Big Ten: New York Jets
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Jedd Fisch's cell phone blows up at all hours of the night, but the Minnesota offensive coordinator doesn't mind.
Golden Gophers starting quarterback Adam Weber is studying the game, and that's the way Fisch likes it.
"I gets calls from Adam at all times," Fisch said, "asking, 'Hey, I just got done watching practice. Was I supposed to check to this protection or that one?' I tell him and all of our players that if there's ever a time they want to watch their practice tape on their own, it's now available to them. And call me."
Minnesota's film review doesn't end when Fisch or one of the other coaches switches off a TV or a laptop in a team meeting room. It doesn't end when players walk out of the Gibson-Nagurski Football Complex.
Thanks to Hudl Pro, Gophers players and coaches are just a few mouse clicks away from all the essential information they need to prepare for the football season. Hudl Pro allows teams to keep practice tapes, coaches' notes, scouting reports, news feeds, PowerPoint presentations (a Fisch favorite) and much more in an online library that all team personnel can access through their PCs.
So even after players retreat to their dorm rooms or apartments, they can stay very much in the game. Same with the coaches, in those rare occasions where they actually leave the office.
"It allows you as a player to put in that extra time," Minnesota running back Duane Bennett said. "Maybe you’re not able to stay at the complex for extended hours, but being able to come home and see practice after you just got done, being able to make corrections on the fly and then being able to come in to the next day with a sense of what you need to correct and what your opponent’s going to be doing, it’s a great addition for us.
"The program really helps."
Minnesota is one of only three FBS programs that uses the Hudl software, joining Tulsa and Nebraska, where the idea was conceived and developed by three students several years ago. Former Nebraska coach Bill Callahan brought the program to the New York Jets, where he now serves as assistant head coach and offensive line coach. The Cleveland Browns also use the Hudl programs.
Fisch, an NFL assistant before joining Minnesota's staff in January, visited several of his former colleagues with the Jets this spring and learned about Hudl.
"As I was watching it, I was infatuated with the things it could do," Fisch said. "Mark Sanchez is there, and they're teaching the quarterbacks [how to use it]. It's a tremendous learning tool."
Fisch had no trouble selling Gophers head coach Tim Brewster on adding the Hudl programs at Minnesota. Both expect to discuss the new programs with recruits, especially quarterbacks.
"It's been great for the quarterback to learn from," Brewster said.
Minnesota's practice tapes go online five minutes after they're complete. Fisch can log on and see his scheme installation from the first day of training camp until today. Bennett uses Hudl every day during the preseason and expects to do so three or four times a week after classes start up.
Almost every team makes DVDs of practice, which usually are distributed at the end of the work week. With Hudl Pro, Minnesota players and coaches no longer have to wait.
"As it's been publicized recently, you're only with your players about 45 minutes a day [for film] in college football," Fisch said. "This is an ability [for players] on their own time, at their own leisure, to be able to flip on their computer and instead of surf the Web for 45 minutes, they can watch themselves compete."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- It's pretty miserable outside right now, so thankfully Michigan State held practice Tuesday afternoon on its indoor field. Media were allowed to stay for nearly 13 practice periods, the most all spring, so I clearly picked a good day to visit Sparta.
The quarterback competition is clearly the burning issue in these parts, so let's get right to it.
Head coach Mark Dantonio said before practice that sophomores Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol would split reps evenly in Saturday's Green-White Game, as they have throughout the spring. Michigan State is a long way from choosing a starter, but there's still an opportunity for both players to distinguish themselves.
"You can inch somebody ahead of the other guy, but they've both performed very well this spring," Dantonio said. "They both have strong arms. They both can create and have running ability, some a little bit more than the other. They both have good leadership skills and they're extremely hard workers. And they both have three years left.
"With that being said, you don't want to name somebody and then all of a sudden, have to reverse your thinking later on."
Both players had their moments during team periods and 7-on-7s at Thursday's practice. Cousins, who performed well as Michigan State's backup last fall, has excellent mechanics and a strong arm. He looks a little smoother on his passes than Nichol, who has a bit of an awkward motion but still get the ball out fairly quickly.
