Big Ten: Mario Goins

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A busy news day in the Big Ten continues at Wisconsin, which loses cornerback Mario Goins and reportedly picks up a nonconference game for 2010. 

Head coach Bret Bielema confirmed Goins' departure Monday, granting the sophomore an unconditional release. Goins started six games for the Badgers last season, recording 20 tackles and one pass breakup. He sat out spring practice because of academic struggles. 

Goins' departure leaves Wisconsin a little thin at cornerback. Only four players have game experience, including projected starters Aaron Henry and Niles Brinkley. Henry comes off an ACL injury that kept him sidelined for all of last season. 

Meanwhile, The Arizona Republic reports that San Jose State will play Wisconsin in 2010 after the Spartans dropped a game against Arizona State (a team that, coincidentally, also faces the Badgers in 2010). Bielema didn't confirm the addition of the San Jose State game, but Wisconsin's deep pockets for guarantee games reportedly sealed the deal. 

In June, San Jose State dropped Stanford in 2010 for a game at Alabama that reportedly will pay close to $1 million. Reports from Wisconsin are that San Jose State will play the Badgers instead of ASU for up to twice the $450,000 guarantee it had from ASU. 

InsideSparta.com reports that Wisconsin and San Jose State will play on Sept. 11, 2010, in Madison.

Though San Jose State is an improving program, the news probably won't excite Badgers fans, who want to see their team upgrade its nonconference schedule. The series with Arizona State should help, but Wisconsin hasn't played two non-league games against teams from BCS conferences in the same season since 2003 (West Virginia, North Carolina). 

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Wisconsin sophomore cornerback Mario Goins remains suspended from the team due to lingering academic issues, head coach Bret Bielema announced Tuesday.

Goins, who started six games last season and recorded 20 tackles, was declared academically ineligible for the Champs Sports Bowl and has yet to improve his standing in time for spring practice, which began Tuesday. Bielema said Goins' suspension will run through the end of the semester, at which point he'll be re-evaluated.

"Mario has done some good things in some areas but hasn't done what he needs to get done in all areas," Bielema said.

Sophomore cornerback Aaron Henry has returned from lingering knee problems and entered spring ball as a starter opposite junior Niles Brinkley. Antonio Fenelus provides depth at corner, but Wisconsin could use Goins back in uniform for preseason camp.

Bielema also announced that defensive end Richard Garner and defensive tackle Jasper Grimes have left the program.  

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Wisconsin junior quarterback Dustin Sherer will make his second consecutive start Saturday against Illinois (ESPN2, noon ET). The bigger question is who will join him in the Badgers' offensive backfield.

Junior running back P.J. Hill injured his left leg in the second quarter of last week's game against Iowa. The injury is in the same area that forced Hill to miss 13 quarters last season. Hill, a three-year starter, broke his tibia in preseason camp in 2005 and underwent surgery.

Badgers head coach Bret Bielema said today that Hill's status for the Illinois game is unclear.

"It's really in P.J.'s hands," Bielema said. "We did X-rays on it and obviously everything we could do to test from a perspective of trying to see if anything got damaged. It's just a difficult deal when there's direct contact on it. We padded it up, did everything we can to protect it, but if he gets hit just in the right way ... It's just a situation where he has to determine what kind of tolerance he has."

Sherer is listed as the definitive starter on this week's depth chart after completing 17 of 34 passes for 161 yards and two interceptions against the Hawkeyes. Bielema stopped short of saying Sherer would start the remainder of the season, but the junior doesn't have to worry about his status for Illinois.

Sherer stepped up his play in practice last week after being informed he would start against Iowa.

