Big Ten: Martavious Odoms

Michigan spring wrap

May, 11, 2012
2011 overall record: 11-2
2011 conference record: 6-2 (2nd, Legends Division)
Returning starters: Offense: 6; defense: 8; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners
QB Denard Robinson; RB Fitzgerald Toussaint; WR Roy Roundtree; WR Jeremy Gallon; LT Taylor Lewan; RT Michael Schofield; DE Craig Roh; LB Jake Ryan; LB Kenny Demens; LB Desmond Morgan; CB J.T. Floyd; CB Blake Countess; S Thomas Gordon; S Jordan Kovacs.

Key losses
WR Junior Hemingway; WR Darryl Stonum; WR/KR Martavious Odoms; TE Kevin Koger; C David Molk; RT Mark Huyge; DT Mike Martin; DE/DT Ryan Van Bergen; DT Will Heininger.

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Denard Robinson* (1,176 yards)
Passing: Denard Robinson* (2,173 yards)
Receiving: Junior Hemingway (699 yards)
Tackles: Kenny Demens* (94)
Sacks: Ryan Van Bergen (5.5)
Interceptions: Courtney Avery* and J.T. Floyd* (2)

Spring answers

1. Quarterback accuracy: Denard Robinson played one series in the public spring scrimmage, but coaches raved about his improved leadership, decision-making and accuracy throughout the spring. The latter two were major issues for Michigan last season. While it is unknown whether Robinson will truly be more accurate until Sept. 1 against Alabama -- Michigan closed all of its practices to the media this spring -- offensive coordinator Al Borges was very confident in Robinson’s potential for his senior season.

2. Cornerback has depth: Two seasons ago, cornerback was the biggest question on Michigan’s team because of youth, inexperience and a lack of talent. That is no longer an issue. The Wolverines have as many as six players they could feel comfortable with come the fall, and that doesn’t include incoming freshman Terry Richardson (Detroit/Cass Tech), the highest-ranked player in Michigan’s incoming signing class. Sophomore Blake Countess could turn into a star, and fifth-year senior J.T. Floyd is the most consistent corner the Wolverines have. They’ll be the likely starters.

3. A featured back is set: Borges made no hesitation: Redshirt junior Fitzgerald Toussaint is going into the fall as his top tailback -- a marked change from what the Wolverines endured last spring and through the first half of last season. Toussaint rushed for 1,041 yards and nine touchdowns last season, giving Michigan a dynamic dual running game with Robinson. With major questions at wide receiver and tight end, expect a lot of running from Toussaint and Robinson, especially early in the season.

Fall questions

1. Who is catching the ball: Michigan’s coaches spoke highly of Jeremy Gallon, Jerald Robinson and Roy Roundtree during the spring as their top three receivers, but Robinson has never caught a pass, Gallon has had one season of consistent productivity, and Roundtree saw his numbers plummet last season to 19 catches for 355 yards. Tight end isn’t much better, as the position group has two career catches. Denard Robinson’s two best safety valves -- Junior Hemingway and Kevin Koger -- graduated, so even if Denard Robinson is improved, he might need to hunt to find a reliable receiving option. Incoming freshman Devin Funchess (Farmington Hills, Mich./Harrison) could be an option at tight end.

2. Who is pressuring the quarterback: Michigan took its biggest hits on the defensive line, which saw three starters graduate -- Mike Martin was a third-round draft pick, Ryan Van Bergen signed as a free agent, and Will Heininger graduated -- and its fourth starter, Craig Roh, switch positions. Michigan insists it’ll be OK there. Will Campbell and converted end Jibreel Black will likely start inside, and either sophomore Brennen Beyer or sophomore Frank Clark will start at rush end. The success of Michigan’s defense last season relied on pressure the front four created. With an almost completely new group there, how they fare against opponents will be interesting to see.

3. Punting problems: Somewhere along the way last season, Will Hagerup lost his mojo, much like kicker Brendan Gibbons the year before. A strong-legged punter, Hagerup wasn’t connecting with the ball well and eventually lost his job to freshman Matt Wile. Now entering his junior year, Michigan hopes either Hagerup regains his form or Wile becomes more consistent. The Wolverines’ offense should be fairly prolific, but with a defense searching for pressure early on, it needs to be able to control field position with the punter.

WolverineNation links: Looking ahead to '13

February, 2, 2012
Coverage of Michigan from WolverineNation:

Lucky ’13?: Insider Players who already have Michigan offers litter the ESPNU 2013 Top 100.

Tay’s days: Insider In his exit interview with WNation, receiver Martavious Odoms reveals that he nearly asked to redshirt this season.

Loss Impact -- Martavious Odoms: Insider Odoms won’t be missed much as a receiver, but as a kickoff returner his loss will be felt.

WolverineNation roundtable: Insider If one player could return for another football season, who would you choose?

Big Ten lunchtime links

December, 28, 2011
California dreamin', on such a winter's day ...

Big Ten lunch links

December, 27, 2011
Big Ten bowl season is here. Buckle up.

Turning point: Michigan cornerback J.T. Floyd read a Nathan Scheelhaase pass perfectly, jumping to pick off the play and return it 65 yards into Illinois territory with 10:50 left in the game. The Wolverines then scored on the following drive with a Devin Gardner 27-yard touchdown pass to Martavious Odoms for a 24-7 Michigan lead.

Player of the game: Michigan defensive tackle Mike Martin. The senior nose tackle was in the Illinois backfield all day, making a team-high nine tackles and having a half-sack. The nine tackles are one off his career high of 10, set against Wisconsin in 2009. He disrupted everything Illinois tried to do on offense in the first half.

