Big Ten: Mickey Shuler

Painful weekend around the Big Ten

October, 4, 2010
The first weekend of Big Ten play came at a cost for several teams, while Purdue's misfortune on the injury front continued even though the Boilers didn't play a game.

Here's a quick recap of three key injuries around the league:

Ohio State S/LB Tyler Moeller
  • The situation: Results of an MRI on Moeller's chest should be known Monday, but the prognosis doesn't look good. Multiple outlets are reporting that Moeller likely will have season-ending surgery to repair a torn pectoral muscle he suffered early in Saturday's win at Illinois. Moeller suffered the injury while trying to wrap up Illinois running back Mikel Leshoure. The Buckeyes' safety/linebacker already was planning to petition the NCAA for a sixth year of eligibility after he missed all of 2009 with a head injury suffered when he was the victim of a criminal assault.
  • What it means: Moeller had been one of Ohio State's top playmakers on defense -- he had 20 tackles, 4.5 tackles for loss, a sack, an interception and two forced fumbles -- so his presence will be sorely missed. Ohio State already is down a safety for the season in C.J. Barnett (knee), and Nate Oliver (hamstring) also is banged up. Freshman Christian Bryant took over for Moeller at Illinois and would be the next option at the "star" position, featured in Ohio State's oft-used nickel package.
Penn State TE Garry Gilliam
  • The situation: Coach Joe Paterno said Gilliam suffered an ACL injury in Saturday's loss to Iowa, and the redshirt freshman could be lost for the season. Gilliam had been starting in place of Andrew Szczerba, who likely won't play this season because of a back injury. He suffered the injury in the second quarter.
  • What it means: Penn State entered the year thin at tight end after losing Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler to graduation. The injuries to both Szczerba and Gilliam make things really dicey. Penn State likely will turn to true freshman Kevin Haplea or use Brett Brackett, a big wide receiver, at the tight end spot.
Purdue WR Justin Siller
  • The situation: Purdue had a bye last week, but coach Danny Hope said Sunday night that Siller suffered a sprained foot Sept. 25 against Toledo and will miss "an extended period of time ... several weeks, possibly." Siller, who returned to the team after a year-long suspension from school and won a starting job, has 12 receptions for 104 yards and a touchdown this season.
  • What it means: Purdue loses yet another offensive skill player to an injury. Siller is particularly valuable because he started three games at quarterback for Purdue in 2008. There had been some talk he could move back to quarterback following Robert Marve's season-ending injury, but his injury situation makes it unlikely. While Purdue's health situation at running back is improving, the Boilers now are down two starting receivers (Siller and Keith Smith).
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.

Big Ten position rankings: WR/TE

August, 23, 2010
The position rankings move on to the wide receivers and tight ends, who will be grouped together. The Big Ten remains a defense-first conference, but I really like the depth at receiver and, to a lesser extent, tight end throughout the league. Although star power was considered, I put a very strong emphasis on overall depth and 2010 potential here.

This was the toughest position to whittle down to five (actually, six), but here goes ...

[+] EnlargeCunningham/Dell
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesMark Dell (left) and B.J. Cunningham headline an experienced group of receivers for Michigan State.
1. Michigan State: Sure, there's a lack of star power entering the season, but trust me, that will change. There's not a deeper group of receivers and tight ends in the Big Ten than this one. Veterans B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell anchor the receiving corps, and dangerous speedster Keshawn Martin will play a much bigger role in the offense this season. Converted quarterback Keith Nichol also joins the mix there. Michigan State also boasts three talented tight ends, including Mackey Award watch list members Charlie Gantt and Brian Linthicum.

2. Indiana: The Hoosiers return two of the Big Ten's top five receivers in Tandon Doss, a first-team all-conference selection, and Damarlo Belcher. They also add experience with Terrance Turner and exciting young players like Duwyce Wilson and Dre Muhammad. Overall depth is a bit of a question mark, but both Doss and Belcher will get the attention of opposing defensive backs after combining for 1,732 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last fall. Max Dedmond returns at tight end after recording 18 receptions in 2009.

3. Wisconsin: I'm not completely sold on this entire group, although receiver Nick Toon and tight end Lance Kendricks should contend for All-Big Ten honors this fall. Isaac Anderson and David Gilreath both boast a ton of experience, but must take the next step in their development. Wisconsin could use a rebound season from Kyle Jefferson, and walk-on Jared Abbrederis continues to make plays in practice and should be a contributor this fall.

4. Purdue: Surprised by my choices so far? You won't be when the season starts. Like Michigan State, Purdue's depth will reveal itself this fall. The Boilers are led by Keith Smith, a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2009 and the league's top returning receiver (1,100 yards). He's joined by two veterans in receiver Cortez Smith and tight end Kyle Adams. But the real boost could come from young players like Antavian Edison and Gary Bush, as well as Justin Siller, the team's former starting quarterback who brings size and big-play ability to the perimeter.

