Big Ten: Mike Brewster

Big Ten lunch links

August, 14, 2013
8/14/13
12:00
PM ET
Happy hump day. Do you believe the season is barely two weeks away? Fired up.

Link time ...
Earlier this week, I asked you to identify the Big Ten's strongest position group. Not surprisingly, running back ran away from the competition with 53 percent of the vote.

SportsNation

What is the Big Ten's weakest position group entering the season?

  •  
    59%
  •  
    14%
  •  
    19%
  •  
    8%

Discuss (Total votes: 4,366)

Can't blame you there. The Big Ten returns its top three running backs from 2011 -- Heisman Trophy finalist Montee Ball, Nebraska's Rex Burkhead and Penn State's Silas Redd -- along with a group of others (Michigan's Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell) who should be very good. While it's a little surprising cornerback didn't receive more votes (9 percent), the results went mostly as expected.

Now it's time to select the position where the Big Ten is lacking the most. This vote could be a bit closer, although I have an idea of which position will pull away. Graduation losses and departures to the NFL hit certain positions harder than others. Some position groups, like safety, lacked star power in 2011 and might be a bit weak again this season.

The accompanying poll includes four choices. To refresh your memory, I've made a brief case for why each position could be the weakest in the league.

Wide receiver: League loses top seven pass-catchers from 2011, including first-round draft pick A.J. Jenkins (Illinois) and all first- and second-team All-Big Ten selections (Jenkins, Iowa's Marvin McNutt, Michigan State's B.J. Cunningham, Northwestern's Jeremy Ebert and Wisconsin's Nick Toon).

Offensive tackle: Not the strongest position in 2011, and league loses Iowa's Riley Reiff, a first-round draft pick, as well as Ohio State's Mike Adams and Illinois' Jeff Allen, both second-round picks. Also gone are Wisconsin's Josh Oglesby, Purdue's Dennis Kelly and Northwestern's Al Netter.

Safety: Arguably the Big Ten's weakest position in 2011, and the league loses first-team all-conference selections Trenton Robinson (Michigan State) and Brian Peters (Northwestern). Penn State's Nick Sukay and Wisconsin's Aaron Henry also are among those departing the league.

Center: The Big Ten loses Rimington Trophy winner David Molk of Michigan, as well as Wisconsin's Peter Konz, a second-round draft pick. Also gone are Nebraska's Mike Caputo and Ohio State's Mike Brewster, who shared second-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches.

Now it's time to vote. Make yours count.
Offensive lineman Brian Bobek, who announced earlier this month that he would transfer from Ohio State, is headed to play for Minnesota.

Bobek on Saturday released a statement to several media outlets, including ESPN.com, confirming his move to the Gophers. Because of Big Ten rules about transferring between conference members, Bobek will lose a season of eligibility in 2012 as he sits out because of NCAA transfer rules. He will have two years of eligibility remaining beginning in 2013. Bobek will pay his own way this fall because Minnesota is at its scholarship maximum (85). He will be on scholarship with the Gophers beginning in January 2013.

Bobek says in his statement that Minnesota was one of the first schools to contact him when he announced his intention to transfer. Head coach Jerry Kill and offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover reached out after receiving permission from Ohio State.
"Coaches Kill and Limegrover are exceptional coaches, and I am confident they and the rest of the staff are on the way to restoring the winning tradition of the Minnesota football program," Bobek's statement reads. "I look forward to making a contribution to Minnesota football and, once eligible, having an opportunity to achieve my personal goals as a football player. The University of Minnesota offers a quality education, and I hope to take advantage of the many opportunities of going to school in a great city like Minneapolis. Also, my family and I are happy for me to have the chance to continue to compete in the Big Ten, one of the best football conferences in the country.
"I once again want to thank the athletic department and football program at The Ohio State University for their consideration and assistance in easing my transition to the University of Minnesota and the Minnesota Golden Gopher football program."

Bobek played a bit as a freshman last season for the Buckeyes. A highly touted recruit, he had been projected as the successor to four-year starter Michael Brewster at center, but he slipped to No. 3 on the depth chart this spring.

The 6-foot-2, 275-pound Bobek is a good pickup for Minnesota, which is looking to upgrade depth on the offensive line and restore its reputation in the trenches.
Everyone knows Terrelle Pryor headlined Ohio State's nationally acclaimed recruiting class in 2008.

But who can name the Buckeye's No. 2 rated player in the class, according to ESPN Recruiting? Hint 1: It wasn't Mike Adams, Mike Brewster, J.B. Shugarts or DeVier Posey. Hint 2: He's still in Columbus.

It might surprise some to know Etienne Sabino came to Ohio State with as much hype as the others, besides Pryor. ESPN Recruiting ranked him as the nation's top inside linebacker and No. 18 player overall. Sabino, who had an excellent size-speed combo coming out of Miami's Dr. Krop High School, received similar accolades from other recruiting services.

[+] EnlargeEtienne Sabino
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesEtienne Sabino, right, is looking to end his career at Ohio State the right way in 2012.
Yet unlike Pryor, Brewster and the others, Sabino didn't make an impact right away. He played mostly special teams as a freshman, recording six tackles. He had virtually the same results as a reserve in 2009 (13 games played, six tackles made).

Pegged as a starter in the spring of 2010, Sabino had high hopes entering fall camp. Linebackers coach Luke Fickell said of Sabino that spring, "He's the guy. ... This has been his best spring so far." But a great spring didn't translate into fall camp, as Andrew Sweat beat out Sabino for the third starting linebacker spot alongside Ross Homan and Brian Rolle. Sweat had been another decorated recruit in 2008, although not as heralded as Sabino.

