Big Ten: Kevion Latham

Both Joe Paterno and Urban Meyer on Monday acknowledged the challenge of getting their teams prepared for a bowl after so-so seasons.

Paterno's Penn State team had back-to-back 11-win campaigns before slipping to 7-5 this season. Meyer's Florida Gators have won two national titles and a Sugar Bowl championship in the past four seasons but enter the Outback Bowl on Jan. 1 with the same ledger as the Nittany Lions.

While motivating the players could be tough, both coaches are excited to share the stage in Tampa.

"Urban's one of my favorite people in coaching," Paterno said on a teleconference Monday morning. "It's going to be exciting to play against him."

The feeling certainly is mutual.

"Coach Paterno is college football," Meyer said. "He's what it's all about."

Paterno and Meyer have spent time away from the field together with their wives, who are friends. Although Meyer was just a toddler when Paterno began his career as Penn State's head coach in 1966, the two men have formed a bond.

"He’s honest, he’s not one of those showoffs or anything like that," Paterno said. "He's very modest. He's got a great feel for the game. I've looked at a lot of the tapes of his games through the years because he seems to always be one step ahead of people he’s playing against. I like being around him. I enjoy visiting with him."

A few more notes from Paterno:
  • Linebacker Michael Mauti (shoulder) has been practicing and will return for the bowl game, Paterno said. Penn State still will be without 4-5 players because of injuries. Mauti had been playing very well before his injury against Ohio State, and his return provides a major jolt for the defense.
  • Paterno said bowl practices provide the opportunity for players to "be in situations where there's something on the line." Penn State will have some competition at several spots during the coming weeks, but quarterback isn't one of them. Paterno sounds pleased with sophomore Matt McGloin, who started Penn State's final three regular-season games. "Matt's our quarterback," Paterno said. "The other kid [Rob Bolden] has a lot of ability, but he's a true freshman in the truest sense of the word. ... I think we're alright at quarterback. Matt's done a good job for us."
  • Paterno reiterated that safety Andrew Dailey and defensive end Kevion Latham, both fourth-year juniors, will graduate and not return for a fifth season. Both players have found jobs and don't intend to pursue careers in football. Penn State might lose another player or two to the NFL draft. "It depends on whether some parents get involved with thinking their kids are a little better than they are," Paterno said.
  • Paterno thinks Florida best compares with Alabama in terms of opponents Penn State has faced this season. The big difference, Paterno said, is that Alabama had a more stable situation at quarterback than the Gators. But both teams are loaded with speed and athleticism. "I don’t think we can match their speed," Paterno said of the Gators. "We've got to be in good position, we can't miss tackles. We've got to play a good, solid football game, but always in the back of our head is the kind of speed they have."
Wisconsin running back John Clay might be the Big Ten's best hope for the Heisman Trophy this season, which will make you scratch your head after reading this next statement.

The Badgers can survive without him.

Not to diminish Clay's size and power, which Wisconsin would miss if he goes down, but the Badgers aren't exactly starved for running backs. Montee Ball showed flashes as a true freshman the past season, and Zach Brown boasts more experience (36 games played) than any other Big Ten backup back.

And whomever carries the ball for Wisconsin will benefit from working behind one of the nation's top offensive lines. Left tackle Gabe Carimi and guard John Moffitt get most of the buzz, but Wisconsin returns all five starters up front, as well as others like Bill Nagy who boast game experience.

The Badgers are one of several Big Ten teams who can survive the loss of a key player or two, as long as it isn't quarterback Scott Tolzien.

The reason why Ohio State has won or shared the past five Big Ten championships: their depth chart. Take the linebacker position, for example. The Buckeyes have two of the Big Ten's best in Ross Homan and Brian Rolle, but they also can turn to a guy like Etienne Sabino, or younger backers Storm Klein, Dorian Bell and Andrew Sweat. Tyler Moeller also should return to the field this fall, although he'll likely see more time at safety.

Indiana's Tandon Doss and Purdue's Keith Smith were the media's picks for the first-team All-Big Ten squad in 2009, and both players are primed for big seasons this fall. While both also would be big losses, their teams have other options. Indiana can turn to Damarlo Belcher and Terrance Turner, or younger players like Duwyce Wilson. Purdue always boasts depth at receiver and has options like Cortez Smith, Antavian Edison and Gary Bush behind Smith. And don't forget about incoming freshman O.J. Ross or Justin Siller, the reinstated former starting quarterback.

Speaking of the offensive skill positions, Michigan State and Iowa boast similar depth. Both teams have potential All-Big Ten players -- Keshawn Martin, Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Marvin McNutt, Keith Nichol -- but can truly lean on their strength in numbers. Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins is a very lucky man, as he'll have four capable wideouts, three capable tight ends and at least two capable running backs at his disposal. Iowa's Ricky Stanzi also has weapons at wideout with Johnson-Koulianos and McNutt, as well as three solid options in the backfield with Jewel Hampton, Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher.

