Big Ten: Mohammed Seisay

Thirty Big Ten players heard their names called during the 2014 NFL draft, but many others received phone calls immediately after the event. The undrafted free-agent carousel is spinning, and players from around the Big Ten are hopping aboard.

Unlike the draft, the UDFA list is somewhat fluid, and other players could get picked up later today or in the coming days. To reiterate: This is not the final list.

Here's what we know right now from various announcements and media reports:

  • LB Jonathan Brown, Arizona Cardinals
  • WR Ryan Lankford, Miami Dolphins
  • TE Evan Wilson, Dallas Cowboys
  • WR Steve Hull, New Orleans Saints
  • WR Spencer Harris, New Orleans Saints
Notes: Illini OT Corey Lewis, who battled knee injuries throughout his career, told Steve Greenberg that several teams are interested in him if he's cleared by doctors.

  • WR Kofi Hughes, Washington Redskins
  • RB Stephen Houston, New England Patriots
Notes: S Greg Heban and K Mitch Ewald have tryouts with the Chicago Bears.

  • LB James Morris, New England Patriots
  • OT Brett Van Sloten, Baltimore Ravens
  • G Conor Boffeli, Minnesota Vikings
  • WR Don Shumpert, Chicago Bears
  • LS Casey Kreiter, Dallas Cowboys
  • LB Marcus Whitfield, Jacksonville Jaguars
  • CB Isaac Goins, Miami Dolphins
  • LB Cam Gordon, New England Patriots
  • S Thomas Gordon, New York Giants
Notes: RB Fitzgerald Toussaint (Baltimore), DT Jibreel Black (Pittsburgh), LS Jareth Glanda (New Orleans) and DT Quinton Washington (Oakland) will have tryouts.

  • LB Denicos Allen, Carolina Panthers
  • S Isaiah Lewis, Cincinnati Bengals
  • T/G Dan France, Cincinnati Bengals
  • WR Bennie Fowler, Denver Broncos
  • LB Max Bullough, Houston Texans
  • DT Tyler Hoover, Indianapolis Colts
  • DT Micajah Reynolds, New Orleans Saints
  • OL Fou Fonoti, San Francisco 49ers
Notes: LB Kyler Elsworth has a tryout scheduled with Washington.

  • LB Aaron Hill, St. Louis Rams
  • QB Taylor Martinez, Philadelphia Eagles
  • OT Brent Qvale, New York Jets
  • CB Mohammed Seisay, Detroit Lions
  • DE Jason Ankrah, Houston Texans
  • C Cole Pensick, Kansas City Chiefs
  • OT Jeremiah Sirles, San Diego Chargers
Notes: CB Ciante Evans has yet to sign but will do so soon. DB Andrew Green has a tryout with the Miami Dolphins.

  • WR Kain Colter, Minnesota Vikings
  • K Jeff Budzien, Jacksonville Jaguars
  • WR Rashad Lawrence, Washington Redskins
  • DE Tyler Scott, Minnesota Vikings
  • S C.J. Barnett, New York Giants
  • K Drew Basil, Atlanta Falcons
  • WR Corey Brown, Carolina Panthers
  • G Andrew Norwell, Carolina Panthers
  • G Marcus Hall, Indianapolis Colts
  • WR Chris Fields, Washington Redskins
  • OT Garry Gilliam, Seattle Seahawks
  • LB Glenn Carson, Arizona Cardinals
  • S Malcolm Willis, San Diego Chargers
Notes: OT Adam Gress will have a tryout with the Pittsburgh Steelers.

  • DE Greg Latta, Denver Broncos
  • S Rob Henry, Oakland Raiders
  • G Devin Smith, San Diego Chargers
  • DT Bruce Gaston Jr., Arizona Cardinals
Notes: P Cody Webster will have a tryout with Pittsburgh.

  • WR Brandon Coleman, New Orleans Saints
  • WR Quron Pratt, Philadelphia Eagles
  • LB Jamal Merrell, Tennessee Titans
  • DE Marcus Thompson, Miami Dolphins
  • S Jeremy Deering, New England Patriots
Notes: According to Dan Duggan, DE Jamil Merrell (Bears) and G Antwan Lowery (Baltimore) will have tryouts.

  • G/T Ryan Groy, Chicago Bears
  • TE Jacob Pedersen Atlanta Falcons
  • TE Brian Wozniak, Atlanta Falcons
  • DE Ethan Hemer, Pittsburgh Steelers
Quick thoughts: Martinez's future as an NFL quarterback has been heavily scrutinized, but Chip Kelly's Eagles are a fascinating destination for him. Whether he plays quarterback or another position like safety, Kelly will explore ways to use Martinez's speed. ... The large Michigan State contingent is still a bit startling. The Spartans dominated the Big Ten, beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl, use pro-style systems on both sides of the ball and had just one player drafted. Bullough, Allen and Lewis all were multiple All-Big Ten selections but will have to continue their careers through the UDFA route. ... Colter certainly looked like a draft pick during Senior Bowl practices in January, but that was before his ankle surgery and his role in leading the unionization push at Northwestern. I tend to think the injury impacted his status more, but NFL teams have been known to shy away from so-called locker-room lawyers. ... Other Big Ten standouts like Jonathan Brown, Morris and Pedersen were surprisingly not drafted. Morris should be a great fit in New England. ... Coleman's decision to leave Rutgers early looks questionable now that he didn't get drafted.
Nebraska returns senior quarterback Taylor Martinez and most of the firepower from the Big Ten's top offense in 2012. Most believe the Huskers' season hinges on a young, inconsistent defense under the guidance of coordinator John Papuchis and head coach Bo Pelini.

The Blackshirts finished fourth nationally in pass defense and ninth in pass efficiency defense in 2012, but they struggled against the run (90th nationally) and hemorrhaged points in Nebraska's four losses, surrendering 63 to Ohio State, 70 to Wisconsin in the Big Ten title game and 45 to Georgia in the Capital One Bowl. Nebraska must replace all three starting linebackers and its top pass-rusher, Eric Martin, among others. The Huskers return an experienced secondary led by nickelback Ciante Evans. caught up with Papuchis earlier this month to discuss the state of the Nebraska defense.

After looking at the unit during spring practices, what were some of your big takeaways from their performance?

John Papuchis: That's an interesting question because what I've been doing the last couple weeks is going back and looking at our spring cutups. One thing that jumped out to me, after having a little bit of time away from it, was that we improved pretty significantly and steadily as the spring went on. From the first practice to the 14th practice leading up to the spring game, we were much crisper in our alignments and understanding our assignments, we played faster. There was just a lot of development that took place over the course of those 14 practices. We're a young group, and we're going to need all 29 practices before we kick it off against Wyoming.

[+] EnlargeJohn Papuchis
AP Photo/Nati HarnikJohn Papuchis knows his defense will need to be better against the run after finishing 90th in the nation last season.
Were there specific areas or groups where you saw the most improvement, or was it across the board?

