Big Ten: Michael Robinson

It had been four years since a former Big Ten quarterback (Drew Brees in 2010) led his team to a Super Bowl championship. Russell Wilson ended the drought in dominating fashion Sunday night.

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
AP Photo/Paul SancyaRussell Wilson became the first former Big Ten QB to lead his team to a Super Bowl win since Drew Brees in 2010.
Wilson, who played his final collegiate season at Wisconsin, and a suffocating Seattle Seahawks defense pummeled Denver 43-8 in Super Bowl XLVIII. While Peyton Manning had a forgettable night, Wilson completed 18 of 25 passes for 206 yards and two touchdowns, displaying tremendous poise for a quarterback in only his second season in the NFL.

As Penn State fans were quick to point out to me on Twitter, two Big Ten quarterbacks became champions Sunday as former Nittany Lions signal-caller Michael Robinson, now the Seahawks' fullback, helped the Seattle offense have a big night.

For those saying the Big Ten can't claim Wilson because he played his first three years at NC State, it comes down to this: He had his best season at Wisconsin and finished his career there. He counts.

It was a fairly quiet night, statistically speaking, for former Big Ten players in the big game.

Here's a recap:


  • Wilson completed 18 of 25 passes for 206 yards with two touchdowns; he added 26 rushing yards.
  • Defensive end Cliff Avril (Purdue) recorded three tackles, one for loss, and had two pass deflections.
  • Robinson had one reception for 7 yards and served as Marshawn Lynch's lead blocker; he also had a tackle on special teams.
  • Linebacker O'Brien Schofield (Wisconsin) had a tackle for loss.
  • Safety Chris Maragos (Wisconsin) had a tackle on special teams.
  • Tight end Kellen Davis (Michigan State) and defensive tackle Jordan Hill (Penn State) weren't active for the game.

  • Running back Montee Ball (Wisconsin) had 1 rushing yard on six attempts and two receptions for 2 yards.
  • Wide receiver Eric Decker (Minnesota) had one reception for 6 yards (targeted five times) and one punt return for 9 yards.
  • Defensive end Shaun Phillips (Purdue) had four tackles.
  • Cornerback Marquice Cole (Northwestern) was active but didn't record any statistics.

Wisconsin fans had a lot to celebrate as a former Badgers quarterback -- Seahawks offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell -- called plays for another in Wilson, who had a nice exchange with his former Badgers backfield mate after the game.
In 2011, Russell Wilson and Montee Ball formed one of the most explosive offensive backfields in Big Ten history and led Wisconsin to a league title and a Rose Bowl appearance. Somehow, that Badgers team managed to lose three games.

Wilson and Ball both celebrated other championships Sunday, as they helped their respective NFL teams -- Wilson is the starting quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks, Ball is the 1A running back for the Denver Broncos -- win conference titles and advance to Super Bowl XLVIII. For all the hand-wringing about playing the Super Bowl outdoors in likely frigid weather at MetLife Stadium in East Rutherford, N.J., the two former Badgers likely won't mind it one bit.

Wisconsin is sending four former players to the Super Bowl -- safety Chris Maragos (Seattle) and linebacker O'Brien Schofield (Seattle) are the others. The Badgers lead all Big Ten teams and rank second nationally behind the University of Tennessee for most players on active rosters in the Super Bowl.

The game will also feature two offensive coordinators -- Seattle's Darrell Bevell (Wisconsin) and Denver's Adam Gase (Michigan State) -- who attended Big Ten schools.

Let's take a look at the complete list of players and coaches with Big Ten connections who are participating in Super Bowl XLVIII. (I'm guessing Big Ten fans are glad they don't have to take ownership of Richard Sherman.)


Denver Broncos

Active roster
Reserve/injured/practice squad
Seattle Seahawks

Active roster

Denver Broncos
  • Offensive coordinator Adam Gase graduated from Michigan State in 1999 and worked with the football coaches while in school.
  • Offensive line coach Dave Magazu was a graduate assistant at Michigan in 1983.
  • Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers played quarterback at Indiana and started 15 games between 1996-98. He was a recruiting intern at Ohio State in 2000.
Seattle Seawhawks
  • Head coach Pete Carroll was Ohio State's secondary coach in 1979.
  • Offensive coordinator Darrell Bevell played quarterback at Wisconsin, helping the Badgers to the Rose Bowl during the 1993 season. He set 19 team records and left as the Badgers' all-time passing yards leader (7,686).
  • Assistant offensive line coach Pat Ruel served as Michigan State's offensive line coach under Nick Saban from 1998-99.
  • Running backs coach Sherman Smith was an Illinois assistant from 1992-94, working with both tight ends and running backs.
Who'll start Saturday -- Christian Hackenberg or Tyler Ferguson?

Whatever the answer is, the quarterback will face the same challenge on Saturday by making his first career start. We can't peer into the future to see what the end result will be. (Hey, as Bill O'Brien likes to say, we're no genies.)

But we can look back to see how the last five Penn State quarterbacks fared in their first career starts. Here they are:

Matt McGloin, redshirt sophomore
vs. Michigan on Oct. 30, 2010
Outcome: PSU 41-31
Stats: 17-of-28 for 250 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions

Synopsis: After Rob Bolden suffered a head injury against Minnesota the week before, McGloin became the next man up. He was the first former walk-on to ever start under Joe Paterno.

After holding on to a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter, McGloin led PSU on two touchdown drives to give the Lions a 28-10 advantage by halftime. Said Paterno after the game: "That's about as well as we can play."

[+] EnlargeRob Bolden
Randy Litzinger/Icon SMIRob Bolden made history in 2010 as the first true freshman quarterback to start an opener for Penn State under coach Joe Paterno.
Rob Bolden, true freshman
vs. Youngstown State on Sept. 4, 2010
Outcome: PSU 44-14
Stats: 20-of-29 for 239 yards, two touchdowns, one interception

Synopsis: He was the first true freshman in a century to start an opener for Penn State, and he fared relatively well against lesser competition.

PSU started off slow and led just 16-7 at halftime, but Bolden was able to get some breathing room when Chaz Powell returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Bolden didn't get much help from the running game -- Evan Royster had 40 yards on 11 carries -- but PSU dominated after the touchdown return.

Daryll Clark, redshirt junior
vs. Coastal Carolina on Aug. 30, 2008
Outcome: PSU 66-10
Stats: 11-of-14 for 146 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions

Synopsis: Penn State performed as expected against an FCS cupcake and didn't even really need to pass. PSU rushed for 334 yards and led 38-0 by halftime.

