Big Ten: Lou Eliades
Players not included on the original list appear in bold.
- CB Travon Bellamy, St. Louis Rams
- WR Jarred Fayson: New Orleans Saints
- G Randall Hunt: St. Louis Rams
- WR/QB Eddie McGee: Oakland Raiders
- DE Clay Nurse: New England Patriots
- P Ryan Donahue: Detroit Lions
- LB Jeremiah Hunter: New Orleans Saints
- TE Allen Reisner: Minnesota Vikings
- LS Andrew Schulze: Atlanta Falcons
- LB Jeff Tarpinian: New England Patriots
- T Perry Dorrestein: New York Jets
- CB James Rogers: Denver Broncos
- TE Martell Webb: Philadelphia Eagles
- WR Mark Dell: Denver Broncos
- TE Charlie Gantt: Kansas City Chiefs
- LB Eric Gordon: Jacksonville Jaguars
- T D.J. Young: Arizona Cardinals
- K Adi Kunalic: Carolina Panthers
- TE Mike McNeill: Indianapolis Colts
- DE Pierre Allen: Seattle Seahawks
- G Ricky Henry: Chicago Bears
- QB Zac Lee: Seattle Seahawks
- T D.J. Jones: Miami Dolphins
- S Rickey Thenarse: Seattle Seahawks
- DT Corbin Bryant: Chicago Bears
- LB Quentin Davie: Detroit Lions
- 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
- WR Brett Brackett: Miami Dolphins
- LB Chris Colasanti: Indianapolis Colts
- T Lou Eliades: Oakland Raiders
- LB Bani Gbadyu: Oakland Raiders
- DT Ollie Ogbu: Indianapolis Colts
The school confirmed that starting free safety Nick Sukay will undergo season-ending surgery this week to repair a torn pectoral muscle suffered in Saturday's loss to Illinois. Sukay will need a minimum of six months to rehab the injury, according to the Penn State team doctor.
He's the third Penn State player to suffer a season-ending injury, joining right tackle Lou Eliades (knee) and tight end Garry Gilliam (knee).
Here's the outlook for the others:
OUT FOR TWO WEEKS OR MORE
- DE Jack Crawford (foot)
- S Andrew Dailey (stinger)
- LB Bani Gbadyu (calf)
- DT Jordan Hill (ankle)
- LB Gerald Hodges (leg)
- LB Michael Mauti (ankle)
Sukay's loss is a significant blow for Penn State, which has played well in the secondary for much of the season. Not having Latimore for at least two more weeks also hurts, but the rest of the news might not be that bad. Some had feared Crawford would miss the rest of the season, and if Penn State can get Gbadyu, Hodges and Mauti back soon, it has a much better chance to hold up on defense after the bye week.
1. John Clay vs. Greg Jones: The Big Ten's top running back (Clay) goes up against the league's top linebacker (Jones) in a matchup football purists will love. Clay has rushed for 253 yards and two touchdowns in two career games against Michigan State, while Jones has recorded 27 tackles in those matchups. After limiting Clay's carries a bit during nonconference play, Wisconsin likely will feed him a lot at Spartan Stadium, particularly in the second half. If Jones and the Spartans defense keep Clay in check, they'll have a good chance to win.
3. Fireworks in Bloomington: Expect a ton of points in the Michigan-Indiana game, as quarterbacks Denard Robinson and Ben Chappell lead potent offenses against shaky defenses at Memorial Stadium. Robinson will play after suffering a bruised left knee against Bowling Green, and he faces an Indiana defense that ranks 10th in the league against the run (177 ypg). Chappell leads the Big Ten and ranks 10th nationally in passing (296.7 ypg). He and his talented receiving corps face the Big Ten's worst pass defense in Michigan (264.8 ypg allowed). This could easily become a basketball score.
4. Improved Illini defense tested: All the early signs point to some genuine improvement with an Illinois defense that finished last in the league in both points allowed and yards allowed in 2009. But as coach Ron Zook said this week, "This will be the first major, major test." Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor leads the nation's No. 8 offense into Champaign on Saturday, and Illinois will be challenged to slow down the Heisman Trophy candidate, who accounted for six touchdowns (4 pass, 1 rush, 1 receiving) last week. To have any shot, the Illini need continued playmaking from defensive backs Travon Bellamy, Tavon Wilson and Justin Green.
