Big Ten: Justin Boren

Big Ten Friday mailblog

May, 9, 2014
May 9
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Is it a bit drafty in here? Wishing you a great weekend.

Twitter? Yes, please.

Let's check that inbox ...

Shane from Maine writes: I usually ask Wolverines-related questions, but something else caught my attention. What are your thoughts on Iowa's schedule? It looks REALLY soft. Do you think the Hawkeyes have a chance to go undefeated in a season that has their toughest games at home against Wisconsin and Nebraska?

Adam Rittenberg: Iowa's schedule looks extremely beneficial, Shane, but I don't see the Hawkeyes running the table. They're a good team that could build on last season's success, but the Hawkeyes almost always find themselves in close games because their talent isn't head and shoulders above the competition. Easy schedule or hard schedule, you need to be a truly elite team with elite talent to run the table in a major conference (see: 2013 Florida State Seminoles). Iowa will end up on the short end of some close game, but I predict a good season (9-10 wins).


Jeff from Baltimore writes: This week, we saw what I would call (Jim) Delany's most out-of-the-box, hell, out-of-the world, decision in giving the 2017 BBall tourney to D.C. Now, living in Baltimore, I like the idea of cutting out of work early and driving to the Verizon Center, but it won't have the same feeling as if it would and should in either Indy or Chi-town. Do you see him repeating this thinking for the football championship?

Adam Rittenberg: Jeff, I wrote about this back in January. There's no desire to move the football championship game outside of the Midwest. The Big Ten loves Indianapolis and everything it brings, and it could consider sites like Chicago, Minneapolis and Detroit in future years. The difference with football is the event includes only two teams and two fan bases, not all 14. It's less likely to draw general Big Ten fans than the basketball tournament, a multi-day event featuring more games and teams. Big Ten deputy commissioner Brad Traviolia said of the hoops tournament: "Regardless of where you place it, you're going to have a team or two that basically will be a home team, whether it's Indiana and Purdue in Indianapolis or whether it's Maryland in D.C. or Rutgers and Penn State in New York." Geography matters more for the football title game.


Grant from San Francisco writes: As a lifelong Spartans fan, I am becoming increasingly weary of all the unbridled optimism surrounding the program this coming season. I have experienced this before and know just how fast the wheels can come off. You guys spent some time with the team, so maybe you can provide some insight. With a huge matchup in Week 2 against Oregon, what exactly is [Mark] Dantonio doing now that the team is starting at the top with everything to lose, rather than starting unranked with nothing to lose? Quotes keep coming out about "we are hungry"... "we are tired of talking about last year"... but how exactly are they preventing complacency?

Adam Rittenberg: Grant, I understand your concern about MSU's history when starting on top, but it's also important to acknowledge the culture change under Mark Dantonio. This team has won 11 or more games in three of the past four seasons. MSU had a disappointing 2012 season but was a few plays away from winning eight or nine games. Also, the quarterback situation with Connor Cook is much more stable than it was in 2012. Brian Bennett visited the Spartans this spring and came away thinking they're locked in and not getting complacent. The continuity in the coaching staff really helps, and most MSU players suffered through the 2012 season and haven't forgotten it. You don't really know how a team responds until the games begin, but Dantonio isn't the type to let anyone take their foot off of the gas. His recent track record confirms this.


Rolf from Seattle writes: I have to question your Ohio State draft pick of Devin Gardner. First off he went to that school up north, so that would never happen. Second, he is going to be gone next year anyway and doesn't leave Ohio State with any more time left than Braxton. Third, with three backups behind Braxton, another year in the system should get at least two of them ready to carry the torch. Fourth, Devin went to TSUN!!!!! Anyway, the blog is still awesome.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks, Rolf, and yes, I realize sending a Michigan player to Ohio State doesn't sit well with all (Justin Boren worked out OK, though). The Buckeyes clearly need a quarterback to replace Braxton Miller, and I'm not confident enough in any of the current backups to step in, especially with a revamped offensive line. Brian had the Buckeyes adding Tre Roberson, who has more eligibility left than Gardner and also fits in a spread offense. But I think Gardner, in the right system like Ohio State's, has more upside. Despite Michigan's offensive line troubles, Gardner still finished second in the league in passing and had some huge games. Ohio State needs a one-year fill-in here, and Gardner is the best option.


Greg from Boulder writes: As a suddenly greedy Penn State fan, should I have any concern that Penn State is having trouble closing the deal on top talent in the secondary in the way-too-early 2015 class?

Adam Rittenberg: Concern? About Penn State's 2015 class? No, don't be concerned. What James Franklin and his staff have done in the past four months is rather remarkable, especially with the program still under NCAA sanctions. They already have Jarvis Miller in the fold and will add other defensive backs before signing day, which is a very long way away. Also remember that Penn State likely will only lose two players -- safeties Adrian Amos and Ryan Keiser -- from this year's secondary rotation.
The wait is finally over for Big Ten players not selected in April's NFL draft.

Free agent deals are finally taking place during a whirlwind week in the post-lockout NFL.

