Big Ten: Dorian Bell

By now, you've seen where several Big Ten recruits stack up in the final ESPN 300 for 2013. Check back in three or four years to see who met expectations and who did not.

What about the most decorated Big Ten recruits from four years ago? In preparation for national signing day Feb. 6, the folks at RecruitingNation took a look back at the ESPN 150 from 2009 (there wasn't an ESPN 300 back then) and recorded what each recruit did at the college level.

A total of 21 Big Ten recruits made the 150 from 2009. Some turned out to be stars, others never got on track and a few haven't written the final chapter of their college careers.

Let's take a look (positions listed according to ESPN recruiting profiles):

Top 50

  • No. 22: Jaamal Berry, RB, Ohio State -- Played sparingly in 2010 and 2011 before off-field issues led to a suspension. Transferred to FCS Murray State and recorded 675 rush yards this past season.
  • No. 32: Dorian Bell, LB, Ohio State -- Appeared in eight games for Ohio State in 2010 before being suspended the following year and eventually transferred to FCS Duquesne, where he performed well in the 2012 season.
  • No. 47: Craig Roh, DE, Michigan -- Started 51 games for Michigan, a team record, and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in each of the past two seasons.
Nos. 51-100

  • No. 67: Je'Ron Stokes, WR, Michigan -- Played sparingly at Michigan before the coaching transition from Rich Rodriguez to Brady Hoke. Transferred to Bowling Green and caught 15 passes this past season.
  • No. 69: David Barrent, OT, Michigan State -- Played in seven games as a reserve before back problems ended his career in May 2011.
  • No. 74: Eric Shrive, OT, Penn State -- Shrive appeared in every game as a reserve guard in 2012 and could compete for a starting job in 2013.
  • No. 81: Quinton Washington, G, Michigan -- Washington has moved to defensive tackle and entered the starting lineup in 2012, recording 32 tackles and a sack.
  • No. 87: Terry Hawthorne, WR, Illinois -- Hawthorne played mostly cornerback at Illinois and made starts in all four seasons, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in each of the past two. He also returned kicks and punts and should be selected in April's NFL draft.
  • No. 88: C.J. Barnett, CB, Ohio State -- Barnett has been a mainstay in Ohio State's secondary the past two seasons, recording 56 tackles, two interceptions and six pass breakups in nine games in 2012. He is expected to start at safety for the Buckeyes in 2013.
  • No. 94: Isaiah Bell, S, Michigan -- Bell didn't play a snap for Michigan before leaving the program in March and playing for Division II Lake Erie College this past season.
  • No. 99: Jamie Wood, S, Ohio State -- Wood has appeared in 30 games for the Buckeyes, mostly on special teams, but has battled shoulder problems and underwent surgery last fall.
Nos. 101-150

  • No. 101: Denard Robinson, athlete, Michigan -- Who's this guy? Robinson started three seasons at quarterback for the Wolverines, setting an NCAA quarterback rushing record as well as many other milestones. He was the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year in 2010 and finished his career with 4,495 rush yards, 6,250 pass yards and 91 touchdowns.
  • No. 112: Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State -- Had a breakout season in 2010 as the starter, rushing for 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns. But he lost his starting job to Le'Veon Bell in 2011 and declared for the NFL draft after the season. He was a seventh-round pick of the San Diego Chargers and spent most of 2012 on the team's practice squad.
  • No. 115: Kraig Appleton, WR, Wisconsin -- Had three receptions in the 2009 season before being suspended the following spring and eventually leaving school. He was the victim of a shooting in July 2011 but survived.
  • No. 116: Keenan Davis, WR, Iowa -- Started the past two seasons and finished second on the squad in receptions in both years (47 in 2012) but never blossomed like many thought he would.
  • No. 124: Melvin Fellows, DE, Ohio State -- Fellows played sparingly in five games in 2010 but endured chronic knee problems that eventually forced him to take a medical harship, ending his career.
  • No. 126: Jack Mewhort, C, Ohio State -- Mewhort saw the field a lot early in his career at guard and moved to left tackle last season, where he flourished. He'll help anchor Ohio State's offensive line in 2013.
  • No. 128: Moses Alipate, QB, Minnesota -- Has been a nonfactor so far in his career. Switched from quarterback to tight end and checks in at 6-foot-5, 297 pounds.
  • No. 131: Duron Carter, WR, Ohio State -- Saw the field early in his Buckeyes career before academic problems eventually forced him to leave for a junior college. He transferred to Alabama but never played because of academics and transferred again to Florida Atlantic, where he sat out the 2012 season.
  • No. 144: Tate Forcier, QB, Michigan -- Forcier started the 2009 season, led Michigan to a memorable win against Notre Dame but struggled down the stretch and lost his job to Robinson in 2010. Academic issues sidelined him for the 2011 Gator Bowl, and he left school weeks later. Although he transferred to San Jose State, he never played.
  • No. 148: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan -- Lewan has been a mainstay for Michigan's offensive line, earning Big Ten offensive lineman of the year honors in 2012. Projected as a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Lewan surprised many by deciding to return to Michigan for his senior season.

An interesting mix, for sure. Lewan, the last player listed, might turn out to be the most successful. So few of the Big Ten's top 100 recruits panned out, and Ohio State fans have to be shaking their heads a bit at this list, as only Mewhort and Barnett look like success stories. There were unfortunate injury situations like Michigan State's Barrent and Ohio State's Fellows, some academic casualties (Carter, Forcier), and a downright sad story with Appleton. Baker was the only player on the list to make an early jump to the NFL.