Michigan has several areas of concern entering 2010, but offensive line shouldn't be one of them. The Wolverines return five linemen who started part or all of the past season, led by veteran guard Stephen Schilling. Michigan has five offensive linemen who have three years of experience under their belts, not to mention promising young prospects like Taylor Lewan and Michael Schofield.

Flipping to the other side of the line, look at Penn State. Sure, the Nittany Lions lose Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Year Jared Odrick, but there's no reason to doubt defensive line coach Larry Johnson and his personnel. Penn State will have depth up front yet again with guys like Jack Crawford, Ollie Ogbu, Devon Still, Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham.

Penn State spring wrap

May, 5, 2010
5/05/10
7:00
AM ET
2009 overall record: 11-2

2009 conference record: 6-2 (T-2nd)

Returning starters

Offense: 7, defense: 5, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

RB Evan Royster, WR Derek Moye, WR Graham Zug, G Stefen Wisniewski, DE Jack Crawford, DT Ollie Ogbu, S Nick Sukay

Key losses

QB Daryll Clark, TE Andrew Quarless, LT Dennis Landolt, DT Jared Odrick, LB Navorro Bowman, LB Sean Lee, LB Josh Hull, P Jeremy Boone

2009 statistical leaders (*-returners)

Rushing: Evan Royster* (1,169 yards)

Passing: Daryll Clark (3,003 yards)

Receiving: Derek Moye* (785 yards)

Tackles: Josh Hull (116)

Sacks: Jared Odrick (7)

Interceptions: A.J. Wallace (3)

Spring answers

1. Linebacker depth should be OK: It's never easy to replace three starters at one spot, but Penn State is called Linebacker U. for a reason. Nate Stupar, Mike Yancich and Gerald Hodges all did some nice things in the Blue-White Game, and fan favorite Michael Mauti returns from an ACL injury this summer. Penn State can't expect the same production it received in 2009, but linebacker shouldn't be the team's chief concern this fall.

2. Defensive line looks fine: The D-line has been Penn State's most consistent unit in recent years, as coach Larry Johnson mass-produces elite players. First-round draft pick Jared Odrick leaves a major void inside, but Ollie Ogbu and Devon Still both boast some good experience there. The coaches had to like what they saw from defensive ends Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham in the spring game, and don't forget about Jack Crawford, who could have a monster 2010 season.

3. Jones is a factor at quarterback: Joe Paterno might want you to believe that freshmen don't exist, but you can bet he noticed Paul Jones in the Blue-White Game. Jones, an early enrollee, was the Nittany Lions' top quarterback in the game, tossing two touchdown passes to Shawney Kersey. If Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin don't separate themselves early in fall camp, Jones deserves a longer look.

Fall questions

1. Quarterback questions: Newsome and McGloin didn't do much to ease the anxiety of Penn State fans in the spring game. McGloin had two interceptions and nearly had a third, and Newsome completed only 5 of 12 pass attempts. There's a long way to go before the season, but Penn State needs to see more progress from these two or the prospect of starting a true freshman quarterback will become a likelihood.

2. Finding an O-line combo: Penn State did some shuffling along the offensive line this spring, and it showed in the Blue-White Game. The line struggled to protect the quarterbacks or open holes for the running backs. All-Big Ten selection Stefen Wisniewski should be fine at right guard after switching back from center, but the coaches need to settle on the other four spots so the group can build some chemistry before September.

3. Punting situation: You know there's a potential problem when a wide receiver (Graham Zug) is working as the second-team punter. Penn State's punting situation could be resolved when Anthony Fera gets out of the doghouse and back on the practice field, but the Nittany Lions can't afford a major dropoff following the departure of standout Jeremy Boone. A good punter can be a young quarterback's best friend, and Penn State needs one in 2010.
Six Big Ten spring games took place Saturday, and our review begins with the Blue-White Game at Penn State.

As expected, the quarterback competition took center stage at Beaver Stadium, and the early returns weren't too promising. Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin both struggled, while true freshman Paul Jones, seemingly an afterthought in the race before Saturday, had the best performance. Jones twice found classmate Shawney Kersey for 18-yard touchdown passes and finished 5-of-8 passing for 67 yards.

[+] EnlargeKevin Newsome
AP Photo/Ralph WilsonKevin Newsome entered the spring as the slight favorite to quarterback Penn State, but struggled in the Blue-White Game.
McGloin got the most work as a passer but completed just 10 of 23 attempts for 110 yards with two interceptions and nearly threw a third, which cornerback Chaz Powell dropped with a clear path in front of him. Newsome, who entered the spring as a slight favorite for the starting job, completed 5 of 12 passes with no interceptions and added 12 yards on the ground.