We'll have additional updates as the day goes on, but here's a look at where Big Ten players are landing.

ILLINOIS
  • CB Travon Bellamy, St. Louis Rams
  • WR Jarred Fayson: New Orleans Saints
  • G Randall Hunt: St. Louis Rams
  • DE Clay Nurse: New England Patriots
INDIANA
  • QB Ben Chappell: Washington Redskins
  • WR Terrance Turner: Philadelphia Eagles
IOWA
  • P Ryan Donahue: Detroit Lions
  • LB Jeremiah Hunter: New Orleans Saints
  • TE Allen Reisner: Minnesota Vikings
  • LB Jeff Tarpinian: New England Patriots
MICHIGAN
  • T Perry Dorrestein: New York Jets
  • CB James Rogers: Denver Broncos
  • TE Martell Webb: Philadelphia Eagles
MICHIGAN STATE
  • WR Mark Dell: Denver Broncos
  • LB Eric Gordon: Jacksonville Jaguars
  • T D.J. Young: Arizona Cardinals
MINNESOTA
  • T Dom Alford: Cleveland Browns
  • FB Jon Hoese: Green Bay Packers
  • QB Adam Weber: Denver Broncos
NEBRASKA
  • K Adi Kunalic: Carolina Panthers
  • TE Mike McNeill: Indianapolis Colts
  • DE Pierre Allen: Seattle Seahawks
  • G Ricky Henry: Chicago Bears
  • T D.J. Jones: Miami Dolphins
  • S Rickey Thenarse: Seattle Seahawks
NORTHWESTERN
  • DT Corbin Bryant: Chicago Bears
  • LB Quentin Davie: Detroit Lions
OHIO STATE
  • G Bryant Browning: St. Louis Rams
  • G Justin Boren: Baltimore Ravens
  • RB Brandon Saine: Green Bay Packers
  • WR Dane Sanzenbacher: Chicago Bears
  • DT Dexter Larimore: New Orleans Saints
  • CB Devon Torrence: Minnesota Vikings
PENN STATE
  • WR Brett Brackett: Miami Dolphins
  • LB Chris Colasanti: Indianapolis Colts
  • LB Bani Gbadyu: Oakland Raiders
  • DT Ollie Ogbu: Indianapolis Colts
PURDUE
  • TE Kyle Adams: Chicago Bears
  • WR Keith Smith: Detroit Lions
WISCONSIN
  • CB Niles Brinkley: Pittsburgh Steelers
  • RB John Clay: Pittsburgh Steelers
  • QB Scott Tolzien: San Diego Chargers

Big Ten NFL draft wrap-up

May, 2, 2011
5/02/11
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The 2011 NFL draft is in the books, and it's time to take a look back at how the Big Ten fared in the selections. In case you missed it, check out my breakdown of the six Big Ten players who heard their names called in the first round.

All in all, 29 Big Ten players were drafted this year. New Big Ten member Nebraska had seven selections.

Let's start off with a rundown of the picks. I'll have some quick thoughts after each round.

[+] EnlargeJ.J. Watt
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireWisconsin defensive lineman J.J. Watt was the first Big Ten player selected in the NFL draft this year.
First round

Quick thoughts: The Big Ten had its largest first-round output since 2007, and several players look like good fits for their teams. Chicago had to be thrilled Carimi was still available, and San Diego felt the same about Liuget, projected by many as a top-15 pick. Kerrigan likely needs to contribute immediately for the Redskins, while Clayborn and Heyward enter situations where they can ease into the transition.

Second round

Quick thoughts: Mouton's selection was a surprise for many folks, but it's a testament to a good player who impressed the scouts despite playing for a lousy defense in 2010. Wisniewski enters a good fit in Oakland, where his uncle, Steve, is an assistant offensive line coach. I really like Leshoure in Detroit, where he'll enter a competitive situation at running back.

Third round

Quick thoughts: Wilson, who entered the draft after his junior season, might have been a bit disappointed to fall to the third round. But he enters a good situation in New Orleans and should have some time to develop.

Fourth round
Quick thoughts: Ballard reportedly tested positive for marijuana use and likely paid a price as he dropped down at least a round. Still, the Iowa standout should help the Vikings early in his career. I really like the Doss fit in Baltimore, which can use more playmakers at receiver. It'll be interesting to see how quickly Chekwa sees the field in Oakland.

Fifth round
Quick thoughts: What a round for the Iowa Hawkeyes. Although Stanzi waited a little longer than expected, he joins a team in Kansas City that has a lot of connections to the New England Patriots, the squad many thought would draft the Iowa quarterback. Klug is a solid player who can play either line position. I'll be interested to see how he fares with the Titans.

Sixth round

  • Penn State RB Evan Royster, Washington, No. 177 overall
  • Michigan State LB Greg Jones, New York Giants, No. 185 overall
  • Michigan State CB Chris L. Rucker, Indianapolis, No. 188 overall
  • Ohio State LB Brian Rolle, Philadelphia, No. 193 overall
  • Iowa S Tyler Sash, New York Giants, No. 198 overall
  • Ohio State LB Ross Homan, Minnesota, No. 200 overall
  • Michigan G Stephen Schilling, San Diego, No. 201 overall
Quick thoughts: This marked the Big Ten's biggest round as seven players heard their names called. Jones, the former Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, went a little later than expected, and Sash also dropped down a bit after entering the draft after his junior season. Homan, who missed some time last season with a foot injury, could end up being an excellent addition for the Vikings. Really like that pick.

