Big Ten: Johnnie Troutman
While the evaluations continue today and Tuesday, several position groups have completed their testing. Let's take a look at the top performances from Big Ten players. Some standouts in the workouts: Michigan WR Junior Hemingway, Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins, Michigan State WR Keshawn Martin, Iowa G Adam Gettis and Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson.
Before looking at position groups, we'll examine the top overall performers to date.
OVERALL PERFORMANCE (through Sunday)
- Illinois' Jenkins tied for fourth (4.39 seconds)
- Michigan State's Martin tied for 13th (4.45 seconds)
- Michigan C David Molk ranked second with 41 repetitions of 225 pounds
- Michigan DT Mike Martin tied for third with 36 repetitions
- Michigan State's Martin tied for fifth at 39.5 inches
- Illinois' Jenkins tied for ninth at 38.5 inches
- Michigan WR Junior Hemingway tied for 10th at 10 feet, 4 inches
- Illinois' Jenkins tied for 10th at 10 feet, 4 inches
- Michigan's Hemingway ranked second at 6.59 seconds
- Northwestern TE Drake Dunsmore tied for fourth at 6.73 seconds
- Michigan's Hemingway ranked second at 3.98 seconds
- Northwestern's Dunsmore tied for fourth at 4.03 seconds
- Ohio State RB Dan Herron ranked sixth at 4.04 seconds
- Iowa WR Marvin McNutt ranked ninth at 4.07 seconds
- Wisconsin's Wilson ranked 10th at 4.09 seconds
- Michigan's Hemingway tied for third at 11.16 seconds
- Michigan State's Martin tied for third at 11.16 seconds
- Northwestern's Dunsmore tied for 14th at 11.47 seconds
Now onto the position groups ...
- Wisconsin's Wilson ranked second in 40-yard dash (4.55 seconds); sixth in vertical jump (34 inches); fourth in broad jump (9 feet, 10 inches); fifth in 3-cone drill (6.97 seconds) and second in 20-yard shuttle (4.09 seconds)
- Michigan State's Kirk Cousins ranked 12th in 40-yard dash (4.93 seconds); 14th in vertical jump (28.5 inches); tied for ninth in broad jump (9 feet, 1 inch); seventh in 3-cone drill (7.05 seconds); 12th in 20-yard shuttle (4.5 seconds)
- Michigan State's Edwin Baker tied for 10th in 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds); tied for 12th in bench press (20 reps of 225 pounds); tied for 12th in vertical jump (35 inches); and tied for 14th in 20-yard shuttle (4.31 seconds).
- Ohio State's Dan Herron ranked seventh in bench press (22 reps of 225 pounds); tied for 12th in vertical jump (35 inches); tied for 12th in broad jump (9 feet, 9 inches); sixth in 3-cone drill (6.97 seconds); second in 20-yard shuttle (4.04 seconds); and fifth in 60-yard shuttle (11.6 seconds).
- Wisconsin FB Bradie Ewing tied for fifth in vertical jump (36.5 inches); tied for fifth in broad jump (10 feet); tied for 14th in 3-cone drill (7.14 seconds); tied for fifth in 20-yard shuttle (4.16 seconds); and seventh in 60-yard shuttle (11.81 seconds).
- Illinois' Jenkins tied for fourth in 40-yard dash (4.39 seconds); tied for seventh in vertical jump (38.5 inches); and tied for eighth in broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches).
- Michigan State's Martin ranked 11th in 40-yard dash (4.45 seconds); tied for fourth in vertical jump (39.5 inches); tied for 14th in broad jump (10 feet, 2 inches); tied for eighth in 3-cone drill (6.85 seconds); tied for 10th in 20-yard shuttle (4.13 seconds); and tied for second in 60-yard shuttle (11.16 seconds).
- Michigan's Hemingway tied for third in bench press (21 reps at 225 pounds); tied for eighth in broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches); ranked first in 3-cone drill (6.59 seconds); tied for first in 20-yard shuttle (3.98 seconds); and tied for second in 60-yard shuttle (11.16 seconds).
- Wisconsin's Nick Toon ranked 12th in bench press (18 reps at 225 pounds) and ranked 12th in vertical jump (37.5 inches).
- Iowa's Marvin McNutt tied for 13th in vertical jump (37 inches); ranked fifth in 20-yard shuttle (4.07 seconds); and ranked 12th in 60-yard shuttle (11.62 seconds).
- Ohio State's DeVier Posey tied for 10th in broad jump (10 feet, 3 inches) and tied for 12th in 20-yard shuttle (4.15 seconds).
- Northwestern's Dunsmore ranked fifth in 40-yard dash (4.64 seconds); tied for fifth in bench press (21 reps at 225 pounds); fifth in vertical jump (35.5 seconds); seventh in broad jump (9 feet, 9 inches); first in 3-cone drill (6.73 seconds); first in 20-yard shuttle (4.03 seconds); and third in 60-yard shuttle (11.47 seconds).
