Fitz.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Several Big Ten head coaches addressed injury issues on today's conference call. Here's a quick rundown of the health watch around the league.

PENN STATE

Junior quarterback Daryll Clark practiced Monday and is expected to start Saturday at Iowa (ABC, 3:30 p.m.). Clark left an Oct. 25 game against Ohio State in the fourth quarter with an apparent concussion. Head coach Joe Paterno said Clark practiced in a no-contact jersey Monday but should be fully cleared for today's workout. Clark no longer needs further examinations from team doctors.

PURDUE

Head coach Joe Tiller will determine his starting quarterback later this week. Fifth-year senior Curtis Painter (separated throwing shoulder) only began throwing late last week and sat out the game against Michigan. How Painter throws today in practice will impact the decision. Backup quarterback Justin Siller won Big Ten Co-Offensive Player of the Week honors for his impressive performance against Michigan, but Painter's experience could be beneficial against No. 18 Michigan State.

"I haven't heard anybody say, 'You've got to be crazy if you're not [starting Siller]!'" Tiller said. "Mind you, it's only Tuesday."

INDIANA

Head coach Bill Lynch is hopeful that both running back Marcus Thigpen and quarterback Kellen Lewis will play Saturday against Wisconsin. Thigpen sustained an ankle injury last week against Central Michigan, and Lewis has battled a high ankle sprain in recent weeks but played against the Chippewas. Hoosiers reserve running back Bryan Payton will miss the Wisconsin game with an ankle injury.

MINNESOTA

Star wide receiver Eric Decker is expected to be fine for Saturday's game against Michigan (ESPN, noon ET) after spraining his ankle on a triple option pitch in last week's loss to Northwestern. Decker went in and out of the game several times in the fourth quarter and seemed to be limping. Head coach Tim Brewster said the junior is feeling good.

NORTHWESTERN

The Wildcats' growing list of injured starters will not include right tackle Desmond Taylor, who left last week's game against Minnesota with a apparent leg problem. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald said Taylor practiced Tuesday and should be fine for Saturday's contest against No. 11 Ohio State (ESPN2, noon ET).

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MINNEAPOLIS -- Both of these teams have credited their strong seasons to major improvements on the defensive side. It showed in a scoreless third quarter.

Minnesota safety Traye Simmons intercepted his second pass of the game to snuff out a Northwestern drive into Gophers territory. Moments earlier, the Gophers mounted a 92-yard drive but got nothing out of it as Northwestern held near the goal line and kicker Joel Monroe missed a chip-shot field goal attempt.

So here we are, one quarter to play. Northwestern's conservative scheme hasn't prevented turnovers, but the Wildcats remain in the game and have a good track record in close contests. They'll need to force a turnover to win.

Minnesota holds the momentum, and quarterback Adam Weber has been fabulous today, both with his arm and his feet. Unlike Northwestern's quarterbacks, who run virtually the same offense, Weber avoids turnovers and finds the holes in opposing defenses. Weber has done an excellent job utilizing all of his weapons.

Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka threw the two picks, but he also has set a school record for quarterback rushing with 15 carries for 149 yards. He has read the field well and found lanes to run, but his interceptions are proving costly.

Injuries have hit both teams, especially Northwestern. The Wildcats lost guard Desmond Taylor to an injury and star defensive end Corey Wootton went to the locker room with what looked like a right leg cramp. Minnesota standout wide receiver Eric Decker appeared to injure his left ankle on a 24-yard gain. Decker is receiving treatment on the Gophers sideline.

Big Ten internal affairs: Week 7

October, 8, 2008
10/08/08
8:37
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's time for our weekly look inside five Big Ten teams.

Illinois -- Judging solely by his size -- 6-foot-5, 250 pounds -- Jeff Cumberland should be a tight end. But after seeing the junior struggle with blocking and other trench duties in 2007, Illinois coach Ron Zook moved Cumberland to wide receiver. The switch worked last week as Cumberland, who missed time earlier this season with a foot stress fracture, had a 77-yard touchdown on his first reception of the fall. "He just wasn't doing the job down in the briar patch like we wanted him to do in terms of blocking and so forth," Zook said. "He's a very athletic guy that we knew we needed to get on the field so we talked to him about moving to the outside."