Sabino and the coaches agreed he should redshirt the season, and while a rash of injuries midway through the season nearly forced him onto the field, he was able to sit out.

His wait for a bigger role finally ended in 2011, as he started five games and recorded 62 tackles, including 6.5 for loss and two sacks. It was a step, although not a huge one. Ask most Ohio State fans what they're excited about at linebacker entering 2012, and the name Ryan Shazier likely will be brought up before Sabino's.

"Coming in from high school, you want everything to happen right away," Sabino told ESPN.com. "You want to jump in, you want to contribute to the team, you want to be a superstar. Unfortunately, it doesn't always happen that way. As of right now, I think my career, would I want it to be a little better at this point? Yes. But I feel like it’s getting better in the past year or so, and I'm looking to build on that.

"I just feel ready. I felt ready before, but I have such a good grasp of what we're doing and what's expected."

As one of just eight members of the 2008 class still with the Buckeyes, the 6-foot-3, 237-pound Sabino is embracing a greater leadership role. He called the most recent spring practice "the most comfortable I’ve felt since I've been here." He has embraced the scheme under Fickell, the team's defensive coordinator, and his role as an outside linebacker after getting a look at the middle earlier in his career.

Ohio State's defense took a step back in 2011, and the linebacker play was below program standards. While the Buckeyes have depth questions at linebacker outside of Sabino, Shazier and Storm Klein, Sabino has high hopes for the group.

"We pride ourselves on being Linebacker U," Sabino said. "There might be a little bit of a controversy everywhere else, but we truly feel this is Linebacker University and we're trying to uphold that tradition here."

Fickell, who like many had such high hopes for Sabino coming out of spring practice in 2010, has seen the fifth-year senior embrace the urgency before his final season in Scarlet and Gray.

"He is an unbelievable example to a lot of guys because he was one of those highly, highly recruited guys," Fickell told ESPN.com. "Things didn't happen for him really fast, and he's had a true up-and-down college career from what people might have thought or he might have thought when he came out. It just doesn’t always happen for everybody really fast.

"We always try to tell them, 'It’s not about where you start, it's where you finish.' He's on that route to really be able to finish very, very well."

Sabino still has time to make Ohio State fans remember his name.
Going into this offseason, Ohio State needed to find a replacement for four-year starting center Mike Brewster. Many people thought Brian Bobek, Brewster's backup from last season, had the inside track. Few would have predicted that Corey Linsley would grab the job and make it his own.

It's not that Linsley lacked talent. It's just that he hadn't shown a lot in his first three seasons. Last season, he was suspended for two games and didn't get a lot of playing time as a backup guard.

[+] EnlargeCorey Linsley
AP Photo/Jay LaPreteOhio State's Urban Meyer, left, has been pleased with the progress of Corey Linsley this spring.
"I really didn't see myself as accomplishing too much," Linsley told ESPN.com about his career. "I wasn't putting in all the time to be a great player. I was just doing enough to get by, and thought that was good enough. Obviously, last year showed that it wasn't."

That's why Linsley felt like he had approached a crossroads this winter. He had a clean slate with new head coach Urban Meyer. But he also had to push himself harder than ever when new strength coach Mickey Marotti began the team's challenging early morning workouts. Linsley called it "do or die" time for him as a college player.

"We had a series of 5 a.m. workouts right when Coach Meyer started, and that's when it kind of clicked for me," he said. "I had to make a decision: Am I going to sit back and relax, or am I going to take the initiative to get better, to become a better player and a better person?

"It was probably the hardest thing I've ever done. But every day I told myself, 'If I got through this, I can get through the next workout. And not only get through it, but get better while I was doing it.'"

Few players have transformed as much under the new Buckeyes regime. Linsley went from what Meyer called "a journeyman" to being anointed as the most improved player of the spring on offense by his coach. Linsley barely played in the Ohio State spring game because the staff was confident in and comfortable with what he could do.

“He was a pleasant surprise," Meyer told reporters last month. "He has the potential to be a very good player. His commitment to excellence right now is real strong.”

Linsley embraced those early morning workouts and started showing up before they began to get in extra snaps with quarterback Braxton Miller. He later realized how much that offseason conditioning paid off when offensive coordinator Tom Herman introduced the high-tempo offense this spring.

"I knew I had to be in shape after probably the first week [of spring practice]," Linsley said. "I've got to be the first O-lineman up to the line, the guy making the calls, and then make sure everybody is relaying that call further down the line. If you're not in tip-top shape, you can do it, but your mental aspects are really going to deteriorate over the course of the game."

The 6-foot-3, 292-pound Linsley has all the physical tools to make a great center. Teammates say he has bench-pressed more than 500 pounds this spring. What he's trying to do now is play with the fundamentals and technique that Brewster showed during his standout career.

"Mike has unbelievable knee bend and uses his hands the way you're supposed to use them," Linsley said. "I don't have the flexibility that Mike does, but I'm probably a little stronger. So I'm trying to take the strength I have and play with the technique he does."

Once a player who did just enough to get by, Linsley is taking to heart Meyer's challenge for the team to have the best offseason in Ohio State history. For him, that means not just doing the scheduled lifts and runs, but to always add on some extra film work or position drills. He says he's also making a point to try and lead the younger linemen and backups, making sure to pull them along to additional workouts.

That's not the Corey Linsley anybody knew before this winter. But that's why he could be known as the next great Buckeyes center.

