Big Ten: Moses Alipate

CHICAGO -- Minnesota running back Donnell Kirkwood was browsing the Web about the developments in the Ed O'Bannon antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA when two names caught his eye.

They belonged to his Gophers teammates Moses Alipate and Victor Keise.

"I was on the Internet and their names popped up and I was like, 'What?'" Kirkwood said Thursday at Big Ten media days. "We support them all the way with it, as long as it doesn't interfere with the team and bring negative attention. As long as they show up to workouts every day and do their part, I think it's all right."

Alipate and Keise are among six current FBS players who joined the O'Bannon lawsuit, which alleges that the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co., the nation's leading trademark and licensing firm, violated antitrust laws by using players' names, likenesses and images without compensation. Both Minnesota players are fifth-year seniors who haven't played much at the college level.

Kirkwood hasn't discussed the case with Alipate and Keise other than to ask one question.

"If y'all win, how much do we get?" he said with a laugh.

Like many college players, Kirkwood played the "NCAA" video game from EA Sports, which has contained his likeness in recent years. He doesn't feel as strongly as Alipate and Keise about the pay-for-play debate but would like to see the value of his athletic scholarship go a little further, a proposal the Big Ten has backed for several years.

"When I signed my letter of intent, I knew I wasn't going to be getting paid, so it never really crossed my mind," Kirkwood said. "I started finding out about the revenue when I got to college. It'd be nice to have a little extra money in your pocket when times get rough at the end of the month, but I know we're not NFL players and we shouldn't get millions of dollars in college."

A stipend could help players with basic living expenses, Kirkwood said, as well as help their families travel to far-away games. But the Gophers junior opposes a full-blown pay-for-play system in college football featuring agents and contracts.

"That would be too much," he said. "That might mess up the whole entire recruiting process. If they choose to do that, everybody should get the same amount across the country."
Minnesota football players Moses Alipate and Victor Keise have had undistinguished careers to date. But they could turn out to be two vitally important figures in the pay-for-play debate.

Alipate, a senior tight end, and Keise, a senior wide receiver, are among six current FBS players to join a federal anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA, originally filed in 2009 by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon. The O'Bannon plaintiffs claim the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co., the nation's leading trademark and licensing firm, violated antitrust laws by preventing players from receiving compensation from video games and other products that use their names, likenesses and images. The lawsuit was amended last year to include current players.

From ESPN's Tom Farrey:
By adding their names to a highly contentious lawsuit originally filed in 2009 by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon, the players -- all from college football's largest conferences -- enhance the chances that damages in the suit could reach into the billions of dollars.

Keise has played in 14 career games, recording one catch, while Alipate, a decorated quarterback recruit, has yet to play for the Gophers. They are the only current players in the suit who don't have avatars in the NCAA Football 2014 video game.

From SI.com:
In the amended complaint, plaintiffs' attorneys point out Alipate and Keise signed "one or more release forms." So the inclusion of the two Minnesota players may serve to challenge the name and likeness release forms Big Ten athletes are required to sign.

The NCAA this week cut ties with EA Sports, the manufacturer of the yearly "NCAA Football" video game. EA Sports will continue to produce college football video games that feature individual schools, which have their own trademarks.

It will be interesting to see how Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague and others react to Alipate and Keise joining what could be a historic lawsuit.
By now, you've seen where several Big Ten recruits stack up in the final ESPN 300 for 2013. Check back in three or four years to see who met expectations and who did not.

What about the most decorated Big Ten recruits from four years ago? In preparation for national signing day Feb. 6, the folks at RecruitingNation took a look back at the ESPN 150 from 2009 (there wasn't an ESPN 300 back then) and recorded what each recruit did at the college level.

A total of 21 Big Ten recruits made the 150 from 2009. Some turned out to be stars, others never got on track and a few haven't written the final chapter of their college careers.

Let's take a look (positions listed according to ESPN recruiting profiles):

Top 50

  • No. 22: Jaamal Berry, RB, Ohio State -- Played sparingly in 2010 and 2011 before off-field issues led to a suspension. Transferred to FCS Murray State and recorded 675 rush yards this past season.
  • No. 32: Dorian Bell, LB, Ohio State -- Appeared in eight games for Ohio State in 2010 before being suspended the following year and eventually transferred to FCS Duquesne, where he performed well in the 2012 season.
  • No. 47: Craig Roh, DE, Michigan -- Started 51 games for Michigan, a team record, and earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in each of the past two seasons.
Nos. 51-100

  • No. 67: Je'Ron Stokes, WR, Michigan -- Played sparingly at Michigan before the coaching transition from Rich Rodriguez to Brady Hoke. Transferred to Bowling Green and caught 15 passes this past season.
  • No. 69: David Barrent, OT, Michigan State -- Played in seven games as a reserve before back problems ended his career in May 2011.
  • No. 74: Eric Shrive, OT, Penn State -- Shrive appeared in every game as a reserve guard in 2012 and could compete for a starting job in 2013.
  • No. 81: Quinton Washington, G, Michigan -- Washington has moved to defensive tackle and entered the starting lineup in 2012, recording 32 tackles and a sack.
  • No. 87: Terry Hawthorne, WR, Illinois -- Hawthorne played mostly cornerback at Illinois and made starts in all four seasons, earning honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in each of the past two. He also returned kicks and punts and should be selected in April's NFL draft.
  • No. 88: C.J. Barnett, CB, Ohio State -- Barnett has been a mainstay in Ohio State's secondary the past two seasons, recording 56 tackles, two interceptions and six pass breakups in nine games in 2012. He is expected to start at safety for the Buckeyes in 2013.
  • No. 94: Isaiah Bell, S, Michigan -- Bell didn't play a snap for Michigan before leaving the program in March and playing for Division II Lake Erie College this past season.
  • No. 99: Jamie Wood, S, Ohio State -- Wood has appeared in 30 games for the Buckeyes, mostly on special teams, but has battled shoulder problems and underwent surgery last fall.
Nos. 101-150