Although several players didn't pan out, Michigan undoubtedly has to feel the best about the 2009 class as Robinson produced a record-setting career, Roh was a solid player, Lewan is a star and Washington could be a star in 2013.

Eight Big Ten teams are represented on the 2009 list. Those that aren't: Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue.

RecruitingNation also re-ranks the top 10 classes , with both Ohio State (No. 9) and Michigan (No. 10) holding their positions.

Big Ten preseason camp roundup

August, 8, 2011
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By the end of the day, all 12 Big Ten preseason camps will be under way. The weekend featured practices, players reporting and several media days around the league, so we wanted to get caught up.

We already hit on some of the bigger items, such as Nebraska quarterback Bubba Starling being held out of practice as his baseball-football decision looms and Michigan redshirting wide receiver Darryl Stonum and suspending two others.

Here are other notable nuggets from around the league:

IOWA
  • Strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle met with reporters Friday during media day and for the first time addressed the outbreak of rhabdomyolosis in January that put 13 players in the hospital. You can check out video of Doyle's comments here. He didn't go into too many details, calling the situation a "problem" and saying the program has moved forward. Doyle said the well-being of players remains his top priority and that while the intense workout that led to the rhabdo has been eliminated, Iowa will continue to "train with volume."
  • Iowa expects freshman defensive tackle Darian Cooper to report in the middle of the week after a "complication" prevented him from reporting with his classmates.
  • Offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan isn't practicing because of a sports hernia suffered during spring ball.
ILLINOIS
  • Freshmen Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson are making things interesting in the running back competition. Jason Ford remains the front-runner, but offensive coordinator Paul Petrino continues to challenge the senior, as he did in the spring after Ford was limited by injuries. "I need to see Jason run downhill, violent, and get up and do it again," Petrino told the Chicago Sun-Times. Both Young and Ferguson have looked impressive early in practice and could push for carries. Competition is good at every position, but specifically at running back, so I definitely see this as a positive development for the Illini.
  • Offensive tackle Corey Lewis won't be ready for the start of the season as he continues to work his way back from knee surgery. Illinois will look to unproven players Michael Heitz and Simon Cvijanovic to emerge during camp.
PURDUE
  • The Boilers got some bad news at a thin position as defensive end Rashad Frazier didn't show up for the team's first practice Saturday. Frazier was expected to compete with Robert Maci and Ryan Russell for playing time. "We'll move on without him," coach Danny Hope said. Purdue has moved defensive tackle Ryan Isaac to the end spot to help with the low numbers there. The good news is veteran end Gerald Gooden has impressed the coaches so far.
WISCONSIN
  • Keep an eye on the competition at right tackle as Josh Oglesby and Rob Havenstein will vie for the starting job. Oglesby, a heralded recruit, has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, undergoing six knee surgeries, according to coach Bret Bielema. Oglesby will be limited in camp, so Havenstein, who practiced with the first-team offense this spring, has a good opportunity.
  • Bielema listed seven starting spots that are up for grabs in camp: quarterback, running back, right tackle, strong safety, one defensive end spot, one defensive tackle spot and strongside linebacker.
MICHIGAN STATE
  • Heralded incoming freshman Lawrence Thomas could play linebacker or defensive end, coach Mark Dantonio said Sunday after the team's first practice. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound Thomas will begin practicing at linebacker but could make a move, much like another top recruit, William Gholston, did last year.
  • Wide receiver Keshawn Martin and running back Nick Hill entered camp as Michigan State's top two kick returners. Martin, the league's top punt return man in 2010, will be a busy man on special teams, which is a good thing given how dangerous he can be in that area.
PENN STATE
OHIO STATE
  • Buckeyes players reported during the weekend and will practice for the first time today. All 105 players expected to be part of the preseason camp roster reported, but the group didn't include linebackers Dorian Bell and Jonathan Newsome, and receiver James Louis. Newsome has announced he'll transfer to Ball State and both Bell and Louis could be heading elsewhere as well.
NEBRASKA
  • Two Huskers offensive linemen, senior Marcel Jones and freshman Givens Price, are sitting out with injuries. Jones should be back this month, while Price will miss all of camp. Incoming freshman cornerback Charles Jackson also isn't practicing because he hasn't been cleared academically.
We know Jim Tressel won't be walking the sidelines for Ohio State this fall. But who takes the field for the Buckeyes remains very much in doubt.

The most damning part of Sports Illustrated's investigation into Tressel and the Ohio State program is the allegation that memorabilia sold for money and tattoos wasn't confined to the so-called "Tat-5" -- quarterback Terrelle Pryor, running back Dan Herron, wide receiver DeVier Posey, left tackle Mike Adams and defensive end Solomon Thomas -- who have been suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season. The SI report names at least 28 players who allegedly traded memorabilia or autographs for money and tattoos since 2002, including nine players on the current roster.

[+] EnlargeOhio State's John Simon
Matthew Stockman/Getty ImagesAccording to an SI report, starter John Simon is one of nine previously unnamed players on the current Ohio State roster who allegedly traded memorabilia or autographs for money and tattoos.
The current players named in the report are: safety C.J. Barnett, linebacker Dorian Bell, running back Jaamal Berry, running back Bo DeLande, defensive back Zach Domicone, linebacker Storm Klein, linebacker Etienne Sabino, defensive tackle John Simon and defensive end Nathan Williams.