Pat Devlin and Paul Cianciolo played later in the game because, well, there was really no reason for Clark to risk injury. Clark said this afterward: "When you first start, you want everything to go right. I don't think I got touched today."

Anthony Morelli, junior
vs. Akron on Sept. 2, 2006
Outcome: PSU 34-16
Stats: 16-of-32 for 206 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions

Synopsis: Morelli started off hot and drove the Lions to a score on their first drive, on a 42-yard touchdown pass to Deon Butler. He was 7-of-10 passing for 110 yards and two scores on just his first three drives -- and he was the first PSU quarterback since joining the Big Ten to throw three TDs in his first career start.

Said Akron coach J.D. Brookhart: "That kid can throw from one half to the other, 20 yards deep. You won't see a better arm this year."

Michael Robinson, redshirt sophomore
vs. Wisconsin on Oct. 4, 2003
Outcome: Wisconsin 30-23
Stats: 22-of-43 for 379 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions; nine carries for 19 yards

Synopsis: Robinson stepped up when Zack Mills went down the week before with a sprained left knee, and he performed admirably. Although PSU didn't win, Robinson guided PSU on touchdown drives of 74, 80 and 70 yards. And, at the time, only one other PSU quarterback (Mills) had thrown for more yards in a game.

Robinson said this to the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Before the game, I kind of thought they would blitz me a little more, because that's what you usually do to a guy making his first start. You kind of want to get in his head a little bit. They played back and basically told me, 'Look, if you're going to beat us, you're going to have to throw the ball.' And I think we did a pretty good job."

The Big Ten's historically bad teams

November, 28, 2012
AM ET is taking a look at historically bad teams today, and unfortunately for the Big Ten, it hasn't been immune from them.

We're not talking about what Illinois did this season or what Indiana did last season or even what Northwestern did season after season in the late '70s and '80s. From time to time, good programs, even great programs, have a season that makes you go, "Huh?" Nearly every college football blue blood has had one of these seasons in the past 20 years, and we'll look back at two in the Big Ten.

Michigan, 2008

Rich Rodriguez's arrival as coach represented a new era of Michigan football, but the program sunk to historic depths in his first season and never truly recovered, leading to his dismissal after Year 3.

Michigan's streak of 33 consecutive bowl appearances ended, and the Wolverines suffered their first losing season since 1967. The team dropped nine games, the most it ever had in a single season, and finished the season with a team-record fifth consecutive loss to archrival Ohio State.

The season had several potential low points, but a Week 6 loss to Toledo, Michigan's first to a Mid-American Conference team in 25 appearances, likely earns the label. Michigan finished 109th nationally in total offense, 108th in passing and 104th in turnover margin. While Rodriguez's offense sputtered with the wrong types of players, the defense wasn't much better. Michigan surrendered 45 points in a home loss to Illinois -- the most it had allowed at the Big House since 1991 -- while Illini quarterback Juice Williams set a Michigan Stadium record with 431 yards of offense. Purdue later racked up 48 points and 522 yards against the Wolverines.

"Hopefully [we will] remember it as a blip on the screen, a one-time happening," Rodriguez said of the season.

It's one Michigan fans would just as soon forget.

Penn State, 2003

The Nittany Lions had lost momentum since the middle of the 1999 season, enduring back-to-back losing campaigns in 2000 and 2001 before rebounding behind star running back Larry Johnson in 2002. But things took a sour turn again in 2003, as Penn State tumbled to a 3-9 record (wins were later vacated as part of NCAA sanctions).

After losing Larry Johnson, star receiver Bryant Johnson and most of the starting offensive line, Penn State struggled to produce, finishing 103rd nationally in total offense -- last in the Big Ten -- and 99th in scoring. Perhaps more surprisingly, Penn State couldn't stop the run on defense, finishing 104th nationally.

Penn State had never lost nine games in a season before 2003 and hadn't won fewer than four games since 1931. Coach Joe Paterno had endured only three other losing seasons in his 38 seasons at the helm.

The Lions had a six-game losing streak to begin Big Ten play, their longest slide with Paterno on staff as either an assistant or a head coach. The season ended with a 41-10 loss at Michigan State. Paterno had to fend off repeated retirement questions and replaced longtime offensive coordinator Fran Ganter following the season.

"A season like this -- you can't forget this," quarterback Michael Robinson said after the Michigan State loss. "I'm exhausted -- physically, mentally and emotionally."

Fortunately for Robinson and Penn State, there would be better days ahead in 2005.
First, the appeal came from the Paterno family. Next came a group of Penn State trustees. Now eight former Penn State players, along with an ex-assistant coach, are appealing the NCAA sanctions handed down to the football program July 23.

The group on Tuesday filed an appeal of the consent decree imposed upon Penn State, challenging the manner in which the consent decree was reached and accusing the NCAA of violating its own bylaws in handing down the punitive penalties against the football program. The former players, part of Penn State's Letterman's Club, all competed between 1998-2011, the period where all Penn State wins were vacated as part of the NCAA's sanctions.

The eight ex-players are: Michael Robinson (2001-05); Anwar Phillips (2001-05); Josh Gaines (2004-08); Shamar Finney (1998-2002); Richard Gardner (1999-2003); Gerald Cadogan (2004-08); Anthony Adams (1998-2002) and Justin Kurpeikis (1996-2000). Former Penn State assistant Bill Kenney, who worked on the staff full-time from 1988-2011, also signed the appeal.

The appeal challenges the validity of the Freeh Report and the NCAA's use of it in place of a standard investigation into Penn State. Much of the focus seems to be on the vacated wins.

From the appeal:
"... despite an express finding in the consent decree that 'no student-athlete is responsible for these [Sandusky-related] events," the NCAA decided nonetheless to 'vacate all wins of the Penn State football team from 1998 to 2011.' This sanction is unreasonable, excessive, unprecedented, and constitutes an indignity to the men who honorably fulfilled their responsibilities as student-athletes and coaches at Penn State under Coach Joe Paterno during this time period. If a primary intended purpose of the sanctions is to attempt to change the culture at Penn State and 'realign it in a sustainable fashion with expected norms and values of intercollegiate athletics,' these sanctions not only miss the mark, but they inflict permanent damage to an entire generation of student-athletes ..."

Permanent damage? Hmmm. I can think of some people involved in this scandal who suffered a different type of permanent damage.

Short, a former Penn State linebacker, wrote to members of the Letterman's Club:
The appeal to the NCAA that this group of Letterman are filing is a tangible example of how the Penn State Letterman can act to effect positive change. These letterman are acting on behalf of all of us who played, all who are playing and all who will play at Penn State. While this initiative is currently being lead by players from 1998 -2011 they represent ALL of us.