JP: Each position group has its own learning curve. Defensive line, we are relatively young, so for a lot of those guys, it was their first opportunity to really get coached. Where I saw the improvement had more to do with technique than it ever had to do with scheme. They had a pretty good feel of the scheme; it's a little bit simpler in terms of what they're asked to execute. Linebacker, another young group, and where I really saw their improvement was just better understanding of alignment and where they fit in the run game and the pass game. And then in the secondary, where we are a little bit more mature, Ciante Evans, Stanley Baptiste, Mo Seisay, Harvey Jackson, Corey Cooper, where I really saw those guys make a jump is just a better feel of the nuances of the defense. They were kind of a little bit ahead, the linebackers and D-line, and they showed improvement as spring went on, but it was kind of Level 2 and Level 3 improvement, as opposed to just the basics.

Who do you look for to be leaders up front and with the linebackers, and how much competition do you anticipate with those groups?

JP: There's going to be a ton of competition, and that's going to be a good thing for us. Really since I've been here, the way things have fallen, a lot of times going into camp, you have a pretty good idea of who your core guys are going to be. And although we have an idea right now, there are some spots that need to be ironed out. In terms of leadership, Jason Ankrah and Thad Randle across the front. Both of those guys are fifth-year seniors and have been in the program a long time. Jason has started and played a lot of games for us. Thad has been a little nicked up the last two years. But both of them have done a nice job of being leaders through the offseason.

Linebacker, we're young, but the one guy who has some pretty good playing experience is David Santos. He's done a good job of taking that leadership role. And another guy who has been in the program for a while and has played on special teams, and has always been one play away from having a more significant role is Trevor Roach. He's done a nice job of being a leader and more of a veteran guy with that group.

(Read full post)

Big Ten lunch links

June, 27, 2013
The Big Ten should have a better night at the NBA draft than the NFL draft.

Big Ten lunch links

September, 6, 2012
Two days till Big Ten football, three days till Bearmageddon in Chicago.
Some key personnel nuggets around the league entering Week 2. More of these will come your way Tuesday.

  • Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint and defensive end Frank Clark will return to the field this week against Air Force after being suspended for the opener against Alabama. Both reinstated players should provide boosts in areas where Michigan struggled against the Tide. Toussaint is listed as the starter on this week's depth chart. Coach Brady Hoke said Clark, who is facing felony home invasion charges, has "paid a lot of consequences internally."
  • Starting left tackle Taylor Lewan is fine, Hoke said, after leaving Saturday night's game with an apparent right leg injury. Aside from quarterback Denard Robinson, Lewan is the player Michigan most can't afford to lose, so Wolverines fans can breathe a little easier.
  • Courtney Avery likely will start at cornerback in place of Blake Countess, who will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL and will undergo surgery in the next week or so. Raymon Taylor also is in the mix there.
  • Starting running back Rex Burkhead (knee) is listed as questionable for Saturday's game at UCLA, coach Bo Pelini said Monday. An MRI performed Sunday confirmed the initial diagnosis of a sprained MCL in Burkhead's left knee. Pelini said the injury won't require surgery and that for now, Burkhead is on Nebraska's travel roster. "[Burkhead] had a good day today," Pelini said. "He's questionable and day-to-day. We'll see how it goes." Don't expect the Huskers to take too many chances with Burkhead, as they have other good options in the backfield, namely Ameer Abdullah.
  • Senior wide receiver Tim Marlowe is out until the end of October at the earliest after suffering a broken clavicle Saturday against Southern Miss. Pelini is hopeful Marlowe will return for the stretch run of Big Ten play. Tight end Ben Cotton (rib) should play against UCLA.
  • Cornerback Mohammed Seisay missed the opener with a nagging ankle injury. Pelini is hopeful Seisay, a heralded junior college arrival, can play against the Bruins.
  • Starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase practiced Sunday night but is "definitely not 100 percent," according to coach Tim Beckman, after suffering an ankle injury in the opener against Western Michigan. He will continue to be evaluated throughout the week but remains as the No. 1 signal caller on the team's depth chart for this week's game at Arizona State. Reilly O'Toole would be the next man in for the Illini, and the versatile Miles Osei also is in the mix.
  • Top running back Jordan Hall isn't expected to play this week against Central Florida as he recovers from foot surgery.
  • Defensive lineman Michael Bennett missed the opener after reinjuring his groin during pregame warmups, coach Urban Meyer said. He's listed as a backup defensive end on this week's depth chart.
  • Defensive tackle Adam Bellamy, who started 10 games last season and left the team in August, will not return, Meyer said. Bellamy lost his love for the game, Meyer said.
  • Defensive end Deonte Gibson, who left the opener against Syracuse with an elbow injury, is out this week against Vanderbilt. Decorated true freshman Ifeadi Odenigbo, a likely redshirt candidate entering the season, moves into Gibson's spot and "is going to play" against Vandy, according to coach Pat Fitzgerald.
  • Although Trevor Siemian threw the game-winning touchdown strike against Syracuse, Kain Colter remains Northwestern's starting quarterback heading into the Vanderbilt game. Fitzgerald said Colter, who suffered a left shoulder injury against Syracuse, told offensive coordinator Mick McCall that Siemian would be the better option on the final drive. Colter should be fine for the Vanderbilt game.
  • Robert Marve and Caleb TerBush are listed as co-starters at quarterback on the depth chart for Saturday's game at Notre Dame. TerBush was suspended for Purdue's opener but has been fully reinstated. He claimed the No. 1 quarterback job in camp, but his suspension and Marve's strong play Saturday against Eastern Kentucky create an interesting decision for the coaches heading into the showdown in South Bend.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

August, 24, 2012
Less than a week till the season! Let's get to those questions ...

Ryan from Omaha writes: Nebraska's defense looks like a pretty solid group without any stars. Who do you think could be rising stars on the Huskers' defense? Could Mohammed Seisay end up being as big as a star as Lavonte David? After all, he is wearing the jersey number four.

Adam Rittenberg: I'm interested to see Seisay, Ryan, but there are others in the secondary who could take a step. Daimion Stafford has excellent potential at safety, and it looks like Ciante Evans is having a good camp. Who steps up at linebacker alongside Will Compton? Should be an interesting group to watch. I like the depth up front and have heard very good things about Eric Martin as he steps into a more featured role.

Jay from Arlington writes: You guys are massively underestimating Penn State. There schedule is entirely manageble and have a significant advantage in speed and athleticism over every team they play. Penn State should field the nation's top linebacking corps for the second straight year (5th time since 2005) along with the Big Ten's top D-line. At worst, they are upgrading both end positions. While the secondary loses 3 1/2 starters, they are upgrading every spot. Barring injury, the defense could be tops in the country. Offensively, we'll see, but what we will see from day one is an upgrade as the new staff is not afraid of tweaking its scheme to the players strengths and there is not a defense on their schedule that can run with them. Expect Penn State to reach at least ten wins and possible the best record in the league and to take home the real league crown.