  • No. 101: Denard Robinson, athlete, Michigan -- Who's this guy? Robinson started three seasons at quarterback for the Wolverines, setting an NCAA quarterback rushing record as well as many other milestones. He was the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year in 2010 and finished his career with 4,495 rush yards, 6,250 pass yards and 91 touchdowns.
  • No. 112: Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State -- Had a breakout season in 2010 as the starter, rushing for 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns. But he lost his starting job to Le'Veon Bell in 2011 and declared for the NFL draft after the season. He was a seventh-round pick of the San Diego Chargers and spent most of 2012 on the team's practice squad.
  • No. 115: Kraig Appleton, WR, Wisconsin -- Had three receptions in the 2009 season before being suspended the following spring and eventually leaving school. He was the victim of a shooting in July 2011 but survived.
  • No. 116: Keenan Davis, WR, Iowa -- Started the past two seasons and finished second on the squad in receptions in both years (47 in 2012) but never blossomed like many thought he would.
  • No. 124: Melvin Fellows, DE, Ohio State -- Fellows played sparingly in five games in 2010 but endured chronic knee problems that eventually forced him to take a medical harship, ending his career.
  • No. 126: Jack Mewhort, C, Ohio State -- Mewhort saw the field a lot early in his career at guard and moved to left tackle last season, where he flourished. He'll help anchor Ohio State's offensive line in 2013.
  • No. 128: Moses Alipate, QB, Minnesota -- Has been a nonfactor so far in his career. Switched from quarterback to tight end and checks in at 6-foot-5, 297 pounds.
  • No. 131: Duron Carter, WR, Ohio State -- Saw the field early in his Buckeyes career before academic problems eventually forced him to leave for a junior college. He transferred to Alabama but never played because of academics and transferred again to Florida Atlantic, where he sat out the 2012 season.
  • No. 144: Tate Forcier, QB, Michigan -- Forcier started the 2009 season, led Michigan to a memorable win against Notre Dame but struggled down the stretch and lost his job to Robinson in 2010. Academic issues sidelined him for the 2011 Gator Bowl, and he left school weeks later. Although he transferred to San Jose State, he never played.
  • No. 148: Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan -- Lewan has been a mainstay for Michigan's offensive line, earning Big Ten offensive lineman of the year honors in 2012. Projected as a first-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft, Lewan surprised many by deciding to return to Michigan for his senior season.

An interesting mix, for sure. Lewan, the last player listed, might turn out to be the most successful. So few of the Big Ten's top 100 recruits panned out, and Ohio State fans have to be shaking their heads a bit at this list, as only Mewhort and Barnett look like success stories. There were unfortunate injury situations like Michigan State's Barrent and Ohio State's Fellows, some academic casualties (Carter, Forcier), and a downright sad story with Appleton. Baker was the only player on the list to make an early jump to the NFL.

Although several players didn't pan out, Michigan undoubtedly has to feel the best about the 2009 class as Robinson produced a record-setting career, Roh was a solid player, Lewan is a star and Washington could be a star in 2013.

Eight Big Ten teams are represented on the 2009 list. Those that aren't: Indiana, Nebraska, Northwestern and Purdue.

RecruitingNation also re-ranks the top 10 classes , with both Ohio State (No. 9) and Michigan (No. 10) holding their positions.
When you think Big Ten football, what usually comes to mind is big, corn-fed Midwestern players and bruising offenses. The kind of place that would be perfect for a tight end.

But the 2011 season was a little lackluster for that position in the league, at least as far as the passing game goes. Sure, Northwestern's Drake Dunsmore and Wisconsin's Jacob Pedersen were Mackey Award semifinalists, but those two and Michigan State's Brian Linthicum were the only two tight ends in the conference to record more than 25 catches. Some guys we expected to have big years, like Nebraska's Kyler Reed, Minnesota's Eric Lair and Indiana's Ted Bolser, were nearly invisible on the stat sheet. And there was certainly no one who rose the level of recent Big Ten stars like Dallas Clark, Matt Spaeth, Travis Beckum, Lance Kendricks or Dustin Keller.

[+] EnlargeJacob Pedersen
AP Photo/Matt SaylesJacob Pedersen led the Big Ten's tight ends with eight touchdown catches last season.
Dunsmore, who won the league's inaugural Kwalick-Clark tight end of the year award, and Linthicum have both graduated. Yet 2012 is shaping up as a potentially big season for tight ends across the league.

Some of it has to do with changing offenses and playcallers who love utilizing the tight end. Urban Meyer made a star out of Aaron Hernandez at Florida and could do the same with Jake Stoneburner, who started off blazing hot last year before the Ohio State offense forgot about him. With the Buckeyes searching for playmakers, expect Stoneburner to be utilized heavily in 2012.

"Seeing Hernandez make all those plays makes someone like me pretty happy," Stoneburner told Adam Rittenberg last month. "It's something I've been waiting for since I graduated high school, being able to go out there knowing you're going to get the opportunity to get the ball more than once or twice a game. "

Bill O'Brien coached Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski as offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, which featured the tight end as much as anybody in football. Now O'Brien is at Penn State, where tight ends have mostly been an afterthought. That will change quickly.

