Big Ten: DeVier Posey

Darrell Hazell's job requires him to evaluate all of Purdue's players, but he knows some position groups better than others.

Before taking his first head-coaching position at Kent State after the 2010 season, Hazell coached wide receivers at five different schools: Eastern Illinois, Western Michigan, Army, Rutgers and Ohio State, where he worked with the Buckeyes' wideouts from 2004-2010. Hazell also was an all-conference wide receiver at Muskingum University, where he still holds team records for career receptions (132) and receiving yards (1,966).

After coaching standouts such as Santonio Holmes, DeVier Posey and Anthony Gonzalez, Hazell can spot a potentially great receiver faster than most. He sees one in DeAngelo Yancey.

"He's the guy in the room that's different from everyone else," Hazell recently told "We need to get him to play different than everyone else. He can be a very special guy."

Yancey had a somewhat special freshman year despite Purdue's struggles. He led the Boilers with 546 receiving yards, 206 more than any teammate. Yancey twice eclipsed 100 receiving yards in Big Ten games and was responsible for two of Purdue's three longest plays from scrimmage before the offense ignited in the finale against Indiana.

Only six other FBS freshmen averaged more receiving yards than Yancey in 2013. But he can do so much more.

"He's arguably one of the best players on the field every single time he's out there," Purdue quarterback Austin Appleby said. "He's just got to play like it every single time. That speaks to his maturation. He's still very young, but that doesn’t matter.

"We all know how talented he is."

[+] EnlargeDeAngelo Yancey
AP Photo/Gene J PuskarDeAngelo Yancey led Purdue in receiving yards as a freshman.
Yancey recognizes what others see in him. He knows he has to bring it out more this season for a Purdue offense that ranked last in the Big Ten in points and yards (119th nationally in both categories).

Several weeks ago, Hazell gave Yancey some practice tape from Hazell's time at Ohio State. Yancey watched players such as Posey and Ted Ginn go through the same drills and work on the same concepts as he is this spring.

Hazell doesn't often bring up his time at Ohio State, so there was a purpose when he did.

"He sent those guys to the league," Yancey said, "and ultimately that's where I want to go."

Hazell thinks Yancey is similar to some of his former Buckeyes wideouts.

"He's got size, he's got speed, he's got quickness, he's got the ability to catch around people," Hazell said.

An Atlanta native, Yancey initially committed to Kentucky but switched to Purdue last January after feeling unwanted by the new UK coaching staff. The 6-foot-2 wideout showed up to campus at around 200 pounds but quickly added 20 to his frame.

It took time to adjust to the extra weight, but Yancey felt comfortable running by the end of the season. It also took time to adjust to the responsibility placed on his shoulders.

"I was [surprised] early during the season, but once the season started progressing on, I embraced the role," he said. "When the big plays were needed, I took it upon myself to try and make them."

Yancey's Year 2 goals include more yards after the catch and being a leader.

"When I first came here, I wouldn't say stuff, or I would think they already have that leader position," he said. "But we've established if you're going to be a leader, make sure you're doing leader things, no matter what year you are."

One of those things is film study, which Yancey is doing more of this offseason. Hazell wants the rising sophomore to gain greater confidence against press coverage.

"We can do things structurally and schematically to help him," Hazell said, "but you'd rather have him figure it out first, how to beat man-to-man coverage, whether you're stuck in the boundary, whether you're to the field."

When he figures it out, look out.

"You'll see as time goes on, he's going to be huge for us," Appleby said. "We've just got to keep working every single day to get that killer mindset, that killer instinct to go get it. Because it's going to be one on one when the game is on the line, and everybody in the stadium is going to know who's getting the ball, and he's got to make a play."
Everyone knows Terrelle Pryor headlined Ohio State's nationally acclaimed recruiting class in 2008.

But who can name the Buckeye's No. 2 rated player in the class, according to ESPN Recruiting? Hint 1: It wasn't Mike Adams, Mike Brewster, J.B. Shugarts or DeVier Posey. Hint 2: He's still in Columbus.

It might surprise some to know Etienne Sabino came to Ohio State with as much hype as the others, besides Pryor. ESPN Recruiting ranked him as the nation's top inside linebacker and No. 18 player overall. Sabino, who had an excellent size-speed combo coming out of Miami's Dr. Krop High School, received similar accolades from other recruiting services.

[+] EnlargeEtienne Sabino
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesEtienne Sabino, right, is looking to end his career at Ohio State the right way in 2012.
Yet unlike Pryor, Brewster and the others, Sabino didn't make an impact right away. He played mostly special teams as a freshman, recording six tackles. He had virtually the same results as a reserve in 2009 (13 games played, six tackles made).

Pegged as a starter in the spring of 2010, Sabino had high hopes entering fall camp. Linebackers coach Luke Fickell said of Sabino that spring, "He's the guy. ... This has been his best spring so far." But a great spring didn't translate into fall camp, as Andrew Sweat beat out Sabino for the third starting linebacker spot alongside Ross Homan and Brian Rolle. Sweat had been another decorated recruit in 2008, although not as heralded as Sabino.

Sabino and the coaches agreed he should redshirt the season, and while a rash of injuries midway through the season nearly forced him onto the field, he was able to sit out.

His wait for a bigger role finally ended in 2011, as he started five games and recorded 62 tackles, including 6.5 for loss and two sacks. It was a step, although not a huge one. Ask most Ohio State fans what they're excited about at linebacker entering 2012, and the name Ryan Shazier likely will be brought up before Sabino's.

"Coming in from high school, you want everything to happen right away," Sabino told "You want to jump in, you want to contribute to the team, you want to be a superstar. Unfortunately, it doesn't always happen that way. As of right now, I think my career, would I want it to be a little better at this point? Yes. But I feel like it’s getting better in the past year or so, and I'm looking to build on that.

"I just feel ready. I felt ready before, but I have such a good grasp of what we're doing and what's expected."

As one of just eight members of the 2008 class still with the Buckeyes, the 6-foot-3, 237-pound Sabino is embracing a greater leadership role. He called the most recent spring practice "the most comfortable I’ve felt since I've been here." He has embraced the scheme under Fickell, the team's defensive coordinator, and his role as an outside linebacker after getting a look at the middle earlier in his career.

Ohio State's defense took a step back in 2011, and the linebacker play was below program standards. While the Buckeyes have depth questions at linebacker outside of Sabino, Shazier and Storm Klein, Sabino has high hopes for the group.

"We pride ourselves on being Linebacker U," Sabino said. "There might be a little bit of a controversy everywhere else, but we truly feel this is Linebacker University and we're trying to uphold that tradition here."

Fickell, who like many had such high hopes for Sabino coming out of spring practice in 2010, has seen the fifth-year senior embrace the urgency before his final season in Scarlet and Gray.