T-5: Penn State: I'm tempted to rank the Lions a little higher but want to see how the entire group performs this season, provided they get the ball thrown to them. Derek Moye has all the tools to be an All-Big Ten receiver after recording 48 receptions for 765 yards and six touchdowns last season. Graham Zug is a very solid target who reached the end zone seven times in 2009. Although Chaz Powell moves to defense, Penn State boasts several exciting young wideouts like Devon Smith. Tight end is a big question mark after the departures of Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.

T-5. Iowa: The Hawkeyes boast the league's top big-play tandem at receiver in Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt. DJK is on track to become the team's all-time leading receiver this fall, and McNutt averaged 19.8 yards per catch and scored eight touchdowns in 2009. I like the potential of guys like Keenan Davis and Paul Chaney Jr., who returns from a knee injury. Tony Moeaki is a major loss at tight end, but Allen Reisner returns and talented freshman C.J. Fiedorowicz enters the fold.

Just missed the cut: Ohio State, Michigan

Up next: Quarterbacks

More rankings ...
Penn State is on the recruiting scoreboard for 2011.

Joe Paterno's Nittany Lions landed their first verbal commitment Wednesday, from tight end Kyle Carter of New Castle, Del. Carter is an under-the-radar prospect whose only other scholarship offers came from Delaware and Bucknell, although he had drawn interest from Maryland, Boston College and others, and likely would have added to his offers list after attending camps at those schools.
"They all liked me, but they all wanted to see me come to camp," Carter told The News Journal. "Penn State just saw the potential and they offered me from that, which meant a lot."

The 6-foot-4, 231-pound Carter fills a need for Penn State, which loses its top two tight ends from 2009, Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler. Andrew Szczerba, the projected starter this season, will be a junior.

Penn State was the final Big Ten team to land a verbal commit for the 2011 class.

Big Ten lunch links

March, 17, 2010
These links are kelly green and soaked in Guinness.

Big Ten team recruiting needs

January, 20, 2010
National Signing Day is right around the corner, and Big Ten teams will look to add depth and identify a few immediate contributors in the upcoming recruiting classes. What do these squads need the most?

Here's a look:


Offensive line: The line hasn't been great the last two seasons, and Illinois loses standout Jon Asamoah and center Eric Block. Illinois looks strong at running back in 2010, but someone needs to create rushing lanes.

Safety: The Illini defense hasn't been the same since the departures of safeties Kevin Mitchell and Justin Harrison following the 2007 season. Ron Zook could really use a safety or two who could step in and contribute right away against the run and in coverage.


Defensive end: The Hoosiers lose two multiyear starters at end: Jammie Kirlew, a two-time All-Big Ten selection, and Greg Middleton, who led the nation in sacks in 2007. Indiana's pass rush will suffer unless it builds depth at end and throughout the line.

Secondary: Indiana loses starting safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk as well as its top cornerback, Ray Fisher. Expect the Hoosiers to go very heavy with defensive back recruits as they try to shore up an area that has been problematic during the last decade.

Offensive line: The situation on the line certainly is better than it was a year ago, but the departure of talented left tackle Rodger Saffold creates a void. Indiana is the type of team that always could use more depth up front so the drop-off between starters and backups isn't so dramatic.


Offensive line: Iowa loses four linemen who started most or all of its games last year, including All-Big Ten performers Bryan Bulaga and Dace Richardson. The Hawkeyes can't expect freshmen to come in and start right away up front, but they need some insurance if injuries crop up.

Linebacker: Standouts Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds depart, and while Iowa has some guys ready to step in, it can always use depth in the defensive midsection. The Hawkeyes defensive line should sizzle in 2010, but they need sure tacklers at linebacker, too.


Secondary: There's no mystery here, as the Wolverines really struggled with breakdowns in the back four and lose standout cornerback Donovan Warren to the NFL draft. Michigan needs to bolster its talent level at both cornerback and safety to have improved results in 2010.

Linebacker: The Wolverines linebackers struggled in 2009, and there are opportunities for young players to step in here and contribute. Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton are back, but it's obvious this is another area Michigan must upgrade this coming season.

Specialists: Michigan loses both of its starting specialists, including All-Big Ten punter Zoltan Mesko, a Ray Guy Award finalist. This is always an area where a strong true freshman can step in and contribute immediately.


Trenches: Line play was a weakness for the Spartans in 2009, and they'll be looking to upgrade on both sides of the ball. They lose top pass rusher Trevor Anderson as well as left tackle Rocco Cironi, center Joel Nitchman and guard Brendon Moss on the offensive line.

Secondary: This unit turned out to be a major disappointment, considering the preseason expectations. Michigan State loses safety Danny Fortener and corners Ross Weaver and Jeremy Ware, and there should be ample opportunities for freshmen to step in and play.