Seventh round

  • Illinois LB Nate Bussey, New Orleans, No. 243 overall
  • Wisconsin G/C Bill Nagy, Dallas, No. 252 overall
Quick thoughts: While I was surprised several other Big Ten players didn't get drafted, both Bussey and Nagy are deserving. Both players played integral roles in their teams' success last fall, and both were overshadowed by other draftees (Liuget and Wilson for Bussey, Carimi and Moffitt for Nagy).

NEBRASKA'S DRAFTEES

Husker fans, I didn't forget you or your team. Nebraska actually had more draft picks (7) than any Big Ten team, and here they are.

  • CB Prince Amukamara, New York Giants, No. 19 overall (first round)
  • RB Roy Helu Jr., Washington, No. 104 overall (fourth round)
  • K Alex Henery, Philadelphia, No. 120 overall (fourth round)
  • DB Dejon Gomes, Washington, No. 146 overall (fifth round)
  • WR Niles Paul, Washington, No. 155 overall (fifth round)
  • OT Keith Williams, Pittsburgh, No. 196 overall (sixth round)
  • DB Eric Hagg, Cleveland, No. 248 overall (seventh round)
Quick thoughts: Think there might be a few "Husker Power!" chants at Redskins games this season? The Mike Shanahan-Bo Pelini connection likely played a role in the three Nebraska players heading to the nation's capital. Henery soon will succeed David Akers in Philadelphia, and the Giants had to thrilled that Amukamara still was on the board at No. 19.

Big Ten picks by team

  • Nebraska: 7 (players competed in the Big 12)
  • Iowa: 6
  • Ohio State: 5
  • Wisconsin: 5 (four picks in first three rounds)
  • Illinois: 4
  • Michigan State: 2
  • Indiana: 2
  • Michigan: 2
  • Penn State: 2
  • Purdue: 1
  • Northwestern: 0
  • Minnesota: 0
By position (excluding Nebraska)

  • DL: 7
  • OL: 7
  • LB: 6
  • DB: 4
  • RB: 2
  • WR: 1
  • TE: 1
  • QB: 1

Nebraska had three defensive backs, a running back, an offensive lineman, a wide receiver and a kicker drafted.

Draft snubs

Quite a few Big Ten players didn't hear their names called during the weekend, and they'll enter the shaky world of free agency. I was absolutely stunned no one drafted Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher. He was the Big Ten's top receiver last fall and brings a combination of football IQ and toughness that should appeal to football people not overly obsessed with measurables.

Wisconsin running back John Clay was the Big Ten's only non-senior who entered the draft but didn't get selected. Clay struggles with weight and his ankle problems might have contributed to him slipping through the draft.

Other Big Ten draft snubs include: Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien, Ohio State guard Justin Boren, Iowa tight end Allen Reisner and Purdue receiver Keith Smith. Nebraska's Pierre Allen and Ricky Henry also will go the free-agent route.

Big Ten weekend combine recap

February, 28, 2011
2/28/11
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All eyes were on Indianapolis this weekend as dozens of NFL prospects, including a large contingent from the Big Ten, went through the scouting combine.

My ESPN colleagues are all over the happenings in Naptown, so check out the combine blog and the latest Scouts Inc. combine notebook.

There's more testing and timing Monday with the defensive linemen and linebackers, but some results are in, so let's take a look. I'm breaking these down into top performers by position. I'll put together an overall top performers post once the combine is finished.