- Michigan's Martin tied for second in bench press (36 reps of 225 pounds)
- Iowa G Adam Gettis ranked third in 40-yard dash (5 seconds); tied for third in vertical jump (31.5 inches); second in broad jump (9 feet, 4 inches); tied for ninth in 20-yard shuttle (4.65 seconds)
- Iowa T Riley Reiff tied for eighth in 40-yard dash (5.23 seconds);
- Illinois T Jeff Allen ranked 15th in 40-yard dash (5.28 seconds); tied for 14th in broad jump (8 feet, 6 inches)
- Michigan's Molk ranked first in bench press (41 reps at 225 pounds);
- Wisconsin G Kevin Zeitler tied for third in bench press (32 reps at 225 pounds); tied for 14th in vertical jump (29 inches); eighth in 20-yard shuttle (4.61 seconds)
- Penn State G Johnnie Troutman tied for eighth in bench press (31 reps at 225 pounds)
- Ohio State C Mike Brewster tied for 13th in bench press (29 reps at 225 pounds); ranked 15th in 3-cone drill (7.73 seconds); tied for sixth in 20-yard shuttle (4.6 seconds)
Big Ten players factored in all the scoring for the North squad. Wisconsin quarterback Russell Wilson and Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins both fired touchdown passes, and Purdue kicker Carson Wiggs connected on three field goal attempts, including a 28-yarder that helped seal the win with 4:11 left. The North starting offensive line featured four of five players from the Big Ten.
Other than Illinois receiver A.J. Jenkins and Illinois left tackle Jeff Allen, all of the Big Ten players in the game competed for the North squad.
Wilson started for the North and led three offensive series, two of which resulted in points. He finished the game 4 of 7 passing for 45 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Cousins was the third quarterback from the North squad to see the field and fired a 41-yard touchdown pass to Arizona State's Gerell Robinson early in the third quarter. Cousins finished the game 5 of 11 passing for 115 yards with a touchdown and an interception.
Wiggs connected on field goal attempts of 27, 28 and 32 yards and missed a 37-yard try in the closing minutes.
Other Big Ten notables:
- Michigan State safety Trenton Robinson had two tackles and a fumble recovery
- Ohio State wide receiver DeVier Posey had a 33-yard reception
- Nebraska linebacker Lavonte David had four tackles
- Penn State defensive end Jack Crawford had three tackles
- Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin had three tackles
- Illinois wideout A.J. Jenkins had a 26-yard reception
- Michigan State tight end Brian Linthicum had a 9-yard reception
- Penn State cornerback D'Anton Lynn had two tackles
- Wisconsin punter Brad Nortman averaged 43.7 yards on three attempts and also had one kickoff, while Wiggs had five kickoffs.
- Ohio State running back Dan Herron had six carries for 14 yards and two receptions for 4 yards
- Wisconsin long-snapper Kyle Wojta had one tackle
- Wisconsin fullback Bradie Ewing had one carry for 1 yard
North team starters included: Wilson, Ewing, Linthicum, Ohio State left tackle Mike Adams, Ohio State center Mike Brewster, Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler, Penn State guard Johnnie Troutman, Crawford, Martin and Robinson. Jenkins and Allen both came off the bench for the South squad.
The Senior Bowl on Wednesday announced the 24 Big Ten players who will be participating in this year's game. Eight Big Ten squads are sending players to Mobile.
Here's the full list (part of which had been revealed earlier):
*injured and will not participate in game
It's a strong contingent that features the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year (Still) and 21 all-conference selections.
- Ron Zook praised quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase for his development. "He seems to be picking up more and more of the offense," Zooks said. "And the more he learns, the quicker he is. He's taken another step not only with his play but with the way he's led this team as well."
- Despite the loss of Mikel Leshoure to the NFL draft, Zook expects the Illini running game to keep on trucking and had positive words for starting tailback Jason Ford. "He had a great offseason and got his weight down to where he was as a freshman," Zook said. Zook also likes what he sees out of freshmen Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson at the position. "One thing in the Big Ten is, you'd better have more than one running back," he said. "We feel very fortunate that we've got a few guys who should help us maintain what we've done in terms of rushing."
- Junior linebacker Ashante Williams, who was suspended following a DUI arrest, is back practicing with the team and working on the scout unit. Zook said he wants Williams, who is a semester away from graduation, to earn his degree. He hasn't made a decision on when or if Williams might play for the Illini.
- Ticket sales have not exactly been robust so far, but Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson says playing the opener against Ball State at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis should help both teams. "I'm interested to see if the fan bases come out to support both programs," he said. "Is it an advantage? I don't know. [But] I think it's a great opportunity for both teams to energize their teams."