Linebacker: Probably not a critical need, but Michigan State needs to start preparing for life after Greg Jones. The Spartans also lose Adam Decker and Brandon Denson from the 2009 team, and Eric Gordon will depart with Jones after 2010.


Cornerback: The Gophers lose both of their starters, Traye Simmons and Marcus Sherels, and will be looking to build depth behind Michael Carter in 2010. I'm very excited about what Minnesota returns at safety, but the situation at corner seems a bit unsettled.

Offensive line: Minnesota will stick with the pro-style offense no matter who becomes its next coordinator, but for the system to truly click, the Gophers really need to upgrade their line. The team returns quite a few linemen for 2010, but it'll look for improved depth up front.

Running back: After finishing last in the Big Ten in rushing each of the last two seasons, Minnesota certainly will look to get better here. Kevin Whaley's departure creates a spot for a newcomer to compete with Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge for carries.


Secondary: The Wildcats lose three multiyear starters in the secondary, including All-Big Ten honorees Sherrick McManis and Brad Phillips. They'll need to build depth around safety Brian Peters and corner Jordan Mabin to avoid a major drop-off.

Defensive line: Corey Wootton's departure leaves NU without a proven pass rusher who can command double teams. The Wildcats also will look to build depth at defensive tackle after losing Adam Hahn and Marshall Thomas.


Safety: This is one of few spots where Ohio State loses two long-time contributors in Kurt Coleman, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, and Anderson Russell. Though Jermale Hines played a lot in 2009, the Buckeyes want to build depth around him.

Wide receiver: If the Buckeyes' offense builds off of its Rose Bowl performance, the wideouts figure to be more involved. Ohio State should be fine for 2010 with DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, but it could lose both after the season and needs to start grooming replacements. These recruits also could help the return game, where Ohio State loses Ray Small and Lamaar Thomas.


Quarterback: Two-year starter Daryll Clark is gone and Pat Devlin transferred following the 2008 season, creating a wide open competition at quarterback heading into 2010. Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin will compete, but Penn State always wants others in the mix there.

Linebacker: Penn State rarely has trouble reloading here, but it loses all three starters, including back-to-back first-team All-Big Ten selection Navorro Bowman. The Lions will look to build depth and identify an early contributor or two for the 2010 season.

Tight end/wideout: The Lions lose both Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler, so expect them to add a tight end or two in the incoming class. Quarless was a major part of the passing attack and Shuler hauled in two touchdowns, so Penn State won't neglect this position.


Secondary: A no-brainer here, as Purdue loses all four starters in the secondary, which has ranked in the upper half of the league against the pass. The Boilers likely need a newcomer or two to contribute right away in 2010.

Linebacker: Jason Werner hopes to return for a sixth year, but Purdue can't take any chances with a position that has struggled a bit the last two seasons. Danny Hope likes his young linebackers (Antwon Higgs, Dwayne Beckford), but he's looking for more.

Wide receiver/tight end: Purdue can never have enough pass receivers, and Hope will look to build around All-Big Ten performer Keith Smith in 2010. The Boilers lose No. 2 wideout Aaron Valentin, and Smith and tight end Kyle Adams depart after 2010.


Defensive line: All-Big Ten defensive end O'Brien Schofield departs, and the Badgers will be pretty young up front in 2010. It's important that Wisconsin builds depth behind players like J.J. Watt and Jordan Kohout.

Tight end: Lance Kendricks certainly eased concerns about this spot in the Champs Sports Bowl, but Wisconsin still loses All-Big Ten selection Garrett Graham as well as reserve Mickey Turner. No team in the Big Ten features the tight end spot as much as Wisconsin, so it'll be important to find a few recruits.
Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Penn State's Week 1 depth chart is out, and most of the familiar names are where they're supposed to be: quarterback Daryll Clark, running back Evan Royster, linebackers Navorro Bowman and Sean Lee and defensive tackle Jared Odrick.

There were a few notable items on the two-deep for Saturday's opener against Akron:
  • Juniors Graham Zug and Brett Brackett and sophomore Derek Moye are listed as the starters at the three wide receiver spots. Backups are Chaz Powell (Brackett), A.J. Price (Moye) and Patrick Mauti (Zug). Also, it was a bit surprising to see Mickey Shuler and Andrew Quarless listed as co-starters at tight end. Quarless is on the preseason watch list for the Mackey Award.
  • Center Stefen Wisniewski and left tackle Dennis Landolt are no-surprise starters, but here's the rest of the revamped line: right tackle DeOn'tae Pannell, right guard Lou Eliades and left guard Matt Stankiewitch.
  • A lot of people will be rooting for fifth-year senior Jerome Hayes, who's listed as a starting defensive end opposite promising sophomore Jack Crawford. Hayes has had some terrible luck with knee injuries and gets one final chance to shine this fall.
  • Penn State's new-look secondary features Knowledge Timmons and D'Anton Lynn as the cornerbacks and Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay as the safeties. Timmons is listed ahead of senior A.J. Wallace, who likely will be suspended for the first game or two because of cutting class this summer.
  • Backup running back Stephfon Green and Powell will handle kickoff returns, while Astorino serves as the punt returner. Former star wide receiver Derrick Williams was a difference maker at both spots last year.
  • Junior Collin Wagner is listed as the starting place-kicker ahead of true freshman Anthony Fera.

