Big Ten: Mylan Hicks

We're taking snapshots of each position group with each Big Ten team entering the spring. Up next: the linebackers.

Illinois: The Illini lose an All-Big Ten player in Jonathan Brown but still have decent overall depth at linebacker. Mason Monheim started every game at middle linebacker in 2013, and Mike Svetina started all but one game at the star position. Both players return as juniors. Svetina will move into Brown's spot on the weak side, while the other position could be filled by T.J. Neal, who recorded 38 tackles last season. Ralph Cooper has logged significant reps as a reserve, and Eric Finney gives Illinois some flexibility after playing the star position (safety/outside linebacker).

Indiana: This becomes a more significant position under coordinator Brian Knorr, who plans to use a 3-4 alignment. Indiana should have enough depth to make the transition as it returns two full-time starters from 2013 -- David Cooper and T.J. Simmons -- as well as two part-time starters in Forisse Hardin and Clyde Newton, who started the final four games of his freshman season. Like Simmons and Newton, Marcus Oliver played a lot as a freshman and provides some depth. The key here will be converting all the experience into sharper, more consistent play.

Iowa: If you're of the mindset that Iowa always reloads at linebacker, you can rest easy this spring. If not, keep a very close eye on what happens as the Hawkeyes begin replacing one of the more productive linebacker groups in team history: James Morris, Christian Kirksey and Anthony Hitchens. There are high hopes for sophomore Reggie Spearman, who played in 10 games as a freshman last fall. Spearman, junior Travis Perry and senior Quinton Alston enter the spring as the front-runners to take over the top spots. The biggest challenge could be building depth behind them with Cole Fisher and others.

Maryland: The good news is the Terrapins return three productive starters from 2013 in Cole Farrand, L.A. Goree and Matt Robinson, who combined for 233 tackles, including 19 for loss. The bad news is Maryland loses its top playmaker at the position in Marcus Whitfield, who recorded nine sacks and 15.5 tackles for loss last season. But the overall picture is favorable, and the depth should be strong when Alex Twine and Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil return from their injuries. Young players such as Abner Logan (37 tackles in 2013) will push for more time.

Michigan: There are a lot of familiar faces in new positions as Michigan not only has shuffled the roles of its defensive assistant coaches, but also its top linebackers. Standout Jake Ryan moves from strong-side linebacker to the middle, while junior James Ross III moves from the weak side to the strong side and Desmond Morgan shifts from the middle to the weak side. Joe Bolden, who had 54 tackles last season, can play both outside and inside, and players such as Ben Gedeon, Royce Jenkins-Stone and Allen Gant add depth. The talent is there for a big year if the position switches pan out.

Michigan State: It won't be easy to replace the Big Ten's top linebacker tandem in Max Bullough and Denicos Allen, not to mention Rose Bowl hero Kyler Elsworth, but Michigan State has some promising options. Ed Davis appears ready to step in for Allen after recording four sacks as a sophomore. Junior Darien Harris and two redshirt freshmen, Shane Jones and Jon Reschke, will compete at middle linebacker. Returning starter Taiwan Jones is back at the star position, and Mylan Hicks should be in the rotation. Depth is a bit of a question mark here entering the spring.

Minnesota: The Gophers lose key pieces in all three areas of the defense, and linebacker is no exception as two starters (Aaron Hill and James Manuel) depart. Minnesota will lean on Damien Wilson, who started in 12 games at middle linebacker in his first season with the Gophers and recorded 78 tackles. Junior De'Vondre Campbell seems ready to claim a starting spot after backing up Manuel last season. There will be plenty of competition at the strong-side linebacker spot, as Nick Rallis, De'Niro Laster and others are in the mix. Jack Lynn is backing up Wilson at middle linebacker but could work his way into a starting spot on the outside with a good spring.

Nebraska: Optimism is building for the Blackshirts in 2014, thanks in large part to the returning linebackers. The three players who finished last season as the starters -- David Santos, Michael Rose and Zaire Anderson -- all are back, as Rose will lead the way in the middle. Josh Banderas and Nathan Gerry also have starting experience and return for 2014. If younger players such as Marcus Newby develop this spring, Nebraska could have the Big Ten's deepest group of linebackers, a dramatic departure from the Huskers' first few years in the conference. Good things are happening here.