- With less than a week before the opener, Wilson said the staff still hasn't decided on a starting quarterback between Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker. "Really, down the stretch, we're trying to decide which young man we think will manage the game, keep us out of turnovers and keep us in positive situations." He added that he's "really intrigued" by true freshman Tre Roberson. "He's very athletic, but at the same time he's a little overwhelmed," Wilson said. "I do think he can add to the mix as we go through the season."
- The Buckeyes won't have permanent captains this year. Instead, they will name game captains each week. Center Mike Brewster, right tackle J.B. Shugarts and defensive tackle John Simon will be captains for this week's Akron game. Luke Fickell said he decided to do it this way to show his senior leaders that "we need every single one of them."
- Fickell confirmed that offensive lineman Corey Linsley has been suspended for the first game and said Linsley may also miss Week 2 against Toledo. Starting linebacker Etienne Sabino is expected to play despite breaking his left hand during training camp.
- While quarterback gets the most attention, the Nittany Lions haven't named a starter yet at right guard, either. John Urschel and Johnnie Troutman are still battling it out and Joe Paterno said he doesn't know who will get the call. Paterno called offensive line depth one of his main concerns, much more so than the quarterback situation.
- Paterno confirmed that punter/kicker Anthony Fera is suspended for an alcohol-related arrest earlier this month, but he didn't divulge how long the suspension would last.
- Paterno was asked about his former assistant, Al Golden, and the task that now faces him at scandal-ridden Miami. "Al's got a tough job on his hands right now," Paterno said. "I'm sure when everything settles down at Miami and he gets a hold of the problems and starts to resolve them and cure them, that he'll do well. But it's going to take a little while, if what people are saying is true. If it can be done, Al will get it done."
- Head coach Danny Hope has named Caleb TerBush his starting quarterback for the Middle Tennessee game in the wake of Rob Henry's torn ACL. Hope says the team is confident in TerBush, a junior who has played in only one career game. "He's far along," Hope said. "He's tall, he puts a lot of velocity on the ball, he's accurate and he's competitive." Though TerBush is 6-foot-6, Hope said he can run the ball and could even mix in some option plays.
- Robert Marve still isn't practicing as he recovers from last year's knee surgery, but Hope said Marve should be ready in the next couple of weeks. "We're optimistic he can help our football team sometime soon this season," Hope said.
- In some much-needed good injury news, the Boilermakers are happy with the way running back Ralph Bolden has returned from two knee surgeries. "It's been a real blessing," Hope said. "I didn't know what to expect, really. ... It doesn't look like he's lost anything to me. He's very fast, very sharp, very sudden. He's making people miss, is very confident on his cuts and is finishing runs." Hope said Bolden consistently punched the ball into the end zone during some goal line drills against the No. 1 defense this month. " He looks like one of the best players on our team again right now," he said.
- Redshirt freshman Kyle French will be pressed into field-goal duties on Thursday against UNLV, as regular kicker Philip Welch hasn't healed from a quadriceps injury. Head coach Bret Bielema said French is a "no-nonsense kid" who should be able to handle the situation. Bielema said he would rely on holder Brad Nortman to find out what French can do. "I usually lean on my holder," he said. "We'll come up with a number we feel he's good to kick from and hopefully just move forward."
- Bielema said he's never sensed this much hype around the Badgers during his time with the program. Wisconsin is ranked No. 10 in the coaches poll and is a favorite to win the Big Ten. He said he noticed it during training camp, when media requests for interviews poured in from around the country. "It's fun and I think it's a sign of respect," he said. "I tried to emphasize to our players that right now the story about Wisconsin is a good thing. There's not a lot of negativity around our program. A lot of things going around college football have stayed out of Madison. I like the character and the kids we have. Hopefully, it doesn't go to their heads."
- The series with UNLV comes to an end this year, but Bielema said the Badgers are interested in signing another deal with the Rebels. "Wisconsin people always need an excuse to run to Vegas," he said. "I think they love doing it."
Sophomore Rob Bolden and junior Matt McGloin are listed as co-starters for the opener. It's not a major shock, but I'm not sure what else the Penn State coaches need to evaluate at this point. Bolden and McGloin competed throughout spring ball and into fall camp. Both have started games. Is there still no clear separation? Hard to believe. Don't be surprised to see Penn State play both men against Indiana State before the Week 2 showdown with Alabama.
Other depth chart nuggets:
- Sophomore John Urschel and senior Johnnie Troutman are listed as co-starters at right guard. Veteran DeOn'tae Pannell has emerged at left guard -- at least for now -- ahead of Mark Arcidiacono. There are no surprises on the rest of the first-team line.
- Silas Redd is listed as Penn State's starting running back ahead of Brandon Beachum. Curtis Dukes is the third-stringer, while Stephfon Green, who rejoined the team last week, doesn't appear on the depth chart.