Unsung hero of the game: Michigan running back Fitzgerald Toussaint. The Michigan running back started the game hot, gaining 134 of his career-high 192 yards in the first half, but his play led to two early Wolverines touchdowns and forced Illinois to shift its defensive plan and focus on the running back.

What Michigan learned, What Illinois learned: Michigan -- The Wolverines learned two things Saturday. First, that it can win with defense. Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison called the best game of his first season in his second stint with the Wolverines against Illinois. Michigan held Illinois to negative-12 yards rushing in the first half and pressured Scheelhaase all game long. It also learned it might have a good quarterback in backup Gardner. As he received more snaps, he looked more comfortable and his touchdown pass to Odoms was one of the better throws of the season. Illinois -- That the offensive line needs some work. Illinois couldn't block much of what Michigan ran at the Illini on Saturday, barely being able to run the ball and not giving Scheelhaase time to stay in the pocket. It seemed to throw Illinois' entire offense out of rhythm.

What it means: For Michigan, it gives the Wolverines the most wins they've had since 2007, when Michigan went 9-4 in the final season for former coach Lloyd Carr. It also showed Michigan it could win on the road in a hostile atmosphere. For Illinois, it is four straight losses and what looked like a special season in Champaign, Ill. is now in freefall as the Illini have to face Wisconsin next Saturday.

Record performance: It may not seem like a big record, but Odoms had a season-high two catches for 46 yards, including his first touchdown catch of the season. The 46 yards, though, pushed Odoms over 1,000 yards receiving for his career.
While several Big Ten quarterback competitions have spilled into game week, Michigan is still waiting to determine its starting running back.

Mike Shaw and Fitzgerald Toussaint are listed as co-starters on Michigan's Week 1 depth chart for Saturday's season opener against Western Michigan. Shaw emerged in preseason camp and appears to have the inside track to start against the Broncos, although coach Brady Hoke said Monday that Toussaint still could win the top job.

Shaw has been a fairly solid back at Michigan, averaging 5.04 yards a carry with 11 touchdowns in his career. Toussaint came to Michigan as a heralded recruit but redshirted in 2009 and missed much of last season with various injuries.

Vincent Smith is clearly Michigan's third-down back, but it will be interesting to see how the carries are dispensed between Shaw and Toussaint on Saturday.

A few other depth chart notes:
  • Will Heininger is listed as a starting defensive end opposite Craig Roh, even though walk-on sophomore Nathan Brink drew praise from the coaching staff throughout camp.
  • I'm a little surprised to see Brendan Gibbons handling field goals ahead of freshman Matt Wile. Gibbons made only 1 of 5 attempts last season as the kicking game really hurt the Wolverines. Wile came in with some strong prep accolades but will handle kickoffs, punts and possibly longer field-goal attempts for the time being.
  • J.T. Floyd and Courtney Avery are listed as co-starters at cornerback opposite Troy Woolfolk. Floyd likely will get the starting nod against Western Michigan.
  • Kelvin Grady will join top kickoff returner Jeremy Gallon, while four players are listed as potential starters at punt returner: Junior Hemingway, Drew Dileo, Gallon and Martavious Odoms.
  • Sophomores Mike Jones and Cam Gordon, along with junior Kenny Demens, are listed as the starting linebackers ahead of older players such as J.B. Fitzgerald and Brandon Herron.
  • Aside from Wile, the depth chart includes only two freshmen in backup roles: cornerback Blake Countess and strongside linebacker Jake Ryan. Freshmen running backs Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes aren't listed on the chart.
Al Borges won't get a true gauge on Michigan's offensive players until they put on the pads.

But the Wolverines' offensive coordinator is seeing players grasp his system better than they did in spring ball. Borges told me Wednesday night that quarterback Denard Robinson is making strides, and no particular position group is lagging behind so far in preseason camp.

"They're basically all on schedule," Borges said. "Nobody in the first couple of groups looks completely confused anymore. In the spring, we were suffering through a lot of growing pains. Now it's good play, good play, bad play; where in the spring it was good play, bad play, good play, bad play, two good plays, two bad plays. We've ironed out a few of those bad plays.

"We haven't arrived, but all the kids know more than they did in the spring, which they should."

Borges is using the first five or six practices to reinstall what he did during the 15 spring workouts. He wants the players to gain confidence in a simple package of plays before throwing anything more at them.

"The system is not ingrained yet," he said, "so you've got to be careful."

Michigan's running back competition will take time to sort out, as true freshmen Thomas Rawls and Justice Hayes are competing with veterans like Michael Shaw and Vincent Smith, among others. But Borges likes what Michigan has at receiver despite the decision to redshirt starter Darryl Stonum.

"Junior [Hemingway] is a productive player when he stays healthy," Borges said. "Roy [Roundtree] caught a ton of passes a year ago. [Martavious] Odoms has got speed and is definitely a threat, whether you line him up within the slot or outside. [Kelvin] Grady is a real good athlete with good lateral quickness and good hands. Jeremy Jackson is a tall, rangy type kid.

"We're not bad out there."

Big Ten mailblog

August, 2, 2011
Your post-media days emails. Let's get to 'em.

Patrick Bohn from Ithaca, N.Y., writes: Adam,Great job on the blog. I was wondering, what can we expect from MSU's skill guys this season? I feel like everything written about Michigan State previewing this year has been a variation of "They need to improve on the lines." I get it, it's important, but seriously, it's getting a little old. Are the Spartans planning on doing anything to get Martin regular touches, or is it just a 6-8 per game thing? How will they deal with the loss of Mark Dell? Is Keith Nichol going to take on a bigger role? Edwin Baker clearly distinguished himself as the best RB the Spartans have, but Le'Von Bell is also talented/ Can the Spartans achieve balance?I know the line gets overlooked a lot, but i think we're going in the opposite direction with Michigan State. There's a lot of intriguing skill questions too.