Adam Rittenberg: Jay, love your optimism, and I agree that Penn State's defense can carry the Lions a long way this fall. The front seven will be very, very good, and potentially better than last year's front seven. I disagree on the secondary, though. Not much depth at all, and it's tough to replace all four starters, no matter who you are. Also, I'm still figuring out how Penn State will score points. The schedule certainly favors Penn State, but the non-league portion contains no gimmes (Ohio, Virginia, Navy and Temple). I just don't know if Penn State can expect to win every game 14-10 or 20-13. It's hard to keep winning with that formula, although Penn State was successful in the first part of 2011. To reach 10 wins, the Lions offense will have to exceed all expectations, and Penn State will have to be very tough on its home field, where it gets both Ohio State and Wisconsin. The road schedule isn't overwhelming.

Rick from Union City, Calif., writes: I grew up in B1G country and now live on the west coast. What really bothers me is the bad reputation the conference gets for its bowl record each year. B1G teams play their SEC counterparts on hostile turf in SEC country (games in Tampa and Orlando) and when B1G teams make the Sugar or Orange Bowls they too are played in the backyards of the SEC. And don't even get me started with the Rose Bowl...bring USC or UCLA to Ann Arbor or Columbus in the frigid cold in Jan. and see how they do with 100,000 plus fans cheering against them.

Adam Rittenberg: Rick, I hear ya, but the bowl locations aren't about to change. No one wants to come to the Midwest in late December or early January, so Big Ten teams, for the most part, will continue to play virtual road games in the bowls. While I could see a bigger-time bowl coming to a place like Lucas Oil Stadium in Indy, it would take time to put that even together. The thing is, the Big Ten has had success in these games in the past. The league's Capital One and Outback bowl records are bad. The Rose Bowl is another story and the Big Ten has to start doing better in Pasadena, but it's not as if the Big Ten hasn't won road bowl games before.

David from Bloomington, Ind., writes: Hi Adam,A couple questions about Michigan players. First about Denard Robinson: It seems he has the highest returning passer rating in the Big Ten. Why is this, like, never mentioned? It seems both highly relevant to Michigan's and the Big Ten's preseason outlook and contrary to the lazy company line about "He's a running back, hur-hur-hur." Second, about Taylor Lewan and your and Brian's player rankings: Both Lewan and Gholston are deservedly touted (putatively!) as future first round draft picks. I see that Gholston will rank decidedly higher than Lewan in your player rankings. And yet when Lewan and Gholston matched up last year in MSU's big win, Gholston **never once** defeated Lewan. I am curious, then, of the characteristics you use to separate these players' ranks.

Adam Rittenberg: Good note on Robinson being the Big Ten's top returning passer according to QB rating. He's just barely above Iowa's James Vandenberg even though Denard threw eight more interceptions and five fewer touchdown passes. I agree with you that it's lazy to say Robinson isn't a real quarterback, and it's also lazy to say he fades down the stretch. While he has had many of his biggest performances in September, look at what he did against Nebraska and Ohio State to finish out the regular season. He finished Big Ten play playing his best football. Now he didn't play well in the bowl game and got bailed out by Junior Hemingway, I don't think it's fair to say Denard doesn't show up in Big Ten games. As to the Lewan/Gholston question, we put a lot of emphasis on the way Gholston finished the season against Georgia in the Outback Bowl. He was absolutely dominant against a solid SEC team. Penn State's Devon Still used a big Outback Bowl performance to springboard himself to Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2011, and Gholston very well could do the same. It'll be a lot of fun to see Lewan and Gholston match up Oct. 20 in Ann Arbor, and Lewan certainly has the potential to rise up this list. But Gholston left us with a strong impression, and his talent level is obvious. That's why we have him higher.

Brandon from Las Vegas writes: Adam,From you and Bennet's over/under write-up:"Ohio State Over-under: 9 wins Adam's pick: Push. The Buckeyes will cruise through a soft non-league slate, but reality arrives in the Big Ten opener against Michigan State. Although a 10-win season certainly is within reach, I think Ohio State has a few stumbles in Big Ten play in its first go-around under Urban Meyer." I really think people are overestimating MSU and undersetimating OSU. That was a close defensive game last year. I don't see how OSU with an even better defense that will actually get some sideline rest, combined with an actual offense, doesn't beat a good defensive team but with new QB and Skill. My prediction, the OSU offense struggle to move the ball against one of the nations elite defences but Ohio State's is pretty good too. The sacks mount up, a key pick-6, and huge special teams play seals the deal for an upset in East Lansing. I'm thinking 11 wins, with the lone loss coming from a sleeper. Thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Brandon, while I agree Ohio State will be better on both sides of the ball this season, I still think Michigan State's defense poses some challenges for a Buckeyes offense going through some major transition. I also think the common belief that Michigan State will take major steps backward with Andrew Maxwell at quarterback is a bit off. The Spartans will be a different type of offense this year, more run-focused around junior Le'Veon Bell. The other thing is the game takes place in East Lansing, and Ohio State will be playing its first road game with the new offense. Communication could be a challenge for Braxton Miller & Co. Could your situation pan out Sept. 29? Absolutely. But I'm sticking with my Michigan State pick.

BRT from Swaziland writes: You're probably pretty bummed that you don't have any more over/unders to do, so here's one more: the icky/comical marriage of Canada's greatest musical icons, Avril Lavigne and Chad Kroeger--10 months. I'm loving the best case/worst case previews. They're very funny, and you should do a little more humor writing throughout the season. It would do most of your readership good to take things a little less seriously now and then.

Adam Rittenberg: I consulted my wife on this as she takes the over, just barely. She thinks they'll last 14 months, the same number of Carats on Avril's engagement ring. Glad you enjoyed the best case/worst case series, and you're absolutely right about more humor writing. We'll do more of it because it's fun, and the readership definitely could lighten up at times.
We're nearing the end of our Big Ten position rankings, and it's time to finish up the defense rundowns with a look at the secondaries. Let's start off with the unit rankings.

As a reminder, we're basing these mostly on last year's performance and who returns, along with potential for the 2012 season.

The top four groups could be very good, while the next five have question marks but potential. Even the bottom three groups have realistic opportunities to make strides this fall.

Let's get rolling ...

[+] EnlargeJohnny Adams
Bruce Thorson/US PresswireJohnny Adams should help make Michigan State tough to beat through the air in 2012.
1. Michigan State: The Big Ten's most formidable defense once again should be very strong in the back four. Although All-Big Ten safety Trenton Robinson departs, Michigan State returns its other three starters, led by standout cornerback Johnny Adams. Some project Adams as a potential first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft. Safety Isaiah Lewis could have a breakout season, and the Spartans have recruited well here to build good depth.

2. Ohio State: The defensive line has bigger names and more hype, but the secondary might turn out to be Ohio State's best unit in 2012. The Buckeyes bring back all four starters, including arguably the league's top cornerback tandem in Bradley Roby and Travis Howard. Expect Roby to take another big step as a sophomore. Hard-hitting safeties C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant return, and Ohio State can go two- or three-deep at most positions.

3. Michigan: This group has come a very long way from the Rich Rodriguez era and should be the strength of Michigan's defense in 2012. Safety Jordan Kovacs is an excellent leader who blossomed in Greg Mattison's system last fall. The Wolverines also boast a promising cornerback tandem in J.T. Floyd and Blake Countess, and have good overall depth at both corner and safety.