- Sophomore Shawney Kersey and junior Justin Brown are listed as starting wide receiver alongside All-Big Ten candidate Derek Moye. Devon Smith is the backup to Brown.
- Sophomore Glenn Carson translated a strong preseason camp into the starting middle linebacker spot ahead of classmate Khairi Fortt. Michael Mauti has shifted to outside linebacker, where both he and Gerald Hodges will start. Former starter Nate Stupar is listed as Mauti's backup. In case it isn't obvious, Penn State is loaded at linebacker.
- Senior Eric Latimore, who missed most of the 2010 season with a wrist injury, is listed as a starting defensive end opposite Jack Crawford. Promising redshirt freshman Kyle Baublitz will back up Latimore.
- Senior Chaz Powell has edged junior Stephon Morris for the starting right cornerback spot.
- Anthony Fera is listed as a backup at punter, kicker and holder, most likely the result of his citation for purchase/possession of alcohol by a minor last month. Junior Evan Lewis is Penn State's top kicker for the opener, while Alex Butterworth will handle the punting duties.
- Only two redshirt freshmen appear as backups on Penn State's depth chart: Baublitz and outside linebacker Mike Hull.
Dan (Iowa City): Adam, great work with the blog. With Iowa this season, which side of the ball do you see them having more trouble with? On offense they start a new quarterack, a unknown but possible gem at RB with Coker, and only 1 real WR option. On defense the D-line is virtually gone, Sash/Greenwood are out of town, and the LB's have a lot of unprovens. What side should I be worrying about?
Adam Rittenberg (12:11 PM): Dan, I'd have some concern on both sides, but a little more on defense. The offensive line will be solid, you have a top-line WR in McNutt and an experienced TE in Brad Herman (along with the promising C.J. Fiedorowicz). Also, both Coker and Vandenberg have proven something, albeit in limited action. Losing three multiyear starters on the defensive line and two multiyear starters at safety seems to be bigger issues.
Rick M (Louisville, KY): Adam, Why does it seem that you are afraid to admit that you do not want to see Nebraska win it. It will make the B1G look weak. I am of a differing opinion. I think that the Husker are a strong team and have too many weapons to deny their superior talent. Please, don't mis-interrupt my statement as arrogant. I look at it as confidence in my Huskers.
Adam Rittenberg (12:32 PM): It's not about being afraid. I don't care who wins the Big Ten. But in assessing whether a Nebraska title is good for the league in Year 1, I would say no. It will take time for Nebraska to be regarded nationally as a Big Ten program. If the Huskers win the league in Year 1, especially with their schedule, most will look at it as a poor reflection of the Big Ten, a conference that is still in many ways trying to repair its national reputation. So it's nothing against the Huskers, who certainly could win the league. But I have a pretty good grasp on national perception -- helps to work at ESPN -- but I don't think this would be favorable for the Big Ten.
Derek (NC): Do you think Penn State's OL will start this year more solid and consistent than last year's OL?
Adam Rittenberg (12:52 PM): Derek, the good news is that most of these linemen have been around for a while. Guys like Okoli, Barham, Troutman, Pannell, even Stankiewitch. They know one another and have been in the program for multiple years. It should ease the process of coming together as a line, but you're absolutely right that Penn State must start off the season much stronger up front than it did in 2010.
Also, here are some updates on Big Ten undrafted free agents who have found NFL homes. Check out the full list.
Michigan State P Aaron Bates: Pittsburgh Steelers
Wisconsin LB Blake Sorensen: Seattle Seahawks
Looking at the league landscape, offensive line could be a major strength throughout the Big Ten this season. Although standout players such as Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi and All-American Stefen Wisniewski depart, I see improved depth for several teams as well as quite a few multiyear starters.
Honestly, there aren't any bad lines in the league; just some with more question marks than others.
Let's get to the rundown.
1. Wisconsin: Talk about an ability to reload. The Badgers lose All-Americans Carimi and John Moffitt, plus the versatile Bill Nagy, and they still shouldn't take any steps backward. Injuries have allowed Wisconsin to build depth the past few seasons, and four of the five spots look extremely solid. Tackle Ricky Wagner, center Peter Konz and guard Kevin Zeitler lead a group that will block for the league's top running back tandem. Wisconsin's track record up front is impossible to ignore, and this year's line should continue the trend.
3. Ohio State: Depth is the only reason the Buckeyes' line isn't higher in the rankings. Ohio State boasts arguably the nation's top center in Mike Brewster, and first-team All-Big Ten tackle Mike Adams will be back after a five-game suspension to begin the season. The Buckeyes need big things from tackle Andrew Norwell during Adams' absence, and tackle J.B. Shugarts must play like a veteran. After struggling to put two sets of capable linemen on the field this spring, Ohio State has to find more depth in preseason camp.