Although the quarterbacks didn't get much help from the offensive line (concerning) or the wide receivers (less concerning), Penn State's offense remains a major question mark entering the summer. To be fair, star running back Evan Royster didn't play Saturday.

"I would rate my performance as we've got a lot of work to do," Newsome said afterward. "We've got a lot of work to do. We've got a lot of work to do. We're just going to keep working."

"A lot of eyes were on us today," McGloin said. "We didn't perform maybe up to par, maybe up to what people expected to see."



Penn State quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said after the game that it's wrong to eliminate Jones from the race, and then added, "I checked my e-mail afterwards, and people are telling me Paul should be the starter. So it doesn't take long for people to make the decisions."

Paterno and the other coaches have more time to make the ultimate decision, and they'll look for improvement from all three signal callers by the time preseason camp rolls around.

Other nuggets from the Blue-White Game:

  • The offensive line's struggles can be attributed in part to the shuffling that went on this spring. It takes time to build chemistry, and Penn State has moved around several linemen, including first-team All-Big Ten selection Stefen Wisniewski. "Obviously, there's that chemistry we need to have,'' right tackle Lou Eliades said. "I think we're only going to get better in time. Chemistry will develop. I think, by September, we'll be ready to go.''

  • Nate Stupar sometimes gets overlooked when folks size up Penn State's linebacking corps for 2010, but he had a very nice performance Saturday. Stupar recorded seven tackles (six solo) and an interception.

  • Defensive ends Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham both found their way into the offensive backfield, and Latimore recorded two sacks in the game. Penn State's defensive line once again should be the team's strength, as end Jack Crawford and tackle Devon Still should have big seasons.

  • While backup running back Stephfon Green (4 carries, 10 rush yards) didn't do much, I liked what I saw from freshman Silas Redd, who recorded a 16-yard run and a 10-yard reception. Redd brings a nice combination of size and shiftiness.

  • Penn State brings back several proven veteran receivers, but Kersey and sophomore Justin Brown, who recorded a game-high four receptions for 35 yards, could work their way into the mix. Freshman Brandon Moseby-Felder led the White team with three receptions for 31 yards.

  • Wide receiver Brett Brackett, linebacker Bani Gbadyu and offensive tackle Quinn Barham received awards from the coaching staff for their performances this spring.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

They're baaaaack. Many of you who checked out colleague Heather Dinich's ACC position rankings asked when I'd be doing the same for the Big Ten. Well, Big Ten media days are done and we have a bit of a break before the first preseason practice begins Aug. 6 at Illinois. This seems like the perfect time to rank the positions heading into the season.

Defensive line is up first. There's only one elite group on paper, but no truly bad units, either. Really not much difference between Nos. 4-11.  

1. Ohio State -- The group has drawn comparisons to the 2002 line that helped Ohio State win a national title. Ohio State looks loaded at defensive end with Cameron Heyward, Thaddeus Gibson and Lawrence Wilson, a one-time starter who comes off of two major leg injuries. Gibson should have a big year after coming on strong late last fall. The tackles have been a bit iffy in recent years, but Doug Worthington boasts a ton of experience and should shore up the middle with Todd Denlinger, Dexter Larimore and Garrett Goebel.

2. Penn State -- Larry Johnson's body of work is simply too powerful to overlook, even though Penn State loses a lot from a group that led the Big Ten and ranked eighth nationally against the run (93.2 ypg). Jared Odrick is the Big Ten's most dominant interior defensive lineman, and he'll lead a group of promising young players. Hopes are extremely high for sophomore end Jack Crawford, and juniors Kevion Latham and Eric Latimore hold down the other end spot. Depth is a bit of a question, but Penn State should get a boost from a healthy Jerome Hayes. 

3. Iowa -- The Hawkeyes are another team dealing with major personnel losses as four-year starting tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul depart. But what Iowa loses inside, it makes up for on the edges with ends Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard. Clayborn recorded eight tackles for loss last year and should contend for All-Big Ten honors. It'll be interesting to see how Karl Klug and Mike Daniels adjust to playing more on the inside.

4. Northwestern -- A lot depends on Corey Wootton's durability after the senior defensive end tore his ACL in December. Wootton is probably the Big Ten's most versatile lineman, applying pressure to quarterbacks and also clogging pass lanes with his 6-foot-7 frame. Sophomore Vince Browne is primed for a big season at the other end spot. Replacing standout tackle John Gill won't be easy, but the Wildcats have veterans in Corbin Bryant, Marshall Thomas and Adam Hahn.