Northwestern: The top two playmakers return here in Chi Chi Ariguzo and Collin Ellis, who combined for seven interceptions and 11.5 tackles for loss in 2014. Northwestern's challenge is replacing the leadership Damien Proby provided in the middle. Ellis has shifted from the strong side to the middle, and Northwestern has moved safety Jimmy Hall from safety to strong-side linebacker. Drew Smith and Hall will compete for the third starting spot throughout the offseason. Sophomores Jaylen Prater and Joseph Jones should provide some depth.

Ohio State: Coach Urban Meyer has made it clear that Ohio State needs more from the linebackers, so it's a huge offseason for this crew, which loses superstar Ryan Shazier. The Buckeyes return starters at the outside spots in Curtis Grant and Joshua Perry, although competition will continue throughout the spring and summer. Redshirt freshman Darron Lee surprisingly opened spring practice Tuesday working with Grant and Perry on the first-team defense. Camren Williams appeared in all 13 games as a reserve and will be part of the rotation, along with Trey Johnson. Meyer said last month that the incoming linebacker recruits won't redshirt, which means an opportunity for mid-year enrollee Raekwon McMillan.

Penn State: Linebacker U is looking for more bodies at the position after struggling with depth issues throughout 2013. The Lions lose leading tackler Glenn Carson but bring back two players, Mike Hull and Nyeem Wartman, who started most of the season. The new coaching staff is counting on Hull to become a star as a senior. Brandon Bell, who appeared in nine games and recorded 24 tackles as a freshman, will compete for a starting spot along with Gary Wooten. Penn State hopes Ben Kline can stay healthy as he provides some experience, and incoming freshman Troy Reeder could enter the rotation right away.

Purdue: Expect plenty of competition here as Purdue loses leading tackler Will Lucas and must get more consistent play from the group. Joe Gilliam started for most of the 2013 season and should occupy a top spot this fall. Sean Robinson also brings experience to the field, and Ryan Russell could fill more of a hybrid linebacker/defensive end role this season. Redshirt freshman Danny Ezechukwu is an intriguing prospect to watch this spring as he aims for a bigger role. Ezechukwu is just one of several younger players, including decorated incoming recruit Gelen Robinson, who have opportunities to make a splash.

Rutgers: The Scarlet Knights return a good deal of production here with Steve Longa and Kevin Snyder, who combined for 219 tackles, including 15 tackles for loss and five sacks. Quentin Gause also is back after racking up 53 tackles (8.5 for loss) in a mostly reserve role last season. Gause likely will claim the starting strong-side linebacker spot as Jamal Merrell departs. The starting spots are seemingly set, so Rutgers will look to build depth with Davon Jacobs, who had 30 tackles as a reserve last season, and L.J. Liston, both sophomores.

Wisconsin: Do-it-all linebacker Chris Borland is gone, along with Ethan Armstrong and Conor O'Neill, so Wisconsin must replace three of its top four tacklers from 2013. Derek Landisch and Joe Schobert can be penciled in as starters, along with Michael Caputo, who played mostly safety last season but should slide into one of the outside spots. Marcus Trotter brings experience to the rotation. The spotlight will be on younger linebackers such as Vince Biegel, who had 25 tackles last season, as well as dynamic sophomore Leon Jacobs and Alec James, a decorated recruit who redshirted in 2013.
Tags:

Purdue Boilermakers, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Big Ten Conference, Michigan State Spartans, Northwestern Wildcats, Indiana Hoosiers, Illinois Fighting Illini, Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin Badgers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Big Ten, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Maryland Terrapins, Damien Proby, Collin Ellis, Michael Trotter, Max Bullough, Jonathan Brown, Chi Chi Ariguzo, Mylan Hicks, Mike Hull, Jake Ryan, Ryan Russell, Joshua Perry, Derek Landisch, Jimmy Hall, Denicos Allen, Ralph Cooper, Curtis Grant, Darien Harris, Quinton Alston, Marcus Trotter, Joe Bolden, Royce Jenkins-Stone, Michael Rose, Joseph Jones, Camren Williams, Vince Biegel, Cole Fisher, Jack Lynn, Nyeem Wartman, Allen Gant, T.J. Neal, David Santos, Zaire Anderson, Joe Gilliam, David Cooper, Jon Reschke, Taiwan Jones, Ben Gedeon, Shane Jones, Brandon Bell, Nathan Gerry, Marcus Newby, Forisse Hardin, Mason Monheim, Mike Svetina, Eric Finney, Trey Johnson, Leon Jacobs, Reggie Spearman, Alec James, De'Vondre Campbell, De'Niro Laster, Damien Wilson, Josh Banderas, T.J. Simmons, Clyde Newton, Marcus Oliver, Ben Kline, Drew Smith, Nick Rallis, Troy Reeder, James Ross III, Joe Schobert, Raekwon McMillan, Gelen Robinson, Gary Wooten, Ed Davis, Travis Perry, Brian Knorr, Cole Farrand, Matt Robinson, Marcus Whitfield, Jaylen Prater, B1G spring positions 14, Darron Lee, L.A. Goree, Alex Twine, Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, Abner Logan, Danny Ezechukwu, Steve Longa, Kevin Snyder, Quentin Gause, Jamal Merrell, Davon Jacobs, L.J. Liston