4. Michigan: This is another group that could climb up the rankings by season's end. Center David Molk is a terrific piece to build around, and if gifted players like Taylor Lewan and Patrick Omameh continue to develop, Michigan's line will be a major strength. The concerns are Molk's ability to stay healthy and an adjustment to a new offensive system under Al Borges. The line did an excellent job of protecting Denard Robinson in 2010, allowing a league-low 11 sacks.
5. Illinois: The Illini flat-out punished opponents at the line of scrimmage on several occasions last season, and I really like the potential for the front five in 2011. The biggest reason? Left tackle Jeff Allen, one of the Big Ten's most experienced linemen. Allen and center Graham Pocic will contend for All-Big Ten honors, and if Corey Lewis gets healthy, this should be one of the league's top offensive lines.
6. Purdue: Expectations are high for a line that coach Danny Hope thinks will be Purdue's strength in 2011. Left tackle Dennis Kelly is an All-Big Ten candidate with NFL potential who has started the past 24 games. Center Peters Drey and tackle Nick Mondek help anchor the group. The big question is whether mammoth guard Ken Plue, a multiyear starter, can get out of Hope's doghouse to help lead the way. Plue will be pushed by James Shepherd this summer. The combination of experience up front and the return of running back Ralph Bolden bode well for the Boilers.
7. Northwestern: The Wildcats boast the nation's second most experienced line (137 combined career starts), but experience must start translating to production. This group still must prove it can spark a decent rushing attack after several years of decline. Left tackle Al Netter is an All-Big Ten candidate and center Ben Burkett enters his fourth season as the starter. If Northwestern gets more consistent play from right tackle Patrick Ward and others, it should be a solid group.
8. Penn State: This is a big year for Penn State's O-line, which has heard the criticism and has vowed to erase it in 2011. The tackle spots look solid with Quinn Barham and Chima Okoli, but Penn State needs to shore up the interior after losing Wisniewski, a mainstay for the past four seasons. If veterans like Johnnie Troutman and DeOn'tae Pannell step up and turn in consistent performances, the line should hold up nicely.
9. Nebraska: The Huskers ranked ninth nationally in rushing last season but have quite a few question marks up front. Center Mike Caputo is a building block and sophomore tackle Jeremiah Sirles is a returning starter, but Nebraska has little proven experience. The Huskers will benefit from a healthy Marcel Jones at right tackle, and Yoshi Hardwick adds depth. This could turn out to be a decent group, but the experience issue combined with a scheme change creates some uncertainty.
10. Michigan State: Not to put too much pressure on the line, but arguably no position group will have more influence on Michigan State's season. The Spartans must replace both starting tackles and their starting center, never an easy task. All-Big Ten guard Joel Foreman returns to lead the group, but Michigan State needs immediate contributions from unproven players. The coaches feel they've upgraded the athleticism up front by moving players like Dan France and Blake Treadwell over from the defensive side.
11. Minnesota: The Gophers boast a mix of veterans and youth, and it'll be interesting to see whether the group comes together this fall. Hopes are high for young tackles Eric Olson and Jimmy Gjere, but they'll need help from seniors like Ryan Wynn and Chris Bunders on the interior. Minnesota needs to regain its swagger as an elite rushing offense, and it starts up front this fall. This is a group that certainly has a chance to make strides.
12. Indiana: I like some of Indiana's individual pieces, but as a group, the Hoosiers must show they can create space for the running backs. Indiana switched to the pistol offense in hopes of sparking the ground game but produced barely 100 rushing yards a game in 2010 (112th nationally). The line allowed only 12 sacks and must continue to protect its unproven quarterbacks this fall, but getting the run game going is paramount. Returning starters Will Matte, Justin Pagan and Andrew McDonald give Indiana hope.
2010 overall record: 7-6
2010 conference record: 4-4 (T-4th)
Offense: 7; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 1
LB Michael Mauti, DT Devon Still, S Nick Sukay, CB D'Anton Lynn, LB Nathan Stupar, QB Matt McGloin, QB Rob Bolden, WR Derek Moye, LT Quinn Barham
DT Ollie Ogbu, LB Chris Colasanti, RB Evan Royster, G Stefen Wisniewski, C Doug Klopacz, K Collin Wagner
2010 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Evan Royster (1,014 yards)
Passing: Matt McGloin* (1,548 yards)
Receiving: Derek Moye* (885 yards)
Tackles: Chris Colasanti (112)
Sacks: Devon Still* (4)
Interceptions: D'Anton Lynn* and Nick Sukay* (3)
1. Still solidifies middle: Penn State needs its defensive line to rebound in 2010, and it has a good piece to build around in tackle Devon Still. After a huge performance in the Outback Bowl (3.5 tackles for loss), Still continued to make strides this spring and drew praise from the coaching staff. The potential always has been there with Still, and after overcoming injuries early in his career, he looks like he's ready for a breakout season.
