Big Ten: James Brewer

Fourteen former Big Ten players will soon be the proud owners of new Super Bowl championship rings.

The league had 23 players on the two Super Bowl squads, and several played key roles in the New York Giants' victory against New England. Michigan product Mario Manningham had five catches for 73 yards, including the spectacular 38-yard reception that sparked the game-winning drive. Illinois' Steve Weatherford averaged 40.8 yards on four punts and placed three inside the Patriots' 10-yard line. It was a tough night for Big Ten tight ends, as Ohio State's Jake Ballard and Wisconsin's Travis Beckum each suffered knee injuries during the game. But both won rings.

The entire list of the 14 former Big Ten players who were on the Giants' championship team is as follows:
Several Giants coaches also have Big Ties, including offensive line coach Pat Flaherty (a former assistant at Iowa and Penn State), secondary and cornerbacks coach Peter Giunta (ex-assistant at Penn State), linebackers coach Jim Herrmann (former player and assistant at Michigan), and running backs coach Jerald Ingram (ex-player and graduate assistant at Michigan).

The Patriots had eight former Big Ten players on the roster, led by Tom Brady. While Brady failed to win his fourth title, he did set a Super Bowl record with 16 consecutive completions during the game.

And, of course, Bill O'Brien finished his duties as New England offensive coordinator and can now concentrate on being Penn State's new head coach.

Big Ten NFL draft wrap-up

May, 2, 2011
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The 2011 NFL draft is in the books, and it's time to take a look back at how the Big Ten fared in the selections. In case you missed it, check out my breakdown of the six Big Ten players who heard their names called in the first round.

All in all, 29 Big Ten players were drafted this year. New Big Ten member Nebraska had seven selections.

Let's start off with a rundown of the picks. I'll have some quick thoughts after each round.

[+] EnlargeJ.J. Watt
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireWisconsin defensive lineman J.J. Watt was the first Big Ten player selected in the NFL draft this year.
First round

Quick thoughts: The Big Ten had its largest first-round output since 2007, and several players look like good fits for their teams. Chicago had to be thrilled Carimi was still available, and San Diego felt the same about Liuget, projected by many as a top-15 pick. Kerrigan likely needs to contribute immediately for the Redskins, while Clayborn and Heyward enter situations where they can ease into the transition.

Second round

Quick thoughts: Mouton's selection was a surprise for many folks, but it's a testament to a good player who impressed the scouts despite playing for a lousy defense in 2010. Wisniewski enters a good fit in Oakland, where his uncle, Steve, is an assistant offensive line coach. I really like Leshoure in Detroit, where he'll enter a competitive situation at running back.

Third round

Quick thoughts: Wilson, who entered the draft after his junior season, might have been a bit disappointed to fall to the third round. But he enters a good situation in New Orleans and should have some time to develop.

Fourth round
Quick thoughts: Ballard reportedly tested positive for marijuana use and likely paid a price as he dropped down at least a round. Still, the Iowa standout should help the Vikings early in his career. I really like the Doss fit in Baltimore, which can use more playmakers at receiver. It'll be interesting to see how quickly Chekwa sees the field in Oakland.

Fifth round
Quick thoughts: What a round for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Although Stanzi waited a little longer than expected, he joins a team in Kansas City that has a lot of connections to the New England Patriots, the squad many thought would draft the Iowa quarterback. Klug is a solid player who can play either line position. I'll be interested to see how he fares with the Titans.

Sixth round

  • Penn State RB Evan Royster, Washington, No. 177 overall
  • Michigan State LB Greg Jones, New York Giants, No. 185 overall
  • Michigan State CB Chris L. Rucker, Indianapolis, No. 188 overall
  • Ohio State LB Brian Rolle, Philadelphia, No. 193 overall
  • Iowa S Tyler Sash, New York Giants, No. 198 overall
  • Ohio State LB Ross Homan, Minnesota, No. 200 overall
  • Michigan G Stephen Schilling, San Diego, No. 201 overall
Quick thoughts: This marked the Big Ten's biggest round as seven players heard their names called. Jones, the former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, went a little later than expected, and Sash also dropped down a bit after entering the draft after his junior season. Homan, who missed some time last season with a foot injury, could end up being an excellent addition for the Vikings. Really like that pick.