4. Nebraska: While the Huskers lose the Big Ten's top defensive back in Alfonzo Dennard, they should have greater overall depth and the potential for new stars to emerge. Hard-hitting safety Daimion Stafford leads the group, and P.J. Smith provides a veteran presence at the other safety spot. Nebraska is loaded with options at cornerback, including the improved Andrew Green and juco arrival Mohamed Seisay. New assistant Terry Joseph should get a lot out of this group.

5. Purdue: The rankings already have mentioned some good cornerback tandems, and Purdue adds another in Ricardo Allen and Josh Johnson. They've combined for 48 career starts, and Allen has led the team with three interceptions in each of the past two seasons. Max Charlot returns at safety after recording 41 tackles in 2011, but there are some question marks around him.

6. Illinois: Terry Hawthorne rarely gets mentioned as one of the Big Ten's top defensive backs, but he should. The senior has been a natural playmaker throughout his career and will lead Illinois' secondary in 2012. Senior Justin Green brings experience to the other corner spot. Although the Illini return both of their starting safeties -- Steve Hull and Supo Sanni -- they need more consistency from that position this fall.

7. Wisconsin: The Badgers lose a key player at both cornerback (Antonio Fenelus) and safety (Aaron Henry), but they have a chance to improve upon last year's performance and rise up these rankings. They'll undoubtedly benefit from the return of cornerback Devin Smith from injury. Head coach Bret Bielema doesn't downplay what Smith's absence meant last season. The Badgers need more consistency out of projected starters Dezmen Southward and Marcus Cromartie.

8. Iowa: The Hawkeyes have a nice piece to build around in playmaking senior cornerback Micah Hyde, but they'll need more after a so-so season in 2011. Tanner Miller returns as a starter at safety, and hopes are high for junior B.J. Lowery at the other corner spot. Iowa's depth looks better at corner than it does at safety.

9. Penn State: Most see the secondary as Penn State's weak link, to which Malcolm Willis and Stephon Morris say, "Bring it on." Still, the Lions have questions to address after losing all four starters from the 2011 team. Morris, Willis and sophomore Adrian Amos all have been in the fire a bit, but Penn State needs them to take steps and remain on the field. Depth is a significant concern after the offseason departures of Curtis Drake and Derrick Thomas.

10. Minnesota: This is a bit of a projection pick, but I like Minnesota's potential to take a step forward in the secondary this fall. The biggest reason for optimism is cornerback Troy Stoudermire, who returns for a fifth year after missing most of last season with a foot injury. Stoudermire was on track for a big year before the injury. Cornerback Michael Carter had a strong spring and could finally reach his potential. The bigger concerns here come at the safety spots.

11. Northwestern: Three starters depart from a secondary that struggled to stop anyone and endured major communication breakdowns far too often in 2011. Northwestern is younger in the back four, but it also could be more talented this season. Sophomore safety Ibraheim Campbell comes off of a 100-tackle season, and cornerback Nick VanHoose impressed during the spring. A few veterans return, but the coaches can't be afraid to go with the youth movement here.

12. Indiana: The Hoosiers finished eighth in the Big Ten in pass defense last fall, but only because teams had their way with IU on the ground. Indiana surrendered a league-high 26 pass touchdowns and only recorded five interceptions. There's hope, though, as the Hoosiers return three starters, including top cover man Lawrence Barnett. If Mark Murphy and Greg Heban make strides, and some newcomers help right away, Indiana could be decent in the back four.

Nebraska spring wrap

May, 11, 2012
2011 record: 9-4
2011 conference record: 5-3 (third, Legends Division)
Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 2

Top returners

QB Taylor Martinez, RB Rex Burkhead, WR Kenny Bell, TE Ben Cotton, DT Baker Steinkuhler, DE Cameron Meredith, LB Will Compton, S Daimion Stafford, K/P Brett Maher

Key losses

LB Lavonte David, CB Alfonzo Dennard, DT Jared Crick, S Austin Cassidy, C Mike Caputo, WR Brandon Kinnie, T Marcel Jones

2011 statistical leaders (*returners)

Rushing: Rex Burkhead* (1,357 yards)
Passing: Taylor Martinez* (2,089 yards)
Receiving: Kenny Bell* (461 yards)
Tackles: Lavonte David (133)
Sacks: Lavonte David (5.5)
Interceptions: Austin Cassidy and Lavonte David (2)

Spring answers

1. Secondary makes strides: Although Nebraska's defensive backfield loses a key piece in Alfonzo Dennard, the sense coming out of the spring is that the Huskers will have more overall depth in the secondary this season. Details were a theme for the entire defense, but especially for the secondary, and new coach Terry Joseph frequently tested his players on their responsibilities. Players like cornerback Andrew Green had a strong spring, and the Huskers look pretty solid at safety with Daimion Stafford and P.J. Smith. Juco addition Mohammed Seisay increases the competition at cornerback.

2. More weapons emerging: Coordinator Tim Beck wants to be a more balanced offense this fall, and he should have the weapons to upgrade the passing attack. Nebraska returns all but one major contributor at receiver, as well as veteran tight ends Ben Cotton and Kyler Reed. Kenny Bell showed impressive spurts last season and should build on his performance this fall. Quincy Enunwa is another nice piece, and Tim Marlowe provides a veteran presence. If Jamal Turner polishes his blocking, he should see increased opportunities on the field.

3. Ready and Will-ing: The Huskers acknowledged their depth issues at linebacker during their Big Ten transition, but they aren't worried about finding a leader at the position. Senior middle linebacker Will Compton has stepped forward and taken a proactive approach toward leadership. Compton, an honorable mention All-Big Ten selection in 2011, is a heady player who understands the defense and can motivate others. He'll help fill the production void left by standout Lavonte David.

Fall questions

1. Taylor Martinez: The Huskers quarterback was the talk of spring ball after he spent the winter -- and his spring break -- working on his footwork and his throwing mechanics. Martinez received good marks from his coaches, and he seemed more comfortable as he'll operate the same offense in consecutive seasons for the first time in his college or high school career. But the junior still has a lot to prove as a passer after completing just 56.3 percent of his attempts in 2011 and often looking unsettled in the pocket.

2. Defensive line rotation: Head coach Bo Pelini likes the potential of the defensive line, but injuries slowed several key players this spring. The Huskers should go four deep at defensive end, but they'll need to solidify the interior line alongside veteran Baker Steinkuhler. Players like Chase Rome, who saw action last fall following Jared Crick's injury, and Thaddeus Randle should be healthy entering fall camp and need good performances.

3. Linebacker depth: Compton has the middle on lock down, and Buck linebacker Sean Fisher is healthy and playing well, but the Huskers need more bodies in their defensive midsection. Junior-college transfer Zaire Anderson will be a key player to watch in fall camp as he should compete for field time right away. Whether Alonzo Whaley can land the starting weak-side spot remains to be seen, but Nebraska would be better off being able to go five or six deep at linebacker.

