Big Ten: Joey O'Connor

PSU recruits shaken by O'Brien news 

January, 1, 2014
LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. -- Michael O'Connor will never forget New Year’s Eve 2013. It was the day his life was turned upside down.

With any conference there will always be battles on the recruiting trail within the Big Ten. Coaching changes, different philosophies and geographic location all factor in to who battles who.

Here is a look at the top five Big Ten recruiting rivalries.

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Big Ten lunch links

March, 28, 2013
You're never off the court!

Big Ten lunchtime links

February, 11, 2013
Where do I apply to become the next Pope?

Big Ten lunchtime links

January, 25, 2013
I love nothing!

Ohio State loses two reserves

January, 23, 2013
Ohio State confirmed on Wednesday the parting of ways with two reserve players as the offseason program continues and national signing day draws closer. Sophomore linebacker Conner Crowell and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Joey O'Connor are no longer members of the team. Both were injured last season.

Visit BuckeyeNation for the rest of the story.
Ohio State on Wednesday announced that two players -- sophomore linebacker Connor Crowell and redshirt freshman offensive lineman Joey O'Connor -- will no longer play for the team.

Crowell hasn't been medically cleared by Ohio State after undergoing two surgeries on his lower left leg for an injury that took place while he was in high school. O'Connor, who redshirted the 2012 season, has requested a transfer to play closer to his home in Windsor, Colo., according to a news release.

O'Connor was an ESPN 150 selection coming out of high school and rated as the nation's No. 8 guard. He initially committed to Penn State but switched to Ohio State after the child sex abuse scandal broke at PSU.

Some had wondered whether Ohio State could meet its NCAA-reduced scholarship limit of 82, as the team is set to sign a sizable recruiting class next month. Two more spots are freed up with these departures.

Afternoon Big Ten notes

August, 17, 2012
We're just two weeks from football, which means training camps are winding down -- and lots of news. Here are few items of note Friday in the Big Ten:
  • Ohio State is down a couple of players in the trenches. True freshman offensive lineman Joey O'Connor had knee surgery and will take a medical redshirt. And defensive lineman Adam Bellamy has left the team for personal reasons. The junior had started 10 games in his career. The Buckeyes said Bellamy is welcome to return when he clears up his issues. True freshman Adolphus Washington has been moved inside to tackle.
  • It's a good thing Michigan State has depth on the offensive line. On Thursday we learned that potential starter Blake Treadwell will be out at least a month with a broken tibula. On Friday, Mark Dantonio revealed that Skyler Burkland, who had been battling for the starting right tackle job, will miss about a week with a hand injury. Both Treadwell and Burkland missed most of last season with injuries. Dantonio also said that Jairus Jones had emerged as the leader at free safety, one of the few spots up for grabs on the Spartans' defense.
  • All the transfer talk surrounding Penn State this offseason has been about players leaving. But one transfer is coming in. Jared Fagnano, a receiver, has decided to leave Akron and join the Nittany Lions where his brother, Jake, is a defensive back. Jared redshirted last year with the Zips and will have to sit out this season under transfer rules.
  • Danny O'Brien threw his first interception of camp on Friday, but it looks more and more solid that the Maryland transfer will be the Wisconsin starting quarterback, Jeff Potrykus writes. O'Brien looked sharp other than the interception in Friday's practice. In other Badgers news, Kyle Costigan worked with the first-teamers at right guard, ahead of Robert Burge. Burge entered camp as the starter but isn't the most athletic member of the Wisconsin line, while Costigan is a former defensive lineman.

Big shoes to fill: Ohio State

February, 28, 2012
Spring practice is just around the corner, and that will be a time for Big Ten teams to locate replacements for departed stars. We're taking a look at how each team might fill the roles of two key contributors no longer on campus.

Today, we turn our attention to Ohio State and its Urban renewal projects. The Buckeyes didn't lose a whole lot of seniors, and they already experienced what it was like to play without departed seniors Dan Herron and DeVier Posey for large stretches of last season. So we'll focus our attention on the offensive line:

[+] EnlargeMike Brewster
Melina Vastola/US PresswireOhio State has to replace departing center Mike Brewster, who made 49 consecutive starts.
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Mike Brewster, C

Why: Brewster was a fixture in the Buckeyes' lineup, making 49 consecutive starts after debuting as a true freshman. He was one of the best centers in the Big Ten for the duration of his career, and was named an All-American in 2010. He also provided good leadership -- especially in a year when some other seniors ran afoul of NCAA rules.