Big Ten mailblog

July, 14, 2009

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

It's Tuesday, and that means your questions and my answers.

Todd from Wilmington, Ohio, writes: Adam, I love your blog, I don't know how I survived before it. By the way, congratulations on the recent wedding. My reason for writing is to discuss the marquee non-conference games this year for the Big Ten. Although several teams have taken criticism for soft non-conference scheduling, I believe you can identify at least one non-conference game for each team as the "marquee" game for them. Some even have two such games. As follows:Illinois vs. Missouri/Cincinnati(take your pick)Indiana vs. VirginiaIowa vs. ArizonaMichigan vs. Notre DameMichigan State vs. Notre DameMinnesota vs. CalNorthwestern vs. SyracuseOhio State vs. USCPenn State vs. SyracusePurdue vs. Oregon/Notre Dame(take your pick)Wisconsin vs. Fresno St/Hawaii(take your pick)Obviously, the biggest issue is that Notre Dame and Syracuse make up about half of the list, nonetheless, they can be considered the biggest game for several teams. I would be interested as to what your thoughts and/or predictions for these games would be. Thanks, Adam, keep up the good work.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the kind words, Todd. I see the Big Ten going around .500 in the marquee matchups you mention. There are several games Big Ten teams should win, namely Northwestern/Penn State over Syracuse, Wisconsin over Hawaii and Iowa over Arizona. There are a few toss-ups, including Ohio State-USC, Michigan State-Notre Dame and Illinois-Missouri (I have the Illini as a slight favorite there), and a few longshots (Purdue-Oregon and Minnesota-Cal). It goes without saying that the Ohio State-USC matchup will shape national perception about the Big Ten more than any other game, but the league could really use a few more nice wins (Cal, Missouri, Notre Dame twice or thrice).

Ryan from Not Iowa writes: Adam, great job on the blog. My question is about Iowa...I just don't see what the big deal is. Iowa fans and so many others, including yourself, sir, seem to think that Iowa is a definite contender for the Big Ten title this year. The best parts of their team from last year, the D-line and running game (aka Greene), will have an impossible time performing as well as they did during their 8-4 season last year. I don't think they're a bad team, but when I compare them to teams like Penn State and Ohio State, I see a huge huge gap. Please explain to me, aside from the secondary having a couple decent players and Stanzi completing passes, why Iowa fans expect to have at least as many wins as last year.

Adam Rittenberg: You're right about the areas where Iowa loses key pieces, but the Hawkeyes' track record on defense needs to be considered here. Iowa has ranked among the top 25 nationally in scoring defense in six out of the last seven seasons, including a fifth-place finish in 2008. Though the Hawkeyes take a hit at defensive tackle, they should be better at every other spot on defense, particularly defensive end and safety. Iowa's defense won't allow a lot of points, and it should keep the team in every game, including the four tough Big Ten road contests. There are also high hopes for quarterback Ricky Stanzi, but the Hawkeyes defense has generated all the preseason buzz. As for matching last year's wins total, I don't see Iowa losing at home, and the Hawks should win at least two road games, giving them nine victories at a minumum.

Chris from Chicago writes: Hey Adam, what do you make of OL Dann O'Neill leaving Michigan to transfer to Western Michigan. First Boren, then McGuffie, and now this? Isn't this just more of a testament that Rich Rod is not getting it done in Ann Arbor? Talk me off the ledge...

Adam Rittenberg: Yeah, it's funny how O'Neill's first game in a Broncos uniform (he can't play until 2010) will take him back to Michigan Stadium. But you should back away from the ledge for sure. Transfers happen when there's coaching change. Obviously, Michigan has endured quite a few departures under Rich Rodriguez, but the number should diminish as Rich gets more of his recruits in the program and, more important, starts to win more games. Don't underestimate the magnitude of this coaching change. This wasn't Bo Schembechler to Gary Moeller or Moeller to Lloyd Carr. Rodriguez's arrival signaled a fundamental shift in how Michigan operates. It's not necessarily a bad thing at all, but there was bound to be more personnel change than normal because of the overall change to the program.