Big Ten lunchtime links

September, 25, 2013
9/25/13
12:00
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Wacha Wacha Wacha.

Big Ten lunch links

May, 28, 2013
5/28/13
12:00
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Hope everyone had a great holiday weekend. Let's get to the links ...
After some TiVo issues over the weekend, I finally got a chance to review the Big Ten Network's preview of Michigan State. The crew of Dave Revsine, Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith watched two practices in East Lansing early in camp.

Here are some notes and observations:
  • Although the preview only showed the day's second practice, which took place in shoulder pads and shorts and didn't feature much team work, it was an interesting session to watch. Michigan State runs some good one-on-one drills where you can see an individual player's strengths and weaknesses.
  • Offensive line and secondary are two of the Spartans' biggest question marks entering the season, and both groups had their moments. J'Michael Deane looked very impressive in drills, executing a pancake block against a defender in the half line drill. DiNardo liked what he saw from center John Stipek and guard Chris McDonald, while Griffith was impressed with left tackle D.J. Young. The analysts feel Michigan State can replace three starters up front, but the right side of the line is a bit iffy and depth might be a problem.
  • After watching the show and talking with Spartans defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi earlier today, I think the secondary will be younger but better this fall. Michigan State allowed far too many touchdowns and recorded far too few interceptions in 2009. But the cornerback spot should be better as Johnny Adams rejoins the mix. Both DiNardo and Griffith like Michigan State's freshman defensive backs: Mylan Hicks, Isaiah Lewis and Kurtis Drummond. "He's picked up the defense, and I think you’ll see him early in the season," DiNardo said of Hicks.
  • DiNardo likes the depth at cornerback but isn't at confident about the safety spot after Trenton Robinson and Marcus Hyde.
  • Freshman running back Le'Veon Bell looked very impressive in drills and gained a big fan in Griffith. Although projected starter Larry Caper is no slouch at 5-foot-11, 220, Bell just looks bigger on the field. His best work came in a pass-blocking drill against the linebackers, and he also showed a nice sidestep in a one-on-one edge rushing drill. "Tremendous pass-blocker as a freshman," Griffith said. "He can flat-out play. I would not be surprised if he ends up being the starter for this offense. He's the total package." When Revsine reminded Griffith about Caper and Edwin Baker, Griffith replied, "[Bell] gives you something that those two don't." Baker, to his credit, showed great wheels in the edge rushing drill.
  • The linebackers had their ups and downs. Heralded incoming freshman William Gholston bowled over fullback Adam Setterbo in a drill and the analysts marveled at his frame. But DiNardo added, "You can tell he's just getting started." In a pass-rush drill, the running backs seemed to get the better of the 'backers, even starters Greg Jones, Eric Gordon and Chris Norman. Redshirt freshman linebacker Denicos Allen, who earned praise from Griffith for his play, had a nice move against running back Nick Hill.
  • Like me, the BTN analysts love Michigan State's depth at both wide receiver and tight end and say the offense should allow them to be featured with reverses and other plays. Receiver B.J. Cunningham looked good on a seam route, and DiNardo wondered how the Spartans' defensive coaches haven't stolen 285-pound sophomore tight end Dion Sims for their side of the ball. "He's a biggin," Griffith said.
  • Quarterback Kirk Cousins told the BTN crew about having "a license to lead" this year as the clear-cut starter. He also has been talking to his MSU predecessor, New England Patriots reserve quarterback Brian Hoyer, about being more mobile. Hoyer's answer: Be like Tom Brady. "[Hoyer] says Tom may not be the fastest guy, but he may be the most mobile quarterback in the NFL because he can avoid the pass rush so well just by sliding one way or the other," Cousins said.
  • Aside from tackle Jerel Worthy, the BTN crew wasn't wowed by the defensive line and said Michigan State must scheme its way to more pressure without blitzing a bunch of linebackers.
  • Head coach Mark Dantonio said the place-kicking situation remains unsettled.
  • DiNardo said the key for Michigan State is a strong start in a favorable schedule. Griffith predicts the Spartans to win nine or 10 games. "I think the momentum is starting to come back," DiNardo said.

