Big Ten: James Stallons

Big Ten afternoon tidbits

October, 7, 2009
10/07/09
6:09
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


A few of you have mentioned several Big Ten quarterback transfers I didn't include in an earlier post about former Iowa signal-caller Jake Christensen, now starring for Eastern Illinois. I focused my research on quarterbacks who played in the Big Ten last year before transferring, but it's still worth noting how two of the others are doing.
  • Ryan Mallett (Michigan), Arkansas -- 67 of 123 for 1,148 pass yards, 11 TDs, 2 INTs, 287 yards per game, 159.1 rating, 2-2 record
  • Nick Foles (Michigan State), Arizona -- 37 of 53 for 353 yards, 5 TDs, 0 INTs, 117 ypg, 156.9 rating, 1-0 record as the starter

Anyone know what James Stallons (Wisconsin) or Justin Siller (Purdue) are up to these days?

Two quick tidbits:
  • Iowa athletic director Gary Barta writes a guest editorial to the student newspaper expressing his disappointment with drunk tailgaters at Hawkeyes home games.
  • Michigan running back Brandon Minor is getting close to 100 percent healthy, while another back, Carlos Brown, sat out practice Wednesday with an undisclosed injury. Also, Michigan might be moving safety Troy Woolfolk to cornerback.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Taking a spin around the league:

  • Wisconsin announced the departures of three players, including reserve quarterback James Stallons, who will seek a transfer, Jim Polzin writes in The Capital Times. Former starting linebacker Elijah Hodge also won't be back in 2009.
  • Excellent news about former Wisconsin wide receivers coach Henry Mason, who is returning to the staff as director of football player personnel and external relations. Mason suffered a severe spinal cord injury in 2007.
  • In case you missed it, former Ohio State running back Maurice Clarett is blogging from prison, Bob Hunter writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
"The athlete's ego is still there -- Clarett can't magically erase all that adulation from memory -- but his writings aren't the ramblings of a loser who can't seem to fathom why the world won't give him a break. He is taking courses from Ohio University and candidly admits surprise that he is enjoying them so much, and he professes a deep desire to help others avoid his fate."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The spring practice primer continues today with five newcomers to watch as Big Ten teams return to the field next month.

All five of these men could play critical roles come September.

Michigan quarterback Tate Forcier -- The true freshman from San Diego, who enrolled early, is considered the frontrunner for the starting job after incumbent Steven Threet transferred earlier this month. Forcier boasts the skill set to run Rich Rodriguez's spread offense. If he catches on quickly this spring, he'll likely be the man to beat when fellow freshman Denard Robinson arrives in the summer.

Michigan State quarterback Keith Nichol -- Nichol sat out last season after transferring from Oklahoma and will begin competing this spring for the starting job alongside Kirk Cousins. The 6-foot-2, 205-pound Nichol ran Michigan State's scout team last year and fits the Drew Stanton-like mold as an adept runner as well as a passer. Cousins enters the spring with a slight edge after backing up Brian Hoyer last year, but Nichol isn't too far behind.

Ohio State guard Justin Boren -- He's hardly a newcomer to the Big Ten, but the news-making transfer from Michigan hits the practice field this spring seeking a starting job. The 6-3, 320-pound Boren, who started all 13 games for Michigan in 2007, may very well emerge as Ohio State's best offensive lineman this spring. He could cement himself as a starter on a line that underperformed last fall.

Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips -- A heralded recruit from Tennessee, Phillips joins a wide-open competition under center after redshirting last season. Named Wisconsin's offensive scout team player of the year in 2008, the strong-armed Phillips could be the long-term answer at quarterback that the Badgers sorely need. He'll compete alongside incumbent Dustin Sherer, Scott Tolzien, James Stallons and true freshman Jon Budmayr, another key newcomer.

Minnesota tackle Jeff Wills -- As the Gophers resurrect the power run game this spring, Wills should play a key role on a line that struggled for much of last season. Coming from the same junior college that produced Bryant McKinnie, Wills has excellent size (6-7, 350) and will compete for a starting position right away. "He may be one of the biggest humans I've ever been around," head coach Tim Brewster said of Wills.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Wisconsin needs a quarterback. So do Michigan and Michigan State. Ohio State is looking to replace star running back Chris "Beanie" Wells. The Spartans? They need a back, too, after the graduation of Doak Walker Award finalist Javon Ringer.

Every Big Ten team has some holes to fill, and the process begins in spring ball as position competitions kick off throughout the league. Here are five key spots to watch when practices get under way.