Replacement candidates: Brian Bobek (6-2, 280, Soph.); Corey Linsley (6-2, 310, Jr.); Joey O'Connor (6-4, 295 incoming freshman); Jacoby Boren (6-2, 275, incoming freshman).

The skinny: One reason to temper expectations about Urban Meyer's first year in Columbus is a dangerous lack of depth on the offensive line. The Buckeyes were already thin there last season, and lost three senior starters. If anyone other than Bobek is starting at center, it's probably because of an injury or something else unforeseen. The former blue-chip high school prospect spent last season as Brewster's understudy, and saw some time in mop-up duty. He should make a smooth transition to starter this spring, though living up to Brewster's production won't be easy.

Linsley has played guard in the past for the Buckeyes ,but likely will be one of the starting guards this season, along with Jack Mewhort. O'Connor and Boren project as guards, but could play center in a pinch -- a situation Ohio State hopes to avoid.


Why: Adams missed the first five games of 2011 while serving a suspension, and his absence was notable. He was one of the best offensive linemen in the Big Ten during his three years as a starter, and the 6-foot-8, 320-pounder has been projected by some as a first-round NFL draft pick this spring. The Buckeyes' offensive line played much better last season once he returned.

Replacement candidates: Andrew Norwell (6-5, 308, Jr.); Marcus Hall (6-5, 315, Jr.); Antonio Underwood, (6-3, 305, Soph.); Tommy Brown (6-5, 320, Soph.); Chris Carter (6-6, 350, R-Fr.); Taylor Decker (6-8, 310, incoming freshman); Kyle Dodson (6-5, 315, incoming freshman).

The skinny: Here's another place where a successor is in place, but things could get shaky if something goes wrong.

Norwell started the first five games at left tackle last season while Adams was suspended before sliding back to guard. He should take over the blind side full time this season, and he has good instincts for the position. Everything else at tackle this spring is a little bit up in the air, as Meyer plans to convert tight end Reid Fragel into a right tackle. He and Hall will likely battle for that starting spot, with Hall potentially ending up as a super sub along the line.

Underwood started the Purdue game when J.B. Shugarts was injured but was pulled after a poor performance. Hopefully, another year of coaching will help him develop into a solid contributor. Brown and Carter are largely unknowns at this point, but at least have big bodies. Don't be surprised to see at least one of the true freshmen crack the two-deep this season. They're both very talented, and unfortunately for Ohio State, they don't have a ton of competition ahead of them.
The Super Bowl is Sunday, but the super bowl of recruiting arrives on Wednesday. So on the eve of national signing day, we thought we'd check in with some of's top recruiting experts to get a feel for what's going on in the Big Ten.

Our esteemed panel included senior national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill, Midwest recruiting writer Jared Shanker and Scouts Inc. recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert. This is Part I of our discussion; look for Part II later on today.

Topic 1: What impact has the arrival of Urban Meyer had on the league and in general when it comes to recruiting?

Tom Luginbill: "It's been fairly significant. If there's one thing Urban Meyer understands and has been able to do, it's that you build a championship team from the inside out. Whether it was at Florida or now at Ohio State, if you notice who essentially all his first commitments were, they were all on the defensive line and offensive line. So he understands that, if they're going to compete for a national championship, the gap has to be closed in the defensive front seven. That's the difference between what's happened in the SEC and everywhere else. So I think that's where he's made his biggest impact."

Craig Haubert: “What Urban Meyer has been able to come and do down the stretch has been huge. I knew when he took over, they would get better as a class, but I didn’t really think when this happened, they’d have a chance to crack the Top 25. They’re still in a position to possibly land some guys. Davonte Neal, the No. 1 athlete, could be headed there. Stefon Diggs and Jordan Diamond are also in the mix there.” [Diggs and Neal are both post-signing day announcements].

“If you look at this class, it’s all in the trenches, really. And our philosophy is there’s always an increased value to upper-tier linemen because they’re harder to find. Noah Spence obviously is huge, he’s a five-star, but so is Adolphus Washington. The other thing that stands out to me about Ohio State is he’s been plucking guys from other Big Ten schools. [Se’Von] Pittman was a Michigan State kid. Joey O’Connor had decommitted before he got him, but he was a Penn State kid. Same thing with Tommy Schutt. Armani Reeves. So his upper part of his class, a lot of them have come from other Big Ten schools.”

