Big Ten: Kyle Calloway
What's new: The offensive line certainly has a new look after the departures of Bryan Bulaga, Kyle Calloway, Dace Richardson and Rafael Eubanks. Iowa will be breaking in a new right tackle, most likely Markus Zusevics, and the center spot is up for grabs between Josh Koeppel and James Ferentz. The only other spot that gets a major overhaul is linebacker, as standouts Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds both depart. Iowa is one of only 11 FBS programs to return its coaching staff fully intact for 2010.
Sidelined: Iowa enters camp relatively healthy, although linebacker Ross Petersen won't participate in full-contact drills for at least a week because of a torn pectoral muscle.
Key battle: The competition at center between Koeppel and Ferentz should be good, but Iowa really needs to identify a second starting cornerback opposite Shaun Prater. Amari Spievey leaves a huge void, and the Hawkeyes will be looking to players like Micah Hyde and Jordan Bernstine to step up. Bernstine missed all of last season with an ankle injury, but he played as a reserve in his first two seasons. The situation at running back also should be very interesting to watch during camp.
New on the scene: Iowa doesn't typically play many true freshmen, but heralded tight end recruit C.J. Fiedorowicz should see the field following the departure of standout Tony Moeaki. Homegrown product A.J. Derby is a very interesting young prospect, but indications suggest he'll redshirt this fall.
Back in the fold: Jewel Hampton entered last summer as the projected successor to All-American Shonn Greene at running back, but a series of knee problems ended his season before it began. Hampton is back in the fold but must beat out Adam Robinson and Brandon Wegher for the starting job. He'll miss the season opener because of a suspension, but we should finally see Hampton's return in Week 2 against Iowa State.
Breaking out: Iowa opened up its passing attack last season and saw Marvin McNutt and Derrell Johnson-Koulianos emerge as legitimate deep threats in the Big Ten. Johnson-Koulianos likely will finish as Iowa's all-time leading receiver, and McNutt averaged 19.8 yards per reception with eight touchdowns. Both players could have even bigger years in 2010. Along the defensive line, everyone knows about Adrian Clayborn, but watch out for Broderick Binns, Karl Klug and Christian Ballard, who should see increased opportunities to make plays this fall.
Quotable: "We tend to be a developmental team. We were 9-0 at one point last year, and we were a good team, we had played some great football, but we weren't a great team at that point. In January, we were a pretty good team. We really grew. So it's a race against time. I don't know where we stack up in that race right now." -- Head coach Kirk Ferentz
Not surprisingly, I asked Ferentz about Iowa's offensive line, which has been and will be the team's biggest question mark between now and the season opener Sept. 4 against Eastern Illinois. The Hawkeyes lose four players with starting experience up front -- Bryan Bulaga, Kyle Calloway, Dace Richardson and Rafael Eubanks -- and need to fill three starting spots and build depth.
Ferentz has seen some separation this spring, as six linemen are creating some distance from the pack. Along with tackle Riley Reiff and guard Julian Vandervelde, who have combined for 35 career starts, Ferentz signaled out guard Adam Gettis, tackle Markus Zusevics and center Josh Koeppel and James Ferentz, who are in a tight race this spring.
"Gettis and Zusevics, both of those guys have been in the program," Ferentz said. "Gettis played more than Markus did last year. He played an awful lot of football because Julian was coming off his [pectoral] tear. He really played pretty well last year, and both those guys have potential to be good Big Ten linemen. And then at the center position, it's kind of a dead heat right now.
"Those six guys have operated pretty well, and they're going against good competition, so we're getting a fair evaluation."
After the top six, there are some question marks as Iowa tries to build depth. Ferentz identified guard Cody Hundertmark, a converted defensive linemen, as the closest to being game ready. Hundertmark has showed good ability but is still trying to bring it all together to fit with the scheme.
"We've got some ground to make up in terms of depth," Ferentz said. "I go back to my time here [as offensive line coach] in the '80s, maybe outside of one year, it's always been an issue. We're not uncommon there with any program in the country.
"Our first-line guys are progressing, doing a pretty good job. We've got to keep bringing them along."