Seventh round

  • Illinois LB Nate Bussey, New Orleans, No. 243 overall
  • Wisconsin G/C Bill Nagy, Dallas, No. 252 overall
Quick thoughts: While I was surprised several other Big Ten players didn't get drafted, both Bussey and Nagy are deserving. Both players played integral roles in their teams' success last fall, and both were overshadowed by other draftees (Liuget and Wilson for Bussey, Carimi and Moffitt for Nagy).

NEBRASKA'S DRAFTEES

Husker fans, I didn't forget you or your team. Nebraska actually had more draft picks (7) than any Big Ten team, and here they are.

  • CB Prince Amukamara, New York Giants, No. 19 overall (first round)
  • RB Roy Helu Jr., Washington, No. 104 overall (fourth round)
  • K Alex Henery, Philadelphia, No. 120 overall (fourth round)
  • DB Dejon Gomes, Washington, No. 146 overall (fifth round)
  • WR Niles Paul, Washington, No. 155 overall (fifth round)
  • OT Keith Williams, Pittsburgh, No. 196 overall (sixth round)
  • DB Eric Hagg, Cleveland, No. 248 overall (seventh round)
Quick thoughts: Think there might be a few "Husker Power!" chants at Redskins games this season? The Mike Shanahan-Bo Pelini connection likely played a role in the three Nebraska players heading to the nation's capital. Henery soon will succeed David Akers in Philadelphia, and the Giants had to thrilled that Amukamara still was on the board at No. 19.

Big Ten picks by team

  • Nebraska: 7 (players competed in the Big 12)
  • Iowa: 6
  • Ohio State: 5
  • Wisconsin: 5 (four picks in first three rounds)
  • Illinois: 4
  • Michigan State: 2
  • Indiana: 2
  • Michigan: 2
  • Penn State: 2
  • Purdue: 1
  • Northwestern: 0
  • Minnesota: 0
By position (excluding Nebraska)

  • DL: 7
  • OL: 7
  • LB: 6
  • DB: 4
  • RB: 2
  • WR: 1
  • TE: 1
  • QB: 1

Nebraska had three defensive backs, a running back, an offensive lineman, a wide receiver and a kicker drafted.

Draft snubs

Quite a few Big Ten players didn't hear their names called during the weekend, and they'll enter the shaky world of free agency. I was absolutely stunned no one drafted Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher. He was the Big Ten's top receiver last fall and brings a combination of football IQ and toughness that should appeal to football people not overly obsessed with measurables.

Wisconsin running back John Clay was the Big Ten's only non-senior who entered the draft but didn't get selected. Clay struggles with weight and his ankle problems might have contributed to him slipping through the draft.

Other Big Ten draft snubs include: Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien, Ohio State guard Justin Boren, Iowa tight end Allen Reisner and Purdue receiver Keith Smith. Nebraska's Pierre Allen and Ricky Henry also will go the free-agent route.

Big Ten draft bargains

April, 28, 2011
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During my Big Ten chat Wednesday, Dan from B1G Country asked about any NFL draft bargains from the conference this year.

With the draft set to begin Thursday night, I thought this would be a good time to look at some Big Ten players who might benefit teams in the middle or later rounds, or even as free-agent pickups.

Here's one potential bargain from each Big Ten squad (heights and weights according to ESPN's Scouts Inc.).

ILLINOIS
Randall Hunt, G, 6-6, 318
The skinny: Hunt anchored a formidable Illinois offensive line that helped Mikel Leshoure and others run wild in 2010. He shut down Baylor's Phil Taylor in the Texas Bowl and brings a sturdy frame to the interior line. Hunt wouldn't be a bad choice in the later rounds.

INDIANA
James Brewer, T, 6-6, 323
The skinny: I'm hesitant to call Brewer a bargain because he could be off the board early in the draft. Indiana had another tackle, Rodger Saffold, taken with the first pick of the second round in 2010. Brewer has the size to be good at the next level, and if he's still available on the third day, he'd be a nice pick.

IOWA
Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, WR, 5-11, 202
The skinny: The character questions are there, but DJK was an extremely productive player at Iowa and could be a nice late-round addition for a team. He's a strong route runner with good speed and good hands, and he can stretch defenses. If a team is willing to take a bit of a risk, it could be rewarded.