Adam Rittenberg: Patrick, I understand you're getting tired of hearing about the line issues, but it's because Michigan State has much less to worry about at the skill spots on both sides of the ball. The Spartans have built some nice skill-position depth through recruiting. As to your questions, B.J. Cunningham likely will move into the No. 1 receiver role, but he'll need help from both Martin, Nichol and Bennie Fowler, who emerged late last season. Michigan State would be foolish not to feature Martin as much as possible because of his breakaway speed. Nichol, meanwhile, still needs to prove he's a top-end Big Ten receiver. Regarding the running backs, I absolutely think Le'Veon Bell takes on a larger role if he can recapture the form he showed early in 2010. Bell provides a different element in the run game, and while Baker will be the lead guy, both Bell and Larry Caper give defenses new looks.

Justin from Ft. Mill, S.C., writes: Hey, Adam. I was just wondering what's the situation with Michigan's special teams? Last season they were abysmal, and expected Brady Hoke to really correct that. I haven't really seen any updates on this problem. Have you any information?

Adam Rittenberg: The kicking game clearly is an area Michigan must improve in 2011. The Wolverines should be fine at punter with Will Hagerup, who averaged 43.6 yards per attempt as a freshman. Speaking of freshmen, Matt Wile could be the answer at kicker, which was horrendous last season. Michigan would get a major boost if Wile can provide consistency right away. I'm interested to see if Martavious Odoms can be a bigger factor on returns this season. Odoms could be key, especially if Darryl Stonum doesn't return from his suspension.

Ryan from St. Paul, Minn., writes: Hello Adam! Great blog. I love reading it everyday. Did you see MN got another in state committment this past weekend? Jonah Pirsig to the Gophers is huge! Jerry Kill is getting the state of MN to rally behind him and understand there is no reason you can't win in the Twin Cities. Excellent school, great cities with many things to explore and do. Also reversing the belief that the weather is somehow different in MN when compared to WI, or IA. I think the Gophers are going to have a bulldozing OL in the next few years with Ed Olson, Tommy Olson, Jimmy Gjere, Josh Campion, and Jonah Pirsig pushing guys around. Thoughts? GO GOLDY!!!

Adam Rittenberg: Ryan, you have every reason to be encouraged. Kill is targeting homegrown talent and positions such as offensive line where the state typically produces FBS talent. There's no reason Minnesota shouldn't once again have offensive lines like the ones Wisconsin and Iowa typically produce, and Kill's local recruiting efforts should help things. I'm pretty excited to see how the Olson brothers, Gjere and other younger linemen perform this season. While Minnesota can't confine its recruiting to the state -- not enough talent -- the staff shouldn't look far for top offensive linemen.

Tyler from Eden Prairie, Minn., writes: Bo Pelini recently said he hopes for all 3 of Nebraska's incoming freshman RBs to play this year. He could put all 3 on the field with the diamond formation that Oklahoma runs. Everyone knows the Stoops and Pelinis are friends as well.

Adam Rittenberg: Wow, that would be pretty exciting, wouldn't it? While you should expect to see Aaron Green and other backs on the field for the Huskers, Bo is extremely confident in Rex Burkhead as his lead guy. Burkhead seemed to grasp the offense well this spring, and he's helping other guys along. Pelini has full confidence in him, and while teams need two to three backs to maximize their production, Burkhead should have at least 200 rushing attempts.

Kevin from Boston (by way of Chicago) writes: Looking back at 2010 the Northwestern Wildcats let several leads slip away, including a 21- 0 to Penn Sate L and a 17-0 MSU L, as a result the coaching staff taking their foot off the gas while having the lead. Since 2000 the recipe for NU's success has been a dynamic high scoring offense and an average defense. Do you think Mick McCall and Coach Fitz have learned from past season's letups and what do you anticipate for the Wildcats this season?

Adam Rittenberg: Kevin, playing with the lead seems to be a challenge for Fitzgerald, who tends to get overly conservative. Northwestern always has lacked a killer instinct and seems to be most dangerous when playing from behind, but the blown leads under Fitzgerald (even the historic one in 2006) are a concern. You would think the games against Michigan State and Penn State would help a veteran Wildcats team handle playing with a lead this year. One thing that definitely will help is running the ball more consistently. As for the overall outlook, Northwestern needs a healthy Dan Persa and more speed and athleticism in the defensive front seven. If the Wildcats get those things, they'll be tough to beat.

Dan from SconnieNation, N.Y., writes: Hi Adam,When looking at your 2011 schedule analysis post from May, I noticed that you listed Wisconsin's trap game as Purdue. While I think that's a solid choice, could there also be an arguement for the road game at Illinois to be the trap game? They bring back a strong QB and it is a week before the season finale against fellow Leader Division member, Penn State.

Adam Rittenberg: Dan, you can make a good case for either game, really. I went with Purdue because it's the only home game in a five-game stretch and falls after the back-to-back road night games against Michigan State and Ohio State, and before the rivalry game against Minnesota. But the Illinois trip could be tough for the Badgers, especially since the Illini likely will have something to play for on Nov. 19. It could be a high-scoring affair featuring two dynamic quarterbacks (Nathan Scheelhaase and Russell Wilson if Wilson wins the No. 1 job).