Up next is Iowa, which returns 14 starters from a team that went 11-2 and won an Orange Bowl championship last season. The Hawkeyes are especially strong at defensive line, safety and the offensive skill spots, but they need to reload at offensive line and linebacker.
Strongest position: Defensive line
- Key returnees: Defensive end Adrian Clayborn (70 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, 4 forced fumbles, 9 quarterback hurries, 1 blocked kick); defensive end Broderick Binns (63 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 6 sacks, 9 passes defended, 1 forced fumble, 1 blocked kick); defensive tackle Karl Klug (65 tackles, 13 tackles for loss, 4 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, 5 passes defended); defensive tackle Christian Ballard (54 tackles, 9 tackles for loss, 5.5 sacks, 5 quarterback hurries).
- Key losses: None
- The skinny: The Hawkeyes will boast arguably the nation's best defensive line in 2010, as all four starters return from a group that changed games last fall. Clayborn should contend for All-America honors after being one of the Big Ten's most disruptive defenders last fall. Binns also changed games with several big plays, and all four men contributed to a defense that ranked 10th nationally in yards allowed (276.5 ypg) and eighth in points allowed (15.4). Depth is a mini concern entering 2010, but Iowa boasts so many playmakers among the starting four that it should be fine.
- Key returnees: Tackle Riley Reiff, guard Julian Vandervelde
- Key losses: Tackle Bryan Bulaga, guard Dace Richardson, center Rafael Eubanks, tackle Kyle Calloway
- The skinny: Offensive line is undoubtedly the single biggest question mark for Iowa in 2010 as four players with significant starting experience depart, as well as a few reserves. The good news is head coach Kirk Ferentz has a good track record of filling gaps up front. Reiff emerged nicely during Bulaga's three-game absence in 2009 and will play a critical role in protecting quarterback Ricky Stanzi in 2010. Vandervelde also brings experience to the interior line, but Iowa needs more bodies there. Bulaga was the team's most decorated O-lineman, but Eubanks could end up being the toughest one to replace. Keep an eye on players like Josh Koeppel, Adam Gettis, Markus Zusevics and Kyle Haganman this spring.
The Big Ten has 11 players on the East team, and they are:
- Rodger Saffold, OT, Indiana
- Kyle Calloway, OT, Iowa
- Blair White, WR, Michigan State
- Mike Kafka, QB, Northwestern
- Sherrick McManis, CB, Northwestern
- Jim Cordle, OL, Ohio State
- Doug Worthington, DT, Ohio State
- Jeremy Boone, P, Penn State
- Andrew Quarless, TE, Penn State
- Mike Neal, DT, Purdue
- O'Brien Schofield, DE, Wisconsin
It's important to note that Cordle is listed as a center and Schofield as an outside linebacker on the Shrine Game's official roster. Those are the spots where they are auditioning for the next level.
The combine takes place Feb. 24 through March 2 in Indianapolis.
ILLINOIS: G Jon Asamoah, TE Michael Hoomanawanui
INDIANA: DE Jammie Kirlew, DE Greg Middleton, S Nick Polk, OT Rodger Saffold
IOWA: LB Pat Angerer, OT Kyle Calloway, LB A.J. Edds, TE Tony Moeaki, G Dace Richardson
MICHIGAN: DE Brandon Graham, P Zoltan Mesko, RB Brandon Minor
MICHIGAN STATE: K Brett Swenson, WR Blair White
MINNESOTA: WR Eric Decker, LB Simoni Lawrence, LB Nate Triplett
NORTHWESTERN: QB Mike Kafka, CB Sherrick McManis, DE Corey Wootton
OHIO STATE: S Kurt Coleman, K Aaron Pettrey, DT Doug Worthington
PENN STATE: QB Daryll Clark, LB Sean Lee, DT Jared Odrick, TE Andrew Quarless
PURDUE: DT Mike Neal, CB David Pender
WISCONSIN: TE Garrett Graham, DE O'Brien Schofield
Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin all return a large core of players from bowl championship squads. Penn State loses a bit more than the others, but running back Evan Royster's return solidifies the run game for 2010.
So how rosy is the Big Ten's outlook for the 2010 season? Colleague Mark Schlabach likes what he sees.