2. Quarterbacks make progress: The starter remains a mystery, but whoever calls signals for Penn State this fall will have a better grasp of the system. Both Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin drew high marks this spring, not only showing a greater understanding of the offense but greater willingness to lead the unit. When the often pessimistic Joe Paterno says "I think we're in good shape" at quarterback, it's typically a good sign.
3. Linebacker U. returns: Although Penn State brings back a lot of experience in the secondary, the defense should be linebacker-driven in 2011. That's the way it should be at Linebacker U. Veterans Michael Mauti and Nathan Stupar are poised to lead the way, and Gerald Hodges made strides this spring and has star potential for the Nittany Lions. Sophomore Khairi Fortt also impressed this spring and could push Stupar for playing time.
1. The starting quarterback: McGloin and Bolden are clearly the top two candidates, but neither enters the summer as the appointed starter. Bolden's future is the subplot here, as the rising sophomore hasn't closed the door to a potential departure from the program. Bolden felt the competition was fair this spring, and it could heat up again when the team resumes practice in August. The coaches probably don't want to let things drag on too long without naming a No. 1 QB.
2. Defensive end: Penn State has lacked a dynamic pass-rusher since Aaron Maybin in 2008, and there's serious concern about the defensive end spot coming out of the spring. Jack Crawford and Eric Latimore remained sidelined this spring with injuries, and projected starter Pete Massaro suffered a season-ending torn ACL early in the spring session. The Lions really need both Crawford and Latimore to get healthy and elevate their play this fall.
3. Offensive line: Although receiver Curtis Drake's injury this spring is a setback for the offense, Penn State should have enough playmakers to sustain the offense if the line can do its job. Line play is the biggest key to Penn State reclaiming its 2008 form, and the pressure is on a group that boasts experience (Quinn Barham, Chima Okoli, Johnnie Troutman) but must prove it can consistently generate push against top Big Ten competition. Tight end also is a major question mark, making the line's performance even more important.
"We don't have any depth there," the coach said. "We don't have a good, solid first-string offensive line yet. That's our first job."
It's hardly a revelation that the Big Ten's best teams are strong along the offensive line. Wisconsin and Iowa have elevated their programs largely because of their line play. Michigan State will become a perennial league title contender when it churns out great lines year after year.
"For all the [talk about] the offensive line being such a big question mark, we didn't give up that many sacks, we were able to get [Evan] Royster the rushing record, so there were definitely some bright spots," right tackle Chima Okoli said. "Myself included, there's a good amount we also have to work on. By no means are we done."
Penn State should be fine at the tackle spots as starters Okoli and Quinn Barham both return. Senior DeOn'tae Pannell has nine career starts and Johnnie Troutman started the final 11 games last season at left guard.
The Lions must replace standout Stefen Wisniewski, who started at both guard and center during his career. But overall depth, as Paterno noted, could be a problem.
"We've got four seniors," Okoli said, "and as you get older, you've kind of earned your right in the hierarchy to say what you'd like to get done with the younger guys."
Penn State's line play has become a testy topic for fans the past two seasons.
The Lions' last elite offensive line led the team to a Big Ten title in 2008. It included Rimington Trophy winner A.Q. Shipley and three first-team All-Big Ten players (Shipley and tackles Rich Ohrnberger and Gerald Cadogan).
"They definitely set the bar," Okoli said. "If we can be anywhere close to those guys' level, we'll definitely compete for things I believe we're due for."
- Illinois' big recruiting class puts the program in a good spot, Herb Gould writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Indiana's recruiting class marks Bill Lynch's most important contribution to the program, Dustin Dopirak writes in The (Bloomington) Herald-Times.
- Iowa's recruiting closes on a strong note, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
- One Big Ten recruiting target asks for help on Twitter to make his decision, Mike Hlas writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
- There should be some drama for both Michigan and Michigan State today, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Brady Hoke wanted character and toughness with his first recruiting class, Angelique Chengelis writes in The Detroit News.
- Assistant Dan Roushar now will be running the show for Michigan State's offense, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal. The Spartans are waiting on decisions from several recruits, Denny Schwarze writes in the State Journal.
- Jerry Kill's first class at Minnesota might not have his personal touch, but he still landed some crowd-pleasing prospects, Phil Miller writes in the Star Tribune.
- Nebraska still hopes to land a big name on signing day, Brian Cristopherson writes in the Lincoln Journal Star. All you need to know about Nebraska on signing day from the Omaha World-Herald.
- Christian Jones' knee injury didn't scare away Northwestern from the ESPNU 150 prospect, ESPNChicago.com's Scott Powers writes.