"That’s a very important part of what we’re going to do offensively,” O’Brien told reporters in March. “Obviously, the last two years in New England taught me a lot about the use of a tight end, multiple tight ends.”

At Iowa, new offensive coordinator Greg Davis is raving about sophomore C.J. Fiedorowicz, a 6-foot-7, 265-pounder who began to emerge late last season as a weapon. With an uncertain running game and an excellent passer in quarterback James Vandenberg, Fiedorowicz could follow in the footsteps of Clark and Tony Moeaki as breakout Hawkeyes tight ends. Coincidentally, Iowa's new offensive line coach is Brian Ferentz, who coached the tight ends with the Patriots last year.

“You’ll see the tight ends playing outside sometimes,” Davis told the Des Moines Register during spring practice. “Used to seeing them in motion, but there will be motion in wide receiver sets in some situations because they’re tough match-ups.”

Wisconsin returns one of the best tight ends in the country in Pedersen, who had led Big Ten tight ends with eight touchdown catches a year ago. Bret Bielema is also excited about the depth at the position, with veterans Brian Wozniak and Sam Arneson, redshirt freshmen Austin Traylor and Austin Maly and Pittsburgh transfer Brock DeCicco. Given the inexperience at receiver outside of Jared Abbrederis, the Badgers could look to throw to their tight ends even more this season.

Indiana's Bolser had only 14 catches last year, but he was one of the stars of the spring for the Hoosiers. An improved passing game should help him become more of a factor. Purdue likes the depth it has at tight end, led by Gabe Holmes and Crosby Wright.

“A year ago it was one of the leanest positions on our football team," Boilers coach Danny Hope told reporters in the spring, "and now I think going into the season that the tight end position is going to be one of our strengths.”

Reed's numbers dropped last year, but he still led Nebraska with an average of 17.1 yards per catch. He and fellow senior Ben Cotton form a nice tandem of targets for Taylor Martinez. Michigan State must replace Linthicum but is optimistic about 6-foot-5, 280-pound Dion Sims, who practiced this spring with a cast on his hand. Sims could provide a safety valve for new quarterback Andrew Maxwell early on as the Spartans break in some green receivers.

Minnesota's Moses Alipate will at least be a curiosity as a former quarterback who grew to 290 pounds. Michigan needs Brandon Moore or someone else to step in for Kevin Koger, while Illinois' Jon Davis could have a different role in the team's new spread offense after a promising freshman campaign. Whoever replaces Dunsmore for Northwestern should get a lot of touches.

Tight ends could play an important part of many Big Ten teams' attacks this fall. Just as it should be.

Big Ten lunchtime links

April, 18, 2012
4/18/12
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Tonight's the night we partied with the mole people!

Big Ten lunch links

January, 31, 2012
1/31/12
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Straight down the middle: no hook, no spin, no fuss. Anything more and this becomes figure skating.
You've asked for it and you've been very patient, so here it is. The Big Ten All-Name team.

Who doesn't love a good name? And there are some very strong candidates around the Big Ten this season.

The only criteria, besides having an awesome name, is a player must be on a Big Ten roster entering the 2011 season. Incoming freshmen are eligible. Names that could have a football connotation help your cause.

Let's do this ...

Coach: Jerry Kill, Minnesota

OFFENSE

QB: Moses Alipate, Minnesota
RB: Fitzgerald Toussaint, Michigan
RB: Mika'il McCall, Iowa
FB: Jared Crank, Purdue
OL: Fou Fonoti, Michigan State
OL: Jack De Boef, Purdue
OL: Rocko Khoury, Michigan
OL: Seung Hoon Choi, Nebraska
OL: Riki Kodanko, Wisconsin
WR: Fritz Rock, Illinois
WR: Xzavian Brandon, Minnesota
WR: Tariq Tongue, Penn State
WR: Nick Toon, Wisconsin
TE: Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State

DEFENSE

DL: DeJazz Woods, Illlinois
DL:
Kyle Baublitz, Penn State
DL: Wisdom Onyegbule, Illinois
DL:
Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State
LB: Storm Klein, Ohio State
LB: Coddye Ring-Noonan, Wisconsin
LB:
Kaulana Judd, Purdue
DB: Miami Thomas, Illinois
DB: John Lowdermilk, Iowa
DB: Peniel Jean, Wisconsin
DB: Shady Salamon, Minnesota

SPECIAL TEAMS

P: Alex Butterworth, Penn State
K: Carson Wiggs, Purdue

PRACTICE SQUAD
  • Zepheniah Grimes, LB, Illinois
  • Griffen Dahlstrom, LB, Indiana
  • Curenski Gilleylen, WR, Nebraska
  • Whitney Mercilus, DE, Illinois
  • Caleb TerBush, QB, Purdue
  • Takudzwa Kubvoruno, WR, Michigan State
  • Dakota Getz, LB, Iowa
  • Darius Millines, WR, Illinois
  • Dusty Kiel, QB, Indiana
  • Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB, Northwestern
  • DeOn'tae Pannell, OL, Penn State
  • Khairi Fortt, LB, Penn State
  • Sahr Ngekia, TE, Minnesota
  • Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
  • Silas Redd, RB, Penn State
  • Nick Stoner, DB, Indiana (nod to Adam's hometown of Berkeley, Calif.)
  • Marlandez Harris, DL, Indiana
  • Logan Link, DB, Purdue
  • Stone Pinckney, LB, Northwestern

Spring game recap: Minnesota

April, 25, 2011
4/25/11
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Coach Jerry Kill wrapped up his first spring practice session at Minnesota on Saturday with a scrimmage at TCF Bank Stadium. It was a pretty vanilla exercise, but for those interested in the scoring, the defense limited the offense to a touchdown and two field goals.