Many have characterized Cousins as the pure passer and Nichol as the versatile athlete, but offensive coordinator Don Treadwell said it's a misperception.
"It's deceptive," Treadwell said. "It's not like one guy's a runner and one guy's a pocket passer. Those guys both are able to move their feet very well, get out of trouble and keep their eyes down the field at the same time."
The competition is neck-and-neck, but Cousins looked a little more impressive at Tuesday's workout.
The sophomore showed good zip on his passes, hitting Mark Dell on several deep out routes during team drills and 7-on-7s. Dell definitely appeared to be his favorite target. After overthrowing wideout Cam Martin on a deep post, a disgusted Cousins muttered, "That's six points."
Cousins also had a nice gain on an option keeper, taking a rare hit (he and Nichol wore red "no contact" jerseys) and popping back up and nodding his head. His run delighted starting left tackle Rocco Cironi, who is out for spring ball following shoulder surgery.
"It's fun to get in there, run and get hit," Cousins said. "You feel like a football player instead of a quarterback."
Nichol had a bit of a slow start in team drills, but he heated up during 7-on-7s, hitting Chris D. Rucker on a go route and finding Keshawn Martin on a deep out. It would have been nice to see Nichol run more, but he moves his feet well.
The quarterbacks traded off on each play during 7-on-7s. There were no interceptions, though Cousins fumbled a snap during red-zone drills.
Other observations from Michigan State's practice:
- The competition at running back also remains tight, and a fourth player, redshirt freshman Caulton Ray, has entered the mix. Sophomore Ashton Leggett created some separation a few weeks ago before being slowed by a knee sprain, but he was back at practice Tuesday. Leggett, Ray and senior A.J. Jimmerson each had nice gains during team drills.
- None of the running backs had much success during red-zone drills, as Jones, Wilson, Neely and others recorded tackles for loss. Sophomore Andre Anderson, who most resembles Javon Ringer in body type and running style, had a nice burst. He runs very hard for a smaller guy.
- I got the best look at the backs during a 1-on-1 drills against the linebackers. Anderson looked particularly impressive in the open field, juking All-Big Ten performer Greg Jones and reserve Jon Misch.
- Cousins and Nichol both rotated with the first-team offense, but the top offensive line consisted of: left tackle Brendon Moss (in place of Cironi), left guard Joel Foreman, center Joel Nitchman, right guard Jared McGaha, right tackle J'Michael Deane. Dantonio singled out the offensive line as a group that has progressed more than he had envisioned during spring ball, though there's still a long way to go.
- Dell, Blair White and B.J. Cunningham took most of the reps as first-team wide receivers. Michigan State will use the tight ends a ton this fall, and several players made catches during team drills, including Garrett Celek and Brian Linthicum, a transfer from Clemson who looks impressive. There's also some buzz about third-team wideout Milton Colbert, a 6-5, 211-pound walk-on who might just work his way into the rotation. Colbert definitely passes the eye test.
- The first-team defense: defensive end Colin Neely, defensive tackle Kevin Pickelman, defensive end Trevor Anderson, nose tackle Oren Wilson, outside linebacker Eric Gordon, outside linebacker Brandon Denson, middle linebacker Greg Jones, safety Danny Fortener, safety Trenton Robinson, cornerback Chris L. Rucker, cornerback Ross Weaver. Several players are banged up in the secondary, including safeties Kendell Davis-Clark and cornerback Jeremy Ware.
- The option might not be a major part of the offense next fall, but it will certainly be used more with Nichol and Cousins taking snaps. Michigan State ran several option plays Tuesday and also could incorporate more misdirection into its scheme.
- Individual practice periods are usually pretty boring, but Michigan State's running backs were worth watching because of a familiar face. Ringer, who remains in town leading up to this weekend's NFL draft, was on the field helping running backs coach Dan Enos in a direction drill. The All-American wore a New York Jets T-shirt but told me afterward he dons apparel from all the teams for whom he worked out. So don't get too excited, Jets fans. Former Spartans right tackle Jesse Miller also attended practice.
