Big Ten: Joe Boisture

It's time to hop back into our preseason position rankings, and today brings a look at the most visible position on the field: quarterback.

These are our rankings for the entire position group on each team, so depth is usually very important. With quarterback, it's a little different. There's no substitute for an experienced/accomplished starter. So the teams that have one of those plus some backups who have seen some time will get the highest rankings here, while those with unsettled or untested signal-callers will bring up the rear. Later on, we'll rank the individual quarterbacks in the league.

The envelope please ...

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireDenard Robinson is the most dangerous returning starter in the Big Ten.
1. Michigan: If there were such a thing as a half-season Heisman, Denard Robinson would have won it last year. It will be fascinating to see how he adjusts to a new offensive scheme and whether his running will be reined in, but there's no more electric player in college football than "Shoelace" when he's doing his thing. (And he's an underrated passer.) Tate Forcier left town, but Devin Gardner is talented enough to prevent much of a drop-off if Robinson leaves the game. Both must stay healthy, however.

2. Michigan State: Senior Kirk Cousins enters his third year of starting and ranks first all time among Spartans quarterbacks in passing efficiency and completion percentage. He's as steady as it gets. Andrew Maxwell got his feet wet last year as a redshirt freshman and will back up Cousins again. Joe Boisture retired from football for medical reasons, which hurts the depth. But that looks like more of a problem for next year.

3. Northwestern: Dan Persa was the coaches' first-team All-Big Ten quarterback after completing an FBS-best 73.5 percent of his passes and accounting for more than 3,000 yards of offense. Assuming he comes back healthy from his ruptured Achilles' tendon, he'll again stake a claim to being the Big Ten's best quarterback. Backup Evan Watkins gained valuable experience by starting the final three games, including the TicketCity Bowl vs. Texas Tech. But Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian competed with Watkins this spring, and Colter may have the edge for the No. 2 spot.

4. Nebraska: When healthy, sophomore Taylor Martinez is an exciting dual-threat player with game-breaking speed. He set virtually every Nebraska freshman quarterback record last season despite being hobbled down the stretch. Cody Green's transfer dealt a blow to the Cornhuskers' depth and means that if Martinez goes down, redshirt freshman Brion Carnes will have to take over. But Carnes was impressive at times this spring.

5. Illinois: Depth? Not so much here. But starter Nathan Scheelhaase gives the Illini a great place to start. As a freshman, he compiled 22 touchdowns on the ground and through the air, improving greatly as the season went on and had a huge bowl game against Baylor. Another year in Paul Petrino's system should mean big things in 2011. Illinois would be very green if Scheelhaase gets hurt.

6. Iowa: Junior James Vandenberg takes over for the reliable Ricky Stanzi. Vandenberg threw only eight passes in 2010 but started the final two games for an injured Stanzi in the pressure-packed 2009 season. It looks like this is his time. Backups John Wienke and A.J. Derby lack game experience, however.

7. Purdue: The Boilermakers have two quarterbacks who have each played in plenty of games, with incumbent starter Rob Henry and former Miami transfer Robert Marve, who suffered a torn ACL at the beginning of last season. Both players need to improve and find more consistency, though; Henry completed just 53.1 percent of his passes in 2010. Caleb TerBush is back after being ruled academically ineligible in 2010 and adds depth.

8. Penn State: Matt McGloin or Rob Bolden? That has been the question hanging over the Nittany Lions for a while, and transfer rumors followed Bolden after spring practice. The competition and another year in the system should help both guys, but a potential quarterback controversy could hurt the team. Bolden has more natural talent, but can he harness it?

9. Minnesota: MarQueis Gray takes over as the full-time starter after splitting time as a receiver and quarterback last season. The junior has the potential to be a dangerous dual-threat playmaker. He's learning a new system, but coaches liked what they saw from Gray this spring. There's no experience behind him.

10. Ohio State: The Buckeyes would have ranked much closer to the top of the list with Terrelle Pryor, even for half a season. As it stands, they have a muddled quarterback picture, with four candidates vying to take the reins. Senior Joe Bauserman backed up Pryor the past two years and can give the team a steady if unspectacular hand under center. Or Ohio State could go for potential and talent with true freshman Braxton Miller. The Buckeyes are likely to climb these rankings, but for now there's too much uncertainty at the position.

11. Wisconsin: The Badgers must replace rock solid two-year starter Scott Tolzien, and the leading candidate for now is redshirt sophomore Jon Budmayr. Though slight of stature, Budmayr has a big arm. He has played in only three career games, however. Wisconsin could rocket up this list if former NC State star Russell Wilson decided to transfer to Madison.

12. Indiana: Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker competed for the starting job this spring, but no clear winner emerged. Between them, they've thrown 29 career passes. New coach Kevin Wilson knows how to teach the quarterback position, and this offense will be friendly for passing stats. But the Hoosiers still have a long way to go.

Michigan State recruiting analysis

February, 3, 2011
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MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS

The class

Recruits: 21 (20 high school seniors, one junior college transfer, one player enrolled early)

Top prospects: For the second consecutive year, Michigan State's top recruit is a defender from Detroit. ESPNU 150 linebacker Lawrence Thomas headlines the 2011 class, following William Gholston in 2010. The Spartans added to an already deep receiving corps with Juwan Caesar, rated as the nation's No. 37 receiver by ESPN Recruiting. Center Jack Allen leads a promising group of offensive linemen in the class.

Needs met: Michigan State likely will be a consistent Big Ten title contender it if upgrades its line play, and this year's class should help with players like Allen and defensive linemen Brandon Clemons and Damon Knox. The Spartans lose two multiyear starters at linebacker (Greg Jones and Eric Gordon), and they addressed the area with players like Thomas and Darien Harris, rated as the nation's No. 32 outside linebacker by ESPN Recruiting. Joe Boisture's departure creates a need for a quarterback, and Michigan State adds one in Connor Cook.