Let's take a quick look at the scrimmage.

Game coverage: Here and here and here and here.

Quotable: "The team has to take where they left off today and when we start two-a-day camp, we better be better. In other words, what they do this summer, I can't go back and start over. We have to start from where we left off today and keep climbing. They're going to have to do a great job this summer in taking care of business and doing what they need to do to get better. So we will see what they are all about." -- coach Jerry Kill

Highlights
  • Veteran Duane Bennett was the first running back to take the field and had seven carries for 22 yards in the scrimmage. Redshirt freshman Donnell Kirkwood received the bulk of the work and recorded 65 rush yards and a touchdown on 18 carries. Kirkwood had a 28-yard scamper but also fumbled after hauling in a screen pass for the lone turnover of the scrimmage. Senior DeLeon Eskridge had nine carries for 26 yards.
  • MarQueis Gray exited the spring as Minnesota's top quarterback and barring a preseason shakeup, he'll start the season under center. But Kill hasn't handed the job to Gray, and other players could push the talented junior. Moses Alipate had a nice performance Saturday, completing 9 of 12 passes for 51 yards. Gray completed 11 of 18 passes for 67 yards and added a 20-yard scramble. Freshman Max Shortell enters the mix this summer.
  • Minnesota finished 10th in the Big Ten in field-goal percentage (.647) in 2010 and would have been last in many leagues (thank goodness for Michigan). For this reason Gophers fans had to be pleased when Chris Hawthorne, a transfer from NC State, connected on a 50-yard field-goal attempt. Hawthorne also connected from 30 yards out. "Was that a 50-yarder? That's good," Kill said. "You can win a lot of games in the kicking game."

Big Ten scrimmage notes

April, 11, 2011
4/11/11
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The Big Ten featured only one spring game this weekend, but plenty of teams took to the field for scrimmages. I've compiled some scrimmage highlights from around the league based on reports from official team websites and other media sources. Several teams didn't provide specifics about their scrimmages, but I included what I could find.

ILLINOIS

The Illini scrimmaged for about 90 minutes Saturday, and all players were involved in contact aside from starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.

Notes
  • The offense prevailed in the scrimmage and gashed the defense for several big runs. Troy Pollard took most of the reps at running back as Jason Ford sat out with a sore knee, and Pollard helped his cause with 110 rush yards on 19 carries. Scheelhaase completed 7 of 12 passes for 53 yards and added 58 yards on the ground, while backup Miles Osei had a 63-yards pass to Fred Sykes and finished the day with 165 yards through the air.
  • Coach Ron Zook singled out linebacker Houston Bates for his play in the scrimmage. Bates had a sack and a quarterback hurry. He saw increased playing time after Jonathan Brown was kicked out of the scrimmage after throwing a punch and drawing a personal foul penalty.
INDIANA

The Hoosiers held their second scrimmage of the spring Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. Check out coach Kevin Wilson's thoughts as well as some highlights.

Notes
  • The offense got the best of the defense Saturday after the D shined in Indiana's previous scrimmage. Receivers Duwyce Wilson and Kofi Hughes stood out in the highlights Indiana showed on its website, as Hughes had a long touchdown reception and Wilson was forced out just shy of the goal line. Both players have been impressive this spring and should complement top wideout Damarlo Belcher in the fall.
IOWA

No official information from Iowa's scrimmage Saturday, but here's a photo gallery and some recent player interviews from the team's website.

MICHIGAN

No official information from Michigan's scrimmage Saturday, but here are video interviews with defensive tackle Mike Martin and offensive lineman Patrick Omameh. Running backs Vincent Smith, Michael Cox and Stephen Hopkins had some nice runs in the video highlights.

MICHIGAN STATE

The Spartans held their first jersey scrimmage Friday and the defense prevailed 55-45 in a modified scoring system. The defense had 18 ways to score points, while the offense had 11 ways to score, including touchdowns and field goals.

Notes
  • The defense dominated the scrimmage, holding the offense without a first down on the first five possessions and without points for the first 13 possessions. Michigan State's D recorded three sacks and two interceptions during the stifling stanza. The only two touchdowns scored came during the goal line and red zone portions of the scrimmage.
  • Defensive ends William Gholston and Tyler Hoover combined for nine tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and a pass breakup. Sophomore linebacker TyQuan Hammock recorded an interception. "The defense played well -- tackled effectively, pressured the quarterback and came away with some turnovers," coach Mark Dantonio said in a news release.
  • Starting quarterback Kirk Cousins had a rough day (6-for-16 passing, 41 yards, INT), although he didn't get much help from his receivers, who dropped three passes. Backup Andrew Maxwell completed 15 of 26 passes for 116 yards with an interception.
  • The touchdowns came from Edwin Baker (22-yard run) and Le'Veon Bell (6-yard run). Receiver Keith Mumphery caught a 43-yard pass from Maxwell.
MINNESOTA

The Gophers scrimmaged Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium and ran about 120 plays.