Team: Michigan

Position: Quarterback

2008 starter: Steven Threet (eight games), Nick Sheridan (four games)

Candidates: Nick Sheridan, Tate Forcier, Denard Robinson, David Cone

The skinny: Threet's recent decision to transfer from Michigan shook up the competition before spring practice. Sheridan has the edge in college game experience, starting the final three games last fall, but Forcier enters practice as the front-runner. The true freshman, who enrolled in January, has the skill set that suits Rich Rodriguez's spread offense. Robinson also will be a factor when he arrives this summer, but Forcier has an opportunity to gain a head start this spring.

Team: Ohio State

Position: Running back

2008 starter: Chris "Beanie" Wells

Candidates: Dan Herron, Brandon Saine, Jaamal Berry, Carlos Hyde

The skinny: Wells' foot injury last fall gave Ohio State an idea of what life will be like without the 237-pound power back. Herron, who served as Wells' primary backup in 2008, has the inside track to claim the job but needs a good spring performance. He's deceptively strong despite a smallish frame (5-foot-10, 193), but Ohio State might go with more of a committee system this fall. Saine could be a factor if he stays healthy, and heralded recruits Berry and Hyde will compete when they arrive this summer.

Team: Wisconsin

Position: Quarterback

2008 starter: Allan Evridge (six games) and Dustin Sherer (seven games)

Candidates: Sherer, Scott Tolzien, Curt Phillips, Jon Budmayr, James Stallons

The skinny: The quarterback position really hurt Wisconsin last year, and the Badgers once again enter the spring with major questions under center. The competition last spring didn't provide much clarity, so offensive coordinator Paul Chryst will be looking for any type of separation this time around. Sherer had mixed results last year, helping Wisconsin to four wins but struggling in the bowl game. Tolzien is a heady player who could be a factor this spring, but the spotlight will really be on the two young quarterbacks, Phillips and Budmayr. Both were heralded recruits, particularly Phillips, and Wisconsin might be looking for a multiyear starter to emerge after the last few years.

Team: Michigan State

Position: Quarterback

2008 starter: Brian Hoyer

Candidates: Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol

The skinny: This will be a fascinating story to watch, as the promising Cousins goes up against Nichol, a transfer from Oklahoma who grew up an hour from the Michigan State campus. Cousins is the favorite after a solid performance as Hoyer's backup last year, completing 32 of 43 passes (74.4 percent) for 310 yards. But Nichol didn't come to Michigan State to ride the bench and has a year in the system after running the scout team last fall. Without Ringer, Michigan State will look to upgrade its passing attack, so the quarterbacks will take center stage this spring.

Team: Penn State

Position: Defensive end

2008 starters: Aaron Maybin, Josh Gaines

Candidates: Jerome Hayes, Jack Crawford, Kevion Latham, Eric Latimore

The skinny: The Lions also have holes at wide receiver and along the offensive line, but defensive end became a surprise area of need after Maybin and Maurice Evans declared for the NFL draft as underclassmen. Hayes has torn the ACLs in both knees the last two seasons, so he's far from a reliable bet to step in as a starter. Crawford, who grew up mostly in England, is still fairly new to football but has good ability and could emerge this spring. Latimore had a sack in nine games last year, and Latham recorded three tackles in eight contests. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson seemingly produces star pass-rushers every year, but this could be his toughest challenge yet.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Wisconsin's defense suffered a pretty significant blow when head coach Bret Bielema announced after Saturday's practice that starting weak-side linebacker Jonathan Casillas and two other players would not travel to the Champs Sports Bowl.

Casillas underwent surgery last week after battling knee problems all season. Though the two-time honorable mention All-Big Ten selection was never 100 percent this fall, his experience and speed will be missed against Florida State. Casillas' absence shuffles the Badgers' linebacker group, with Jaevery McFadden moving from the middle to the weak side.

Sophomore Culmer St. Jean, who has 16 tackles this season, moves into the starting middle linebacker spot. Both McFadden and starting strong-side backer DeAndre Levy will need big games against the Seminoles and running back Antone Smith.

The losses of wide receiver Maurice Moore and fourth-string quarterback James Stallons don't hurt as much, but Bielema said more players could be ruled academically ineligible later this week.

Big Ten Friday mailbag

November, 28, 2008
11/28/08
4:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

No games on tap this week, but plenty of questions.