Jared Shanker: “He’s exceeded my expectations. He’s obviously a great recruiter. At the same time, I wouldn’t call it walking into a perfect situation, but with what was going on at Penn State, I think he’s taken five recruits from Penn State, so there were opportunities for him to come in and flip some guys. Noah Spence was a Penn State lean. He had O’Connor and Tommy Schutt, two other ESPNU 150 guys who were committed to Penn State. Camren Williams and Armani Reeves, two other guys at Penn State. Obviously, he’s one of the best recruiters in the game. He also had some good fortune in being able to come in at a time when things were shaky at a rival school and pick up some of their commitments. Se’Von Pittman, the other ESPNU 150 guy, he was really looking for a reason to get to Ohio State.”

Topic 2: How good is Michigan's class, and has the Wolverines' momentum slowed down in the last several weeks?

CH: “They came out fast. We’ve always had them in that 5-to-7 type range. People might get frustrated that it’s getting near signing day, when there’s a lot of buzz and things going on, and they’re not doing much, but to be fair to them, what they did has allowed them to maintain in the same area where they’ve been for most of the recruiting process. The thing that sticks out to me about this class is a lot of people kind of scoffed when Brady Hoke got hired and he said, ‘I’m a Michigan man.’ But he’s been true to that. They’ve done very well in state. A lot of their key players are Michigan guys, led by Terry Richardson. So he’s brought a little bit of that Michigan man feel, and there seems to be an excitement among recruits.”

TL: "
Michigan was rolling before Meyer got the job, and they were teetering on maybe swinging Bri'onte Dunn, the running back, and Ohio State was able to keep him in the fold. Is Michigan in competition with Ohio State for some players? Yes. But Michigan right now is more focused on revamping the roster to the mold that Brady Hoke wants. They need more size up front, some size at the linebacking positions and some size at the skill spots. And I think they've done that in all three areas. [The lack of recent commitments] is a reflection of numbers and how much room they have. With the Big Ten's hard cap, they don't have a ton of wiggle room. If anything, the winning on the field and the sustained excellence helped solidify that the class would stay intact."

JS: “I don’t know if I’d say they’ve lost momentum. They really were hoping to get Josh Garnett, who ended up going to Stanford. Their class filled up so quickly, and they only had about four or five spots left midway through the season. They’re hoping to get some of the guys who are closer to signing day. They’re in good position to get Jordan Diamond. I think he’s No. 94 overall. So it seems like they’ve maybe fallen off, but they were at 21 or 22 commitments by the time the season started. They really had their run of success in the spring and summer. I’m sure they would have liked to maintain that a little bit and gotten some of those final targets like Garnett, but they’re also able to get the two receivers, [Amara] Darboh and [Jehu] Chesson, right after the season ended. So they’ve still been able to pick up some guys along the way.”

Topic 3: How has Penn State fared given all the turmoil surrounding the program and the flurry of decommitments?

JS: “My thinking for them was, if they could have just held on to their 14 commitments, that would be the main thing. They were obviously going to get some more commitments, but they weren’t going to be the top-caliber guys. If they could hold onto the 14 and add those sleeper guys who have a chance to be something at the next level, that was my expectation for them. I like that they got Akeel Lynch, the running back. I think he could be a good player. They’re probably a little disappointed that it looks like they’re going to miss out on [Skyler] Mornhinweg and the two Massachusetts guys in Reeves and Williams.”

TL: "I think to this point, Bill O'Brien has done a good job. But a lot of credit needs to go to that previous staff. Outside of the guys they lost to Ohio State, through all of this, they're still siting here with 18 verbal commitments. If you think about it, that's astounding. And I would say that the top third of them, athletically, can compete for a conference championship. Of course, you don't know all the intangibles and all that, but based on pure player level, this is a pretty strong class. It certainly isn't anywhere near where people would have expected it to be. ... But just to have bodies in this class, in my opinion, is a positive. [O'Brien] won't be judged on this class. He will be given a long leash, and in my opinion, it was made very clear with the timetable the administration set with this hire that the 2012 class is not the priority. If it had been, they would have hired a guy in December."