Several of those listed are expected to play significant roles this season, most notably Simon and Williams, returning starters on the defensive line. Sabino and Klein are in the mix at linebacker, while Berry competed for the top running back spot this spring.

From the SI piece:
Ohio State's conclusion that only six players broke the rules is based in part on a list of the items the Department of Justice seized in raids of Fine Line Ink and [Edward] Rife's home on May 1, 2010. But that list, which mentioned 42 football-related items that Rife bought, received or acquired in trades from players, covered only a small fraction of what he got from the Buckeyes, Ellis says. "Eddie had storage units all over town," he says, "and he also sold some stuff off to people." (Through Palmer, his lawyer, Rife declined to comment on his involvement with Ohio State players.) Ellis estimates that Pryor alone brought in more than 20 items, ­including game-worn shoulder pads, multiple helmets, Nike cleats, jerseys, game pants and more. One day Ellis asked Pryor how he was able to take so much gear from the university's equipment room. Ellis says the quarter­back responded, "I get whatever I want."

Expect Ohio State and/or the NCAA to investigate these allegations. If the current players are found to have violated extra-benefit rules, they could face significant suspensions for the 2011 season.

Couple this with the new NCAA/Ohio State probe into Pryor and allegations he received cars and other extra benefits, and Ohio State's depth chart could be a mess heading into the 2011 season.

Other key points from the SI report:

  • Writers George Dohrmann and David Epstein paint the memorabilia sales among players as a systematic problem at Ohio State. It certainly calls into question athletic director Gene Smith's claim that the sales involving Pryor and the others were isolated. Ohio State's brief investigation into the memorabilia sales in December also looks shaky. The number of players alleged to have violated NCAA rules at two separate tattoo parlors, along with the time span in which these infractions possibly occurred, has to be unsettling. Former Ohio State player Rob Rose told SI that he traded memorabilia items for tattoos, as did 20 other players. With Tressel gone, much of the focus turns to Smith and Ohio State's compliance department. This report doesn't help them.
  • One element of the story that already is generating attention is the anecdote from a former colleague of Tressel's on Earle Bruce's staff at Ohio State. The former Buckeyes coach, who served with Tressel on Bruce's staff during the 1980s and asked to remain anonymous, told SI that Tressel rigged raffles at Ohio State's football camps so that elite prospects would win, a violation of NCAA rules. "In the morning he would read the Bible with another coach," the coach told SI. "Then, in the afternoon, he would go out and cheat kids who had probably saved up money from mowing lawns to buy those raffle tickets. That's Jim Tressel." If true, this is really creepy and disappointing.
  • The report also reviews Tressel's claims that he knew nothing about NCAA violations involving his players at both Youngstown State and at Ohio State. Those unaware of these aspects of Tressel's track record can get an education from this piece.

So there you have it. Quite a day in Columbus, and not much of a holiday for those of us covering the story.

We'll have much more on the fallout from Tressel's resignation and what's next for Ohio State on Tuesday, so be sure and check in early and often.
Ohio State's challenge to replace two multiyear starters at linebacker won't include Dorian Bell this season.

The redshirt sophomore has been suspended for the season for an unspecified violation of team rules. Bucknuts.com, which first reported Bell's suspension Sunday afternoon, writes that Bell violated the same team rule for the third time. Those familiar with how Ohio State disciplines players can probably figure out what Bell did wrong.

Bell didn't make the trip to New Orleans for the Allstate Sugar Bowl for undisclosed reasons, and Bucknuts.com reports he would have been suspended for the 2011 opener against Akron before the latest rule violation. But he participated in spring practice and seemed to perform well, as he competed for a starting outside linebacker position.

The second-highest rated member of Ohio State's 2009 recruiting class, according to ESPN Recruiting, Bell redshirted in 2009 before appearing in eight games last season as a reserve. He recorded nine tackles in 2010.

Ohio State exited the spring knowing two of its likely starters at linebacker (Andrew Sweat and Etienne Sabino). With Bell out of the mix, the spotlight turns to players like Storm Klein and Jordan Whiting to fill the third starting spot.

Big Ten lunch links

January, 12, 2011
1/12/11
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I've broken the links up into two categories following the big news at Michigan.