Big Ten mailblog

May, 1, 2012
5/01/12
5:45
PM ET
Catching up on the mail. You can always reach me with questions or comments here.

Matt from Dallas writes: Adam, good article on whether players benefited from jumping early to the draft, can you do a similar article about players who were hurt this year by waiting to enter the draft then going last year. Being a Husker fan I believe Dennard and Crick were hurt significantly, just curious on your thoughts about other teams and players in the Big 10.

Adam Rittenberg: Matt, not sure if I'll do another post, but I can definitely discuss some of those players here. It would have been interesting to see where Crick would have been drafted had he come out after the 2010 season. He almost certainly would have gone higher than the fourth round. Missing half the 2011 season didn't help Crick, and there seemed to be some questions about him even before he suffered the pectoral injury. Dennard is a different case. He didn't hurt his draft stock much during the regular season and arguably helped it with performances like the ones against Michigan State and Iowa. His problems seemed to surface in predraft events, which could have happened after the 2010 season as well, and the arrest on the weekend before the draft.

One player who certainly should have come out after 2010 is Ohio State center Mike Brewster, who didn't hear his name called at all last weekend. Brewster wasn't part of the infamous Tat-5, but he was hurt by their actions, as Ohio State's offense went from potentially elite to one of the nation's weakest. Penn State receiver Derek Moye is another undrafted player who might have fared better had he come out after 2010. An extra year in State College with shaky quarterbacks didn't help his stock.



Hunter from Jackson, Mich., writes: I've heard several analysts saying that this may be Michigan's year to run the table and win the National Championship. But why are the Spartans left out? Though their offense may be hard to predict right now, they are returning 10 of 12 starters from one of the nation's best defenses last season. They also have very winnable games at home in ND, OSU, and NEB. If the offense can work out its kinks by the time conference play begins, and if they can pull out two winnable games in Madison and Ann Arbor, why not us?

Adam Rittenberg: Who is saying Michigan will run the table? Have you seen that schedule? Alabama (neutral but basically road), Notre Dame (road), Nebraska (road), Ohio State (road) and Michigan State (home). While I see more folks predicting Michigan to win the Big Ten, it's a stretch to see the Wolverines making the national title game with such a tough slate. That said, you're right about people overlooking Michigan State. There's too much attention paid to who leaves on offense and not enough to who comes back on defense. The Spartans might need to win a lot of games 17-14 this season, but I don't expect many teams to put up points against William Gholston, Denicos Allen, Johnny Adams & Co. As far as the national title, I don't put Michigan State in the mix, largely for the same reason as Michigan. The schedule isn't easy, despite more marquee games at home than the Wolverines. It will be very tough to win in both Ann Arbor and Madison.

Bottom line: Michigan State and Michigan are both Big Ten title contenders, not national title contenders. And not much separates the teams.



Andrew from Indianapolis writes: You mentioned how Iowa and Wisconsin placed so many players in the NFL, and how programs that develop NFL talent resonate with potential recruits. Given that, wouldn't Denard Robinson's best shot at the NFL be at a position other than QB? And might recruits look at Hoke's decision to keep him at QB as hindering, not helping his chances to get to the next level?

Adam Rittenberg: No, I don't think that'd be the case, Andrew. Robinson wants to be a quarterback, and he gives Michigan the best chance to win by playing quarterback right now. NFL scouts see him run around and make defenders look terrible each week for the Wolverines. It's not a stretch for them to envision him catching passes at wide receiver, where he'll likely play at the next level. Robinson certainly will have to show he can play a different spot in the predraft workouts, but I don't think Brady Hoke is holding him back at Michigan. It might be a different situation if Hoke was forcing Robinson to play quarterback, which isn't the case at all.



David from State College, Pa., writes: With a playoff basically coming the last real thing I see that is being looked at is the location of the Semifinals. 1 and 2 seed's hosting the sites on their campus seems to rub people the wrong way because they say some college stadiums are small or the town cant deal with the influx of people. Why not allow each conference (All not just the power six) choose a site for there semi if they have a team hosting a semi? Just as an example the B1G could choose Indy and no matter what B1G team ended up 1 or 2 Indy would be the location. This would also lessen the travel burden on fans if chosen correctly by the conferences.

Adam Rittenberg: David, I like the idea, but it would be tough to execute. The challenge would be the relatively short time to prepare between championship weekend and the semifinal games. Would Lucas Oil Stadium be willing to keep a date open for a possible semifinal? That's a bit of a gamble, and the venue could end up losing a lot of money. The proposal being considered that includes "anchor" bowls gives leagues a bit of freedom, like the Big Ten ensuring the Rose Bowl is a semifinal if it has a team in the top 2. The Rose Bowl is going to have a game no matter what, so advance planning isn't an issue. The plan I advocate, the one that truly benefits the fans, is to have these games on campus. The campus venues will be available, and the travel burden would be minimal for most of the fans attending the games.



Stephen from Chicago writes: Hi Adam, I'm sure you saw that Purdue recently unveiled a new train logo that Nike designed because they thought our old logo was too hard to work with on apparel. (Despite working for so many years...) Well, like most Boilermakers, I was none too pleased with the new logo as it takes away a lot of the dynamic, aggressiveness, and uniqueness of our original Boilermaker Special logo. So being a graduate of Purdue's industrial design program, I designed my own interpretation of a new logo, merging the old logo with the new one. I kept it symmetrical as that was one of Nike's biggest complaints, but added in the things they took away, like the block P, the angled smokestack, the two-toned Purdue text, and the old gold (which is our official school color; not that pale yellow). I also simplified the smoke, and only used 4 colors like the old logo, rather than the 5 of the newer one. So you can check it out here. Let me know what you think! I'm just trying to keep my fellow Purdue fans excited about our athletics program despite the changes the administration keeps making that deflates fans' enthusiasm. Thanks for reading and looking. Boiler up!

