Big Ten: Jon Thoma

As you'd expect, Twitter is buzzing with reaction to the resignation of Jim Tressel as Ohio State's coach earlier Monday.

Ohio State held a team meeting Monday morning to announce the change, but several current and former players have tweeted about Tressel's departure. Most of the reaction is very positive.

Here's a look at some of the comments:
There are also these notable tweets:
  • Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin: The head of the scarlet and grey Demon has been cut off!
  • Michigan cornerback Troy Woolfolk: Tressel resigned, well I guess it got too hot in the kitchen. Lol
  • Former Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga: @OfficialAJHawk are you going to help select the new coach at OSU. I am sure they will be askig for your professional opinion.
  • Former Michigan running back Mike Hart: Great day for America! Sad day 4 Big 10, Hate OSU but tressel was a great coach! Would rather beat them when he's the coach than some1 else
  • Former Ohio State receiver Ray Small: Lol what y'all gone do 2 me that man resigned his self if u don't like me [bleep] u!!

Again, much more to come on Tressel's resignation.

Here's the second half of my look at special teams in the Big Ten in 2010. For Part I, click here.

NORTHWESTERN
  • Kicker: Second-team All-Big Ten selection Stefan Demos returns after connecting on 18 of 25 field goal attempts in 2009.
  • Punter: Demos also has handled the punting duties for Northwestern the last two seasons, although it's not his strong suit.
  • Kick return: Primary return men Stephen Simmons and Jeravin Matthews both are back. Northwestern ranked ninth in the league last year (20.6 ypr).
  • Punt return: Brendan Smith and Andrew Brewer both depart.
  • Quick thoughts: Special teams have cost Northwestern key games in recent years and continue to be a priority for head coach Pat Fitzgerald. Despite Demos' Outback Bowl struggles, he remains a very solid option on field goals. Northwestern would be well served by identifying a punter to lighten Demos' load, and redshirt freshman Brandon Williams is an option. Simmons provides a good threat on kick returns when healthy, but NU must identify a few options for punt returns. Incoming freshman Venric Mark could be a factor there. The punt and kickoff coverage teams were average in 2009 and could use a boost.
OHIO STATE
  • Kicker: Aaron Pettrey departs, but Devin Barclay, whose kick against Iowa sent Ohio State to the Rose Bowl, will be back.
  • Punter: Jon Thoma departs after finishing 10th in the league in average (37.9 ypp) last fall. Sophomore Ben Buchanan has a big leg and will step in.
  • Kick return: Primary return men Lamaar Thomas and Ray Small both depart. Ohio State ranked sixth in the league last fall (22.3 ypr).
  • Punt return: Small leaves a pretty big void here after averaging 8.3 yards on a league-high 33 attempts last season.
  • Quick thoughts: Jim Tressel's teams always will be strong in the kicking game, although there are some key spots to fill in 2010. Barclay did a really nice job in relief of Pettrey last fall, but whether he can provide the same long-range threat as Pettrey remains to be seen. Small is a big loss on both return teams, and it will be interesting to see who steps into his spot. Running back Brandon Saine and wideout DeVier Posey both are possibilities. Ohio State covered punts well last fall but finished a surprising 51st nationally in kickoff coverage (21.2 ypr) with a touchdown allowed against Iowa.
PENN STATE
  • Kicker: Collin Wagner is back after an excellent Capital One Bowl performance. He connected on 15 of 22 field goal attempts last fall.
  • Punter: Second-team All-Big Ten selection Jeremy Boone departs after averaging 43.3 yards per punt in 2009. Ryan Breen's decision to leave the team creates some uncertainty here.
  • Kick return: Chaz Powell, Devon Smith and Stephfon Green all are back for 2010. Powell averaged 23.2 yards per runback in 2009.
  • Punt return: Graham Zug, Justin Brown, Evan Royster and Drew Astorino shared duties in 2009, and all are back.
  • Quick thoughts: Penn State was surprisingly mediocre on special teams in 2009, and the kicking game should be a focal point this spring. Boone's graduation and Breen's departure leaves no true punter on the roster. The Lions finished 10th in the league in punt returns (5 ypr) last fall and need a true starter to emerge there. Punt coverage was a mess in 2009, as Penn State finished 117th nationally (15.4 ypr) out of 120 FBS teams. With several key personnel losses on both sides of the ball, Penn State can't afford to have the kicking game be a liability this fall.
PURDUE
  • Kicker: Carson Wiggs has the strongest leg in the Big Ten and connected on 14 of 21 field goal attempts last fall. He's back for 2010.
  • Punter: Chris Summers departs after averaging 39.5 yards per punt last fall. Wiggs had four punts in 2009, averaging 36.5 yards.
  • Kick return: Al-Terek McBurse is back after averaging an impressive 24.6 yards per runback as a true freshman. Purdue must find a No. 2 option because Aaron Valentin departs.
  • Punt return: Valentin was the primary return man, but wideout Waynelle Gravesande recorded 11 attempts last fall.
  • Quick thoughts: Purdue made plenty of special-teams blunders in 2009, and for the Boilers to take the next step this fall, their kicking game must get better. Wiggs can boom field goals from anywhere on the field, giving Danny Hope a valuable weapon. McBurse could be a weapon on kick returns, although Purdue must address the punt return team. Kickoff coverage was miserable in 2009, as the Boilers ranked 112th nationally (24.7 ypr). The Boilers also must address their punter position.
WISCONSIN
  • Kicker: Philip Welch is back after connecting on 17 of 24 field goal attempts as a sophomore.
  • Punter: Brad Nortman returns after finishing fourth in the Big Ten in punting average last fall (42 ypp).
  • Kick return: David Gilreath has been the man on returns for Wisconsin, and he's back. Isaac Anderson also could be an option here.
  • Punt return: Gilreath averaged 5.6 yards and had a 68-yard touchdown as the primary punt returner.
  • Quick thoughts: Welch and Nortman boast plenty of experience as the primary specialists. It'll be interesting to see if Wisconsin sticks with Gilreath as its top return man or opens things up to other players this spring. Bret Bielema likely will spend much more time worrying about the kickoff coverage team, which ranked 119th nationally out of 120 FBS teams last fall (26.4 ypr). Punt coverage was decent, but you can bet Wisconsin will spend a lot of time on special teams in spring ball.