MICHIGAN
Stephen Schilling, G, 6-4, 308
The skinny: Schilling played a ton of football at Michigan and helped the Wolverines to a record-setting offensive performance in 2010. His measurables might not blow teams away, but he's a smart, solid lineman who could be a nice addition in the middle to later rounds.

MICHIGAN STATE
Eric Gordon, LB/S, 5-11, 224
The skinny: Overshadowed by fellow linebacker Greg Jones for much of his career, Gordon quietly produced at an extremely high rate for Michigan State. You could argue he was the Spartans' best linebacker during the second half of the 2010 season. Gordon turned in an impressive performance on pro day and would be a nice pickup late in the draft or as a free agent.

MINNESOTA
Adam Weber, QB, 6-3, 221
The skinny: Some Gophers fans might scoff at this, but I always felt Weber got a raw deal during his college career. He played for three different offensive coordinators, never complained about it and still set a bunch of team records. While his junior season was a disappointment, Weber did some good things last fall and drew respect around the Big Ten. Not a bad pick in the later rounds.

NEBRASKA
Eric Hagg, S, 6-1, 209
The skinny: Hagg is a playmaker, as he showed with a team-high five interceptions plus a school-record 95-yard punt return for a touchdown against Texas. He also brings versatility to the table, having played a safety-linebacker hybrid role last fall for the Blackshirts. Hagg has played on an elite college defense and would be a good get in the middle to late rounds.

NORTHWESTERN
Quentin Davie, LB, 6-4, 238
The skinny: Davie entered the 2010 season as a solid NFL prospect and started off strong but disappeared at times down the stretch. He made big plays throughout his career and boasts good size as an outside linebacker. Davie could help a team as a late-round or free-agent addition if he gets back to his 2009 form.

OHIO STATE
Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, 5-11, 182
The skinny: If I were an NFL general manager, I wouldn't hesitate to draft Sanzenbacher. He lacks ideal measurables but makes up for it with football intelligence and a fearless approach to the game. Sanzenbacher has great hands and became Ohio State's top threat in the red zone this season. He stood out at the Senior Bowl and would be an excellent pick in the middle rounds.

PENN STATE
Evan Royster, RB, 5-11, 212
The skinny: Royster is a patient runner with good vision who could thrive in the right situation at the pro level. His slow start to the 2010 season is a concern, but he picked things up down the stretch and boasts a productive college résumé. If a team needs a running back in the late rounds, Royster would be a nice choice.

PURDUE
Keith Smith, WR, 6-2, 224
The skinny: There's risk here as Smith comes off of tears in two knee ligaments, but a team could get a major steal if the Boilers receiver can stay healthy. He has the size to excel at the pro level and might have been the Big Ten's top receiver had he stayed on the field last season. Smith is a class act who has a chance to be a solid NFL receiver.

WISCONSIN
Scott Tolzien, QB, 6-2, 209
The skinny: He might never be a full-time starter in the NFL, but teams certainly can benefit from having Tolzien on the roster. He's an extremely smart player who makes up for mediocre measurables with superb intangibles. Tolzien is accurate and efficient, and he'll prepare harder than anyone. If a team needs a quarterback in the later rounds, Tolzien would be a great pick.
There's little doubt that the first Big Ten player drafted in April will be a defensive lineman.

(Not including Nebraska cornerback Prince Amukamara, who played his entire career in the Big 12.)

Who will hear his name called first? Wisconsin's J.J. Watt? Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan? Illinois' Corey Liuget? Iowa's Adrian Clayborn? Ohio State's Cameron Heyward?

I'll have more on the hopefuls as we get closer to draft night, but colleagues Todd McShay and Mel Kiper are always dissecting the draft and have come out with their latest three-round mock selections.