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the note, Stephen, and well done on the design. I like it. The block P in the train logo is definitely a nice touch, and the old gold is definitely preferable to what I saw with the new logo, which looks a bit cartoonish to me. There's always going to some disagreement when schools change their logos, and I understand the reasons (Nike, $$$) why Purdue needed to make a switch. It's always good, however, to see some different views, so thanks for providing one.



Adam from Chicago writes: At a totally unscientifically random point in the 3rd round of the NFL draft, the Big Ten has had 14 players taken (out of 94, which isn't so bad at all). But look at these breakdowns: 9 are down linemen, 1 is a quarterback (this will soon be 2 as the excellent Kirk Cousins goes somewhere), and 4 play all the other positions combined. The Big Ten is clearly one of or the preeminent producer of professional linemen among the conferences. I would argue 2 drafted QBs is solid, and I don't think it's fair to call Big Ten QB play poor lately. Clearly though, it's the other positions that are increasingly dreadful in the Big Ten. This is an often discussed topic, but is there any hope for better Big Ten skill players?

Adam Rittenberg: Adam, it's definitely a problem in the Big Ten, especially compared against leagues like the SEC and Big 12. The Big Ten had a lot of good wide receivers in 2011, but only one, Illinois' A.J. Jenkins, went in the first two rounds. Ohio State's DeVier Posey, who only played in three games last year, was the next Big Ten wideout off of the board in the third round. This trend needs to change going forward, and it's hard to pinpoint the solution, whether it's recruiting differently or placing a greater premium on developing receivers. The quarterback position also needs to be upgraded, as the Big Ten hasn't had a signal caller drafted in the first round since Penn State's Kerry Collins in 1995! That's horrible. I also think cornerback is a spot where the Big Ten needs more elite-level prospects to emerge. Again, a lot of it is recruiting, but it's also developing players into stars who appeal to NFL teams.
Several Big Ten players who didn't hear their names called in New York during the weekend still received some good news about their football futures. As soon as the NFL draft concluded, the undrafted free agent scramble began.

Here's an initial list of Big Ten UFA signings. Every Big Ten squad except Indiana had a player signed through free agency. We'll be sure to post more as they become official.

ILLINOIS
IOWA
MICHIGAN
MICHIGAN STATE
MINNESOTA
NEBRASKA
NORTHWESTERN
OHIO STATE
PENN STATE
PURDUE
WISCONSIN

Several players seem to be in good situations, whether it's playing for their hometown team (Kinnie, Netter) or near a family member (Lynn, whose dad, Anthony, coaches running backs for the Jets). It's still shocking to see Brewster on this list rather than the draft one. I'm also surprised Moye, Wiggs, Linthicum and Dimke didn't get drafted.

Other Big Ten players have tryouts with NFL squads, such as Northwestern quarterback Dan Persa (Tampa Bay), Minnesota wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight (Minnesota Vikings), Indiana offensive lineman Chris McDonald (Miami, Green Bay) and Minnesota safety Kim Royston (Minnesota Vikings).
The NFL draft begins Thursday night. You probably weren't aware of that, because the draft, like most things associated with the National Football League, gets very little media coverage. Ahem.

Luckily, Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett are stepping into this void to talk about the draft, and specifically the Big Ten prospects hoping to hear their name called over the long weekend.

Brian Bennett: Adam, we usually leave draft talk to people with better hair than us, like Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay. But let's give it a shot. You know the NFL is a different game when Iowa's Riley Reiff is widely expected to be the top player taken from the Big Ten. Reiff is an excellent player and terrific pro prospect, no doubt. But if you would have asked league fans to pick a most valuable player from the conference this season, Reiff probably wouldn't have cracked the Top 10.

Speaking of the Top 10, the Big Ten hasn't had a player selected in that range for the past three years and is likely to make it four this year. What, if anything, does that say about the talent the league has been producing? And is Reiff the first guy you would take from the conference if you had an NFL team? (I'll resist from making wisecracks about your Big Ten fantasy team management last year).

Adam Rittenberg: Hey now, Year 2 will be different, my friend. The Shorties are coming for you. The Big Ten's Top 10 drought is certainly noteworthy, and I think it stems in part from the league producing fewer elite pro-caliber quarterbacks and cornerbacks in recent years. It does surprise me that the Big Ten hasn't had a defensive lineman in the top 10 recently, as the league has been very strong at both line spots. I think that will change in 2013. As for Reiff, he was about as under-the-radar as an elite player could get during his time at Iowa. He certainly performed well, but you didn't hear much about him, even compared to previous Hawkeyes standout linemen like Bryan Bulaga. Reiff is a masher, though, and while some say he's not the most dominant tackle, he should be able to help an NFL team this coming season.

I'd want to start my team with a potential difference-maker on the defensive line. The Big Ten has plenty of options, but Illinois' Whitney Mercilus is a natural pass-rusher who can put up big numbers. Have Merci? Yes, please. What's your view of the Big Ten's defensive line crop entering the draft?

BB: We both agreed that the defensive line, especially on the interior, is where the league's true strength lay in 2011. I'm a bit surprised that some mock drafts don't have Michigan State's Jerel Worthy, who has the chance to be a major presence on defense, in the first round and that Penn State's Devon Still, who was wildly productive last season, is being projected as a second-rounder at best. I'd rather take one of those guys than roll the dice on Memphis' Dontari Poe, a combine wonder who did next to nothing in college. And though Michigan's Mike Martin is a little short by NFL standards, I have little doubt he'll be a productive pro.