NON-MICHIGAN BIG TEN LINKS
BRADY HOKE REACTION
  • Colleague Mark Schlabach: "Hoke won't bring a fancy spread offense or marquee last name to Michigan, but he might bring what Rodriguez lacked: a winning formula. And while Hoke doesn't have Miles' résumé or bowl victories, he seems to have a better command of the play clock."
  • The Detroit Free Press' Michael Rosenberg: "In December of 1968, a lot of people mocked this Bob Shlemblekawhat fellow, and when Carr got the full-time job in November of 1995, most fans were unhappy. And those hires worked out pretty well, as I recall. The more you watch Hoke do his job, the more you will like him. In fact, the more you look at him right now, the more you will like him."
  • The Detroit News' Bob Wojnowski: "Brandon is putting the short-term image of his athletic-directorship on the line here. After the Rodriguez experiment, the hope is, Hoke presents a solid and safe return to Michigan ways, and can mend the fractured program. It won't be easy, and the only true fraction-fixing formula is to win."
  • SI.com's Stewart Mandel: "This is hardly the first time a major football program had to settle for its third- (or possibly fourth- or fifth-) choice, and history shows it often works out just fine. Former USC AD Mike Garrett never originally planned to even contact Pete Carroll. Former Ohio State AD Andy Geiger interviewed a whole slew of more high-profile candidates before settling on a little-known I-AA coach named Jim Tressel. Meanwhile, the early backlash I've seen from Michigan fans on Twitter and message boards over hiring a career 47-50 coach reminds me of a similar situation two years ago, when a certain SEC school's fan base couldn't fathom the hiring of a guy with a 5-19 record at Iowa State. On Monday, Gene Chizik led Auburn to a national championship."
  • The Sporting News' Dave Curtis: "Hoke’s hire should be hit among fans because he represents them in the ways his unsuccessful predecessor, the dismissed Rich Rodriguez, did not. Hoke has Midwestern roots. He has worked at Michigan and understands the “intangibles” UM fans and boosters believe make their school’s job unique."
  • Mgoblog's Brian Cook: "This is not Brady Hoke's fault." Repeat 1000x. This is not Brady Hoke's fault. He seems like a nice enough dude. It seems unlikely he actively participated in the submarining of Rich Rodriguez. Unlike everyone else ever associated with the Michigan program with even the most thinly plausible of resumes, he actually wants to be the head coach here. So that's nice. This is a stupid hire. It will always be as stupid hire and David Brandon just led the worst coaching search in the history of Michigan football. He managed to chase off half of an already iffy recruiting class, hired a Plan C coach on January 11th, probably ensured the transfer of the reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, and restricted his "national search" to people who'd spent at least five years in Ann Arbor. Michigan just gave themselves a year of USC-level scholarship reduction voluntarily."
  • One non-Hoke Michigan link but a very worthwhile read by Eric Adelson on Michigan associate AD Greg Harden and his influence on the school's football players.

Big Ten personnel updates

November, 9, 2010
11/09/10
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You already know about Penn State naming Matt McGloin as its starting quarterback for the Ohio State game.

Here are some more personnel nuggets from around the league:

IOWA

Top running back Adam Robinson will practice later Tuesday and is expected to return to the starting lineup Saturday at Northwestern. Robinson missed last week's game at Indiana with an undisclosed injury.

Coach Kirk Ferentz said Robinson went through his regular training and lifting on Sunday and is "fine to go." Ferentz didn't confirm that Robinson suffered a concussion in the Michigan State game.

More good news for Iowa, as defensive coordinator Norm Parker is back in the office in a limited basis as he continues his recovery from foot amputation surgery. He returned home from a rehabilitation center in Cedar Rapids on Friday and was back in the office Sunday.

Ferentz said there's a chance Parker will travel with the team to Northwestern.

"It's very limited but it's a great first step, certainly," Ferentz said. "And I think like anybody in that situation, he's got a lot of ground to cover right now from endurance and strength, that type of thing. But it's a huge step for him."

Ferentz also said Jeff Tarpinian is back to full speed and could start at outside linebacker this week.

OHIO STATE

As expected, Ohio State will get linebackers Ross Homan and Dorian Bell back from injuries this week against Penn State. Homan, a senior and a three-year starter, has missed the last two games with a foot injury.

Homan went through 7-on-7 drills Sunday.

"Just like the trainer said, the key will be how does he do two days in a row to see if there's any issues," coach Jim Tressel said, "but based upon after Sunday, I would say no doubt [he plays]."

PURDUE

The Boilers once again enter the week anticipating that true freshman Sean Robinson will start at quarterback for Saturday's game against Michigan.

Redshirt freshman Rob Henry is still dealing with considerable pain from the laceration on his throwing hand, and coach Danny Hope said the redshirt freshman has some tissue damage. Purdue will consider using receiver Justin Siller at quarterback, but only if Siller makes some strides this week from a foot injury. Siller started three games at quarterback in 2008 and led Purdue to a win against Michigan.

"If Justin's able to do more, we'd like to train him as a quarterback," Hope said. "How effective he can be right now, we're not really sure because he still can't run full speed."

Walk-on Skyler Titus is expected to serve as Purdue's No. 2 quarterback against the Wolverines.

WISCONSIN

Coach Bret Bielema sounded more optimistic Tuesday about starting running John Clay (sprained knee) playing this week against Indiana.

Bielema listed Clay as questionable Monday, but the coach bumped into the running back in the training room Tuesday and said Clay "seemed pretty upbeat" about playing against the Hoosiers. Bielema is hopeful that Wisconsin will have all three of its backs -- Clay, James White and Montee Ball -- available Saturday.

Ball, who has provided a big lift in the last two games and rushed for 115 yards last year against Indiana, is "probably poised to make his first start of the season this week," Bielema said.

PENN STATE

The Lions likely will be without defensive end Eric Latimore (wrist) for another week, while defensive lineman Jordan Hill will play against Ohio State after suffering an ankle injury in the second half of the Northwestern win.

MINNESOTA

Defensive tackle Brandon Kirksey returns from his one-game suspension. Minnesota will be without another defensive lineman, Austin Hahn, who will miss the Illinois game with a torn meniscus that was repaired Monday. Hahn could return for the season finale against Iowa.

Perfect start for Ohio State

September, 2, 2010
9/02/10
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Could Ohio State have scripted it any better?