Bob from Archbald, Pa., writes: Adam,Will be travelling to Chicago for the Penn State/NW game this year with my family (wife and 3 girls - 12, 9 and 3). 10/20 to 10/24. Any suggestions on where to stay - hotel. Just thought I'd ask someone who knows the Chicago area.

Adam Rittenberg: Bob, I definitely would stay downtown near Michigan Avenue. Your wife and kids will love it -- especially the shopping -- and you can get to the game on the "L." You'll have everything you need right there and can hop on the Red Line/Purple Line on game day with a bunch of other fans.

Sky from Norfolk, Neb., writes: Adam, I have to say I like Bielema's idea of an early season conference game, and I think to make it even more nationally relevant, you could make it with your cross over rival. Now granted it wouldn't work with some teams (OSU and Michigan) but with Nebraska it works out fairly well I think. Penn St. in the early part of the season, Iowa to finish up the year. You could even establish a new 'trophy' game between NU and PSU too make up for the abominable "Heroes Game" between NU and Iowa. Heck you could even call it the "Legends and Leaders Game" in homage to Dr. Tom and JoePa, both mythical figures at their respective schools. You've got connections Adam, make this happen ok?

Adam Rittenberg: Haha, my connections aren't that strong, Sky. I also think Nebraska-Penn State works better toward the end of the season. Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany often talks about "build" with scheduling, as in building momentum toward the end of the season. The Nebraska-Penn State game is a showcase opportunity for the Big Ten, and typically it will mean more in early or mid-November. That said, I love the idea of playing Big Ten games earlier to avoid slates like Week 4 of 2010.

Big Ten Thursday mailbag

June, 23, 2011
By the time you're reading this, my toes will be in the sand. But it's always a day at the beach to answer your emails:

David from Toledo, Ohio, writes: Hey Brian, keep up the good work. Why isn't the trouble at Oregon or North Carolina getting nearly the same amount of press coverage as my Buckeyes? And how come people automatically have assumed the worst for Ohio State yet don't seem to be doing the same for these other schools transgressions? Thanks.

Brian Bennett: That's a fair question, David, but I think there are a few key differences. One, with Ohio State we had the sight of a future Hall of Fame coach, one of the true titans of the sport, publicly lying about NCAA infractions and covering them up. And then we had that coach resigning, and a star quarterback quitting the team, not to mention the steady drip of other damaging allegations. It's an irresistible story. The Oregon story is still developing, but for now, it appears confined to one issue (which, admittedly, could become a major problem for the Ducks). North Carolina has had all kinds of alleged infractions, and it amazes me that Butch Davis continues to survive this mess. But the bottom line is people don't care about North Carolina football nearly as much as they do about Ohio State.

Shareef from Knoxville, Tenn., writes: In your discussion of the Big Ten's biggest non-conference game, neither you nor Adam mentioned Michigan-Notre Dame. While I don't disagree that this game isn't really a must-see game this season, it struck me as surprising and sad that this game wasn't even in the mix. These are two of the most storied and proud programs in the country, yet the new generation knows nothing about them. To a lot of kids, the SEC teams (and maybe USC) have dominated college football for their entire lives. Do you think Michigan-Notre Dame will ever be a national marquee game and, if so, when?

Brian Bennett: Depends on your definition of marquee, but I certainly think Michigan-Notre Dame will attract a lot of eyeballs this year simply because it's a night game in the Big House. For it to register as important outside of its kickoff time, both teams have to rise to prominence again. And right now, even though they've won the past two in the series, the onus is on the Wolverines. The Irish will be ranked this season and I see that as a program on the rise under Brian Kelly. I'm encouraged by Brady Hoke so far, and if he gets Michigan back in the Top 10, then this could once again become one of the biggest nonconference games on the schedule. This year, though, I think Michigan State-Notre Dame is more interesting.

Tye from Fritch, Texas, writes: Love the new blog set up with two writers. More info an multiple takes on issues is awesome! In regards to the position rankings for WR/TE, whats up with not showing some love for Odoms at UM? The guy is small but he is quick agile and has great hands. He has come up big for the Wolverines in numerous situations. I think he is extremely underrated. Your opinion?

Brian Bennett: Thanks, Tyler. We're trying to come up with ways to make the two-blogger setup fun for you guys. As for Martavious Odoms, that's more of an issue of not wanting to get bogged down in those rankings by mentioning every single player at the position. At that point, it just becomes a tedious list of names. But he's a solid contributor, and another reason why we ranked the Wolverines No. 2 overall.

Tim from Upper Arlington, Ohio, writes: He's has vast potential, has seemingly been in the same town his entire life and I would give him the job based on larger coaching window, rapport and cost/effect, but this is an honest question: If Luke Fickell isn't promoted to full-time coach at Ohio State, would he ever think about coaching another Big Ten institution? "Buckeye for Life" coaching another school in the same conference? Family has to eat...

Brian Bennett: That's an interesting question. If Fickell doesn't earn the job, would the next head coach be interested in keeping him on board? Would that be awkward? And would Fickell even want to do that after getting a taste of being a head coach? Like you said, coaches need jobs, and we've seen plenty examples of guys who've pledged loyalty to their alma maters and then chased a bigger paycheck. Hello, Rich Rodriguez.

Reality Check writes: It makes no sense to say Denard Robinson is an underrated passer. He put up tons of passing yards against crappy defenses last year, which inflated his stats. Against good defenses, he struggled. If anything, he is an overrated passer. I'd like to hear why you repeatedly state that he is underrated.

