Big Ten: Nader Abdallah

Ohio State spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:15
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State Buckeyes

2008 overall record:10-3

2008 conference record: 7-1

Returning starters

Offense: 5; Defense: 7; Special teams: 0

Top returners

QB Terrelle Pryor, C Michael Brewster, TE Jake Ballard, DE Thaddeus Gibson, DT Doug Worthington, S Kurt Coleman, S Anderson Russell, DE Cameron Heyward

Key losses

RB Chris "Beanie" Wells, WR Brian Robiskie, WR Brian Hartline, LT Alex Boone, DT Nader Abdallah, LB James Laurinaitis, LB Marcus Freeman, CB Malcolm Jenkins, P A.J. Trapasso

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Chris "Beanie" Wells (1,197 yds)
Passing: Terrelle Pryor* (1,311 yds)
Receiving: Brian Robiskie (535 yds)
Tackles: James Laurinaitis (130)
Sacks: Thaddeus Gibson* (5)
Interceptions: Kurt Coleman* (4)

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Navy
Sept. 12 USC
Sept. 19 vs. Toledo (at Cleveland)
Sept. 26 Illinois
Oct. 3 at Indiana
Oct. 10 Wisconsin
Oct. 17 at Purdue
Oct. 24 Minnesota
Oct. 31 New Mexico State
Nov. 7 at Penn State
Nov. 14 Iowa
Nov. 21 at Michigan

Spring answers

1. Pryor develops -- Terrelle Pryor quieted concerns about his passing ability with a strong spring capped by an excellent performance in the well-attended spring game at Ohio Stadium. Pryor made significant improvement with his footwork and looked better on the high-percentage throws that dogged him at times last season. His first full offseason as a college player appears to have paid off, and Pryor looks primed for an All-Big Ten season.

2. Boom and Zoom -- Running back is the biggest void on the Buckeyes' depth chart, but Dan Herron ("Boom) and Brandon Saine ("Zoom") appear ready to carry the load. Herron built off his experience last fall as a backup and performed well this spring, while Saine finally appears healthy and ready to showcase the explosiveness that made him such a heralded recruit coming out of high school.

3. Big bad Boren -- Justin Boren will always be in the spotlight because he transferred from Michigan, but the left guard generated plenty of buzz with his play this spring. Boren brings brute strength and an edgy attitude to an offense line that needs a jolt after a subpar 2008 season. He has quickly become a favorite of Pryor's and his fellow linemen, and should bring a nasty attitude to the front five this fall.

Fall questions

1. Cornerback -- Chimdi Chekwa has a starting spot locked up, but the other position remains open entering the summer. Senior Andre Amos has a slight edge because of experience, but Devon Torrence, who played minor league baseball in the Astros organization the last two summers, made a strong push this spring. If Torrence focuses solely on football, the starting job could be his.

2. Kicking game -- It's no secret how important special teams has been to Jim Tressel's success at Ohio State, and the head coach is focused on replacing his starting specialists. Aaron Pettrey looks capable at kicker, but the punting job is a bit of a mystery with Jon Thoma and Ben Buchanan competing for the top spot.

3. Linebacker rotation -- Ohio State has plenty of exciting options at linebacker, namely Etienne Sabino and Brian Rolle, both of whom had very solid springs. The key will be finding the right combinations of 'backers and not being afraid to use younger players like Sabino ahead of veterans who played behind Laurinaitis and Freeman for years. It will be tough to replace the lost production, but Ohio State has enough depth, as long as players are used the right ways.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The rookie tryouts around the NFL this weekend featured plenty of names from the Big Ten, and at least one hopeful has landed a spot with a pro team. 

Former Ohio State defensive tackle Nader Abdallah signed a free-agent deal with the Jacksonville Jaguars, according to Ken Gordon's blog in The Columbus Dispatch. Abdallah recorded 33 tackles (six for loss), with four quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery last season. 

Check the blog for updates as other undrafted free agents from the Big Ten find NFL homes. 

A few more free agent updates

April, 29, 2009
4/29/09
3:45
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

As expected, several more Big Ten players are signing with NFL teams as free agents or earning tryouts.

  • Penn State cornerback Tony Davis signed with the Cardinals
  • Minnesota punter Justin Kucek has a tryout with the Vikings
  • Minnesota tight end Jack Simmons has a tryout with the Jets
  • Ohio State offensive lineman Steve Rehring has a tryout with the Bengals
  • Ohio State tight end Rory Nicol has a tryout with the Redskins
  • Ohio State defensive tackle Nader Abdallah has a tryout with the Jaguars
  • Ohio State fullback Brandon Smith has a tryout with the Bears
  • Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher has a tryout with the Bears
  • Former Illinois running back Walter Mendenhall signed with the Eagles
  • Former Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli re-signed with the Cardinals

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Three Big Ten teams held their annual pro scouting days last week, including the major talent showcase at Ohio State. In case you missed what went down, here's a look at the key developments at each school. 