A 2010 season many expect to be special for the Buckeyes started with a huge special teams play. After Marshall won the toss and elected to receive (curious move), return man Andre Booker coughed up the ball following a hit from Dorian Bell. Buckeyes' safety Nate Oliver recovered and the offense was in business.

Ohio State's offense has run seven plays so far, and all but one of them, a Terrelle Pryor imcomplete pass, have worked out well. Pryor has looked good on short to intermediate throws so far, although he's seeing no pressure from Marshall and poor coverage from the Herd secondary.

Wide receiver DeVier Posey and running back Brandon Saine are working on big performances. Saine, who I believe becomes Ohio State's featured back, showcased his speed and power on a 40-yard run to set up Ohio State's second touchdown.

It's 14-0 Buckeyes, and Marshall appears to be in for a very long night.
I won't be making it out to many preseason practices this year. Fortunately, the Big Ten Network is giving all of us a peek at every Big Ten squad during its Football Preview Tour. My pal Dave Revsine and analysts Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith are more than halfway through the tour, but the first two episodes aired earlier this week: Indiana and Ohio State.

I'll be watching all 11 preview shows and posting my thoughts right here.

Up first, Indiana and Ohio State.

INDIANA
  • The Hoosiers practiced in shoulder pads and shorts, and head coach Bill Lynch is intentionally reducing the amount of hitting in this preseason (to keep his team fresher for the season), so the workout wasn't as revealing as most of the others should be.
  • Wide receiver Damarlo Belcher is a huge target and made several routine catches in space. Indiana also seemed to be swinging the ball a lot to the running backs, including Trea Burgess and Zach Davis-Walker. "Against the nonconference opponents, they can win those games with this pass game," DiNardo said. Starting quarterback Ben Chappell was a bit shaky on some throws, but I'm not worried about him.
  • The running backs didn't seem to have much room on the inside throughout the practice. A few backs did a nice job of bouncing to the outside. Freshman Matt Perez had a very nice run in team drills.
  • Defensive tackle Tony Carter did a nice job of crowding the middle on one play, and linebacker Tyler Replogle had a nice hit against Darius Willis.
  • I liked what I saw from Indiana's three junior college transfers on defense: linebacker Jeff Thomas and cornerbacks Andre Kates and Lenyatta Kiles. Kates has extremely fast feet, and Thomas brings good size to the table.
  • Despite the losses of left tackle Rodger Saffold and veteran guard Pete Saxon, Griffith said Indiana's offensive line looked the best it has in years.
  • Quarterback Edward Wright-Baker reportedly has fallen behind Dusty Kiel on the depth chart, but he looked good passing the ball in this practice.
OHIO STATE
  • DiNardo brought up a good point about the need for Ohio State to have a dominant running back again, and how it will keep defenses guessing against quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
  • Pryor definitely seemed different to me, both in his interview with the BTN crew and in the practice. He showed patience and footwork under pressure and fired a good pass to Dane Sanzenbacher in team drills. I also liked the way he yanked defensive lineman Garrett Goebel off the pile to help running back Dan Herron get out. Pryor seemed to be running hard during conditioning and talked about his new attitude toward meetings as he hopes to increase his leadership.
  • Pryor had one big mistake, though, as safety Jermale Hines stepped in front of a pass to Jake Stoneburner and made the interception. Just a perfect read by Hines.
  • Cameron Heyward just looks bigger than everyone else on the field (probably because he is). I particularly enjoyed watching Heyward go against All-Big Ten guard Justin Boren. Two All-America candidates right there. Everyone keeps calling Heyward a defensive end, but I saw him lining up inside several times during the practice. I'll keep going with the very vague "defensive lineman."
  • The running backs and linebackers went against each other during a goal-line drill, and both sides had their moments. Herron absolutely trucked Dan Bain on one play, living up to his "Boom" nickname. Jaamal Berry scooted by his man, while Scott McVey made a nice stop against Carlos Hyde, who boasts good size and had mixed results in the drill.
  • Running back Jordan Hall had some nice moments, including a burst up the middle in team drills.
  • Some of the reserve wide receivers stood out. Sophomore James Jackson made a nice catch along the sideline, and senior Grant Schwartz showed the ability to create vertical separation.
  • Defensive end Nathan Williams, currently sidelined with a knee injury, was in a stand-up position on one play, while the other three first-team linemen -- Heyward, John Simon and Dexter Larimore -- were down in a stance. You figure Ohio State will use Williams like it did Thaddeus Gibson in 2009.
  • Berry had a good blitz pickup on one play, nearly leading to a big completion from Joe Bauserman to Taurian Washington.
  • Linebackers Andrew Sweat and Dorian Bell showed good hitting and tackling skills.
Up next: Penn State
It's time to take a look at the top five linebacker units in the Big Ten this fall.

1. Ohio State: The Buckeyes boast two of the Big Ten's top 10 linebackers in Ross Homan and Brian Rolle, and they also have good depth. Homan might have been the league's most underrated defender in 2009 after tying for fourth in the league in interceptions (five) and finishing eighth in tackles (8.3 per game). Rolle makes up for his lack of size with speed and explosiveness. Ohio State's supporting cast includes Etienne Sabino, Andrew Sweat, Dorian Bell and others.