Analysis: Mark Dantonio and his staff have made Michigan State a consistent upper-tier recruiting presence in the Big Ten. This year's class not only includes strong in-state prospects like Thomas, but nice additions from other regions like Caesar (Florida) and Harris (Maryland). There aren't as many big names this year as there were in 2010, but if the Spartans continue to build on their on-field success, their recruiting profile will continue to grow.

ESPN Recruiting grade: B-
Reserve quarterback Joe Boisture is leaving Michigan State's program.

The impact? We might not know until 2012.

The Spartans are in good shape at quarterback this fall. Two-year starter Kirk Cousins returns along with backup Andrew Maxwell, a player the coaches really like. Wide receiver Keith Nichol, a former quarterback, also remains on the roster.

Boisture's departure could become a bigger factor once both Cousins and Nichol graduate. Maxwell is expected to move into the starting role, but Boisture, who generated a ton of hype in recruiting despite some struggles late in his high school career, would have had a chance to compete for playing time in 2012.
"It is in my best interest that I have decided to leave the Michigan State football program," Boisture said in a statement released to Rivals.com. "I love the university, my teammates, the medical staff and most of all Coach Dantonio. Coach D truly cares about me and all of his players off the field as well as on the field. I have the utmost respect for him as a coach and person and wish him and the Spartans nothing but success."

Boisture originally committed to Boston College before switching to Michigan State, where he enrolled early and redshirted in 2010.

His exit leaves the Spartans with two quarterback options for 2012: Maxwell and heralded incoming freshman Connor Cook. Cook is the lone quarterback committed for the 2011 class, but expect Michigan State to sign at least one signal-caller in 2012.
The position rankings march on with the quarterback spot. You've already seen my individual quarterback rankings for the entire Big Ten, but this list is different. I certainly take into account the strength of the starter, but 50 percent of the ranking has to do with the overall depth at the position. If a team has a backup with experience, it helps the cause for sure.

Here's my top five:

[+] EnlargeStanzi
Marc Serota/Getty ImagesRicky Stanzi has come up clutch for the Hawkeyes.
1. Iowa: Say what you want about Ricky Stanzi, but he wins football games. There's no quarterback in the Big Ten I'd rather have in crunch time than No. 12. You also had to like what backup James Vandenberg did last November at Ohio Stadium under pressure-packed conditions. Vandenberg certainly looks ready step in and contribute if anything happens to Stanzi.

2. Ohio State: When Terrelle Pryor is on his game, few defenses can stop him. If he can build off of the Rose Bowl and complement his superior running skills with more consistency in the passing attack, look out. There's a drop-off behind Pryor, but Kenny Guiton has had a good offseason and Joe Bauserman brings some experience to the table.

3. Michigan State: Aside from a few ill-advised throws late in games, Kirk Cousins had a very solid first season as Michigan State's starting quarterback. Cousins has all the ingredients to be a star in this league, and he has a very good group of wide receivers and tight ends at his disposal. Andrew Maxwell and Joe Boisture both are promising quarterbacks, and Keith Nichol always can step in even though he'll work as a wide receiver.

4. Minnesota: People are writing off Adam Weber too soon. He's the Big Ten's most experienced quarterback and should improve in a more simplified offense this fall. Like Michigan State, Minnesota has its backup quarterback playing wide receiver, but MarQueis Gray can step in if need be and bring tremendous athleticism to the backfield.

T-5. Wisconsin: The Badgers are here because of starter Scott Tolzien, a perfect fit for Paul Chryst's system and a smart, efficient quarterback. Wisconsin likely would be higher if Curt Phillips were 100 percent healthy, but Jon Budmayr's up-and-down camp creates plenty of anxiety about the team's quarterback depth. The Badgers really can't afford to lose Tolzien.

T-5. Michigan: It's looking like the "Shoelace" Show in Ann Arbor this fall, and if Denard Robinson can merely be a decent passer, he'll be a very effective weapon in Rich Rodriguez's offense. Tate Forcier made a lot of big plays for the Wolverines last fall and provides an experienced option, while true freshman Devin Gardner might be the team's quarterback of the future and should play this fall.

Up next: Special teams

More rankings ...
The recap series rolls on with Michigan State, which played the annual Green-White Game on Saturday at Spartan Stadium.

A year after quarterback candidates Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol both passed for 357 yards in a spring game shootout, Michigan State saw a better defensive performance with continued progress from the offense.

Cousins is the Spartans' clear-cut starter and looked the part Saturday, completed 10 of 15 passes for 254 yards and a touchdown. He found Mark Dell for completions of 58, 44 and 27 yards, and Dell had a huge day (4 receptions, 138 yards). There's a lot to like about Michigan State's skill players, and the Spartans have arguably the most weapons of any Big Ten team. Among the standouts Saturday were Dell, wideout Keshawn Martin (6 receptions, 109 yards), tight ends Charlie Gantt (4 receptions, 68 yards) and Dion Sims (3 receptions, 53 yards) and wideout Donald Spencer (3 receptions, 54 yards).

There's a ton of firepower in East Lansing.

A Spartans defense that ranked 112th nationally against the pass last year allowed 534 pass yards in the spring game, which isn't good, but the unit performed decently against the run and emerged with a 17-10 victory in the scrimmage. Top running backs Larry Caper and Edwin Baker didn't do much, and while freshman Nick Hill had a big day with 51 rush yards and a touchdown, his longest run of 31 yards ended with a fumble, forced by safety Jairus Jones and recovered by cornerback Johnny Adams.