5. Wisconsin -- I'm taking a bit of a chance here, seeing how the Badgers lose three multiyear starters up front. But the line dominated Wisconsin's offseason program and boasts several exciting pieces, including Central Michigan transfer J.J. Watt, who can play either end or tackle. O'Brien Schofield is a solid leader at defensive end, and young linemen Brendan Kelly and Louis Nzegwu should blossom.     

6. Illinois -- The Illini lose their top four sacks leaders from last year, but they should be much better against the run, an area that really hurt the defense in 2008. With Josh Brent back in the fold, Illinois boasts arguably more depth at defensive tackle than any Big Ten team. Corey Liguet showed a lot of potential as a true freshman, and senior Sirod Williams returns from a torn ACL.  There are some questions at end aside from Doug Pilcher.

7. Michigan -- Senior end Brandon Graham should be the Big Ten's most dominant pass-rusher this fall, and if he gets some help from his teammates, he'll be even better. Michigan is very young elsewhere on the line but boasts a good deal of talent. Sophomores Ryan Van Bergen and Mike Martin showed promising signs in the spring, and it'll be interesting to see how much true freshman William Campbell gets on the field. 

8. Michigan State -- This is the only area of Michigan State's defense that doesn't wow me, but senior end Trevor Anderson leads a decent group. Anderson should build off of a nice junior season (8 sacks, 10.5 TFLs), but the Spartans need a second pass-rusher to emerge. Brandon Long and Justin Kershaw will be missed, and it'll be up to Colin Neely, Oren Wilson and others to fill the void. 

9. Minnesota -- The Gophers tied for the league lead in sacks last fall (34) but lose standout end Willie VanDeSteeg, who accounted for 10.5 of those sacks. Minnesota's strength is inside with senior tackles Garrett Brown and Eric Small. If Cedric McKinley or someone else develops into a reliable pass-rusher, Minnesota should finish the year higher on the list.

10. Purdue -- It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Purdue finished the year much higher on the list, but there are quite a few questions entering the fall. The Boilers know what they have in end Ryan Kerrigan and tackle Mike Neal, but the other two spots are mysteries. There are high hopes for Kawann Short and Gerald Gooden, but I need to see more evidence in games before bumping up the Boilers.     

11. Indiana -- We all know the Hoosiers can rush the passer with standout ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton. But can Indiana stop the run? There are some major question marks at defensive tackle entering preseason camp, and Bill Lynch needs a bona fide run-stopper to emerge. Junior tackle Deonte Mack needs to step up after missing spring ball with a hip injury.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

If and when Jerome Hayes gets on the field for Penn State this fall, one thing will be certain. 

"He won't be on any punt teams," Nittany Lions defensive coordinator Tom Bradley said.  "He's not covering punts."

Hayes has had some lousy luck in his career, suffering season-ending torn ACLs on punt coverage in each of the last two seasons. In 2007, he appeared in seven games for Penn State and recorded 2.5 sacks before tearing his right ACL against Wisconsin. His 2008 season lasted barely one game, as he tore his left ACL after being chop-blocked in the fourth quarter against Oregon State in Week 2. 

Two major knee injuries doesn't inspire much confidence in Hayes for the coming season, but Bradley is seeing good signs from the senior defensive end/linebacker. 

"I think he'll be OK," Bradley said. "He's a resilient type of kid. He doesn't complain much about it. What little I've seen him do some things on the treadmill, he looks OK."

Hayes could play a crucial role on Penn State's defensive line, which boasts loads of young talent, but not much experience on the edges.

Bradley and the other coaches knew that defensive ends Aaron Maybin and Maurice Evans were considering leaving early for the NFL draft, but they "never felt that both of them would go. We probably would have recruited another guy there at defensive end had we had known."

There's a lot of excitement about sophomore Jack Crawford, and sophomores Kevion Latham and Eric Latimore also should see time at end. But with Pete Massaro's season-ending knee injury in the spring game, Penn State could use a veteran presence like Hayes. 

"It's not only Jerome on the field," Bradley said. "He's just a strong presence in our locker room, too. He's a kid from Bayonne (N.J.), he's graduated, nothing was handed to him, works his tail off. He's a very strong presence in our locker room as far as being a leader and a guy that the players rally around."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Every Big Ten team circled and underlined a few questionable positions entering spring practice. Some of those concerns went away as young players blossomed and depth was built. Where did each Big Ten team get better this spring?

Here's a snapshot:

Illinois' running backs -- The development of sophomores Jason Ford and Mikel LeShoure this spring gives Illinois plenty of options at running back heading into 2009. Ford and LeShoure both improved physically and mentally and will compete with senior Daniel Dufrene to be the featured runner. Bottom line: Juice Williams' job should be easier.