Brian Bennett: I'll admit that the two games I watched Robinson most closely were against UConn and Notre Dame, two teams I covered last season. And I was impressed with his arm strength and accuracy. He was 43-for-62 for 430 yards in those two wins. I just think there are people who view him solely as a runner, and he's much more than that. We'll see this year, as it looks like Hoke will decrease Shoelace's carries.

Caleb from Pataskala, Ohio, writes: Welcome to the Big Ten blog. Since you're the "newbie" here I want to get your take on something. In your opinion, which defense's nickname is the best or more intimidating: Ohio State's "Silver Bullets" or Nebraska's "Blackshirts?"

Brian Bennett: I prefer the Blackshirts, which was even cooler before seemingly every team made black a part of their uniform choices. Silver Bullets is cool as well, and there's a great tradition there. I'm all for as many nicknames as possible, as long as the teams, players or position groups earn them.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

March, 25, 2011
Lot of Tressel-related emails today, which is no surprise. You can send all your comments here.

Dan from The Villages, Fla., writes: Do you think that Coach Tressel was concerned for his players safety after the shooting death of the tatoo parlors partner in the drug business? This case is showing how much Tressel is trying to protect is players from any outside harm. He was wrong in not informing Athletic Director Smith in the beginning, but any further sanctions against his program than the five games and the $250,000 personal fine would be to much considering all his past history.

Adam Rittenberg: Dan, I'm sure Tressel was concerned when he heard about the federal investigation, and he wanted to make sure the players' involvement with the tattoo parlor owner had ended. But he really put himself in a compromising position by not sharing information with the right people, namely Gene Smith and Doug Archie, Ohio State's compliance director. Since no one else at Ohio State knew, Tressel is the only one who can get hammered here. We all know that penalties for Tressel also are penalties for the program, but the program will go on, with or without Tressel as coach. I'd be surprised if more penalties aren't on the way for Tressel/Ohio State.

Oliver from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Adam, if a change is deemed to be made now rather than later (meaning after the 2011 season or so), is it too late for a program like Ohio State to lure a big-named coach? Would the program probably have to go through the 2011 season perhaps with an interim coach and, if that doesn't work out, hire a coach next December (or so)?Would a big-named coach want to take over OSU right now, in other words, versus next winter?

Adam Rittenberg: Oliver, it would be tough to land a big name right now, but the Ohio State job has incredible appeal whenever it next comes open. This is a program with all the resources to compete for national championships every year, and some of the game's top coaches will be interested. It's important for Smith and E. Gordon Gee to protect the brand and ensure that this situation doesn't result in a major step back for the program. You don't want to become Notre Dame or Michigan, big-name programs that slipped back to mediocrity. Both men are extremely loyal to Tressel, but they have to put the Ohio State football brand first.

Jesse from New Philadelphia, Ohio, writes: Did Michigan dodge a bullet four years ago by not landing Pryor, or would Rich Rod still be there with a successful team? And will Ohio fans look back at this as a win for Ohio or does Pryor need to have the best Big Ten season of his career to leave the school with a favorable memory?

Adam Rittenberg: This is a fascinating question, Jesse. Despite Pryor's success on the field, would Ohio State have been better off without him? What would have happened if he ended up with Rich Rodriguez at Michigan? I still tend to think Rodriguez would struggle because of Michigan's defensive woes. The Wolverines certainly didn't struggle last season because of their quarterback (Denard Robinson). But Pryor's long-term legacy at Ohio State will be truly fascinating. He has been instrumental in two BCS bowl wins and boasts a sparkling record as the starter. But he's also at the center of a situation that could alter the program's course.

Joe from Chicago writes: Looking forward to football season and a potentially dynamite Iowa offense. I think this will be the first year that Erik "Soup" Campbell has a group of receivers he recruited or recruited while he was here (McNutt being "recruited" from his previous position, Shumpert would've been recruited by Coach Johnson).Don Shumpert has been called the best pure athlete on the team. Not surprised considering he ran a sub 50 400 meter dash his high school senior year after never having run it before.Kevonte Martin-Manley (dubbed, "KMM") could have played last year. He looks like a future star on practice videos that Morehouse posts.McNutt will likely be the best receiver in the league and CJ has been referred to as one of Iowa's two best receivers. He couldn't block an ant last year though. Where you at Keenan???

Adam Rittenberg: Joe, some really good points here, especially about Campbell working with receivers he recruited to Iowa. McNutt is a stud, but Iowa really needs Keenan Davis, Shumpert or someone else to emerge as a No. 2 option. You're dealing with a new starting quarterback this year, and you want to give that guy as many targets as possible. McNutt and the tight end group help, but Iowa will be looking for more.

Mark from Battle Creek, Mich., writes: Adam, not only are you correct about wide receiver being Michigan's deepest position, but your forgot about Martavious Odoms, who has been very reliable when healthy over the course of his career, and tight end Kevin Koger who will have a much bigger role in the new offense. Also a few very good young receivers like Miller and Jackson who are anxious to prove themselves, and a highly touted tight end recruit coming in who will probably see the field. What say you sir?

Andrew from D.C. writes: Hey Adam, in both your Spring Superlatives and article on WR depth in the B10, you forgot about Martavious Odoms for Michigan. He could have been one of our top targets last year if not for the early injury that shelved his season. Should be interesting to see how he fits in the new system, though RR's staff had enough faith in his receiving abilities to move him from slot to the outside.

Adam Rittenberg: Mark and Andrew (and others), thanks for bringing up Odoms. I should have included him among the top returning wideouts despite his injury issues last season. The thing with Odoms is he seems like a classic spread-offense wideout, and it will be interesting to see how he transitions to a new system. Michigan's offensive coaches will be looking for more than just pure speed. It's a big year for Koger at tight end, a position that could be featured more in the new system.