"He is an unbelievable example to a lot of guys because he was one of those highly, highly recruited guys," Fickell told "Things didn't happen for him really fast, and he's had a true up-and-down college career from what people might have thought or he might have thought when he came out. It just doesn’t always happen for everybody really fast.

"We always try to tell them, 'It’s not about where you start, it's where you finish.' He's on that route to really be able to finish very, very well."

Sabino still has time to make Ohio State fans remember his name.

Big Ten mailblog

May, 1, 2012
Catching up on the mail. You can always reach me with questions or comments here.

Matt from Dallas writes: Adam, good article on whether players benefited from jumping early to the draft, can you do a similar article about players who were hurt this year by waiting to enter the draft then going last year. Being a Husker fan I believe Dennard and Crick were hurt significantly, just curious on your thoughts about other teams and players in the Big 10.

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, not sure if I'll do another post, but I can definitely discuss some of those players here. It would have been interesting to see where Crick would have been drafted had he come out after the 2010 season. He almost certainly would have gone higher than the fourth round. Missing half the 2011 season didn't help Crick, and there seemed to be some questions about him even before he suffered the pectoral injury. Dennard is a different case. He didn't hurt his draft stock much during the regular season and arguably helped it with performances like the ones against Michigan State and Iowa. His problems seemed to surface in predraft events, which could have happened after the 2010 season as well, and the arrest on the weekend before the draft.

One player who certainly should have come out after 2010 is Ohio State center Mike Brewster, who didn't hear his name called at all last weekend. Brewster wasn't part of the infamous Tat-5, but he was hurt by their actions, as Ohio State's offense went from potentially elite to one of the nation's weakest. Penn State receiver Derek Moye is another undrafted player who might have fared better had he come out after 2010. An extra year in State College with shaky quarterbacks didn't help his stock.

Hunter from Jackson, Mich., writes: I've heard several analysts saying that this may be Michigan's year to run the table and win the National Championship. But why are the Spartans left out? Though their offense may be hard to predict right now, they are returning 10 of 12 starters from one of the nation's best defenses last season. They also have very winnable games at home in ND, OSU, and NEB. If the offense can work out its kinks by the time conference play begins, and if they can pull out two winnable games in Madison and Ann Arbor, why not us?

Adam Rittenberg: Who is saying Michigan will run the table? Have you seen that schedule? Alabama (neutral but basically road), Notre Dame (road), Nebraska (road), Ohio State (road) and Michigan State (home). While I see more folks predicting Michigan to win the Big Ten, it's a stretch to see the Wolverines making the national title game with such a tough slate. That said, you're right about people overlooking Michigan State. There's too much attention paid to who leaves on offense and not enough to who comes back on defense. The Spartans might need to win a lot of games 17-14 this season, but I don't expect many teams to put up points against William Gholston, Denicos Allen, Johnny Adams & Co. As far as the national title, I don't put Michigan State in the mix, largely for the same reason as Michigan. The schedule isn't easy, despite more marquee games at home than the Wolverines. It will be very tough to win in both Ann Arbor and Madison.

Bottom line: Michigan State and Michigan are both Big Ten title contenders, not national title contenders. And not much separates the teams.

Andrew from Indianapolis writes: You mentioned how Iowa and Wisconsin placed so many players in the NFL, and how programs that develop NFL talent resonate with potential recruits. Given that, wouldn't Denard Robinson's best shot at the NFL be at a position other than QB? And might recruits look at Hoke's decision to keep him at QB as hindering, not helping his chances to get to the next level?

Adam Rittenberg: No, I don't think that'd be the case, Andrew. Robinson wants to be a quarterback, and he gives Michigan the best chance to win by playing quarterback right now. NFL scouts see him run around and make defenders look terrible each week for the Wolverines. It's not a stretch for them to envision him catching passes at wide receiver, where he'll likely play at the next level. Robinson certainly will have to show he can play a different spot in the predraft workouts, but I don't think Brady Hoke is holding him back at Michigan. It might be a different situation if Hoke was forcing Robinson to play quarterback, which isn't the case at all.

David from State College, Pa., writes: With a playoff basically coming the last real thing I see that is being looked at is the location of the Semifinals. 1 and 2 seed's hosting the sites on their campus seems to rub people the wrong way because they say some college stadiums are small or the town cant deal with the influx of people. Why not allow each conference (All not just the power six) choose a site for there semi if they have a team hosting a semi? Just as an example the B1G could choose Indy and no matter what B1G team ended up 1 or 2 Indy would be the location. This would also lessen the travel burden on fans if chosen correctly by the conferences.

Adam Rittenberg: David, I like the idea, but it would be tough to execute. The challenge would be the relatively short time to prepare between championship weekend and the semifinal games. Would Lucas Oil Stadium be willing to keep a date open for a possible semifinal? That's a bit of a gamble, and the venue could end up losing a lot of money. The proposal being considered that includes "anchor" bowls gives leagues a bit of freedom, like the Big Ten ensuring the Rose Bowl is a semifinal if it has a team in the top 2. The Rose Bowl is going to have a game no matter what, so advance planning isn't an issue. The plan I advocate, the one that truly benefits the fans, is to have these games on campus. The campus venues will be available, and the travel burden would be minimal for most of the fans attending the games.

Stephen from Chicago writes: Hi Adam, I'm sure you saw that Purdue recently unveiled a new train logo that Nike designed because they thought our old logo was too hard to work with on apparel. (Despite working for so many years...) Well, like most Boilermakers, I was none too pleased with the new logo as it takes away a lot of the dynamic, aggressiveness, and uniqueness of our original Boilermaker Special logo. So being a graduate of Purdue's industrial design program, I designed my own interpretation of a new logo, merging the old logo with the new one. I kept it symmetrical as that was one of Nike's biggest complaints, but added in the things they took away, like the block P, the angled smokestack, the two-toned Purdue text, and the old gold (which is our official school color; not that pale yellow). I also simplified the smoke, and only used 4 colors like the old logo, rather than the 5 of the newer one. So you can check it out here. Let me know what you think! I'm just trying to keep my fellow Purdue fans excited about our athletics program despite the changes the administration keeps making that deflates fans' enthusiasm. Thanks for reading and looking. Boiler up!

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the note, Stephen, and well done on the design. I like it. The block P in the train logo is definitely a nice touch, and the old gold is definitely preferable to what I saw with the new logo, which looks a bit cartoonish to me. There's always going to some disagreement when schools change their logos, and I understand the reasons (Nike, $$$) why Purdue needed to make a switch. It's always good, however, to see some different views, so thanks for providing one.

Adam from Chicago writes: At a totally unscientifically random point in the 3rd round of the NFL draft, the Big Ten has had 14 players taken (out of 94, which isn't so bad at all). But look at these breakdowns: 9 are down linemen, 1 is a quarterback (this will soon be 2 as the excellent Kirk Cousins goes somewhere), and 4 play all the other positions combined. The Big Ten is clearly one of or the preeminent producer of professional linemen among the conferences. I would argue 2 drafted QBs is solid, and I don't think it's fair to call Big Ten QB play poor lately. Clearly though, it's the other positions that are increasingly dreadful in the Big Ten. This is an often discussed topic, but is there any hope for better Big Ten skill players?