[+] EnlargeIowa's Riley Reiff
Jeffrey G. Pittenger/US PRESSWIREIowa's Riley Reiff could be the first Big Ten player selected in the NFL draft.
I'm also interested in seeing how the centers get drafted. Wisconsin's Peter Konz, Michigan's David Molk and Ohio State's Michael Brewster were arguably the top three centers in the nation last year. Molk, of course, publicly said he's the best of the three, and he did win the Rimington Trophy. Konz likely will go first, but I will be fascinated to see who ends up having the best career.

You mentioned quarterbacks. What do you think about Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Wisconsin's Russell Wilson as potential NFL players? And will Dan Persa get a shot somewhere?

AR: Cousins should be the first Big Ten quarterback off the board, and many projections have him going in the second round. He clearly improved his stock during the predraft process. While everyone raves about the character of both Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin -- and for good reasons -- Cousins, as we both know, certainly fits into the same category as those two. He's not the fastest or most athletic guy, but he's extremely smart and played in a pro-style system at Michigan State. He could end up being a solid pro quarterback.

The issue for both Wilson and Persa is size, Persa more so than Wilson. While Wilson boasts tremendous arm strength and athleticism, his height scares teams. He does a tremendous job of extending plays and can make all of the throws, but he'll have to prove himself as a consistent pocket passer in a league where everyone is really big and really fast. Looks like a midround selection. Whether or not Persa gets drafted at all will be interesting. The guy obviously has a ton of heart and tremendous leadership skills, but he's small and suffered a major injury at Northwestern. I think Todd McShay summed up the sentiment about Persa when he told the Chicago Tribune, "I want to like Persa, but as an NFL prospect, he is limited." Persa will find his way onto a roster, but he'll have a lot to prove.

We've read a lot of draft evaluations in recent weeks. Which Big Ten player could be a real steal for a team this weekend?

BB: The guy whom I think is really undervalued is Iowa's Marvin McNutt. I've seen him going as late as the fifth or sixth round, which seems (Mc)nuts to me. Sure, it's a deep draft for receivers, and McNutt might not have blazing speed. But we saw him make some absolutely spectacular catches last season, and he closed his career as the Hawkeyes' all-time leader in receiving touchdowns. He has good size and produced 1,300 receiving yards in what was clearly not a gimmicky, pass-happy offense. If I were a GM and he was sitting there in Round 4 or later, I'd happily grab him.

Two other guys I think can be big bargains for teams are Nebraska's Lavonte David and Ohio State's Mike Adams. Both are being projected as second-rounders for different reasons (David because of size, Adams for off-the-field issues in college), but I think both will have long and stellar careers. They'll bring first-round value without the price.

Who do you see as underrated, or possibly overrated, from the Big Ten in this draft?

AR: I would have put Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler in the underrated category, but it seems like teams have caught on to how good he can be. He'll likely be a late first-round pick. Same with Konz and maybe Adams. It baffles me why Devon Still isn't projected higher in the draft. Two others I'd put in the underrated category are Michigan's Martin and Iowa's Mike Daniels. You don't have to be Vince Wilfork to be an effective NFL defensive tackle. Both Martin and Daniels are smaller defensive tackles, but they're both extremely strong physical and play with sound fundamentals. Both men have been tutored by excellent defensive coaches, and the teams that select them will be inheriting very hard workers.

Two of the more intriguing Big Ten prospects are Ohio State receiver DeVier Posey and Nebraska defensive tackle Jared Crick. Posey, who I chatted with briefly last week in Columbus, played only three games last fall because of suspensions stemming from NCAA violations. He's clearly a gifted guy, but it'll be interesting to see how much the off-field issues and lack of playing time impact his draft position. Crick entered 2011 as an All-America candidate but missed most of the season with injury. He definitely can help an NFL team, but like with Posey, there are question marks.

OK, time to wrap up this draft discussion. What do you think the major story line regarding the Big Ten will be coming out of this weekend's festivities?

BB: I'll go out on a limb and say Reiff is not the first Big Ten player drafted, as someone reaches for Mercilus, Worthy or Konz first. And I think the other big stories will be with the quarterbacks, as Cousins is drafted in the second round and Wilson is picked higher than people expect. What are your predictions?

AR: I wouldn't mind if that someone landing Reiff or Mercilus is my Chicago Bears, but that's another debate. Worthy's selection will be fascinating, as his stock has been pretty volatile throughout the process. I think both Martin and Daniels go earlier than expect, while Wilson has to wait a while. It'll be fascinating to see where Molk ends up. No matter where he's selected, he'll feel overlooked. As a short guy myself, I'm definitely rooting for the vertically challenged (Molk, Wilson, Persa, Martin, Daniels etc.). Another story line: Nebraska cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, whose draft stock already had dropped before his arrest over the weekend.

Should be a fun weekend.
ESPN draft expert Mel Kiper has produced another set of top 5 lists , which examine the top prospects at each position as April gets closer. The scouting combine is all wrapped up, and pro day fever is upon us as players rise and fall on the draft boards.

Let's see where Big Ten players rank in Kiper’s rundowns.

