Big Ten: Eric Vanden Heuvel

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April, 28, 2011
4/28/11
12:00
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It's draft night! Should be a big one for the Big Ten.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

After studying the All-Big Ten selections for 2008, it's clear the Big Ten is much stronger at some positions than others. The fact that it was hard to choose a second-team All-Big Ten quarterback tells you something about the league's troubles under center. On the flip side, there are 10-15 defensive linemen worthy of All-Big Ten status.

With the regular season wrapped up, here's a closer look at the Big Ten positions, from strongest to weakest.

Defensive line -- The depth at both line positions is astounding and will be reflected in the next few NFL drafts. Beginning with end, you have Penn State's Aaron Maybin, Minnesota's Willie VanDeSteeg, Michigan's Brandon Graham, Northwestern's Corey Wootton and Indiana's Jammie Kirlew. Guys like Michigan's Tim Jamison, Illinois' Derek Walker, Michigan State's Trevor Anderson, Wisconsin's Mike Newkirk, Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan and Penn State's Josh Gaines would be all-conference in most leagues, but not the Big Ten. The tackle spot might be even more stacked. Iowa's Mitch King leads the way, but he's joined by teammate Matt Kroul, Penn State's Jared Odrick, Michigan's Terrance Taylor, Northwestern's John Gill and Ohio State's Nader Abdallah.

Running back -- If not for the overwhelming depth on the D-line, this group would be No. 1 on the list. The Big Ten boasts three of the nation's top seven rushers in Iowa's Shonn Greene, Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells. Penn State's Evan Royster also had a fabulous year. When guys like Purdue's Kory Sheets, Wisconsin's P.J. Hill, Michigan's Brandon Minor and Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton aren't even on the radar for all-conference, you've got a pretty solid group.

Linebacker -- This was another group that caused some tough choices for first-team all-conference. Ohio State's James Laurinaitis was a shoo-in, but Illinois' Brit Miller, Penn State's Navorro Bowman and Michigan State's Greg Jones are all in the mix for the other two spots. Iowa's Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds, Ohio State's Marcus Freeman, Wisconsin's DeAndre Levy and Indiana's Matt Mayberry add depth.

Offensive line (interior) -- Three centers were listed on the media's all-conference team, illustrating the depth there. Penn State center A.Q. Shipley earned Offensive Lineman of the Year honors, and Iowa's Rob Bruggeman and Illinois' Ryan McDonald also were recognized. The guard spot might be even stronger with Iowa's Seth Olsen, Penn State's Rich Ohrnberger and Stefen Wisniewski, Wisconsin's Kraig Urbik and Andy Kemp and Michigan State's Roland Martin.

Punter -- This was another group that stirred some debate about All-Big Ten selections. Michigan's Zoltan Mesko was the obvious choice, but Iowa's Ryan Donahue, Michigan State's Aaron Bates and Penn State's Jeremy Boone also were in the mix. Freshmen Brad Nortman (Wisconsin) and Chris Hagerup (Indiana) had terrific seasons, and I was also very impressed with Ohio State's A.J. Trapasso, Minnesota's Justin Kucek and Northwestern's Stefan Demos.

Cornerback -- I didn't fully grasp how strong the league was at cornerback until reviewing the All-Big Ten lists. Everyone knew about Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins and Illinois' Vontae Davis, but several other players add depth, namely Wisconsin's Allen Langford, Iowa's Amari Spievey and Bradley Fletcher, Minnesota's Traye Simmons, Northwestern's Sherrick McManis and Michigan State's Chris L. Rucker.

Offensive tackle -- There weren't any off-the-charts performances here, but it's a solid group overall. Penn State's Gerald Cadogan moved past Ohio State's Alex Boone as the league's premier tackle. Boone didn't have the dominant year many expected, but he wasn't the main problem on Ohio State's underachieving line. Add in players like Iowa's Bryan Bulaga, Illinois' Xavier Fulton and Wisconsin's Eric Vanden Heuvel, and it's a decent group.

Safety -- Michigan State's Otis Wiley might be the only surefire NFL draft pick from this crop, but several other players turned in strong performances. Ohio State's Kurt Coleman should have been second-team All-Big Ten for both the media and coaches, and Northwestern's Brad Phillips has a major beef for being left off the list. Other standouts include Iowa's Brent Greenwood, Wisconsin's Jay Valai and Minnesota tandem Kyle Theret and Tramaine Brock.

Kicker -- A decent group overall, led by Penn State's Kevin Kelly and Michigan State's Brett Swenson, both of whom should have been Lou Groza Award semifinalists. Wisconsin's Philip Welch quietly had a very solid season (17-for-20), and Northwestern's Amado Villarreal also performed well.

Tight end -- Not the best season for tight ends, though it didn't help that Wisconsin All-American Travis Beckum was hurt for most of the fall. His replacement Garrett Graham had a nice year, as did Iowa's Brandon Myers, Michigan State's Charlie Gantt, Minnesota's Jack Simmons and Illinois' Michael Hoomanawanui, but it wasn't a great group overall.