By the way, NCAA spokesman Bob Williams on Friday tweeted that NCAA sanctions are not subject to appeal.
We've reached the third game of the first round in our Big Ten Champions Tournament, a fun little way to bring March Madness to the blog by pitting eight of the best Big Ten teams from the last 15 years.


Who would win this Round One matchup?


Discuss (Total votes: 8,048)

The 1997 co-national champion Nebraska Cornhuskers opened up their tournament run on Tuesday as the No. 2 seed. At No. 3 is the team that shared the title with them that year. Let's take a look at the matchup:

No. 3 seed 1997 Michigan vs. No. 6 seed 2005 Penn State

All these Wolverines did was go undefeated, win the Rose Bowl and finish No. 1 in the Associated Press poll. Yet they can't claim to be undisputed champions since Nebraska finished atop the coaches' poll.

This was Lloyd Carr's finest team and featured Heisman Trophy winner Charles Woodson, who became the first primarily defensive player to win the award. This wasn't an imposing offensive attack, though, as the team lacked a 1,000-yard rusher and did not have a receiver top 500 yards. But Brian Griese was solid at quarterback, and the Wolverines emerged unscathed against a regular-season schedule that included six ranked teams and three Top 10 opponents. The season concluded with a 21-16 win against Ryan Leaf and Washington State.

The 2005 Nittany Lions finished 11-1 and ranked No. 3. Their lone loss came at Michigan on the final play of the game. Stars included defensive end Tamba Hali, quarterback Michael Robinson, Bednarik and Butkus winner Paul Posluszny, and offensive lineman Levi Brown. They beat an average Florida State team in the Orange Bowl in a memorable triple-overtime thriller.

Now it's your turn to vote for the winner in this contest. If you want to break down this game and your reasons for voting the way you did, drop me a line, and the best responses will be posted with the result. Voting on this game will run through 9 a.m. ET Friday.

Big Ten mailblog

January, 10, 2012
The season might be over, but the mail never stops.

Let's do this.

Mike from Phoenix writes: As a Badger fan I was waiting to see your final power rankings of the year because I had a feeling that you might make MSU number 1. I just don't get it. It's the same way the coaches poll has MSU and Michigan ahead of Wisconsin. That's a joke.Look at the teams everyone played in the bowl season. MSU barely beat Georgia who is not the 2nd best team in the SEC even though they went to the title game. They are the 4th best team in that league. Michigan looked bad, and played one of the easiest teams in BCS history. Wisconsin would have destroyed both Georgia and Va. Tech, but you are penalizing them for going blow for blow with the most talented offensive team in the country. They were a fumble away from possibly winning.

Adam Rittenberg: Brian and I had a spirited debate about Wisconsin vs. Michigan State for No. 1. You can make good cases for both teams, but you can't base it solely on the bowl competition. Would Wisconsin have rolled Georgia? Maybe, maybe not. Georgia has a much better defense than Oregon and would have moved the ball against a Wisconsin defense that wasn't nearly as good as its stats indicated. Wisconsin also was extremely fortunate to beat Michigan State in the Big Ten title game, which the Spartans dominated for stretches. The two teams are evenly matched, as their two games this season showed. And I believe Michigan State ended the season playing better football than Wisconsin. I also tend to value teams with good to great defenses above those that rely on their offense. Michigan State is certainly superior to Wisconsin on defense.

Tim from Iowa writes: While it might get you some back lash, I'd like your opinion on and several friends have the opinion that if 2 B10 teams(esp in our champ game) played like LSU-Bama, the B10 would once again be ripped for 3 yards/cloud of dust 1950's football. I watched parts ofthe game last night, then the final 8min. what I saw was one great def, 2 bad quaterbacks, a very repeative ineffective O from LSU, and Iowa/B10 style ball control from Bama. then Saban being proclaimed the next "Bear".

Adam Rittenberg: Tim, you're right to a degree, although there was less SEC love about the national title game than there was about the 9-6 contest. The SEC in a sense has earned the right to have ugly games because teams from other leagues simply haven't stacked up against the SEC's best. The common belief is that while Oklahoma State would have scored against Alabama, the Tide still would have rolled the Cowboys by 20-30 points. But I agree the SEC is the only league that can "get away" with games like last night's. Most people would much rather see games like the Rose Bowl and the Fiesta Bowl. Alabama is a great football team with one of the best defenses I've ever seen. But LSU's offense would be mediocre to bad in most leagues, not just the SEC.

Ryan from Pittsburgh writes: Adam,What are your thoughts on the new Penn State staff? I have to admit I'm somewhat surprised. For years I thought that PSU would turn the corner if they could only get a younger fresher staff in place to energize recruiting. This new staff that O'Brien has coming in is not young at all, so I doubt they're great recruiters. Plus any Auburn fan will tell you that Roof was fired. Mack Brown fired McWhorter last year. Am I overreacting?

Adam Rittenberg: You bring up a good point, Ryan. A lot of veteran assistants are joining Bill O'Brien in State College. Keeping Larry Johnson is huge and a somewhat obvious move. He's one of the Big Ten's top recruiters, and he'll maintain Penn State's presence in the Maryland/DC area. His age isn't a factor in that regard. Ted Roof is the hire that has some Penn State fans upset. I agree he doesn't have the best track record, but the overall defensive staff with both Johnson and Ron Vanderlinden still looks solid to me. Charles London is a younger guy (mid-30s), but he's definitely the junior member right now. It'll be interesting to see who O'Brien hires to fill out the staff. Some more youth would be nice.

Jeff from Omaha, writes: Adam? Why am I so awesome?

Adam Rittenberg: Ask myself the same thing every morning.

Sam from Kalamazoo, Mich., writes: Adam, can you please explain your rationale for naming MSU as an early favorite to win the B1G in 2012 over, say, Michigan? The Wolverines return two 1,000 yard rushers in Denard and Fitz Toussaint, 3 starting receivers, and a top-5 recruiting class loaded with 4 and 5 star DLs, LBs, and OLs. Molk, Van Bergen, and Martin will be sorely missed, but I'm not sure it makes sense that MSU is so ramped for success after losing 6 All-Big Ten players and playing in the Big House. Can you even name next year's replacement for mighty Kirk Cousins off the top of your head?

Adam Rittenberg: Sure, Sam. Andrew Maxwell. Michigan State has been grooming him the past two seasons. Will he be as good as Cousins? That's a tall order, but he's not coming out of nowhere. Michigan State is my pick because of its defense. While Jerel Worthy is a big loss, the Spartans return a ton of elite athletes in all three levels, players like Will Gholston, Denicos Allen, Johnny Adams and Darqueze Dennard. The Spartans have more difference-makers on defense than Michigan will in 2011, at least in my view. I also believe MSU will be a more effective running team than it was this season because of an experienced line and a strong lead back in Le'Veon Bell. I certainly could see Michigan winning the division, but the Wolverines have a much tougher schedule in 2012 and could have a better team with a worse record (much like MSU this season versus 2010).