Adam Rittenberg: Adam, it's definitely a problem in the Big Ten, especially compared against leagues like the SEC and Big 12. The Big Ten had a lot of good wide receivers in 2011, but only one, Illinois' A.J. Jenkins, went in the first two rounds. Ohio State's DeVier Posey, who only played in three games last year, was the next Big Ten wideout off of the board in the third round. This trend needs to change going forward, and it's hard to pinpoint the solution, whether it's recruiting differently or placing a greater premium on developing receivers. The quarterback position also needs to be upgraded, as the Big Ten hasn't had a signal caller drafted in the first round since Penn State's Kerry Collins in 1995! That's horrible. I also think cornerback is a spot where the Big Ten needs more elite-level prospects to emerge. Again, a lot of it is recruiting, but it's also developing players into stars who appeal to NFL teams.

Podcast: Spielman on Ohio State, NFL draft

April, 30, 2012
ESPN analyst Chris Spielman shares his thoughts on Mike Adams, DeVier Posey, Dan Herron, Nate Ebner, the Vikings' draft, Urban Meyer, Ohio State's recruiting and more.
The NFL draft begins Thursday night. You probably weren't aware of that, because the draft, like most things associated with the National Football League, gets very little media coverage. Ahem.

Luckily, Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett are stepping into this void to talk about the draft, and specifically the Big Ten prospects hoping to hear their name called over the long weekend.

Brian Bennett: Adam, we usually leave draft talk to people with better hair than us, like Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. But let's give it a shot. You know the NFL is a different game when Iowa's Riley Reiff is widely expected to be the top player taken from the Big Ten. Reiff is an excellent player and terrific pro prospect, no doubt. But if you would have asked league fans to pick a most valuable player from the conference this season, Reiff probably wouldn't have cracked the Top 10.

Speaking of the Top 10, the Big Ten hasn't had a player selected in that range for the past three years and is likely to make it four this year. What, if anything, does that say about the talent the league has been producing? And is Reiff the first guy you would take from the conference if you had an NFL team? (I'll resist from making wisecracks about your Big Ten fantasy team management last year).

Adam Rittenberg: Hey now, Year 2 will be different, my friend. The Shorties are coming for you. The Big Ten's Top 10 drought is certainly noteworthy, and I think it stems in part from the league producing fewer elite pro-caliber quarterbacks and cornerbacks in recent years. It does surprise me that the Big Ten hasn't had a defensive lineman in the top 10 recently, as the league has been very strong at both line spots. I think that will change in 2013. As for Reiff, he was about as under-the-radar as an elite player could get during his time at Iowa. He certainly performed well, but you didn't hear much about him, even compared to previous Hawkeyes standout linemen like Bryan Bulaga. Reiff is a masher, though, and while some say he's not the most dominant tackle, he should be able to help an NFL team this coming season.

I'd want to start my team with a potential difference-maker on the defensive line. The Big Ten has plenty of options, but Illinois' Whitney Mercilus is a natural pass-rusher who can put up big numbers. Have Merci? Yes, please. What's your view of the Big Ten's defensive line crop entering the draft?

BB: We both agreed that the defensive line, especially on the interior, is where the league's true strength lay in 2011. I'm a bit surprised that some mock drafts don't have Michigan State's Jerel Worthy, who has the chance to be a major presence on defense, in the first round and that Penn State's Devon Still, who was wildly productive last season, is being projected as a second-rounder at best. I'd rather take one of those guys than roll the dice on Memphis' Dontari Poe, a combine wonder who did next to nothing in college. And though Michigan's Mike Martin is a little short by NFL standards, I have little doubt he'll be a productive pro.

[+] EnlargeIowa's Riley Reiff
Jeffrey G. Pittenger/US PRESSWIREIowa's Riley Reiff could be the first Big Ten player selected in the NFL draft.
I'm also interested in seeing how the centers get drafted. Wisconsin's Peter Konz, Michigan's David Molk and Ohio State's Michael Brewster were arguably the top three centers in the nation last year. Molk, of course, publicly said he's the best of the three, and he did win the Rimington Trophy. Konz likely will go first, but I will be fascinated to see who ends up having the best career.

You mentioned quarterbacks. What do you think about Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson as potential NFL players? And will Dan Persa get a shot somewhere?

AR: Cousins should be the first Big Ten quarterback off the board, and many projections have him going in the second round. He clearly improved his stock during the predraft process. While everyone raves about the character of both Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin -- and for good reasons -- Cousins, as we both know, certainly fits into the same category as those two. He's not the fastest or most athletic guy, but he's extremely smart and played in a pro-style system at Michigan State. He could end up being a solid pro quarterback.

The issue for both Wilson and Persa is size, Persa more so than Wilson. While Wilson boasts tremendous arm strength and athleticism, his height scares teams. He does a tremendous job of extending plays and can make all of the throws, but he'll have to prove himself as a consistent pocket passer in a league where everyone is really big and really fast. Looks like a midround selection. Whether or not Persa gets drafted at all will be interesting. The guy obviously has a ton of heart and tremendous leadership skills, but he's small and suffered a major injury at Northwestern. I think Todd McShay summed up the sentiment about Persa when he told the Chicago Tribune, "I want to like Persa, but as an NFL prospect, he is limited." Persa will find his way onto a roster, but he'll have a lot to prove.

We've read a lot of draft evaluations in recent weeks. Which Big Ten player could be a real steal for a team this weekend?

BB: The guy whom I think is really undervalued is Iowa's Marvin McNutt. I've seen him going as late as the fifth or sixth round, which seems (Mc)nuts to me. Sure, it's a deep draft for receivers, and McNutt might not have blazing speed. But we saw him make some absolutely spectacular catches last season, and he closed his career as the Hawkeyes' all-time leader in receiving touchdowns. He has good size and produced 1,300 receiving yards in what was clearly not a gimmicky, pass-happy offense. If I were a GM and he was sitting there in Round 4 or later, I'd happily grab him.

Two other guys I think can be big bargains for teams are Nebraska's Lavonte David and Ohio State's Mike Adams. Both are being projected as second-rounders for different reasons (David because of size, Adams for off-the-field issues in college), but I think both will have long and stellar careers. They'll bring first-round value without the price.

Who do you see as underrated, or possibly overrated, from the Big Ten in this draft?

AR: I would have put Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler in the underrated category, but it seems like teams have caught on to how good he can be. He'll likely be a late first-round pick. Same with Konz and maybe Adams. It baffles me why Devon Still isn't projected higher in the draft. Two others I'd put in the underrated category are Michigan's Martin and Iowa's Mike Daniels. You don't have to be Vince Wilfork to be an effective NFL defensive tackle. Both Martin and Daniels are smaller defensive tackles, but they're both extremely strong physical and play with sound fundamentals. Both men have been tutored by excellent defensive coaches, and the teams that select them will be inheriting very hard workers.