Schlabach lists three Big Ten teams in the top 10 of his way-too-early Top 25. The Big 12 is the only other league with multiple top 16 teams (Texas and Nebraska).
Rose Bowl champion Ohio State comes in at No. 2, one spot behind reigning national champ Alabama. Don't be surprised if the two teams who won bowl games in Pasadena meet for the national title in Glendale, Ariz., next year.
Iowa comes in at No. 9 in Schlabach's poll, as nine starters return on defense. Wisconsin surges to a No. 10 ranking and will return 10 starters on offense, including running back John Clay, the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year.
Penn State rounds out the Big Ten contingent at No. 19.
Here's what Schlabach wrote about each Big Ten squad:
Ohio State: "Terrelle Pryor finally looked like the quarterback everyone thought he would be, and coach Jim Tressel might finally be ready to open his playbook in 2010, Pryor's third season."
Iowa: "Iowa will have back six starters on offense, but the line must be rebuilt with center Rafael Eubanks, right guard Dace Richardson, left tackle Bryan Bulaga and right tackle Kyle Calloway leaving. Nine starters should return to a very stingy defense."
Wisconsin: "With tailback John Clay coming back, and quarterback Scott Tolzien making big strides at season's end, the Badgers should be very good on offense in 2010."
Penn State: "Penn State coach Joe Paterno needs six more wins to reach 400 career victories, but he'll have to rebuild his team's defense to match this season's 11-2 record."
Matt from Pittsburgh writes: Adam, Where do you see Iowa ranked going into next year? How do you feel about their offensive line situation cause that seems to be their biggest question? Do you see any possibility of them going out and hiring Chuck Long as a QB Coach?
Adam Rittenberg: Iowa will enter the 2010 season ranked anywhere from No. 7 to No. 12. If voters do their homework, they'll see what Iowa has coming back on both sides of the ball. Linebacker and offensive line are the only questionable position groups, and there are several exciting young players in both spots. Offensive line is certainly the biggest uncertainty, though you have to like Iowa's history there. If a few more Riley Reiffs emerge, the Hawkeyes will be fine. As for Chuck Long, he was just named co-offensive coordinator and quarterbacks coach at Kansas, so he's not coming to Iowa right now.
Will from Cambridge, Mass., writes: Hi Adam,Enjoy reading the blog on a daily basis and your level headed analysis. I saw you mentioned Corey Wooten being a day 1 draft pick and am curious if you realize that day 1 is just the first round this year. Day 2 will be 2nd and 3rd round with day 3 being 4-7. I think Wooten has the ability to play in the NFL, but I can't see a team risking a first rounder on him.Regards,Will
Adam Rittenberg: Good catch, Will. I don't see Wootton as a first-rounder, either, so he's a Day 2 pick in my book. Forgot about the change to the draft schedule, as I'm not one of those folks who believe Christmas comes during a weekend in April. Thanks for your note.
Andrew from East Lansing, Mich., writes: So, Adam, given the national outrage directed toward Ohio State and Iowa after they played conservative football for three minutes, I am eagerly awaiting the upcoming columns berating Nick Saban for the most conservative gameplan of the last half-century. Not even Tressel could execute an entire 40 minutes of punts and runs exclusively up the middle, so I am sure the national pundits will be equally vicious in their treatment of Saban, regardless of the game's outcome.
Adam Rittenberg: In case it isn't obvious, Andrew is being sarcastic. But he brings up a good point about Saban, who would have been skewered if Texas had rallied at the end for the victory instead of giving the ball away 14 times in the final three minutes. Then again, he's an SEC coach, so the media would have gone easy on him. Going back to the Ohio State-Iowa game, I had a bigger problem with Ferentz's decisions at the end of regulation than what Tressel did. You expect that from Tressel, but Ferentz had a chance to get to the Rose Bowl but opted for overtime and lost.
Aaron from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Hey Adam, you have mentioned in several posts that Iowa loses 2 starting OL next fall. Am I miscounting? From my knowledge, Bulaga, Richardson, Calloway, and Eubanks all started and are all not returning.