Iowa -- Redshirt freshman quarterback Marvin McNutt is auditioning at wide receiver, a spot where his athleticism could be better utilized this year. McNutt wasn't a major factor in the quarterback competition ultimately won byRicky Stanzi , but he continues to take some snaps should an emergency arise. Head coach Kirk Ferentz said the 6-foot-4, 210-pound McNutt welcomed the change but has taken time to adjust. "His legs are trying to catch up a little bit," Ferentz said. "He's been through two years of inactivity as a quarterback, so he's got sore feet, sore knees, sore everything else right now."

Michigan State -- The Spartans likely will be without starting cornerback Chris L. Rucker against Northwestern, but their secondary gets a big boost with the return of cornerback/safety Kendell Davis-Clark. Boasting 15 career starts, Davis-Clark has been out of action since sustaining a shoulder injury in the season opener at Cal. A major key Saturday will be the health of safety Otis Wiley, the Spartans' defensive catalyst who left last week's game against Iowa with a lower leg injury. Wiley leads the Big Ten in both interceptions (4) and passes defended (11) and ranks second in punt return average (11.9).

Northwestern -- The bye week gave the Wildcats a chance to get healthy, particularly on the offensive line. Right tackle Kurt Mattes will return from a knee injury, and guard Keegan Grant also could return from an ankle injury. Both players were projected starters heading into the season, and offensive line coach Bret Ingalls will have some playing-time decisions to make for Saturday's game against Michigan State (ESPN2, 3:30 p.m. ET). Junior Desmond Taylor has played well at both right tackle and right guard, and Northwestern is tied for fifth nationally in fewest sacks allowed (two in five games). Then again, the Wildcats aren't running the ball like they'd like to and could benefit from a greater rotation of linemen.

Penn State -- Head coach Joe Paterno hoped to play speedy junior A.J. Wallace at both cornerback and as a reserve wide receiver before the season, but a hamstring injury before the opener changed the script. For Wallace, the setback might have been a blessing in disguise, as he started at right cornerback last week at Purdue and has been elevated to a co-starter with Lydell Sargeant on this week's depth chart. "Sargeant, [Wallace] and [Tony] Davis, they're three good corners and they all should play, keep them fresh," Paterno said. "Nowadays, when you have to be ready for a lot of spread, you need that extra defensive back."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A couple of quick Northwestern notes. The Wildcats' game Saturday night at Duke will be broadcast online by ACC Select. Single-game passes cost $5.95. Here's the link to sign up and the direct link to the game.

Also, Northwestern's injury report is below:

Player Injury Status

David Arnold, S, Knee, Out

Drake Dunsmore, TE , Knee, Out (season)

Kevin Frymire, WR, Ankle, Out

Keegan Grant, G, Ankle, Out

Chris Jeske, LB, Knee, Out

Niko Mafuli, DT, Shoulder, Out

Bryce McNaul, LB, Leg, Out

Grant is a potentially significant loss because Northwestern doesn't have much experience on the offensive line. But right tackle Kurt Mattes didn't appear on the report, meaning he'll likely return after missing the season opener with a sprained knee. Mattes and Desmond Taylor likely will start at right tackle and right guard. The coaches love Arnold at safety, but the redshirt freshman hasn't been able to stay healthy in his career.

Big Ten internal affairs

September, 3, 2008
9/03/08
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Welcome to the first edition of internal affairs, which will take an inside look at five key developments around the Big Ten every Wednesday during the season.

Penn State -- Josh Gaines moved from defensive end to defensive tackle on several plays against Coastal Carolina and could continue to do so the rest of the season. It freed up Aaron Maybin (two sacks) for more pass-rushing opportunities, though Jerome Hayes got most of the playing time at Gaines' usual end spot. The Lions are a bit thin at tackle after the summer dismissals of Chris Baker and Phil Taylor, and the broken leg suffered by Devon Still. Gaines, the team's most experienced defensive lineman, collected four solo tackles in the opener.