OHIO STATE

  • Running back Chris "Beanie" Wells had the biggest day of any Buckeye, improving on his so-so 40-yard dash time from the NFL combine (4.59 seconds) by running around a 4.4 or below before scouts from 29 pro teams. Wells solidified himself as one of the top two running backs and could be taken ahead of Georgia's Knowshon Moreno in April.
  • Linebacker Marcus Freeman continued his pre-draft push with another strong performance. Freeman improved his 40 time and likely boosted his stock after turning heads at the NFL combine. 
  • Linebacker James Laurinaitis and cornerback Malcolm Jenkins made slight improvements in their 40 times from the NFL combine. Wideout Brian Robiskie put up similar numbers to the combine, which bodes well for him. The big issue for Jenkins is whether he'll be asked to play cornerback or safety at the next level.
  • After being spurned by the NFL combine, defensive tackle Nader Abdallah stepped up on pro day. His numbers in four of the six drills would have been among the top defensive tackles at the combine. Abdallah also has dropped about 20 pounds, which should help him on draft day.

NORTHWESTERN

"Get to a mini-camp," said Sutton, predicted to be a sixth- or seventh-round pick. "Getting drafted means nothing. A lot of guys in the league have gone undrafted and proven a lot." 
  • It was somewhat surprising that John Gill didn't get a combine invite, but the defensive tackle seems to be building his case. Gill, considered a legit pro prospect before the 2008 season, put up better numbers in the short shuttle and 3-cone drill than any defensive tackle at the combine. He also has met with the Chicago Bears, according to the Chicago Sun-Times' Brad Biggs.  
  • Wide receiver Eric Peterman was interviewing for a job at American Airlines in December, but he might have a shot at an NFL roster after a strong pro day performance. According to the Sun-Times, Peterman ran 40 times of 4.45 and 4.47.

PURDUE

"I may have done these drills before over the course of my training but when you're out here doing the real thing and everybody is watching you, it's different," Heygood said. "Usually, I'm really good under pressure but I didn't have the day I wanted."
  • Defensive tackle Alex Magee boosted his stock in front of representatives from 23 NFL teams, according to profootballtalk.com.
  • Quarterback Curtis Painter also seemed pleased with his performance after a solid effort at the combine last month.
"This was probably one of my best workouts through this offseason and my training," Painter said. "I feel good about what I've done both here and at the Combine and hopefully I'll get some opportunities for some individual workouts between now and the draft."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Ohio State loses a large and decorated senior class, as well as three underclassmen (Chris "Beanie" Wells, Brian Hartline and Donald Washington) who would have been starters in 2009. There are holes on both sides of the ball, but Ohio State's ability to consistently produce elite defenses eases concerns there.

An offense that ranked 76th nationally last fall will be in the spotlight this spring. Here's the strong point and weak point for the Buckeyes.

Strongest position -- Defensive line

Key returnees: Junior end Cameron Heyward, senior end Lawrence Wilson, junior end Thaddeus Gibson, senior tackle Doug Worthington

Key departures: Tackle Nader Abadallah (33 tackles, 6 TFLs, 4 pass breakups).

The skinny: The Buckeyes' linebackers have led the way for some time on defense, but things could change this fall. Almost everyone returns on the defensive line, and Ohio State should be particularly strong at the end spot with Heyward, Wilon and Gibson, who made a huge difference in the second half of 2008. After finishing seventh in the league in sacks last season (28), the Buckeyes should see their total rise. Other strong spots include safety and wide receiver, where Ohio State gets a lot younger but potentially a lot better.

Weakest position -- Running back

Key returnees: Sophomore Dan Herron, junior Brandon Saine

Key departures: Chris "Beanie" Wells (207 carries, 1,197 yards, 8 TDs), Maurice Wells (39 carries, 129 yards)

The skinny: Injuries dogged Beanie Wells throughout his career, but he was a force when healthy, a three-tool back (size, speed, agility) who struck fear in opposing defenders. Herron performed decently in place of Wells last year, but his size raises some concern. Saine came to Ohio State with a ton of hype but hasn't been able to stay healthy. Help is on the way this summer with freshmen Jaamal Berry and Carlos Hyde, but the position looks a bit unstable right now. Cornerback also could be a weak spot after the losses of Washington and Thorpe Award winner Malcolm Jenkins.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

You might have missed it amid the Super Bowl hoopla, but there was a college football all-star game during the weekend, and several Big Ten players participated.