Wide receivers

  • Nebraska's Niles Paul finished second in bench-press reps (225 pounds) with 24
  • Paul tied for 14th in the 40-yard dash at 4.51 seconds
  • Indiana's Terrance Turner tied for second in vertical jump at 41 inches
  • Turner finished seventh in broad jump at 10 feet, 8 inches
  • Ohio State's Dane Sanzenbacher finished second in 3-cone drill at 6.46 seconds; Turner tied for 14th at 6.77 seconds
  • Sanzenbacher finished third in the 20-yard shuttle at 3.97 seconds; Paul finished 12th at 4.14 seconds; Turner finished tied for 13th at 4.15 seconds
  • Sanzenbacher finished second in the 60-yard shuttle at 10.94 seconds; Turner tied for ninth at 11.21 seconds
Quarterbacks
  • Iowa's Ricky Stanzi and Wisconsin's Scott Tolzien tied for 13th in the 40-yard dash at 4.93 seconds
  • Stanzi finished ninth in the vertical jump at 32.5 inches; Tolzien tied for 12th at 29.5 inches
  • Tolzien tied for seventh in the broad jump at 9 feet, 8 inches; Stanzi finished 12th at 9 feet, 2 inches
  • Tolzien tied for third in the 3-cone drill at 6.84 seconds; Stanzi finished 12th at 6.95 seconds
Running backs
  • Nebraska's Roy Helu Jr. finished sixth in the 40-yard dash at 4.42 seconds; Ohio State's Brandon Saine finished seventh at 4.43 seconds;
  • Illinois' Mikel Leshoure tied for third in the vertical jump at 38 inches; Helu tied for eighth at 36.5 inches
  • Leshoure tied for fourth in the broad jump at 10 feet, 2 inches; Helu finished 10th at 9 feet, 11 inches
  • Helu finished second in the 3-cone drill at 6.67 seconds; Leshoure finished sixth at 6.82 seconds
  • Helu finished first in the 20-yard shuttle at 4.01 seconds; Penn State's Evan Royster tied for eighth at 4.18 seconds
  • Helu finished first in the 60-yard shuttle at 11.07 seconds
Tight ends
  • Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks finished eighth in the 40-yard dash at 4.75 seconds; Michigan State's Charlie Gantt finished 11th at 4.93 seconds; Iowa's Allen Reisner finished 12th at 4.95 seconds
  • Gantt tied for first in bench-press reps with 27; Kendricks tied for third with 25
  • Kendricks finished sixth in vertical jump at 34.5 inches; Gantt finished 13th at 30.5 inches
  • Kendricks finished second in broad jump at 10 feet, 2 inches; Gantt finished ninth at 9 feet, 4 inches; Reisner tied for 12th at 9 feet
  • Kendricks finished sixth in the 3-cone drill at 6.94 seconds; Gantt finished 11th at 7.15 seconds
  • Kendricks tied for second in 20-yard shuttle at 4.15 seconds; Gantt tied for eighth at 4.4 seconds
  • Kendricks tied for sixth in 60-yard shuttle at 11.9 seconds; Gantt and Reisner tied for 11th at 12.12 seconds
Defensive linemen
  • Wisconsin's J.J. Watt tied for fourth in bench-press reps with 34; Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan tied for sixth with 31
Linebackers
  • Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan finished first in bench-press reps with 32; Ohio State's Brian Rolle finished fourth with 28; Illinois' Martez Wilson tied for ninth with 23
Offensive linemen
  • Iowa's Julian Vandervelde tied for 10th in the 40-yard dash at 5.21 seconds; Indiana's James Brewer and Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi tied for 14th at 5.27 seconds
  • Michigan's Stephen Schilling and Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski tied for sixth in bench-press reps with 30; Carimi tied for ninth with 29; Ohio State's Justin Boren tied for 14th with 28
  • Carimi finished fifth in vertical jump at 31.5 inches; Vandervelde tied for sixth at 31 inches; Wisconsin's John Moffitt tied for eighth at 30.5 inches
  • Carimi finished fifth in broad jump at 9 feet, 1 inch; Vandervelde finished tied for 13th at 8 feet, 8 inches
  • Vandervelde finished seventh in 3-cone drill at 7.46 seconds; Wisniewski finished eighth at 7.51 seconds; Boren finished 11th at 7.57 seconds
  • Moffitt finished sixth in 20-yard shuttle at 4.53 seconds; Vandervelde tied for seventh at 4.59 seconds; Schilling tied for ninth at 4.62 seconds;

Big Ten lunch links

February, 25, 2011
2/25/11
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When I first started working here, an 8-year-old Shirley Temple taught me how to roll a cigarette.
The 2010 Associated Press All-America teams have been revealed, and 12 players from the Big Ten made the cut. It's a very solid group overall.

FIRST TEAM
  • Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi
  • Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan
  • Michigan State LB Greg Jones
SECOND TEAM
THIRD TEAM

The AP voters definitely were taught how to Bucky this year, as five Wisconsin players made the cut.

Michigan State's Jones is the only player to make the AP's first team for the second consecutive season, a testament to his incredible career in East Lansing. While I still have issues with Robinson not being classified as a quarterback, it's nice to see him recognized this way.

It was good to see the AP recognize Leshoure's contributions for Illinois. He's the Big Ten's top running back this season.

Also, five Nebraska players made the All-America teams, including three juniors: cornerback Prince Amukamara, defensive tackle Jared Crick and linebacker Lavonte David.

BT awards roundup: Carimi wins Outland

December, 10, 2010
12/10/10
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Thursday was a big awards day around college football, both at the big show in Orlando and elsewhere.

I've got all of your Big Ten-related awards needs covered in this handy dandy post. Wisconsin running back John Clay didn't win the Doak Walker Award and Iowa punter Ryan Donahue didn't win the Ray Guy Award.

A lot of Badger love out there.

OUTLAND TROPHY

Wisconsin senior left tackle Gabe Carimi won the Outland Trophy as the nation's top interior lineman. This award is extremely well deserved, and going in I felt Carimi had the best chance of any Big Ten player to take some hardware away from Orlando. Carimi, who has started 48 career games, is the second Wisconsin tackle to win the Outland Trophy in the past five years, joining Joe Thomas in 2006. Two other Big Ten players have won the award in the past eight seasons: Iowa's Robert Gallery (2003) and Minnesota's Greg Eslinger (2005).