Big Ten all-bowl team

January, 12, 2010
1/12/10
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A strong Big Ten bowl season leaves me with some tough choices for the All-Bowl team. We can certainly debate some of these, especially the O-linemen, but here are my selections.

OFFENSE

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Harry How/Getty ImagesTerrelle Pryor acccounted for more Rose Bowl yards than Oregon's team did.
QB: Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State
He came of age in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi, delivering a complete performance as both a passer and a runner. Pryor accounted for 338 total yards; Oregon had 260.

RB: John Clay, Wisconsin
Clay gave Miami a taste of Big Ten football by bulldozing the Hurricanes for 121 rushing yards and two touchdowns on 22 carries in the Champs Sports Bowl.

RB: Brandon Wegher, Iowa
It seemed like no running back could stay healthy for Iowa this year, but Wegher came up huge in the FedEx Orange Bowl. The true freshman had 113 rush yards on 16 carries, including the clinching 32-yard touchdown run with 1:16 left.

WR: DeVier Posey, Ohio State
I saw a future NFL receiver when I watched Posey in the Rose Bowl. He had eight receptions for 101 yards, including a leaping 17-yard touchdown that all but sealed Ohio State's victory.

WR: Andrew Brewer, Northwestern
Brewer saved his best game for last, hauling in eight receptions for 133 yards and scoring on receptions of 35 and 39 yards in the Outback Bowl.

TE: Drake Dunsmore, Northwestern and Lance Kendricks, Wisconsin
Dunsmore had nine receptions for 120 yards, including an electrifying 66-yard touchdown dash through the Auburn defense. Garrett Graham might be the first-team All-Big Ten selection, but Kendricks stole the show in the Champs Sports Bowl with seven receptions for 128 yards.

C: John Moffitt, Wisconsin
Moffitt moved back to center because of a teammate's injury and helped the Badgers overpower Miami in the Champs Sports Bowl. Wisconsin racked up 430 total yards and held the ball for 39:15.

G: Justin Boren, Ohio State
Boren led a big and nasty Buckeyes line that generated push for the run game and helped Pryor attempt a career high 37 passes in the win against Oregon.

G: Joel Foreman, Michigan State
The Spartans' offensive line stepped up nicely in the Valero Alamo Bowl, helping to generate 148 rush yards and allowing only one sack against a Texas Tech team that rushes the passer extremely well. Foreman, an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection, deserves some props.

OT: Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
Bulaga showed why he's jumping to the NFL draft with a terrific performance against Georgia Tech star defensive end Derrick Morgan in the FedEx Orange Bowl.

OT: Dennis Landolt, Penn State
Landolt and his linemates did a good job against LSU's blitz and protected Daryll Clark on a muddy field in Orlando. Penn State allowed only one sack and rushed for 124 yards.