Former Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter started for the victorious Nation team in the Texas vs. The Nation Game in El Paso, Texas. Painter completed just 6 of 15 passes for 55 yards but threw a 9-yard touchdown to San Jose State running back Yonus Davis in the fourth quarter that proved to be the winning margin.

Other Big Ten notables in the Nation's 27-24 win included:

  • Michigan defensive tackle Will Johnson started and had a sack and three solo tackles for the Nation team.
  • Illinois linebacker Brit Miller started and had four assisted tackles for the Nation team.
  • Illinois defensive end Derek Walker started and had a quarterback hurry for the Nation team.
  • Penn State wide receiver Jordan Norwood started and had one reception for 18 yards for the Texas team.
  • Penn State cornerback Lydell Sargeant came off the bench and was credited with half a sack for the Texas team.
  • Ohio State defensive tackle Nader Abdallah started had two tackles for the Texas team.
  • Penn State offensive linemen Gerald Cadogan and Rich Ohrnberger started at left tackle and left guard for the Nation team and allowed only one sack in the victory.
  • Michigan long snapper Sean Griffin started for the Nation team and had an assisted tackle.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Senior Bowl and the East-West Shrine Game aren't the only places to see Big Ten seniors play before the NFL combine. The third annual Texas vs. The Nation All-Star Challenge will feature 11 players from the Big Ten. The game pits top players who grew up in Texas or played for Texas colleges against players from around the country, though several players on the Texas team don't have strong ties to the Lone Star State.

Here's the list of Big Ten players participating in the game, to be played Jan. 31 at the Sun Bowl in El Paso, Texas.

TEXAS TEAM

  • Penn State wide receiver Jordan Norwood
  • Ohio State defensive tackle Nader Abdallah
  • Penn State cornerback Lydell Sargeant

NATION TEAM

  • Purdue quarterback Curtis Painter
  • Penn State guard Rich Ohrnberger
  • Penn State tackle Gerald Cadogan
  • Illinois defensive end Derek Walker
  • Michigan defensive tackle Will Johnson
  • Illinois linebacker Brit Miller
  • Penn State safety Anthony Scirrotto
  • Michigan long snapper Sean Griffin
Here are the full rosters for the game.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten year-end position rankings move over to the defensive side and begin with quite possibly the league's strongest group, the defensive line. Looking at this list, the top seven or eight players would likely be top three or four in almost any other league. A very impressive collection, indeed.

 
  Randy Litzinger/Icon SMI
  Penn State's Aaron Maybin was the best defensive end in the Big Ten this season.

Here are my preseason rankings for interior linemen and defensive ends. The year-end list combines the two, so I've expanded it to 12 members.

1. Penn State defensive end Aaron Maybin -- The redshirt sophomore came out of nowhere to earn All-America honors. Maybin led the Big Ten with 12 sacks (all solo) and tied for the league lead with 20 tackles for loss. Undersized but exceptionally fast, he became the Big Ten's top pass rusher.

2. Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King -- Running back Shonn Greene got most of the hype, but King very well could have been Iowa's MVP this season. He shut down running lanes up the middle and created havoc in the backfield with 15.5 tackles for loss and six quarterback hurries. The play of King and Matt Kroul gave Iowa's younger defenders the freedom to make plays.

3. Northwestern defensive end Corey Wootton -- The only member of a 9-4 Wildcats team to earn all-conference honors, Wootton blossomed this fall with 10 sacks and 16 tackles for loss. He maximized his size and speed to lead a Wildcats front that tied for the Big Ten lead in sacks (34).

4. Indiana defensive end Jammie Kirlew -- It wasn't a banner year for the Indiana defense, but Kirlew surged with 10.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss. Much like Greg Middleton the previous season, Kirlew came out of nowhere to cause problems in opposing backfields.

5. Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham -- One of few bright spots for a struggling Michigan program, Graham ranked second nationally in tackles for loss (1.82 per game) and 11th in sacks (.91 per game). Should he return for his senior season, Graham will be one of the nation's top pass rushers.

6. Minnesota defensive end Willie VanDeSteeg -- After battling a wrist injury in 2007, VanDeSteeg showed that when healthy, he can carry a team. He turned in a memorable performance against Illinois and tied for second in the Big Ten in sacks (10.5). He also ranked fourth in the league in tackles for loss (19).

7. Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick -- Odrick also overcame previous injuries to dominate the line of scrimmage this fall. He contributed 4.5 sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss and anchored a line that led the league in rushing defense (93.2 ypg).