WALTER CAMP ALL-AMERICA TEAMS

Eight Big Ten players were selected to the 2010 Walter Camp All-America teams (4 first team, 4 second team). Here they are:

First team
  • Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi
  • Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan
  • Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • Michigan State LB Greg Jones
Second team
  • Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • Wisconsin TE Lance Kendricks
  • Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt
  • Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
RIVALS.COM ALL-AMERICA TEAMS

Nine Big Ten players made Rivals.com's 2010 All-America teams.

First team
  • Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi
  • Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan
  • Wisconsin G John Moffitt
Second team
  • Ohio State G Justin Boren
  • Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt
  • Michigan State LB Greg Jones
  • Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
Third team
CBSSPORTS.COM'S ALL-AMERICA TEAMS

Eight players made the rundown from CBSSports.com.

First team
  • Wisconsin T Gabe Carimi
  • Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan
  • Michigan State LB Greg Jones
Second team
  • Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt
  • Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Justin Boren is a 6-foot-3, 320-pound monster known as one of the Big Ten's best and nastiest offensive lineman.

But back in 2008, at that moment, Boren was absolutely terrified.

He had made the seemingly unthinkable transition from Michigan to archrival Ohio State, and he had no idea how he'd be received.

[+] EnlargeJim Tressel
AP Photo/Amy SancettaCoach Jim Tressel and the Buckeyes have outscored Michigan 79-14 in the past two games at Ohio Stadium.
"I was so scared when I walked in for the first time," Boren recalled Saturday. "I had played 'em five months ago and I was coming in here like the new kid. I was more scared than when I went up to Michigan as a freshman. But they [welcomed] me with open arms. They've been awesome."

Boren didn't begin his career as part of one of the most successful classes in Ohio State history. But he's finishing it that way, and he couldn't be happier.

"I didn't want to look back and have any regrets," Boren said. "I didn't want to second-guess myself. And I can honestly say I've never done that. ... It's the greatest choice ever made."

It's hard to argue after Boren and his fellow seniors led Ohio State to its seventh consecutive win against Michigan, a 37-7 triumph that was essentially over by halftime. Ohio State claimed a share of the Big Ten title for a record-tying sixth consecutive season.

The Buckeyes' seniors improved to 43-8 in their careers. A bowl victory next month will tie them with their predecessors in 2009 for the most wins in team history. But perhaps most important, the class made it through without ever losing to Michigan.

"Five Big Ten rings and five pairs of gold pants," coach Jim Tressel said, referring to the large group of fifth-year seniors in the class. "That's a big deal."

Ohio State's seniors have contributed to The Game losing some serious luster in recent years. The Buckeyes have won each of the past four meetings by double digits, including the past two at Ohio Stadium by a combined score of 79-14.

Imagine what it would be like to be on the other side.

"I really can't," senior wideout Dane Sanzenbacher said. "It's got to be tough, but we work all year for this game, and we want to come out and execute. We can't really worry about what it would be like on the other end because we don't ever want to be on the other end."

Neither does Michigan, but the Wolverines had to endure another beating at the hands of their archrivals.

The buzz before and after the game centered on Wolverines coach Rich Rodriguez, who continued to struggle against top-tier Big Ten opponents. Rodriguez fell to 0-6 against Michigan's two conference rivals -- Ohio State and Michigan State.

[+] EnlargeRich Rodriguez
AP Photo/Amy SancettaRich Rodriguez is 0-6 as Michigan's coach against rivals Ohio State and Michigan State.
"I'm ticked," Rodriguez said. "Do you want me to go jump out there with all the Buckeye fans and sing 'Kumbaya?' I wish we'd played better. Our guys, they played hard, and that's to be expected, but I wish we'd executed better and as coaches, we've got to try and put them in positions so they can make some plays.

"I'm going to be mad for a while, and then we'll move on to the next one."

The next one likely will take place Dec. 28 at the Insight Bowl in Arizona. But will Rodriguez still be around to coach the Wolverines?

Speculation has mounted in recent days about Rodriguez's job security. Athletic director Dave Brandon on Saturday reiterated his stance that he'll evaluate the program at the end of the season.

"I'm going to work tomorrow as always," Rodriguez said. "I worry about my future every day. Before I took the job, after I took the job.

"But nothing's going to change how we work."

While Michigan stews in the midst of its slide, Ohio State's seniors emphasized the importance of keeping their streaks alive. They stepped in after an Oct. 16 loss to Wisconsin, which linebacker Brian Rolle said "bonded the team together even more."

Ohio State hasn't lost since, and several seniors finished the regular season playing their best football.

Rolle and fellow linebacker Ross Homan combined for 16 tackles, two tackles for loss and a forced fumble Saturday. Senior safety Jermale Hines broke up three passes. Sanzenbacher, without question the Big Ten's top receiver this season, caught three passes for 71 yards and a touchdown.

The result: Ohio State's seniors maintained the status quo.

"I think people will look back and say we were a tight-knit group, a class with class and character," Rolle said. "When we come back for a reunion, I want guys to say, 'Man, those guys were great.' "

So what's left for Ohio State's seniors?