Indiana's offensive line -- After being decimated by injuries last season, Indiana can feel a bit better about the front five. Tackle James Brewer might finally be reaching his potential, and center Will Matte impressed the coaches in the middle of the line.

Iowa's offensive line -- This group figured to be pretty solid no matter what, but Iowa got some help from a familiar name in the interior line. Dace Richardson might finally be healthy, and he worked with the first-team at left guard as Iowa tries to replace all-conference linemen Seth Olsen and Rob Bruggeman.

Michigan's offensive line -- Not a major surprise here, considering the Wolverines bring back all their starters from last season. But an extra year of experience plus several talented redshirt freshmen (Ricky Barnum, Patrick Omameh) joining the mix should pay off big time this fall.

Michigan State's quarterbacks -- The Spartans felt great about the progress of quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol, who both threw for 357 yards and four touchdowns in the spring game. Head coach Mark Dantonio is in no rush to name a starter, but unlike many men in his position, he really has two viable options here.

Minnesota's wide receivers -- With superstar Eric Decker playing baseball, Minnesota needed to identify other solid options at receiver. Return specialist Troy Stoudermire emerged as a big-play threat, and quarterback Adam Weber liked what he saw from Brandon Green and Da'Jon McKnight.

Northwestern's running backs -- Of the three offensive skill positions where Northwestern loses starters, running back appears to be the most stable. Sophomore Jeravin Matthews emerged this spring and will push Stephen Simmons for the starting job. Northwestern has several options in the backfield after losing four-year starter Tyrell Sutton.

Ohio State's linebackers -- You can't deny all the production Ohio State loses in its defensive midsection, but the spring revealed several solid players who can step in. Austin Spitler and Tyler Moeller have waited their turn for the spotlight, and Brian Rolle had an excellent spring. With returning starter Ross Homan back on the outside, the Buckeyes should once again be solid.

Penn State's defensive line -- Despite losing three defensive ends with starting experience, Penn State should once again boast one of the league's top pass rushes. Sophomore Jack Crawford looks like the Nittany Lions' next superstar pass rusher and should fill the void on the edge with Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham.

Purdue's running backs -- Even with Jaycen Taylor still rehabbing from a torn ACL, Purdue got a lot better at running back this spring. Ralph Bolden came out of nowhere to steal the show in spring scrimmages (420 rush yards, 4 touchdowns), and Dan Dierking also looked impressive. The Boilers will need a viable rushing attack this fall, and they can feel a lot better about this group.

Wisconsin's wide receivers -- Dropped passes dogged the receivers throughout 2008, but the group definitely got better this spring. Nick Toon emerged as a potential No. 1 target with an excellent performance in practice, and Isaac Anderson, Kyle Jefferson and David Gilreath all showed progress at times.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Listening to Joe Paterno, you'd think Penn State would be lucky to go .500 this season.

The defending Big Ten co-champs lose a sizable senior class, including the entire starting secondary and entire starting wide receiving corps. Penn State brings back national award candidates such as linebacker Navorro Bowman, defensive tackle Jared Odrick and running back Evan Royster, but all the turnover has taken a toll this spring.

"I don't think we've had a very great spring," Paterno said Wednesday. "We had a great winter program. The kids started out well. We've had a problem with the weather. ... And we've got some areas that we're not even adequate. That's the offensive line right now, the secondary has got a long way to go, and we've got to improve.

"Some of the good things are we've got kids that are working hard."

Paterno is feeling 100 percent physically following hip-replacement surgery in November, but his team's health hasn't been as promising. The Lions have had "more injuries this spring than I can remember in a long time," Paterno said, and they've been spread across the board.

The injured include linebacker/defensive end Jerome Hayes (knee), cornerback A.J. Wallace (hamstring), center Doug Klopacz (knee) and tackle Nerraw McCormack (knee).

There have been several bright spots, namely the play of Royster, quarterback Daryll Clark, a new-look wide receiving corps and the defensive line, led by Odrick. But for a team that still lists national titles and Big Ten championships as its goals, there's a ton to do in the final six spring workouts and the summer.

"Our running back situation's good, our tight end situation's good, our quarterback situation's good, we've got a chance to have a couple pretty good wideouts," Paterno said. "We're very, very shallow at the offensive line, not even close to being good enough. Same way with our secondary. The linebacker's are good, I think our kicking game will be good.

"That should cover everything."

Almost.

I didn't sit down with Paterno in person today -- some obligations kept him at home until practice, which was closed -- but we discussed several other topics over the phone.