Alex from Columbus, Ohio, writes: I was wondering if one of the top teams loses this weekend if maybe Iowa could move into the top 25 in any of the polls.

Adam Rittenberg: It would take several losses from teams ranked between 18-25 for the 4-loss Hawkeyes to move into the rankings. Even though Iowa lost four games by a combined 12 points, the cumulative effect of four losses really hurts the Hawkeyes' national perception. The Hawkeyes could benefit from blowout losses by Georgia Tech, Florida State and Pittsburgh. Iowa won't jump ahead of other idle teams (Northwestern, Michigan State).


Craig from St. Paul, Minn., writes: Did Tim Brewster do a interview for the Tennessee job?

Adam Rittenberg: The rumor is out there, though I'd be surprised if Tennessee doesn't hire Lane Kiffin at some point next week. I asked Brewster this week if he interviewed with Tennessee and he politely replied that he doesn't comment about other jobs. It's not a denial, and I wouldn't be shocked if they spoke, but I highly doubt Brewster is going anywhere. He'll be there when TCF Bank Stadium opens next fall.


Chris from Sarasota, Fla., writes: do you think that Iowa does have a better shot at a Florida game than Michigan State or Northwestern? Is it true they are all up for Alamo, Champs Sports, Outback and Capital One bowls?

Adam Rittenberg: The Hawkeyes have a good shot at the Outback Bowl if the Big Ten gets two teams into BCS game. I highly doubt Iowa would leapfrog Michigan State, but it could be selected ahead of Northwestern. Michigan State should head to Capital One or Outback, while both Northwestern and Iowa are in the mix for Outback, Alamo and Champs Sports.


Blake from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, writes: Hi Adam, Is there any doubt that Shonn Greene will win the Doak Walker Award? I mean Javon Ringer had a legitimate argument when he was the leading rusher in the country (even though he wasn't as consistent as Greene), but now that Greene has surpassed him on that, is there any doubt at all? Unless, I'm missing someone from another conference, I don't think it's even close!

Adam Rittenberg: I'd be stunned if Greene doesn't win the award. He's the only back in the country who really hasn't had a down game, or even a mediocre game. His ability to generate 100 rushing yards or more every time he steps on the field is astounding, especially since opposing defenses know exactly what's coming with Iowa. Ringer had a terrific season as well, but he struggled against Ohio State and Penn State. Georgia's Knowshon Moreno likely will finish third to Greene and Ringer.

(Read full post)

Big Ten internal affairs: Week 9

October, 22, 2008
10/22/08
9:00
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's time to look inside five Big Ten teams.

Penn State -- Despite Navorro Bowman's emergence, there has been some concern about linebacker play this year, and the picture only got cloudier last Saturday. After Michigan's run game started strong, the Nittany Lions called for reinforcements and put freshman Michael Mauti and sophomore Bani Gbadyu in the game. The two young players stepped up, combining for 10 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Both Mauti and Gbadyu could once again see increased playing time in place of Tyrell Sales and possibly Josh Hull against No. 9 Ohio State (ABC, 8 p.m. ET). Mauti's speed on the edge should help against Buckeyes quarterback Terrelle Pryor.

Wisconsin -- A week after saying the 2009 season had no impact on his starting quarterback decision, Badgers head coach Bret Bielema certainly appears to be looking toward the future at that position. Junior quarterback Dustin Sherer will make his second consecutive start Saturday against Illinois, and sophomore Scott Tolzien will take more snaps this week in practice with the second-team offense. Fifth-year senior Allan Evridge, who started Wisconsin's first six games, has effectively been moved to third string. Sherer and Tolzien will compete for the starting job next season with Curt Phillips and James Stallons.

Illinois -- Freshman offensive tackle Corey Lewis could see increased playing time against Wisconsin after performing well in his debut against Indiana. Lewis can play either tackle spot and spelled left tackle Xavier Fulton for several series last week. Sophomore Ryan Palmer will remain sidelined for some time with a foot stress fracture, and Lewis likely will be needed against the Badgers. Lewis also can play on the defensive line. "I wanted to get Corey in there," head coach Ron Zook said. "We kind of joked about that when we told him we were going to play him because he's 18 now and old enough. He's excited about it and I noticed a little different intensity out of him."