"Dustin didn't play a clean game, didn't by any means set the world on fire," Bielema said. "There were some things, I liked the ability that he showed to stay alive. ... Obviously, accuracy was an issue on a couple throws, but the energy he brought to the table, his preparation, he was into it. We'd like to see how much growth he can have another week being the starter."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

What had long been anticipated came true Wednesday as Wisconsin tabbed fifth-year senior Allan Evridge as its starting quarterback to open the season. Evridge was the clear choice, even though most of his experience comes from 2005, when he started seven games for Kansas State. Wisconsin needs a game manager, a guy who limits mistakes and lets the running backs do what they do. Of the three candidates, Evridge best fits the bill, though it's hard to say if anyone really dazzled during the preseason.

Other notes from the Badgers depth chart:

  • With sophomore cornerback Aaron Henry sidelined again, freshman Mario Goins clinched a starting job for the season opener. Goins will start opposite Allen Langford, who has come back successfully from a torn ACL.
  • Kyle Jefferson is the team's leading returning wide receiver, but he might lose his starting job to sophomore Maurice Moore. The depth chart lists that either player could start along with David Gilreath against Akron.
  • No major surprises on defense, as junior Jaevery McFadden officially becomes the starter at middle linebacker after practicing with the first team for weeks. Freshman Brendan Kelly is making a push for time at defensive end, and sophomore Jay Valai will start at strong safety.
  • Kickers Matt Fischer and Philip Welch continue to compete for the starting job.

A few Big Ten items:

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Bad news for Wisconsin, as sophomore cornerback Aaron Henry will need a second surgery on his right knee after having the ACL repaired in December, coach Bret Bielema announced after practice Thursday night.

Henry, in the mix for a starting job this season, is scheduled for surgery Friday. The procedure is not nearly as extreme as the first, and Bielema expects Henry to miss 2-4 weeks. The sophomore has a redshirt year available.

Henry played in 12 games last season, starting the final two. He collected 38 tackles, 3.5 sacks and an interception. Freshman Mario Goins and senior Allen Langford likely occupy the top two cornerback spots with Henry out.

Three questions for Wisconsin

August, 11, 2008
8/11/08
9:40
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I'll be taking a look at Wisconsin throughout the day. Here are three key questions facing the Badgers this fall:

Can fifth-year senior quarterback Allan Evridge effectively lead the offense?

Evridge is distancing himself in the quarterback competition and will likely start the opener Aug. 30 against Akron. He's not a first-timer at this, having started six games as a redshirt freshman at Kansas State in 2005. He'll have help, thanks to a veteran offensive line, three capable running backs and an All-American tight end in Travis Beckum. Evridge looked good on rollouts in Saturday's scrimmage but occasionally forced throws, which he can't do this fall. Wisconsin doesn't need a hero under center, but rather a game manager with the ability to periodically punish defenses cheating up to the line. Evridge seems to have the right makeup, but it has been three seasons since he last received meaningful playing time.

How will the Badgers' special teams fare without All-Big Ten performers Taylor Mehlhaff and Ken DeBauche?

The kicking game has been a huge part of Wisconsin's success, as the Badgers tied for the Big Ten lead in field goals with 21 last season and DeBauche ranked third in the league in punting average [41.6 ypp). The offense likely won't surge right away, so field goals and field position will loom large. Freshman punter Brad Nortman has performed well in preseason practice, but his age is a mini concern. The bigger questions are at kicker, where coach Bret Bielema hopes to see some separation soon. Matt Fischer has a slight edge over Philip Welch coming out of the first week, but the junior has yet to attempt a kick in a game.

How will the secondary fare against some of the Big Ten's spread offenses?

This unit worries me a bit. The Badgers lost their top cover corner in Jack Ikegwuonu, and two potential starters at cornerback, Allen Langford and Aaron Henry, are coming off ACL surgeries. Free safety Shane Carter led the Big Ten in interceptions last season, but he'll have to improve his tackling this fall. Like many Big Ten secondaries, the Badgers struggled against spread teams last fall, allowing 501 yards against Minnesota and 410 yards to Illinois. Young defensive backs Mario Goins and Jay Valai look promising, and the Badgers will look for help from junior Chris Maragos, who should contribute at nickelback.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

MADISON, Wis. -- I just finished watching Wisconsin's practice/scrimmage this morning at sun-drenched Camp Randall Stadium. The scrimmage went a little longer than coach Bret Bielema's initial projection, so I got a glimpse of all the key players for this season, and several for the future. An injury update and my observations are below, and I'll post some of Bielema's post-practice thoughts a little later this afternoon.