Wide recever -- Minnesota's Eric Decker and Illinois' Arrelious Benn will be solid NFL players, and Penn State's Derrick Williams also will get to the next level. But quarterbacks and wide receivers are intertwined, and neither position sizzled this season. Penn State's three seniors (Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood) performed well, as did Purdue's Greg Orton and Wisconsin's David Gilreath. But not much depth here.

Quarterback -- This was the worst quarterback crop
in recent memory. Penn State's Daryll Clark was fabulous in his first season as the starter, and both Illinois' Juice Williams and Minnesota's Adam Weber showed growth at times. But it was legitimately difficult to choose a second-team all-league quarterback. Several fifth-year seniors struggled this fall, though there's hope for next year with players like Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi.

Tags:

Big Ten Conference, Corey Wootton, Terrelle Pryor, Bradley Fletcher, Kory Sheets, Stefan Demos, Tim Jamison, Mike Newkirk, Kyle Theret, Kevin Kelly, Michael Hoomanawanui, Illinois Fighting Illini, Wisconsin Badgers, Nader Abdallah, Michigan Wolverines, Terrance Taylor, Bryan Bulaga, Navorro Bowman, Michigan State Spartans, Justin Kucek, Garrett Graham, A.J. Trapasso, Eric Vanden Heuvel, Stefen Wisniewski, DeAndre Levy, Iowa Hawkeyes, Arrelious Benn, Jack Simmons, Ryan Donahue, Aaron Bates, Josh Gaines, Jeremy Boone, Eric Decker, A.J. Edds, Shonn Greene, Brandon Myers, Traye Simmons, Chris Wells, Matt Mayberry, Aaron Maybin, Charlie Gantt, Tyrell Sutton, Northwestern Wildcats, Deon Butler, Ricky Stanzi, Jammie Kirlew, Pat Angerer, Indiana Hoosiers, P.J. Hill, Brandon Graham, Juice Williams, Amado Villarreal, Xavier Fulton, Rich Ohrnberger, Daryll Clark, Gerald Cadogan, James Laurinaitis, Roland Martin, Sherrick McManis, Jared Odrick, Rob Bruggeman, Big Ten Conference, Evan Royster, Jordan Norwood, Seth Olsen, Travis Beckum, Brit Miller, Chris Hagerup, Tramaine Brock, Brad Phillips, Kraig Urbik, Brad Nortman, Andy Kemp, Marcus Freeman, Chris L. Rucker, A.Q. Shipley, Derrick Williams, Vontae Davis, Purdue Boilermakers Ryan Kerrigan, Malcolm Jenkins, Zoltan Mesko, Otis Wiley, Adam Weber, Jay Valai, Kurt Coleman, Derek Walker, Brent Greenwood, Greg Orton, Amari Spievey, Penn State Nittany Lions, Philip Welch, Mitch King, David Gilreath, Brett Swenson, Greg Jones, Matt Kroul, Ryan McDonald, Alex Boone, Allen Langford, John Gill, Minnesota Golden Gophers Willie VanDeSteeg, Trevor Anderson, Javon Ringer

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Update your depth charts, people.

NORTHWESTERN

Backup quarterback Mike Kafka is expected to be fine for Saturday's regular-season finale against Illinois after sustaining a concussion in the win at Michigan.

The news isn't so good for defensive tackle Corbin Bryant, who will miss the remainder of the season with a knee injury that will require surgery. Junior Adam Hahn, a two-year starter at defensive tackle, will get the start against the Illini.

OHIO STATE

Junior wide receiver/punt returner Ray Small might be able to play Saturday against Michigan (ABC, noon ET), head coach Jim Tressel said today. Small has been suspended for the last two games for repeated violations of team rules. After the suspension, Small's father told several media outlets that Ray would have a chance to return for the Michigan game.

Tressel expects running back Chris "Beanie" Wells to be fine for the game after the star junior tweaked his hamstring on a highlight-reel leap over Illinois' Donsay Hardeman in Saturday's win. Nickel back Jermale Hines (leg) is the only Buckeyes player to miss the game because of injury.

WISCONSIN

Sophomore wide receiver Kyle Jefferson likely will miss Saturday's game against Cal-Poly after sustaining a concussion in the win against Minnesota. This comes as no surprise, as Jefferson was briefly knocked unconscious and taken from the field in an ambulance.

Badgers head coach Bret Bielema expects starting right tackle Eric Vanden Heuvel (leg), starting safety Jay Valai (shin) and backup running back Zach Brown (ribs) all to be available for Cal-Poly.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

In addition to the big news that Minnesota star wide receiver Eric Decker will miss Saturday's game at Wisconsin (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET), here are some other injury updates from around the Big Ten.

MICHIGAN
Head coach Rich Rodriguez said quarterback Steven Threet (concussion) is improving and should return to practice today. If Threet practices, he will split first-team snaps with Nick Sheridan. Threet made eight consecutive starts before sitting out last week as Sheridan helped Michigan to a 29-6 win at Minnesota.