Michigan State recruiting analysis

February, 4, 2010
2/04/10
10:30
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Michigan State Spartans

The class

Recruits: 21 (20 high school seniors, one junior college player, four early enrollees)

Top prospects: Linebacker William Gholston is the No. 2 recruit in the Big Ten this year, according to ESPN's Scouts Inc. Linebacker Max Bullough also will play early in his career, and quarterback Joe Boisture could be Michigan State's long-term answer under center.

Sleepers: Cornerback Mylan Hicks and safety Isaiah Lewis can help right away as the Spartans must improve in the secondary for the 2010 season. Wide receiver Keith Mumphery also might see the field early as the status of several wideouts, namely Mark Dell and B.J. Cunningham, is unknown for 2010. Head coach Mark Dantonio likes Marcus Rush's potential at defensive end.

Needs met: By adding both Gholston and Bullough, Michigan State is set up well at linebacker when Greg Jones and Eric Gordon depart after the 2010 season. Boisture gives the Spartans a fourth scholarship quarterback, possibly freeing up Keith Nichol to play elsewhere. Michigan State needs to improve on both lines and added several solid prospects there.

Analysis: Despite a step back both on and off the field in 2009, Michigan State maintained its recruiting momentum, particularly within the state. This class likely won't grade quite as high as the 2009 haul, but Michigan State really helped its defense with players like Gholston, Bullough, Rush and Hicks. If one of the wide receivers can come in and contribute this season, the Spartans should be in decent shape in the passing game.

Scouts Inc. grade: B-minus

What Mark Dantonio said:

  • "We talked about trying to stack a class on top of another class. We had a great class last year, and this one stacks up right behind that one in terms of quality players we had coming into various positions. There's a lot of versatility. All of our skill guys play on both sides of the ball, they're all kick returner-punt returner type guys. The majority of our class is very, very explosive."
  • "[William Gholston] is 6-6, 250 pounds, he's put together, he runs well, he's instinctive on the football field. When you look at him, you try and figure out how can we get him on the field as soon as we can. There's a lot of things going on at linebacker, but as sort of an outside back in the mold of a Julian Peterson, we can possibly try to do those things with him. As good as he is physically, he brings some things to the table intangibly that are very, very good as well."
  • "Max Bullough is an outstanding football player. Marcus Rush, same thing. Those two guys play with a high motor. Very instinctive players and they're guys who have a knack for finding the big play. Mylan Hicks and Isaiah Lewis are two guys in the secondary that are also very explosive and very aware football players and could find the field very quickly."

PSU, Iowa, MSU sign classes

February, 3, 2010
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Penn State has announced the signings of 20 players who make up the Big Ten's top recruiting class for 2010. Although Penn State's class fell one spot to No. 8 in ESPN's rankings today, the Nittany Lions had one of the nation's most complete classes, particularly on the defensive side. Players like Dakota Royer, Khairi Fortt, Evan Hailes and several others should help Penn State very early in their careers. Quarterback Robert Bolden should compete for the starting job right away as the Nittany Lions try to replace Daryll Clark.

Iowa head coach Kirk Ferentz finalized a 21-man recruiting class that features several of the Midwest's top players. The Hawkeyes landed one ESPNU 150 prospect in tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz, and players like offensive lineman Andrew Donnal, running back Marcus Coker, and athlete A.J. Derby all should be key contributors. Iowa's class really bolsters the defensive front with five linemen and three linebackers.