DEFENSE

DL: Adrian Clayborn, Iowa
Clayborn was an absolute beast in the Orange Bowl, recording nine tackles (all solo) and two sacks as he disrupted Georgia Tech's triple option attack.

DL: J.J. Watt, Wisconsin
Watt led an aggressive Badgers defensive front with a sack, two tackles for loss, two pass breakups, a quarterback hurry and a fumble recovery against Miami.

DL: O'Brien Schofield, Wisconsin
Schofield was disruptive all season and showed it in the bowl game, recording two sacks and forcing a fumble that led to a crucial field goal in the fourth quarter.

DL: Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State
The Buckeyes defensive front made life miserable for Oregon quarterback Jeremiah Masoli, and Gibson stepped up with two tackles for loss in what proved to be his final collegiate game.

LB: Navorro Bowman, Penn State
Bowman had a game-high nine tackles, including 1.5 for loss, and forced LSU into a critical penalty in the final minute as the Lions preserved a Capital One Bowl win.

LB: Ross Homan, Ohio State
Homan ended the season as one of the Big Ten's top linebackers and turned in a terrific performance in Pasadena with 12 tackles and an interception that set up a field goal just before halftime.

LB: Pat Angerer, Iowa
The triple option will test a middle linebacker, but Angerer stepped up for Iowa with a game-high 10 tackles, including one for loss, against Georgia Tech.

DB: Kyle Theret, Minnesota
Theret was the Gophers' MVP in the Insight Bowl, recording seven tackles (all solo), two interceptions, a tackle for loss and a 40-yard reception on a fake punt that set up the team's first touchdown.

DB: Ross Weaver, Michigan State
The Spartans' secondary struggled against Texas Tech, but Weaver recorded a team-high seven solo tackles and had a forced fumble and an interception that led to 10 Michigan State points in the second half.

DB: Kim Royston, Minnesota
Royston recorded a career-high 15 tackles, tying the Insight Bowl record, including 14 solo stops against Iowa State. He also forced a fumble that turned into a Minnesota field goal.

DB: Sherrick McManis, Northwestern
McManis made plays throughout his career and finished it in typical fashion with an interception and a fumble recovery, both occurring in Northwestern's end of the field.

SPECIALISTS

K: Collin Wagner, Penn State
The horrible field conditions didn't bother Wagner, who went 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts and drilled the game winner with 57 seconds left in the fourth quarter.

P: Blake Haudan, Minnesota
Haudan averaged 49.6 yards on five punts and completed a 40-yard pass to Theret on a well-timed fake in the third quarter.

Returner: Keshawn Martin, Michigan State
Martin blossomed as the Big Ten's most dangerous kick return man this fall and averaged 24.8 yards per runback with a long of 36 against Texas Tech.

Honorable mention -- WISCONSIN: QB Scott Tolzien, RB Montee Ball, P Brad Nortman, LB Chris Borland, TE Garrett Graham, starting offensive line. MINNESOTA: WR Da'Jon McKnight, LB Lee Campbell. NORTHWESTERN: QB Mike Kafka, WR Zeke Markshausen, WR Sidney Stewart, CB Jordan Mabin, LB Quentin Davie. PENN STATE: QB Daryll Clark, RB Stephfon Green, TE Andrew Quarless, LB Sean Lee, DT Jared Odrick, CB A.J. Wallace, starting offensive line. OHIO STATE: DE Cameron Heyward, DT Doug Worthington, RB Brandon Saine, WR Dane Sanzenbacher, K Devin Barclay, K Aaron Pettrey, P Jon Thoma, starting offensive line. MICHIGAN STATE: RB Edwin Baker, WR Blair White, P Aaron Bates, LB Greg Jones, starting offensive line. IOWA: QB Ricky Stanzi, TE Tony Moeaki, P Ryan Donahue, DT Karl Klug, LB A.J. Edds, DE Broderick Binns, starting offensive line.

Ohio State seniors go out on top

January, 1, 2010
1/01/10
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[+] EnlargeJake Ballard
Jeff Gross/Getty Images Tight end Jake Ballard's senior class finishes with 44 wins and four Big Ten championships.
PASADENA, Calif. -- They form one of the most decorated classes in Ohio State history, but their accomplishments always seemed to come with an asterisk.

A 43-8 record. Four Big Ten championships (three outright, one shared). Four wins against archrival Michigan. Four trips to BCS bowl games, including two national title games.

But without a bowl victory, Ohio State's seniors had an incomplete legacy.

Problem solved.

Ohio State's 19 seniors went out as winners following Friday's 26-17 win against No. 7 Oregon in the Rose Bowl Game presented by Citi. They helped to end the Buckeyes' three-game losing streak in BCS bowls and the Big Ten's six-game losing streak at the Rose.