Two of the more intriguing Big Ten prospects are Ohio State receiver DeVier Posey and Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick. Posey, who I chatted with briefly last week in Columbus, played only three games last fall because of suspensions stemming from NCAA violations. He's clearly a gifted guy, but it'll be interesting to see how much the off-field issues and lack of playing time impact his draft position. Crick entered 2011 as an All-America candidate but missed most of the season with injury. He definitely can help an NFL team, but like with Posey, there are question marks.

OK, time to wrap up this draft discussion. What do you think the major story line regarding the Big Ten will be coming out of this weekend's festivities?

BB: I'll go out on a limb and say Reiff is not the first Big Ten player drafted, as someone reaches for Mercilus, Worthy or Konz first. And I think the other big stories will be with the quarterbacks, as Cousins is drafted in the second round and Wilson is picked higher than people expect. What are your predictions?

AR: I wouldn't mind if that someone landing Reiff or Mercilus is my Chicago Bears, but that's another debate. Worthy's selection will be fascinating, as his stock has been pretty volatile throughout the process. I think both Martin and Daniels go earlier than expect, while Wilson has to wait a while. It'll be fascinating to see where Molk ends up. No matter where he's selected, he'll feel overlooked. As a short guy myself, I'm definitely rooting for the vertically challenged (Molk, Wilson, Persa, Martin, Daniels etc.). Another story line: Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, whose draft stock already had dropped before his arrest over the weekend.

Should be a fun weekend.
The NFL draft is a little more than 24 hours away, and our analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. have come out with their final mock drafts.

(Let's pause here for a moment of silence for the 2012 mock draft process. May it rest in peace. But never fear, the 2013 mocks are just around the corner!).

There's not a ton of change in Kiper's final first-round mock Insider. Iowa's Riley Reiff is still the top Big Ten player off the board, now at No. 18 to San Diego. Kiper has Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus one spot behind Reiff, to the Bears. The only other Big Ten player he has going in the first round is Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler, at No. 30 to San Francisco.

McShay, along with Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl from Scouts Inc. have undertaken the massive enterprise of mocking the entire seven rounds of the draft Insider. Whew. Here's where they have Big Ten products heading:

Round 1

No. 13: Reiff
No. 25: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
No. 28: Mercilus
No. 30: Zeitler

Round 2

No. 34: Jeff Allen, OT, Illinois
No. 35: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
No. 43: Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
No. 44: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
No. 47: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
No. 51: Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
No. 63: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois

Round 3

No. 89: Mike Martin, DT, Michigan

Round 4

No. 96: Mike Daniels DT, Iowa
No. 97: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
No. 99: Adam Gettis, G, Iowa
No. 106: Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin
No. 118: Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa
No. 120: Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan State
No. 121: Markus Zusevics, OT, Iowa
No. 123: Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
No. 126: Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State
No. 132: Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska

Round 5

No. 137: David Molk, C, Michigan
No. 150: Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa
No. 161: Trent Robinson, S, Michigan State
No. 163: Michael Brewster, C, Ohio State
No. 165: DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State

Round 6

No. 207: Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State

Round 7

No. 211: B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State
No. 216: Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin
No. 219: Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State
No. 221: Derek Dimke, K, Illinois
No. 223: Tyler Nielsen, LB, Iowa
No. 231: Marcel Jones, OT, Nebraska
No. 244: Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan
No. 247: Bradie Ewing, FB, Wisconsin
No. 248: Kevin Koger, TE, Michigan

A few notables not listed on this seven-round mock: Northwestern WR Jeremy Ebert, TE Drake Dunsmore, and QB Dan Persa; Penn State WR Derek Moye; Minnesota WR Da'Jon McKnight, Michigan DE Ryan Van Bergen, Wisconsin OT Josh Oglesby.

How accurate are these mock drafts? It is almost time to find out. Let's do this for real.

Checking in from Ohio State ...

April, 19, 2012
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Greetings from the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, where I'll be spending the next day or so with the Ohio State Buckeyes.

I'm scheduled to visit with head coach Urban Meyer, some assistant coaches, and several players later today. On my way in I bumped into former Buckeyes wide receiver DeVier Posey, who is anxiously awaiting next week's NFL draft. Posey has no idea where he'll be selected after playing in just three games during his senior season. He just wants to be in a good situation. While Posey made some off-field missteps during his Buckeyes career, he's a talented player who will get an opportunity at the next level. Best of luck to him.

Turning back to the current team, Ohio State is almost through its first spring under Meyer, and will wrap things up with the spring game Saturday at Ohio Stadium. The installation of a fast-paced, no-huddle spread offense has been a big storyline, as the Buckeyes divert from a more conservative scheme. Meyer has been impressed with quarterback Braxton Miller so far, although he's on the lookout for more playmakers to develop. There seem to be fewer question marks on defense, where Ohio State returns most of its core, led by All-America candidate John Simon on the defensive line.

Much more to come from C-Bus, and check the blog for Ohio State coverage the next two days and into next week.

Big Ten Thursday mailbag

March, 1, 2012
It's the first day of March, which means football practice is almost here, the madness is upon us, baseball is close and spring is about to bloom. Oh, and it's Thursday mailbag time. What's not to love?

Travis from St. Louis writes: I guess we'll know when Iowa plays MSU in October how good the offense can be. I think you correctly point out the concern how well Greg Davis can do at Iowa considering Texas is consistently working with 4-5 stars recruits. I think the hallmark of a good coach is the re-teaching of talent to the next man in. It's reasonable to think Davis will struggle with that at Iowa. I also agree that Ken O'Keefe got a bad rap. There weren't complainers during Kirk Ferentz's glory years 2002-2004. I think that O'Keefe did a pretty good job last year. I would argue his offense definitely underachieved from 2007-2010 even with the Orange Bowl year. Iowa survived those years on defense and several future NFL players (Clayborn, Angerer, Spievey, Klug etc).

Brian Bennett: Hello to you in St. Louis, Travis. I'm getting married there this summer and am getting excited about the Cardinals this year. But I digress. You make some good points, especially about Iowa's defense. I think that's really the key, because when Ferentz's teams are at their best, they're playing really good defense and the offense is controlling the clock with the running game while avoiding mistakes. Iowa is probably never going to score 50 points a game like Davis' Texas team with Vince Young did, but that's not Ferentz's style.

With a normal defensive effort, the Hawkeyes would have scored enough points to beat Iowa State last year and should have been able to hold Minnesota to under 21 points. Just flip those two results, and all of a sudden we're talking about a nine-win team instead of a seven-win club.