8. Iowa defensive tackle Matt Kroul -- King's wingman for four seasons continued to be a rock in the middle of the Iowa line. The senior earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the media and contributed two sacks and 6.5 tackles for loss for the nation's ninth-rated rushing defense.

9. Michigan State defensive end Trevor Anderson -- After a slow start, Anderson blossomed into the player head coach Mark Dantonio knew he was getting from the University of Cincinnati. The junior finished with eight sacks, 10.5 tackles for loss and four quarterback hurries.

10. Wisconsin defensive tackle Mike Newkirk -- The move inside from defensive end seemed to suit Newkirk, who contributed four sacks, nine tackles for loss and three quarterback hurries. He earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the league's coaches.

11. Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan -- Kerrigan was one of seven defensive linemen to rank among the league's Top 10 in both sacks (seven) and tackles for loss (11.5). The sophomore finished fourth on the team in tackles and had an interception and two forced fumbles to lead Purdue's defensive line.

12. Ohio State defensive tackle Nader Abdallah -- Like his fellow line mates, Abdallah played his best football at the end of the season. He finished with six tackles for loss, a sack, a fumble recovery and four quarterback hurries. Abdallah stuffed the run up the middle and Ohio State allowed only seven rushing touchdowns in 13 games.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Safe travels to all of you heading somewhere for the holidays. After looking at the mess outside my window in Chicago today, I ain't going nowhere.

"Almost hard to remember now, but think back to early November 2004 and the losses to Iowa (by the absurd score of 6-4) and at Northwestern (14-7). They brought fresh meaning to the term pathos. It could not have been clearer that Paterno was playing out a ragged, loose end to his career. He was Ali against Trevor Berbick. Johnny U. in Chargers baby blue. The 1950s peacetime Churchill fumbling through speeches. Well, here we are headed to Pasadena. I'm through counting this guy out."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Rory Nicol and his Ohio State teammates know they can't change the past.

They can't change the results of the last two BCS national championship games. They can't change the minds of critics who felt the Buckeyes looked slow and overmatched against Florida and LSU. But they can change how they prepare for their next opportunity on the national stage, which arrives Jan. 5 against Texas in the Tostitos Fiesta Bowl.

"The one thing we believe in here is if you do the same things, generally you get the same results," said Nicol, the Buckeyes' senior tight end. "So we tweaked a lot of things. That doesn't mean we changed the entire format of practice or the entire personnel, but we changed things.

"The world changes every day, every second, and we do our best to learn from our past mistakes."

To avoid similar mistakes against Texas, Ohio State has put a greater emphasis on physical play earlier in bowl preparation this year. The Buckeyes are going "live" -- full-contact hitting -- for more practice periods than they did in past years.

The idea is to maintain a game feel during a lengthy layoff. Ohio State will go 44 days between its regular-season finale against Michigan and the Fiesta Bowl. That's the longest respite for any bowl team this year.

"We've done a good job of getting into some live situations where the speed is back up there to that game type of speed, which can sometimes be hard to simulate at practice," Nicol said. "We've got a few periods where we're going full-go, the ones on the ones."

Maintaining the intensity level during bowl preparation takes on an even greater importance for Ohio State this year. The Buckeyes undoubtedly played their best football in November, winning their final three regular-season games by a combined score of 117-37.

Last year, Ohio State dropped a November game to Illinois. And even in 2006, when the Buckeyes went undefeated, they struggled at Illinois on Nov. 4 and beat Michigan in a shootout Nov. 18. You could argue the team peaked in September or October of that season.

The current squad is determined to continue its momentum to the bowl game.

"We're definitely doing some more live scrimmaging, trying to get each other better," senior defensive tackle Nader Abdallah said. "We need more live tempo to make sure we don't relax or anything. It's extremely important to make sure we end on a high note. We have to finish strong."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

After studying the All-Big Ten selections for 2008, it's clear the Big Ten is much stronger at some positions than others. The fact that it was hard to choose a second-team All-Big Ten quarterback tells you something about the league's troubles under center. On the flip side, there are 10-15 defensive linemen worthy of All-Big Ten status.

With the regular season wrapped up, here's a closer look at the Big Ten positions, from strongest to weakest.