Big Ten lunchtime links

April, 13, 2012
Last day in Michigan. Informative trip, and friendly hosts in Ann Arbor and East Lansing.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

March, 30, 2012
Final Four weekend. If you see a stumbling Bennett on the streets of Louisville on Saturday night, just get out of his way.

Allan Evridge from Seasons Past writes: Hey Adam, love the blog. I just wanted to stop in to remind the Badger faithful and the crestfallen Nittany Lions fans about ME! Russel Wilson gave Bielema arguably his best season, but I gave him his worst. Perhaps Bielema should reconsider his "One QB Recruit" per year rule because talented transfer quarterbacks don't always work out. I would know.

Adam Rittenberg: Wow, didn't expect to hear from you, Allan. Yes, it's good to remind everyone that quarterback transfers don't always work out. There were other reasons the 2008 season went south in Madison, but the Badgers didn't have great QB play by any means. To expect Danny O'Brien to be another Russell Wilson is unrealistic. But O'Brien gives Wisconsin another option -- an option with a lot of FBS game experience -- at a position filled with question marks right now. He fills a need. As I wrote Wednesday, Wisconsin doesn't need O'Brien to be first-team All-Big Ten to win the Leaders division. But the Badgers can't have the quarterback position be a liability.

Freddy Fact Machine from Denver writes: "AIRBHG" is the invention of I suggest giving them credit or else the Angry Adam Rittenberg Hating God (AARHG) will give you tennis elbow.

Adam Rittenberg: That was my mistake, Freddy, as we had to rush to get the reaction post out the door. Black Heart Gold Pants is the mastermind behind AIRBHG and many other brilliant tidbits on all things Hawkeyes. It's definitely a must-read blog.

Joe from Mount Prospect, Ill., writes: Miles Osei is making a case to run the illini offense. If not get on the field and run the offense along with Nate. Sure would be nice to see somebody focus on that. The kid is having a more than solid spring and his offseason was fabulous. Coaches constantly comment about his leadership and what a great football player he is. I pray he is given opportunity to compete and it looks like he is.. What have you heard and seen? Kid is making plays all over the place. He is a combination of both quarterbacks. The kid is a football player and time will only tell if he emerges. He should have been the number two last year but was brushed aside. Kid is a fighter and that is what Illini needs. Winners

Adam Rittenberg: Joe, thanks for the information about Osei. Coach Tim Beckman and co-offensive coordinator/QBs coach Chris Beatty mentioned Osei a bit when we visited Tuesday, but they didn't elaborate like you have here. All three quarterbacks are in the mix right now for the Illini, and it sounds like Nathan is definitely in the lead. But last season showed that Illinois needs more weapons to emerge on offense at every position. It'll be interesting to see what role Osei has in the fall.

Jeremiah from Kearney, Neb., writes: Befor spring practice started i was worried about mostly our linebackers and also a little about our corners but after reading more about how players are coming along and the addition of Mohammed Seisay i feel better about that position what is your take on the linebacker position and how you feel it could play out?

Adam Rittenberg: Jeremiah, I shared those same concerns, and I'm excited to visit Lincoln next week to see how the Huskers defense looks. It does sound like the secondary will be OK as Seisay and others join the mix. Bo Pelini and his staff know how to produce top-level defensive backs, and they've added some talent there. Linebacker is a bit more of a question mark as I don't see another Lavonte David on the roster. It'll take more of a collective effort and several players stepping up at that position.

Evan from Arusha, Tanzania, writes: Hello Adam, I saw the chat transcript and I had some thoughts on the question regarding the QB situation at Purdue. I was reading a report saying that even when Marve was playing he was nowhere near 100% and he would have to take the next few days off from practice due to swelling in his knee. However, now he appears to be at or very near 100%. I think with that being said and if he stays healthy he should be able to progress enough to win the starting nod back. I also think it will be interesting to see whether or not Rob Henry fully recovers, because I think he could be used just like Justin Siller last year. I would really enjoy watching both Henry and Marve play at the same time, which has not happened since the Toledo game two years ago.

Adam Rittenberg: Evan, you could be right about Marve, who has dealt with injuries throughout his entire career at Purdue. Coach Danny Hope has repeatedly said he wants to have at least two quarterbacks ready, and he'll have at least three with legitimate experience entering 2012 in Marve, Henry and Caleb TerBush. Henry certainly can help Purdue at other spots than quarterback, but keep in mind he would have been the starter last season if not for the ACL. He had had a terrific offseason and had the support of his teammates as a co-captain. This is one of the more intriguing QB competitions you'll find because of the injury history. It will be interesting to see how it plays out this fall.

Jon from Colorado writes: So during the chat you said you would give credit to one of the best beat writers in the Big Ten if the O'Brien to Wisconsin report was true, then you wrote two articles and failed to give any credit and only linked to ESPN stories? Kinda dropped the ball there didn't you? Guess the chatter was right and it is only news if ESPN reports it huh? Where's the love for the local media that really breaks the stories?

Adam Rittenberg: Reading really is a skill, John. I suggest you brush up a bit.
  • From the "Badgers' recent rise lures Danny O'Brien" post: O'Brien's decision to pick Wisconsin, first reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, confirms that the program remains an appealing destination despite the recent transition.
  • From the news story on O'Brien's arrival: "The team on Tuesday announced the signing of O'Brien after the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported his arrival.

Yeah, but we never credit anyone for the work they do. It's not like we have a post every day around lunchtime that includes the best stories from around the league.

Rob from Morristown, N.J., writes: Adam, in your B1G chat today you answered a question that Wisconsin needed O'Brien more than PSU, but PSU fans would disagree. I am a PSU alum and huge fan and I would disagree that "PSU fans would disagree" (as a blanket statement). While having another seasoned QB added to the mix may have helped a puzzled mess that is the PSU QB situation, I do not understand why NO ONE thinks that Matt McGloin can manage the offense, while PSU's running game and defense can win like they did last year. McGloin gets no credit because he is a "former" walk-on. From what we have seen out of Bolden, he just does not cut it in D-I football, but McGloin has shown he is capable. And now that PSU has a REAL QB coach and a head coach that knows how to tutor QBs, (not a QB coach who is the head coaches son and former back-up college QB), I honestly see good things possible from a well coached Matt McGloin, he has the arm, isn't afraid to stay in the pocket, can sense a pass rush and commands the huddle with confidence, and he has two years of quality experience (same as O'Brien).

Adam Rittenberg: Rob, you could be correct about McGloin. We'll just have to see. He certainly has experience and has turned in some impressive performances, particularly in his two starts against Northwestern. I have little doubt Bill O'Brien will upgrade the quarterback position in 2012, no matter who walks out there first -- and I think it'll be McGloin. That said, Danny O'Brien would have been a nice addition, just to give Penn State one more option under center. Bolden has to make significant strides in my view, and Penn State doesn't really know what it has in Paul Jones.