Adam from Baltimore writes: Hey Adam,Regarding the dark horse Heisman candidates, while I think Baker could improve upon his numbers from last year (maybe even up to 1,400 yards), because MSU's offense isn't as flashy as Oregon's, and because he probably will have to compete with his own quarterback for a few votes, I just don't like Baker's chances. I think it would take a really extraordinary year (2,000+ yards, 7 ypc, 25 touchdowns, MSU going undefeated) and Andrew Luck & Kellen Moore having less than stellar years for him to be really in the mix, because as you know this award is now QB driven. They've got the gaudy stats and get the hype. That's why I think it'll be tough even for James to win it this year. Andrew Luck is still probably my front-runner.

Adam Rittenberg: It's going to be tough for any Big Ten player to win the Heisman if Luck has a season like he did in 2010. Same goes for Moore. But Baker is a guy who could put himself in the mix if he puts together a complete season. He was great early on for Michigan State, but the Spartans' rushing attack struggled a bit down the stretch. Michigan State also likely will feature multiple backs, as Le'Veon Bell was very impressive early on and Larry Caper brings something to the table as well. It's a very good group of backs in East Lansing.

Jim from Green Bay, Wis., writes: What do you think about the Badgers defense, and Mike Taylor to be more specific?

Adam Rittenberg: Taylor is a very solid player, and he and his fellow linebackers might have to lead the way on defense this season. Wisconsin loses an All-American up front in J.J. Watt and two starters in the secondary (Jay Valai and Niles Brinkley). Although the depth in the secondary isn't bad at all, Wisconsin should be a linebacker-led defense with Taylor and Chris Borland, who returns from a shoulder injury.

2010 Big Ten All-Bowl team

January, 14, 2011
Let's put a bow on this year's Big Ten postseason by taking a look at the league's All-Bowl team.


QB: Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State
Pryor won MVP honors in a BCS bowl for the second consecutive season as he led Ohio State to a victory in the Sugar Bowl. The junior maintained his focus after the suspension controversy and recorded 222 pass yards and two touchdowns to go along with 115 rush yards on 15 carries. Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase merits a mention after a strong effort in the Texas Bowl.

RB: Marcus Coker, Iowa
The true freshman rushed for an Iowa bowl record 219 yards and two touchdowns as the Hawkeyes beat Missouri in the Insight Bowl. Coker was the team's only proven option at running back for the bowl, and he stepped up in a big way, averaging 6.6 yards per carry.

[+] EnlargeMikel Leshoure
AP Photo/Dave EinselMikel Leshoure earned MVP honors in the Texas Bowl.
RB: Mikel Leshoure, Illinois
The Big Ten's best running back ended his season -- and, as it turned out, his college career -- in typical fashion, rushing for 184 yards and three touchdowns as Illinois blew out Baylor. Leshoure broke five team records and tied a sixth with his bowl performance, most notably breaking Rashard Mendenhall's single-season Illinois rushing record with 1,697 yards.

WR: Dane Sanzenbacher, Ohio State
Sanzenbacher caught three passes for 59 yards and a touchdown in the Sugar Bowl, but his biggest contribution came on the game's opening drive. After Pryor fumbled the ball near the goal line, Sanzenbacher swooped in for the recovery and his first career "rushing" touchdown. The Great Dane showed why he was voted Ohio State's team MVP.

WR: Derek Moye, Penn State
His quarterback threw too many passes to Florida defenders, but Moye did his part for Penn State with five receptions for 79 yards and a touchdown. He nearly had a second touchdown following a 44-yard reception but the ball was placed at the 1-yard line. Penn State scored on the next play to tie the score at 14-14.

TE: Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State
Ohio State featured its tight ends in a 28-point first half at the Sugar Bowl, and Stoneburner benefited with three receptions for 39 yards. Fellow tight end Reid Fragel added a 42-yard reception. Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks, Iowa's Allen Reisner and Michigan's Kevin Koger all merit mentions here.

OL: Josh Koeppel, Iowa
Koeppel and fellow linemen James Ferentz and Markus Zusevics got Coker going early by creating a huge hole for the freshman early in the second quarter. Coker zipped through it for a 62-yard touchdown as Iowa surged out to a 14-3 lead.

OL: Jeff Allen, Illinois
Allen helped the Illini rack up 38 points and 291 offensive yards in the rout of Baylor. He also protected Scheelhaase, who completed his first 13 pass attempts and finished the game 18-for-23 passing.

OL: Gabe Carimi, Wisconsin
The Badgers didn't have the dominant offensive performance they envisioned against TCU, but they still rushed for 226 yards and two touchdowns. Carimi, the 2010 Outland Trophy winner, did his part in his final collegiate game.

OL: Randall Hunt, Illinois
Hunt and Allen earned the highest grades from the Illini coaches after the team dominated Baylor in the Texas Bowl. Illinois mounted seven drives of 53 yards or longer, including two fourth-quarter touchdown drives that overpowered the Bears and put away the game.

C: Mike Brewster, Ohio State
Ohio State physically dominated Arkansas up front in the first half, and Brewster led the way from the center position. He helped clear the way for Herron's walk-in 9-yard touchdown run late in the first quarter. Ohio State racked up 28 points and 338 yards in the first half and finished with 225 rush yards against Arkansas.


DL: Cameron Heyward, Ohio State
Heyward delivered the best performance of his college career in his final game as a Buckeye. The senior racked up 3.5 tackles for loss, a sack, two quarterback hurries and a pass breakup. He also caused a critical holding penalty by Arkansas midway through the fourth quarter.