Sean from Tucson, Ariz., writes: You had Kirk Cousins at No. 6 in your preseason rankings, and then in the article you had nothing but praise for him. So how come he moved down to No. 9? Because as a Spartan Alumni I cannot imagine that there are 8 players in the B1G who did more for their teams then Cousins did for the Green and White.

Brian Bennett: It's a good question, and one a few Michigan State fans asked this week. The ranking is not meant as a knock on Cousins, whom I feel had an even better year than what we expected in the preseason. It's instead a reflection of some of the other performances in the league. You'll find as the countdown continues that our top eight guys were all either All-Americans, national award winners or record breakers.

Sean from Cincinnati writes: If Braxton Miller has a Heisman-like year next year do you think that the Buckeyes having a postseason ban would hurt his chances with the voters?

Brian Bennett: First off, I don't think Miller will be a serious Heisman Trophy contender in 2012. He will be learning an entirely new system and has an unproven cast of receivers around him. I find it more likely that Miller will be a Heisman contender in 2013 and '14. But strange things do occur. If he goes nuts in his first year under Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have a strong regular season, then I don't think the postseason ban will have any effect. Remember that Heisman balloting is done before bowl season. Matt Barkley finished sixth last year despite USC being on probation. And I doubt Robert Griffin III got bonus points for leading his team to the Alamo Bowl.

Matt from East Lansing, Mich., writes: Brian, I see Michigan continues to get recruits. While this isn't the best for Spartans fans, is there a danger locking up so many recruits so quickly? It seems like if there is another recruit out there that UM hasn't really seen (say they have a really good senior year); I think UM might be disappointed that they couldn't get him because they have no scholarships to offer.

Brian Bennett: That is one danger of locking up players early. They may not develop as planned during their senior years, while others may be late bloomers. Remember, though, that these are non-binding verbal commitments on both sides. If a prospect is not performing as hoped, then Michigan could always end the relationship. And the Wolverines will still have some spots available to offer players late in the recruiting process, as well as facing some almost inevitable decommitments. Recruiting is moving to an earlier and earlier time frame, and it's better to have blue-chipper in the fold as soon as possible rather than scramble around late looking for players.

Antwon H. from Cleveland writes: Brian, do you think Ohio State is letting good recruits get away with the way "that team up north" is pulling in new recruits every day seemingly?

Brian Bennett: I wouldn't worry about the Buckeyes missing out. Ohio State has five commitments for 2013, and all five are ESPNU 150 prospects. That's impressive. Michigan has four committed players from Ohio, including one from Columbus, but according to our recruiting folks only one of those players had an offer from the Buckeyes. There should be enough talent to go around.

Dave R. from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Regarding your Ohio State "Big Shoes to Fill" -- I certainly understand the O line. However, I'd put Devier Posey on that list, too. True, he was out all but 2 or 3 games last year, but no one filled his shoes when he was out. He made some big catches coming back. We have some talent coming in on the O line; but I'm not so sure we have the talent we need in receivers. Just curious why you felt Adams and Brewster were bigger shoes to fill than Posey.

Brian Bennett: You kind of answered your own question there, Dave. Posey only played the final three games of last year and had 162 total receiving yards. While he was no doubt the team's best receiver, Ohio State already had to try and fill his shoes for almost all of last year, and he didn't make a huge impact -- the Buckeyes went 0-3 with him in the lineup. Finding a go-to receiver is still a point of emphasis for the Buckeyes, but this is Year 2 of that project.

Jay from Vermont writes: There's been a lot of talk about preserving the Big Ten/Pac-12 relationship with the Rose Bowl and possibly incorporating major bowl games into the playoff picture. I was thinking, why don't they just keep the 4 major bowls so they could keep traditional match-ups, then seed the four champions, and let the playoff take over from there? Also I think there should be a limit on the number of bowl games, maybe 29 or 30 so only half the teams get to go, and a 7-win requirement instead of the current 6 which let a below .500 team (UCLA) go bowling this year.

Brian Bennett: Jay, I wouldn't be surprised if the bowls are incorporated somehow because the bowl lobby has a weird grip on college football administrators and school presidents. Still, I prefer the home sites plan because it's much better for fans. They won't have to travel to two neutral sites in consecutive weeks to follow their teams, and the on-campus atmospheres are what make the sport special in the first place. I don't think your plan would work because it would extend the season at least another two weeks after New Year's Day and would mean as many as 16 games for the two national finalists (12 regular season games, conference championship game, bowl and two playoff games). There is no appetite among decision makers to play that many games or go that late into January.

I agree with your take on limiting bowl games, but if 6-6 teams want to keep playing in minor bowls, so be it. I'll probably still watch them because there's not much else on in December.

Steve Z. from Lafayette, Ind., writes: Hi Brian, great job on the blog! I was just wondering what the timeline generally is for the NCAA to decide on a transfer's exemption from sitting out at year. I think it'd be great if Kyle Prater could play for the 'Cats this year!

Brian Bennett: You, me and college programs around the nation would love to know what that timeline is. The NCAA works on its own schedule, and while I understand that it has numerous cases to sort through, the process often seems to drag on unnecessarily long. Meanwhile, teams simply have to wait and hope and can't make firm plans. After the NCAA -- ahem -- fixes all its other problems, perhaps a more streamlined system for player appeals can be instituted.

Big shoes to fill: Ohio State

February, 28, 2012
Spring practice is just around the corner, and that will be a time for Big Ten teams to locate replacements for departed stars. We're taking a look at how each team might fill the roles of two key contributors no longer on campus.

Today, we turn our attention to Ohio State and its Urban renewal projects. The Buckeyes didn't lose a whole lot of seniors, and they already experienced what it was like to play without departed seniors Dan Herron and DeVier Posey for large stretches of last season. So we'll focus our attention on the offensive line:

[+] EnlargeMike Brewster
Melina Vastola/US PresswireOhio State has to replace departing center Mike Brewster, who made 49 consecutive starts.
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Mike Brewster, C

Why: Brewster was a fixture in the Buckeyes' lineup, making 49 consecutive starts after debuting as a true freshman. He was one of the best centers in the Big Ten for the duration of his career, and was named an All-American in 2010. He also provided good leadership -- especially in a year when some other seniors ran afoul of NCAA rules.

Replacement candidates: Brian Bobek (6-2, 280, Soph.); Corey Linsley (6-2, 310, Jr.); Joey O'Connor (6-4, 295 incoming freshman); Jacoby Boren (6-2, 275, incoming freshman).

The skinny: One reason to temper expectations about Urban Meyer's first year in Columbus is a dangerous lack of depth on the offensive line. The Buckeyes were already thin there last season, and lost three senior starters. If anyone other than Bobek is starting at center, it's probably because of an injury or something else unforeseen. The former blue-chip high school prospect spent last season as Brewster's understudy, and saw some time in mop-up duty. He should make a smooth transition to starter this spring, though living up to Brewster's production won't be easy.