No. 1 fullback: Bradie Ewing, Wisconsin
No. 5 tight end: Brian Linthicum, Michigan State
No. 2 offensive tackle: Riley Reiff, Iowa
No. 5 offensive tackle: Mike Adams, Ohio State
No. 4 guard: Kevin Zeitler, Wisconsin
No. 1 center: Peter Konz, Wisconsin
No. 3 center: David Molk, Michigan
No. 5 center: Mike Brewster, Ohio State
No. 3 defensive end: Whitney Mercilus, Illinois
No. 5 defensive tackle: Jerel Worthy, Michigan State
No. 2 outside linebacker: Lavonte David, Nebraska
No. 2 kicker: Philip Welch, Wisconsin
No. 4 kicker: Derek Dimke, Illinois
No. 5 punter: Eric Guthrie, Iowa

Thoughts: Center was undoubtedly the Big Ten’s strongest position in 2011, so it's not surprising to see three players in the top 5. Brewster’s stock seemed to drop a bit during the season and in the pre-draft events, while Molk improved his position and Konz appears to have made the right choice in bypassing his senior season. Linthicum and Adams are two players who helped their cause in pre-draft events, and David also has put himself in a good position. David's Nebraska teammate, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, has seen his stock drop after being pegged as a likely first-round pick several months ago.

I'm surprised not to see Michigan State quarterback Kirk Cousins and Penn State defensive tackle Devon Still on the list (although Still is pictured in the story). Cousins appeared to show well at the combine and should find himself in that next mix of quarterbacks behind Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III. It wouldn't surprise me to see Cousins drafted ahead of Brock Osweiler and potentially Brandon Weeden. Still, the 2011 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year, hasn't received as much hype as I thought as a potential first-round pick.

I might favor Dimke over Welch after the way Dimke ended his career, but Kiper has been high on Welch for some time.

It'll be interesting to see how these lists change after all the pro days are complete.

Big Ten lunchtime links

March, 9, 2012
3/09/12
12:00
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Enjoy a weekend full of hoops, everybody.

Big Ten lunch links

March, 1, 2012
3/01/12
12:00
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It happened. Satan's trifecta. The day I most dreaded had fallen on the day I most loved.
We've had 2012 mock NFL drafts seemingly since this draft class was in elementary school. But all the projections and prognosticating lacked one essential ingredient: the testing process.

That happened this past week at the NFL combine in Indianapolis, so now evaluators have a better sense of who are the legitimate prospects and who might be questionable.

ESPN's own draft expert, Mel Kiper Jr., offered his risers and fallers after the combine dust settled, and they included a few notable Big Ten names. Among those Kiper said helped themselves in Indy were:
Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins: "Not great in any one area, but solid across all of them, and Cousins has intangibles that evaluators love. I can see him safely into the second round now, where before a third-round grade was a better bet. A good week for him."

Nebraska LB Lavonte David: "Really encouraging for David's stock that he got his weight to 233 and still showed off plenty of athleticism, including a 4.56. He could be a solid second-rounder now and is a tackling machine."

Not everyone had the best showings in the combine. Here are the Big Ten products Kiper says he has questions about after the combine:
Ohio State RB Dan Herron: "I like Herron, but thought he needed to make a splash here given the missed time in 2011. That didn't happen, confirming a late-round grade."

Penn State DT Devon Still: "He derives a lot of value from being able to jump into a 3-4 or 4-3, but still has been sliding on my board. He needs to show more explosiveness, because he's not a great penetrator."

Nebraska CB Alfonzo Dennard: "Solid everywhere, but not great in any one area, Dennard is a good prospect who didn't test great, limiting the chances he goes in Round 1."

Kiper adjusted his new Big Board based on the combine performances, and now only two Big Ten players appear in his list of top 25 prospects, and they're both offensive linemen: Iowa's Riley Reiff (No. 8) and Wisconsin's Peter Konz (25).

Kiper also has his new list of top 5s by position , and there has been some serious movement in his tiers. Still, the Penn State All-American and Big Ten defensive player of the year, now does not even rank in Kiper's list of the top 5 defensive tackles. Michigan State's Jerel Worthy is No. 5.

Offensive line appears to be the strength for the Big Ten in this draft. Kiper lists Reiff as the No. 2 offensive tackle, with Ohio State's Mike Adams No. 4. The Big Ten owns the center list, with Konz, Michigan's David Molk and Ohio State's Mike Brewster ranking 1-2-3, respectively. (Molk moved ahead of Brewster with his combine showing, which comes as no surprise to Molk.) Wisconsin's Kevin Zeitler is rated as the No. 3 guard.

Elsewhere, Kiper has Wisconsin's Bradie Ewing as the No. 1 fullback, Michigan State's Brian Linthicum as the No. 5 tight end and Nebraska's David as the No. 2 outside linebacker. Dennard did not crack the list at corner, and Illinois' Whitney Mercilus is nowhere to be found on the defensive ends chart. Kiper says Michigan State's Cousins is the No. 6 quarterback in this draft.

Colleague Todd McShay has five Big Ten players in his new top 32 list : Reiff (10th), Adams (23rd), Worthy (25th), Konz (27th) and Still (28th).

Don't worry, though. We still have pro days, private workouts and nearly two full months of evaluations before the draft begins.

Michigan's Molk blasts Konz, Brewster

February, 29, 2012
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Michigan's David Molk believes he is the best center in the NFL draft, and he's not afraid to say it.

In an interview with AnnArbor.com, the Rimington Trophy winner says it's "pretty stupid" to think any other center should be drafted ahead of him, including Wisconsin's Peter Konz and Ohio State's Mike Brewster.

Molk
Molk had an impressive showing at the NFL combine, doing 41 repetitions on the 225-pound bench press. That was the second-best performance of all players at the event.