Notes
  • Minnesota's defense held the upper hand as the offense struggled to gain a first down early in the scrimmage. The defensive line had a very good day as tackles Brandon Jacobs and Brandon Kirksey both stood out. Jacobs sacked No. 1 quarterback MarQueis Gray and Kirksey recorded a blocked field goal attempt. Ends D.L. Wilhite and Ra'Shede Hageman also made some plays. "The defensive line got up the field a lot more than we have been. [It was] a lot more aggressive," coach Jerry Kill told reporters. "And we need that. We need more push. We had nine sacks last year, and that can't happen."
  • Gray and top receiver Da'Jon McKnight hooked up on receptions of 45 and 20 yards. McKnight also recorded a punt block in the scrimmage.
  • Reserve quarterback Tom Parish threw two interceptions and fumbled a snap. Moses Alipate ran a few series at quarterback and led a scoring drive.
NEBRASKA

The Huskers ran about 150 plays in a scrimmage Saturday in Lincoln. Quarterbacks Brion Carnes, Cody Green and Kody Spano took most of the reps and drew praise from coach Bo Pelini.
  • The coaches limited reps for quarterback Taylor Martinez after the sophomore hurt his toe in a recent workout. Running back Rex Burkhead participated in the scrimmage and "looked great," according to Pelini, although Burkhead's reps were limited as well.
  • Nebraska had two false-start penalties and one fumble during the scrimmage. "That's not bad," Pelini said. "Most of it is with the young guys. It shows me the emphasis is working and there's progress, but one's too many as far I'm concerned."
NORTHWESTERN

The Wildcats scrimmaged Saturday in Evanston in preparation for this week's spring game.

Notes
  • Top running back Mike Trumpy had runs of 33 and 25 yards, while Tyris Jones added a scoring run. Jones has had a really nice spring for the Wildcats, who are looking for more options in the backfield.
  • Trevor Siemian and Evan Watkins took the reps at quarterback as Kain Colter was held out of the scrimmage. Siemian completed 8 of 12 passes for 86 yards with an interception, while Watkins, victimized by dropped passes, completed 8 of 21 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown strike to Charles Brown.
  • Defensive end Tyler Scott picked off Siemian on the second play of the scrimmage. Siemian later responded with a 36-yard pass to Rashad Lawrence. Demetrius Fields led the receivers with five receptions, while walk-on Torin Dupper had three catches for 46 yards.
OHIO STATE

The Buckeyes held a special-teams scrimmage followed by a full jersey scrimmage Saturday in Ohio Stadium. The team went through about 20 possessions and the offense prevailed 56-45.
  • Receiver DeVier Posey recorded two touchdown receptions, a 33-yarder from Joe Bauserman and an 8-yarder from Taylor Graham. Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller had the only other touchdown of the scrimmage on an 11-yard run.
  • Bauserman completed passes of 33 and 16 yards and also threw an interception on a pass tipped by defensive lineman John Simon. Graham completed 10 of 20 passes for 80 yards, while Miller hit on 4 of 6 passes for 43 yards and looked impressive on the touchdown run. Kenny Guiton struggled at quarterback, leading the offense to only one score (field goal) in six possessions.
  • Posey recorded five receptions for 83 yards and two scores, while the other scholarship wideouts combined for only five receptions. Think Ohio State will miss No. 8 in the first five games?
  • Senior running back Dan Herron didn't get much work Saturday, and Jaamal Berry and Rod Smith stood out among the backs with several nice gains.
  • Defensive linemen Adam Bellamy and Melvin Fellows both recorded sacks, while other defensive standouts included cornerback Travis Howard and linebacker Etienne Sabino.
PENN STATE

The Lions scrimmaged Saturday, but there's not much info out there aside from this (must pay for content).

WISCONSIN

The Badgers held a scrimmage Saturday, running more than 120 snaps, and coach Bret Bielema shares his thoughts here.
  • Sophomore linebacker Conor O'Neill had a big day with interceptions on back-to-back plays, picking off Joe Brennan and Joel Stave. Wisconsin auditioned O'Neill at safety last year, and his experience defending the pass is paying off.
  • Bielema said center Peter Konz will miss the rest of the spring because of ankle and knee injuries. Konz will undergo minor knee surgery and should be fine for fall camp. Versatile sophomore Ryan Groy is seeing time at center and can play all three interior line spots.
  • Remember Zach Brown? The running back is still around in Madison and hopes to enter a crowded backfield this fall. Brown had a 17-yard touchdown reception and an 8-yard scoring run Saturday. "Zach is an angry running back," Bielema told reporters. "Everybody wants to talk about those other guys. People forget he ran for 200 yards [in a game] as a freshman, and he has won some games for us."
I got my first glimpse of Adam Weber in 2007, when he took the field as a redshirt freshman for Minnesota in a game at Northwestern.

That day, Weber passed for 341 yards and five touchdowns and added 89 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 49-48 double-overtime loss at Ryan Field. Northwestern escaped with the win after Weber's pass attempt on a game-deciding 2-point conversion attempt fell incomplete. Weber's 430 yards of total offense marked the third highest single-game total in team history.

Adam Weber
AP Photo/Paul BattagliaAdam Weber struggled last season for Minnesota, completing just 52 percent of his passes.
My thought that day: this guy is going to be really good.

My thought today: Weber can still be really good.

As expected, Minnesota has announced that Weber will open the 2010 season as its starting quarterback. The man who has started the last 38 games for the Golden Gophers will lead the offense onto the field Sept. 2 at Middle Tennessee.

Weber had to compete to retain his job this spring, with MarQueis Gray as his primary challenger. Moses Alipate also was in the mix.
"We thoroughly evaluated every aspect of quarterback play throughout the spring and Adam has earned the right to be the starter entering the 2010 season," head coach Tim Brewster said in making the announcement on gophersports.com. "MarQueis Gray will be our No. 2 quarterback, with Moses Alipate No. 3.

"We are fortunate to have three very talented young men who can all lead our team. In the final analysis, Adam's command of the offense, his leadership, decision-making and his overall play won out and right now we believe he provides our program with its best opportunity for success."