Here's McShay's mock draft and where the Big Ten players fall:

First round
  • Illinois DT Corey Liuget, No. 14 overall to St. Louis
  • Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan, No. 16 overall to Jacksonville
  • Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt, No. 17 overall to New England
  • Wisconsin T Gabe Carimi, No. 21 overall to Kansas City
  • Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn, No. 24 overall to New Orleans
  • Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward, No. 32 overall to Green Bay
Second round
Third round

Here's a look at Kiper's mock draft and where the Big Ten prospects fall:

First round
  • Watt, No. 10 overall to Washington
  • Liuget, No. 14 overall to St. Louis
  • Kerrigan, No. 20 overall to Tampa Bay
  • Carimi, No. 23 overall to Philadelphia
  • Clayborn, No. 27 overall to Atlanta
  • Heyward, No. 30 overall to New York Jets
Second round
  • Wilson, No. 34 overall to Buffalo
  • Leshoure, No. 53 overall to Indianapolis
  • Doss, No. 64 overall to Green Bay
Third round
  • Ballard, No. 67 overall to Denver
  • Kendricks, No. 68 overall to Buffalo
  • Moffitt, No. 77 overall to Tennessee
  • Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa, No. 81 overall to Oakland
  • Ohio State LB Ross Homan, No. 85 overall to Philadelphia
  • Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski, No. 93 to Chicago

Some interesting stuff here. Both McShay and Kiper think the Colts' Big Ten pipeline will continue, and both also like Buffalo to draft Big Ten players. Kiper includes three players McShay leaves out -- Chekwa, Homan and Wisniewski -- while McShay includes one player (Brewer) who Kiper leaves out. It also stands out how teams like Illinois, Indiana, Iowa and Wisconsin have more high-level draft prospects this year than Ohio State, Michigan, Penn State and Nebraska.

Amukamara is the only Nebraska player included in both mock drafts. Both McShay and Kiper have Amukamara going 13th overall to Detroit, where he'll reunite with former Huskers' teammate Ndamukong Suh.

Big Ten Senior Bowl wrap-up

January, 31, 2011
1/31/11
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The Big Ten all-stars at the Senior Bowl didn't come away with a win Saturday -- the South squad beat the North 24-10 -- but several players helped their stock for the 2011 NFL draft.

Let's take a quick look back at the game.

STATISTICS
  • Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi completed 7 of 12 passes 87 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions
  • Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher, a late addition to the North roster, led the squad with five receptions for 62 yards
  • Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks added three receptions for 39 yards
  • Michigan State LB Greg Jones recorded seven tackles (4 solo)
  • Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan had a big day with three tackles for loss, a sack and five total tackles
  • Ohio State LB Ross Homan recorded three tackles
  • Iowa DE Christian Ballard had two tackles
  • The North squad featured three Big Ten offensive linemen in starting lineup: Michigan G Stephen Schilling, Wisconsin C John Moffitt and Indiana T James Brewer. Wisconsin T Gabe Carimi missed the game after sustaining an ankle injury in Thursday's practice.

Here's what the Scouts Inc. crew had to say about the Big Ten players:

Ricky Stanzi: "He has made three great throws on a fourth-quarter drive. The first throw, to WR Vincent Brown, had great timing and accuracy. His second throw was drilled into a tight window to TE Lance Kendricks. And his third throw had excellent timing and was a very catchable ball on a seam route by Brown. He completed six of his first nine throws."

Ryan Kerrigan: "An instinctive and tough player. He shows a quick first step and a wide variety of pass rushing moves. He may not be an explosive or gifted athlete, but he sets up blockers well and brings it play in and play out. He's had a good week and is making an impact in this game."

Greg Jones: "Jones' missed tackle on Tulsa RB Charles Clay showed his limitations and the concerns we have about him in the open field. He needs to do a better job of breaking down and taking better angles. He has not had a great week."

Carimi and Kerrigan both made the list of top five players at the Senior Bowl, while both Jones and Kendricks were mentioned among those who didn't improve their draft stock during the week.

Big Ten notes from Senior Bowl

January, 27, 2011
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Another day of practice is in the books in Mobile, Ala. How did the Big Ten's Senior Bowl participants fare?

Be sure and check out all the coverage from the ESPN Scouts Inc. crew.

Some notes:

Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan: Colleague Todd McShay named Kerrigan as his top performer from the North squad on Wednesday. McShay writes that the 2010 Big Ten defensive player of the year is "a DE in a 4-3 scheme no questions asked and should drop into coverage rarely in the NFL. After coming back to the D-line he was as dominant as he's been all week in practice. He showed good initial quickness off the line and did a really good job of dipping his shoulder into the offensive tackle and bending the edge from that point." Kerrigan shined at the expense of two Big Ten offensive tackles, Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi and Indiana's James Brewer, whom he beat in practice.

Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi: Labeled a midround pick, Stanzi drew mixed reviews on Wednesday. The Scouts Inc. crew writes: "If forced into the game, he'll be prepared, competitive and can make accurate throws underneath and most of the intermediate throws. The problem we saw this week, and it matched what we saw on film, is his arm strength is limited. While arm strength can be the most overrated part of evaluating a QB, he has to have a certain base level."

Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi and Iowa DE Christian Ballard: Ballard beat Carimi in one-on-one drills and the Wisconsin star also struggled against Notre Dame's Ian Williams.

Michigan State LB Greg Jones: Another pretty rough day for Jones, who is struggling to show that he can tackle in space. Jones must prove he'll be a complete linebacker at the NFL level after a wonderful college career. The Scouts Inc. crew writes: "He was exposed in one-on-one coverage drills with RBs. He struggled when he had to quickly change momentum off cuts and was often trailing the RBs and out of position. He has a good motor and shows good instincts. When he can quickly recognize and find the ball between tackles, he does not have a problem getting in position to make the stop. We question if he can consistently get off blocks and make plays outside the tackle box."

Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher: Although the Buckeyes star isn't getting a ton of separation on routes, he has impressed the Scouts Inc. crew with his ability to attack the ball in the air.
The Scouts Inc. crew is all over the happenings at the Senior Bowl this week in Mobile, Ala., and several Big Ten players are featured in the Day 2 practice blog. Insider

Overall, the reviews haven't been overly favorable, with some exceptions.

Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan: The 2010 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year hasn't been dominant, but the Scouts Inc. crew notes he's facing two outstanding offensive tackles in fellow Big Ten standout Gabe Carimi from Wisconsin and Colorado's Nate Solder. Kerrigan "showed quickness and power but didn't see the ability to counter once he got caught by those two."

Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks: Not a good day for the Badgers' standout, as the Scouts Inc. crew writes Kendricks "showed no pop or power as a blocker and as a receiver he was trapping everything against his pads. You could hear it thudding off his pads. The other North TEs had good days, so his poor performance stood out a little more."

Indiana OT James Brewer: The Scouts Inc. crew pulled no punches here, writing that Brewer had an "awful day." They write that the Hoosiers tackle "plays very high and doesn't bend at the knees well. He's a waist bender and struggles moving laterally." Ouch. Brewer fared much better during Day 1 of practice.

Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher: One of two late additions to the North team, Sanzenbacher "is small but he's quick and has shown good hands so far."

Michigan State LB Greg Jones: The Spartans star returned to school for his senior year in large part to improve against the pass, but he endured some struggles Tuesday. According to my colleagues, Jones "did not look good during passing drills. Too many drops in the individual drills. He's a little stiff and misplayed the ball. But he made a nice read and wrap on a play during the run period."

If you missed the Day 1 practice blog, Insider which includes some notes on Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi, give it a read. Also, check out the weigh in notes from Monday Insider and where Big Ten players ranked. Brewer and Carimi are two big dudes.

Big Ten lunch links

January, 25, 2011
1/25/11
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Be sure and check out the recruiting page today as the Big Ten will be featured.

Big Ten to send 12 to Senior Bowl

January, 18, 2011
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The Big Ten will once again be decently represented in the nation's premier all-star game for NFL hopefuls.

Twelve players from Big Ten teams will participate in the Under Armour Senior Bowl on Jan. 29 in Mobile, Ala. Wisconsin and Iowa both are sending three players to the game, while five other Big Ten teams will be represented.

The participants are:
  • Iowa defensive tackle Christian Ballard
  • Iowa defensive end Adrian Clayborn
  • Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi
  • Wisconsin offensive tackle Gabe Carimi
  • Wisconsin guard John Moffitt
  • Wisconsin tight end Lance Kendricks
  • Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones
  • Michigan State cornerback Chris L. Rucker
  • Indiana offensive tackle James Brewer
  • Michigan guard Stephen Schilling
  • Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan
  • Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan

It's interesting to see some players included who might have flown under the radar during the season but project well to the NFL. Ballard and Brewer certainly fit into this category.