Adam Rittenberg: I've been writing the Hawkeyes will lose three starters: Bulaga, Richardson and Calloway. Rafael Eubanks started every game at center, so that makes four. Then again, Riley Reiff started 11 games and Julian Vandervelde started eight games, so both of them could be considered returning starters next year. I think it's safe to go with either three or four starters gone and two, Reiff and Vandervelde, coming back.
Eric from Navarre, Fla., writes: Adam, Thanks for your blog. It's always my first stop on ESPN. I did have a question regarding the recent bowl success and the Big 10 expansion. Do you think that the recent bowl success will pacify the ADs and will reduce the probability of an expansion? It seemed some the ADs wanted the expansion in order to make the Big 10 more competitive versus the other conferences. As one that wants the expansion, I hope not!
Adam Rittenberg: That's a great question, Eric. I was thinking the exact same thing after the bowls, especially after several teams with long layoffs (Iowa, Ohio State, Penn State) scored huge wins. I don't think it'll slow down the expansion movement too much, especially since the league has already come out publicly and said something. Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez told me in California that all the ADs and the coaches want expansion, so the league will be active in its search. But this year's bowls did somewhat disprove the argument that a long layoff and no championship game hurts these teams and these coaches. Norm Parker and Jim Heacock certainly benefited from having time to prepare for Georgia Tech and Oregon.
- Riley Reiff is moving from left guard to right tackle.
- Kyle Calloway is moving from right tackle to right guard.
- Julian Vandervelde is moving from right guard to left guard.
- Richardson will rotate some with Vandervelde at left guard.
Trick or treat.
1. Iowa in search of style points: After rising to No. 4 in the BCS standings, Iowa can help its cause and possibly win over more pollsters with a convincing win against Indiana (ESPN, noon ET). The Hawkeyes have fallen behind in seven of their eight wins and own only one victory by more than 11 points this fall. Indiana isn't a pushover this season, but the Hoosiers are vulnerable in the secondary. Iowa is banged up entering the game, as freshman running back Brandon Wegher makes his first career start in place of the injured Adam Robinson. The Hawkeyes also could use true freshman backs Brad Rogers and Josh Brown.
2. Bowl play-in game at TCF Bank Stadium: Minnesota and Michigan State both sit at 4-4 entering Saturday night's clash (Big Ten Network, 8 p.m. ET). Much like last week's Indiana-Northwestern game, this contest could determine a postseason berth. Michigan State is clearly the hotter team but must bounce back from a heartbreaking loss to Iowa. Linebacker Greg Jones leads a rapidly improving Spartans defense against a Gophers offense that has produced just seven points in its last two games. Minnesota can't afford a late-season collapse for the second straight season, especially with so much experience on the roster.
3. Joey Elliott vs. Scott Tolzien: One quarterback struggled with turnovers early in the season but has turned things around; the other started fast but has thrown five interceptions in his last two games. Elliott really seems to be hitting his stride, and he leads a confident Purdue team into Camp Randall Stadium, where it won in 2003. Wisconsin has dropped consecutive games and needs Tolzien to limit mistakes against an opportunistic Boilermakers defense. The Badgers' banged-up offensive line should be well rested coming off a bye week and needs to keep Big Ten sacks leader Ryan Kerrigan away from Tolzien.
4. Lions try to avoid Cat trap: Penn State snapped its losing streak at Michigan Stadium in convincing fashion last week. Now the Nittany Lions head to Northwestern's Ryan Field (ESPN, 4:30 p.m. ET), which hasn't been the easiest place to notch big wins. Since joining the Big Ten, Penn State is 4-2 in Evanston, but three of the victories have come by five points or fewer. The Lions rallied for a dramatic win in 2005 to spark their Big Ten title season. Penn State comes in hot, while Northwestern is banged up but revived after the biggest comeback in team history.
5. Quarterback questions in Champaign: Big Ten play hasn't been kind to Michigan freshman quarterback Tate Forcier, who has completed just 38 of 81 attempts with two touchdowns and three interceptions in losses to Michigan State, Iowa and Penn State. Forcier and classmate Denard Robinson need to redeem themselves against Illinois, which ranks last in the Big Ten in both total defense and rush defense. Illinois' starting quarterback once again remains a mystery, as senior Juice Williams and freshman Jacob Charest both will see action.
6. Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor: The Buckeyes don't have much to gain from Saturday's game against New Mexico State, which owns the nation's worst offense and will have a rough time putting up points. But it does provide Pryor another opportunity to make strides before next week's huge trip to No. 12 Penn State. Ohio State needs to decide how it wants to use Pryor the rest of the way. My plan? He runs the ball 17-22 times a game and throws deep when the opportunity presents itself.
7. Gophers begin life without Eric Decker: Minnesota's star senior wide receiver is out for the rest of the regular season after straining his foot in Saturday's loss to Ohio State. Decker has been the Gophers' only consistent weapon on offense this season. Minnesota needs a better performance from junior quarterback Adam Weber and an offensive line that has endured inconsistency throughout the season.
8. Indiana's ends vs. Iowa's tackles: For Indiana to have any shot at an upset in Iowa City, defensive ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton must apply steady pressure to Hawkeyes quarterback Ricky Stanzi. Iowa entered the year with the Big Ten's top tackles tandem in Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Calloway, though the Hawkeyes rank eighth in the Big Ten in sacks allowed (17). Kirlew ranks fourth in the league in both sacks (5.5) and tackles for loss (13.5), so keeping him away from Stanzi will be key.
9. Zook's reception at home: Illinois athletic director Ron Guenther says Ron Zook will be back in 2010, a decision that didn't sit well with much of Illini Nation. It will be interesting to see if the team can show some sign of progress on its home field against a sputtering Michigan team. If it's more of the same, you can bet the boo birds will be out for Zook, whose team is headed to a last-place finish for the third time in his five seasons in Champaign.
10. Penn State vs. Northwestern on money downs: Tom Bradley's defense leads the Big Ten in preventing conversions on both third down (30.4 percent) and fourth down (25 percent). Northwestern has attempted and converted more third downs (51.1 percent) and fourth downs (58.3 percent) than any other league team this season. If the Wildcats' offense can control the clock and stay on the field, it might hang around for a while. If Penn State holds its ground on the money downs, it should pull away.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
MADISON, Wis. -- Greetings from Camp Randall Stadium, site of today's homecoming clash between No. 11 Iowa and Wisconsin.
At 6-0, Iowa is off to its best start since 1985 and carries the nation's second-longest win streak (10 games) into today's contest. The Hawkeyes won last year's game 38-16 in Iowa City to claim the Heartland Trophy.
In a truly amazing statistic, the all-time series is tied at 41-41-2. Wisconsin has a 26-17-1 edge in games played in Madison, though Iowa has won two of its last three games at Camp Randall Stadium.
The weather is perfect, with mostly sunny skies, temperatures in the mid 40s and winds at 8-10 mph.
Injuries: Iowa will be playing its first game without punt and kick returner Paul Chaney Jr., who suffered a season-ending ACL injury last week. Wisconsin running back Zach Brown, who opened the season as the starter, is out with a concussion. Badgers backup right guard Bill Nagy is still fighting a foot injury.
THREE QUICK KEYS FOR IOWA
1. Block O'Brien Schofield -- No one has succeeded this season, and Schofield leads the nation with 16.5 tackles for loss and leads the Big Ten with 6.5 sacks. But Iowa has a good chance to slow down the Badgers' star defensive end with stout offensive tackles Kyle Calloway and Bryan Bulaga.
2. Pick spots to attack -- Wisconsin's defense is extremely opportunistic but will give up big plays from time to time. Iowa's Ricky Stanzi threw the deep ball very well last week and should use tight end Tony Moeaki as much as possible. Stanzi obviously must be careful with his decisions, especially on shorter routes, as interceptions are his bugaboo.
3. Hold the ground against Clay -- Iowa's run defense struggled in the second half last week against Michigan's Brandon Minor and Denard Robinson. Wisconsin's bruising back John Clay often does his best work after halftime, so the Hawkeyes' durability on defense will be tested.
THREE KEYS FOR WISCONSIN
1. Pound away with Clay -- Michigan had success last week with Minor when it went to a conventional I-formation in the third quarter. Wisconsin needs to keep pounding away with Clay and hope to wear down the middle of the Hawkeyes defense. If not, quarterback Scott Tolzien will have to make some tough throws against an Iowa defense filled with playmakers.