Some Minnesota fans will be disappointed with this decision. After earning second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2008, Weber struggled mightily last season, completing only 52 percent of his passes with two more interceptions (15) than touchdowns. The Gophers' offense sputtered under his command, finishing last in the Big Ten in both scoring (20.9 ppg) and total offense (306.5 ypg).

Gray is a bigger and more athletic quarterback than Weber, and it's easy to see why a lot of folks wanted him to be the starter.

But Weber still has a major edge in experience, and it's hard to go away from that, especially for a coach like Brewster entering a pivotal season. Weber is still Minnesota's all-time leader in passing yards and completions. Gray isn't proven as a passer, completing just 6 of 15 pass attempts with a touchdown and an interception last year.

Why will Weber be better this fall? It starts with a simplified offensive scheme.

Not only did Minnesota install a dramatically different offense last season -- going from the spread, a system to which both Weber and Gray were recruited, to a pro set -- but the quarterbacks seemed to be flooded with information. I got to see this first hand before a game last season when I spent time with Minnesota and sat in on a quarterbacks' meeting.

New offensive coordinator Jeff Horton has simplified the system and tried to identify a few things that his quarterbacks do best. Weber and Gray both seemed to welcome Horton and the changes.
"Last year, my head was spinning in practice and in the meeting rooms," Gray said. "Coach Horton came in, and he did a lot of simplifying. His philosophy is getting better at what we're good at; start with little stuff and get better at it. That’s helping people out in a lot of ways."

"It’s not always another play when you come to the next practice," Weber said. "It’s getting better at the plays you’re working on in yesterday’s practice."

Weber deserves another chance, not just from the team but from the fans. He separated himself early in spring practice and emerged as the likely starter. Now it's official.

This guy was a pretty good quarterback not that long ago. And he can be a good quarterback again.

Minnesota spring wrap

May, 5, 2010
5/05/10
8:30
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2009 overall record: 6-7

2009 conference record: 3-5 (8th)

Returning starters

Offense: 9, defense: 2, kicker/punter: 1

Top returners

QB Adam Weber, RB Duane Bennett, RB DeLeon Eskridge, C D.J. Burris, S Kyle Theret, S Kim Royston, P Eric Ellestad

Key losses

WR Eric Decker, TE Nick Tow-Arnett, LB Lee Campbell, LB Nate Triplett, LB Simoni Lawrence, CB Traye Simmons, DT Garrett Brown, DT Eric Small

2009 statistical leaders (*-returners)

Rushing: Duane Bennett* (376 yards)

Passing: Adam Weber* (2,582 yards)

Receiving: Eric Decker (758 yards)

Tackles: Lee Campbell (119)

Sacks: Eric Small (3)

Interceptions: Kyle Theret (3)

Spring answers

1. Weber still man to beat: Adam Weber knew his job was on the line this spring, and he stepped up like a senior should. After backsliding last season, Weber embraced a pared-down playbook and created some early separation with MarQueis Gray and Moses Alipate. He must continue to make progress this summer, but he had the type of response the coaches wanted to see this spring.

2. Defensive line reloads: Minnesota loses all four starters up front but could have a more talented and explosive defensive line this fall. The coaches really like they size they have at defensive tackle with Jewhan Edwards and Brandon Kirksey. No defensive end recorded more than two sacks last year, a total that must improve this fall. Head coach Tim Brewster raves about Ra'Shede Hageman, and Matt Garin also should contribute a lot there.

3. Simple is better on offense: The arrival of new offensive coordinator Jeff Horton and a simplified scheme definitely paid off for the Gophers this spring. Players really welcomed Horton's system after going through information overload under Jedd Fisch last fall. Minnesota's offense could struggle in 2010, but players will have a lot more confidence in what they're being asked to do.

Fall questions

1. Secondary shaky: Minnesota's first priority is the cornerback spot, where it loses both starters. Is Michael Carter ready to break out? Carter and Ryan Collado look like the top two options, but depth certainly could be an issue against opponents who like to pass the ball. Safety looked like the Gophers' biggest strength after last season, but Kim Royston's broken leg and Kyle Theret's suspension thinned things out this spring. Royston will be a big loss if he can't return.

2. Linebackers in limbo: The Gophers lose three productive linebackers from last year and not only need starters to emerge, but some depth along with it. Mike Rallis, a converted safety, had a very nice spring and should be a key contributor along with Sam Maresh. But Minnesota needs others to emerge in the defensive midsection. The Gophers could use Gary Tinsley, but whether he'll be available remains to be seen.

3. Offensive line: The Gophers have lost their offensive identity a bit the last few years, and they need to build more toughness along the line. All five starters return, but young players like Ed Olson and Brooks Michel are pushing the returnees and increasing the competition. It's far from a finished product yet, but Minnesota's linemen are embracing a simplified scheme and taking pride in run-blocking. They've got to keep it going through the summer.
The spring game recap series marches on with Minnesota, which wrapped up its spring session Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium.

Both the offense and defense had some highs and lows, as the offense started fast before slowing down considerably, while the defense allowed an early touchdown before turning up the heat with physical play in the second half.

Not surprisingly, the quarterbacks took center stage. Three-year starter Adam Weber got most of the work with the first-team offense and led an opening scoring drive, thanks in large part to a 56-yard completion to speedster Troy Stoudermire. But the senior completed less than half his passes (8 of 20) in the game. Backup MarQueis Gray accounted for the game's lone touchdown pass, a 38-yard strike to Hayo Carpenter, but he also threw an interception. Third-stringer Moses Alipate completed 2 of 4 passes for 14 yards.