Ben from Fargo, N.D., writes: One of the big stories in 2012 will be a surprising improvement in Minnesota's defensive line play. Ask Jerry Kill about Thieren Cockran. He's coach Kill's secret weapon.

Adam Rittenberg: Will do, Ben. Thanks for the note. Minnesota's defensive line play has struggled since Willie VanDeSteeg departed following the 2008 season. Gophers have ranked and 78th, 120th and 86th nationally in sacks in the past three seasons. It's an area of focus throughout the offseason as Minnesota loses linebacker Gary Tinsley and standout safety Kim Royston. Cockran, a redshirt freshman defensive end from Florida, is among those who needs to step up in 2012.

Matt from Burbank, Calif., writes: Hi Adam,Regarding Northwestern next year, do you think Kain Colter gets the starting QB job? I've been of the opinion that he is more dangerous in a utility role as he was used these season, but on the other hand he's proven he can win and be effective as the top guy. Additionally, do you think there's any hope for this defense?Thanks for a great season, can't wait till next year! Bowl win or bust!

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, I think Colter will be the starter for 2012, but he has to make some important strides as a passer during the offseason. Northwestern's offense is predicated on short passing and accuracy. The Wildcats convert a lot of third downs, and Colter has to be able to make the throws Dan Persa, Mike Kafka and C.J. Bacher have made in recent years. He's the best athlete Northwestern ever has had at quarterback, and he's a perfect fit for the spread -- as long as he gets better as a passer. If there's little to no progress, Northwestern will have to use another quarterback, likely Trevor Siemian, to spark the passing game. Offensive coordinator Mick McCall has developed quarterbacks well at Northwestern, and Colter is his next big project.

Kevin from New Orleans writes: It's been a tough couple weeks to be a Badger. Lost the Rose Bowl, lost 3 straight in hoops, lost 5 coaches. First let me say, if Bielama has Barry's confidence and support, then he has mine. Have you heard anything? Are the Badgers getting some really good coaches? I doubt we'll get anybody that can match the talent we are losing, but maybe we get an upgrade on the recruiting. 4 of the 5 coaches that left were not good recruiters. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Adam Rittenberg: Kevin, while it's tough right now, I think Wisconsin fans should have faith in Bret Bielema to make some good hires. As you note, Joe Rudolph is the only major loss from a recruiting standpoint. Bielema has made good choices in the past, such as defensive coordinator Dave Doeren (now head coach at Northern Illinois), Dave Huxtable (did a great job with UW linebackers in only year) and Chris Ash (has upgraded secondary, now defensive coordinator). It'll be interesting to see where he turns to replace Paul Chryst and Bob Bostad, but a lot of good coaches will want to come to Madison after seeing what Wisconsin has done the past few years. So I would look at Bielema's hiring track record and feel confident.

Lance from Arlington writes: "While Penn State has produced some solid college quarterbacks -- most recently Daryll Clark, the 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year"While your opinion is correct in general, saying Daryll Clark was solid does him an injustice. DC (along with Drew Brees) was the best QB the Big Ten has had since Kerry Collins and Michael Robinson is right there. Simply put, Penn State has produced three of the top five QB's to have competed in the Big Ten since their arrival. You will no doubt disagree since you hate Penn State but you are wrong.

Adam Rittenberg: Lance, I don't hate Penn State. I hate every school according to you folks. Let's get that cleared up. I was a big Daryll Clark fan during his career, but your argument doesn't hold up. Troy Smith won a Heisman Trophy in 2006. He played between Brees and Clark. Iowa's Brad Banks won the Davey O'Brien award in 2002. He played between Brees and Clark. While Clark led the Big Ten in pass efficiency in conference games in 2009 (136.6), it's the lowest rating for a Big Ten leader since at least 1980. His season rating that year (142.6) didn't lead the league (Terrelle Pryor did) and ranks behind all of the league leaders since 1980. Again, not hating on Daryll, who has a really nice career in State College, as did Michael Robinson. But there have been better Big Ten quarterbacks since Kerry Collins, including Wisconsin's Russell Wilson this year.
If Penn State fans are disappointed with the list of candidates for the school's head-coaching vacancy, they should check out another list: the school's recent quarterbacks.

This exercise isn't meant to further depress Nittany Lions supporters. It actually should get them excited about the team's future under new coach Bill O'Brien.

Bear with me here.

[+] EnlargePenn State's Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden
AP Photo/Gene J. PuskarMatt McGloin (11), Rob Bolden (1) and all quarterbacks who follow could be the biggest beneficiaries of new coach Bill O'Brien.
One of the biggest knocks on Penn State during the Joe Paterno era was the team's inability to produce viable NFL quarterbacks. Unless Kerry Collins returns to an NFL team in 2012, Penn State will have no former quarterbacks playing quarterback at the next level (Michael Robinson is a running back for the Seattle Seahawks). The San Francisco 49ers in 2006 drafted Robinson as a running back, meaning that Penn State hasn't had a quarterback selected in the NFL draft since 1997, when the Baltimore Ravens selected Wally Richardson in the seventh round.

That's a stunning drought for a program considered a traditional power. In the Big Ten, only Minnesota and Nebraska have gone longer without having a quarterback selected.

Penn State has had only two other quarterbacks drafted -- Collins, a first-round pick in 1995, and Tony Sacca, a second-round pick in 1992 -- since Todd Blackledge in 1983. Sacca played only two games in his pro career. Blackledge played six seasons with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Kansas City Chiefs, throwing 29 touchdowns and 38 interceptions in his career.

While Penn State has produced some solid college quarterbacks -- most recently Daryll Clark, the 2009 Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year -- the program has been lacking at the position.

O'Brien could provide a boost at quarterback and for an offense that ranked 93rd nationally this season and that has finished in the top 30 nationally just twice (2002, 2008) since the 2000 season. One of the common complaints I've heard from Penn State fans, particularly the past two seasons, is that the team's offense is stuck in the past.

O'Brien has worked with one of the best quarterbacks to ever play -- Tom Brady -- the past few years with the New England Patriots. While his track record as an offensive coordinator in college isn't overly impressive, he was part of a Maryland staff that produced the nation's No. 28 offense in 2003. Georgia Tech finished 15th nationally in total offense in 2000, while O'Brien served as the team's running backs coach and recruiting coordinator.

