Big Ten: Donald Brown

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten accounts for two-thirds of this season's class of Doak Walker Award finalists, as Iowa running back Shonn Greene and Michigan State running back Javon Ringer were named to the list. Georgia's Knowshon Moreno also was named a finalist.

Greene and Ringer rank second and third nationally in rushing average. Ringer leads the nation with 21 rushing touchdowns, while Greene is tied for second with 17. Greene's 6.22 yards-per-carry average is tops among backs with at least 220 carries.

It's a little surprising that Connecticut's Donald Brown wasn't selected as a Doak Walker finalist.

It would be a bigger surprise if Greene didn't win the award.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Javon Ringer has left plenty of defenders feeling sick this fall, but last week the Michigan State star running back was the one severely under the weather. Ringer dropped 10 pounds in several days because of a nasty virus, which kept him from eating.

A smallish back to begin with, Ringer checked in at just 192 pounds last Saturday and had a season-low 58 rushing yards in Michigan State's win against Wisconsin. Fortunately, Ringer is back up to 196 pounds and participating fully in practice.

The nation's second-leading rusher also was among the 15 semifinalists for the Maxwell Award, given to the nation's top player. Other Big Ten players on the list include Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark and Iowa running back Shonn Greene. Connecticut's Donald Brown, Georgia's Knowshon Moreno and Pitt's LeSean McCoy are the other running backs honored.

Here's the complete rundown of semifinalists:

  • Connecticut RB Donald Brown
  • Oklahoma QB Sam Bradford
  • Penn State QB Daryll Clark
  • Texas Tech WR Michael Crabtree
  • Missouri QB Chase Daniel
  • Iowa RB Shonn Greene
  • Texas Tech QB Graham Harrell
  • Texas QB Colt McCoy
  • Pitt RB LeSean McCoy
  • Georgia RB Knowshon Moreno
  • Michigan State RB Javon Ringer
  • Oklahoma State QB Zac Robinson
  • USC QB Mark Sanchez
  • Florida QB Tim Tebow

Big Ten returns to its running roots

October, 29, 2008
10/29/08
12:05
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Mark Cunningham/Getty Images
 Javon Ringer has 16 touchdowns for Michigan State.

During Big Ten media days in July, the spotlight turned to the league's apparent culture change on offense.

From the arrival of spread-offense innovator Rich Rodriguez to the retirement of spread-offense pioneer Joe Tiller to the introduction of the spread at tradition-rich Penn State, the Big Ten appeared to have closed the book on its cloud-of-dust past and transitioned into the 21st century. Sissy ball, as Tiller often calls it, had swept through the league. Aside from Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells, a Heisman Trophy contender, few running backs were discussed.

And yet nine weeks into the season, the Big Ten offensive landscape looks much like it did decades earlier, with dominant running backs carrying the flags for their teams.

The Big 12 has dominated the national spotlight with its collection of golden-armed quarterbacks, four of whom remain in the Heisman Trophy mix. The nation's best wide receivers also reside in the Big 12, while many of the nation's top defenders call the SEC or ACC home.

But when it comes to running backs, the Big Ten stands alone.

The league boasts two of the nation's top three runners -- Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Iowa's Shonn Greene -- and five players ranked in the top 35 for rushing average. Toss in Wells, who hasn't played in enough games to qualify for the national statistics, and the Big Ten would have three players in the top 15 for rushing average and four in the top 20.

"We're pretty much the best conference as far as running backs go," Greene said. "The Big Ten Conference is a big, hard-nosed football conference, pound-it-out football."

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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I didn't get a chance to have the regular Friday mailbag, so here are a few items before the early kickoffs.

Andy from Grand Rapids, Mich., writes: Michigan has a very capable running back in Sam McGuffie who I think will be the future of the position. However, we have seen Brandon Minor break several large runs this year and Carlos Brown has also exhibited great speed. Why is Rich Rod not giving our veteran running backs a little better look out there? Do you think he should be working them into the slot position, direct snaps, etc...? It seems like a bit of a waste of talent. Thanks!

Adam Rittenberg: Rodriguez saw last week the benefit of having multiple running backs in the game. Junior Kevin Grady provided a big lift in short-yardage situations, and Minor had the big touchdown run in the fourth quarter. Brown won't be available today with a sprained foot, but Minor, Grady and Michael Shaw should see time alongside McGuffie. You're absolutely right. Michigan needs its veteran running backs in the game, even if McGuffie is the future. Both Brown and Minor have value, and they both should be used more as the season progresses.


Brian from Baltimore writes: How arrogant is Beanie Wells that he could even think for a minute that he can win the Heisman? Even in the games he's played in, he hasn't posted Heisman worthy numbers.

Adam Rittenberg: Wells might come off that way, but I see it as confidence more than anything, which is never bad. He wants to carry the load for this team, and quite frankly, Ohio State needed someone to step up after the first few games. It will be nearly impossible for Wells to even be in the Heisman discussion, but he still believes he's one of the best players int the country, and more important, so do his teammates. Beanie Wells is the best leader on that team, not the seniors.


Bob from Parts Unknown writes: Adam As you cover the Big 10 - doesnt the completion percentage of Brian Hoyer depend on the receivers helping catch balls in the game. I have watched all the games and certainly there are incomplete passes....but also too many drops from a young receiving corps - something the media all questioned going into the season. So isn't Hoyer overall performance a bit better than his stats show.

Adam Rittenberg: Dropped passes are definitely a factor for Michigan State and several other teams (Wisconsin), but it would take an awful lot of drops to put the completion percentage at 46.5 percent. To his credit, Hoyer hasn't made a lot of mistakes, just two interceptions in 157 pass attempts, but I just can't see Michigan State making a serious run at the Big Ten title without its quarterback completing better than 50 percent of his passes. Hoyer manages a game very well, but he's got to make more plays. Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham are solid receivers and should be used more.


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