Defensive line -- The depth at both line positions is astounding and will be reflected in the next few NFL drafts. Beginning with end, you have Penn State's Aaron Maybin, Minnesota's Willie VanDeSteeg, Michigan's Brandon Graham, Northwestern's Corey Wootton and Indiana's Jammie Kirlew. Guys like Michigan's Tim Jamison, Illinois' Derek Walker, Michigan State's Trevor Anderson, Wisconsin's Mike Newkirk, Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan and Penn State's Josh Gaines would be all-conference in most leagues, but not the Big Ten. The tackle spot might be even more stacked. Iowa's Mitch King leads the way, but he's joined by teammate Matt Kroul, Penn State's Jared Odrick, Michigan's Terrance Taylor, Northwestern's John Gill and Ohio State's Nader Abdallah.

Running back -- If not for the overwhelming depth on the D-line, this group would be No. 1 on the list. The Big Ten boasts three of the nation's top seven rushers in Iowa's Shonn Greene, Michigan State's Javon Ringer and Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells. Penn State's Evan Royster also had a fabulous year. When guys like Purdue's Kory Sheets, Wisconsin's P.J. Hill, Michigan's Brandon Minor and Northwestern's Tyrell Sutton aren't even on the radar for all-conference, you've got a pretty solid group.

Linebacker -- This was another group that caused some tough choices for first-team all-conference. Ohio State's James Laurinaitis was a shoo-in, but Illinois' Brit Miller, Penn State's Navorro Bowman and Michigan State's Greg Jones are all in the mix for the other two spots. Iowa's Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds, Ohio State's Marcus Freeman, Wisconsin's DeAndre Levy and Indiana's Matt Mayberry add depth.

Offensive line (interior) -- Three centers were listed on the media's all-conference team, illustrating the depth there. Penn State center A.Q. Shipley earned Offensive Lineman of the Year honors, and Iowa's Rob Bruggeman and Illinois' Ryan McDonald also were recognized. The guard spot might be even stronger with Iowa's Seth Olsen, Penn State's Rich Ohrnberger and Stefen Wisniewski, Wisconsin's Kraig Urbik and Andy Kemp and Michigan State's Roland Martin.

Punter -- This was another group that stirred some debate about All-Big Ten selections. Michigan's Zoltan Mesko was the obvious choice, but Iowa's Ryan Donahue, Michigan State's Aaron Bates and Penn State's Jeremy Boone also were in the mix. Freshmen Brad Nortman (Wisconsin) and Chris Hagerup (Indiana) had terrific seasons, and I was also very impressed with Ohio State's A.J. Trapasso, Minnesota's Justin Kucek and Northwestern's Stefan Demos.

Cornerback -- I didn't fully grasp how strong the league was at cornerback until reviewing the All-Big Ten lists. Everyone knew about Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins and Illinois' Vontae Davis, but several other players add depth, namely Wisconsin's Allen Langford, Iowa's Amari Spievey and Bradley Fletcher, Minnesota's Traye Simmons, Northwestern's Sherrick McManis and Michigan State's Chris L. Rucker.

Offensive tackle -- There weren't any off-the-charts performances here, but it's a solid group overall. Penn State's Gerald Cadogan moved past Ohio State's Alex Boone as the league's premier tackle. Boone didn't have the dominant year many expected, but he wasn't the main problem on Ohio State's underachieving line. Add in players like Iowa's Bryan Bulaga, Illinois' Xavier Fulton and Wisconsin's Eric Vanden Heuvel, and it's a decent group.

Safety -- Michigan State's Otis Wiley might be the only surefire NFL draft pick from this crop, but several other players turned in strong performances. Ohio State's Kurt Coleman should have been second-team All-Big Ten for both the media and coaches, and Northwestern's Brad Phillips has a major beef for being left off the list. Other standouts include Iowa's Brent Greenwood, Wisconsin's Jay Valai and Minnesota tandem Kyle Theret and Tramaine Brock.

Kicker -- A decent group overall, led by Penn State's Kevin Kelly and Michigan State's Brett Swenson, both of whom should have been Lou Groza Award semifinalists. Wisconsin's Philip Welch quietly had a very solid season (17-for-20), and Northwestern's Amado Villarreal also performed well.

Tight end -- Not the best season for tight ends, though it didn't help that Wisconsin All-American Travis Beckum was hurt for most of the fall. His replacement Garrett Graham had a nice year, as did Iowa's Brandon Myers, Michigan State's Charlie Gantt, Minnesota's Jack Simmons and Illinois' Michael Hoomanawanui, but it wasn't a great group overall.

Wide recever -- Minnesota's Eric Decker and Illinois' Arrelious Benn will be solid NFL players, and Penn State's Derrick Williams also will get to the next level. But quarterbacks and wide receivers are intertwined, and neither position sizzled this season. Penn State's three seniors (Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood) performed well, as did Purdue's Greg Orton and Wisconsin's David Gilreath. But not much depth here.