If nothing else, O'Brien has seen what good offense and good quarterback play looks like. The Patriots rank second in the NFL in both total offense (428 ypg) and pass offense (317.8), and third in scoring (32.1 ppg).

That doesn't mean O'Brien's arrival automatically makes Penn State one of the Big Ten's top offenses in 2012. But if he hires the right staff and can develop players effectively, things will be looking up for the Lions attack. Penn State needs much more out of the quarterback position than it received this year, as Matthew McGloin and Rob Bolden shared time and neither had much success.

Maybe O'Brien gets the most out of McGloin. Maybe O'Brien fosters the development not seen from Bolden. Maybe another quarterback emerges this fall under O'Brien's tutelage.

O'Brien clearly has more important things on his plate as he transitions into a job he's never held before.

But his presence in State College could be just what Penn State needs to upgrade the most important position on the field.
As expected, there has been plenty of reaction to Joe Paterno's retirement announcement and the fallout from the Penn State scandal.

The Associated Press has put together this list.

A few notables:

Greg Schiano, Rutgers coach and former Penn State assistant: "I love Coach Paterno so am I emotional, yeah. People you love and care about; this is a hard thing for him, I'm sure. ... So it hurts me when someone you love hurts. Other than that I have a job to do. I know he'd want me to do nothing else but take care of my team. 'Do your job, kid.' That's what he'd say."

Paul Posluszny, Jacksonville Jaguars and ex-Penn State linebacker: "This situation is just an unbelievable black eye for the program and it's going to be tough, because whenever anybody says Penn State or you see Penn State, sexual assault of young kids is what's going to come mind, and that's such an unfortunate thing."

Michael Robinson, Seattle Seahawks and ex-Penn State fullback: "I have three kids myself, and I can't imagine what those families are going through today and went through in the past. ... I know he wishes he could have had some things back. He's not a perfect guy, but what he stands for as a man, and what he's meant to college football and what he has meant to me personally in my life, that's another reason why I'm so sad today."
Two of the most successful college coaches in history will meet June 20 for a special ESPN taping on Penn State's campus.

One coach recorded his 400th career win on the gridiron last season, while the other notched win No. 900 during March Madness. The two have combined for six national title in their 81 years combined as college head coaches.

Any guesses?

OK, if you need it spelled out for you -- in the case of one coach, that's no easy task -- the coaches are Joe Paterno and Mike Krzyzewski. They will gather at Penn State's Eisenhower Auditorium and will discuss their experiences as leaders.

Students from both schools will be able to ask the coaches questions (Duke students and others will be able to participate through video conferencing from their campus in Durham, N.C.).

ESPN will air the hour-long show, called "Difference Makers: Life Lessons with Paterno and Krzyzewski," on June 30 at 8 p.m. ET. Colleague Rece Davis will host the event, and several former Paterno and Krzyzewski players, including Michael Robinson and Jay Bilas, will appear at the taping.
"I'm looking forward to working with Mike Krzyzewski and participating with students from Penn State and Duke," Paterno said in a statement. "Hopefully we can create something meaningful for others."
Added Krzyzewski in a statement: "Certainly, I am humbled to share the stage with one of the greatest coaches of all-time in any sport and at any level. I have ultimate respect for Coach Paterno and everything he's accomplished at Penn State. Beyond all the victories and accolades, he is a great leader and teacher. I look forward to spending time with him, and learning from him, at such a special event that involves students from both campuses."

It's a unique and fun event, to say the least.

The event is invitation-only, and Penn State will announce ticket and seating information at a later date.
STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- The significance of the moment was embraced and understood by everyone at Beaver Stadium, both young and old.

Moments after Penn State beat Northwestern 35-21 to give coach Joe Paterno his 400th career win, Nittany Lions running back Stephfon Green darted through the crowd, holding a sign that read: "400 The Paterno Way."

[+] EnlargeJoe Paterno
Charles LeClaire/US PressiwreJoe Paterno is the only FBS coach with 400 wins.
"Who wants to hold my helmet?" Green asked frantically. "So I can run around and act the fool."

The delirium extended to Green's fellow students, who chanted "We love Joe" and "Joe Pa" in the final moments of the Lions' historic come-from-behind win.

A different sort of joy enveloped Jay Paterno, the Penn State quarterbacks coach and Joe's second-oldest son, when asked to reflect on what his dad had accomplished.

"I told my mom last week after we beat Michigan, 'Is everyone coming in next week?'" Jay said. "She goes, 'No, why?' I said, 'Well, mom, I hate to tell you, but this is kind of a big deal.' Four hundred wins really hasn't been done at this level. It's only been done by two other guys."

Jay Paterno began to choke up.

"I'm a student of the game," he continued."I love the history."

The man who has been such a big part of that history also was moved by the moment. As the final seconds ticked off the clock, Penn State players hoisted Joe Paterno on their shoulders and carried him to midfield.

Normally a no-no with Joe, Paterno didn't mind the escort. In fact, he enjoyed it. A little.

"They had me up there before I knew it," he said. "I was hoping they wouldn't. I'd be dishonest if I told you that it wasn't a moving night for me. It was. The crowd, the university making a presentation to me ... all of that was nice. The carrying me off the field, we've all got a ham in us.

"It felt pretty good."

Fittingly, Paterno's 400th win had several historical connections.

Penn State recorded its largest home comeback in Paterno's 45 seasons (it tied for the largest under Paterno home or away after a comeback from 21 points down against Illinois in 1994). The previous record at home was a rally from 18 points down against Ohio State in 2001. That win marked Paterno's 324th and moved him past Paul "Bear" Bryant for the top spot in all-time coaching victories at the FBS/Division I-A level.

Just like that day, when Zack Mills led a second-half rally, Penn State turned to a reserve quarterback for heroics. Sophomore Matt McGloin relieved Rob Bolden and led five consecutive touchdown drives, completing 18 of 29 passes for 225 yards and four touchdown tosses.

"We were down 21-0 and all I could think of was the Ohio State game," Jay Paterno said.

JayPa reminded the players of a different rally Saturday morning, a fourth-quarter comeback against Northwestern in 2005 that required a fourth-and-15 conversion. Penn State went on to win the Big Ten and the Orange Bowl.

Jay Paterno text-messaged Michael Robinson, Penn State's quarterback that day in Evanston, and wrote: "Without fourth-and-15, there may not have been a 400."

[+] EnlargeMatt McGloin
Charles LeClaire/US PresswireMatt McGloin led five scoring drives in Penn State's comeback win against Northwestern.
McGloin was too young to remember the 2001 Ohio State game or the parallels there, but he didn't have to. Saturday's comeback belonged to this team.