Michigan State hasn't sent out an official release just yet, but the Spartans' 21-man class is signed and sealed. Defensive-minded coach Mark Dantonio bolstered the defense with players like ESPNU 150 prospect William Gholston, linebacker Max Bullough and defensive backs Mylan Hicks. The Spartans also added depth at quarterback with Joe Boisture. This class might not have made quite as big a splash as last year's haul, but Michigan State once again did very well within the state and the Big Ten region.

Big Ten lunch links

January, 29, 2010
1/29/10
12:30
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Today's sign that Big Ten football has gone global: Iowa football helmets appear in a Girls Generation music video in Korea. Wow.

Not much to link today.

Big Ten recruiting scorecard

June, 22, 2009
6/22/09
2:30
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A fairly busy week for Big Ten recruiting, highlighted by Michigan State landing defensive end William Gholston. Here's your updated recruiting scorecard (note: because of my upcoming vacation, the next scorecard will appear July 7).

ILLINOIS

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Safety Corey Cooper, quarterback Chandler Whitmer
  • Quick take: Safety Daniel Easterly gives Illinois another dynamic defensive back, this time from the heart of Michigan State/Michigan territory in Detroit. Easterly also can play linebacker or wide receiver. Illinois appears to be close to landing several more Top 150 prospects.  

INDIANA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: A good week for Bill Lynch and the Hoosiers, who added four high school prospects to the commit list. Wideout Logan Young is a big target at 6-5, 190, and tight end Leneil Himes also adds to the passing arsenal. 

IOWA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 6
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: The Hawkeyes picked up an intriguing prospect in quarterback Austin Vier. He boasts very impressive size at 6-7, 220 pounds, but he didn't put up great numbers as a high school junior. Vier looks like a project who could pay off down the line for Iowa. 

MICHIGAN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 15
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Devin Gardner, wide receiver Jeremy Jackson, wide receiver Ricardo Miller, guard Christian Pace, safety Marvin Robinson
  • Quick take: Michigan continues to add recruits and has started to address the defense after stocking up on offensive skill players. Defensive back Courtney Avery originally committed to Stanford but switched after a recent offer from the Wolverines. The big question will be whether Michigan has both quantity and quality in its class.

MICHIGAN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Defensive end William Gholston, linebacker Max Bullough
  • Quick take: Gholston is a huge get for Michigan State and gives Mark Dantonio an elite defensive prospect from within the state. The cousin of former Ohio State star Vernon Gholston headlined an excellent week for the Spartans, who also added talented cornerback Mylan Hicks. All five commits are from Michigan, continuing a promising trend for the Spartans. 

MINNESOTA

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: A quiet week for the Gophers, but more commitments likely are on the way after camps this week. Cornerback Allen Veazie could contribute early in his career. 

NORTHWESTERN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 3
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: The Wildcats finally got on the board and had a big week with three commits, all surprisingly from the South (2 Florida, 1 Louisiana). Running back Shontrelle Johnson looks a lot like Tyrell Sutton on film, and quarterback Trevor Siemian will provide depth behind Evan Watkins. Northwestern is still looking for another quarterback in the class. 

OHIO STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 5
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Tackle Andrew Norwell, linebacker Jamel Turner, defensive end David Durham
  • Quick take: It's awfully quiet in Columbus right now. No need to panic, but the Buckeyes didn't end up with William Gholston and are still waiting on quarterback Andrew Hendrix. Expect some action soon for the Buckeyes. 

PENN STATE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 8
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Wide receiver Adrian Coxson, running back Silas Redd, center Miles Dieffenbach, defensive end Kyle Baublitz
  • Quick take: Things have slowed down a touch after a busy late-spring push for the Nittany Lions. Dieffenbach and Baublitz are key early commits to fortify the offensive and defensive fronts. 

PURDUE

  • 2010 verbal commits: 1
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: Quarterback Robert Marve (2007 watch list)
  • Quick take: Danny Hope takes a very patient approach toward recruiting and doesn't understand the early offer craze. Still, it will be interesting to see when the Boilermakers land their first high school prospect. Purdue is in the mix for running back Austin White and punter Drew Basil.  

WISCONSIN

  • 2010 verbal commits: 3
  • ESPNU 150 Watch List: None
  • Quick take: The Badgers should add a commit or two later this week as they continue a strong in-state recruiting push. 

Big Ten lunch links

June, 17, 2009
6/17/09
12:00
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

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