5. Gophers on life support: There's little joy in Minneapolis about the Golden Gophers after a 1-3 start that includes three consecutive home losses. Despite coach Tim Brewster's perpetual positivity, players are aware of the gloom on the outside. Minnesota really needs something good to happen early in Saturday's Big Ten opener against Northwestern. If things start to go bad, the boos likely will rain down and it's hard to imagine the team turning things around. Minnesota really could use some big plays to lift the mood in TCF Bank Stadium.
6. Clayborn digs in: Penn State hasn't forgotten what Adrian Clayborn did last September at Beaver Stadium. Lions left tackle Quinn Barham put a picture of Clayborn on his cell phone as a reminder of what he'd face this fall. But Clayborn has been relatively quiet this season, as constant double teams have limited him to 15 tackles and no sacks through the first four games. Clayborn is due for a big night and he'll set his sights on Penn State freshman quarterback Rob Bolden. Penn State has protected Bolden well, allowing only one sack, but the Lions are shorthanded after losing right tackle Lou Eliades to a season-ending torn ACL.
7. Dantonio begins his return: Michigan State's Mark Dantonio will be in the coaches' booth Saturday at Spartan Stadium less than two weeks after suffering a mild heart attack and undergoing surgery. Dantonio said Tuesday that offensive coordinator Don Treadwell will continue to handle head-coaching duties as needed, as Dantonio eases into his full-time role again. "Guys are really excited to see him around," Greg Jones told me. "You feel like the tempo's picking up even more. Guys are going to really, really feel his presence more than they did last week."
8. Northwestern turns to Trumpy: Northwestern has been looking for an answer at running back for a year and a half. As good as quarterback Dan Persa has been, the Wildcats need a legit ground game to join the Big Ten's elite this fall. After Arby Fields' early struggles, Northwestern will turn to redshirt freshman Mike Trumpy, who provided a boost with 53 second-half rush yards last week against Central Michigan. Trumpy and Jacob Schmidt were elevated to co-starters on the depth chart, as Northwestern faces a Minnesota team that allowed Northern Illinois' Chad Spann to run wild (223 yards) last wek.
9. Cousins, Tolzien in crunch time: Both Michigan State and Wisconsin are run-first teams boasting a multitude of capable backs, but I really believe Saturday's game comes down to which quarterback makes plays in the fourth quarter. Both Kirk Cousins and Scott Tolzien have played well the last two weeks, combining for 998 pass yards with eight touchdowns and only one interception. Cousins needs to prove himself in the clutch, while Tolzien looks for a signature road win in a place where Wisconsin has struggled. He'll get top receiver Nick Toon back from a toe injury.
10. Buckeyes need answers at RB: Perhaps Buckeyes fans are nitpicking, or maybe they have a point about Brandon Saine and Dan Herron. Either way, Ohio State fans want to see more production out of the veteran running backs, or increased opportunities for dynamic redshirt freshman Jaamal Berry, who has 15 carries for 177 rush yards (11.8 ypc) this season. Coach Jim Tressel is loyal to his veteran players, and it will be interesting to watch what he does if Saine and Herron start slow against Illinois.
Scott from Lansing, Mich., writes: Seriously Adam, what this week separated Michigan and Michigan State in the power rankings? What?
Adam Rittenberg: Michigan is more dynamic on offense and has a quarterback that pretty much won a game single-handedly (Denard Robinson at Notre Dame). While I love Michigan State's offense as well, especially the run game, Michigan has more firepower right now. I also want to see Spartans quarterback Kirk Cousins win a big game in the clutch. I'm a huge Cousins fans, but he needs to make plays under pressure. It could happen Saturday against Wisconsin. Listen, there isn't much separating Michigan and Michigan State, or Michigan/Michigan State and Penn State. But I vowed to eliminate the ties in the power rankings, so you have a little separation.
Bill from Plowville, Pa., writes: Eliades' injury seems like a pretty important event, given the run game the past few weeks. Any reason why he didn't make it to the news roundup?
Adam Rittenberg: I already addressed Lou Eliades' season-ending injury in lunch links, in case you missed it. This is certainly a blow for Penn State, which is still building chemistry along its offensive line and certainly could use Eliades' experience and leadership. The timing also is unfortunate, as Penn State faces arguably the nation's best defensive line Saturday night in Iowa City. Galen Hall and Jay Paterno need to get creative in finding ways to protect freshman quarterback Rob Bolden from the Hawkeyes' D-linemen. Penn State also must the ball effectively to keep the pressure off of Bolden in a tough road environment. Not a good situation.