2. Make Stanzi win the game -- Stanzi has been very resilient this year, but Iowa is also largely winning games in spite of his mistakes. Wisconsin must take away the run and force Stanzi to win a tough road game. The Badgers have nine interceptions from seven different players, and they can capitalize on mistakes from the opposing quarterback.
3. Don't get killed in special teams -- Special teams are certainly a weakness for Wisconsin and a strength for Iowa, even without Chaney. In a game that likely will be decided by one or two miscues, the Badgers can't afford another breakdown in special teams after allowing a long kick return for a touchdown last week at Ohio State.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
An unlikely union took place Saturday night in the north end zone at Kinnick Stadium. Twice.
|Stephen Mally/Icon SMI|
|Tony Moeaki scored twice in Iowa's win over Michigan on Saturday.|
As Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki caught two long touchdown passes in a win against Michigan, offensive lineman Dace Richardson happily watched from the line of scrimmage before joining the celebration. Moeaki was never touched as he raced for scores of 34 and 42 yards, but anyone who knows his story and Richardson's understands that their path through college football has never been easy.
"I tried to be the first one there, but those receivers always beat me [to the end zone]," the 6-foot-6, 305-pound Richardson said after the game. "I was so happy for him. I've known him for a long time. We grew up together and I'm just happy that he's back playing."
Moeaki and Richardson both starred for Wheaton Warrenville South High School in Chicago's west suburbs. Both were four-star recruits in Iowa's heralded 2005 recruiting class, which arrived after the Hawkeyes posted three consecutive seasons of 10 or more victories.
Both players saw the field as true freshmen for the Hawkeyes. But for most of their careers, neither man could stay healthy.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz confirmed Friday that standout left tackle Bryan Bulaga will miss the Iowa State game after being hospitalized this week with an undisclosed illness.
"Bryan is doing much better, has been released and will accompany the team this weekend," Ferentz said in a statement. "We expect Bryan to return to his normal activities soon."
A source close to Bulaga told me this morning that the Hawkeyes junior is doing well and that rumors of a serious illness have been exaggerated. The source declined to provide details of Bulaga's illness. Still, this is certainly good news for the long term.
Bulaga has started the last 19 games for Iowa and emerged as the Big Ten's premier left tackle and one of the best in the country. I ranked him as the league's fifth best player, and he's drawn comparisons to former Hawkeyes star Robert Gallery. Iowa's offensive line already has dealt with some shuffling this year, as right tackle Kyle Calloway and guard Julian Vandervelde missed the season opener against Northern Iowa.
Both Calloway and Vandervelde will return Saturday, but Iowa needs to replace Bulaga and protect quarterback Ricky Stanzi's blind side. The Hawkeyes also hope to spark a rushing attack that struggled against UNI.
Needless to say, it hasn't been a good start for an Iowa team that doesn't have much margin for error this season. The Hawkeyes need Bulaga back soon.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten lacks an official preseason all-conference team, which would be interesting to see but prevents situations like Tebow-gate. We're a little more bold here at ESPN.com, so here's my All-Big Ten squad. There will be time for debate later. For now, enjoy the names.
QB: Daryll Clark, Penn State
RB: Evan Royster, Penn State
RB: John Clay, Wisconsin
WR: Eric Decker, Minnesota
WR: Arrelious Benn, Illinois
OT: Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
OG: Jon Asamoah, Illinois
C: Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State
OG: Justin Boren, Ohio State
OT: Kyle Calloway, Iowa
TE: Garrett Graham, Wisconsin
DE: Brandon Graham, Michigan
DT: Jared Odrick, Penn State
DT: Mike Neal, Purdue
DE: Corey Wootton, Northwestern
LB: Greg Jones, Michigan State
LB: Navorro Bowman, Penn State
LB: Pat Angerer, Iowa
CB: Amari Spievey, Iowa
CB: Traye Simmons, Minnesota
S: Kurt Coleman, Ohio State
S: Brad Phillips, Northwestern
P: Zoltan Mesko, Michigan
PK: Brett Swenson, Michigan State
KR: Troy Stoudermire, Minnesota
PR: Ray Small*, Ohio State
*-Currently not with team
Penn State leads the way with five selections, followed by Iowa (4), Ohio State (3), Minnesota (3), Illinois (2), Wisconsin (2), Northwestern (2), Michigan (2), Michigan State (2) and Purdue (1).