Quarterback -- This was the worst quarterback crop
in recent memory. Penn State's Daryll Clark was fabulous in his first season as the starter, and both Illinois' Juice Williams and Minnesota's Adam Weber showed growth at times. But it was legitimately difficult to choose a second-team all-league quarterback. Several fifth-year seniors struggled this fall, though there's hope for next year with players like Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi.

Tags:

Big Ten Conference, Corey Wootton, Terrelle Pryor, Bradley Fletcher, Kory Sheets, Stefan Demos, Tim Jamison, Mike Newkirk, Kyle Theret, Kevin Kelly, Michael Hoomanawanui, Illinois Fighting Illini, Wisconsin Badgers, Nader Abdallah, Michigan Wolverines, Terrance Taylor, Bryan Bulaga, Navorro Bowman, Michigan State Spartans, Justin Kucek, Garrett Graham, A.J. Trapasso, Eric Vanden Heuvel, Stefen Wisniewski, DeAndre Levy, Iowa Hawkeyes, Arrelious Benn, Jack Simmons, Ryan Donahue, Aaron Bates, Josh Gaines, Jeremy Boone, Eric Decker, A.J. Edds, Shonn Greene, Brandon Myers, Traye Simmons, Chris Wells, Matt Mayberry, Aaron Maybin, Charlie Gantt, Tyrell Sutton, Northwestern Wildcats, Deon Butler, Ricky Stanzi, Jammie Kirlew, Pat Angerer, Indiana Hoosiers, P.J. Hill, Brandon Graham, Juice Williams, Amado Villarreal, Xavier Fulton, Rich Ohrnberger, Daryll Clark, Gerald Cadogan, James Laurinaitis, Roland Martin, Sherrick McManis, Jared Odrick, Rob Bruggeman, Big Ten Conference, Evan Royster, Jordan Norwood, Seth Olsen, Travis Beckum, Brit Miller, Chris Hagerup, Tramaine Brock, Brad Phillips, Kraig Urbik, Brad Nortman, Andy Kemp, Marcus Freeman, Chris L. Rucker, A.Q. Shipley, Derrick Williams, Vontae Davis, Purdue Boilermakers Ryan Kerrigan, Malcolm Jenkins, Zoltan Mesko, Otis Wiley, Adam Weber, Jay Valai, Kurt Coleman, Derek Walker, Brent Greenwood, Greg Orton, Amari Spievey, Penn State Nittany Lions, Philip Welch, Mitch King, David Gilreath, Brett Swenson, Greg Jones, Matt Kroul, Ryan McDonald, Alex Boone, Allen Langford, John Gill, Minnesota Golden Gophers Willie VanDeSteeg, Trevor Anderson, Javon Ringer

Ohio State seniors solidify legacy

November, 22, 2008
11/22/08
6:43
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

 
 Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
 Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis (33) is part of a senior class that never lost to Michigan, including a 42-7 win Saturday.

COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Ohio State's senior class always will be viewed through two different prisms.

Within Buckeye Nation, they will forever remain conquering heroes, a group that dominated the Big Ten Conference and archrival Michigan like none before. Ohio State won outright Big Ten titles (2006, 2007) or shared the championship (2005, 2008) in all four seasons that they played.

Ever since the fifth-year seniors set foot on campus back in 2004, Ohio State hasn't lost to Michigan. The Buckeyes' 42-7 victory against Michigan on Saturday ensured the seniors their own chapter in team history.

"I don't think we really realize it now," senior linebacker and co-captain James Laurinaitis said, "but as we get older, we'll look back on our career and stuff and realize to be a part of the first team to win five times in a row is something that is very special."

Backup quarterback and co-captain Todd Boeckman will always remember Ohio State's dominance of Michigan.

"When you get five pairs of gold pants, that's something you never forget," said Boeckman, referring to players' reward for beating Michigan.

Seen through the first prism, the Buckeyes shine through in all their Scarlet and Gray glory.

But there's another prism, one that takes a broader view of the Ohio State seniors from outside the Buckeye State.

(Read full post)

Some depth chart tidbits

September, 30, 2008
9/30/08
9:39
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

More to come on these personnel issues after the Big Ten coaches' call later today, but a few interesting items on the depth charts released Monday.