Scott from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Love the blog but Best BigTen stadium: Ohio Stadium? And then you mention Camp Randall basicly as a number 2 choice. What about THE BIG HOUSE...are you kidding me? Your explanation was of the environment...but that was already a topic of "Game Day Atmosphere". I bet you all 113,090 fans on September 4th would be appalled by this choice!
Adam Rittenberg: Trust me, Scott, doing this blog for two plus years, I'm used to having tens of thousands of people mad at me. It was unquestionably a great atmosphere in the Bigger House on Sept. 4, but Michigan Stadium has a ways to go before matching Ohio Stadium in terms of the intimidation factor. In building my program, I want the most intimidating home venue possible. Right now, it's The Shoe, followed by Beaver Stadium and Camp Randall Stadium. Michigan is getting there, and the introduction of night football in 2011 will help the process.
Tim from Austin writes: Northwestern: Still not ranked?? Are you kidding me?
Adam Rittenberg: The Wildcats don't deserve to be ranked just yet. If they take of business against struggling Minnesota and Purdue the next two weeks, they'll be ranked when they host Michigan State on Oct. 23. I was a bit surprised to see Northwestern receive only four votes in this week's AP Poll (the coaches give the Wildcats a little more love). Northwestern could have helped itself with a more convincing win against Central Michigan, a team it led 30-13 in the fourth quarter before allowing two late touchdowns. Then again, the Wildcats will take any win they can get, especially one that preserves a spotless nonconference record for just the second time since 1963.
Kelly from Manassas, Va., writes: I think you took it too far when you said Iowa enters Saturday's game with most of the advantages. Penn State holds many key advantages. Penn State enters the game with the better defense and for the first time in several years, an edge on special teams, which cost them last year's game against a lesser Iowa squad. Penn State also has a big advantage in team speed which they haven't used the last two years against lesser Iowa teams due to field conditions and the weather is looking ideal for Saturday. They also have a big edge in terms of talent, especially at the offensive skill positions and in the secondary. If Penn State wins on Saturday, it will not be an upset.
Adam Rittenberg: Here you go again, Kelly. Penn State doesn't have the better defense at this point. Iowa has a more dynamic defensive line and better safeties, led by Tyler Sash. I give Penn State the edge at cornerback and maybe linebacker, although I need to see more from both groups. Penn State certainly has a better situation at kicker entering the game, as Collin Wagner has been excellent. But Iowa has the better punter (Ryan Donahue). The return teams are about even. As for the "big advantage in team speed," I don't agree. Both teams have speed, and I'd like to see a lot more of Devon Smith with the ball. Penn State doesn't have a big advantage. While I really like Penn State's receiving corps, Iowa has Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt, plus a better tight end in Allen Reisner, who already has 14 receptions. Can Penn State win at Kinnick? Absolutely. But Kelly, you're just wrong on this one, and most of your fellow Penn State fans would agree that a win Saturday constitutes an upset.
Mark from Minneapolis writes: Adam--Who lasts longer? The Twins in the playoffs or Tim Brewster at Minnesota?
Adam Rittenberg: Wow, Mark, that's harsh. Despite my White Sox ties, I'd like to see the Twins finally make a good run into the playoffs. The Twins have owned the Sox, but their playoff performance has been pretty pathetic. As for Brewster, there's still a lot of time to get this thing turned around, but he has to beat Northwestern on Saturday or archrival Wisconsin next week in Madison. If not, I just can't see this Gophers team turning things around. I'm not a proponent of in-season coaching changes, and Minnesota's situation with the president and AD seems a bit up in the air. I don't think we'll see any decisions until November.
- In case you missed them, Big Ten power rankings from yours truly, the Big Ten Network's Brent Yarina and the Chicago Sun-Times.
- As originally feared, Penn State right tackle Lou Eliades has a torn ACL and will miss the rest of the season. One Alabama writer isn't taking the Nittany Lions too seriously right now. After a big performance against Temple, Lions running back Evan Royster talks about a rough few weeks, Cory Giger writes in The Altoona Mirror.
- Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio spent Saturday afternoon at a high school football game, where his daughter was named homecoming queen, Matt Charboneau writes in The Detroit News. Weekly grades for the Spartans from the Lansing State Journal's Joe Rexrode.
- Iowa is in the unfamiliar role of favorite against Penn State this week, Mike Hlas writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. The real tests begin for the Hawkeyes in Big Ten play, Sean Keeler writes in the Des Moines Register.