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Everything on offense starts with what happens up front, and line play will make or break the season for several Big Ten teams. The league loses a handful of standout linemen, including Rimington Trophy winner A.Q. Shipley, but several teams should reload nicely.
There's a lot to like about the top three, and I don't see any truly bad units in the league.
1. Iowa -- Shonn Greene was the nation's most dominant running back last year, but he had plenty of help. Iowa returns three starters and several key reserves from a line that propelled Greene to 13 consecutive 100-yard rushing performances. Junior Bryan Bulaga is the league's premier left tackle, while Kyle Calloway provides depth on the other side. The Hawkeyes boast more guard depth than any Big Ten team, a group that includes Dace Richardson, who has resurrected his career after a string of injuries.
2. Ohio State -- A major disappointment in 2008, Ohio State's line should be much improved thanks to experience, the addition of guard Justin Boren and some excellent recruiting. Boren brings a much-needed spark to the line and impressed just about everyone this spring. Center Mike Brewster is a year older, and senior Jim Cordle has shown impressive versatility in shifting to right tackle. The left tackle spot concerns me a bit, but Ohio State has recruited extremely well here.
3. Wisconsin -- The Badgers lose starting guards Andy Kemp and Kraig Urbik, but they always find a way to control the line of scrimmage and return several key pieces. Center John Moffitt and left tackle Gabe Carimi will contend for All-Big Ten honors, and Bill Nagy looks solid at one of the guard spots. If right tackle Josh Oglesby takes a step forward and lives up to his potential, Wisconsin will once again have one of the league's top lines.
4. Northwestern -- The team hopes its skill-position losses will be offset by a much better offensive line, which returns four starters. Northwestern did a good job of limiting sacks last year but should be much better at staying on blocks and buying time for athletic quarterback Mike Kafka. Left tackle Al Netter and center Ben Burkett are both All-Big Ten candidates, and the Wildcats boast plenty of depth after recruiting extremely well to this position.
5. Michigan -- No group will make a bigger jump in Year 2 of the spread offense than the line, which returns four starters. Michigan should be very solid up the middle with center David Molk and guards Stephen Schilling and David Moosman. If the Marks (Ortmann and Huyge) hold up at the tackle spots, a run game led by Brandon Minor will surge. Despite several player departures, Michigan has recruited several standout linemen who will provide depth this fall.
6. Michigan State -- I like the Joels (Foreman and Nitchman), and left tackle Rocco Cironi returns from a shoulder injury, but this group still needs to prove itself. Despite Javon Ringer's success last fall, the line was just average and must fill several gaps. Hopes are high for J'Michael Deane and Jared McGaha after spring ball, and if those players make progress Michigan State will move up the list.
7. Penn State -- The line rivals the secondary as Penn State's biggest concern entering the fall. In addition to Shipley, the Lions lose tackle Gerald Cadogan and guard Rich Ohrnberger. Only one starter (right tackle Dennis Landolt) returns to the same position he occupied in 2008. Stefen Wisniewski will be fine at center, but Penn State needs tackle DeOn'tae Pannell and others to make a lot of progress during camp.
8. Illinois -- With so much talent at the skill positions, expectations will be high for the Illini line, which drew mixed reviews in 2008. Right guard Jon Asamoah will contend for All-Big Ten honors, and Illinois really likes young right tackle Jeff Allen. The team must fill a big hole at left tackle, though veteran Eric Block slides over from guard to center. This could end up being a very respectable group.
9. Minnesota -- Perhaps no offensive line in the Big Ten intrigues me more than Minnesota's, which is going through a major transition in both scheme and technique with assistant Tim Davis. The Gophers are returning to their roots as a power-run offense, but they'll have to adjust quickly to all the changes. Left tackle Matt Stommes could be a pro prospect if things fall right, and the mammoth Jeff Wills lines up on the other side of the line. Notre Dame transfer Matt Carufel joins the mix as a starting guard.