The defense saw solid performances from Adams (4 tackles, 2 sacks, fumble recovery), Jones (4 tackles, forced fumble), Greg Jones (4 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 1.5 sacks), freshman safety/linebacker Denicos Allen (7 tackles, 2.5 TFLs, 2 sacks, 1 pass breakup), redshirt freshman linebacker Steve Gardiner (7 tackles, 1.5 TFLs, forced fumble, 1 sack) and true freshman linebacker Max Bullough (4 tackles, 1 pass breakup). Michigan State's added depth at linebacker should help as the team uses the 3-4 alignment more this fall.

Other Spartans nuggets:

  • Nichol played wide receiver Saturday, recording three receptions for 43 yards, but Michigan State seems to have decent insurance behind Cousins. Backup Andrew Maxwell completed 18 of 34 passes for 244 yards and a touchdown, while freshman Joe Boisture, an early enrollee, went 3-for-3 for 36 yards.
  • The secondary had an interesting day overall, as the cornerbacks and safeties made plenty of plays but also allowed plenty of passing yards yet again. Cornerbacks Adams and Chris L. Rucker combined for three sacks and four tackles for loss, and safety Trenton Robinson added five tackles. There's clearly some depth and ability in the back half for Michigan State, but after the unit significantly underachieved last fall, the jury's still out.
  • The competition at kicker will continue into the fall as Michigan State tries to replace standout Brett Swenson. Kevin Muma connected on his only attempt Saturday, a chip shot from 19 yards out, while Dan Conroy hit from 31 yards out but missed a 35-yard attempt.
  • Michigan State didn't generate much pass rush from its front four Saturday and still needs to identify an edge rusher or two before the season. The Spartans' top priorities right now look like defensive end, the right side of the offensive line and solidifying things in the secondary.
Spring practice is a welcome sight for the Spartans, who took their lumps both on and off the field in 2009. The residence hall mess is coming to a conclusion, as four players convicted of assault have been reinstated, while the status of another, wide receiver Fred Smith, remains unclear as his legal process continues. Michigan State returns 13 players with starting experience on both sides of the ball but must fill holes on both lines and improve the entire defense after a disappointing performance in 2009.

[+] EnlargeMark Dantonio
Matt Cashore/US PresswireCoach Mark Dantonio has had to guide his Spartans through some adversity.
Head coach Mark Dantonio took some time this week to talk about the off-field problems, the spring depth chart and the outlook for practice.

What has it been like the last few months there? How is the mood entering spring practice?

Mark Dantonio: It's been good. Any time you go through adversity, you recollect yourself and you move forward. You move forward with a certain amount of resolve and strength, and that's what we've done. You look at our football season last year, we lost some close games. We were a very young football team, and we transition in that area to move forward. Obviously, we've had the off-the-field incident, but we've moved past that as a football team and we now need to focus on the task at hand. That will build strength. It teaches people lessons.

Was there any need to re-establish trust between you and the players and your staff, or even among the players themselves, after an incident like that?

MD: It's a given that you trust your players as a coach. Sometimes you may be disappointed, but we continually talk about the aspect of honesty and trust, and we hope people are forthcoming. You have to have that. Players have to understand that you as a coach are committed to them and committed to their well-being as people, and they have to trust you. It doesn't mean it's easy. It doesn't mean there aren't consequences or there's not confrontation because this is the world we live in, but they have to trust that you're going to be fair with them, consistent, and that you have their best interest at heart and the team's best interest at heart when you make decisions.

Consequently, it's important on the other side that we trust our players and that they're going to do the very best they can, making the decisions they have to make socially, academically and athletically. You're going to fall down at times, and we have the same problems that society has in a lot of ways, and because we live in a fish bowl a little bit, there's going to be higher consequences, more public scrutiny and things of that nature. But you do always have to believe in your young people. That helps them grow, and that's what we'll do.

Do you lean on your leaders from last year more after what happened and as you get into spring practice, guys like Kirk [Cousins] and Greg [Jones]?

MD: Certainly you lean on your leaders, and as a head coach, I continue to grow with every experience, and our players do the same. We need to continue to gain leadership. Last year, Kirk Cousins was a sophomore captain, sort of thrust into that position. He now feels more at ease with that position of being a leader on the team. Whether he's elected captain or not will be up to our players in the fall, and there are others we're pushing forward into that position of leadership. Greg Jones is doing a nice job.

We've always had what we call a Unity Council, but we've made this Unity Council a bigger tool to work with in our system and our team. We have had seminars on being a college football player at this level, whether it's talking about the situation [in November], or bringing in former players to talk about the value of education versus the NFL, or whether it's talking about law with a leading criminal justice professor. We tried to take an hour and a half every week for the past five weeks [excluding spring break] and work with our players in that area. And we'll continue to try to be proactive. That's what we have to do, and we'll continue to try and do those things.

So you would have a speaker come in every week?

MD: Yes. We talked about the law, talked about our players' rights, talked about consequences. When you make a decision, it's not a quick fix, judiciously. Our players need to understand that. It's not over and done with when you do make a mistake. We all have to understand that. We're just trying to educate and be proactive, and I think it draws our team together. We've got other things in those meetings that served as exercises to try and benefit our group.

Getting to the personnel, how are you approaching the quarterback position going into the spring? Is it still an open situation there, or do you feel comfortable with Kirk?


MD: Kirk Cousins has earned the opportunity to be our starter, with the number of plays that he played last year and the success that he's had. Keith Nichol is an outstanding athlete. He's played quarterback for us, and he should continue to be thought of in that light, somewhat. We need to be able to continue to work him there. But I also think that he can be an outstanding wide receiver, as proven in bowl practice. He's an outstanding athlete, big body, can run, quick change of direction, can jump, is tough, so he needs to get on the football field for us. And I also think that our quarterback situation with Andrew Maxwell, doing the things he did last fall as a redshirt freshman, and then Joe Boisture coming in as a true freshman, gives us the opportunity to move Keith to the wide receiver position.