It was their moment in history.

"To see them come back the way they came back," Joe Paterno said, "it sounds corny, but that really was probably more important to me than whether it was 350 wins or whether it was 400 wins. Some of these kids now know what it takes to get it done."

Northwestern dominated the first 29 minutes, playing flawlessly in all three phases and getting gutsy play from quarterback Dan Persa (201 pass yards, touchdown; 109 rush yards, 2 touchdowns). The Wildcats went up 21-0 with just 56 seconds left in the first half, and a holding penalty on the ensuing kickoff backed up Penn State to its own 9-yard line.

McGloin's initial mind-set: sit on it, cut your losses and don't make this any worse.

Then Evan Royster had a nice run on first down. Four plays later, Penn State reached Northwestern territory on Green's 21-yard run.

McGloin's revised mind-set: get close enough for a field goal.

Then he connected on back-to-back 20-yard passes, setting up first-and-goal at the 7. Two plays later, McGloin found a leaping Brett Brackett in the back of the end zone for a touchdown with three ticks left, completing a nine-play, 91-yard drive in 47 seconds.

McGloin's re-revised mindset: we can win this thing.

His confidence grew even more when Penn State marched 84 yards in 14 plays to begin the second half.

"The fans were into it, the sideline was into it, I was feeling great, everyone was feeling great," he said. "We acted as if we were winning at that point."

Penn State racked up 358 yards on its five touchdown drives. McGloin was on point, the offensive line held its blocks and running backs Royster (134 rush yards) and Silas Redd (131 rush yards) wore down the Wildcats.

"Everybody felt once we got the momentum, it wasn't going to go away," Royster said on the field after the game. "And that was the case."

The defense did its part, holding Northwestern to one first down and 32 yards in the third quarter.

"We just knew," defensive tackle Ollie Ogbu said. "You kind of feel that mojo coming."

It came in a hurry as Penn State scored 35 points in 18:25.

Paterno's party continued after the game, as Penn State held an on-field ceremony that included a video tribute and a crystal football given to the coach to commemorate No. 400.

"People ask me why I've stayed here so long," Paterno told the crowd of 104,147, none of whom went home. "Look around!"

Then, in typical Paterno fashion, he looked ahead.

"Let's go beat Ohio State."


Here's the second half of my interview with Penn State Nittany Lions quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno. For Part I, click here.

You've been in this system [Spread HD] now for a couple of years. You did some different things with Daryll [Clark] in Year 1 versus Year 2, so there's some adaptability, right?

Jay Paterno: Yes. When we go out Friday and Saturday to practice, they're not going to be able to handle everything that Daryll did, but you continue to build toward that. You have your base building blocks, things that are bread-and-butter plays for you, and things that they ran last fall, so you've just got to build off that. I think we'll see good progress as we go through spring with them. Just in looking at film with the guys, you could see toward the end of last year, we had one or two games left before the bowl, you could see both Matt and Kevin start to project, 'Hey, Daryll only has two or three more games.' As soon as he's done on Jan. 1 or whatever date we ended up playing, in their mind, they're thinking, 'I better start to ramp it up a little bit.' And they both did. They were starting to prep themselves last November and all of December. And we held four or five bowl practices where Daryll did very, very little and those guys ran the team. They ran the first team to get a feel for it. We started, in their mind, getting ready that way.

Robert [Bolden] is the other guy here, and he's not getting in until the fall. Do you have to wait and see how these three other guys do and then evaluate how he might fit in? Would you like to redshirt Paul or Robert? Is it too early to tell?

Jay Paterno: I don't think we'll know that until we get through August. We have 15 spring practices and 27, 28 in August before our first game. We'll probably go through all but seven or eight of those practices before we really make a decision, which is similar to what we did with Daryll and Pat Devlin. About a week and a half before the first game [in 2008], it became pretty evident who the guy was. At that point, we said, "OK, we're going to name our starter." I would imagine we're going to be in about the same timetable. It'll create a long summer for me because already it's been, "Hey, who's gonna start? Do you guys know who's gonna start yet?" That's the one difference. When you've got a starter returning, people leave you alone. But when you don't know, and you've got a bunch of young guys, everybody wants to know what's going on, and there's a lot of interest. Which is good. It's one of the things about being at Penn State that's great, there's always a lot of interest. But we won't know until August.

Would you be comfortable playing two quarterbacks?

JP: You'd like to have a lot of guys that are really good. We're going to have a handful of guys that are really top-level talent, it seems like. If we evaluated these guys well at all, we'll be in pretty good shape, talent-wise. You'd like to have a dominant guy, but if that's not the case, people forget that Chris Leak and [Tim] Tebow both played when Florida won the national championship a couple years ago. Leak was the guy, but Tebow came in. We've done it with Kevin Thompson and Rashard Casey back in '99, and we had a really good offensive football team that year doing that. Whether that's the case or not, who knows? That's something that down the road, it's going to sort itself out. Ideally, you'd like to have one guy, but sometimes you have different talents and you want to utilize them. But that'll be something that comes down the road.

And finally, Jay, you have experience elsewhere on the offense. How helpful will that be when you have a new starting quarterback? You have Evan [Royster] coming back, a lot of your wide receivers, too.

JP: We've been pretty fortunate in that in '05, we had Mike [Robinson] as a first-year starter at quarterback, but an experienced guy, a guy who had been around and knew the system. He was an experienced guy with young wideouts, so he was able to make sure in the huddle they knew what they were doing. And then Daryll's first year as a starter [2008], we had experienced wideouts, so he knew where they were going to be and could rely on them. And then Daryll's last year, in '09, you had an experienced quarterback with young wideouts, so he could get them going.

Now we've got experienced wideouts with a young quarterback. So we're fortunate in that there are people around him, whoever the starter is, that know what they're doing, that have been in a lot of tough games and know what's going on, and have talent. We have good talent at the skill positions, we've got speed, so it's a good situation for a young quarterback to step into. You have some guys you can trust and who can make plays for you. There's some experience in the offensive line that's back, too. If we had a whole new offensive line, new wideouts and a new running back and we were breaking in a new quarterback, I'd be more worried. But the fact that he's going to be surrounded by some guys that have played is going to be a big help, whoever [the starter] is.
When Penn State opens spring practice later Friday, only one position group will be in the spotlight. The Nittany Lions are looking for a quarterback after losing two-year starter and Big Ten co-MVP Daryll Clark, who set several team passing records and led Penn State to consecutive 11-win seasons in 2008 and 2009. There's a ton of youth and very little experience at the position, as sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin will try to hold off talented incoming recruits Paul Jones (already enrolled) and Robert Bolden. Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno will oversee the intriguing competition, and he took some time this week to talk about the personnel and his expectations for the spring.