- Despite another shoulder surgery, Wisconsin star linebacker Chris Borland has no doubt he'll be back in 2011, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. We love grades, and here are some for Wisconsin from Tom Mulhern of the Wisconsin State Journal.
- Tate Forcier remains 100 percent committed to Michigan after an impressive performance against Bowling Green, Michael Rosenberg writes in the Detroit Free Press. After last year's Big Ten collapse, Michigan players don't think much of their 4-0 start, annarbor.com's Pete Bigelow writes.
- Every team needs style points to reach its ultimate goal, including Ohio State, Bob Hunter writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Minnesota's Tim Brewster is fighting for his coaching life right now, Phil Miller writes in the Star Tribune. According to Brewster, receiver Troy Stoudermire wants to remain a Gopher, Miller writes.
- It looks like bad news will come in threes for Purdue, which won't have quarterback Robert Marve (knee) for a while, Mike Carmin writes in The (Lafayette) Journal and Courier.
- More grades! The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens grades Indiana after three games.
- Nebraska's swan song in the Big 12 could be memorable, and a Huskers-Ohio State matchup in the BCS title game wouldn't be too shabby, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer.
- Northwestern's schedule sets up for an even stronger start, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Illinois' offense will be challenged this week against the high-octane Ohio State offense, Lindsey Willhite writes in the Daily Herald.
Senior right tackle Lou Eliades suffered a serious knee injury against the Owls. Coach Joe Paterno said after the game that Eliades likely tore his ACL, adding that the veteran is "probably out for the year."
Eliades started at right guard last season before moving to tackle.
"It definitely hurts," Penn State center Doug Klopacz said when asked about Eliades' injury. "We're losing a great player, we're going to miss him because he was a big part of our line. We were coming together as a unit, feeling good about ourselves."
Penn State's offensive line has been far from dominant this season, and Eliades' injury raises more concern. Eliades and Stefen Wisniewski provided veteran leadership up front, and Wisniewski and Klopacz now need to carry the burden.
Up next: a date with Iowa and arguably the nation's best defensive line.
Several Penn State fans have asked me this question in recent days, and it's a pressing one after the first two games. Speaking of pressing, that might be the problem right now for Royster, who has only 72 rushing yards on 20 carries (3.6 ypr) in the first two contests.
Penn State coach Joe Paterno expressed some concern about Royster's weight last week -- Royster added 5-10 pounds during the offseason and checks in at 228. Asked again about his star running back Tuesday, Paterno noted that Penn State has yet to establish the type of rushing attack where Royster can thrive.
"Royster is a kind of a 'pick 'em and spot 'em, give me a crack and I'll go' guy," Paterno said Tuesday. "He's not a guy that's going to run over you. Doesn't have great speed. Has good speed. But he's got good instincts. He obviously catches a ball well when we use him as a receiver. We haven't used him yet as a receiver.
"But I think he's doing all right."
Paterno doesn't sound overly concerned with Royster. Perhaps the issue is with the offensive line.
Penn State shuffled around the personnel entering the season after struggling against elite defenses in 2009 (Ohio State, Iowa). Seniors Stefen Wisniewski and Lou Eliades were among those moving to different spots.
While the line hasn't been dominant so far this fall, it hasn't surrendered a sack.
And true freshman Silas Redd is having little trouble finding room, racking up 46 yards on eight carries. Paterno saw some good things from the line against Alabama but reiterated that Penn State's offense has been limited in what it can do.
Is it Royster or the line?
It's not clear just yet, but I know this: If Royster doesn't get going in the next two weeks, Penn State could have a very rough time in Big Ten play. Freshman quarterback Rob Bolden will get better and better, but Penn State has to have consistent production from its senior running back.
The good thing is Saturday's game against Kent State (ESPN2, noon ET) provides a barometer of sorts. Don't laugh. After two games, Kent State leads the nation in rushing defense (11 ypg).
While that total includes a five-sack performance in the opener -- pass-happy Murray State finished with minus-65 rush yards -- Kent State also limited Boston College to 87 rush yards in last week's 26-13 loss.
"BC's a big, strong football team," Paterno said. "They can run the ball, but [Kent State] made them throw the football. We've just got to get better all around."
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 ...
(Growing up in Berkeley, I remember sneaking onto Cal's practice field in the mid-1990s and seeing the face of Arizona quarterback Dan White -- that week's opponent -- taped onto blocking sleds.)
Penn State offensive tackle Quinn Barham is taking things to a new level this summer.