Here are a few notes:

  • Clark has thrown the ball extremely well this spring, and a new-look group of receivers are making plays. Paterno likes the fact that Penn State has some bigger wideouts -- Brett Brackett (6-foot-6), Derek Moye (6-5), A.J. Price (6-4) and Graham Zug (6-2) are bigger targets -- who allow for some different things in the offensive scheme.
The only concern for Paterno is that the wideouts aren't facing the best competition this spring.
"People are going to bang 'em around, and they're going to need some experienced game time," Paterno said. "We're trying to give them as tough situations as we can, but the secondary is not as aggressive as I would like. So I'm not so sure just how good the receivers are. They've worked hard, they catch the ball well and they have ability, but they haven't really been challenged yet."
  • Night games at Beaver Stadium are a Penn State trademark, but the Lions will kick off only one contest under the lights this fall -- the Big Ten opener against Iowa. Last year, Penn State played three prime-time games. In 2007, Penn State had night games at home against Notre Dame and Ohio State.
"It doesn't make a difference, we've got to show up," Paterno said. "But the fans have a lot of fun at night. I don't know why we don't have one more. I guess it's all television."
  • Paterno is a bit worried about the depth on the defensive line, but for the most part, he shares the same opinion as most of his fans -- that assistant Larry Johnson will find a way to succeed with the front four. Odrick anchors the middle of the line, and Jack Crawford, Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham are emerging at defensive end.
"We've got some talent there," Paterno said. "They're all right."
  • Paterno also sees talent along the offensive line, though that group typically takes longer to develop. Stefen Wisniewski has shifted from right guard to center, and right tackle Dennis Landolt is the only other returning starter up front.
"We've just got to get a couple more kids to come forward," Paterno said. "There's some talent there. They're not comfortable, they're not confident, they're not aggressive, they're not sure of themselves. And obviously, that's why you practice. But I think they'll come along."
  • The 82-year-old coach joked that maybe Penn State was better off when his assistants ran most of the practice, but he's clearly feeling a lot better than he did last fall, when he coached the final eight games from the press box and could barely walk. When the Lions take the field Sept. 5 against Akron, Paterno expects to be running out of the tunnel.
"Right now, I'm concerned about this football team," he said. "We're not very good right now, we've got a lot of work ahead of us and we're running out of time. But I'm sure when it's a day or two before [the game], and I start thinking about going back out on the field, I'll be excited."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

All 11 Big Ten teams are now immersed in spring practice, and several squads held controlled scrimmages over the weekend. Some scrimmages were closed and no information was released, but here's what I've pieced together.

INDIANA

Scrimmage: Saturday

Highlights

  • The Ben Chappell-Kellen Lewis connection is gaining steam, as the current quarterback (Chappell) hooked up with the former quarterback (Lewis) for a 30-yard touchdown. Chappell completed 15 of 23 passes for 231 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while Lewis had four catches for 51 yards.
  • Indiana's running backs, an area of concern entering the spring, racked up 200 rushing yards on 31 carries. Senior Bryan Payton had a 40-yard burst on the first play out of the pistol formation. Junior Trea Burgess, who began the spring at linebacker before switching to running back, led all rushers with 13 carries for 65 yards.
  • Six defensive starters sat out the scrimmage with injuries, but the Hoosiers still recorded three interceptions, including one by junior safety Jerimy Finch, a Florida transfer who came to Indiana with a lot of hype. Converted wide receivers Shane Covington and Collin Taylor also picked off passes. Junior linebacker Tyler Replogle had a 90-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
  • Sophomore wide receiver Matt Ernest, who played sparingly last fall, led all receivers with five catches for 92 yards. Tandon Doss added six receptions for 79 yards.

MINNESOTA

Scrimmage: Saturday

Highlights

  • The Gophers ran almost 100 plays in their first spring scrimmage. Despite being limited by a surgically repaired shoulder, Adam Weber took all the snaps with the first-team offense, while MarQueis Gray worked with the second team.
  • Ten different receivers caught passes, and the Gray found Brodrick Smith for a 63-yard touchdown.
  • The running back spot is pretty wide open after the Gophers ranked as the Big Ten's worst rushing team last fall. Redshirt freshman Kevin Whaley got most of the carries Saturday, indicating a possible move up the depth chart.
  • The scrimmage was closed to the media, but head coach Tim Brewster said the defense is still ahead of the offense, which is installing a new system under coordinator Jedd Fisch. Weber got intercepted on his first pass attempt and later said there was a mix-up on the play.
  • After seeing Wisconsin raid its state's high school ranks for years, Minnesota picked up a quarterback recruit from Badger Land over the weekend.