  • First, some sad news. Badgers star defensive end Matt Shaughnessy flew home to Connecticut on Saturday morning following the death of his older brother, Jamie, earlier this week. Jamie Shaughnessy had been fighting blood clots in his stomach since late last summer, but his condition had appeared to stablize. Bielema said the news of Jamie's death came as a surprise [check back later for more from Bielema]. Shaughnessy is scheduled to return to the team Thursday.
  • Junior Chris Maragos, a contender for the team's starting nickel back spot, missed practice after being kicked in his calf during a play in Friday's workout. Bielema said Maragos had a sizable contusion but should return to practice Monday. Tight end Travis Beckum and wide receiver Richard Kirtley also will return Monday.
  • Freshman defensive end Anthony Mains injured his wrist during Saturday's practice and underwent X-rays.
  • Defensive end Kirk DeCremer sat out practice Saturday after practicing every day this week. Bielema said DeCremer, who underwent back surgery during the offseason, felt "a little bit of something" on Friday but will return Monday after two days off.
  • The offense seemed to struggle before the scrimmage, held at the end of practice. To be fair, the quarterbacks didn't have their best receiver available in Beckum, and dropped passes became a theme Saturday. Starting wideout Kyle Jefferson couldn't hang on to a touchdown strike and an Allan Evridge pass hit a receiver's hands and was picked off by senior Jaevery McFadden, who is cementing himself as the Badgers' starting middle linebacker. Tight end Garrett Graham also had several drops.
  • Evridge looks like the man to beat at quarterback. He made the fewest number of mistakes during 7-on-7 drills, finding Jefferson on a rollout. In the scrimmage, Evridge led the first-team offense on a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Evridge went 5-for-7 on the drive for 64 passing yards. He made a great throw to David Gilreath on a deep route that Gilreath dropped. But Gilreath responded moments later with an electrifying one-handed grab on a high throw and raced 26 yards before linebacker Jonathan Casillas saved a touchdown.
  • Quarterbacks Dustin Sherer and Scott Tolzien rotated mainly with the second- and third-team offenses. Tolzien got the first shot after Evridge in the scrimmage and led the second-team unit on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive capped by a John Clay 3-yard run. After fumbling the snap on the first play, Tolzien settled down and found Gilreath on a bubble screen for 24 yards.
  • Despite a drop or two, Gilreath was extremely impressive throughout the day. He'll do major damage in the open field.
  • Tolzien also got some help from sophomore Daven Jones, who adjusted on an errant deep pass to make the play for a 35-yard gain.
  • Though Tolzien struggled at times, nearly throwing an interception to DeAndre Levy in the end zone before the scrimmage, he seems to be making a strong push for the backup job behind Evridge.
  • Sherer seemed to have a rough day. One of his first passes during team drills was batted down by Levy. He also had the ball slip out of his hands on a pass. During red-zone drills, Sherer had a pass picked off by Mario Goins in the end zone but then recovered to find Graham for a score. Unlike Tolzien, he got to scrimmage with the rest of the first-team offense but overthrew Graham and had the ball intercepted by safety Shane Carter, who ran it back near the goal line.

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

This will be the first of three parts as I break down the Big Ten defensive backs. Check back for rankings of safeties and cornerbacks. Despite losing several standout cornerbacks (Justin King, Jack Ikegwuonu, Terrell Vinson), the league returns a bunch of top-end players and teams have filled in the gaps nicely. 