Every time Barham checks his cell phone, he sees Adrian Clayborn or Marcell Dareus. Barham put pictures of the star defensive ends from Iowa (Clayborn) and Alabama (Dareus) on his cell phone background.
"I've had [the pictures] up all summer, just as motivation," Barham told me last week. "Clayborn’s a great player; the guy at Alabama, Dareus, he’s a great player. So all those guys, just seeing what makes them great and learning how to beat them can also help me become a better player as well.
"I know they’re going to be working just as hard as I am, if not harder. That’s going to push me to work harder and learn different tricks and things to do to beat them and become a better offensive tackle."
You wouldn't blame Penn State players if they never wanted to see Clayborn again. The Iowa star had the decisive punt block and return for a touchdown in last year's Hawkeyes victory at Beaver Stadium.
But Barham sees an opportunity Oct. 2 in Iowa City.
"He’s a great player," Barham said. "They say he’s going to be a top-10 draft pick, so I would love to go against him."
Clayborn and Dareus won't be the only defensive ends to have their pictures on Barham's phone.
"I’m going to put up different defensive ends as each game goes by," Barham said. "I’m going to have a Youngstown State defensive end up pretty soon."
The 6-foot-3, 298-pound Barham is expected to make his first career start Sept. 4 against Youngstown State after backing up Lou Eliades as right guard this spring.
The cell phone pics are only one way Barham is preparing for an enhanced role. He has worked in camp on expanding his vision.
While he recognizes the importance of handling his individual assignment, Barham knows that the elite offensive linemen have total awareness of what's happening around them.
"In the past, I never would see everything on the field," he said. "Now I’m learning to see everything and how everything clicks: recognizing blitzes, recognizing coverages and different lineups, and how to adjust to them on the fly. As a young offensive lineman, you don’t necessarily pay attention to all that at first. You’re just so focused on your assignment. But once you see the field and how everything works together, you understand how to work together and how the chemistry can build.
"We’re trying to be better than last year’s O-line. We’ve got big goals, and we’re trying to reach ‘em."
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.
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.
Wisniewski, a consensus first-team All-Big Ten center in 2009, is once again practicing at guard this spring in Happy Valley. He made the move after the Nittany Lions' fourth practice, as senior Doug Klopacz is working as the team's starting center.
Wisniewski started 12 games at guard in 2008 before shifting to center last year as Penn State had to replace Rimington Trophy winner A.Q. Shipley.
"I know the coaches like me at guard," Wisniewski told me. "They think I'm a better guard than I am a center, which I think I agree with. I've been playing exclusively guard, but I don't know for sure if that's a permanent move."
Wisniewski admits he's more comfortable at guard but would move back to center without objection if it was what the team needed. After some initial struggles with the switch to center, he settled in more as the season went on, despite being a "more natural" guard.
The switch back is one of several tweaks coaches have made to the line, as they hope to find the right combination to protect a young quarterback in 2009. Lou Eliades, the team's starting right guard last season, has shifted to right tackle. DeOn'tae Pannell, who started four games at right tackle last year, is working at left guard this spring but could be moved back to the edge of the line. Wisniewski recognized both Eliades and Pannell for their play this spring.
Sophomore Quinn Barham has been working as Penn State's top left tackle, and while he lacks experience, he brings "that left-tackle build," according to Wisniewksi, and good athleticism to the position.
Is Penn State's line shuffling complete? Probably not. Given the importance of building chemistry up front, Wisniewski and his line mates would like to see a resolution soon.
"I'd certainly like to see that as soon as possible," he said, "but however long it takes us to figure out who our best five are, we want to have our best five out there. I'd imagine those kinds of decisions will be made finally during camp in the fall.
"If it would happen earlier in camp, it would make things easier for us, definitely."
Nine of the 11 Big Ten teams provided media access and/or statistics from Saturday's scrimmages. Michigan's official Web site has some video and tidbits from Saturday's 115-play closed scrimmage, and Mgoblog has a few reports as well. Iowa's official site also has some video and interviews from Saturday's scrimmage.
Here are some tidbits from the other nine scrimmages, from reports around the league:
Illinois let its quarterbacks get hit Saturday, but the offense delivered most of the damage. Nathan Scheelhaase continued to make a strong case for the starting job with a 40-yard run, a 30-yard touchdown pass to Zach Becker and a 22-yard pass to A.J. Jenkins. Jacob Charest also remains very much alive in the QB race and connected on several long passes, including a 50-yarder to Jenkins. The running game also looked good as Mikel Leshoure had a 65-yard run. Cornerback Tavon Wilson provided a defensive highlight by picking off a Scheelhaase pass. It's encouraging to see this type of progress from Illinois' offense, which lost several key pieces from 2009 and returns virtually no experience at quarterback.