When you have only two quarterbacks like we did last spring, you don't have that luxury. Now we have four, and we have the luxury to make that move and allow him to work out there 70-80 percent of the time, and then taking limited snaps inside, with the idea that he could always go back. He's a tremendous athlete, and I think he can be a fixture in our offense.

How has Keith handled the move so far?

MD: He's very excited about. He was excited about it for the bowl game, and as coach [Don] Treadwell came in every day, coach Treadwell got more and more excited about the possibilities that Keith gave us because of his ability out there. With 15 practices in the spring and another 29 in the fall, he's going to be very valuable. With two years left, that's the position where he could become [a key contributor].

In Part II of the Q&A (Wednesday): Dantonio talks defense, offensive line

Michigan State recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
2/04/10
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Michigan State Spartans

The class

Recruits: 21 (20 high school seniors, one junior college player, four early enrollees)

Top prospects: Linebacker William Gholston is the No. 2 recruit in the Big Ten this year, according to ESPN's Scouts Inc. Linebacker Max Bullough also will play early in his career, and quarterback Joe Boisture could be Michigan State's long-term answer under center.

Sleepers: Cornerback Mylan Hicks and safety Isaiah Lewis can help right away as the Spartans must improve in the secondary for the 2010 season. Wide receiver Keith Mumphery also might see the field early as the status of several wideouts, namely Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham, is unknown for 2010. Head coach Mark Dantonio likes Marcus Rush's potential at defensive end.

Needs met: By adding both Gholston and Bullough, Michigan State is set up well at linebacker when Greg Jones and Eric Gordon depart after the 2010 season. Boisture gives the Spartans a fourth scholarship quarterback, possibly freeing up Keith Nichol to play elsewhere. Michigan State needs to improve on both lines and added several solid prospects there.

Analysis: Despite a step back both on and off the field in 2009, Michigan State maintained its recruiting momentum, particularly within the state. This class likely won't grade quite as high as the 2009 haul, but Michigan State really helped its defense with players like Gholston, Bullough, Rush and Hicks. If one of the wide receivers can come in and contribute this season, the Spartans should be in decent shape in the passing game.

Scouts Inc. grade: B-minus

What Mark Dantonio said:

  • "We talked about trying to stack a class on top of another class. We had a great class last year, and this one stacks up right behind that one in terms of quality players we had coming into various positions. There's a lot of versatility. All of our skill guys play on both sides of the ball, they're all kick returner-punt returner type guys. The majority of our class is very, very explosive."
  • "[William Gholston] is 6-6, 250 pounds, he's put together, he runs well, he's instinctive on the football field. When you look at him, you try and figure out how can we get him on the field as soon as we can. There's a lot of things going on at linebacker, but as sort of an outside back in the mold of a Julian Peterson, we can possibly try to do those things with him. As good as he is physically, he brings some things to the table intangibly that are very, very good as well."
  • "Max Bullough is an outstanding football player. Marcus Rush, same thing. Those two guys play with a high motor. Very instinctive players and they're guys who have a knack for finding the big play. Mylan Hicks and Isaiah Lewis are two guys in the secondary that are also very explosive and very aware football players and could find the field very quickly."

PSU, Iowa, MSU sign classes

February, 3, 2010
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Penn State has announced the signings of 20 players who make up the Big Ten's top recruiting class for 2010. Although Penn State's class fell one spot to No. 8 in ESPN's rankings today, the Nittany Lions had one of the nation's most complete classes, particularly on the defensive side. Players like Dakota Royer, Khairi Fortt, Evan Hailes and several others should help Penn State very early in their careers. Quarterback Robert Bolden should compete for the starting job right away as the Nittany Lions try to replace Daryll Clark.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz finalized a 21-man recruiting class that features several of the Midwest's top players. The Hawkeyes landed one ESPNU 150 prospect in tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, and players like offensive lineman Andrew Donnal, running back Marcus Coker, and athlete A.J. Derby all should be key contributors. Iowa's class really bolsters the defensive front with five linemen and three linebackers.

Michigan State hasn't sent out an official release just yet, but the Spartans' 21-man class is signed and sealed. Defensive-minded coach Mark Dantonio bolstered the defense with players like ESPNU 150 prospect William Gholston, linebacker Max Bullough and defensive backs Mylan Hicks. The Spartans also added depth at quarterback with Joe Boisture. This class might not have made quite as big a splash as last year's haul, but Michigan State once again did very well within the state and the Big Ten region.

Big Ten mailblog

January, 26, 2010
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Let's talk.

Allen from Northwest Ohio writes: Adam, could you please verify an accomplishment that has seemingly been overlooked by the media? The Ohio State Buckeyes beat five different teams this past season who finished with 10 or more wins. Is this a NCAA record? Of those five teams (Navy, Wisconsin, Penn State, Iowa, Oregon), four of them won their bowl game with Oregon being the only team that didn't with their loss to the Buckeyes. If this is a record you'd think someone would mention it at least because it appears to be quite an accomplishment. Thanks for checking it out, Allen

Adam Rittenberg: Allen, I've checked with ESPN's Stats & Information group, and to their knowledge, there hasn't been a team in recent years that can make such a claim. A lot of teams have beaten four 10-win squads, but not five. I'll stop of short of calling it an NCAA record until more research is done -- you basically have to go through every team that played at least 10 games -- but it's undoubtedly a tremendous accomplishment for the Buckeyes. Who knew a shaky effort against Navy in the opener would turn out to be a pretty solid victory?