Konz, who some have projected as a first-round pick, did only 18 reps. That's one reason Molk says he is better.
"I have skills he doesn’t have. Obviously, my strength is far better, I’m faster, I would say I’m smarter. Obviously, he’s an intelligent person, I’ve talked to him, but I just think I have a technique that’s unmatched [by him]."

Molk also said that he was angry that Konz was named an AFCA first-team All-American after the season. Molk was a first-team All-America selection by the Associated Press, Football Writers Association of America and other organizations.
"Well, maybe [the coaches] should have checked in to who was All-Big Ten and the lineman of the year in the ... Big Ten before they did some stupid [stuff] like that," he said.

Molk also doesn't believe that Ohio State's Brewster, a four-year starter and 2010 All-American, should be drafted higher than him.
"He is nowhere near me as a player," he said of Brewster.

Brewster fired back on Twitter this morning, saying "If they are talking, then you are doing something right," then adding, "And Molk, keep my name out of your mouth...."

It looks like some Big Ten rivalries will continue into the NFL.

Big shoes to fill: Ohio State

February, 28, 2012
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Spring practice is just around the corner, and that will be a time for Big Ten teams to locate replacements for departed stars. We're taking a look at how each team might fill the roles of two key contributors no longer on campus.

Today, we turn our attention to Ohio State and its Urban renewal projects. The Buckeyes didn't lose a whole lot of seniors, and they already experienced what it was like to play without departed seniors Dan Herron and DeVier Posey for large stretches of last season. So we'll focus our attention on the offensive line:

[+] EnlargeMike Brewster
Melina Vastola/US PresswireOhio State has to replace departing center Mike Brewster, who made 49 consecutive starts.
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Mike Brewster, C

Why: Brewster was a fixture in the Buckeyes' lineup, making 49 consecutive starts after debuting as a true freshman. He was one of the best centers in the Big Ten for the duration of his career, and was named an All-American in 2010. He also provided good leadership -- especially in a year when some other seniors ran afoul of NCAA rules.

Replacement candidates: Brian Bobek (6-2, 280, Soph.); Corey Linsley (6-2, 310, Jr.); Joey O'Connor (6-4, 295 incoming freshman); Jacoby Boren (6-2, 275, incoming freshman).

The skinny: One reason to temper expectations about Urban Meyer's first year in Columbus is a dangerous lack of depth on the offensive line. The Buckeyes were already thin there last season, and lost three senior starters. If anyone other than Bobek is starting at center, it's probably because of an injury or something else unforeseen. The former blue-chip high school prospect spent last season as Brewster's understudy, and saw some time in mop-up duty. He should make a smooth transition to starter this spring, though living up to Brewster's production won't be easy.

Linsley has played guard in the past for the Buckeyes ,but likely will be one of the starting guards this season, along with Jack Mewhort. O'Connor and Boren project as guards, but could play center in a pinch -- a situation Ohio State hopes to avoid.

BIG SHOES TO FILL: Mike Adams, LT

Why: Adams missed the first five games of 2011 while serving a suspension, and his absence was notable. He was one of the best offensive linemen in the Big Ten during his three years as a starter, and the 6-foot-8, 320-pounder has been projected by some as a first-round NFL draft pick this spring. The Buckeyes' offensive line played much better last season once he returned.

Replacement candidates: Andrew Norwell (6-5, 308, Jr.); Marcus Hall (6-5, 315, Jr.); Antonio Underwood, (6-3, 305, Soph.); Tommy Brown (6-5, 320, Soph.); Chris Carter (6-6, 350, R-Fr.); Taylor Decker (6-8, 310, incoming freshman); Kyle Dodson (6-5, 315, incoming freshman).

The skinny: Here's another place where a successor is in place, but things could get shaky if something goes wrong.

Norwell started the first five games at left tackle last season while Adams was suspended before sliding back to guard. He should take over the blind side full time this season, and he has good instincts for the position. Everything else at tackle this spring is a little bit up in the air, as Meyer plans to convert tight end Reid Fragel into a right tackle. He and Hall will likely battle for that starting spot, with Hall potentially ending up as a super sub along the line.

Underwood started the Purdue game when J.B. Shugarts was injured but was pulled after a poor performance. Hopefully, another year of coaching will help him develop into a solid contributor. Brown and Carter are largely unknowns at this point, but at least have big bodies. Don't be surprised to see at least one of the true freshmen crack the two-deep this season. They're both very talented, and unfortunately for Ohio State, they don't have a ton of competition ahead of them.

B1G post-weekend combine update

February, 27, 2012
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Spring practice is just around the corner, but there was plenty of action on the field at the NFL combine this weekend in Indianapolis.

While the evaluations continue today and Tuesday, several position groups have completed their testing. Let's take a look at the top performances from Big Ten players. Some standouts in the workouts: Michigan WR Junior Hemingway, Illinois WR A.J. Jenkins, Michigan State WR Keshawn Martin, Iowa G Adam Gettis and Wisconsin QB Russell Wilson.

Before looking at position groups, we'll examine the top overall performers to date.