The Buckeyes' seniors end their careers with 44 wins, one more than the previous high for a class set by three groups (1995-98, 2002-05, 2005-08).

"It makes up for a lot of misfortune and shortcomings," tight end Jake Ballard said.

"We needed to come out and win for these seniors," sophomore quarterback Terrelle Pryor said.

Ballard made the biggest catch of his career in his final game, a leaping 24-yarder on third-and-13 that set up Ohio State's decisive touchdown.

The Buckeyes also received contributions from seniors like kicker Aaron Pettrey (45-yard field goal), defensive tackle Doug Worthington (tackle for loss, tipped pass that led to interception), punter Jon Thoma (43.7-yard average), left tackle Jim Cordle and safeties Anderson Russell (six tackles) and Kurt Coleman (four tackles).

"Every loss that we've had at the end of every bowl has been a learning experience," said Coleman, who turned down the NFL draft after his junior season in large part to win a bowl game. "Last year [against Texas], we were so close to winning, and that was one of our biggest motivation factors going into the offseason.

"We put in the hard work, and it paid off."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US Presswire
The Buckeyes played the way Jim Tressel wanted but could not come away with the victory.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- If Jim Tressel could script the perfect football game, Saturday night's clash against USC would have been pretty close. Except for the final score, of course.

Tressel's hallmarks will always be field position, special teams, stout defense and just enough offense. His best Ohio State teams have reflected his rock-ribbed values, winning games not with flash or flavor, but smarts and toughness.

After numerous big-game stumbles, Ohio State was so close to making The Vest look like a genius again.

"This was definitely an Ohio State game," Buckeyes sophomore wide receiver DeVier Posey said. "It really wasn't like that Pac-10, throwing the ball, all that fancy, NFL style of play. It was just a hard-nosed, hard-fought battle to the end."

But it was a battle the Buckeyes once again lost, as USC's Matt Barkley and Joe McKnight led their team to an 18-15 triumph.

Ohio State's latest big-stage stumble didn't follow the pattern that turned off so many observers to its program and its brand of football. This wasn't Florida or LSU or even USC of last year. Instead, it resembled the loss to Vince Young's Texas team in 2005, the loss to Penn State last fall and the loss to Texas in the 2009 Fiesta Bowl.

So what's worse? Getting blown out or being beaten at your own game?

"Holding them to 18 should be enough," Tressel lamented, "but it wasn't."

Rather than exalting punter Jon Thoma (4 punts inside the 20) or a ferocious defensive front or Ohio State's huge field-position edge, Tressel had to answer questions about several of his own decisions. They weren't surprising choices at all, given his history, but they might have cost the Buckeyes.

At the start of the second quarter, Ohio State faced fourth-and-goal from the USC 2-yard line with the game tied at 7-7. Rather than going for the touchdown, Tressel opted for an 18-yard field goal.

"If it was fourth-and-1, we may have gone for it," he said. "I think your percent chance of making fourth-and-2 probably doesn't weigh as well as getting your three points."

The more questionable move came with Ohio State up 15-10 midway through the fourth quarter. A Terrelle Pryor sack pushed the ball back to the USC 36-yard line for fourth down.

Buckeyes kicker Aaron Pettrey was 4-for-4 in field goals on the season and had converted five attempts of longer than 50 yards in his career. But he didn't get a chance for a 53-yard try as Ohio State opted to punt.

"We did talk about it and we came to the decision that if we didn't make [the field goal] we would have been giving our defense, who had been out there a little bit ... tougher field position to handle," Tressel said.

Tressel made the predictable choices, in many cases the smart ones, but he left some wondering whether he played not to lose against a USC team that always knows how to win. Then again, if Pryor and the Buckeyes offense had done just a little bit more, they would have walked out as winners.

"It comes down to me; I take the whole blame for it," said Pryor, who completed just 11 of 25 passes with no touchdowns and an interception that led to USC's first score. "We had 'em on the ropes. ... We had to punch it in offensively. We didn't help the defense enough, and that's going to happen.

"But we needed this win."

Pryor hit two big pass plays early but never seemed to find a rhythm, continuing a pattern that held true for much of last season. Ohio State had four possessions start in USC territory and got only two field goals out of them.

"We should have beat them by two or three touchdowns, easy," Pryor said. "The ball is floating the wrong way, like I keep saying. We needed this win, and it just hurts right now."