David from Houston writes: Why does the ACC, Big East, Pac-10, and BigXII get $17 mil each for BCS games? Big Ten and SEC each got $22 mil, yet they each sent two teams. Does that mean Iowa and OSU get about $5mil each, and then the remaining $12 goes to the conference as a whole?

Adam Rittenberg: The $17 million figure is locked in for each of the major conferences participating in BCS bowls. The BCS awards $4.5 million -- or $5 million, in this case -- to leagues producing two BCS bowl participants, or to Notre Dame if the Fighting Irish are selected. As far as the revenue dispersal, the Big Ten distributes all revenue equally among its members. This is different from other leagues like the Big 12 that don't have equal revenue sharing.


Brett from Ft. Dodge, Iowa, writes: In your blog about predicting what you see happening in the Big Ten over the next decade you stated the Big Ten would win two national championships. You have Michigan as possibly winning one of these. Seriously?!?! Well obviously you weren't because in Friday's mail blog you said Michigan was declining and hinted they are a top tier team that could fall to the bottom. So which is it? FYI your credibility hinges

Adam Rittenberg: OMG! My credibility! I could lose tens of thousands of readers depending on this answer ... so nervous ... what should I write ... OK, Brett, here's the deal. I was asked which of the bigger programs could decline in the next decade. Michigan is already slipping after back-to-back losing seasons. But it's hardly unreasonable to say Michigan could win a national title before 2020. Alabama just won the crown, the same Alabama team that went 4-9 in 2003 and 6-6 in 2004. Last I checked, all of that happened in the same decade. So it's possible for Michigan. Not saying it'll happen in the next two or three years, but Michigan should make a run before 2020.


Brad from Chicago writes: I have been debating with my friends where the Big Ten title game will take place when they add another member. I know in the basketball tournament they move it around, but most schools that have a football conference championship game have it in the same place. I was wondering your thoughts. I think with their being no more dome teams in the Big Ten there could not be a more perfect place than Soildier Field. With the Big Ten having such a strong fan base here, every school having at least one bar, the Big Ten offices being here, and as a die hard Penn State fan that rarely gets to see many of their games in person, I think Soldier Field for a night game with snow blowing in off the lake would be perfect. They could even have a Big Ten fan expo at the McCormick Center, something fun and interactive.

Adam Rittenberg: Soldier Field certainly would be an easy commute for the Big Ten blogger, which should be the league's No. 1 priority in determining the championship game site. Seriously, though, the Big Ten would have to weigh the pros of an outdoor game in early December -- most likely at night -- with some of the potential problems it could cause. Remember that the Big Ten doesn't play night games after Nov. 1, so scheduling this game outdoors would be a bit of a departure from its policy. There are a ton of Big Ten fans who would brave the elements and love having the championship game at Soldier Field, but I think the league would be more interested in Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis or potentially Ford Field in Detroit. Fewer headaches there. Soldier Field also would need to commit to a better field surface. It's not quite at the Citrus Bowl level, but anyone who watches the Bears play knows the field needs a significant upgrade.


Jay from Buckhannon, W. Va., writes: With the controversy at the end of the year with Michigan State, and the position swapping that went on with the Alamo Bowl, what will change for the Michigan State roster? Do you think that with the number of QBs and the age of them (2 juniors and 2 soph. plus new recruits) that because of his height and build that Keith Nichol will be moved from back up QB to a role as a WR?

Adam Rittenberg: Jay, this is an excellent question because many of the players involved in the Rather Hall assault play wide receiver. So far, four wide receivers face charges and another remains suspended. Michigan State also loses All-Big Ten wideout Blair White. If the team dismisses or loses several more wideouts, a switch for Nichol might be in order. He's clearly an excellent athlete, and wide receiver could become a bigger need than quarterback in 2010. Cousins is back under center, and Andrew Maxwell will be taking on a bigger role. Plus, Michigan State will sign Joe Boisture next week.

Big Ten recruiting scorecard

July, 30, 2009
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Penn State and Ohio State both add big-name recruits, and other teams fill in the gaps. Here's your updated recruiting scorecard. 

ILLINOIS

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Corey Cooper, quarterback Chandler Whitmer, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz
  • Quick take: No new commits for the Illini, but a solid class is taking shape with Fiedorowicz's recent pledge. Wide receiver Kyle Prater remains a good possibility for Illinois, which will take advantage of a strong in-state crop in 2010. 

INDIANA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 15
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Indiana's fast start is one of the more intriguing early storylines in Big Ten recruiting. Time will tell if the Hoosiers are being too impulsive with their offers, but several of their additions look solid. Linebacker Jack Denton is a very nice pickup for Mike Yeager, and Cameron Cole adds depth in the secondary.

IOWA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end Matt Hoch, tackle Andrew Donnal
  • Quick take: Things have slowed down a bit for Iowa, which got its last commitment from Donnal on July 13. Iowa has bolstered both lines and its linebacking corps, which loses Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds after the season. The next step: more skill guys.

MICHIGAN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 16
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Devin Gardner, wide receiver Jeremy Jackson, wide receiver Ricardo Miller, guard Christian Pace, safety Marvin Robinson
  • Quick take: Nothing new for Michigan, which should be fairly selective from here on out after a very quick start. Rich Rodriguez will look to bolster both lines after stocking up on skill guys early on.

MICHIGAN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end William Gholston, linebacker Max Bullough, quarterback Joe Boisture
  • Quick take: Safety Isaiah Lewis fits the Mark Dantonio mold in the secondary and gives Michigan State its second defensive back commitment for 2010. The Spartans have good balance among their 10 commits and soon could add heralded wide receiver Tony Jones. 