Ohio State and Michigan both have only one representative, although Buckeyes cornerback Chimdi Chekwa would have made the roster if he didn't suffer a broken wrist in the Sugar Bowl.

The group includes three potential first-round picks in Kerrigan, Carimi and Clayborn.

Should be fun to see how they all perform.

Big Ten lunch links

October, 27, 2010
10/27/10
12:00
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It's not too late to join my chat, which begins right at noon ET.

Indiana injury report

October, 21, 2010
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Indiana has issued its official injury report for Saturday's game at Illinois.

OUT
  • RB Darius Willis, knee (out for season)
  • OL Josh Hager, knee (out for season)
  • S Chris Adkins, ankle
  • OT James Brewer, ankle
  • CB Richard Council, knee
  • K Nick Freeland, hip
  • S Lenyatta Kiles, groin
  • RB Nick Turner, concussion

The two areas of concern are the secondary and the offensive line. Indiana's injuries in the secondary aren't new, but the Hoosiers have to find ways to limit big pass plays without Adkins, Council and Kiles on the field. An arguably bigger issue is offensive line depth, as protecting star quarterback Ben Chappell will be paramount in the final six games. Brewer's continued absence hurts, and Hager's season-ending injury means sophomore Marc Damisch gets the nod as the starting right tackle against a good Illinois defensive line. Turner's absence places a bigger burden on Trea Burgess as Indiana's featured running back.

Big Ten Monday health report

October, 18, 2010
10/18/10
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A few bits of injury news to pass along from around the Big Ten.
  • Wisconsin starting linebacker Mike Taylor is expected to play Saturday at No. 15 Iowa after injuring his ankle and knee against Ohio State. Badgers coach Bret Bielema said Taylor underwent X-rays that showed no structural damage after he rolled his ankle and hyperextended his knee. Defensive tackle Jordan Kohout (foot) and tight end Lance Kendricks also should be fine for the trip to Iowa.
  • Indiana expects running backs Trea Burgess, Nick Turner and Antonio Banks to be ready for this week's trip to Illinois, but the news along the offensive line isn't so good. Coach Bill Lynch said starting right tackle James Brewer (ankle) likely will miss another week, and reserve Josh Hager also likely is out, putting sophomore Marc Damisch in the starting role. Depth also could be an issue up front, as Dustin Dopirak writes. Defensive backs Richard Council and Chris Adkins remain out.
  • Northwestern defensive end Vince Browne participated in Monday's practice and will play Saturday against No. 7 Michigan State, coach Pat Fitzgerald said.
  • Michigan's bye week comes at a good time, as quarterback Denard Robinson (shoulder) and others have time to heal. Coach Rich Rodriguez said Robinson, who dealt with shoulder soreness last week in practice, "should be fine" for the Penn State game on Oct. 30. Center David Molk, defensive tackle Mike Martin and running back Michael Shaw also should be fine for Penn State.
  • Middle linebacker Jeff Tarpinian (stinger) once again isn't listed on Iowa's depth chart. Troy Johnson is pegged to start against Wisconsin with James Morris backing him up.

Big Ten lunch links

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
12:00
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Don't forget to follow me on Twitter throughout the Big Ten coaches' teleconference, which begins right now. Help me get to 20,000 followers!
Indiana has issued its official injury report for Saturday's road game at No. 2 Ohio State.

OUT

  • S Chris Adkins, ankle
  • OL James Brewer, ankle
  • CB Richard Council, knee
  • K Nick Freeland, hip
  • LB Brandon McGhee, neck
QUESTIONABLE
PROBABLE

The three significant names here are Brewer, Council and Willis, all starters. Indiana needs to fill the hole at right tackle with Brewer's absence, and hope the oft-injured Willis is OK to go in Columbus. As good as Indiana's pass game has been this season, the Hoosiers will need to run the ball to have a chance against Ohio State. Willis clearly provides the best option at running back. Adrian Burks likely will get the first shot at cornerback in place of Council, who is out for a significant period, coach Bill Lynch said earlier this week.

Recapping the Big Ten scrimmages

August, 23, 2010
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Scrimmages took center stage around the Big Ten this weekend as teams moved closer to the end of camp and the start of game preparations. I have links and a few thoughts on each scrimmage below, but only on the teams that put out information about what happened or had media in attendance. Those teams are: Illinois, Indiana, Michigan State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Ohio State and Wisconsin.