OVERALL PERFORMANCE (through Sunday)

40-yard dash
  • Illinois' Jenkins tied for fourth (4.39 seconds)
  • Michigan State's Martin tied for 13th (4.45 seconds)
Bench press
  • Michigan C David Molk ranked second with 41 repetitions of 225 pounds
  • Michigan DT Mike Martin tied for third with 36 repetitions
Vertical jump
  • Michigan State's Martin tied for fifth at 39.5 inches
  • Illinois' Jenkins tied for ninth at 38.5 inches
Broad jump
  • Michigan WR Junior Hemingway tied for 10th at 10 feet, 4 inches
  • Illinois' Jenkins tied for 10th at 10 feet, 4 inches
3-cone drill
  • Michigan's Hemingway ranked second at 6.59 seconds
  • Northwestern TE Drake Dunsmore tied for fourth at 6.73 seconds
20-yard shuttle
  • Michigan's Hemingway ranked second at 3.98 seconds
  • Northwestern's Dunsmore tied for fourth at 4.03 seconds
  • Ohio State RB Dan Herron ranked sixth at 4.04 seconds
  • Iowa WR Marvin McNutt ranked ninth at 4.07 seconds
  • Wisconsin's Wilson ranked 10th at 4.09 seconds
60-yard shuttle
  • Michigan's Hemingway tied for third at 11.16 seconds
  • Michigan State's Martin tied for third at 11.16 seconds
  • Northwestern's Dunsmore tied for 14th at 11.47 seconds

Now onto the position groups ...

Quarterback
  • Wisconsin's Wilson ranked second in 40-yard dash (4.55 seconds); sixth in vertical jump (34 inches); fourth in broad jump (9 feet, 10 inches); fifth in 3-cone drill (6.97 seconds) and second in 20-yard shuttle (4.09 seconds)
  • Michigan State's Kirk Cousins ranked 12th in 40-yard dash (4.93 seconds); 14th in vertical jump (28.5 inches); tied for ninth in broad jump (9 feet, 1 inch); seventh in 3-cone drill (7.05 seconds); 12th in 20-yard shuttle (4.5 seconds)
Running back
  • Michigan State's Edwin Baker tied for 10th in 40-yard dash (4.53 seconds); tied for 12th in bench press (20 reps of 225 pounds); tied for 12th in vertical jump (35 inches); and tied for 14th in 20-yard shuttle (4.31 seconds).
  • Ohio State's Dan Herron ranked seventh in bench press (22 reps of 225 pounds); tied for 12th in vertical jump (35 inches); tied for 12th in broad jump (9 feet, 9 inches); sixth in 3-cone drill (6.97 seconds); second in 20-yard shuttle (4.04 seconds); and fifth in 60-yard shuttle (11.6 seconds).
  • Wisconsin FB Bradie Ewing tied for fifth in vertical jump (36.5 inches); tied for fifth in broad jump (10 feet); tied for 14th in 3-cone drill (7.14 seconds); tied for fifth in 20-yard shuttle (4.16 seconds); and seventh in 60-yard shuttle (11.81 seconds).
Wide receiver
  • Illinois' Jenkins tied for fourth in 40-yard dash (4.39 seconds); tied for seventh in vertical jump (38.5 inches); and tied for eighth in broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches).
  • Michigan State's Martin ranked 11th in 40-yard dash (4.45 seconds); tied for fourth in vertical jump (39.5 inches); tied for 14th in broad jump (10 feet, 2 inches); tied for eighth in 3-cone drill (6.85 seconds); tied for 10th in 20-yard shuttle (4.13 seconds); and tied for second in 60-yard shuttle (11.16 seconds).
  • Michigan's Hemingway tied for third in bench press (21 reps at 225 pounds); tied for eighth in broad jump (10 feet, 4 inches); ranked first in 3-cone drill (6.59 seconds); tied for first in 20-yard shuttle (3.98 seconds); and tied for second in 60-yard shuttle (11.16 seconds).
  • Wisconsin's Nick Toon ranked 12th in bench press (18 reps at 225 pounds) and ranked 12th in vertical jump (37.5 inches).
  • Iowa's Marvin McNutt tied for 13th in vertical jump (37 inches); ranked fifth in 20-yard shuttle (4.07 seconds); and ranked 12th in 60-yard shuttle (11.62 seconds).
  • Ohio State's DeVier Posey tied for 10th in broad jump (10 feet, 3 inches) and tied for 12th in 20-yard shuttle (4.15 seconds).
Tight end
  • Northwestern's Dunsmore ranked fifth in 40-yard dash (4.64 seconds); tied for fifth in bench press (21 reps at 225 pounds); fifth in vertical jump (35.5 seconds); seventh in broad jump (9 feet, 9 inches); first in 3-cone drill (6.73 seconds); first in 20-yard shuttle (4.03 seconds); and third in 60-yard shuttle (11.47 seconds).
Defensive line (workouts take place Monday)
  • Michigan's Martin tied for second in bench press (36 reps of 225 pounds)
Offensive line
  • Iowa G Adam Gettis ranked third in 40-yard dash (5 seconds); tied for third in vertical jump (31.5 inches); second in broad jump (9 feet, 4 inches); tied for ninth in 20-yard shuttle (4.65 seconds)
  • Iowa T Riley Reiff tied for eighth in 40-yard dash (5.23 seconds);
  • Illinois T Jeff Allen ranked 15th in 40-yard dash (5.28 seconds); tied for 14th in broad jump (8 feet, 6 inches)
  • Michigan's Molk ranked first in bench press (41 reps at 225 pounds);
  • Wisconsin G Kevin Zeitler tied for third in bench press (32 reps at 225 pounds); tied for 14th in vertical jump (29 inches); eighth in 20-yard shuttle (4.61 seconds)
  • Penn State G Johnnie Troutman tied for eighth in bench press (31 reps at 225 pounds)
  • Ohio State C Mike Brewster tied for 13th in bench press (29 reps at 225 pounds); ranked 15th in 3-cone drill (7.73 seconds); tied for sixth in 20-yard shuttle (4.6 seconds)

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