Linsley has played guard in the past for the Buckeyes ,but likely will be one of the starting guards this season, along with Jack Mewhort. O'Connor and Boren project as guards, but could play center in a pinch -- a situation Ohio State hopes to avoid.


Why: Adams missed the first five games of 2011 while serving a suspension, and his absence was notable. He was one of the best offensive linemen in the Big Ten during his three years as a starter, and the 6-foot-8, 320-pounder has been projected by some as a first-round NFL draft pick this spring. The Buckeyes' offensive line played much better last season once he returned.

Replacement candidates: Andrew Norwell (6-5, 308, Jr.); Marcus Hall (6-5, 315, Jr.); Antonio Underwood, (6-3, 305, Soph.); Tommy Brown (6-5, 320, Soph.); Chris Carter (6-6, 350, R-Fr.); Taylor Decker (6-8, 310, incoming freshman); Kyle Dodson (6-5, 315, incoming freshman).

The skinny: Here's another place where a successor is in place, but things could get shaky if something goes wrong.

Norwell started the first five games at left tackle last season while Adams was suspended before sliding back to guard. He should take over the blind side full time this season, and he has good instincts for the position. Everything else at tackle this spring is a little bit up in the air, as Meyer plans to convert tight end Reid Fragel into a right tackle. He and Hall will likely battle for that starting spot, with Hall potentially ending up as a super sub along the line.

Underwood started the Purdue game when J.B. Shugarts was injured but was pulled after a poor performance. Hopefully, another year of coaching will help him develop into a solid contributor. Brown and Carter are largely unknowns at this point, but at least have big bodies. Don't be surprised to see at least one of the true freshmen crack the two-deep this season. They're both very talented, and unfortunately for Ohio State, they don't have a ton of competition ahead of them.

B1G post-weekend combine update

February, 27, 2012
Spring practice is just around the corner, but there was plenty of action on the field at the NFL combine this weekend in Indianapolis.

While the evaluations continue today and Tuesday, several position groups have completed their testing. Let's take a look at the top performances from Big Ten players. Some standouts in the workouts: Michigan WR Junior Hemingway, Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins, Michigan State WR Keshawn Martin, Iowa G Adam Gettis and Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson.

Before looking at position groups, we'll examine the top overall performers to date.


40-yard dash
  • Illinois' Jenkins tied for fourth (4.39 seconds)
  • Michigan State's Martin tied for 13th (4.45 seconds)
Bench press
  • Michigan C David Molk ranked second with 41 repetitions of 225 pounds
  • Michigan DT Mike Martin tied for third with 36 repetitions
Vertical jump
  • Michigan State's Martin tied for fifth at 39.5 inches
  • Illinois' Jenkins tied for ninth at 38.5 inches
Broad jump
  • Michigan WR Junior Hemingway tied for 10th at 10 feet, 4 inches
  • Illinois' Jenkins tied for 10th at 10 feet, 4 inches
3-cone drill
  • Michigan's Hemingway ranked second at 6.59 seconds
  • Northwestern TE Drake Dunsmore tied for fourth at 6.73 seconds
20-yard shuttle
  • Michigan's Hemingway ranked second at 3.98 seconds
  • Northwestern's Dunsmore tied for fourth at 4.03 seconds
  • Ohio State RB Dan Herron ranked sixth at 4.04 seconds
  • Iowa WR Marvin McNutt ranked ninth at 4.07 seconds
  • Wisconsin's Wilson ranked 10th at 4.09 seconds
60-yard shuttle
  • Michigan's Hemingway tied for third at 11.16 seconds
  • Michigan State's Martin tied for third at 11.16 seconds
  • Northwestern's Dunsmore tied for 14th at 11.47 seconds

Now onto the position groups ...

  • Wisconsin's Wilson ranked second in 40-yard dash (4.55 seconds); sixth in vertical jump (34 inches); fourth in broad jump (9 feet, 10 inches); fifth in 3-cone drill (6.97 seconds) and second in 20-yard shuttle (4.09 seconds)
  • Michigan State's Kirk Cousins ranked 12th in 40-yard dash (4.93 seconds); 14th in vertical jump (28.5 inches); tied for ninth in broad jump (9 feet, 1 inch); seventh in 3-cone drill (7.05 seconds); 12th in 20-yard shuttle (4.5 seconds)
Running back
  • Michigan State's Edwin Baker tied for 10th in 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds); tied for 12th in bench press (20 reps of 225 pounds); tied for 12th in vertical jump (35 inches); and tied for 14th in 20-yard shuttle (4.31 seconds).
  • Ohio State's Dan Herron ranked seventh in bench press (22 reps of 225 pounds); tied for 12th in vertical jump (35 inches); tied for 12th in broad jump (9 feet, 9 inches); sixth in 3-cone drill (6.97 seconds); second in 20-yard shuttle (4.04 seconds); and fifth in 60-yard shuttle (11.6 seconds).
  • Wisconsin FB Bradie Ewing tied for fifth in vertical jump (36.5 inches); tied for fifth in broad jump (10 feet); tied for 14th in 3-cone drill (7.14 seconds); tied for fifth in 20-yard shuttle (4.16 seconds); and seventh in 60-yard shuttle (11.81 seconds).
Wide receiver
  • Illinois' Jenkins tied for fourth in 40-yard dash (4.39 seconds); tied for seventh in vertical jump (38.5 inches); and tied for eighth in broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches).
  • Michigan State's Martin ranked 11th in 40-yard dash (4.45 seconds); tied for fourth in vertical jump (39.5 inches); tied for 14th in broad jump (10 feet, 2 inches); tied for eighth in 3-cone drill (6.85 seconds); tied for 10th in 20-yard shuttle (4.13 seconds); and tied for second in 60-yard shuttle (11.16 seconds).
  • Michigan's Hemingway tied for third in bench press (21 reps at 225 pounds); tied for eighth in broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches); ranked first in 3-cone drill (6.59 seconds); tied for first in 20-yard shuttle (3.98 seconds); and tied for second in 60-yard shuttle (11.16 seconds).
  • Wisconsin's Nick Toon ranked 12th in bench press (18 reps at 225 pounds) and ranked 12th in vertical jump (37.5 inches).
  • Iowa's Marvin McNutt tied for 13th in vertical jump (37 inches); ranked fifth in 20-yard shuttle (4.07 seconds); and ranked 12th in 60-yard shuttle (11.62 seconds).
  • Ohio State's DeVier Posey tied for 10th in broad jump (10 feet, 3 inches) and tied for 12th in 20-yard shuttle (4.15 seconds).
Tight end
  • Northwestern's Dunsmore ranked fifth in 40-yard dash (4.64 seconds); tied for fifth in bench press (21 reps at 225 pounds); fifth in vertical jump (35.5 seconds); seventh in broad jump (9 feet, 9 inches); first in 3-cone drill (6.73 seconds); first in 20-yard shuttle (4.03 seconds); and third in 60-yard shuttle (11.47 seconds).
Defensive line (workouts take place Monday)
  • Michigan's Martin tied for second in bench press (36 reps of 225 pounds)
Offensive line
  • Iowa G Adam Gettis ranked third in 40-yard dash (5 seconds); tied for third in vertical jump (31.5 inches); second in broad jump (9 feet, 4 inches); tied for ninth in 20-yard shuttle (4.65 seconds)
  • Iowa T Riley Reiff tied for eighth in 40-yard dash (5.23 seconds);
  • Illinois T Jeff Allen ranked 15th in 40-yard dash (5.28 seconds); tied for 14th in broad jump (8 feet, 6 inches)
  • Michigan's Molk ranked first in bench press (41 reps at 225 pounds);
  • Wisconsin G Kevin Zeitler tied for third in bench press (32 reps at 225 pounds); tied for 14th in vertical jump (29 inches); eighth in 20-yard shuttle (4.61 seconds)
  • Penn State G Johnnie Troutman tied for eighth in bench press (31 reps at 225 pounds)
  • Ohio State C Mike Brewster tied for 13th in bench press (29 reps at 225 pounds); ranked 15th in 3-cone drill (7.73 seconds); tied for sixth in 20-yard shuttle (4.6 seconds)