Ohio State proved it can hang with a favored USC team, just as it proved it could hang with Texas in the Fiesta Bowl. But close might not be good enough for a Buckeyes team that has dropped six straight to top 5 opponents and for a beleaguered Big Ten that continues to put its reputation on the shoulders of the Scarlet and Gray.

The Buckeyes gave a tutorial in Tressel ball Saturday night. They just didn't earn a passing grade.

"We felt like whatever was said, "College GameDay," everything, [USC] had to come in Ohio Stadium and play against us," Posey said. "We wanted to battle, we wanted to win, we came up short, but it's alright. We'll bounce back."

Tressel ball clicking for Ohio State

September, 12, 2009
9/12/09
10:23
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Special teams and field position have always been hallmarks of good Jim Tressel-coached teams, and Ohio State is maximizing those elements in tonight's game.

The Buckeyes have been extremely sharp on special teams, while USC has stumbled, shorting a 44-yard field-goal attempt and taking a safety on a bad punt snap by Cooper Stephenson. Ohio State punter Jon Thoma is having an outstanding game, consistently pinning USC deep in its own territory, and the Buckeyes defensive line has kept the Trojans there.

If Terrelle Pryor and the offense can capitalize on such favorable field position, Ohio State will be in excellent shape for a victory.

Ohio State spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:15
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State Buckeyes

2008 overall record:10-3

2008 conference record: 7-1

Returning starters

Offense: 5; Defense: 7; Special teams: 0

Top returners

QB Terrelle Pryor, C Michael Brewster, TE Jake Ballard, DE Thaddeus Gibson, DT Doug Worthington, S Kurt Coleman, S Anderson Russell, DE Cameron Heyward

Key losses

RB Chris "Beanie" Wells, WR Brian Robiskie, WR Brian Hartline, LT Alex Boone, DT Nader Abdallah, LB James Laurinaitis, LB Marcus Freeman, CB Malcolm Jenkins, P A.J. Trapasso

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Chris "Beanie" Wells (1,197 yds)
Passing: Terrelle Pryor* (1,311 yds)
Receiving: Brian Robiskie (535 yds)
Tackles: James Laurinaitis (130)
Sacks: Thaddeus Gibson* (5)
Interceptions: Kurt Coleman* (4)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Navy
Sept. 12 USC
Sept. 19 vs. Toledo (at Cleveland)
Sept. 26 Illinois
Oct. 3 at Indiana
Oct. 10 Wisconsin
Oct. 17 at Purdue
Oct. 24 Minnesota
Oct. 31 New Mexico State
Nov. 7 at Penn State
Nov. 14 Iowa
Nov. 21 at Michigan

Spring answers

1. Pryor develops -- Terrelle Pryor quieted concerns about his passing ability with a strong spring capped by an excellent performance in the well-attended spring game at Ohio Stadium. Pryor made significant improvement with his footwork and looked better on the high-percentage throws that dogged him at times last season. His first full offseason as a college player appears to have paid off, and Pryor looks primed for an All-Big Ten season.

2. Boom and Zoom -- Running back is the biggest void on the Buckeyes' depth chart, but Dan Herron ("Boom) and Brandon Saine ("Zoom") appear ready to carry the load. Herron built off his experience last fall as a backup and performed well this spring, while Saine finally appears healthy and ready to showcase the explosiveness that made him such a heralded recruit coming out of high school.

3. Big bad Boren -- Justin Boren will always be in the spotlight because he transferred from Michigan, but the left guard generated plenty of buzz with his play this spring. Boren brings brute strength and an edgy attitude to an offense line that needs a jolt after a subpar 2008 season. He has quickly become a favorite of Pryor's and his fellow linemen, and should bring a nasty attitude to the front five this fall.

Fall questions

1. Cornerback -- Chimdi Chekwa has a starting spot locked up, but the other position remains open entering the summer. Senior Andre Amos has a slight edge because of experience, but Devon Torrence, who played minor league baseball in the Astros organization the last two summers, made a strong push this spring. If Torrence focuses solely on football, the starting job could be his.

2. Kicking game -- It's no secret how important special teams has been to Jim Tressel's success at Ohio State, and the head coach is focused on replacing his starting specialists. Aaron Pettrey looks capable at kicker, but the punting job is a bit of a mystery with Jon Thoma and Ben Buchanan competing for the top spot.

3. Linebacker rotation -- Ohio State has plenty of exciting options at linebacker, namely Etienne Sabino and Brian Rolle, both of whom had very solid springs. The key will be finding the right combinations of 'backers and not being afraid to use younger players like Sabino ahead of veterans who played behind Laurinaitis and Freeman for years. It will be tough to replace the lost production, but Ohio State has enough depth, as long as players are used the right ways.

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