The Buckeyes continue to fight the negative perception stemming from their back-to-back blowout losses in the BCS title game. They should get a chance in January for a second consecutive BCS bowl victory, quite possibly against an SEC team (LSU or Arkansas) in SEC territory (New Orleans in the Sugar Bowl).

Not a bad way to go out.

"Getting a win this year in whatever game we go to would be great," Rolle said. "It'll show that this senior class, guys fought hard to bring tradition back to Ohio State."
ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper has updated his latest Big Board, as well as his top-5 positions lists for both seniors and non-seniors.

You need to be an ESPN Insider member to view the complete files, but here's where Big Ten players stack up:

Kiper's Big Board
  • Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn, the first Big Ten player on the board, dropped to No. 8 from No. 5 last week
  • Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan held steady at No. 13
  • Ohio State DL Cameron Heyward held steady at No. 15
Position Rankings: Seniors
  • Ohio State's Brandon Saine is No. 5 among running backs
  • Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks is No. 1 among tight ends
  • Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi is No. 5 among offensive tackles
  • Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski is No. 2 among centers (Wisniewski has moved back to guard this year)
  • Iowa's Clayborn is No. 1 among defensive ends
  • Purdue's Kerrigan is No. 3 among defensive ends
  • Ohio State's Heyward is No. 4 among defensive ends
  • Michigan State's Greg Jones is No. 1 among inside linebackers
  • Ohio State's Ross Homan is No. 4 among outside linebackers
  • Iowa's Ryan Donahue is No. 1 among punters
Position Rankings: Non-Seniors
  • Penn State's Joe Suhey is No. 4 among fullbacks
  • Northwestern's Al Netter is No. 4 among offensive tackles
  • Purdue's Ken Plue is No. 5 among guards
  • Ohio State's Mike Brewster is No. 1 among centers
  • Michigan's David Molk is No. 5 among guards
  • Wisconsin's J.J. Watt is No. 4 among defensive ends
  • Wisconsin's Philip Welch is No. 3 among kickers
  • Purdue's Carson Wiggs is No. 5 among kickers

Interesting selections here from Kiper. I was a bit surprised not to see Carimi higher on his lists, and the Big Ten's senior guards -- Ohio State's Justin Boren, Wisconsin's John Moffitt and Michigan's Stephen Schilling -- were shut out. Penn State fans might be interested to know that former Nittany Lion Pat Devlin ranks as the No. 3 senior quarterback.
Miami and Ohio State on Jan. 3, 2003 provided one of the most exciting and talked-about games in recent college football history. Ohio State's double-overtime victory in the Fiesta Bowl secured a national title and marked the beginning of a surge under The Vest (Jim Tressel). It also signaled the end of Miami's amazing run of success. The teams reunite Saturday in Columbus (ESPN, 3:40 p.m. ET), as Ohio State continues its push for the national title and Miami aims for another signature win to prove that yes, The U is back.

Bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Heather Dinich break down the matchup in Columbus.

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesOhio's Terrelle Pryor is a Heisman Trophy candidate this season.
Adam Rittenberg: HD, always a pleasure. Tough first weekend for the so-close league, I mean the ACC. Both Ohio State and Miami looked impressive against weak competition Thursday night. We've got to start this off with the two quarterbacks, Terrelle Pryor and Jacory Harris. Both are Heisman Trophy candidates in my mind, and they're friends off the field who text each other from time to time. What are the big keys for Harris against an always stout Ohio State defense?

Heather Dinich: Ahh, Ritt, the pleasure is all yours. First, he has to get the protection he needs -- something he hasn't always had, but that appeared to improve in the season opener against Florida A&M. Second, Harris has to continue to play mistake-free like he did in the first half last week. Turnovers were a big issue for him last year -- 17 interceptions -- and Cameron Heyward and the rest of the Buckeyes' D are more than capable of getting him flustered. He’s got to stay on his feet and make smart decisions. What about Pryor? Miami's rushing defense is coming off its best performance in three years, with eight sacks against FAMU. Is Ohio State’s front ready to hold off the Canes and make Pryor look worthy of the Heisman Hype?

AR: Pryor looked much more comfortable with the offense in the opener, but he faced virtually no pressure from Marshall and could sit back and wait for wideouts Dane Sanzenbacher and DeVier Posey to get open. That should change against the Canes, and it'll be interesting to see how often Pryor takes off and runs -- his old method for dealing with pressure -- or stands in the pocket and makes a tough throw. Ohio State's offensive line finally seems to be coming together after several years of underachieving. It's a group filled with blue-chip recruits that boasts good experience now, especially at the guard spots with Justin Boren and Bryant Browning. A big key will be whether left tackle Mike Adams can protect Pryor's blind side.

Speaking of highly recruited offensive linemen and Ohio State, how is our pal Seantrel Henderson doing? Let's just say Buckeye Nation is waiting. Moreover, how do you see Miami's O-line matching up with Heyward, John Simon and Ohio State's front four?