How different will this spring be for you with so many young guys on the field?

Jay Paterno: Obviously, it's a lot different. You can't immediately do all the things we did last year with Daryll. We were able to do a lot from Day 1, so that makes it different. It's challenging, it's going to be a lot of fun, and it's why you coach. If this was the NFL, we'd have re-signed Daryll for five more years, and I'd have no worries this spring. But that's the difference between college and pro. We've got to move on.

What are your expectations, realistically, for these guys, and where would you like to see them at the end of the spring?

JP: It's hard to say where you want to see them. Kevin was the No. 2 guy last year, and McGloin was the No. 3 guy. So we had a package all year long that we would have played with if they had to play, if Daryll got hurt. So we have a launch point from that package to move on from there. And the things we had for them last year, there was enough variety -- formations, motions, things like that -- that we could have played a game and felt comfortable and we would have had enough to keep people off balance. So hopefully we can get those guys to move beyond that and be able to add some things and continue to grow. And I think they will be able to. The meetings we've had so far have gone really, really well. They're on top of what they need to know so far. I see a lot more maturity, a lot of intensity because all of a sudden, they're all in the mix. So it's been a good winter so far, and I'm hoping to see them build off what we did last year.

Were you hoping to get Kevin and maybe Matt into more games last year?

JP: You always wish you'd played the second guy and the third guy more than you did. There's really nobody in the country who would tell you differently. But we got them about as much playing time as we could, without jeopardizing the success of our team. People say, "Why didn't you play the second guy more often?" And the answer is, "Well, do you want us to stick him in there in the third quarter against LSU when we're in a tight game? When would you want to see him play?" It's one of those things that you always wish you'd played them a little bit more, but we did get Kevin a pretty good number of plays. He played more than people think. Obviously, he didn't start any games, but we got him some reps and he's been in games and he's comfortable going in there and running the huddle, things like that. So I don't think that'll be a problem.

Does Kevin have a bit of a leg up on the other guys, just because he's been out there more, or is everyone starting from square one?

JP: He would have a leg up, simply because he ran as our No. 2 last year. One of the things I do in the spring is I chart every pass they throw: why it was successful, why it wasn't. Sometimes, a play isn't successful because they were in the right defense. Sometimes, a kid drops the ball and that's not on the quarterback. We went through this with [Pat] Devlin and Clark, where we charted every pass, so on my computer I could pull up every pass we did. What they did last fall and where they came from in high school, none of that stuff matters. It's all going to be a matter of performance as we go forward. So [Newsome] would have a little bit of a leg up because he got more reps last spring and last fall than the other guys. But once we hit practice No. 1, it's not going to matter.

You've obviously seen these guys a lot more than we have on the outside. From a stylistic standpoint, are they very different? Are they similar? How will that affect what you do schematically?

JP: In terms of the difference in styles, Matt McGloin's probably more of a pocket guy than Kevin, just because that was the offense he ran in high school. Kevin was in more of a Wing-T, running, the same type of offense Michael Robinson ran in high school. Kevin, when he breaks contain, he does some really good things running the ball down the field. Matt is really comfortable sitting in the pocket and making the throws. We're getting Kevin to that point. That's going to be one thing we're going to work on, and with most young quarterbacks, that's the case. They have a tendency, when things break down, [to say] 'I better get out of here,' instead of staying in there like Daryll did for us so much. And then Paul, I haven't really seen Paul do anything live for us yet, so it's hard for me to really make any kind of judgment as to what he will be stylistically. He ran really well when we timed the guys. We did some winter conditioning, some things where they were running around and stuff. He moves really well, so he has the escapability that you want. And having had him in camp a year ago, we know he can throw.

How we are schematically, we start with the things that they handled last year and were comfortable with, and seemed to build from there. In the back of my mind, the ideal situation is they develop into all the things we want to do with them. But you're starting with the base point of what they could handle last fall, and you continue to build on that. If you get all the way to all the things you want to do, then great. If not, you've got to run with what they're best at doing. We're not going to be drastically different. We have a system that we're in now, and we're going to pretty much be in that system. We're not going to all of a sudden become three tight ends, two backs. We're not going to be running the wishbone.

Coming in Part II: Timetable for a decision on the starter, Bolden's outlook

Big Ten teams of the decade

January, 20, 2010
Unlike the lists for top players and top moments from 2000-09, I had an easier time identifying the top 10 Big Ten squads from the most recent decade. For starters, the Big Ten produced only one national champion and six BCS bowl winners, all but one of which made the top 10 (actually 11). You won't see any three-loss teams on the following list, and 10 wins was the minimum criteria for selection.

Bowl victories counted, but I also put a lot of emphasis on how a team performed during Big Ten play. This is, after all, the Big Ten blog.

Here they are:

1. Ohio State 2002: The only Big Ten squad to win a national title during the aughts tops the list. Ohio State rode a ferocious defense, a clutch quarterback (Craig Krenzel) and a dynamic freshman running back (Maurice Clarett) to a 14-0 record and its first national title since 1975.

2. Penn State 2005: If not for a Michigan touchdown on the final play at the Big House, Penn State could have been playing for a national title. The Nittany Lions still went on to an 11-1 finish and an Orange Bowl championship as Big Ten MVP Michael Robinson led the way at quarterback.

3. Ohio State 2006: No Big Ten team this decade looked more dominant than these Buckeyes, who steamrolled their way through the Big Ten behind Heisman Trophy winner Troy Smith. Ohio State outlasted No. 2 Michigan in a shootout at The Shoe, but lost its mojo before the national title game against Florida. Despite an ugly final result, this team was a juggernaut.

4. Iowa 2002: Only three teams went undefeated in Big Ten play this decade, and the 2002 Hawkeyes were one of them. Quarterback Brad Banks came out of nowhere to become the Heisman Trophy runner-up, while Dallas Clark, Bob Sanders and others helped the Hawkeyes to a share of the league title and road wins against both Penn State and Michigan.

5. Michigan 2006: LaMarr Woodley, Alan Branch and Leon Hall led one of the decade's top defenses as Michigan won its first 10 games, allowing just 13.3 points per contest. The Wolverines ended the year with losses to Ohio State and USC but boasted three All-Americans and several impressive wins.

6. Penn State 2008: Much like Ohio State in 2006, the Nittany Lions were dominant for much of the year, as a dynamic and experienced offense put up points in bunches. Penn State scored 38 points or more in seven of its first eight games. A last-second field goal kept Penn State out of the national title game, but the Lions claimed their second Big Ten championship in four years.