Iowa -- Junior A.J. Edds is without a doubt Iowa's best linebacker, but his coaches are resisting the temptation to move him to the middle spot, where most top backers play. Edds says he can play all three linebacker positions but feels most comfortable on the strong side, where he can showcase his playmaking skills. "My natural home is the outside backer spot," said Edds, who recorded a safety and deflected a pass that led to an interception against Maine. "It's kind of a hybrid, playing on the D-line over a tight end a lot of the time, but you're also playing out there in coverage over some of the wide receivers. If the coaches didn't have faith in the other backers, I'm sure they would put me in the middle."

Indiana -- Mitchell Evans' days as a nomad appear over as the sophomore has found a home at wide receiver. Kellen Lewis' return from suspension and the decision to move Evans from quarterback to wideout is paying off already. As top receiver Ray Fisher battles a shoulder injury, Evans, a former safety, can step in and contribute. His size (6-3) and excellent hands give Indiana another option in the passing game. Also keep an eye on freshman Damarlo Belcher, who Lewis likens to a young James Hardy.

Michigan State -- The Spartans' depth on the defensive line and in the secondary helped produce lofty preseason expectations, but they're struggling to find capable bodies at running back and along the offensive line. Coach Mark Dantonio will use Javon Ringer as much as possible, but A.J. Jimmerson was held out of the Cal game and Ashton Leggett didn't touch the ball. Ringer is a horse, but he'll wear down fast if the Spartans don't find another back. The Spartans can't afford attrition up front, where Mike Bacon is listed as a possible starter at two positions (center and left guard).

Northwestern -- Don't be surprised to see junior offensive lineman Desmond Taylor in the starting lineup Saturday against Duke. Taylor has earned rave reviews throughout preseason camp and performed well in place of injured right tackle Kurt Mattes against Syracuse. Now Taylor could take Mattes' job or the one belonging to guard Joel Belding. Though Mattes and Belding are Northwestern's only two returning starters on the line, Taylor has plenty of experience and will see significant time at tackle or guard.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I've never played this much attention to another man's foot, much less his toes. But Beanie Wells' right foot dominated the Big Ten headlines on Labor Day. No matter how this turns out, Buckeyes fans have to be a bit concerned about Wells' growing injury history. For a guy who is 237 pounds and freaking huge up close, Wells seems to have a lot of ailments.

Here's a quick look around the league this afternoon as several teams released their Week 2 depth charts.