MINNESOTA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: All has been quiet on the Gophers' recruiting front since a flurry of additions in late June and early July. Minnesota's re-commitment to the run game has paid off with Donnell Kirkwood and Lamonte Edwards. Tim Brewster now must address the defense in the coming weeks and months.

NORTHWESTERN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 7
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: No new commitments for the Wildcats, who are still looking to land their first in-state prospect. Northwestern has more high-level early commits (Paul Jorgenson, Trevor Siemian) than in past seasons, and Pat Fitzgerald seems willing to be patient as he fills out a smallish class. 

OHIO STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Tackle Andrew Norwell, linebacker Jamel Turner, defensive end David Durham, running back Roderick Smith, defensive end Darryl Baldwin, wide receiver James Louis
  • Quick take: Look out, here come the Buckeyes. Wideout James Louis gives Ohio State six watch list commits out of 10 and bolsters the passing game for the future. What's more impressive is that the Buckeyes went into Florida and plucked one of the state's best prospects, who had offers from all of the SEC powers. 

PENN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 15
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Wide receiver Adrian Coxson, running back Silas Redd, center Miles Dieffenbach, defensive end Kyle Baublitz, defensive tackle Evan Hailes, quarterback Robert Bolden, wide receiver Alex Kenney, defensive end Dakota Royer
  • Quick take: It's now official: Penn State has the Big Ten's top recruiting class at this point in the process. Royer gives the Nittany Lions eight watch list prospects, three of whom play defensive line. Tight end Kevin Haplea is another solid addition for Penn State, which has turned the page after some recruiting struggles during the middle part of this decade. 

PURDUE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 9
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Robert Marve (2007 watch list)
  • Quick take: Chalk up two more Florida recruits for Purdue, which added defenders E.J. Johnson and William Lucas since the last scorecard. Lucas is a bit undersized at linebacker but makes up for it with good quickness and strength. After signing 14 players from Florida in his first recruiting class, Purdue head coach Danny Hope continues to look to the Sunshine State for talent.

WISCONSIN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 12
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Frank Tamakloe
  • Quick take: The Badgers are clearly leaning toward the defense with their 2010 class and added two more defenders in safety Michael Trotter and linebacker Cody Byers, who played a lot of safety in high school and could see time there. It's not an official Wisconsin recruiting class without a running back, and Bret Bielema satisfied his quota with Jeff Lewis, a decent in-state prospect with good size.

Big Ten recruiting scorecard

July, 21, 2009
7/21/09
2:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A lot of coaches were on vacation last week, so things got a bit quiet. Let's take a trip on the Big Ten recruiting trail. 

ILLINOIS

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Corey Cooper, quarterback Chandler Whitmer, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz
  • Quick take: No action during the last week for the Illini, but a very solid class is shaping up for Ron Zook. After a very strong start with in-state recruits, Illinois could soon branch out to other areas. Linebacker Jonathan Brown is on the radar

INDIANA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 13
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Indiana has been one of the Big Ten's most active teams in early recruiting, and the results are paying off. Linebacker Ishmael Thomas is a very solid addition, and guard Bill Ivan provides depth along the offensive line. Though the group doesn't include a watch list prospect, Indiana has done very well in its region. A 3-9 season last year doesn't seem to be hurting the program at all in recruiting. 

IOWA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end Matt Hoch, tackle Andrew Donnal
  • Quick take: No new additions for the Hawkeyes, who have to be pleased with their class so far. The team loses several key pieces in the defensive front seven after the 2009 season, but players like Hoch and James Morris could make an early impact.

MICHIGAN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 16
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Devin Gardner, wide receiver Jeremy Jackson, wide receiver Ricardo Miller, guard Christian Pace, safety Marvin Robinson
  • Quick take: Austin White became the third running back to commit to the Wolverines, who hope they've solidified depth in the backfield for the foreseeable future. Michigan beat out Michigan State for White, who has two brothers who play for the Spartans. 

MICHIGAN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 9
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end William Gholston, linebacker Max Bullough, quarterback Joe Boisture
  • Quick take: Nothing new for Michigan State last week, though Mark Dantonio has to be pleased with what he sees right now. The Spartans continue to target in-state prospects like C.J. Olaniyan and Tony Jones.

MINNESOTA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Some Gophers fans took offense at my claim that the team hadn't made a big splash in recruiting yet. To be fair, offensive lineman Jimmy Gjere qualifies as a very nice pickup. The big fish is still out there, though, in local product Seantrel Henderson. Cornerback Jabari Price would be a very nice addition. 

NORTHWESTERN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 7
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Northwestern's efforts in central Florida haven't gone unnoticed, as three of the team's six commits hail from the Sunshine State. The Wildcats continued to look out of state for center Brandon Vitabile, a New Jersey native who bolsters the offensive line. Next step: Pick up a prospect or two from within the state of Illinois. 

OHIO STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 9
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Tackle Andrew Norwell, linebacker Jamel Turner, defensive end David Durham, running back Roderick Smith, defensive end Darryl Baldwin
  • Quick take: Penn State and Michigan have generated most of the recruiting headlines so far, but here come the Buckeyes. Baldwin's commitment gives Ohio State five watch list prospects out of nine and even more depth for the defensive line. He's already a physical presence who should only get better under Jim Heacock. 

PENN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 13
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Wide receiver Adrian Coxson, running back Silas Redd, center Miles Dieffenbach, defensive end Kyle Baublitz, defensive tackle Evan Hailes, quarterback Robert Bolden, wide receiver Alex Kenney
  • Quick take: The Nittany Lions kept Kenney at home, giving them seven watch list prospects out of 13. Kenney always seemed likely to pick Penn State, but there are no guarantees in recruiting. He gives Penn State seven in-state commits, a good sign for a program that saw its recruiting dip several years ago.  