- The Columbus Dispatch's Tim May looks at the five Ohio State players already enrolled. Quarterback Cardale Jones is a grayshirt recruit to the Buckeyes, Bob Fortuna writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
- Penn State took two recruits away from Pitt for this year's class, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Lions offensive lineman Johnnie Troutman faces a DUI charge, FightOnState.com's Mark Brennan reports.
- Purdue brings in a small class highlighted by several running backs, Mike Carmin writes in The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
- Wisconsin typically outperforms its recruiting ranking, Adam Mertz writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
2. Ohio State: The talent always has been there, and the physical play finally showed up late last fall. Ohio State's line finished 2009 on a very strong note and returns pretty much everyone for 2010. First-team All-Big Ten guard Justin Boren leads the group along with fellow guard Bryant Browning. Center Michael Brewster enters his third season as a starter, and right tackle J.B. Shugarts came along last year. If gifted left tackle Mike Adams effectively protects Terrelle Pryor's blind side, the Buckeyes will be extremely tough to stop.
3. Michigan: The Wolverines boast one of the Big Ten's best interior line tandems in guard Stephen Schilling and center David Molk, who returns from an ACL injury. When Molk was healthy in 2009, Michigan consistently moved the football. His return is a major boost. The Wolverines need to solidify the tackle spots but have experienced options in Perry Dorrestein and Mark Huyge. Michigan's offensive line recruiting also should pay off as redshirt freshmen like Taylor Lewan solidify the depth.
4. Penn State: The line had an average performance in 2009 and struggled against elite defensive fronts, but things should improve this fall. Stefen Wisniewski, who moves back to guard from center, is one of the nation's most experienced and polished offensive linemen. He leads a group that also features veterans Lou Eliades and Johnnie Troutman. Penn State needs big things from new starting left tackle Quinn Barham.
5. Northwestern: All five starters return from 2009, but there's competition at three spots in camp. I see this as a testament to Northwestern's strong O-line recruiting the past four seasons. While experience is great, the Wildcats need to be more physical in run blocking and could benefit from some new faces (or some old ones hardened by competition). Left tackle Al Netter and center Ben Burkett are All-Big Ten candidates, and watch out for Patrick Ward, a heralded 2009 recruit who steps into the spotlight at right tackle this season.
Up next: Running back/fullback
More rankings ...
What's new: Quite a lot. Penn State loses six first-team All-Big Ten performers from 2009, including quarterback Daryll Clark and defensive tackle Jared Odrick, the league's co-Defensive Player of the Year. All eyes will be on the quarterback spot as last year's backup, Kevin Newsome, competes alongside Matt McGloin and two true freshmen, Paul Jones and Robert Bolden. The Lions also will have a new-look lineup at linebacker, although Nate Stupar and Bani Gbadyu are familiar names.
Key battle: Everyone knows about the quarterback race, which likely won't be decided until late in camp. But there are other battles, too. The offensive line has to be better this year after struggling against elite defensive fronts like Iowa and Ohio State in 2009. Penn State is set with standout Stefen Wisniewski at right guard, but the left guard spot will feature plenty of competition between DeOn’tae Pannell and Johnnie Troutman. Both players have experience but one needs to emerge.
New on the scene: Penn State brings in the Big Ten's top recruiting class and should see some immediate contributions from its freshmen. You know about the quarterbacks, but keep an eye on defenders like Khairi Fortt, Dakota Royer, C.J. Olaniyan and Mike Hull. Penn State must replace five starters on defense and build depth there as well.
Switching it up: Chaz Powell ranked fourth on the team in receiving last season, but he practiced at cornerback this spring and could be a big contributor there. Sophomore Stephon Morris did some good things as a true freshman in 2009, but Powell should push him.
Breaking out: You just know Penn State will have a new group of stars on defense after losing Odrick, Navorro Bowman, Sean Lee and others. Devon Still is poised for a big season at defensive tackle if he can stay healthy, and Jack Crawford could take the next step and become one of the league's premier pass-rushers. The linebacker group should be very interesting, as Michael Mauti, a fan favorite, gets his opportunity to shine. If Penn State finds a capable quarterback, wide receiver Derek Moye might have a breakout season.
Back in the fold: Mauti tore his ACL in camp last summer and missed the entire 2009 season. He'll definitely be in the mix for a starting spot, most likely at outside linebacker.
Quoting: "We've got a tough schedule and we've got a good young squad that's got a long way to go to be good. We've got a bunch of kids that'll work at it and get better each week. Before it's all over, we'll be a pretty good football team. How many games we'll win? I don't know." -- Head coach Joe Paterno
|AP Photo/Carlos Osorio|
|Joe Paterno got his team fired up to face Michigan.|
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Joe Paterno knew the country didn't think much of this Penn State team.