[+] EnlargeJacory Harris
Jonathan Brownfield/US PresswireJacory Harris had three touchdowns and 210 yards against Florida A&M.
HD: Miami’s pass protection was pretty good against FAMU, giving up just one sack, and Mount Henderson got some snaps in which he swallowed up some smaller, less athletic players. He's still got a learning curve, though, and the truth is it's too hard to judge that group until it lines up against the Buckeyes. Some might have made too much of the power versus speed plotline in the Champs Sports Bowl against Wisconsin, but I’m wondering if that won’t be a factor with Ohio State’s defensive front in putting the pressure on Harris. The Buckeyes' run defense is solid, but can they stop this deep backfield with or without Graig Cooper?

AR: Heather, I'm glad you brought up the Champs Sports Bowl. I know this is a different and supposedly better Miami team, but I have a hard time forgetting how Wisconsin outclassed the Canes in that game, and would have won by more points if not for a Garrett Graham fumble near the goal line. If Wisconsin's defense makes Harris look like that, I can't imagine what Ohio State's will do to him. You also bring up a good point about Cooper, who missed most of the Wisconsin game. He's a tremendous athlete and could be a big factor on Saturday if he plays. Ohio State running back Brandon Saine is another guy who looks better and better as time goes on and had a great performance in the opener.

OK, you're on the spot. What happens in this one?

HD: Well, one of two things: A.) Miami wins and is an instant surprise contender for the national title, or B.) The Hurricanes lose and ACC fans flip the channel to the Florida State game, clinging to desperation that somebody can represent on the national level. I think Miami is good, but I don’t think they're ready for Ohio State -- especially not in the Shoe. I'm still in believe-it-when-I-see-it mode with these guys when it comes to national relevance. Can they win the ACC? No doubt. But the Canes need to win the Coastal before they're in the same realm as the Buckeyes. Do you see any upset in the making?

AR: Miami certainly has the talent to win this game. The Canes must win the turnover battle, force Pryor into some bad decisions and hold the edge on special teams, which surprisingly might be Ohio State's biggest weakness this year. While I forecast a great game, I don't see the upset. Ohio State is simply too strong up front on both sides of the ball and wins the battle at the line of scrimmage. Ohio State got over its big-game hump in the Rose Bowl against Oregon, and the Buckeyes aren't a slow Big Ten team, as they're often portrayed. The Buckeyes win this one by a touchdown.
Any doubt that the Big Ten's strength this season is at or near the line of scrimmage can be put to rest.

The Rotary Lombardi Award preseason watch list is absolutely loaded with Big Ten players: 12 of them, to be exact. The award goes to "down linemen, end-to-end, either on offense or defense, who set up no farther than 10 yards to the left or right of the ball, or linebackers who set up no farther than 5 yards deep from the line of scrimmage."

As we all know, the Big Ten boasts plenty of players who fit the description.

Here's who made the list:
  • Iowa junior defensive end Broderick Binns
  • Ohio State senior guard Justin Boren
  • Wisconsin sophomore linebacker Chris Borland
  • Wisconsin senior left tackle Gabe Carimi
  • Iowa senior defensive end Adrian Clayborn
  • Ohio State senior defensive lineman Cameron Heyward
  • Ohio State senior linebacker Ross Homan
  • Michigan State senior linebacker Greg Jones
  • Purdue senior defensive end Ryan Kerrigan
  • Wisconsin senior tight end Lance Kendricks
  • Wisconsin senior guard John Moffitt
  • Penn State senior guard Stefen Wisniewski

In some ways, I'd be surprised if a Big Ten player doesn't win the Rotary Lombardi Award.

The list eventually will be cut to 12 semifinalists, and the winner will be announced in early December in Houston.

Michigan's LaMarr Woodley was the last Big Ten recipient of the award in 2006.
The position rankings move to the offensive side of the ball, and the offensive lines are first up. Several Big Ten offensive lines are among the nation's best, while other units boast experience but must step up.

[+] EnlargeGabe Carimi
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswireThe Badgers' Gabe Carimi is entering his fourth season as a starter.
1. Wisconsin: If this group stays healthy, I don't believe there's a better offensive line in college football this season. Left tackle Gabe Carimi is a bona fide NFL prospect who enters his fourth year as a starter. The Badgers boast another All-Big Ten selection at guard in senior John Moffitt, who can play both guard and tackle. Josh Oglesby should be ready to take the next step at right tackle. All the injuries last season forced Wisconsin to use a lot of linemen, and Peter Konz's return makes this one of the league's deepest units.

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 ...
I won't be making it out to many preseason practices this year. Fortunately, the Big Ten Network is giving all of us a peek at every Big Ten squad during its Football Preview Tour. My pal Dave Revsine and analysts Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith are more than halfway through the tour, but the first two episodes aired earlier this week: Indiana and Ohio State.

I'll be watching all 11 preview shows and posting my thoughts right here.

Up first, Indiana and Ohio State.