Defense is the primary focus for IU this spring, and the unit stepped up in Saturday's scrimmage, holding the offense to only one touchdown. Defensive tackle Adam Replogle recorded two sacks and three tackles for loss, and linebacker Jeff Thomas, a junior college transfer, forced a fumble. Safety Kyle Dietrick recorded the lone interception of the scrimmage. The Hoosiers continue to see good things from freshman running back Antonio Banks, who had 42 rushing yards and a touchdown Saturday. The backup quarterback competition continued as Dusty Kiel recorded a touchdown pass and a 35-yard completion, while Edward Wright-Baker completed 8 of 10 pass attempts. Nick Zachery, who moved from safety to wide receiver just last week, had four catches for 46 yards.
The Spartans' defense rallied to win the jersey scrimmage as a secondary that struggled mightily last fall saw two players, Marcus Hyde and Mitchell White, return interceptions for touchdowns. Hyde picked off starter Kirk Cousins, while White intercepted an Andrew Maxwell pass and raced 40 yards for a touchdown. Cornerback Chris L. Rucker also had a big day with an interception, a pass breakup and a tackle for loss. Michigan State's defense got a big lift from end Denzel Drone, who stuffed Edwin Baker on fourth-and-1 from the 1-yard line to seal the win. Cousins completed 19 of 30 passes for 188 yards with two touchdowns, including a 30-yarder to Keith Nichol, and two interceptions. Maxwell, who played some with the first-team offense, threw for 199 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Wide receivers Keshawn Martin (12 catches, 109 yards), Bennie Fowler (nine catches, 84 yards, 48-yard rush) and Nichol (four catches, 70 yards) stood out.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
I guess we shouldn't be totally surprised that Penn State and Illinois have combined for only 10 first-half points. The Lions have struggled up front all season, while Illinois came into the game with just one touchdown against an FBS team.
Defense has ruled the day so far as Penn State leads 7-3 at halftime. Both teams have actually moved the ball, combining for 392 total yards, but both have stalled in plus territory. While Evan Royster has been kept at bay, Stephfon Green sparked the Lions' offense with a 52-yard touchdown run. He received a great block from lineman Lou Eliades on the play, and the sophomore has 81 yards on just seven carries. Credit Illinois' defense for hanging tough in this one.
For Illinois, it seems pretty simple: Turn Juice Williams loose and stretch the field. When Illinois attacks downfield to wideout Arrelious Benn and others, the offense seems to move well. When Mike Schultz gets conservative and calls zone run after zone run, the offense seems to stall. Penn State's linebackers have done a decent job, but the secondary looks vulnerable to me. Illinois really missed an opportunity for more points at the end of the half.
Penn State's Week 1 depth chart is out, and most of the familiar names are where they're supposed to be: quarterback Daryll Clark, running back Evan Royster, linebackers Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee and defensive tackle Jared Odrick.
There were a few notable items on the two-deep for Saturday's opener against Akron:
- Juniors Graham Zug and Brett Brackett and sophomore Derek Moye are listed as the starters at the three wide receiver spots. Backups are Chaz Powell (Brackett), A.J. Price (Moye) and Patrick Mauti (Zug). Also, it was a bit surprising to see Mickey Shuler and Andrew Quarless listed as co-starters at tight end. Quarless is on the preseason watch list for the Mackey Award.
- Center Stefen Wisniewski and left tackle Dennis Landolt are no-surprise starters, but here's the rest of the revamped line: right tackle DeOn'tae Pannell, right guard Lou Eliades and left guard Matt Stankiewitch.
- A lot of people will be rooting for fifth-year senior Jerome Hayes, who's listed as a starting defensive end opposite promising sophomore Jack Crawford. Hayes has had some terrible luck with knee injuries and gets one final chance to shine this fall.
- Penn State's new-look secondary features Knowledge Timmons and D'Anton Lynn as the cornerbacks and Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay as the safeties. Timmons is listed ahead of senior A.J. Wallace, who likely will be suspended for the first game or two because of cutting class this summer.
- Backup running back Stephfon Green and Powell will handle kickoff returns, while Astorino serves as the punt returner. Former star wide receiver Derrick Williams was a difference maker at both spots last year.
- Junior Collin Wagner is listed as the starting place-kicker ahead of true freshman Anthony Fera.