Badger Fan from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey I was just wondering if their was a reason you never finished the 3 fresh faces post with Purdue and Wisconsin? Or perhaps you just haven't gotten to them yet.

Adam Rittenberg: Nope, they were posted a few weeks back. I didn't go in alphabetical order with the Fresh Faces series. Here's Purdue and Wisconsin. Enjoy.

Josh from Fort Lauderdale, Fla., writes: Hey Adam, please stop taking vacations - you're KILLING us! Otherwise, thanks for all the hard work!I saw some articles about Penn State's Lift for Life 2009, and have some comments.1. Jack Crawford looks like a freak of nature when lifting.2. Brandon Ware seems to have lost half of his body-weight in the offseason.3. Sean Lee won for most leg-presses.Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Vacation time is winding down, Josh, so not to worry. I was traveling to California on Friday during the Lift for Life event, but everything I read indicated it was a huge success. I got an e-mail Monday from former Penn State player and Uplifting Athletes executive director Scott Shirley, who wrote that the event generated "the most money ever raised, the largest crowd and was the most competitive." Penn State certainly can feel good about its linebacker corps after Lee, Navorro Bowman and Josh Hull teamed with tight end Mickey Shuler to win the event. Crawford's team came in second, also a good sign, while freshman quarterback Kevin Newsome was part of the third-place squad. Penn State's incoming freshmen also participated in the event for the first time.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

All 11 Big Ten teams are now immersed in spring practice, and several squads held controlled scrimmages over the weekend. Some scrimmages were closed and no information was released, but here's what I've pieced together.


Scrimmage: Saturday


  • The Ben Chappell-Kellen Lewis connection is gaining steam, as the current quarterback (Chappell) hooked up with the former quarterback (Lewis) for a 30-yard touchdown. Chappell completed 15 of 23 passes for 231 yards with a touchdown and an interception, while Lewis had four catches for 51 yards.
  • Indiana's running backs, an area of concern entering the spring, racked up 200 rushing yards on 31 carries. Senior Bryan Payton had a 40-yard burst on the first play out of the pistol formation. Junior Trea Burgess, who began the spring at linebacker before switching to running back, led all rushers with 13 carries for 65 yards.
  • Six defensive starters sat out the scrimmage with injuries, but the Hoosiers still recorded three interceptions, including one by junior safety Jerimy Finch, a Florida transfer who came to Indiana with a lot of hype. Converted wide receivers Shane Covington and Collin Taylor also picked off passes. Junior linebacker Tyler Replogle had a 90-yard fumble return for a touchdown.
  • Sophomore wide receiver Matt Ernest, who played sparingly last fall, led all receivers with five catches for 92 yards. Tandon Doss added six receptions for 79 yards.


Scrimmage: Saturday


  • The Gophers ran almost 100 plays in their first spring scrimmage. Despite being limited by a surgically repaired shoulder, Adam Weber took all the snaps with the first-team offense, while MarQueis Gray worked with the second team.
  • Ten different receivers caught passes, and the Gray found Brodrick Smith for a 63-yard touchdown.
  • The running back spot is pretty wide open after the Gophers ranked as the Big Ten's worst rushing team last fall. Redshirt freshman Kevin Whaley got most of the carries Saturday, indicating a possible move up the depth chart.
  • The scrimmage was closed to the media, but head coach Tim Brewster said the defense is still ahead of the offense, which is installing a new system under coordinator Jedd Fisch. Weber got intercepted on his first pass attempt and later said there was a mix-up on the play.
  • After seeing Wisconsin raid its state's high school ranks for years, Minnesota picked up a quarterback recruit from Badger Land over the weekend.


Scrimmage: Saturday


  • If the scrimmage is any indication, Penn State fans who have been telling me not to worry about the defensive line are spot on. The line dominated reserve quarterbacks Kevin Newsome and walk-on Matt McGloin. Defensive tackles Jared Odrick and Abe Koroma and defensive ends Jack Crawford, Eric Latimore and Kevion Latham all had good days.
  • Only two touchdowns were scored, as starting tailback Evan Royster had a 45-yard scoring run and starting quarterback Daryll Clark found tight end Mickey Shuler in the end zone. Clark didn't scrimmage much but performed extremely well when he was out there, while Newsome, a true freshman who enrolled early, seemed to struggle. Several reports said McGloin outplayed Newsome. If it's not obvious already, Penn State needs Clark to stay healthy this fall.
  • The Lions' new-look secondary featured A.J. Wallace and Knowledge Timmons as the corners and Drew Astorino and sophomore Andrew Dailey at the safety spots.
  • After losing three starters, the offensive line will take time to jell, and Saturday wasn't a strong performance. First-team left tackle DeOn'tae Pannell had a rough day and will be pushed by several players.
  • Wide receiver is a position of intrigue throughout the spring, and Graham Zug, Brett Brackett, Derek Moye, Chaz Powell and James McDonald got the most work in the scrimmage. Powell also lined up in the backfield on several plays, a la Derrick Williams.