INDIANA
  • The Hoosiers practiced in shoulder pads and shorts, and head coach Bill Lynch is intentionally reducing the amount of hitting in this preseason (to keep his team fresher for the season), so the workout wasn't as revealing as most of the others should be.
  • Wide receiver Damarlo Belcher is a huge target and made several routine catches in space. Indiana also seemed to be swinging the ball a lot to the running backs, including Trea Burgess and Zach Davis-Walker. "Against the nonconference opponents, they can win those games with this pass game," DiNardo said. Starting quarterback Ben Chappell was a bit shaky on some throws, but I'm not worried about him.
  • The running backs didn't seem to have much room on the inside throughout the practice. A few backs did a nice job of bouncing to the outside. Freshman Matt Perez had a very nice run in team drills.
  • Defensive tackle Tony Carter did a nice job of crowding the middle on one play, and linebacker Tyler Replogle had a nice hit against Darius Willis.
  • I liked what I saw from Indiana's three junior college transfers on defense: linebacker Jeff Thomas and cornerbacks Andre Kates and Lenyatta Kiles. Kates has extremely fast feet, and Thomas brings good size to the table.
  • Despite the losses of left tackle Rodger Saffold and veteran guard Pete Saxon, Griffith said Indiana's offensive line looked the best it has in years.
  • Quarterback Edward Wright-Baker reportedly has fallen behind Dusty Kiel on the depth chart, but he looked good passing the ball in this practice.
OHIO STATE
  • DiNardo brought up a good point about the need for Ohio State to have a dominant running back again, and how it will keep defenses guessing against quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
  • Pryor definitely seemed different to me, both in his interview with the BTN crew and in the practice. He showed patience and footwork under pressure and fired a good pass to Dane Sanzenbacher in team drills. I also liked the way he yanked defensive lineman Garrett Goebel off the pile to help running back Dan Herron get out. Pryor seemed to be running hard during conditioning and talked about his new attitude toward meetings as he hopes to increase his leadership.
  • Pryor had one big mistake, though, as safety Jermale Hines stepped in front of a pass to Jake Stoneburner and made the interception. Just a perfect read by Hines.
  • Cameron Heyward just looks bigger than everyone else on the field (probably because he is). I particularly enjoyed watching Heyward go against All-Big Ten guard Justin Boren. Two All-America candidates right there. Everyone keeps calling Heyward a defensive end, but I saw him lining up inside several times during the practice. I'll keep going with the very vague "defensive lineman."
  • The running backs and linebackers went against each other during a goal-line drill, and both sides had their moments. Herron absolutely trucked Dan Bain on one play, living up to his "Boom" nickname. Jaamal Berry scooted by his man, while Scott McVey made a nice stop against Carlos Hyde, who boasts good size and had mixed results in the drill.
  • Running back Jordan Hall had some nice moments, including a burst up the middle in team drills.
  • Some of the reserve wide receivers stood out. Sophomore James Jackson made a nice catch along the sideline, and senior Grant Schwartz showed the ability to create vertical separation.
  • Defensive end Nathan Williams, currently sidelined with a knee injury, was in a stand-up position on one play, while the other three first-team linemen -- Heyward, John Simon and Dexter Larimore -- were down in a stance. You figure Ohio State will use Williams like it did Thaddeus Gibson in 2009.
  • Berry had a good blitz pickup on one play, nearly leading to a big completion from Joe Bauserman to Taurian Washington.
  • Linebackers Andrew Sweat and Dorian Bell showed good hitting and tackling skills.
Up next: Penn State

Big Ten lunch links

August, 6, 2010
8/06/10
12:00
PM ET
Camps are up and running around the Big Ten.
The Big Ten preseason player rankings, based on past performance and 2010 potential, continue with ...

No. 9: Justin Boren, G, Ohio State, Sr., 6-3, 320

2009 numbers: Earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media and second-team from the coaches after starting 11 games at left guard; helped Ohio State's rushing attack surge down the stretch of the regular season and in the Rose Bowl.

Most recent ranking: No. 27 in the 2009 postseason player rankings.

Making the case for Boren: Boren will always be known as the guy who transferred from Michigan to Ohio State and delivered some parting shots about Rich Rodriguez on his way out, but he's also a heck of an offensive lineman. He brought a much-needed attitude to Ohio State's underachieving offensive front, and the results started to show toward the end of the 2009 season. Named to the preseason watch list for the Outland Trophy, Boren will push Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski and Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi for Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year honors this fall. ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. projects Boren as the nation's No. 2 guard for the 2011 NFL draft, and Boren has been named a preseason All-American by several publications. His decision to leave Michigan clearly has paid off, and this fall Boren will try to help Ohio State win its first national title since 2002.

The rundown

  • No. 25: Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt
  • No. 24: Illinois RB Mikel LeShoure
  • No. 23: Iowa DT Karl Klug
  • No. 22: Northwestern LB Quentin Davie
  • No. 21: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 20: Ohio State LB Brian Rolle
  • No. 19: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
  • No. 18: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 17: Ohio State WR DeVier Posey
  • No. 16: Wisconsin LB Chris Borland
  • No. 15: Wisconsin G/C John Moffitt
  • No. 14: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 13: Purdue WR Keith Smith
  • No. 12: Ohio State LB Ross Homan
  • No. 11: Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi
  • No. 10: Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan

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