PURDUE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 7
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Robert Marve (2007 watch list)
  • Quick take: Head coach Danny Hope isn't afraid to wait for recruits, but he has a nice nucleus for the 2010 class. Purdue has addressed the passing attack with two quarterbacks -- Marve and Sean Robinson -- two wide receivers and a tight end. Hope is trying to tap his Florida roots for defensive lineman Brandon Wilkinson. 

WISCONSIN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 9
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Frank Tamakloe
  • Quick take: Kansas State's loss is Wisconsin's gain as defensive end Warren Herring will play for the Badgers after originally committing to the Wildcats. Interesting subplot: Wisconsin coach Bielema used to work for Kansas State and Bill Snyder. The Badgers have recruited well on the defensive side so far with Herring, Tamakloe and linebacker Konrad Zagzebski. 

Big Ten recruiting scorecard

July, 14, 2009
7/14/09
11:01
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Illinois picks up a major commit at tight end, while Penn State bolsters its quarterback position and other teams add key pieces. Here's your latest recruiting rundown in the Big Ten.

ILLINOIS

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Corey Cooper, quarterback Chandler Whitmer, tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz
  • Quick take: Fiedorowicz is a big get for the Illini, who lose starting tight end Michael Hoomanawanui after the 2009 season. Illinois also will be breaking in a new starting quarterback and could lose superstar wideout Arrelious Benn to the NFL draft, so Fiedorowicz should be a big help during the transition.

INDIANA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 9
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Things have slowed down a bit for the Hoosiers, who are still glowing from the commitment of defensive end Jibreel Black from Cincinnati. Indiana has found a good offense-defense balance so far in the 2010 class.

IOWA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end Matt Hoch, tackle Andrew Donnal
  • Quick take: Both lines have been the focus of Iowa's recruiting so far, and the Hawkeyes made a big splash with Donnal, who could protect his fellow Ohioan Ricky Stanzi at some point down the line. At least seven of Iowa's commits could contribute on the offensive or defensive lines.

MICHIGAN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 15
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Devin Gardner, wide receiver Jeremy Jackson, wide receiver Ricardo Miller, guard Christian Pace, safety Marvin Robinson
  • Quick take: The nucleus for Michigan's 2010 class is in place, and the team hasn't added a commit since Courtney Avery on June 20. There are a ton of great athletes in this group, and Michigan likely will turn its attention to line play to wrap up the class.

MICHIGAN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 9
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end William Gholston, linebacker Max Bullough, quarterback Joe Boisture
  • Quick take: After landing its first seven commits from within state borders, Michigan State went into enemy territory -- or Mark Dantonio's home state, depending on how you look at it -- to pick up offensive linemen Travis Jackson and Michael Dennis. The two Ohio natives balance out a class that is shaping up well for the Spartans.

MINNESOTA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: The Gophers already have a strong in-state recruiting haul, and they went to the southeast for running back Donnell Kirkwood, a workhorse-type back who generated a lot of interest. Minnesota also remains in the mix for arguably the nation's biggest prize, local product Seantrel Henderson.

NORTHWESTERN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 6
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Pat Fitzgerald should never have a hard time recruiting linebackers, and Northwestern landed a good one -- with a good name -- in Chi Chi Ariguzo from Columbus, Ohio. Ariguzo can also play safety and should contribute on special teams early in his career. Northwestern has yet to land an in-state prospect.

OHIO STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Tackle Andrew Norwell, linebacker Jamel Turner, defensive end David Durham, running back Roderick Smith
  • Quick take: A quiet week for the Buckeyes after filling their backfield needs with Smith and quarterback Taylor Graham. Ohio State hopes to go back into Florida for star linebacker Jeff Luc and possibly linebacker Deon Rogers.

PENN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 12
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Wide receiver Adrian Coxson, running back Silas Redd, center Miles Dieffenbach, defensive end Kyle Baublitz, defensive tackle Evan Hailes, quarterback Robert Bolden
  • Quick take: Does Penn State currently have the Big Ten's best recruiting class for 2010? It sure looks that way as Bolden gives the Nittany Lions six watch list commitments out of 12 overall. Both Bolden and Paul Jones should be able to operate effectively in the Spread HD offense.

PURDUE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 7
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Robert Marve (2007 watch list)
  • Quick take: The quality of Purdue's commits seems to be getting better as quarterback Sean Robinson and defensive tackle Josh Davis came aboard. Robinson joins Marve and Caleb TerBush in the quarterback mix, while Davis boasts excellent size (6-foot-5, 250) for a young interior lineman.

WISCONSIN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Frank Tamakloe
  • Quick take: The quarterback position might be a question mark this season, but it's shaping up well for the future as Joseph Brennan committed to the Badgers. Brennan has good mechanics and accuracy, and he should get better with increased strength. Cameron Ontko could be a contributor at fullback or H-back down the line.

Big Ten recruiting scorecard

July, 7, 2009
7/07/09
11:10
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Not surprisingly, there has been plenty of recruiting news throughout the Big Ten since the last scorecard. Here's a snapshot of what went down during the last two weeks. 

ILLINOIS

  • 2010 verbal commits: 7
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Corey Cooper, quarterback Chandler Whitmer
  • Quick take: After landing several dynamic skill players, Illinois bolstered its line with guards Andy Gallik and Dexter McDonald. The Illini now have four in-state commits. 

INDIANA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 9
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: Defensive end Jibreel Black highlights a very strong recruiting push for the Hoosiers. Black, whose older brother Larry will contend for a starting job on the Hoosiers' D-line this fall, had offers from 25 other schools, including Michigan State. Matt Perez and Antonio Banks give Indiana some depth at running back.  

IOWA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end Matt Hoch
  • Quick take: Hoch is the latest addition to a Hawkeyes defensive line that appears to be getting stronger and stronger for the future. He passed up a chance to join his older brother at Missouri and stayed home with the Hawkeyes. 