7. Ohio State 2009: Teams are usually remembered by how they finished, and this group got better as the season progressed. Ohio State wasn't much fun to watch in September or October, but a November surge and a very impressive Rose Bowl win against Oregon completely changed the buzz around this squad. Few Big Ten defenses this decade were better than the 2009 Buckeyes.

8. Ohio State 2007: In a season where nothing went according to plan, the Buckeyes surged out of the gate with 10 consecutive wins. A stunning upset loss to Illinois seemed to end Ohio State's national title hopes, but a truly wacky season put the Buckeyes back in the spotlight, where they lost to LSU. The national runner-ups certainly deserve a spot on the list.

9. Iowa 2009: If this were a list of teams not for the faint of heart, these Hawkeyes would be at the top. Every week seemed to bring new drama, and Iowa constantly faced doubts about its success. The truth: This team wasn't far away from an undefeated season and a trip to the Rose Bowl, and it silenced the critics with a very impressive performance in the Orange Bowl against Georgia Tech.

T-10. Wisconsin 2006: The Badgers didn't win any Big Ten titles this decade, but their best team deserves a spot on the list. BCS rules kept Wisconsin from the big bowls, but Bret Bielema's first squad was one of only three Big Ten teams to win 12 or more games in a season this decade. The Badgers finished fifth and seventh in the final polls.

T-10. Ohio State 2005: I just couldn't leave a team that finished fourth in the final AP poll off of this list. The Buckeyes' only losses came against national champion Texas and Orange Bowl champ Penn State, and they finished with an impressive win in the Fiesta Bowl against Notre Dame.

Others considered: Iowa 2004, Ohio State 2003, Illinois 2001, Michigan 2003, Iowa 2003, Ohio State 2008.

Big Ten mailblog

January, 19, 2010
Hope you're enjoying flog-the-blogger week, er, I mean decade recap week.

Tell me how you really feel.

Kyle from Kingston, Ontario, writes: Adam, love your post dude! I have to make a comment though. How do you not give any love to Dallas Clark. 01 and 02 he made numerous plays to Iowa on the map. I am not saying he was a top 10 player, but to not even be considered?

Adam Rittenberg: That was an oversight on my part, Kyle. Clark should have been mentioned in the "also considered," a category I now regret even putting up there. But to be honest, he really wasn't close to making the top 10. Same goes for great kickers like Mike Nugent and Nate Kaeding. It's not to say they weren't great players, but they're not going to make a top 10 list for best in the decade.

K.J. from Arlington writes: Funny how you use the term infamous regarding the 2002 championship game but failed to use the term when Michigan was infamously given 2 free seconds which game football absolutely proved should not have been put on the clock by the oh so biased Ann Arbor crew in the 2005 game helping to give Michigan unearned wins in three of the previous five meetings with Penn State? Why is that? Oh wait, because you are an idiot and you hate Penn State, that's why.

Adam Rittenberg: There was some controversy in several of the games I listed, K.J., including Penn State-Michigan in 2005. The clock certainly played a role there in the end. And while I won't argue with you about the idiot part, the me hating Penn State argument is pretty lame and tired. Like I've said before, fans love me when their team is in the top 10 and think I'm a hater when they start to slip a bit. I have nothing against Penn State, which is featured prominently throughout the decade recap this week.

Justin from Plainfield, Ill., writes: Adam,Since you based it on players that generally had mulitple season, I understand (and in general agree) with your list of Big Ten players of the decade. I'd like to see your take on that same list without that caveat (of multiple seasons). To me, Michael Robinson would have to be on that list. You often hear "so and so led his team to victory" get thrown around. MRob truly led his team in 2005.Also, I was glad you gave Randal El some love. That dude was the only reason Indiana football even had a chance for those 4 years.

Adam Rittenberg: This is a good suggestion, Justin, and while I probably won't do a second post with one-year stars, here are a few who really stood out: Brad Banks, Michael Robinson, Larry Johnson, Devin Thomas, Shonn Greene, Chris Perry, Rashard Mendenhall, James Hardy.

Andy from Chicago writes: Adam - Love the blog and appreciate the Hawkeye pub during the season. I have a few follow-up questions/comments regarding your players of the decade list. 1. I know that Jake Long and Joe Thomas are better pros than Robert Gallery, but RG definitely should be on your list. He was the best OL in the conference two years in a row and paved the way for a B10 championship and undefeated conference season. Additionally, when he came out, Peter King said he was "the best lineman to enter the draft in years." Perhaps an oversight on your part, but wanted to get your opinion. 2. If this was about longevity in the league, then I understand your putting Mike Hart on the list. Otherwise, what Greene accomplished in one season is better than anything Hart did in four (or seemingly ten) seasons in Ann Arbor. 3. How many B10 players this decade went undefeated in conference, won a conference title, and finished second in the Heisman voting in the same season? One. Similar to Greene, Banks definitely should have made the cut. 4. Dallas Clark needs to at least make Honorable Mention. That is all. Thanks,

Adam Rittenberg: I really struggled with both Gallery and Long. Any top-10 list is going to leave off some deserving players, and you can certainly make a convincing case for those two. I really tried to identify the MVP for each program during the decade, and I think most Iowa fans would put Bob Sanders in that role. Wisconsin fans would say the same for Joe Thomas. Gallery was a tremendous player, as was Long, and trust me, they weren't far away from making the list. As for Shonn Greene and Brad Banks, lack of longevity was the main reason they didn't make it. The running back position was interesting because you had several one-year standouts in the Big Ten. I didn't want to have a top-10 list without a running back, and Hart really accomplished a lot in four years. As for Dallas Clark, see above.

Mike from Wausau, Wis., writes: Hi Adam:I enjoy your work. When might we expect to hear what the NCAA will do regarding the potential violations by RichRod? I thought a decision was expected by the end of 2009. To me, the lackof public notice to date indicates there is somethingon the way, and perhaps the U of M and the NCAA are "working-out" the terms of the penalty. Also, after two years, do you really think RichRod is the right person for the job? Thanks!

Adam Rittenberg: The Dec. 31 date wasn't a fixed deadline for a decision on the Michigan investigation, but I'd expect we'll hear something soon. The NCAA holds many of its meetings at this time of year, so that could be slowing the process a bit. I don't think the delay necessarily means huge penalties are coming. As for Rodriguez, I think he's still a heck of a coach, but he's operating in a very different environment than he did at West Virginia. If he can get the players he wants throughout the admissions office and have several young defenders emerge, Michigan should be decent in 2010. But I continue to be concerned with what's happening on defense in Ann Arbor.