Head coach Tim Brewster will name a starter in the coming days, and all signs point to Weber, who stepped up his game this spring after a subpar junior season. I'm sure a portion of Gophers fans will be upset to see Weber back at the controls, but his struggles last season weren't all his fault. Remember that he was recruited to play in the spread and had to adjust to a dramatically different and overly complex offense in 2009. He'll be better this season, especially if the offensive line steps up.

Minnesota's running game showed some life early as top backs Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge racked up 97 of their combined 106 rushing yards in the first half. Bennett averaged 6.1 yards a carry, though the backs struggled to find running room late in the game.

The defense played without any returning starters from 2009 but still showed some good things, especially at linebacker. Mike Rallis, a converted safety, recorded two sacks and three tackles for loss. Sam Maresh had two tackles for loss and a pass breakup, and Keanon Cooper picked off a Gray pass.

Other Gophers nuggets:

  • Kenny Watkins and Christyn Lewis filled the starting safety spots in place of the injured Kim Royston and the suspended Kyle Theret, and both players turned in solid performances. Lewis and Watkins combined for seven tackles and two pass breakups.
  • Minnesota must replace both of its starting defensive tackles, but Jewhan Edwards and Brandon Kirksey earned high marks from reporters who attended the game.
  • The biggest hole for the defense could be the cornerback spot, as it must replace Traye Simmons and Marcus Sherels. Michael Carter recorded two pass breakups in the spring game and Ryan Collado added three tackles and a pass breakup. Kyle Henderson, a transfer from Minnesota-Mankato, was one of the spring game stars with four tackles and three pass breakups. Still, Minnesota needs to develop more depth there.
  • Kicker Eric Ellestad turned in a solid performance, going 4-for-4 on field-goal attempts with a long of 50 yards.
Saturday was scrimmage day around the Big Ten, as teams from State College to Minneapolis engaged in several forms of game-like simulations. Though no Big Ten team has officially held a spring game -- five are on tap Saturday -- these scrimmages are often just as important, if not more so.

Nine of the 11 Big Ten teams provided media access and/or statistics from Saturday's scrimmages. Michigan's official Web site has some video and tidbits from Saturday's 115-play closed scrimmage, and Mgoblog has a few reports as well. Iowa's official site also has some video and interviews from Saturday's scrimmage.

Here are some tidbits from the other nine scrimmages, from reports around the league:

ILLINOIS

Illinois let its quarterbacks get hit Saturday, but the offense delivered most of the damage. Nathan Scheelhaase continued to make a strong case for the starting job with a 40-yard run, a 30-yard touchdown pass to Zach Becker and a 22-yard pass to A.J. Jenkins. Jacob Charest also remains very much alive in the QB race and connected on several long passes, including a 50-yarder to Jenkins. The running game also looked good as Mikel Leshoure had a 65-yard run. Cornerback Tavon Wilson provided a defensive highlight by picking off a Scheelhaase pass. It's encouraging to see this type of progress from Illinois' offense, which lost several key pieces from 2009 and returns virtually no experience at quarterback.

INDIANA

Defense is the primary focus for IU this spring, and the unit stepped up in Saturday's scrimmage, holding the offense to only one touchdown. Defensive tackle Adam Replogle recorded two sacks and three tackles for loss, and linebacker Jeff Thomas, a junior college transfer, forced a fumble. Safety Kyle Dietrick recorded the lone interception of the scrimmage. The Hoosiers continue to see good things from freshman running back Antonio Banks, who had 42 rushing yards and a touchdown Saturday. The backup quarterback competition continued as Dusty Kiel recorded a touchdown pass and a 35-yard completion, while Edward Wright-Baker completed 8 of 10 pass attempts. Nick Zachery, who moved from safety to wide receiver just last week, had four catches for 46 yards.

MICHIGAN STATE

The Spartans' defense rallied to win the jersey scrimmage as a secondary that struggled mightily last fall saw two players, Marcus Hyde and Mitchell White, return interceptions for touchdowns. Hyde picked off starter Kirk Cousins, while White intercepted an Andrew Maxwell pass and raced 40 yards for a touchdown. Cornerback Chris L. Rucker also had a big day with an interception, a pass breakup and a tackle for loss. Michigan State's defense got a big lift from end Denzel Drone, who stuffed Edwin Baker on fourth-and-1 from the 1-yard line to seal the win. Cousins completed 19 of 30 passes for 188 yards with two touchdowns, including a 30-yarder to Keith Nichol, and two interceptions. Maxwell, who played some with the first-team offense, threw for 199 yards with a touchdown and an interception. Wide receivers Keshawn Martin (12 catches, 109 yards), Bennie Fowler (nine catches, 84 yards, 48-yard rush) and Nichol (four catches, 70 yards) stood out.

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Competition will be in the air Tuesday as Minnesota kicks off spring practice. The Gophers lose 11 starters from a team that reached the Insight Bowl, and the depth chart is wide open entering the spring. Much of the attention will be on the quarterback spot, as three-year starter Adam Weber tries to hold off MarQueis Gray and Moses Alipate. On defense, the Gophers lose all three starting linebackers, both starting cornerbacks and both starting defensive tackles.

Head coach Tim Brewster took some time Monday to preview spring ball.

[+] EnlargeTim Brewster
Christian Petersen/Getty ImagesTim Brewster would like to have the quarterback depth chart sorted out by the end of spring practices.
What are you looking forward to seeing when you get back on the field Tuesday?

Tim Brewster: This is really going to be a good group for us. It's a young group, a lot of talent in the group, they've really done a great job in the winter conditioning program. Guys came back off spring break in great shape. We had a great 6 a.m. run this morning. We've just got to do a great job as a staff this spring of developing these young guys. There's nothing complicated about what we're going to try to accomplish. Really just the fundamentals of the game, we'll spend a good deal of time on situational work, and then the thing that's going to be exciting for us is the competition. For the first time since we've been here, we've got some really good competitive situations at a lot of different spots. That's really exciting for us as coaches.