MICHIGAN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 15
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Devin Gardner, wide receiver Jeremy Jackson, wide receiver Ricardo Miller, guard Christian Pace, safety Marvin Robinson
  • Quick take: Things have finally slowed down for Michigan, which has stocked up on skill players for the 2010 class. It would be nice to see a few more linemen added, though it's clear speed will always be Rich Rodriguez's top priority in recruiting. 

MICHIGAN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 7
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end William Gholston, linebacker Max Bullough, quarterback Joe Boisture
  • Quick take: The quarterback position got another boost as Boisture switched his commitment from Boston College to the Spartans. All seven commits hail from the state of Michigan, and Boisture, Bullough and Gholston rank among the state's top 10 prospects. 

MINNESOTA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 10
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: The Gophers haven't made a huge splash yet, but they continue to add solid prospects, especially in the trenches. Tim Brewster's commitment to better line play and the power run game is paying off, as offensive linemen Mark Lenkiewicz and Zac Epping pledged maroon and gold. 

NORTHWESTERN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: What the Wildcats lack in quantity, they make up for with quality prospects, most recently offensive lineman Paul Jorgenson. Offensive line continues to be Northwestern's best position in recruiting, though the team still needs a few more wide receivers. 

OHIO STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Tackle Andrew Norwell, linebacker Jamel Turner, defensive end David Durham, running back Roderick Smith
  • Quick take: Smith is a very impressive addition for Ohio State, bringing an impressive blend of size and speed to the backfield. Ohio State beat out several of its Big Ten brethren for his services. After making a run at several 2010 quarterbacks, the Buckeyes finally landed one in Taylor Graham.

PENN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 11
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Wide receiver Adrian Coxson, running back Silas Redd, center Miles Dieffenbach, defensive end Kyle Baublitz, defensive tackle Evan Hailes
  • Quick take: Hailes gives Penn State as many Top 150 prospects as Michigan, and possibly just as strong a class as the Wolverines. The Lions have found a nice balance between linemen and skill players, picking up Jordan Norwood's little brother Levi at wide receiver. 

PURDUE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 6
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Robert Marve (2007 watch list)
  • Quick take: Things picked up quickly for the Boilermakers, who added five high school players in the last two weeks. Quarterback Sean Robinson highlights the group of new commits and gives Purdue another option if Marve doesn't pan out. The Boilers got some help for their quarterbacks with tight end De'Ron Flood and two wideouts. 

WISCONSIN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 6
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Frank Tamakloe
  • Quick take: Tamakloe is an excellent get for the Badgers, who are restocking their defense in the 2010 class. At 6-2 and 172 pounds, Tamakloe should grow into his frame and be a force in the secondary. He'll contend for immediate playing time along with Konrad Zagzebski.

Posted by ESPN.com's Tim Griffin

Happy Monday.

Here are a few lunchtime links I'm contributing today for my fellow Midwesterner, Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg.

Former Michigan wide receiver Braylon Edwards tells the Detroit Free Press says he's "fine" with Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez nearly awarding the No. 1 jersey that Edwards had endowed several years earlier.

Lindsay Willhite of Athlon Sports writes that Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald hopes that he will be entrenched as the Wildcats' coach for many years.

Jim Tressel tells the Columbus Dispatch's Tim May about sleeping in one of Saddam Hussein's palaces during his trip with other football coaches earlier this month to various military installations in Europe, the Middle East and Africa.

The Lansing State Journal's Dan Kilbridge analyzes why heralded quarterback prospect Joe Boisture changed his commitment from Boston College to Michigan State.

Mike Dyer of the Cincinnati Enquirer writes about the booming proliferation of Web sites devoted to recruiting.

Even with Terrelle Pryor set as Ohio State's quarterback, the Buckeyes still are actively looking for quarterbacks, Steve Hemmelgarn of the Parkersburg (W. Va.) News and Sentinel reports.

Despite Iowa's 26 arrests or citations on alcohol-related charges since mid-April 2007, Iowa associate athletic director Fred Mims tells Scott Dochterman of the Cedar Rapids Gazette that the incidents are "not an epidemic in any sense."

A "Who's Who" of Big Ten coaches, including Ohio State's Jim Tressel, Michigan State's Mark Dantonio and Penn State assistant Jay Paterno are visiting Youngstown, Ohio, the last several days. The Tulsa World's Dave Sittler reports those coaches are in town for a bocce tournament and coaching clinic Monday at Cardinal Mooney High School, where they will provide on-the-field instruction and lectures for high school players in the area.

The Big Ten Network's Gerry DiNardo tells the Detroit News' Angelique Chengelis that Penn State will win the conference this season.

Penn State has added an oral commitment from mammoth 6-foot-4, 302-pound guard DaQuan "DaDa" Jones of Johnson City, N.Y., Phillip Cmor of the Altoona Mirror reports. Jones, the Nittany Lions' 10th 2010 commitment, is projected as a defensive tackle when he arrives at college.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

After somewhat of a slow start, Michigan State's recruiting has really picked up in recent days.

Still buzzing from William Gholston's pledge last week, the Spartans reportedly have added quarterback Joe Boisture to their 2010 recruiting class. According to Scout.com, Boisture switched his commitment from Boston College to Michigan State, giving head coach Mark Dantonio another solid in-state prospect.

Boisture grew up in Saline, Mich., and his grandfather, Dan, coached at Michigan State under Duffy Daugherty.

An ESPNU 150 Watch List prospect, Boisture has excellent size (6-foot-6, 200) and polished mechanics. He joins a quarterback mix that includes Kirk Cousins, Keith Nichol and Andrew Maxwell.

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