  • Free safety Nick Polk is not listed on Indiana's depth chart for Minnesota, possibly indicating he'll miss another game with a knee injury. Polk has an interception, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery this season. Strong safety Austin Thomas is listed as the starter after missing the last two games with a leg injury. Brandon Mosley started in place of Thomas against Michigan State, but Jerimy Finch played a lot.
  • Ohio State true freshman Mike Brewster has made a good impression so far and remains the co-starter at center even though Steve Rehring could be back from a foot injury. Brewster and junior Jim Cordle are listed as co-starters at center, while Cordle and Rehring are co-starters at left guard. The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises thinks Ohio State might move Cordle to right guard to keep him on the field. The Buckeyes also have co-starters at one cornerback spot (Chimdi Chekwa and Donald Washington) and defensive tackle (Doug Worthington and Nader Abdallah).
  • Penn State wide receiver Jordan Norwood is listed as probable for the Purdue game after sitting out against Illinois with a hamstring injury. Quarterback Daryll Clark said Norwood did some light jogging at Monday's practice. "It's a day-to-day thing if he's going to play or not," Clark said. "He tweaked a hamstring really good."
  • Sophomore Ricky Stanzi remains the definitive starter at quarterback on Iowa's depth chart. Brandon Myers and the oft-injured Tony Moeaki are co-starters at tight end for the Michigan State game.
  • Physically gifted junior tight end Carson Butler has dropped to third string on Michigan's depth chart. Butler, who was ejected from a Sept. 13 game at Notre Dame for throwing a punch, dressed for last Saturday's game against Wisconsin but didn't play. Fifth-year senior Mike Massey and true freshman Kevin Koger, who caught a touchdown pass against the Badgers, are ahead of Butler. Head coach Rich Rodriguez called the move a coach's decision.
  • Linebacker Jason Werner, who recently underwent minor back surgery, isn't listed on Purdue's depth chart for Penn State. Frank Duong and Dwight Mclean are listed as co-starters at strong safety.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

I've never played this much attention to another man's foot, much less his toes. But Beanie Wells' right foot dominated the Big Ten headlines on Labor Day. No matter how this turns out, Buckeyes fans have to be a bit concerned about Wells' growing injury history. For a guy who is 237 pounds and freaking huge up close, Wells seems to have a lot of ailments.

Here's a quick look around the league this afternoon as several teams released their Week 2 depth charts.

  • Columbus Dispatch beat writers Ken Gordon and Tim May weigh in on the Beanie brouhaha, agreeing that the Buckeyes have no business playing Wells against Ohio. It might even force the coaches to think more creatively before the USC game.
  • Wells remains as the starting running back on the Week 2 depth chart (page 11) ahead of redshirt freshman Dan "Boom" Herron. Defensive tackle Nader Abdallah is still listed before Doug Worthington, who sat out the first three quarters against Youngstown State, presumably as a punishment for his DUI.
  • Purdue's depth chart for Saturday's opener against Northern Colorado shows Greg Orton, Keith Smith and Brandon Whittington as the starting wide receivers. Junior college transfer Aaron Valentin is listed behind Whittington, while fellow JUCO transfer Arsenio Curry isn't on the two-deep, but plenty of wideouts will play, Tom Kubat writes in The Journal and Courier. Keep an eye on strong safety Dwight Mclean, who won a starting safety spot opposite Torri Williams and could provide a big boost for the Boilers secondary.
  • Standout defensive tackle John Gill is listed as a starter on Northwestern's Week 2 depth chart (page 8) after being suspended for the opener against Syracuse. Coach Pat Fitzgerald's message clearly got through to Gill, who last week was named defensive practice player of the week, a distinction that usually goes to younger players still proving themselves. Gill's replacement against Syracuse, sophomore Corbin Bryant, turned in an impressive performance and is now pushing incumbent Adam Hahn for the other starting spot. Offensive lineman Desmond Taylor continues to make strides and is listed as a potential starter at both right guard and right tackle.
  • Michigan's depth chart (page 11) didn't change much at the key positions, as both Nick Sheridan and Steven Threet are listed as possible starters at quarterback and freshmen Sam McGuffie and Michael Shaw are the same at running back. Linebacker Marell Evans is making a push for a starting outside linebacker spot, and freshman wideout Darryl Stonum finds himself in the mix at two receiver positions (X and Z). The Detroit Free Press' Michael Rosenberg is convinced Threet should start against Miami (Ohio).
  • Starting fullback Chris Pressley will be back for Wisconsin this week against Marshall, and tight end Travis Beckum practiced Sunday and could return. But defenders Jonathan Casillas and Aaron Henry still are a bit away from seeing the field, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Badgers Blog.
  • Penn State's matchup against Oregon State is by far the best Big Ten game this weekend, and it might not even be that great if the Beavers don't upgrade their run defense, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' Bob Flounders writes in his blog.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Every Big Ten team has a position group that generates more unease than confidence, whether it's because of personnel losses, youth or poor performances. Here's a look at the position on each squad that could make or break the season.