I'll do my best with Michigan's scrimmage, which oddly was open to fans but not media.

ILLINOIS

The Illini broke camp in Rantoul, Ill., and scrimmaged Saturday at Memorial Stadium. Check out what happened here and here and here and here.

Quick hitters
  • Illinois' coaches can talk all they want about running back by committee, but it's clear that junior Mikel Leshoure is the team's top option. As he did throughout the second half of last season, Leshoure showcased his big-play ability Saturday with a 49-yard touchdown run. Leshoure finished with 102 rush yards and two scores on only 12 carries. Jason Ford also had a nice day Saturday, but Leshoure is the guy to watch out for this fall.
  • After struggling in the first camp scrimmage, Illinois' first-team defense rebounded nicely Saturday. According to Mark Tupper, the first-team defense allowed only 59 net yards in 41 plays in the scrimmage. Defensive end Michael Buchanan and linebacker Martez Wilson were among the standouts.
  • Although starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase had a shaky day, Illinois might have found another capable wide receiver in Eddie McGee, the team's former backup quarterback. McGee beat cornerback Miami Thomas on a jump ball in the end zone to record a touchdown and finished with three receptions for 56 yards.
INDIANA

The Hoosiers held a 96-play Saturday at Memorial Stadium, and you can read all about it here, here (subscription required) and here.

Quick hitters
  • Redshirt freshman Dusty Kiel has established himself as the team's backup quarterback in camp. Kiel, who has been competing with Edward Wright-Baker, had an excellent scrimmage, completing 14 of 16 passes for 129 yards and a touchdown.
  • Indiana used the scrimmage to assess its offensive line depth and limited the participation for sure-fire starters like center Will Matte and right tackle James Brewer. Coach Bill Lynch wanted to get a better read on his backup center and had Jordan Marquette, Chris Ahlfeld and Steve Fiacable take reps in the scrimmage. Ted Bolser stepped up nicely at tight end with five catches for 46 yards and a touchdown.
  • The Hoosiers' already-shaky secondary suffered a blow as safety Chris Adkins had to be carried off the field because of an ankle injury. The extent of Adkins' injury is unclear at this point.
MICHIGAN

Michigan held a scrimmage Saturday at Michigan Stadium. It was open to some fans but not media, and while I love fan reports, I'm relying mostly on this video from the school's official website.
  • I really like what I've seen from freshman running back Stephen Hopkins, both in Saturday's scrimmage and during the Big Ten Network's tour stop. He gives the Wolverines a different look in the backfield at 6-foot, 227 pounds. Michigan boasts plenty of speed backs, but Hopkins provides the type of downhill, between-the-tackles running you need in the Big Ten.
  • Quarterback Denard Robinson looked pretty smooth in the scrimmage video, both as a passer and a runner. He hit his receivers in stride and broke off a long touchdown run, juking safety Jared Van Slyke before reaching the end zone. All signs continue to point toward Robinson being named the starter, but we'll see.
MICHIGAN STATE

The Spartans held a 130-play controlled scrimmage Saturday at Spartan Stadium, closed to the media. The defense prevailed 45-32 as the team used a modified scoring system. Recaps can be found here and here.

Quick hitters
  • It was a good day for the defense and a great day for the linebackers, who should be Michigan State's strongest unit this fall. Eric Gordon recorded a scrimmage-best nine tackles, while Greg Jones added eight, including two for loss. Jon Misch had 2.5 tackles for loss and a quarterback hurry, and Chris Norman had six tackles and a pass breakup. "The linebackers were very active," coach Mark Dantonio said.
  • Wide receiver B.J. Cunningham is having a very strong camp, and he continued it Saturday with five receptions for 67 yards, including a 30-yard touchdown from Kirk Cousins. Cousins and Cunningham hooked up for two touchdowns in the team's first fall scrimmage. It's a pretty crowded mix at receiver, but Cunningham has put himself in a great position.
MINNESOTA

Minnesota held an open scrimmage Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium, and you can read all about it here, here and here.