B1G combine contingent gets to work

February, 22, 2012
The NFL scouting combine kicks off today in Indianapolis, and 45 Big Ten players will be part of the most scrutinized job interview in sports.

Here's the full schedule of events. The first set of interviews take place Wednesday, and position group workouts take place from Friday-Tuesday.

Here are some of the Big Ten storylines at the combine:

    [+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
    Chuck Cook/US PresswireRussell Wilson needs to convince teams that his less-than-ideal height won't hold him back at the next level.
  • The quarterbacks are always a story in Indy, and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson and Michigan State's Kirk Cousins will be representing the Big Ten. Wilson's biggest obstacle is his height, and he'll have to show he can throw over the top of massive linemen and make all the throws. He won't lack for motivation. Cousins had a strong showing during Senior Bowl week. He wants to put himself in that second group of quarterbacks behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. A strong combine performance could be the difference between being a third-round pick and a fifth-rounder.
  • Can Michigan State defensive tackle Jerel Worthy solidify himself in the first round? Worthy has moved around the mock drafts quite a bit during the past few months. There are obvious pluses to his game, namely his brute strength and ability to clog rushing lanes and drop quarterbacks. But some have questioned his motor and whether he takes too many plays off. He'll be under the microscope in Indy, especially from a conditioning standpoint.
  • The combine will be huge for Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, who saw his stock drop during Senior Bowl week and missed the game because of a hip injury. Huskers coach Bo Pelini has called Dennard the nation's best cornerback, and he showed shutdown skills at times last season. But he has some work to do to get back in the first-round picture.
  • Remember Jared Crick? I ranked him as the Big Ten's No. 1 player entering the season, but he played in only five games before being sidelined with a torn pectoral muscle. Crick needs to show he's healthy and that he can thrive when not playing alongside Ndamukong Suh.
  • It will be interesting to see which Big Ten offensive linemen can boost their stock in Indy. Iowa left tackle Riley Reiff doesn't have much to prove and should be the league's first player drafted in April, but it'll be interesting to see how Wisconsin center Peter Konz, Ohio State center Mike Brewster, Wisconsin tackle Josh Oglesby, Illinois tackle Jeff Allen, Ohio State tackle Mike Adams and others perform. Konz certainly could be the first center drafted, while many project Adams in the first round. Oglesby is among the players trying to prove they can hold up after dealing with several knee injuries with the Badgers. Brewster's stock dropped at the Senior Bowl, and he finished the season as the Big Ten's No. 3 center after entering the fall as a preseason All-American.
  • Michigan State running back Edwin Baker surprised some by declaring for the draft. His production dropped off significantly in 2011, although Michigan State had some issues along the offensive line. Still, Baker needs a big performance in Indy to impress the talent evaluators.
  • Ohio State receiver DeVier Posey appeared in only three games as a senior because of suspension. He has the physical gifts to be an effective pro wideout, but he'll need a strong week before the scouts in Indy. Evaluators also will be trying to assess his character after some off-field missteps at Ohio State.
  • The combine is all about numbers, and Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin might post some huge ones this week. Martin, one of the strongest players in college football, is bench pressing 505 pounds and squatting more than 700. Stephen Paea's combine record of 49 reps of 225 pounds could be in jeopardy. Martin should finish among the leaders in his position group in several categories.

Big Ten lunch links

February, 21, 2012
A shoutout to Penn State students, who this weekend raised a record $10,686,924.83 to help families of children with cancer during the THON event. Great event.
Our postseason rankings of each position group from the 2011 Big Ten season took a short hiatus last week as signing day madness placed its grip on all of us.

Never fear, though, as the rankings are back in full force today, moving on to the receivers and tight ends as we round out our offensive skill positions.

We're looking for depth and not solely star power at the top here. This is how the preseason rankings looked. Some of these groups were undoubtedly hurt by inexperienced or underachieving quarterbacks, so we had to figure out how to weigh their performances in that light. Let's see how the list shakes out after the year ended:

1. Michigan State: The Spartans had the best combo at wideout with seniors B.J. Cunningham, a physical deep threat and No. 1 receiver, and Keshawn Martin, a speedster who could do all sorts of different things in the offense. Together, they combined for 2,083 receiving yards and 16 touchdown catches. Keith Nichol provided a solid third option who made the catch of the year in the Big Ten, if not all of college football, against Wisconsin. Tight end Brian Linthicum had 364 yards receiving and played a key role in the Outback Bowl win over Georgia.

2. Wisconsin: Depth? Hardly. But the Badgers got the most out of their front-line players. Starting wideouts Nick Toon and Jared Abbrederis combined for 1,859 yards yard and 18 touchdowns. Eight of tight end Jacob Pedersen's 30 catches went for touchdowns. And don't underestimate the importance of the receivers and tight ends in the Wisconsin running game.

3. Northwestern: The Wildcats' wideouts likely would have put up better numbers if Dan Persa had stayed healthy all season. As it stood, Northwestern still got another outstanding year out of Jeremy Ebert (75 catches, 1,060 yards, 11 TDs). Kain Colter, when he wasn't playing quarterback or running the ball, managed 466 receiving yards. Demetrius Fields and Christian Jones were among the other contributors. First-team All-Big Ten tight end Drake Dunsmore was the team's No. 2 pass-catcher with 455 yards and six scores.

4. Iowa: Marvin McNutt was good enough to elevate this entire group. He led the Big Ten in receiving yards, finishing with 82 catches for 1,315 yards and 12 scores. Keenan Davis contributed 50 catches for 713 yards. But Davis and Kevonte Martin-Manley didn't help enough after strong starts to the season. Iowa didn't get a lot of production in the passing game out of its tight ends, either, with C.J. Fiedorowicz leading the way at 16 catches.