Big Ten lunch links

January, 31, 2012
Straight down the middle: no hook, no spin, no fuss. Anything more and this becomes figure skating.
Ohio State couldn't beat Michigan or Penn State on the field this past season but scored a victory over both in recruiting on Sunday.

Cornerback Armani Reeves, rated a four-star prospect by, chose the Buckeyes over Michigan after visiting with coaches from both schools in the past week.

The 5-foot-11, 185-pounder from Massachusetts is yet another blue-chipper added to the fold under Urban Meyer, whose recruiting impact since his November hire has been immense. Ohio State was rated just behind Michigan in our latest ESPN class rankings for 2012, but the Buckeyes may end up ahead of the Wolverines with a late push.

"It just felt like the right fit for me,” Reeves told the Columbus Dispatch. “I’ve known defensive backs Coach [Everett] Withers for a while, for almost four years, so I had a good relationship with him. And I know a lot of guys in the class already -- Tommy Schutt, David Perkins and Cam, obviously.”

"Cam" is Reeves' high school teammate, linebacker Camren Williams. Like Reeves, Williams also decommitted from Penn State and headed to Columbus, as Ohio State continues to reap the benefits from the Jerry Sandusky scandal fallout. The Buckeyes also picked off ESPNU 150 recruits Noah Spence, Tommy Schutt and Joey O'Connor after they reneged on their verbal pledges to the Nittany Lions.

That's five really good prospects who could be playing for Bill O'Brien. Instead, Meyer continues to pile up the highly ranked recruits.
With national signing day just two weeks away, has revealed its final rankings for the class of 2012. And the big winners in the Big Ten appear to be Ohio State and Michigan.

The Buckeyes, helped by the arrival of Urban Meyer, have secured commitments so far from five players in the final 2012 ESPNU 150, including three in the top 100. They are:

No. 4: DE Noah Spence
No. 65: DE Adolphus Washington
No. 98: DE Se'Von Pittman
No. 104: OG Joey O'Connor
No 108: DT Tommy Schutt

If these players pan out, Meyer could be building an intimidating defensive line in Columbus, and we all know that winning starts in the trenches.

Michigan is second in the league with four ESPNU commitments, and like Ohio State the Wolverines are loading up on defense with this class. Their top prospects are:

No. 68: CB Terry Richardson
No. 113: OLB Royce Jenkins-Stone
No. 132: OG Kyle Kalis
No. 142: OLB Joe Bolden

Only three other members of the ESPNU 150 are committed to Big Ten schools, and somewhat surprisingly, Minnesota and Northwestern account for two of them. They are:

No. 51: DE Ifeadi Odenigbo, Northwestern
No. 112: OG Isaac Hayes, Minnesota
No. 131: ILB Michael Rose, Nebraska

ESPN has also updated its class rankings for 2012, and Michigan leads the Big Ten pack at No. 7 nationally. Ohio State is the only other league school ranked, sitting right behind the Wolverines at No. 8. The Buckeyes could overtake Michigan if Meyer is able to reel in some more top prospects late.

Speaking of which, our recruiting folks also take a look today at where some of the top uncommitted prospects stand, including blue-chippers who are looking at Big Ten schools. The No. 8 overall prospect, athlete Davonte Neal, has Ohio State on his list. Offensive tackle Andrus Peat, the No. 9 prospect whose older brother plays for Nebraska, is strongly considering the Huskers, as is athlete Devin Fuller (No. 39). Michigan is in play for offensive guard Josh Garnett (No. 44), while Ohio State is battling for tailback Joel Caleb (No. 83). The Buckeyes, Wolverines and Wisconsin are all hoping to hear good news from offensive tackle Jordan Diamond (No. 94), who isn't expected to announce his decision until after signing day.
The Penn State scandal isn't going away any time soon, and it could affect several areas of the Nittany Lions football program, including recruiting.

Penn State has 16 verbal commitments for its 2012 class, including two ESPNU 150 selections -- offensive tackle Joey O'Connor and defensive tackle Tommy Schutt.

[+] EnlargePaterno
Jeffrey G. Pittenger/US PresswireSeveral recruits in Penn State's 2012 class say they are firm in their commitments whether Joe Paterno remains coach or not.
Colleague Jared Shanker of ESPN Recruiting, who covered Penn State football until last year for The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News, Insider checked in with several Lions recruits during the weekend. The good news for Penn State: They're still on board.