  • Columbus Dispatch beat writers Ken Gordon and Tim May weigh in on the Beanie brouhaha, agreeing that the Buckeyes have no business playing Wells against Ohio. It might even force the coaches to think more creatively before the USC game.
  • Wells remains as the starting running back on the Week 2 depth chart (page 11) ahead of redshirt freshman Dan "Boom" Herron. Defensive tackle Nader Abdallah is still listed before Doug Worthington, who sat out the first three quarters against Youngstown State, presumably as a punishment for his DUI.
  • Purdue's depth chart for Saturday's opener against Northern Colorado shows Greg Orton, Keith Smith and Brandon Whittington as the starting wide receivers. Junior college transfer Aaron Valentin is listed behind Whittington, while fellow JUCO transfer Arsenio Curry isn't on the two-deep, but plenty of wideouts will play, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier. Keep an eye on strong safety Dwight Mclean, who won a starting safety spot opposite Torri Williams and could provide a big boost for the Boilers secondary.
  • Standout defensive tackle John Gill is listed as a starter on Northwestern's Week 2 depth chart (page 8) after being suspended for the opener against Syracuse. Coach Pat Fitzgerald's message clearly got through to Gill, who last week was named defensive practice player of the week, a distinction that usually goes to younger players still proving themselves. Gill's replacement against Syracuse, sophomore Corbin Bryant, turned in an impressive performance and is now pushing incumbent Adam Hahn for the other starting spot. Offensive lineman Desmond Taylor continues to make strides and is listed as a potential starter at both right guard and right tackle.
  • Michigan's depth chart (page 11) didn't change much at the key positions, as both Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet are listed as possible starters at quarterback and freshmen Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw are the same at running back. Linebacker Marell Evans is making a push for a starting outside linebacker spot, and freshman wideout Darryl Stonum finds himself in the mix at two receiver positions (X and Z). The Detroit Free Press' Michael Rosenberg is convinced Threet should start against Miami (Ohio).
  • Starting fullback Chris Pressley will be back for Wisconsin this week against Marshall, and tight end Travis Beckum practiced Sunday and could return. But defenders Jonathan Casillas and Aaron Henry still are a bit away from seeing the field, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Badgers Blog.
  • Penn State's matchup against Oregon State is by far the best Big Ten game this weekend, and it might not even be that great if the Beavers don't upgrade their run defense, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' Bob Flounders writes in his blog.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Happy Labor Day. It's a day off for most of you (I hope), but not me. I'll be back with updates throughout the day. Before looking ahead to Week 2 and a set of Big Ten games unlikely to make your must-see list, here's a quick look at the best from the first weekend.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Northwestern offensive line coach Bret Ingalls looks at redshirt freshmen Al Netter and Ben Burkett and knows that they'll do big things down the road. Ingalls looks at true freshmen like Nick Adamle and Brian Mulroe and knows that the future of the Wildcats' line is in good hands.

The only problem is Northwestern can't wait around for those young offensive linemen to ripen. With a stockpile of senior skill players led by quarterback C.J. Bacher and running back Tyrell Sutton, the Wildcats need their front five to produce right away.

It might be sound unfair to say Northwestern's season hinges on the offensive line. Too bad. Northwestern's season hinges on the offensive line.

"They're ahead of maybe what I thought, and yet we've still got to play a game," Ingalls said of his group. "We're making some progress, but until we play somebody different, it's hard to know."

The Wildcats lose three starters up front, including mainstays Trevor Rees and Dylan Thiry. Bacher will receive snaps in the shotgun from a redshirt freshman (Burkett) and have his blind side protected by another redshirt freshman (Netter) and a guy who spent the last three seasons playing defense (Keegan Kennedy).

Throw in the fact that Northwestern has a new offensive coordinator (Mick McCall) and will often operate in the no-huddle, a strategy that produced stellar results in 2000 but with a veteran line leading the way. Is it a little daunting? No doubt. But Ingalls doesn't want his linemen over-thinking, which became a problem for a more seasoned unit at times last year.

"Regardless if we're beating our guy each time," he said, "we need to be able to come back, snap after snap and have some confidence, play fast and just let 'em go. If they let up because they don't have that confidence, they're probably in for a long day. So as long as they're playing hard, I'm going to feel good.

"The tempo is a lot faster, so they've got to be able to finish a play. Eye on the football, run to it, let's go."

Ingalls has some flexibility with the group but decided to leave returning starters Kurt Mattes and Joel Belding at right tackle and right guard, the positions they played last season. Netter nearly played last fall at tackle as a true freshman, and Kennedy won the starting spot at left guard after being low on the depth chart at defensive tackle.

"Just a hunger to want to play," head coach Pat Fitzgerald said of Kennedy, a senior. "He's earned that opportunity. He's just chomping at the bit, but he knows he has a lot to learn."

Lack of starting experience is an obvious concern, but depth might not be. Ingalls praised the preseason performances of junior tackles Desmond Taylor and Mike Boyle, and former walk-on Keegan Grant has pushed Belding for a starting position.

Though Ingalls likes what he has seen from the true freshmen, who headlined Northwestern's 2008 recruiting class, he hopes he doesn't need to play any of them.

"Certainly you want to five to glue together and go play," Ingalls said, "but right now, our depth might be better than it's been."

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