2. Michigan State: Back-to-back Big Ten preseason Defensive Player of the Year Greg Jones enters the season as the frontrunner to win the Butkus Award. But he's not alone on what should be a loaded linebacking corps. All-Big Ten candidate Eric Gordon has played a ton of football alongside Jones, and the coaches were pleased with Chris Norman this spring. Hopes are extremely high for true freshmen William Gholston, the Big Ten's top-rated recruit, and Max Bullough. It's clear to see why the Spartans are moving closer to the 3-4.

3. Wisconsin: Health remains a concern, as Mike Taylor's knee problems will linger and Chris Borland comes off of shoulder surgery, but Wisconsin has plenty of talent here. Borland is a rare, do-everything player who won Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 2009. Taylor likely would have contended for the same award if not for a torn ACL against Iowa. The Badgers also bring back Culmer St. Jean and Blake Sorensen.

4. Northwestern: As a College Football Hall of Fame linebacker, Northwestern head coach Pat Fitzgerald loves the look of this group. Senior Quentin Davie is a bona fide NFL prospect who has consistently reached the offensive backfield throughout his career. Middle linebacker Nate Williams enters his third year as the starter, and the coaches have solid options in Bryce McNaul, Ben Johnson and David Nwabuisi. Fitzgerald says this is the most linebacker depth Northwestern has had in his tenure.

5 (tie). Iowa and Penn State: These teams combine to lose five All-Big Ten 'backers from 2009, including first-team selections Pat Angerer (Iowa) and Navorro Bowman (Penn State). But both have historically reloaded at linebacker, and this year should be no different. Iowa's Jeremiha Hunter returns for his third year as a starter, and Jeff Tarpinian and Tyler Nielsen are primed for bigger roles. Troy Johnson and Bruce Davis are two other names to watch, and hopes are high for freshman James Morris. Penn State loses all three starters, but Nate Stupar and Bani Gbadyu have played a lot of football. Michael Mauti's return from an ACL injury and Penn State's strong recruiting at linebacker also elevate hope for the group.

Next up: Secondary

More rankings ...
Wisconsin running back John Clay might be the Big Ten's best hope for the Heisman Trophy this season, which will make you scratch your head after reading this next statement.

The Badgers can survive without him.

Not to diminish Clay's size and power, which Wisconsin would miss if he goes down, but the Badgers aren't exactly starved for running backs. Montee Ball showed flashes as a true freshman the past season, and Zach Brown boasts more experience (36 games played) than any other Big Ten backup back.

And whomever carries the ball for Wisconsin will benefit from working behind one of the nation's top offensive lines. Left tackle Gabe Carimi and guard John Moffitt get most of the buzz, but Wisconsin returns all five starters up front, as well as others like Bill Nagy who boast game experience.

The Badgers are one of several Big Ten teams who can survive the loss of a key player or two, as long as it isn't quarterback Scott Tolzien.

The reason why Ohio State has won or shared the past five Big Ten championships: their depth chart. Take the linebacker position, for example. The Buckeyes have two of the Big Ten's best in Ross Homan and Brian Rolle, but they also can turn to a guy like Etienne Sabino, or younger backers Storm Klein, Dorian Bell and Andrew Sweat. Tyler Moeller also should return to the field this fall, although he'll likely see more time at safety.

Indiana's Tandon Doss and Purdue's Keith Smith were the media's picks for the first-team All-Big Ten squad in 2009, and both players are primed for big seasons this fall. While both also would be big losses, their teams have other options. Indiana can turn to Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner, or younger players like Duwyce Wilson. Purdue always boasts depth at receiver and has options like Cortez Smith, Antavian Edison and Gary Bush behind Smith. And don't forget about incoming freshman O.J. Ross or Justin Siller, the reinstated former starting quarterback.

Speaking of the offensive skill positions, Michigan State and Iowa boast similar depth. Both teams have potential All-Big Ten players -- Keshawn Martin, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Marvin McNutt, Keith Nichol -- but can truly lean on their strength in numbers. Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins is a very lucky man, as he'll have four capable wideouts, three capable tight ends and at least two capable running backs at his disposal. Iowa's Ricky Stanzi also has weapons at wideout with Johnson-Koulianos and McNutt, as well as three solid options in the backfield with Jewel Hampton, Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher.

Michigan has several areas of concern entering 2010, but offensive line shouldn't be one of them. The Wolverines return five linemen who started part or all of the past season, led by veteran guard Stephen Schilling. Michigan has five offensive linemen who have three years of experience under their belts, not to mention promising young prospects like Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield.

Flipping to the other side of the line, look at Penn State. Sure, the Nittany Lions lose Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Year Jared Odrick, but there's no reason to doubt defensive line coach Larry Johnson and his personnel. Penn State will have depth up front yet again with guys like Jack Crawford, Ollie Ogbu, Devon Still, Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham.
Spring football wrap-up season is in full swing, as you can see around here.

Our pals at SI.com and The Sporting News also are putting a stamp on spring ball, and a few items caught my eye today.

SI.com's Andy Staples has issued his latest version of the way-too-early Top 25, and the outlook is very sunny for the Big Ten.

Like my ESPN.com colleague Mark Schlabach, Staples lists Ohio State as the nation's No. 3 team. He has a little more love for Iowa, putting the reigning Orange Bowl champions at No. 5. And like Schlabach, Staples puts Wisconsin at No. 9. He rounds out the Big Ten contingent with Penn State at No. 14, one of the more favorable ratings I've seen for the youthful Nittany Lions.

