Big Ten: Illinois Fighting Illinois
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
I'm off to Rantoul, Ill., to spend the day with the Illinois Fighting Illini, one of two Big Ten teams to hold preseason practice off campus [Northwestern is the other]. I'll catch up with coach Ron Zook, offensive coordinator Mike Locksley and several players, so check back later for your Illini fill.
Onto the links:
- Arrelious Benn can take hits again in practice, and the Illinois star loves it, Bob Asmussen writes in The [Champaign, Ill.] News-Gazette. Benn will be in the backfield more as Illinois tries to replace Rashard Mendenhall. Also, tackle Xavier Fulton returned to practice.
- After taking plenty of hard knocks last season, Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen is ready to counter this fall, Andy Hamilton writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Christensen and the offense impressed in Tuesday's scrimmage.
- Indiana coach Bill Lynch addressed Mitchell Evans' move from quarterback to wide receiver and other topics at media day, Jared Poertner writes in The Hoosier Scoop.
- Nick Sheridan might be inching ahead of Steven Threet in Michigan's quarterback competition, Jim Carty writes in The Ann Arbor News. The intensity was noticeable at Wolverines practice Tuesday, and young players like Michael Shaw and Martavious Odoms continue to impress, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Shaw and fellow running back Sam McGuffie are among the freshmen who will play this fall, Angelique Chengelis writes in The Detroit News.
- Michigan State standout Greg Jones might not stay at middle linebacker after practicing there this spring. Adam Decker is getting his chance in the middle, the Lansing State Journal's Joe Rexrode writes in his blog. Spartans freshman wideout Fred Smith came in with all the hype, but classmate Keshawn Martin continues to impress, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press [second note].
- Minnesota brought in a ton of junior-college talent, but don't forget about the Gophers' seniors, who are finally healthy, Marcus Fuller writes in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Knee injuries are dogging the Gophers' offensive linemen, Kent Youngblood writes in the [Minneapolis] Star Tribune.
- Northwestern's offensive backfield has seen plenty of production but seeks more wins this fall, Mark Stewart writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- Ohio State defensive end Lawrence Wilson caught a bad break in the 2007 opener, but a talk with former Buckeyes punter Tyson Gentry put things in perspective. The Columbus Dispatch's Tim May wonders whether Ohio State would be ranked No. 1 if preseason polls were taken midway through training camp, after teams like Georgia and USC suffered significant injuries. Buckeyes incoming freshman defensive lineman Willie Mobley will miss the season with a shoulder injury that could have lingered from high school, Ken Gordon writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Fans aren't the only ones anxious to see Penn State's warp-speed redshirt freshman Stephfon Green at running back this fall, Cory Giger writes in The Altoona Mirror. Penn State's receiving corps is stacked with seniors, but don't count out redshirt freshman Derek Moye, who is finally healthy, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Purdue fans are anxious to see Joe Tiller's final season, as season-ticket sales are on pace to increase, Tom Kubat writes in The [Lafayette, Ind.] Journal and Courier.
- Chris Maragos' college journey has taken him from Western Michigan to Wisconsin and from wide receiver to safety. Now he's in the mix as the Badgers' top nickel back, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. A torn ACL was the least of Aaron Henry's worries in the last few months, as the Wisconsin cornerback dealt with the loss of three friends, including former Central Florida football player Ereck Plancher, Jim Polzin writes in The Capital Times.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
MADISON, Wis. -- Greetings from one of my favorite college towns. I'll be heading over to Wisconsin's scrimmage later this morning, but here's a look at what's happening around the conference.
- Penn State held its media day Friday -- I'm still hoping to head down there this month, if they'll let me in -- and coach Joe Paterno didn't tip his hand about the quarterback situation, Jeff McLane writes in the Philadelphia Enquirer.
- Paterno didn't watch the infamous Outside the Lines piece on Penn State but admitted mistakes were made in handling some of the offseason issues, Cory Giger writes in the Altoona Mirror. He quotes Paterno saying:
''I can't walk away from the fact that we had some kids that were [in trouble] and that maybe I didn't do the best job I could have."
- The spread offense isn't new to Paterno, who ran a version of it as a high schooler in 1944 [!], the Associated Press writes.
- The Lions hope their off-field problems are in the past, but media day brought more questions about the recently dismissed players, Donnie Collins writes in The (Scranton) Times-Tribune.
- Ohio State freshman Terrelle Pryor handled his first blitz -- from the media -- quite well, Bob Hunter writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Buckeyes offensive lineman Justin Boren knows he'll be a popular [or unpopular] man in years to come after transferring from Michigan, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
- Michigan running back Kevin Grady pled guilty to driving while intoxicated, Barton Dieters writes in The Grand Rapids Press.
- After a so-so practice on Wednesday, Michigan stepped it up with its best workout thus far on Friday. Kicker K.C. Lopata reportedly hit a 56-yard field goal. Impressive, even in practice.
- Michigan State wideout Fred Smith should be one of the league's top impact freshmen this fall, but he's got to trim a few pounds first and convince people he's not a tight end, Dave Dye writes in The Detroit News.
- Smith and classmate Keshawn Martin continue to impress the coaches at wide receiver, while Chris L. Rucker will play exclusively on defense as a cornerback, Andrew Mouranie writes in The Lansing State Journal.
- The Champaign News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen projects Illinois' depth chart. Junior Daniel Dufrene gets the starting nod at running back, while Travon Bellamy and Nate Bussey win the safety spots.
- Wisconsin's defensive linemen are experienced, talented and coming off surgeries.
- I was really impressed with Wisconsin wideout Nick Toon when I saw him before his hamstring injury this spring. Toon, the son of former Badgers star Al Toon, is getting healthy and playing catch-up, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
- No surprise here: defense is the key for Minnesota's turnaround this fall, John Mullin writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- After tragedy and transition the last two years, Northwestern needs to take the next step this fall, Rich Cirminiello writes on FoxSports.com.
- Here are some good media day tidbts from the Penn State blog Black Shoes Diaries.
- There are risks and rewards to the no-huddle offense, and Indiana will find them out this fall.