- Place-kicker Brett Swenson, an All-America candidate, looked solid on field goals and even took a pitch on a fake and raced around right end.
- The Spartans paid homage to Michigan native Kid Rock and played his version of "Sweet Home Alabama" to simulate crowd noise during team drills.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
MADISON, Wis. -- I just finished watching Wisconsin's practice/scrimmage this morning at sun-drenched Camp Randall Stadium. The scrimmage went a little longer than coach Bret Bielema's initial projection, so I got a glimpse of all the key players for this season, and several for the future. An injury update and my observations are below, and I'll post some of Bielema's post-practice thoughts a little later this afternoon.
- First, some sad news. Badgers star defensive end Matt Shaughnessy flew home to Connecticut on Saturday morning following the death of his older brother, Jamie, earlier this week. Jamie Shaughnessy had been fighting blood clots in his stomach since late last summer, but his condition had appeared to stablize. Bielema said the news of Jamie's death came as a surprise [check back later for more from Bielema]. Shaughnessy is scheduled to return to the team Thursday.
- Junior Chris Maragos, a contender for the team's starting nickel back spot, missed practice after being kicked in his calf during a play in Friday's workout. Bielema said Maragos had a sizable contusion but should return to practice Monday. Tight end Travis Beckum and wide receiver Richard Kirtley also will return Monday.
- Freshman defensive end Anthony Mains injured his wrist during Saturday's practice and underwent X-rays.
- Defensive end Kirk DeCremer sat out practice Saturday after practicing every day this week. Bielema said DeCremer, who underwent back surgery during the offseason, felt "a little bit of something" on Friday but will return Monday after two days off.
- The offense seemed to struggle before the scrimmage, held at the end of practice. To be fair, the quarterbacks didn't have their best receiver available in Beckum, and dropped passes became a theme Saturday. Starting wideout Kyle Jefferson couldn't hang on to a touchdown strike and an Allan Evridge pass hit a receiver's hands and was picked off by senior Jaevery McFadden, who is cementing himself as the Badgers' starting middle linebacker. Tight end Garrett Graham also had several drops.
- Evridge looks like the man to beat at quarterback. He made the fewest number of mistakes during 7-on-7 drills, finding Jefferson on a rollout. In the scrimmage, Evridge led the first-team offense on a 12-play, 80-yard touchdown drive. Evridge went 5-for-7 on the drive for 64 passing yards. He made a great throw to David Gilreath on a deep route that Gilreath dropped. But Gilreath responded moments later with an electrifying one-handed grab on a high throw and raced 26 yards before linebacker Jonathan Casillas saved a touchdown.
- Quarterbacks Dustin Sherer and Scott Tolzien rotated mainly with the second- and third-team offenses. Tolzien got the first shot after Evridge in the scrimmage and led the second-team unit on a 10-play, 80-yard touchdown drive capped by a John Clay 3-yard run. After fumbling the snap on the first play, Tolzien settled down and found Gilreath on a bubble screen for 24 yards.
- Despite a drop or two, Gilreath was extremely impressive throughout the day. He'll do major damage in the open field.
- Tolzien also got some help from sophomore Daven Jones, who adjusted on an errant deep pass to make the play for a 35-yard gain.
- Though Tolzien struggled at times, nearly throwing an interception to DeAndre Levy in the end zone before the scrimmage, he seems to be making a strong push for the backup job behind Evridge.
- Sherer seemed to have a rough day. One of his first passes during team drills was batted down by Levy. He also had the ball slip out of his hands on a pass. During red-zone drills, Sherer had a pass picked off by Mario Goins in the end zone but then recovered to find Graham for a score. Unlike Tolzien, he got to scrimmage with the rest of the first-team offense but overthrew Graham and had the ball intercepted by safety Shane Carter, who ran it back near the goal line.