Running back Brandon Minor (shoulder, wrist, ribs) also is improving but won't practice today. Rodriguez hopes Minor can practice later this week, though it's unlikely the junior will start Saturday against Northwestern (ESPN2, noon ET).

"Obviously he's very questionable for this weekend," Rodriguez said. "We'll see how he responds [Wednesday] and Thursday. He's definitely not going to practice today. He's a tough guy and I'm sure if he's able to go at all in practice this week, he will."

INDIANA
Quarterbacks Kellen Lewis (ankle) and Ben Chappell (head) both should be fine for Saturday's game at No. 8 Penn State after leaving last week's loss to Wisconsin with injuries, head coach Bill Lynch said.

Linebacker Will Patterson (knee) will miss the Penn State game, while cornerback Richard Council (ankle) is questionable and likely will be replaced in the starting lineup by Donnell Jones. Indiana already has lost three starters in the secondary -- cornerback Chris Phillips and safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk -- to season-ending knee injuries.

WISCONSIN
Starting middle linebacker Jaevery McFadden (concussion) has been cleared and will practice today. Right tackle Eric Vanden Heuvel will undergo an MRI on his lower right leg and could return to practice Wednesday.

PURDUE
Fifth-year senior quarterback Curtis Painter (separated throwing shoulder) is improving and should return to practice today. Painter told head coach Joe Tiller that he threw about 50 passes Monday -- the team is off that day -- and experienced minimal pain.

Tiller said Purdue likely will start redshirt freshman Justin Siller for the third consecutive game but could rotate Siller and Painter from series to series against Iowa.

Big Ten internal affairs: Week 10

October, 29, 2008
10/29/08
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's time to take a closer look at five Big Ten teams.

1. Wisconsin -- Running back P.J. Hill is fully participating in practice after being limited by a leg injury last week, but he could take a backseat to redshirt freshman John Clay on Saturday at No. 21 Michigan State (ESPN, noon ET). Head coach Bret Bielema said Hill, Clay and Zach Brown will compete for carries throughout the week, with all three players likely being used in some form against the Spartans. But Clay started last week against Illinois and remains No. 1 on the depth chart. The Badgers also should get some help along the offensive line, as tackle Gabe Carimi and guard Kraig Urbik returned from knee injuries. A source told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel that the starting offensive line might be shuffled, with Urbik moving to right tackle and Eric Vanden Heuvel moving from right tackle to left tackle.

2. Illinois -- Head coach Ron Zook hinted at changes earlier this season, and he did it again after the Illini fell last Saturday at Wisconsin. Zook was still peeved after Monday's practice, telling reporters, "You got any ideas? Everybody seems to have ideas. I'll take them all. Here's the deal. We'll be ready to go. Yeah, I'm a little bit feisty right now. I don't have an answer for you. I wish I had an answer. I'd give it to you." This week's depth chart doesn't reflect many changes, but Illinois is looking for more help at outside linebacker to flank Brit Miller. Expect the rotation to increase at both linebacker and safety on Saturday against Iowa (ABC, 2:30 p.m. ET).

3. Northwestern -- The Wildcats could feature a new starting offensive backfield and a different approach on offense Saturday at No. 17 Minnesota (ESPN2, noon ET). Junior quarterback Mike Kafka, who could start in place of injured starter C.J. Bacher, is more of a rushing threat who ran the option when he started four games as a true freshman. Though Bacher injured his leg on a 10-yard run against Indiana, Northwestern won't hesitate to have its quarterback on the move against the Gophers. "Every spread offense in the country I'm watching runs the quarterback," head coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "It's an element of the offense and it's an inherent risk. That's why you recruit and get your other guys ready in case something ever does happen." Northwestern has been plagued by turnovers this season, so the game plan might be more conservative for Kafka, emphasizing the option and his strengths.

4. Purdue -- Quarterbacks Curtis Painter and Justin Siller have different styles and strengths, but coach Joe Tiller expects to have a similar package on offense no matter who starts Saturday against Michigan. Painter sustained a mild separation of his throwing shoulder last Saturday and could miss the game. He has practiced sparingly this week. Siller has been alternating between running back and quarterback this season, and he would give the Boilers more of a rushing threat. "There are differences in the sense that, you know, Justin is not the prototype drop-back guy, though he can throw the drop-back routes and he has," Tiller said. "This week we'll be closer to having a similar package for the two of them because [Siller will] have another week back into the offense."

5. Michigan State -- As opposing defenses focus on stopping running back Javon Ringer, the Spartans are extending their passing attack and increasing their depth at the wide receiver position. Sophomore Blair White ignited for 143 receiving yards and a touchdown last Saturday against Michigan, and true freshman Keshawn Martin is gradually claiming a greater role. With Deon Curry limited by a back injury, Michigan State has looked to other wideouts to step up. "We have more depth this year than we had last year," head coach Mark Dantonio said. "We really have six, eight guys, that are functional."

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