Michael from Los Feliz, Calif., writes: Adam, I'm a big fan of the blog, and a longtime resident of Minneapolis who recently moved to the left coast. I have been writing to you for the last 3 years asking you to check out the Gophers in spring ball. This year I cannot go as I'm no longer in that part of the world. Please watch the Gophers in spring ball. Minnesota has some interesting storylines, practices have been reported to be crisp and intriguing, and the Gophers could easily be the feel good team of the Big Ten this year (led by magnetic senior leader MarQueis Gray at QB).Barney Stinson would jump at the opportunity to rock out in Dinkytown, and so should you.

Adam Rittenberg: Michael, I definitely remember your notes. Unfortunately, I won't be in Minneapolis this spring but hope to make it this fall for a game. Where we go in spring is somewhat out of our hands and depends on a lot of factors. If we had an unlimited budget, we'd be going everywhere. But both Brian and I will keep tabs on Minnesota from afar and will talk to players and coaches throughout the spring. I'm really interested in running back James Gillum, the juco transfer, who has drawn some good marks so far. It'll also be interesting to see who steps up on defense, particularly up front and in the secondary. This could be a big year for Troy Stoudermire at cornerback.

Big Ten chat wrap: Feb. 15

February, 15, 2012
Your Valentine's Day hangover is no excuse to miss the Big Ten chat. But just in case you did, I've got your covered.

Check out this nifty chat recap. A lot of good stuff in there, aside from the annoying Wolverine Nation questions.

Some highlights:
Jordan from Madison: Adam, even taking into account the question mark at QB and the turnover with the high number of assistant coaches leaving, is UW still the favorite to win the division?
Adam Rittenberg: I would say so, Jordan. Wisconsin is undoubtedly the biggest beneficiary of Ohio State's bowl ban. The Badgers could win the division with a 9-3 or 8-4 record, depending on how things go elsewhere. Penn State and Illinois both are replacing head coaches, and Purdue has been inconsistent at best under Danny Hope. Indiana is coming off of a 1-11 season. So the Badgers, despite all their changes, look like the team to beat.
JB from Ann Arbor: In the latest mailblog you said that "no team is a "lock" for the Rose Bowl. Especially a team that opens against Alabama and plays Notre Dame, Nebraska and Ohio State on the road" For Michigan, how much does Alabama, Notre Dame, and Ohio State stand in their way of getting to the Rose Bowl? Ohio State may factor if there is a tie in the division, but if Michigan handles Nebraska, MSU, and the rest of the division then those other games really don't matter. Or do I have something wrong?
Adam Rittenberg: JB, that's a good point and I'm glad you're grasping the importance of division games. My general statement is that it's foolish for fans to think their team is a "lock" for the Rose Bowl in almost any year. Michigan State has beaten Michigan four straight years and returns a very strong team. Winning at Nebraska will be very tough. Same with Ohio State, even though it's a cross-division game. If Michigan beats MSU and Nebraska but loses to Ohio State, it should be in good shape as long as it doesn't stumble against a team like Iowa.
MSU, Mich and Purdue: With the PAC 10 agreement in 2017, what's the chance we tell ND to find new games? ND hasn't been relivent on the national title level in 20+ years, lets not use the moves the needle excuse, or is it just we enjoy the easier "quality" wins ND gives up
Adam Rittenberg: I don't think you'll be abandoning Notre Dame any time soon. Especially not Purdue, which often is only in the national spotlight when it plays Purdue. Michigan State has elevated its national profile, but the Spartans always get a little more attention when they face the Irish. Although Michigan has been a bit more creative with scheduling under AD Dave Brandon, I don't see the Wolverines taking more than a two-year break from the Notre Dame series. Facing ND still has some benefits, even if it's not always a high-quality win.
Addison from East Lansing: While there is no set number of successful seasons that makes your brand power become elite what do you think it will take for MSU to make this happen? Will it be one Rose Bowl berth and victory to make this dream a reality? Is this the season?
Adam Rittenberg: Addison, this is a great question. When does a team truly increase its national brand? It'll definitely take a BCS bowl appearance, preferably the Rose, for Michigan State to take this step. Another 10-win season certainly would help, but the Spartans need to show they can get to that elite level. A Big Ten championship and a Rose Bowl appearance and victory would do wonders for a program that is already on the rise.
Ashley from Lincoln: Who do think will be the bigger instant impact for the Huskers, Mo Seisay or Zaire Anderson?
Adam Rittenberg: Good question, Ashley. I think Seisay is ready to be an impact player right away for Nebraska, which needs some help at cornerback. The Huskers also haven't been quiet about their need for more linebackers, and Anderson wasn't brought in to sit on the bench. I see both players seeing the field this fall. I'd give a slight edge to Seisay, but it'll be interesting to see how things unfold.

As always, thanks for joining me for the chat, and for your questions and comments. My apologies to those whose questions weren't answered. You can try again next week.

Big shoes to fill: Nebraska

February, 14, 2012
As we tick off the days toward spring practice, we're taking a look at how each Big Ten team will replace key players on their depth charts. We're picking two departed players who left big shoes to fill and identifying who might be ready to do that filling.

Up today is Nebraska, which has two rather large sets of empty cleats to occupy from the defensive side.

[+] EnlargeLavonte David
Brace Hemmelgarn/US PresswireNebraska has 133 tackles to replace now that linebacker Lavonte David has graduated.
BIG SHOES TO FILL: Lavonte David, LB

Why: There was arguably no more valuable defensive player in the Big Ten last year than David, an All-American and Butkus finalist who led the Huskers with 133 tackles. When Nebraska needed a big stop, David was usually the guy to provide it. The front seven for Bo Pelini underachieved in some ways in 2011, and David was easily the team's most consistent player on that side of the ball. David made up for a lack of overwhelming size with his speed, tackling ability and instincts for the game. And his top two listed backups at weakside linebackers were also seniors.

Replacement candidates: Sean Fisher (6-6, 235, Sr.), David Santos (6-0, 205, RFr.), Alonzo Whaley (6-1, 235, Sr.), Zaire Anderson (6-1, 220, incoming junior college transfer), Jared Afalava (6-3, 215, incoming freshman), Michael Rose (6-0, 225, incoming freshman), Thomas Brown (6-2, 210, incoming freshman)

The skinny: Nebraska brought in four linebackers in this year's recruiting class to fill some holes at the position. Fisher has been held back by injuries and inconsistency and is built more like a defensive end. Santos could be ready to make an impact after redshirting. Anderson is a well-regarded junior-college signee, just as David was two years ago. Rose and Brown are viewed more as inside linebackers, but nothing is set in stone. The Huskers hope someone from this wide pool of candidate announces himself this spring.

BIG SHOES TO FILL: Alfonzo Dennard, CB

Why: When healthy and on point, Dennard was the best lock-down cornerback in the Big Ten last season. Though he had a few lapses, like in the Michigan and South Carolina games, he also shut out Michigan State star B.J. Cunningham in a big win over the Spartans. Getting great play from the cornerback spot is a key part of Nebraska's defensive scheme.