PENN STATE

Scrimmage: Saturday

Highlights

  • If the scrimmage is any indication, Penn State fans who have been telling me not to worry about the defensive line are spot on. The line dominated reserve quarterbacks Kevin Newsome and walk-on Matt McGloin. Defensive tackles Jared Odrick and Abe Koroma and defensive ends Jack Crawford, Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham all had good days.
  • Only two touchdowns were scored, as starting tailback Evan Royster had a 45-yard scoring run and starting quarterback Daryll Clark found tight end Mickey Shuler in the end zone. Clark didn't scrimmage much but performed extremely well when he was out there, while Newsome, a true freshman who enrolled early, seemed to struggle. Several reports said McGloin outplayed Newsome. If it's not obvious already, Penn State needs Clark to stay healthy this fall.
  • The Lions' new-look secondary featured A.J. Wallace and Knowledge Timmons as the corners and Drew Astorino and sophomore Andrew Dailey at the safety spots.
  • After losing three starters, the offensive line will take time to jell, and Saturday wasn't a strong performance. First-team left tackle DeOn'tae Pannell had a rough day and will be pushed by several players.
  • Wide receiver is a position of intrigue throughout the spring, and Graham Zug, Brett Brackett, Derek Moye, Chaz Powell and James McDonald got the most work in the scrimmage. Powell also lined up in the backfield on several plays, a la Derrick Williams.

PURDUE

Scrimmage: Saturday

Highlights

  • A day after quarterback Justin Siller was dismissed from school, Purdue received a much needed strong performance from its offense in a 125-play scrimmage. Though quarterback remains a question mark for the Boilers, they appear to be strong in the run game.
  • Sophomore Ralph Bolden exploded for 192 rush yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, including bursts of 38 and 32 yards. Senior Frank Halliburton added 85 yards on 14 carries as the Purdue backs combined for four rushing touchdowns. Senior Jaycen Taylor was held out of the scrimmage as he works back from a torn ACL.
  • Head coach Danny Hope praised quarterback Caleb TerBush last week, and the redshirt freshman didn't disappoint, completing 15 of 22 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. TerBush's performance in the wake of Siller's departure has to leave Hope feeling a bit better about his options at quarterback. Projected starter Joey Elliott completed 9 of 17 passes for 104 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
  • Cornerback Brandon King recovered a fumble, while defensive ends Ryan Kerrigan and Robert Maci and tackle Mike Neal each recorded sacks.
  • Defensive end Nickcaro Golding missed the scrimmage with a high ankle sprain sustained earlier in the week.
  • Tight en
    d should be a better spot for Purdue this fall, as Kyle Adams returns from an injury sustained in the 2008 opener. Adams led all receivers with four catches for 41 yards in the scrimmage.

WISCONSIN

Scrimmage: Saturday

Highlights

  • Head coach Bret Bielema has emphasized red zone defense this spring after the Badgers finished last in the league in that category in 2008 (92.9 percent). Bielema wasn't pleased with what he saw in the scrimmage, as the offense scored on five of six red zone chances. The first-team offense went 2-for-2 against the top defense, as quarterbacks Dustin Sherer and Scott Tolzien fired touchdowns to Garrett Graham and Nick Toon. The second-team offense went 3-for-4 in red zone chances.
  • The tight ends and wide receivers continued to look good, particularly Graham, Toon, tight end Lance Kendricks and wideout Isaac Anderson, who caught a touchdown.
  • Top running back John Clay sustained a bruised right ankle and missed a chunk of the scrimmage, giving redshirt freshman Erik Smith extensive work.
  • Among the defensive highlights were interceptions by Antonio Fenelus, Shelton Johnson and Devin Smith. Safety Shane Carter, reserve linebacker Tony Megna and defensive ends O'Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt also had some good moments.
  • The Badgers' already iffy linebacker corps took another hit as senior Erik Prather suffered a right leg injury and needed to be carted off the field.
  • Freshman quarterback Jon Budmayr continued to impress, firing an 18-yard score to Anderson.
  • After a strong practice Thursday, right tackle Josh Oglesby returned to the first-team offensive line. Peter Konz, who briefly replaced Oglesby with the starters, worked with the second team.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's impossible to minimize what Penn State has lost at key positions on both sides of the ball.

But think about what the Nittany Lions could regain at linebacker.

 
  Randy Litzinger/Icon SMI
  Linebacker Sean Lee hopes to return to his 2007 form.
  • 239 career tackles, including 138 as a junior in 2007
  • 18.5 tackles for loss and 9 sacks, including 5.5 in 2006
  • 26 consecutive games started between 2006-07
  • Five fumble recoveries and two interceptions

There's only one looming question: Will Sean Lee be the same player?

If he is, Penn State will reclaim one of the nation's best linebackers, a Bednarik Award candidate who can lead a defense that loses seven starters after finishing eighth nationally in yards allowed (280.1 ypg), points allowed (14.4 ppg) and rush yards allowed (93.2 ypg) last season. But Lee hasn't played a down since the 2007 Alamo Bowl, where he earned defensive player of the game honors, and comes off surgery to repair a torn right ACL sustained on a noncontact play last spring.