Quick hitters
  • Minnesota's first-string offensive line stepped up nicely in the scrimmage, keeping quarterback Adam Weber safe and allowing him to complete 7 of 9 passes for 70 yards and two touchdowns. There was, however, a significant drop-off when the second- and third-team offensive linemen entered the scrimmage. "I didn't feel like some of the [second and third team] took advantage of the opportunity to go play today," coach Tim Brewster told the (St. Paul) Pioneer Press.
  • Freshman running back Donnell Kirkwood has put himself in the mix for carries this fall alongside Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge. Kirkwood had 19 carries in Saturday's scrimmage with a long run of 14 yards. Offensive coordinator Jeff Horton praised Kirkwood when we talked a few weeks ago.
  • MarQueis Gray is still getting reps as a reserve quarterback, but it's coming clear his primary role this fall will be at wide receiver, as long as Weber stays healthy. Gray seems to be embracing the change, and his big frame could really help the Gophers after the loss of Eric Decker. "I am pretty sure I can find a hole somewhere to catch the ball and get upfield for Weber when he throws it to me," he told the Star Tribune.
NORTHWESTERN

The Wildcats ended their off-campus training in Kenosha, Wis., with an open scrimmage. Head coach Pat Fitzgerald held out a large group of starters on both sides, so second- and third-teamers got most of the work. Recaps can be found here and here.

Quick hitters
  • Freshman receiver Venric Mark will make an immediate impact this fall, especially for Northwestern's middling return teams. Mark had an excellent scrimmage, recording a 28-yard touchdown catch and breaking off several big returns. Generously listed at 5-8 and 165 pounds, Mark also threw a block that helped classmate Adonis Smith reach the end zone.
  • A battle could be brewing at backup quarterback. As starter Dan Persa watched from the sideline, true freshman Trevor Siemian completed 10 of 13 passes for 112 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Siemian could push redshirt freshman Evan Watkins, who completed only four of seven passes.
  • Freshman defensive end Will Hampton could work his way into the rotation this fall. Hampton recorded a tackle for loss in the scrimmage.
OHIO STATE

Ohio State held its jersey scrimmage Saturday at Ohio Stadium, as the offense prevailed 54-48 after 130-140 plays. The scrimmage was open to the media, and you can find recaps here, here and here.

Quick hitters
  • Quarterback Terrelle Pryor had a so-so day, although he wore a no-contact jersey and couldn't be the running threat he'll be after Sept. 4. Pryor completed only 10 of 24 pass attempts but did fire a 25-yard touchdown strike to Taurian Washington, considered the front-runner for the No. 3 wide receiver spot. He also found tight end Jake Stoneburner for a 25-yard gain and nearly threw an interception in the end zone.
  • Andrew Sweat appears to have a slight edge on Etienne Sabino for the third starting linebacker spot. Sabino entered camp as the favorite to start, but Sweat logged more time with the first-team defense Saturday and recovered a Brandon Saine fumble.
  • Coach Jim Tressel said he hopes to get defensive end Nathan Williams (knee) back by the Sept. 2 opener against Marshall. Meanwhile, several young defensive linemen stood out Saturday. Redshirt freshman Adam Bellamy recorded three sacks and true freshman Johnathan Hankins added one.
WISCONSIN

The Badgers scrimmaged Saturday at Camp Randall Stadium. The session was open to the media, and you can read all about it here and here.
  • Wisconsin's offense moved the ball decently but struggled to finish drives, as Antonio Fenelus picked off a Scott Tolzien pass and safety Aaron Henry broke up a pass in the end zone. It was a theme throughout the scrimmage. There's little doubt Wisconsin can control the clock and keep moving the chains with its balanced attack, but it must execute in the red zone.
  • Freshman running back James White had a good day and could push Zach Brown for the No. 3 spot on the depth chart. White had runs of 29, 26 and 22 yards, the last for a touchdown, in the scrimmage. Starting tailback John Clay, by the way, had 11 carries for 51 yards.
  • Backup quarterback Jon Budmayr had a tough scrimmage, going 0-for-9 passing on his first three series with two near interceptions. He finished 9-for-27 for 107 yards for a touchdown and an interception. Wisconsin really can't lose Tolzien and would get a big boost if Curt Phillips can return from his knee injury early in the season.

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