Replacement candidates: Daniel Davie (6-1, 185, RFr.), Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6-3, 220, Jr.), Ciante Evans (5-11, 185, Jr.), Mohammed Seisay (6-1, 200, incoming junior college transfer), Corey Cooper, (6-1, 210, Soph.).

The skinny: Someone will have to make a major leap forward in order to match Dennard's performance level. Evans and Jean-Baptiste saw plenty of time last year as backups, though Evans seemed more suited as a nickel back and the rangy Jean-Baptiste is still learning the position after an in-season switch from wide receiver. Cooper started a game at corner against Wyoming but was then moved to safety. Seisay and Davie will each have an opportunity to prove they're up to the challenge. The other hope for Nebraska is that returning starter Andrew Green raises his game to the point where he becomes the next dominant Huskers cornerback.
The Big Ten recruiting classes are signed and sealed, and although a few more recruits could come aboard, we have a good idea of what the rosters will look like heading into the 2012 season.

That means it's Power Rankings time. Again.

We're taking a post-signing day look at where the league stacks up. There aren't too many changes from our previous rundown, but some teams received a bump from strong recruiting classes.

As they say on Twitter, #legooo.

1. Michigan State: The Spartans' recruiting class didn't crack ESPN's top 25, but it features several strong prospects and is loaded up at wide receiver and defensive back. Mark Dantonio tells us he can't remember recruiting 10 athletes like the ones Michigan State added in the class. Michigan State already is one of the Big Ten's most athletic teams, so this bodes well for the Spartans as they look for another big season.

2. Michigan: Brady Hoke and his staff rode a fast start to 2012 recruiting and finalized a class ranked No. 7 nationally. The Wolverines started three freshmen on defense in 2011 and added several more who can contribute early in their careers, including linebacker Joe Bolden, cornerback Terry Richardson and defensive tackle Ondre "Pee Wee" Pipkins. If Michigan can maintain its momentum on defense after losing several stud linemen, it will be very tough to beat in 2012.

3. Ohio State: Urban Meyer announced himself with a superb recruiting class featuring arguably the nation's best crop of defensive line prospects. Ohio State would have been an improved team in 2012 after its first seven-loss season since 1897, but the recruiting class boosts the Buckeyes even more. The defensive front seven should be a deeper and stronger unit, and players like Noah Spence, the Big Ten's top-rated recruit, have a chance to contribute immediately.

4. Nebraska: The Huskers missed on their top signing day target (offensive lineman Andrus Peat) but still inked a solid class that should help at positions like linebacker, where Big Red lacked size and depth. Linebacker Michael Rose could contribute early in his career. Nebraska also addressed the departure of standout cornerback Alfonzo Dennard with talented juco addition Mohammed Seisay.

5. Wisconsin: Quality not quantity was the theme for Wisconsin, which signed only 12 players, the Big Ten's smallest class by five recruits. The Badgers lost two offensive line commits to other schools but added a decorated quarterback in Bart Houston and some solid players to the defensive back seven, including linebacker Vince Biegel. This is the type of season that will test Wisconsin's ability to reload and provide a true gauge of the program's progress under Bret Bielema.

6. Penn State: New coach Bill O'Brien and his staff had to scramble to keep the class together, and the 2012 recruiting haul didn't quite match what Penn State adds in most seasons. The coaches were able to keep some good prospects and fulfilled a need at wide receiver with Eugene Lewis and others. It'll be interesting to see how quarterback Steven Bench turns out after Penn State lost verbal commit Skyler Mornhinweg to Florida.

7. Purdue: The Boilers added speed in their 2012 class, and they loaded up on quarterback prospects for the future with four signal-callers. But Purdue also beefed up along the offensive line with Jordan Roos and others. With coaching changes and personnel changes throughout the Leaders Division -- not to mention Ohio State's bowl ban -- Purdue has an excellent chance to make some noise in 2012.

8. Iowa: The big story in Iowa City isn't so much the recent recruiting class but the seismic changes going on in one of the nation's more stable programs. After having the same coordinators for the past 13 seasons, Kirk Ferentz must replace both Norm Parker and Ken O'Keefe, who left late last week for a post on the Miami Dolphins' staff. Iowa will have new leadership on both sides of the ball, creating some uncertainty but also some excitement. The Hawkeyes added some nice pieces in the 2012 class, such as running back Greg Garmon and defensive end Faith Ekakitie.

9. Northwestern: Although the Wildcats' class didn't crack the national rankings, it looks like the best haul in Pat Fitzgerald's tenure as head coach. Northwestern picked up a potential difference-maker on defense in defensive end/linebacker Ifeadi Odenigbo. Malin Jones could be the team's answer at running back, a spot that has suffered during Fitzgerald's tenure. The Wildcats also added the league's top transfer in former USC receiver Kyle Prater.

10. Illinois: It might take a year for Tim Beckman and his staff to make a big splash on the recruiting scene. Illinois' 2012 haul didn't receive great reviews, but the Illini are pursuing several nationally elite 2013 prospects from within the state. Linebacker recruits Tajarvis Fuller and Tyrone Neal should help Illinois in the defensive back seven. There's enough talent on the squad to get back to a decent bowl, but Beckman and his staff have plenty of work ahead.

11. Minnesota: The Gophers inked a class that drew good reviews from ESPN's analysts. Jerry Kill and his staff retained several top in-state prospects, including offensive lineman Isaac Hayes, wide receiver Andre McDonald and quarterback Philip Nelson. McDonald and fellow wideout Jamel Harbison could be immediate contributors for an offense that needs more options. But defense must be the top offseason focal point for Minnesota, which added several juco defenders.

12. Indiana: Although the Hoosiers remain at the bottom, we liked their recruiting class, which should first and foremost provide immediate help on defense. Junior college defenders like Tregg Waters and Jacarri Alexander likely will step in right away for a struggling unit. Indiana also will increase the competition at quarterback with heralded prep prospect Nate Sudfeld and juco addition Cameron Coffman.
This is Part II of our Big Ten recruiting roundtable. Once again, our experts are senior national recruiting analyst Tom Luginbill, Midwest recruiting writer Jared Shanker and Scouts Inc. recruiting coordinator Craig Haubert.

Topic 4: After the top tier of Ohio State and Michigan, what other Big Ten schools have done a good job with this class?

Tom Luginbill: "Michigan State has done a really good job on offense. They had to replace a some wide receivers, and their top two players in the class are receivers, in my opinion. I think they've done a nice job with the offensive line and on the edge with the defensive line. But they haven't addressed maybe their defensive tackle needs. Really, David Fennell is the only one in the whole class. But they're going to recruit their style of guy and they're going to develop them and mold them, because this isn't a program that feels it has to play true freshmen.

"I've been a little bit surprised that there isn't more of a Texas presence in [Nebraska's] class. I understand their want and need to create a presence in the Midwest, because that's where half of their livelihood is during the fall. But you look at where their guys are from -- Missouri, Colorado, Utah, Georgia, Ohio, Illinois -- and you're only really talking about one Texas prospect in their entire class, and that's a little bit surprising. Michael Rose is a really good player on the inside at linebacker and in front of him Paul Thurston out of Colorado has a chance to be a really good one, too. So they've done a nice job in the front seven overall, which they obviously needed to do."