O'Connor told Shanker he discussed the situation with his parents and still has every intention of being in State College next fall -- even if Joe Paterno is no longer Penn State's coach.
"You go to a school based on coaches, but then again you don't," said O'Connor, who officially visited Penn State in September and won't make it back to the campus before enrolling. "They could be gone tomorrow. No matter what, if coach Paterno is there or not, I still love Penn State."

Other recruits like athlete Armani Reeves echoed the sentiment about Paterno. The bigger issue could be if the scandal leads to major changes throughout the staff of assistants, who do the direct recruiting for Penn State.
If Paterno leaves for any reason, Reeves said he would still be solid. If the rest of the staff is also forced out or a new coach doesn't retain them -- the likely scenario -- Reeves could open things back up.
"Definitely," Reeves said when asked if he would be forced to reconsider if assistant coach Bill Kenney, his lead recruiter, was let go.

The recruits Shanker talked with seemed to have different levels of knowledge about the case. Linebacker recruit Camren Williams told Shanker, "It was the old coach [Jerry Sandusky] and coach Paterno actually turned him into the athletic director," Williams said. "He did his job. It's the AD under investigation for lying and not turning him in. I'm not concerned at all."

While Penn State's current commits are on board, a big question is how all of this affects the team's future recruiting.

Arguably Penn State's biggest recruiting target is Noah Spence, a defensive end from Harrisburg, Pa., rated as the nation's No. 4 player in the 2012 class by ESPN Recruiting. Spence has shut down his recruitment until after the football season but is considering Penn State and many other top programs.

"They're a very spiritual family, and Noah Spence's dad puts a high emphasis on character," Shanker told me Monday. "I can only this having a huge impact with Greg Spence, Noah's dad. The first thing he always says is he's a man of God, and he places a lot of emphasis on moral character. When I talked to him back in August, I don't think he mentioned Joe Paterno's coaching once. It was more about the person Joe is. Even though Joe's been cleared legally at this point, things are very up in the air."

Another factor is that Penn State's recruiting coordinator and wide receivers coach, Mike McQueary, reportedly was the former graduate assistant who reported an alleged sexual assault involving Sandusky to Paterno in 2002.

"That's huge," Shanker said. "He's going to be the first one usually [recruits] can contact. He might not end up being the lead recruiter, but in most instances he's the guy to initate contact with recruits or their parents. That’s going to be something parents are going to ask. They're going to want to know what happened."

Questions also likely will be asked of other assistants who were on staff in 2002, including top recruiters like defensive coordinator Tom Bradley.

Shanker said many of the recruits he spoke to have been told that if Paterno were to step down -- Paterno's contract ends after this season -- a member of his staff would take over. The big factor going forward, if there are changes, is how dramatic those changes are.

"All of them didn't seem concerned about wholesale changes to the staff," Shanker told me. "If Paterno were to leave, that was pretty much a non-factor for them. They were building their relationships with the assistant coaches. If the assistants leave, they would have to reevaluate things."
The latest ESPNU 150 --'s ranking of the top high school football players in the Class of 2012 -- is now out. And the Big Ten school with a the highest-rated recruit committed is ... Indiana?

Yep, quarterback Gunner Kiel, who pledged his services to Kevin Wilson and the Hoosiers, checks in at No. 20, highest among current Big Ten recruits. Here's a look at where the other ESPNU 150 players planning to enter league the next year are ranked:

No. 67: Cornerback Terry Richardson, Michigan
No. 100: Defensive end Se'Von Pittman, Michigan State
No. 105: Offensive tackle Joey O'Connor, Penn State
No. 114: Offensive guard Isaac Hayes, Minnesota
No. 115: Linebacker Royce Jenkins-Stone, Michigan
No. 130: Defensive tackle Tommy Schutt, Penn State
No. 134: Linebacker Tommy Rose, Nebraska
No. 135: Offensive tackle Kyle Kalis, Michigan

Only having nine players in the ESPNU 150 is not a heavy presence for the Big Ten, but many of the top prospects have yet to announce where they're going to school. Here's a look at who the top prospects are considering, including many Big Ten targets.

The ESPN recruiting folks have also updated their class rankings by school. Michigan's class is ranked No. 6 nationally, one spot lower than last month. Penn State is No. 18, the same spot it held in the previous rankings. No other Big Ten school cracked's Top 25 class rankings.