DL: Corey Liuget, Illlinois
Liuget showed Baylor why he was the Big Ten's most disruptive defensive tackle this season. The junior recorded 2.5 tackles for loss and a sack and caused a ton of trouble in the Bears' backfield.

DL: Dexter Larimore, Ohio State
Heyward drew most of the praise in the Sugar Bowl, but Larimore caused almost as many problems for the Arkansas offensive line. The senior recorded six tackles, two sacks and a forced fumble as Ohio State held Arkansas' offense in check for a good portion of the game.

DL: Devon Still, Penn State
Still set a career high with 3.5 tackles for loss in Penn State's Outback Bowl loss to Florida. He tied for second on the team with seven tackles as Penn State prevented Florida from mounting long scoring drives.

LB: James Morris, Iowa
Like Coker, Morris raised hope for the Hawkeyes' future with a strong performance in the Insight Bowl. He recorded seven tackles, including one stop for loss, and showed more aggressiveness than some of his older teammates.

LB: Quentin Davie, Northwestern
The TicketCity Bowl wasn't a banner day for Northwestern's defense, but Davie did his part with 15 tackles, including two tackles for loss. His tackles total marked a career high in his final collegiate game with the Wildcats.

LB: Martez Wilson, Illinois
Wilson was a noticeable presence in what turned out to be his final game in an Illini uniform. Tez recorded seven tackles including one for loss in the win against Baylor.

DB: Micah Hyde, Iowa
Hyde made the biggest play of the Big Ten bowl season, picking off a Blaine Gabbert pass and returning the ball 72 yards for the game-winning touchdown midway through the fourth quarter. Iowa appeared headed toward another second-half collapse before Hyde made Gabbert pay for his only bad decision of the game.

DB: D'Anton Lynn, Penn State
Lynn made a huge impact at the start of the Outback Bowl, recording an interception and recovering a fumble in the Penn State end zone in the first 10 minutes of the game. He finished the season tied with Nick Sukay for the team lead in interceptions with three.

DB: Terry Hawthorne, Illinois
The sophomore cornerback set career highs in both tackles (9) and tackles for loss (1.5) in the win against Baylor. Hawthorne made his first start of the season after battling a foot injury for much of the fall.

DB: Devon Torrence, Ohio State
The Buckeyes' secondary once again needed a boost after losing a standout player to injury, and Torrence provided it. After All-Big Ten corner Chimdi Chekwa went out with a wrist injury, Torrence picked up the slack and recorded eight tackles, a tackle for loss, a forced fumble and a pass breakup.


K: Derek Dimke, Illinois
Dimke showed why he's known as the Big Ten's steadiest kicker in the Texas Bowl, going 3-for-3 on field goal attempts from 28, 38 and 43 yards out. He became the first Illinois player to make more than one field goal in a bowl game and connected on multiple kicks for the ninth time in the 2010 season.

P: Aaron Bates, Michigan State
Bates provided the lone bright spot for the Spartans in the Capital One Bowl, averaging 43.4 yards on seven attempts with a long of 55 yards and two punts placed inside the 20-yard line. Honorable mentions go to Illinois' Anthony Santella, Wisconsin's Brad Nortman and Iowa's Ryan Donahue.

KR: Martavious Odoms, Michigan
The fact that Odoms played in the Gator Bowl following a broken foot was pretty incredible, and unfortunately for Michigan, he got plenty of work on returns. Odoms racked up 163 kick return yards on seven attempts with a long runback of 43 yards. Honorable mentions go to Michigan State's Bennie Fowler, Iowa's Paul Chaney Jr. and Northwestern's Venric Mark.

Big Ten lunch links

October, 14, 2010
Teach me how to Bucky.

Big Ten Monday roundup

October, 11, 2010
I've been busy putting together team-by-team Big Ten midseason reviews for Tuesday -- check the blog bright and early! -- but here are a few notable items from around the league.
  • Michigan will be without receiver Martavious Odoms for an extended period after the junior suffered a broken foot in the loss to Michigan State. Coach Rich Rodriguez isn't sure if Odoms' injury is season ending, but Michigan now will lean more on wideout Junior Hemingway, who has looked good the past few weeks. Center David Molk and defensive tackle Mike Martin both suffered ankle sprains in the Michigan State game, but should be fine for this week's contest against Iowa. Running back Fitz Toussaint (shoulder) will miss another game, but could return after the bye week, Rodriguez said.
  • Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema doesn't regret his decision to go for two in the Badgers' blowout win against Minnesota, saying Monday, "I went to the card and I would go with it 1 million times over." Bielema told reporters in Madison that he had just seen Minnesota's offense score a quick touchdown and wasn't trying to run up the score with the 2-point conversion attempt.
  • Iowa's depth chart for Saturday's game at Michigan doesn't include middle linebacker Jeff Tarpinian, who was limited to a few plays against Penn State with a neck stinger. Troy Johnson is listed as the starter despite suffering a concussion in the Penn State contest, while impressive freshman James Morris projects as the backup.
  • Tight end Jake Stoneburner is back on Ohio State's depth chart as the starter after missing the past two games with a high ankle sprain. Expect to see No. 11 on the field Saturday night at Camp Randall Stadium.
  • Colleague Mark Schlabach named Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson as the nation's midseason Offensive MVP. The Michigan State-Notre Dame overtime thriller earned Game of the Year honors, although the Spartans' fake field goal for a touchdown lost out to Les Miles' fake field goal call against Florida for the title of Best Play. Speaking of Robinson, he's's pick for the Halfway Heisman (Terrelle Pryor is No. 4), and he stepped up as a leader after the MSU defeat. Pryor is second in this week's Heisman Predictor, while Robinson drops to No. 6.
  • Indiana's depth chart for Arkansas State also is out, and here are some notes from The (Bloomington) Herald-Times (subscription required).
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- If given a choice, you let Denard Robinson beat you with his arm.