Jared Shanker: “Wisconsin really tried to swing for the fences and went after some top guys. They only have 12 commitments. It’s not a whole lot in quantity, but there is some good quality. They have four four-star guys, and in the 2010 and ‘11 classes, they had one four-star guy combined. It looks like they really slowed down after the season started. They were going after some big guys. It looks like they’re going to lose Kyle Dodson. They lost the other offensive tackle, [J.J.] Denman. They’re hoping to get Jordan Diamond, but if I had to guess, I think he’ll end up at Michigan. They sent out a couple last-second offers to some other offensive tackles. Wisconsin, it looks like they tried to take that next step in recruiting. They whiffed on some, but I still like what they did overall with the class, even though they don’t have a whole bunch of numbers.

“Nebraska didn’t have a whole bunch of room. They had 14 or 15 guys, but they’re hoping to get three or four more. It looks like they’ll get Andrus Peat, one of the best tackles in the nation. He’s a guy they’ve been high on the whole time. Getting Imani Cross, the running back out of Georgia, was a big pickup. It looks like they’re probably going to land three-star Vincent Valentine out of Illinois. It would be a pretty successful signing day for them [if they get Peat and Valentine]."

Craig Haubert: “Very quietly Iowa, especially down the stretch here, has put together a pretty solid class. They just picked up a four-star offensive lineman, Alex Kozan. He was their sixth four-star guy in their class, so they’re doing a really good job. They’ve done a nice job in the trenches, especially on the offensive line where they’ve got some guys leaving and need some guys. They’re not a team a lot of people are buzzing about, but they’ve quietly done a good job.

“Michigan State, Wisconsin, Nebraska, you can lump together. If you ask five people to look at those classes and rank them, you’d probably get three different answers. With Wisconsin, it’s a very small class but a good class, just not much in numbers. The same can be said for Nebraska. They’re going to sign a small class, too, but did a great job filling needs at linebacker. The Armstrong kid can develop into a nice fit for them at quarterback.

“Northwestern, getting Ifeadi Odenigbo was, in the six or seven years I’ve been doing this, the most significant defensive pickup they’ve gotten in that time. Over the years they’ve actually picked up some pretty good offensive guys, but in our eyes, they’ve never landed anybody quite to his caliber, especially coming out of high school.”

Topic 5: What are your surprises and disappointments in the Big Ten for this class?

CH: “The team that’s really surprised me is Minnesota. They’ve done a really good job. That being said, they’re going to probably still finish in the lower half. But if you look at their class, they’ve done a very good job, and they’re on the heels of some of the teams right in front of them. The only difference with their class and some of the Michigan States and Wisconsins and Iowas, when you get to the meat of the class, Minnesota drops off a little bit. But at the top of their class, they’ve done a great job. They’ve got two really god wide receivers in Andre McDonald, who is a Minnesota kid, and Jamel Harbison, a kid out of North Carolina who’s a really good player. ... Considering how bad they’ve been on the field the last few years, this is a really good class. If you’re a Minnesota fan, you can look at this class and say there’s only a limited amount of prospects coming out of the state of Minnesota. You’ve got to be able to keep them. They’ve done that, and they’ve gotten some decent out-of-state pickups.

“A disappointment is Illinois. There’s a real possibility they could finish last in the conference. Any time you get a coaching change, that can cause some problems, but their class is just not very strong, and they lost a few guys after Zook was fired. So it’s really not a very strong class. They’ve been a team that has shown over the years that they can put together some pretty good classes. While they’ve surprised at times with some of those classes with guys like [Arrelious] Benn, it’s probably equally surprising how opposite this is.”

JS: “The disappointment is Michigan and Ohio State are up there and there isn’t another Big Ten team in the class rankings. You’d expect Michigan and Ohio State to always be up there, but with Michigan struggling recently and Ohio State going through its turmoil, if you were the other programs you hope this is an opportunity to maybe close the gap in recruiting. And none of them were able to do that. Not that they got bad classes, but you would have hoped that they’d take full advantage.”

TL: "I think Minnesota has slowly but surely put together a pretty nice looking group. When you consider the issues with Jerry Kill and his health throughout the fall and the fact they had an abysmal year on the gridiron, they've still been able to get three of the top five guys within the state. I would say their top five-to-seven guys would probably exceed expectations from what they'd normally be able to draw. It's a very big and deep class. So I think they're a surprise that's fallen under the radar to some degree.

"Another team where things weren't ideal for them on the field but they put together a pretty decent class is Iowa. They've done a pretty nice job of getting a lot of high-end three-star, low-end four-star players that aren't getting that internet notoriety, which they could care less about.

"I wouldn't say there's any disappointment. Northwestern has done as good a job as they can given their parameters. I don't want to judge Tim Beckman yet, because he's just now laying down his blueprint."

Topic 6: Give us three or four players who can make an immediate impact next season.

TL: "I think Noah Spence could have an impact at the defensive end spot for Ohio State. I think either Aaron Burbridge or Monty Madaris at receiver for Michigan State will likely be asked to contribute in some way, shape or form, just because there's a significant need there. Michigan could have quite a few guys come in and play a role. Maybe Devin Funchess at a need position [tight end] for them on offense. A guy who may surprise and get on the field pretty quickly for them is Joe Bolden, a linebacker."

JS: “Ifeadi Odenigbo, going to Northwestern, coming in he’s going to obviously have to add some weight, but he’s a guy that can be a situation pass rusher, coming in on third down and maybe end up with six, seven, eight sacks as a freshman just with his speed off the edge.

“Adolphus Washington, committed to Ohio State. He’s another guy who could make a big impact. He had a huge senior season. He doesn’t play against the best competition, but I was really impressed watching him, the few times I saw him this year.

“And if he gets a chance, even on special teams, I really like Joe Bolden, going to Michigan. I saw him play in the opener, and he has great instincts. He was making two steps in the direction the play was going to go before the ball was even snapped. I wasn’t down in St. Petersburg, but I heard he tore up the Under Armour game.”

CH: “Any time you’re a five-star guy, you’ve got to look at a guy like Noah Spence. Joe Bolden, he’s got a chance for two reasons: he’s already on campus, and he’s a pretty good football player, a pretty instinctive guy. Also for Ohio State, Adolphus Washington, a kid with good size, great motor.

“In Iowa’s class, Greg Garmon. He fits their system well.

“For Nebraska, that corner they got out of juco [Mohammed Seisay] is pretty good. But sticking with the high school kids, Imani Cross was a great pickup for them. He was committed to Tennessee at one point. He’s a really good running back, a bit bigger, but in addition to being a good prospect, he’s a great fit for them. He’s a no-nonsense runner. He finds his hole, makes one cut and gets up field. And for a need at linebacker, [Michael] Rose is really good, too. I really was impressed with the job he did down at the Under Armour game. He’s got good size for a kid coming out of high school, a linebacker, pretty savvy in coverage, too, for a high school kid.”

Big Ten lunch links

January, 12, 2012
Winter, we meet again.