Scrimmage: Saturday


  • A day after quarterback Justin Siller was dismissed from school, Purdue received a much needed strong performance from its offense in a 125-play scrimmage. Though quarterback remains a question mark for the Boilers, they appear to be strong in the run game.
  • Sophomore Ralph Bolden exploded for 192 rush yards and a touchdown on 16 carries, including bursts of 38 and 32 yards. Senior Frank Halliburton added 85 yards on 14 carries as the Purdue backs combined for four rushing touchdowns. Senior Jaycen Taylor was held out of the scrimmage as he works back from a torn ACL.
  • Head coach Danny Hope praised quarterback Caleb TerBush last week, and the redshirt freshman didn't disappoint, completing 15 of 22 passes for 233 yards and two touchdowns with no interceptions. TerBush's performance in the wake of Siller's departure has to leave Hope feeling a bit better about his options at quarterback. Projected starter Joey Elliott completed 9 of 17 passes for 104 yards with no touchdowns and no interceptions.
  • Cornerback Brandon King recovered a fumble, while defensive ends Ryan Kerrigan and Robert Maci and tackle Mike Neal each recorded sacks.
  • Defensive end Nickcaro Golding missed the scrimmage with a high ankle sprain sustained earlier in the week.
  • Tight en
    d should be a better spot for Purdue this fall, as Kyle Adams returns from an injury sustained in the 2008 opener. Adams led all receivers with four catches for 41 yards in the scrimmage.


Scrimmage: Saturday


  • Head coach Bret Bielema has emphasized red zone defense this spring after the Badgers finished last in the league in that category in 2008 (92.9 percent). Bielema wasn't pleased with what he saw in the scrimmage, as the offense scored on five of six red zone chances. The first-team offense went 2-for-2 against the top defense, as quarterbacks Dustin Sherer and Scott Tolzien fired touchdowns to Garrett Graham and Nick Toon. The second-team offense went 3-for-4 in red zone chances.
  • The tight ends and wide receivers continued to look good, particularly Graham, Toon, tight end Lance Kendricks and wideout Isaac Anderson, who caught a touchdown.
  • Top running back John Clay sustained a bruised right ankle and missed a chunk of the scrimmage, giving redshirt freshman Erik Smith extensive work.
  • Among the defensive highlights were interceptions by Antonio Fenelus, Shelton Johnson and Devin Smith. Safety Shane Carter, reserve linebacker Tony Megna and defensive ends O'Brien Schofield and J.J. Watt also had some good moments.
  • The Badgers' already iffy linebacker corps took another hit as senior Erik Prather suffered a right leg injury and needed to be carted off the field.
  • Freshman quarterback Jon Budmayr continued to impress, firing an 18-yard score to Anderson.
  • After a strong practice Thursday, right tackle Josh Oglesby returned to the first-team offensive line. Peter Konz, who briefly replaced Oglesby with the starters, worked with the second team.

What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 12

November, 14, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

1. Daryll Clark's response -- The Penn State quarterback took the blame for the Iowa loss and admits he's struggling right now. There has also been some ridiculous talk about replacing Clark with Pat Devlin. Clark shouldn't have to worry about his job, but he needs to get on track again against a woeful Indiana defense that has been hit hard by injuries in the secondary. This is the perfect game for Clark and the Nittany Lions to revive the big-play attack.

2. Ohio State defense vs. Juice Williams -- Williams toyed with the Buckeyes last fall in Columbus, throwing four touchdown passes and racking up 70 rush yards. He almost single-handedly ran out the final eight minutes to preserve a 28-21 upset. You can bet Malcolm Jenkins, James Laurinaitis and Ohio State's other defenders are itching to face Williams again in Champaign (ESPN, noon ET). Ohio State's defense is hitting its stride, but Williams will provide a good test.

3. Bret Bielema and Tim Brewster -- Something is bound to happen in the already simmering Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry, and it will be interesting to see what the two head coaches say and do during and after Saturday's game. Bielema's dash to midfield after last year's Wisconsin win made waves this week, and Brewster has already declared Wisconsin as Minnesota's top rival. There should be some fireworks in Madison (ABC, 3:30 p.m.).

4. Makeshift offensive backfields at the Big House -- Both Northwestern and Michigan are dealing with injuries at quarterback and running back heading into Saturday's matchup (ESPN2, noon ET). Given both teams' problems with turnovers this season, the group that takes better care of the football likely comes out with the win. Michigan quarterback Nick Sheridan tries to build off a strong performance last week in his second straight start, while Northwestern senior quarterback C.J. Bacher likely will return to the field after sitting out the past two weeks with a hamstring injury. Michael Shaw (Michigan) and Stephen Simmons (Northwestern) likely get the starts at running back.