"The only thing I worried about was, 'Will my knee hurt me? Will I feel like I don't have explosion off the knee?'" Lee said. "And the knee felt great, so I really feel if I continue to rep and work hard, I'll be the same player, if not better.

"I've tried to be really disciplined along this rehab so I can come back a better player."

Lee tore the ligament on April 11, 2008, and underwent surgery April 28 before beginning the long rehab process.

Before the mishap, Lee had been projected as a leading candidate for the Bednarik Award, claimed by his Penn State linebacker predecessors Dan Connor (2007) and Paul Posluszny (2005, 2006) in the previous three seasons. Instead, he spent practice time in the training room and games on the sideline, serving as an honorary captain.

Lee took a positive approach to the situation and found benefits in his season offstage.

"Reading pass routes and trying to dissect plays, I feel a little bit quicker mentally now," he said. "Because last year, that's all I did, try to study other teams, study offense during practice. I tried to take every opportunity I had to better myself."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Wisconsin needs a quarterback. So do Michigan and Michigan State. Ohio State is looking to replace star running back Chris "Beanie" Wells. The Spartans? They need a back, too, after the graduation of Doak Walker Award finalist Javon Ringer.

Every Big Ten team has some holes to fill, and the process begins in spring ball as position competitions kick off throughout the league. Here are five key spots to watch when practices get under way.

Team: Michigan

Position: Quarterback

2008 starter: Steven Threet (eight games), Nick Sheridan (four games)

Candidates: Nick Sheridan, Tate Forcier, Denard Robinson, David Cone

The skinny: Threet's recent decision to transfer from Michigan shook up the competition before spring practice. Sheridan has the edge in college game experience, starting the final three games last fall, but Forcier enters practice as the front-runner. The true freshman, who enrolled in January, has the skill set that suits Rich Rodriguez's spread offense. Robinson also will be a factor when he arrives this summer, but Forcier has an opportunity to gain a head start this spring.

Team: Ohio State

Position: Running back

2008 starter: Chris "Beanie" Wells

Candidates: Dan Herron, Brandon Saine, Jaamal Berry, Carlos Hyde

The skinny: Wells' foot injury last fall gave Ohio State an idea of what life will be like without the 237-pound power back. Herron, who served as Wells' primary backup in 2008, has the inside track to claim the job but needs a good spring performance. He's deceptively strong despite a smallish frame (5-foot-10, 193), but Ohio State might go with more of a committee system this fall. Saine could be a factor if he stays healthy, and heralded recruits Berry and Hyde will compete when they arrive this summer.

Team: Wisconsin

Position: Quarterback

2008 starter: Allan Evridge (six games) and Dustin Sherer (seven games)

Candidates: Sherer, Scott Tolzien, Curt Phillips, Jon Budmayr, James Stallons

The skinny: The quarterback position really hurt Wisconsin last year, and the Badgers once again enter the spring with major questions under center. The competition last spring didn't provide much clarity, so offensive coordinator Paul Chryst will be looking for any type of separation this time around. Sherer had mixed results last year, helping Wisconsin to four wins but struggling in the bowl game. Tolzien is a heady player who could be a factor this spring, but the spotlight will really be on the two young quarterbacks, Phillips and Budmayr. Both were heralded recruits, particularly Phillips, and Wisconsin might be looking for a multiyear starter to emerge after the last few years.

Team: Michigan State

Position: Quarterback

2008 starter: Brian Hoyer

Candidates: Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol

The skinny: This will be a fascinating story to watch, as the promising Cousins goes up against Nichol, a transfer from Oklahoma who grew up an hour from the Michigan State campus. Cousins is the favorite after a solid performance as Hoyer's backup last year, completing 32 of 43 passes (74.4 percent) for 310 yards. But Nichol didn't come to Michigan State to ride the bench and has a year in the system after running the scout team last fall. Without Ringer, Michigan State will look to upgrade its passing attack, so the quarterbacks will take center stage this spring.

Team: Penn State

Position: Defensive end

2008 starters: Aaron Maybin, Josh Gaines

Candidates: Jerome Hayes, Jack Crawford, Kevion Latham, Eric Latimore

The skinny: The Lions also have holes at wide receiver and along the offensive line, but defensive end became a surprise area of need after Maybin and Maurice Evans declared for the NFL draft as underclassmen. Hayes has torn the ACLs in both knees the last two seasons, so he's far from a reliable bet to step in as a starter. Crawford, who grew up mostly in England, is still fairly new to football but has good ability and could emerge this spring. Latimore had a sack in nine games last year, and Latham recorded three tackles in eight contests. Defensive line coach Larry Johnson seemingly produces star pass-rushers every year, but this could be his toughest challenge yet.

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