ILLINOIS

Running backs: The group struggled in the spring and offensive coordinator Mike Locksley let the players know about it. Junior Daniel Dufrene has stepped up in preseason camp to claim the starting job, and the Illini feel good about freshmen Jason Ford and Mikel LeShoure. But it's foolish to discount the value of Rashard Mendenhall, who finished eighth nationally in rushing average with 129.3 yards per game and 17 touchdowns last season.

Also keep an eye on: The safeties (two new starters)

INDIANA

Wide receivers: James Hardy finished his career as the most decorated wide receiver in team history, and his departure created a major void in the passing game. The coaches are counting on big things from Ray Fisher and Andrew Means, and former safety/quarterback Mitchell Evans should provide a boost. Indiana can't expect a receiver to match Hardy's production, but the group is capable of preventing a major drop-off.

Also keep an eye on: The offensive line (not much depth)

IOWA

Offensive line: What was once the program's trademark has become an area of concern. Iowa ranked 114th nationally in sacks allowed (46) last season and is still waiting for several promising linemen to hit their stride. With questions lingering at both quarterback and running back entering the season, the Hawkeyes can ill afford major blocking problems.

Also keep an eye on: The quarterbacks (Jake Christensen struggled in '07)

MICHIGAN

Quarterbacks: Every area of the Michigan offense could fit in this category, but the unit's progress must start with the quarterbacks. Neither Steven Threet nor Nick Sheridan seamlessly fit Rich Rodriguez's system, and freshman Justin Feagin needs time to mature. The Wolverines need a game manager early on and can't afford turnovers from this position.

Also keep an eye on: The offensive line (four new starters)

MICHIGAN STATE

Wide receivers: Illinois loses the Big Ten's top offensive player in Mendenhall, but Michigan State loses the league's top playmaker in Devin Thomas. Coach Mark Dantonio will lean on a young group featuring Mark Dell, B.J. Cunningham, Blair White and true freshmen Keshawn Martin and Fred Smith. The preseason has eased some doubt about this group, but the wideouts need to step up when it counts.

Also keep an eye on: The cornerbacks (two new starters)

MINNESOTA

Defensive backs: After finishing 115th nationally against the pass (289.3 ypg), the entire secondary needed major upgrades and got them from the junior college ranks. Two JUCO players are projected to start in safety Tramaine Brock and cornerback Traye Simmons, and hopes are high for cornerback Marcus Sherels, a converted wide receiver. The talent is there for a jump in production, but chemistry could be a challenge with so many new faces.

Also keep an eye on: The offensive line (lost three starters)

NORTHWESTERN

Offensive line: By far the biggest question mark on a veteran team, the line can't afford many growing pains to keep a bowl berth in the viewfinder. Three new starters join the group, including two on the all-important left side, so jelling quickly will be a challenge. If redshirt freshmen Al Netter and Ben Burkett meet expectations, the Wildcats should have a dominant offense this fall.

Also keep an eye on: The linebackers (new middle linebacker)

OHIO STATE

Defensive tackles: Not a lot of weak spots for the defending Big Ten champs, but the interior line looks a little iffy. Coordinator Jim Heacock has defended the group, pointing to its youth, but the Buckeyes need more play-making this fall from Cameron Heyward, Doug Worthington and Nader Abdallah.

Also keep an eye on: The safeties (more big plays)

PENN STATE

Quarterbacks: The Nittany Lions usher in a new offense, the Spread HD, and need a capable trigger man in starter Daryll Clark or backup Pat Devlin. Both likely will play, though Clark starts Saturday against Coastal Carolina. The good news is the quarterbacks have plenty of weapons at the skill positions and play behind a veteran offensive line, but the inexperience at the position could lead to turnovers and other mistakes.

Also keep an eye on: The linebackers (inexperienced)

PURDUE

Wide receivers/tight ends: Purdue loses Dorien Bryant, who claimed 23 school and Big Ten records in his career, as well as underrated tight end Dustin Keller. Greg Orton is the only wideout with ample experience, and the Boilers will need help from Desmond Tardy, junior college transfers Aaron Valentin and Arsenio Curry and little-used seniors Brandon Whittington and Joe Whitest.

Also keep an eye on: The
linebackers (no depth)

WISCONSIN

Defensive backs: The Badgers lose their best cover man in Jack Ikegwuonu and endured their share of injuries at cornerback. Tackling has been a concern at the safety spots and Wisconsin needs continued growth from Shane Carter and Jay Valai. If cornerback Allen Langford remains healthy and regains his 2006 form, the secondary should be solid.

Also keep an eye on: The wide receivers (too many drops)

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