10. Purdue -- Injuries decimated the two-deep last year, and Purdue used seven different starting lineups up front. The Boilers are much healthier entering the fall and should be much better. Young players like right guard Ken Plue gained valuable experience last fall, and he rejoins veterans Jared Zwilling, Zach Reckman and Zach Jones. The big question is how quickly the group jells as Purdue wants to stress the run game more this fall.
11. Indiana -- Much like Purdue, injuries hit Indiana's line especially hard last fall. The Hoosiers have two proven veterans in left tackle Rodger Saffold and center Pete Saxon, both of whom have started for three seasons. If those two can lead the way and young players like Justin Pagan and Will Matte continue to develop, Indiana will be much improved here.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Like many of you, I'll be watching the All-Star Game tonight in St. Louis, and I thought it'd be fun to do a Big Ten football version on today's blog.
Before getting to the selections, let's get into the always tricky process of dividing the league into two teams. As we all know, the Big Ten doesn't do us any favors with an odd number of teams, and the theories on how to split the league are seemingly endless. For this exercise, let's go with North and South designations. The North squad will be made up of six Big Ten teams, while the South draws from only five squads but can access more players from contending teams.
The geography isn't perfect by a long shot -- yes, I know Ann Arbor is south of East Lansing -- but here's the breakdown:
North: Minnesota, Wisconsin, Michigan, Northwestern, Purdue, Penn State
South: Iowa, Illinois, Michigan State, Ohio State, Indiana
Now for the lineups.
QB: Daryll Clark (Penn State), backup is Adam Weber (Minnesota)
RB: Evan Royster (Penn State), John Clay (Wisconsin)
WR: Eric Decker (Minnesota), Keith Smith (Purdue)
TE: Garrett Graham (Wisconsin)
C: Stefen Wisniewski (Penn State)
OL: Stephen Schilling (Michigan), Dennis Landolt (Penn State), Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin), Al Netter (Northwestern)
DE: Brandon Graham (Michigan), Corey Wootton (Northwestern)
DT: Jared Odrick (Penn State), Mike Neal (Purdue)
LB: Navorro Bowman (Penn State), Sean Lee (Penn State), Obi Ezeh (Michigan)
CB: Traye Simmons (Minnesota), Sherrick McManis (Northwestern)
S: Brad Phillips (Northwestern), Torri Williams (Purdue)
K: Phillip Welch (Wisconsin)
P: Zoltan Mesko (Michigan)
Returns: Troy Stoudermire (Minnesota)
QB:Terrelle Pryor (Ohio State), backup is Ricky Stanzi (Iowa)
RB: Brandon Saine (Ohio State), Jewel Hampton (Iowa)
WR: Arrelious Benn (Illinois), Mark Dell (Michigan State)
TE: Michael Hoomanawanui (Illinois)
C: Mike Brewster (Ohio State)
OL: Bryan Bulaga (Iowa), Justin Boren (Ohio State), Kyle Calloway (Iowa), Jeff Allen (Illinois)
DE: Jammie Kirlew (Indiana), Thad Gibson (Ohio State)
DT: Corey Liuget (Illinois), Doug Worthington (Ohio State)
LB: Greg Jones (Michigan State), Pat Angerer (Iowa), Matt Mayberry (Indiana)
CB: Amari Spievey (Iowa), Chris L. Rucker (Michigan State)
S: Kurt Coleman (Ohio State), Anderson Russell (Ohio State)
K: Brett Swenson (Michigan State)
P: Ryan Donahue (Iowa)
Returns: Ray Small (Ohio State)
My thoughts: I like the matchup, and not just because I created it. The North squad has a stronger offensive backfield but more questions along the offensive line. The South team lacks a proven running back but boasts two of the league's most talented skill players in Pryor and Benn. Plus, the South team has a stronger offensive line led by Iowa tackles Bulaga and Calloway. Both defenses boast strong linebackers. The North team gets the edge up front with Wootton, Graham and Odrick, while the South squad boasts a very strong secondary. The special teams are pretty even, although Stoudermire's breakaway ability and Mesko's consistency give the North a slight edge.
Prediction: North wins, 24-21