5. Illinois tries to continue crazy pattern -- Since Sept. 13, Illinois has alternated wins and losses. It's not what head coach Ron Zook had in mind, but he wouldn't mind if it continued Saturday against No. 11 Ohio State. Illinois lost last week against Western Michigan and needs a win to get bowl eligible. The Illini usually play the Buckeyes tough, but Ohio State has won 14 straight Big Ten road games.

6. Purdue's quarterback situation -- Fifth-year senior Curtis Painter should return in some form at Iowa, but redshirt freshman Justin Siller is expected to start for the Boilermakers. Head coach Joe Tiller hinted at having a quarterback rotation, with Painter being used for the two-minute drill. The quarterbacks' differing skill sets could present some problems for Iowa, but both players will need to perform well to give Purdue a chance for the upset.

7. Minnesota tries to survive without Eric Decker -- The Gophers' offense was downright awful last week, and they'll be without star wide receiver Eric Decker (high ankle sprain) at Wisconsin. Freshmen Brandon Green and Brodrick Smith and sophomore Ralph Spry will have to step up, but perhaps more important, Minnesota must generate a running game outside of quarterback Adam Weber.

8. Derrick Williams -- If Penn State had held on to beat Iowa, Williams would have been a big story. Penn State used Williams in the "Wildcat" formation, in part to protect Clark, and the senior showcased his speed and versatility. In addition to running for a touchdown, Williams completed a 23-yard pass to Mickey Shuler for Penn State's only play of longer than 20 yards. The Lions likely will continue to expand Williams' role and maximize his versatility against Indiana.

9. Shonn Greene -- Expect to see the Iowa junior running back on this list for the rest of the season. He's just that good, and I don't think we'll see him in college next fall. Greene aims for his 11th consecutive 100-yard rushing game against Purdue, which ranks 90th nationally in rush defense (172.8 ypg). He got a bit banged up on a fourth-quarter touchdown run last week against Penn State but is expected to be fine for Saturday's game.

10. Michigan's final home appearance -- The Wolverines won't be going bowling, but a second straight win and a favorable send-off for the seniors would dull the pain for their fans, who have booed quite a bit this season. Obviously, an upset next week in Columbus would be bigger for the Wolverines, but another victory against a team with a winning record will help matters.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Seventy-two hours later, it's hard to find fault with Penn State's offensive game plan against Iowa.

Aside from the game's first series, when Penn State inexplicably tried to pass the ball into a stiff wind, the scheme seemed to work. The Lions effectively mixed and matched ball carriers against a formidable Iowa defensive front, finding holes both up the middle and on the edges. They took the weather into account and wisely emphasized the run.

Evan Royster proved he's one of the nation's smartest and most patient running backs, consistently waiting for blocks to develop and hitting holes without any wasted steps. Penn State successfully used Derrick Williams on end-arounds and direct snaps, and the speedy senior found room here and there. Stephfon Green filled in well, rushing for 31 yards on three carries. Sure, quarterback Daryll Clark was a bit off, but he didn't really need to be at his peak to win the game.

Penn State held the ball for 23:34 in the first half and out-gained Iowa, 203-70.

So why did the Lions lose?

"They didn't give us anything easy," quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno said. "They didn't give us anything big."

Paterno's last word is the key one.

Through the first eight games, Penn State's offense produced 51 plays of 20 yards or longer (30 passes, 21 runs). Get your head around that number. It's Big 12-good.

The Lions had five or more explosion plays in all eight contests.

Now look at Penn State's last two games.

The Lions had one play of 20 yards or longer against Ohio State, a 49-yard pass from Clark to Graham Zug. Their longest run stretched 14 yards.

It was much of the same against Iowa. Penn State once again had only one play going longer than 20 yards, a fourth-quarter pass from Williams to tight end Mickey Shuler that went for 23. Clark's longest pass went for 17 yards and the team's longest run went 13 yards.

The absence of the big play doomed Penn State, which couldn't execute well enough in the red zone. Smart, methodical offense was nice, but the Lions needed something extra.