What are a couple of those key competitions we'll see?

TB: Obviously, the quarterback position, how that's going to play out, and see Adam Weber continue to grow and see him compete with MarQueis [Gray] and Moses Alipate. We're going to have great competition at the tailback position with DeLeon Eskridge and Duane Bennett here now, and three young guys coming in this fall who are talented and have a chance to jump in the mix immediately. We've got some real good situations at linebacker: Sam Maresh and Gary Tinsley, Mike Rallis, Spencer Reeves, Aaron Hill, Keanon Cooper, Brent Singleton. The linebackers are young, but they're talented. That's going to be good to see.

For Weber, he's in a unique position, being the starter for three years and now competing for the job. How do you keep his confidence level up? What's his mental approach going into the spring?

TB: I couldn't be more excited about adding [new offensive coordinator/quarterbacks coach] Jeff Horton. Jeff is an outstanding teacher. I love his demeanor. Never gets too high, never gets too low, very down the middle. He's got a very quarterback-friendly personality. The system, there's nothing complicated about what we're going to try to accomplish, and it's really going to allow Adam to go out and play well. It's going to allow MarQueis a chance to compete for the quarterback position. And it'll be exciting to see Moses Alipate. But certainly Adam's experience gives him a leg up. Again, I've been really pleased with Jeff's control there at that position. Those guys are really going to benefit from Jeff's experience.

Do you have a timetable in mind of where you'd like to be at quarterback by the end of the spring?

TB: You'd love to see the position sort itself out by the end of spring practice. You'd love to have your starter in place. We're not going to go into training camp with a quarterback competition. We want to go in with a guy who is our starter, and I certainly think it'll play itself out that way. They're all going to get plenty of opportunity this spring to show what they can do. We're going to have some situations with the quarterbacks where the quarterback will be live [able to take on contact]. We haven't done that in the past. It will give us a chance to really evaluate the position well.

You've talked a lot about the offensive line and needing to upgrade there. What do you expect from that group this spring?

TB: There's really good competition there, and Tim Davis is going to continue to do a good job in developing that group. We've got to get better up front, and I certainly believe we will be better with another year under Tim and in the system. Ed Olson is really a talented young redshirt freshman offensive tackle. He's going to really push Jeff Wills. We've got competition at center, we've got competition at guard. We're in a situation now where we've got a little depth, and it'll also be interesting, we're bringing in some really talented offensive linemen in this recruiting class. I understand that it's not easy for a freshman to come in and contribute, but it's done. You look across the country and there's a number of young guys that step in and help. We're really excited about Jimmy Gjere. He's a very talented young kid. He'll be here in June, he'll be with us all summer. He's weighing 310 pounds now, he's almost 6-foot-8, very athletic. I'll tell you a guy who's going to get your attention, a tight end we brought in named Tiree Eure, from Lackawanna Junior College. He's been very, very impressive to this point in the conditioning program. He's 6-6, he's 250 pounds and he runs. He's very athletic. We think he's going to help us a bunch as well.

Tuesday in Part II: Outlook at wide receiver, linebacker, defensive line and the secondary.
The Big Ten should be stronger at the quarterback spot in 2010 than it was 2009, but the league still will feature plenty of competition under center when spring practices begin next month. Penn State, Illinois and Purdue are all wide open at quarterback, while Northwestern, Minnesota and Michigan have a few question marks entering spring ball. I thought about including Michigan State on this list, but Kirk Cousins seems to have a pretty good grasp on the job.

Here's a team-by-team look at what to expect from these races this spring:

PENN STATE

Who's gone: Two-year starter Daryll Clark, a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2009
The top candidates: Kevin Newsome (So.), Matt McGloin (So.), Paul Jones (Fr.)
Late arrivals: Heralded recruit Robert Bolden arrives this summer
Favorite: Newsome. He's not a huge favorite by any means, but he backed up Clark in 2009 and showed a few flashes in limited action.
Starter decision: Unless Newsome really separates himself this spring, Penn State likely will wait well into fall camp before naming a starter. Bolden certainly could contend for the job, but he'll need to catch up quickly.
Spring storylines: You can't overstate the importance of the quarterback race in Penn State's season, as the other positions on offense look pretty solid. Expect the new starter to run the ball more than Clark did in 2009. Penn State probably wants to redshirt either Bolden or Jones, which would keep some separation between the two heralded recruits and Newsome. Jones will have the jump on Bolden in preparation time, so he needs a good spring.

ILLINOIS

Who's gone: Four-year starter Juice Williams
The top candidates: Jacob Charest (So.), Eddie McGee (Sr.), Nathan Scheelhaase (Fr.), Chandler Whitmer (Fr.)
Late arrivals: None
Favorite: No real favorite here, although both Charest and McGee received playing time in 2009, with Charest starting two games.
Starter decision: Considering the competition is wide open and Illinois has a new offensive coordinator in Paul Petrino, the quarterback race almost certainly won't be decided until preseason camp.
Spring storylines: After running the spread offense with heavy zone read elements the last few years, Illinois likely will want more of a traditional drop-back passer for Petrino's scheme. The coordinator change truly makes things up for grabs, and both Scheelhaase and Whitmer, an early enrollee, will have a legitimate shot. Whitmer needs a strong spring, but he comes to Illinois with good credentials. McGee has played a lot but never truly claimed the starter's tag. This spring could be his last shot.

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