Here's the rundown:

1. Ohio State -- All four starters are back, led by Thorpe Award frontrunner Malcolm Jenkins, who likely would have been a first- or second-round draft pick had he left school after last season. Fellow cornerback Donald Washington is suspended for the first two games but should make a significant impact when he returns. Ohio State would like more interceptions from safeties Anderson Russell and Kurt Coleman, who had none last year but still combined to break up nine passes.

2. Penn State -- King's ability to shut down an opponent's top receiver will be missed, but Penn State still has good depth at cornerback with emerging junior A.J. Wallace, returning starter Lydell Sargeant and Tony Davis, who started every game at corner in 2006 before moving to safety during an injury-plagued junior season. Anthony Scirrotto is arguably the top playmaking safety in the conference with 10 career interceptions.

3. Michigan -- The Wolverines might feature the league's best cornerback tandem in senior Morgan Trent and sophomore Donovan Warren, who combined for 93 tackles and 13 pass breakups last season. They need some help at safety after the loss of all-conference selection Jamar Adams, but Stevie Brown played well as a reserve last year and Brandon Harrison has experience and versatility.

4. Michigan State -- Safety Otis Wiley backslid a bit last year but should recapture the form of 2006, when he ranked seventh in the Big Ten in tackles and had 10 pass breakups. The Spartans ranked fourth in the league in pass defense last year and have good depth at cornerback behind veteran Kendell Davis-Clark.

5. Illinois -- Vontae Davis will push Jenkins for the title of Big Ten's best cornerback. He ranked sixth in the league in both interceptions and pass breakups last year. Dere Hicks and Miami Thomas provide depth at the other corner spot, but Illinois must replace safeties Kevin Mitchell and Justin Harrison, who combined for 155 tackles, six interceptions and 24 pass breakups last season. If guys like Travon Bellamy, Nate Bussey and Bo Flowers perform, this group will move up the list. 

6. Iowa -- There's hope here despite the losses of starting cornerbacks Charles Godfrey and Adam Shada, both honorable mention All-Big Ten selections last season. Senior Bradley Fletcher received ample experience the last two years, but the Hawkeyes would like another solid corner or two to emerge. Both starting safeties return to brace the unit. 

7. Wisconsin -- Shane Carter is a budding star at safety after leading the league with seven interceptions last season, but much like other areas on the Badgers' depth chart, health has been a bugaboo. If cornerbacks Allen Langford and Aaron Henry bounce back from ACL injuries, the unit should be strong. If not, there will be plenty of pressure on young defensive backs like Mario Goins and Jay Valai.

8. Purdue -- The Boilermakers lost their best cover man (Vinson) from a unit that ranked seventh in the league against the pass last season. To avoid a drop off, they need better play from Royce Adams and continued production from David Pender. If safety Torri Williams can finally stay healthy after a rash of ailments, Purdue's secondary should be stable. 

9. Northwestern -- This unit no longer has any excuse to be a liability. Safety Brendan Smith returns from a shoulder injury to provide the playmaking punch the Wildcats sorely lacked last season. Smith and Brad Phillips form an experienced tandem at safety, while junior cornerback Sherrick McManis should benefit from an inconsistent first season as the starter. If Justan Vaughn or a redshirt freshman (Jordan Mabin, Michael Bolden) solidify the other corner spot, Northwestern should be respectable. 

10. Indiana --  Leading tackler Austin Thomas returns at strong safety, but cornerback is the biggest question on the team. The Hoosiers lost both starting corners, including all-conference performer Tracy Porter, who ranked second in the league with six interceptions. Six players are in the mix for the two jobs, including senior Chris Phillips. If the cornerback spot is stabilized, Indiana should leapfrog several teams. 

11. Minnesota -- The personnel is there for a turnaround, but it's tough to rank the Gophers much higher without seeing junior-college transfers Tramaine Brock, Trae Simmons and Simoni Lawrence. If those players perform like coach Tim Brewster thinks they will, Minnesota will be much improved. Brock brings a much-needed edge to the back four. But the Gophers can't rely much on returning players after last season's disaster.  

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