Purdue -- Head coach Joe Tiller admitted this week that Purdue's offense has become too basic and needs to diversify after four straight losses. In previous years, the Boilermakers entered every game with two "deceptives" in the offensive plan. This season, the outside-the-box, high-risk, high-reward plays have not been included. That will change Saturday against Minnesota (ESPN Classic, noon ET). "From this point forward I want to see, when the game plan is presented later in the week, two deceptives," Tiller said. "Now, I'm not guaranteeing you they're going to get called, but we're going to have 'em as a possibility anyway, which we haven't had." Purdue ranks ninth in the league in scoring offense (22.3 ppg).

Michigan -- Despite a third consecutive loss, the Wolverines might have found their featured running back last Saturday at Penn State. Junior Brandon Minor had 117 rush yards and two touchdowns against the Big Ten's No. 2 rush defense (103.9 ypg). Minor's emergence allows head coach Rich Rodriguez to take pressure off of true freshman Sam McGuffie and, to a lesser extent, true freshman Michael Shaw. McGuffie has carried the load for much of the season but needs more time to grow into a top role. Minor's ability to run inside and grind out yards will benefit Michigan down the stretch. The junior claimed the top spot on this week's depth chart.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- I just finished watching Wisconsin's practice/scrimmage this morning at sun-drenched Camp Randall Stadium. The scrimmage went a little longer than coach Bret Bielema's initial projection, so I got a glimpse of all the key players for this season, and several for the future. An injury update and my observations are below, and I'll post some of Bielema's post-practice thoughts a little later this afternoon.

  • First, some sad news. Badgers star defensive end Matt Shaughnessy flew home to Connecticut on Saturday morning following the death of his older brother, Jamie, earlier this week. Jamie Shaughnessy had been fighting blood clots in his stomach since late last summer, but his condition had appeared to stablize. Bielema said the news of Jamie's death came as a surprise [check back later for more from Bielema]. Shaughnessy is scheduled to return to the team Thursday.
  • Junior Chris Maragos, a contender for the team's starting nickel back spot, missed practice after being kicked in his calf during a play in Friday's workout. Bielema said Maragos had a sizable contusion but should return to practice Monday. Tight end Travis Beckum and wide receiver Richard Kirtley also will return Monday.
  • Freshman defensive end Anthony Mains injured his wrist during Saturday's practice and underwent X-rays.
  • Defensive end Kirk DeCremer sat out practice Saturday after practicing every day this week. Bielema said DeCremer, who underwent back surgery during the offseason, felt "a little bit of something" on Friday but will return Monday after two days off.
  • The offense seemed to struggle before the scrimmage, held at the end of practice. To be fair, the quarterbacks didn't have their best receiver available in Beckum, and dropped passes became a theme Saturday. Starting wideout Kyle Jefferson couldn't hang on to a touchdown strike and an Allan Evridge pass hit a receiver's hands and was picked off by senior Jaevery McFadden, who is cementing himself as the Badgers' starting middle linebacker. Tight end Garrett Graham also had several drops.
  • Evridge looks like the man to beat at quarterback. He made the fewest number of mistakes during 7-on-7 drills, finding Jefferson on a rollout. In the scrimmage, Evridge led the first-team offense on a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Evridge went 5-for-7 on the drive for 64 passing yards. He made a great throw to David Gilreath on a deep route that Gilreath dropped. But Gilreath responded moments later with an electrifying one-handed grab on a high throw and raced 26 yards before linebacker Jonathan Casillas saved a touchdown.
  • Quarterbacks Dustin Sherer and Scott Tolzien rotated mainly with the second- and third-team offenses. Tolzien got the first shot after Evridge in the scrimmage and led the second-team unit on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive capped by a John Clay 3-yard run. After fumbling the snap on the first play, Tolzien settled down and found Gilreath on a bubble screen for 24 yards.
  • Despite a drop or two, Gilreath was extremely impressive throughout the day. He'll do major damage in the open field.
  • Tolzien also got some help from sophomore Daven Jones, who adjusted on an errant deep pass to make the play for a 35-yard gain.
  • Though Tolzien struggled at times, nearly throwing an interception to DeAndre Levy in the end zone before the scrimmage, he seems to be making a strong push for the backup job behind Evridge.
  • Sherer seemed to have a rough day. One of his first passes during team drills was batted down by Levy. He also had the ball slip out of his hands on a pass. During red-zone drills, Sherer had a pass picked off by Mario Goins in the end zone but then recovered to find Graham for a score. Unlike Tolzien, he got to scrimmage with the rest of the first-team offense but overthrew Graham and had the ball intercepted by safety Shane Carter, who ran it back near the goal line.

(Read full post)

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