That's what Michigan State has done today, and so far, Robinson is beating himself.

The Michigan quarterback entered the game with only one interception in 96 pass attempts. But he already has thrown two picks, both in the red zone. Robinson has shown some flashes of magic, but for the most part it has been a day to forget for No. 16.

Right before his second pick, Robinson skipped a pass in front of a wide-open Martavious Odoms near the goal line. He just doesn't look comfortable in the pocket so far.

Kirk Cousins, meanwhile, is in the zone for Michigan State, which is running right through the Wolverines and leads 31-10.
Welcome to National Depth Chart Day. No day on the college football calendar inspires more curiosity about depth charts than the Monday before the season, when most teams release their Week 1 two-deeps.

(And then there's Purdue, which didn't include a depth chart in its game notes for Notre Dame. Ugh.)

I've had the chance to review depth charts from those programs that released them today -- two-deeps from Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota are coming soon -- and I checked in on several coaches' news conferences.

Here's what stood out:

  • Even though Indiana will shift to a 3-4 defensive alignment this year, the depth chart lists a 4-3 with Darius Johnson and Fred Jones as the starting ends and Chad Sherer and Tyler Replogle flanking junior college transfer Jeff Thomas at linebacker.
  • Interesting to see several veteran offensive linemen like Justin Pagan and Cody Faulkner listed as backups rather than starters. Junior Andrew McDonald steps into some big shoes at left tackle as Rodger Saffold departs to the NFL.
  • The backup quarterback job remains open, as Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker are both listed as No. 2 behind Ben Chappell.
  • Indiana expects big things from redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson, listed as a starter at wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner.
  • Sophomores Micah Hyde and Greg Castillo are listed as the starting cornerbacks. Shaun Prater doesn't appear on the depth chart after dealing with a leg injury in camp. Prater hasn't been officially ruled out for the Eastern Illinois game, but I wouldn't expect to see much of him on Saturday.
  • James Ferentz is listed as the starting center, a spot where Iowa might be a little thin following Josh Koeppel's motorcycle accident Monday morning.
  • Starting defensive end Broderick Binns is suspended for the opener, so Christian Ballard is listed as a possible starter at both end and tackle. Mike Daniels and Lebron Daniel are the next options behind Ballard.
  • Sophomores Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier and freshman Devin Gardner are listed as co-starters at quarterback. Head coach Rich Rodriguez reiterated Monday that Gardner won't redshirt this fall.
  • Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw are listed as co-starters at running back, with Michael Cox behind them.
  • True freshman Carvin Johnson is listed as the starter at the spur position (safety/linebacker). Pretty big surprise here, and a testament to Johnson's work in camp.
  • Senior James Rogers steps into Troy Woolfolk's starting cornerback spot opposite J.T. Floyd.
  • Receivers Martavious Odoms and Kelvin Grady clearly showed enough in camp to be listed as starters or possible starters against Connecticut.
  • Sophomore running back Arby Fields returned to practice Monday and wore a no-contact jersey after being sidelined with a shoulder problem. He's listed as a co-starter at running back with Jacob Schmidt and Stephen Simmons. Northwestern wanted a clear No. 1 running back to emerge in camp, but Fields' injury changed the plan.
  • Junior Bryce McNaul is listed as the third top linebacker alongside returning starters Quentin Davie and Nate Williams. McNaul won the job in camp.
  • Venric Mark is the only true freshman listed on the depth chart, both as a backup wide receiver and a co-starter at punt returner. I'll go out on a huge limb (sarcasm) and predict Mark will be the man on returns for the Wildcats very shortly.
  • Junior defensive end Nathan Williams, a projected starter, will miss the Marshall game with a knee injury. He should be back shortly thereafter. Solomon Thomas will start in Williams' spot Thursday night.
  • Starting cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) is questionable for the Marshall game, but corner Devon Torrence (hamstring) should be fine.
  • Sophomore C.J. Barnett's strong performance in camp lifted him ahead of Orhian Johnson on the Week 1 depth chart. Johnson missed a chunk of camp with an injury.
  • Start salivating, Buckeyes fans, because running backs Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry likely will handle kickoff returns against Marshall.
  • Sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin and freshman Robert Bolden are listed as co-starters at quarterback for the Youngstown State game.
  • Sophomore Devon Smith's strong camp landed him a starting spot at both receiver and kick returner, and a backup role on punt returns.
  • Redshirt freshman Garry Gilliam is listed as the starting tight end, as Andrew Szczerba likely will miss the opener with a back injury. Penn State obviously is thin here after losing Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.
  • Veterans Nate Stupar, Chris Colasanti and Bani Gbadyu are listed as the starting linebackers, with promising younger players like Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges right behind them.
  • After a very impressive camp, freshman running back James White appears at No. 3 on the depth chart behind both John Clay and Montee Ball. White also is the No. 2 punt returner behind David Gilreath. His emergence likely will result in veteran Zach Brown redshirting the season.
  • Senior Blake Sorensen likely will start at outside linebacker, as Mike Taylor continues to rehab after undergoing a second procedure on his knee in camp. Culmer St. Jean and Chris Borland are listed as the other starting linebackers.
  • The starting cornerback spots remain open, as Niles Brinkley, Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith will compete in practice this week.