SI.com's Stewart Mandel has two Big Ten-related items in his list of 10 things learned during spring football. Mandel cites the development of Michigan sophomore quarterback Denard Robinson, writing that Robinson "showed off a considerably more balanced set of skills" than teammate Tate Forcier and is a good bet to start the season opener Sept. 4 against Connecticut. Mandel also writes about Penn State's shaky offensive performance in the Blue-White Game and the surprising play of freshman quarterback Paul Jones.

"Of the quarterbacks, true freshman Paul Jones (5-of-8, 67 yards, two TDs) won the eyeball test hands down, and position coach Jay Paterno said the staff is open to playing him. But one can't help but think that his father [Joe Paterno] would sooner stitch dragon flames on the Nittany Lions' jerseys than start a true freshman on the road at Alabama on Sept. 11."

The Sporting News' Dave Curtis also lists players who helped themselves with their performances this spring. Four Big Ten players make his list, two on each side of the ball.

  • Iowa right tackle Markus Zusevics
  • Michigan State center John Stipek
  • Ohio State linebacker Dorian Bell
  • Michigan safety Cameron Gordon

I'll go over my list of spring movers in the near future, but some good choices here.
The spring game recaps series marches on with Ohio State, which held its spring game Saturday afternoon at Ohio Stadium.

The Buckeyes didn't have many glaring issues this spring, but Terrelle Pryor and the offense responded nicely Saturday after a poor performance the week before in the jersey scrimmage. Pryor played only one quarter but completed 8 of 12 passes for 108 yards and a touchdown, finding wideout Dane Sanzenbacher four times for 61 yards.

The game's most significant development came with the reserve quarterbacks, as Kenny Guiton made a strong case to back up Pryor, rather than Joe Bauserman. Guiton, an eleventh-hour signing in 2009, completed 11 of 21 passes for 167 yards and two touchdowns, both to Taurian Washington, including the game-winner with 55 seconds left to give the Gray team a 17-14 victory. Guiton also had a potential touchdown pass dropped by DeVier Posey minutes into the game.

Bauserman, meanwhile, had his struggles Saturday, completing just 6 of 15 passes for 75 yards and two interceptions, including one in the end zone. He had a 43-yard completion to James Jackson and led the Scarlet team with 35 rush yards, but he'll be in a battle with Guiton in preseason camp.

The game didn't provide too many answers in the running back race, as top backs Dan Herron and Brandon Saine both had only four carries apiece. Herron racked up 32 yards, giving him a solid yards-per-carry average (8 ypc), while Saine broke off a 14-yard gain. Redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry missed the game with an ankle injury, so Carlos Hyde (6 carries, 26 yards), Jordan Hall (4 carries, 17 yards) and Bo DeLande (5 carries, 28 yards, TD) got most of the work.

Other Buckeyes nuggets:
  • Ohio State needs to identify a No. 3 wideout, and Washington strengthened his case Saturday with three receptions for 83 yards and two touchdowns. Duron Carter should be back with the team at some point, but Washington enters the summer as the man to beat. Chris Fields and Jackson also are in the mix there.
  • Linebacker Etienne Sabino ended spring ball on a good note with a game-high seven tackles and a forced fumble. Sabino likely locked up a starting job this spring alongside All-Big Ten candidates Ross Homan and Brian Rolle. Dorian Bell also should be in the mix at linebacker after recording five tackles, including one for loss, in the spring game.
  • Like the rest of the offense, the line bounced back nicely from the jersey scrimmage and protected the quarterbacks. The left tackle spot isn't settled, but junior Mike Adams finally appears to be taking charge of a spot that, given his talent, should already be his.
  • I really think Ohio State needs to get its tight ends and fullbacks more involved in the passing attack this fall, and Saturday seemed to be a good step in that direction. Tight end Jake Stoneburner, who could be a huge factor for the Buckeyes, had three catches for 43 yards, while fullback Zach Boren led the Gray team with four receptions for 44 yards.
  • The kicking game remains a question mark entering the summer. Punter Ben Buchanan struggled Saturday (35.7-yard average), and there was only one made field goal, a 47-yarder by freshman Drew Basil. It'll be interesting to monitor the kicker competition between Basil and Devin Barclay in preseason camp.
Here's the second half of my interview with Ohio State defensive coordinator Jim Heacock.

You mentioned the safety spot being a critical area. Jermale [Hines] played a lot there last year. Is he a guy you really lean on now to take the next step?

[+] EnlargeHines
D. Jay Talbott/Icon SMIThe Buckeyes are excited about the development of defensive back Jermale Hines.
Jim Heacock: No question. Jermale had a good year last year, maybe underrated a little bit. When you look at the bowl game and what he did, playing out there, I thought he did really well. And he's really had a great offseason, so yes, he's got to step up and be the leader of that safety group. And then Orhian Johnson played some last year. He actually filled in when Kurt [Coleman] didn't play in the Indiana game, and he's had a good offseason. And any chance of getting Tyler Moeller back, which we won't know until the fall, but he's a guy that could help. Coming out of last spring, we felt like he was one of our better safeties, and then, of course, he had the offseason injury and didn't play. So he's another guy that could be a piece for us.

As far as that third linebacker spot, is [Etienne] Sabino the guy you look for there, or are there others competing?