Before the season, the Nittany Lions' easy nonconference schedule dominated discussion. Then, it was the team's struggles against Iowa, which worsened after a Sept. 26 loss to the Hawkeyes. Even after three convincing wins, Penn State players came here hearing all about their Big House losing streak, homer clock operators and Michigan's dominance in the series.
So on Friday night at the team hotel, Paterno provided a pick-me-up to his players.
"He said, 'I've been telling you guys how good I think you are. It's time you tell me how good you are, and go out and play that way,'" Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said. "It was a great moment [Friday] night. When they left the snack last night, they were all pumped up."
The younger Paterno walked up to senior quarterback Daryll Clark after the meeting.
"He goes, 'Damn, I'm ready now,'" Jay said.
An energized Clark took the field Saturday and led No. 13 Penn State to a 35-10 victory against Michigan. The senior quarterback dissected the Wolverines' secondary for 230 passing yards and tied his career high with four touchdown strikes, while Penn State's defense held Michigan to season lows in both points and yards (250).
The Lions gave Paterno his first win at Michigan Stadium since 1996. But they gave themselves a much more significant reward: the belief that they can still do some special things this season.
"They needed it maybe more than I needed it," Paterno said. "I kept telling them, 'You're pretty good, you're pretty good. You've got to go out there and play a big, tough game.'"
For a group that had never won here, the players needed to hear that they could.
"[Paterno] thinks that we don't walk around with enough swagger," left guard Johnnie Troutman said. "He wanted to make sure we proved to him that we're good as everybody thinks we are."
Paterno continued to emphasize his point in the stadium tunnel moments before kickoff.
"Both teams come out of the same tunnel, and we were waiting for Michigan to go down [first]," Clark said. "They're going rah-rah and making a lot of noise, running down the tunnel. We looked over and Joe and he's jumping up and down, talking about, 'Yeah, yeah.'
"I'm looking at him and I'm like, 'OK, it's time to play some football.'"
Penn State's defense came out slow, as Michigan marched 70 yards to the end zone on the game's opening drive. The Lions hadn't allowed a first-half touchdown all year, and they struggled to stop several formations that they hadn't seen before.
But after Michigan's first surge, Penn State locked down, allowing just three points and 180 yards the rest of the game. The defense had put up impressive numbers against offenses ranked 79th nationally or worse, but Saturday it bottled up a unit that led the Big Ten and ranked ninth nationally in scoring (37.3 ppg).
"We didn't come out like we usually come out, but we did adjust well," defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said. "There were some big-league plays out there."
Penn State proved its a big-league team led by a big-league quarterback. Clark took heat after tossing three interceptions in the Iowa loss, but since then he has thrown for 926 yards and accounted for 12 touchdowns (8 pass, 4 rush) with just one interception.
"Fans were awfully tough on him after the Iowa game," Jay Paterno said. "And the morning of the Illinois game [a week later], I told him, 'Think about the first time you ever set foot on a field when you were eight years old. Why did you play the game?' And he said, 'Because I enjoyed it.'
"I said, 'That's what you've got to do.'"
Clark was all smiles in the fourth quarter, as he chatted with wideout Graham Zug, the recipient of three of his touchdown passes. When safety Drew Astorino intercepted Michigan's Tate Forcier in the final minute, Clark bounded over to his helmet and raised his fist as he ran back onto the field.
And when it was over, he sprinted over to the Penn State fans assembled near the southeast corner of the field.
For the legendary coach, the star quarterback and the loyal fans, it was worth the wait.
"We lost in 2007, a tough game, 14-9, the 2005 game was heartbreaking, we lose in the final two seconds and [Paterno] felt we got a little bit ripped off," linebacker Sean Lee said. "It's been really tough, and he was tired of that, and wanted to let us know, 'It's time for you guys to go out and make a statement.'"
That they did, and they even overcame a reminder of the past.
Michigan had no timeouts as it drove downfield late in the first half. After a Brandon Minor run on first-and-goal, the game clock locked on 36 seconds for what seemed like 10-12 ticks as Paterno went ballistic on the sideline. Michigan eventually kicked a field goal.
"I don't know who the clock operator is, but if he was the same guy who was here in 2005," Paterno said, before trailing off.
He might have been. But this time, Penn State wouldn't be denied.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
A man visiting an apartment shared by four Penn State football players faces a misdemeanor drug charge after police found marijuana residue and drug-related items while investigating a party the night of April 25.
Ronald Bridges, a non-Penn State student visiting the apartment, was charged with the controlled substance drug, device and cosmetic act. You might need to be a lawyer to understand exactly what that means, but the bottom line is the investigation has been closed without any players being charged. That's very good news for Penn State.
The apartment is registered to four Nittany Lions players -- running back Stephfon Green, defensive end Eric Latimore, defensive tackle Devon Still and offensive lineman Johnnie Troutman.