Some quick injury updates

September, 30, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Better late than never:

  • Iowa starting running back Shonn Greene is expected to be fine for Saturday's game at Michigan State (ESPN2, noon ET). Greene left last week's game against Northwestern with a head injury after taking a big hit from safety Brad Phillips. He was replaced by freshman Jewel Hampton, who coach Kirk Ferentz wants to keep developing. Backup Paki O'Meara will miss the Michigan State game with a knee injury. 
  • Ohio State left guard Steve Rehring should return against Wisconsin and share time with Jim Cordle. Freshman Michael Brewster will remain the starting center. Tight end Rory Nichol and linebacker Austin Spitler will miss the Wisconsin game, but sophomore linebacker Tyler Moeller is expected back. 
  • Penn State coach Joe Paterno isn't sure whether senior wide receiver Jordan Norwood (hamstring) will be ready for Saturday's trip to Purdue (ESPN, noon ET). "Well, I think he's going to be okay," Paterno said. "Don't hold me to that. ... We will work hard today, and I don't know if we can get Jordan involved in some things." Tight end Mickey Shuler (ankle) will play against the Boilers. 
  • Indiana coach Bill Lynch won't know the status of injured safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk until later in the week. Both players sat out last Saturday's game against Michigan State. "They're moving around better than they were a week ago," Lynch said.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

I didn't get around to breaking down every depth chart released Monday, so let's do it. Wisconsin's and Iowa's came out last week, and there were no major changes there. Still waiting for Michigan State and Minnesota (Purdue doesn't play until Week 2).


  • As stated earlier, quarterbacks Daryll Clark and Pat Devlin are both listed as potential starters.
  • Andrew Quarless is listed as the third-string tight end behind Mickey Shuler and Andrew Szczerba. Quarless, a former starter, was suspended for spring practice following a DUI arrest and has had several off-field problems at Penn State.
  • Cornerback Tony Davis secured a starting job, and the other cornerback spot will go to Lydell Sargeant or A.J. Wallace. Sargeant started the first 10 games at cornerback last year and looked to be the starter with Wallace, instead of competing against him.
  • Sophomores Ollie Ogbu and Abe Koroma are listed as the starters at the defensive tackle spot, which was thinned by two dismissals and an injury to Devon Still. Junior Jared Odrick is listed as Koroma's backup and likely will play plenty this fall.
  • Tyrell Sales and Bani Gbadyu are listed as the starting outside linebackers, with Josh Hull in the middle. Promising sophomore Chris Colasanti is listed as Hull's backup.
  • Evan Royster remains the top running back with speedy redshirt freshman Stephfon Green behind him.
  • Junior Dennis Landolt is listed as both the starting right tackle and the backup left tackle behind Gerald Cadogan.


  • As expected, junior Daniel Dufrene is listed as the starting running back ahead of Troy Pollard. Freshmen Jason Ford and Mikel LeShoure continue to compete for the third-string spot.
  • Junior Chris Duvalt and sophomore Chris James have joined Arrelious Benn as starters at wide receiver. Sophomore walk-on Alex Reavy is listed as Benn's backup, and freshmen Fred Sykes, Cordale Scott and A.J. Jenkins all are on the two-deep.
  • A bit of a surprise as both Doug Pilcher and Derek Walker are listed as starters at defensive end opposite Will Davis. The "OR" designation is common for depth charts, but you don't usually see "AND" separating two possible starters. Walker has started the last three seasons but could play less with Pilcher's emergence and greater depth on the line.
  • Sophomores Bo Flowers and Travon Bellamy secured the starting safety spots. Bellamy was a shoo-in, but Fowers beat out Nate Bussey and Donsay Hardeman for the job.
  • Sophomore Josh Brent will start at defensive tackle following Sirod Williams' season-ending knee injury. Freshman Cory Liuget is listed as the backup at the other tackle spot.
  • Four players remain in the mix for the starting place-kicker spot, with freshman Derek Dimke listed first.

There were a couple of notes from Wisconsin's news conference Monday.

  • Cornerback Aaron Henry (knee) will miss the opener against Akron, and freshman linebacker Kevin Rouse will miss the majority of the season following shoulder surgery. Tight end Travis Beckum (hamstring), linebacker Jonathan Casillas (knee), fullback Chris Pressley (thumb) and cornerback Antonio Fenelus (ankle) could play Saturday and will be evaluated later in the week.
  • Offensive linemen Jake Current and Kevin Zeitler, running back Bradie Ewing, tight end Jake Byrne, defensive end Brendan Kelly, punter Brad Nortman and defensive back Kevin Claxton are the freshmen expected to play this fall.

Lift For Life recap

July, 14, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

I heard back from Uplifting Athletes executive director Scott Shirley during the weekend, and it sounded like Friday's Lift For Life event at Penn State was a success. Ninety-six players participated in the weightlifting competition, and the team has raised more than $300,000 for the Kidney Cancer Association during the event's six-year history.

Nittany Lions fans surely were thrilled to learn that Daryll Clark, considered the frontrunner for the starting quarterback spot, was part of the winning lifting team, which pulled a mini upset. Team A $M Here! A $M There! -- featuring Clark, linebacker Josh Hull and tight ends Greg Miskinis and Mickey Shuler -- edged one of the favored squads, which had defensive end Josh Gaines, center A.Q. Shipley, safety Anthony Scirrotto and linebacker Tyrell Sales.

The players also weighed in on several topics, including the off-field problems that have plagued the program and the 2009 recruiting outlook.