5. Michigan: The Wolverines didn't have any receivers finish in the top 10 in the league in the key categories, but what they had was a fairly deep group that knew how to go up and get Denard Robinson's throws. Though Roy Roundtree's numbers went way down from 2010, Junior Hemingway (699 receiving yards) emerged as a big-time playmaker. Jeremy Gallon came up with some key plays in huge spots as well. Tight end Kevin Koger gave Robinson a reliable safety valve and was a key cog in the offense.

6. Illinois: At first glance, A.J. Jenkins' tremendous numbers (90 catches, 1,276 yards, eight TDs) would make you think the Illini deserve to be ranked higher. But Jenkins did most of his work in the first half of the season; like the rest of the Illinois offense, his stats fell off a cliff in the second half. And he didn't have much assistance, as Spencer Harris and Darius Millines combined to record only half his number of catches. Jon Davis was the team's third-leading pass-catcher at tight end.

7. Purdue: It was quantity over star power for the Boilermakers, whose top four pass catchers — Justin Siller, Antavian Edison, O.J. Ross and Gary Bush — all had at least 29 receptions and 300 yards. Edison led the way with 584 yards. Tight ends Crosby Wright and Gabe Holmes combined for 29 catches. Purdue needs more playmaking ability from the tight end spot, something the team tried to address in this recruiting class.

8. Penn State: Evaluating the Nittany Lions receivers is tricky because the quarterback play was so inconsistent. Derek Moye was once again one of the most dangerous deep threats in the league, but a foot injury and an overall inability to get him the ball limited his production to 654 yards and only three scores. Justin Brown, who will likely be the team's go-to guy in 2012, put up good stats, while Devon Smith got a chance to flash his speed and averaged 16.1 yards per catch. The tight ends were rarely used in the passing game; expect that and a whole lot more to change under Bill O'Brien.

9. Nebraska: The Huskers must improve their overall passing game to take the next step as a program, and that includes a receivers group that had an up-and-down season in 2011. The good news is that Kenny Bell emerged as a potential star as a redshirt freshman. But Brandon Kinnie and tight end Kyler Reed failed to build on strong 2010 campaigns and were invisible for large stretches. Nebraska must hope Quincy Enunwa and Jamal Turner develop to go along with Bell.

10. Indiana: No one was more disappointing at this position in 2011 than the Hoosiers, whom we had pegged at No. 4 in our preseason list. DaMarlo Belcher, who led the league in receptions in '10, got himself booted off the team in midseason. Injuries hit the group hard as well. Kofi Hughes paced the group with 536 yards and found the end zone three times. Tight end Ted Bolser made only 14 receptions. We expected more from a Kevin Wilson offense.

11. Minnesota: Jerry Kill made finding playmakers at receiver a top priority in this recruiting class, and it's easy to see why. Da'Jon McKnight had a decent season (51, 760 and 4). After that, though, things dropped off quickly and the Gophers lacked players who could stretch the field. Tight end Eric Lair managed fewer than one-third the amount of catches he had in 2010.

12. Ohio State: Injuries, inexperience and suspensions combined to make this a difficult year for Buckeyes' receivers. No one had more than 14 catches all season, and no one topped 300 receiving yards. Things would have gone better if DeVier Posey hadn't been suspended for all but two regular-season games. Devin Smith showed potential as a true freshman, including his game-winning grab against Wisconsin. Tight end Jake Stoneburner scored seven times, but most of those came early in the year.
The North team recorded a 23-13 win against the South in Saturday's Senior Bowl in Mobile, Ala., and several Big Ten players contributed to the victory.

Big Ten players factored in all the scoring for the North squad. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson and Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins both fired touchdown passes, and Purdue kicker Carson Wiggs connected on three field goal attempts, including a 28-yarder that helped seal the win with 4:11 left. The North starting offensive line featured four of five players from the Big Ten.

Other than Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins and Illinois left tackle Jeff Allen, all of the Big Ten players in the game competed for the North squad.

Wilson started for the North and led three offensive series, two of which resulted in points. He finished the game 4 of 7 passing for 45 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Cousins was the third quarterback from the North squad to see the field and fired a 41-yard touchdown pass to Arizona State's Gerell Robinson early in the third quarter. Cousins finished the game 5 of 11 passing for 115 yards with a touchdown and an interception.

Wiggs connected on field goal attempts of 27, 28 and 32 yards and missed a 37-yard try in the closing minutes.

Other Big Ten notables:
  • Michigan State safety Trenton Robinson had two tackles and a fumble recovery
  • Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey had a 33-yard reception
  • Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David had four tackles
  • Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford had three tackles
  • Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin had three tackles
  • Illinois wideout A.J. Jenkins had a 26-yard reception
  • Michigan State tight end Brian Linthicum had a 9-yard reception
  • Penn State cornerback D'Anton Lynn had two tackles
  • Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman averaged 43.7 yards on three attempts and also had one kickoff, while Wiggs had five kickoffs.
  • Ohio State running back Dan Herron had six carries for 14 yards and two receptions for 4 yards
  • Wisconsin long-snapper Kyle Wojta had one tackle
  • Wisconsin fullback Bradie Ewing had one carry for 1 yard

North team starters included: Wilson, Ewing, Linthicum, Ohio State left tackle Mike Adams, Ohio State center Mike Brewster, Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler, Penn State guard Johnnie Troutman, Crawford, Martin and Robinson. Jenkins and Allen both came off the bench for the South squad.
Day 2 of Senior Bowl practice is in the books, and judging by the reports, the Big Ten contingent held its own.

ESPN Scouts Inc. Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl write that the North team quarterbacks had good performances Tuesday (Insider). While Boise State's Kellen Moore was the best of the bunch, Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson both showed strong arm strength.

Wilson "competed hard as the day went on and made some good throws to Ohio State's DeVier Posey during seven-on-seven drills." Cousins throws a "crisp ball" and displayed some touch on a deep pass to fellow Big Tenner Marvin McNutt from Iowa. The Scouts Inc. crew noted that Cousins must do a better job of deciding when to ease up on his throws, as one of his bullets was intercepted.

Other Big Ten nuggets:
  • McNutt had a good day for the most part, showing the ability to shake off press coverage.
  • The Scouts Inc. crew said Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard struggled as he tries to maintain a first-round grade.
  • There was good news and bad news for Ohio State's offensive linemen in Mobile. Tackle Mike Adams showed "good athleticism and doing a good job climbing to the second level to cut off defenders." Center Mike Brewster, meanwhile, "had trouble sinking his hips to anchor against inside rushers, and because he often played with his head down Brewster had trouble staying in front of defenders."
  • Wisconsin offensive lineman Kevin Zeitler reportedly had an up-and-down day but showed good recovery ability against rushers.

More to come from the Senior Bowl on Wednesday.