JH: There's some good, talented young guys at that spot. Sabino is a guy who has played a bit; we got him in the mix last year. Andrew Sweat is a guy who was coming on real well last year, and then had to have a little knee surgery and was out at the end of the year. He's been out a while, but he looks like he's coming back strong, so he's going to be a factor. And then we've got four or five of those young guys -- Storm Klein, Jordan Whiting, Dorian Bell -- who we think are going to get in the mix. So it looks like we'll be able to develop some depth there.

What are your ultimate goals for the group coming out of the spring? Would you like to have a rough draft of the depth chart?

JH: I always like to come out of the spring and say you're two deep. You'd like to say you've got 22 players who you feel like you can play with in the fall. And then we can get after it in the offseason. That's a goal. And then you always want to see leadership. There's a new group of seniors in town, and you've got to develop those guys and see how they develop and see how they mature and how they handle a leadership role. You're always looking to see the little things. Are they taking care of business, doing good things off the field? You hope the direction is maturity, and they're gearing up and pointing toward a good fall.

And as far as those leaders, is it the usual suspects?

JH: Yeah, I think so. Cam [Heyward] and Ross [Homan]. Brian Rolle looks like he's going to develop into a good leader. And that's something, as we go through spring, we'll get a little bit better feel for that. They've become seniors, and as they become seniors with Coach [Jim] Tressel, there's a lot of expectations put on our seniors. He expects the seniors to do a great job of leading. That's something that as we go through spring, we'll get a little bit better feel of what kind of leadership we're having.

Will anyone on the defensive side miss spring or be severely limited?

JH: Off hand, I can't think of anybody. We've had some guys who had offseason surgeries and some minor things, but I'm assuming all of them will be back and be practicing.
The spring superlatives series continues with Ohio State, which almost certainly will be the Big Ten preseason favorite. Ohio State comes off of another Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl championship, but 2010 always seemed to be the year for loftier goals.

Nine starters return on offense, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor, All-Big Ten guard Justin Boren and standout receiver DeVier Posey. The defense loses a bit more but brings back linemen Cameron Heyward, an All-America candidate, as well as linebackers Ross Homan and Brian Rolle.

Strongest position: Linebacker

  • Key returnees: Ross Homan (108 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 5 INTs, 10 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 2 fumble recoveries); Brian Rolle (95 tackles, 7 tackles for loss, 1 INT, 1 fumble recovery)
  • Key losses: Austin Spitler (38 tackles, 5 tackles for loss, 1 INT).
  • The skinny: Ohio State returns more players at other positions, namely offensive line and running back, but no spot boasts a tandem like Homan and Rolle, who both could earn first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2010. The Buckeyes' linebackers were incredibly underrated last season, particularly Homan, who developed into one of the team's top playmakers. Spitler is a loss, but Ohio State should fill the void with Etienne Sabino or Tyler Moeller, provided Moeller returns near full strength from a head injury. There's also depth with guys like Storm Klein, Andrew Sweat and Dorian Bell.
Weakest position: Safety

  • Key returnees: Jermale Hines (57 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss, 2 INTs, 3 passes defended)
  • Key losses: Kurt Coleman (68 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 5 INTs, 3 forced fumbles, 9 passes defended); Anderson Russell (49 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 3 interceptions, 1 forced fumble, 6 passes defended)
  • The skinny: Ohio State doesn't have a glaring weakness heading into the 2010 season, but when it comes to personnel losses, the safety spot got hit fairly hard. Coleman epitomized the Buckeyes' opportunistic defense in 2009, recording five interceptions and breaking off several big returns. His leadership both on and off the field will be missed. While Russell gave way to Hines this year, he brought a lot of experience to the secondary. Hines has a chance to be really good this fall, but Ohio State's other options at safety are unproven.
Regular readers of this blog know that I typically treat recruiting rankings with a raised eyebrow. I've seen too many can't-miss prospects flame out and too many nobodies become stars.

The Big Ten also features several of the country's best player development programs, so success in this league isn't always tied to highly rated recruits.

That said, it's somewhat surprising to review the latest ESPNU 150 list and see none of the top 30 prospects headed to Big Ten teams. In fact, you need to scroll all the way to No. 42 to find a Big Ten commit (defensive end William Gholston, Michigan State).

Last year's recruiting wasn't much different, as the Big Ten had only one top top 25 recruit (Ohio State RB Jaamal Berry) and three top 50 prospects -- Berry, Ohio State LB Dorian Bell and Michigan DE/LB Craig Roh -- in the ESPNU 150.

As National Signing Day approaches, it's safe to wonder whether the Big Ten can land a big name.

Penn State seemed to have a decent shot at landing running back Marcus Lattimore (No. 19 in the ESPNU 15), especially with Joe Paterno preparing for a home visit, but the South Carolina native dropped the Nittany Lions from his final choices.

The good news for the Big Ten is two top 10 prospects remain uncommitted, and both live in Big Ten territory. Linebacker Jordan Hicks (No. 4 overall) from West Chester, Ohio, is deciding between Ohio State, Florida and Texas. Ohio State is also in the mix for offensive lineman Seantrel Henderson from St. Paul, Minn. Henderson, ranked No. 8 in the ESPNU 150, also is considering Florida, USC, Notre Dame, Miami and Big Ten members Iowa and Minnesota.

Hicks and Henderson would be huge boosts to Big Ten teams, and it'll be important to keep at least one close to home.

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