Big Ten: Orhian Johnson

Q&A: Ohio State's Tyvis Powell

September, 6, 2013
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COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Tyvis Powell doesn't have to look hard for an example of a guy who has thrived under similar circumstances.

Last season, in fact, his big brother on the team had already walked the path of redshirting as a freshman defensive back and then made his way into the starting lineup in his first game on the active Ohio State roster.

[+] EnlargeTyvis Powell
Jason Mowry/Icon SMIThe play of the safeties has been a recent problem for the Buckeyes, so Tyvis Powell will move over from cornerback to safety to help shore up that area.
Certainly there are some differences in the skill sets of Powell, a tall nickelback, and Bradley Roby, a physical freak who ranks among the best cornerbacks in the nation. But the last player to sit out a year and then become an instant starter like Powell on Saturday against Buffalo was Roby in 2011. That kind of company can bode well for a player who debuted with five tackles and has room to grow.

There were a few people surprised to see you out there starting on the first day of spring practice. Were you expecting to be thrown into the lineup coming off a redshirt year?

Tyvis Powell: Honestly I wasn’t, I’m not going to lie to you. But in January, coach [Urban] Meyer handed out self-evaluation forms to everybody, and after reading some of the questions that were on it, basically what are you doing to help the team and rating yourself, when I rated myself honestly, I felt like I wasn’t really doing anything to help the team. I felt like I was just here, and I didn’t want to be like that. When I recap my life later on, I don’t want to say I was just here. I want to do something to basically make a statement, make a name for myself. What I did was take the winter offseason and just basically work hard, get extra reps, make sure I constantly drilled and got with the older people who were still here, asked them questions about the game. They all helped me out, and then when it came to spring, the strength coaches were telling them, ‘Yeah, Tyvis is coming along.’ I went to meet with [defensive coordinator Luke] Fickell, and he said they wanted to see me at the Star position [in nickel]. So I just went out there Day 1 and tried it, and I’m still here.

You get the evaluation in January, but obviously you’d been feeling some of this stuff while sitting out the year. Was it a frustrating experience to be on the shelf? How did you handle it?

TP: I’m not going to lie to you, at first it was difficult for me to really handle it. Coming out of high school, I was known as a top player. Then to get here and you’re not really doing anything to contribute to the team, it really broke my heart, honestly. Back in the day, I used to write these blogs for the fans and tell them how I wanted to work hard for them, and I kind of felt like I was letting the fans down. When they told me I was redshirting, at first I was depressed about it. Now when I look back on it, I don’t think I was ready to play last year. [Former Ohio State safety] Orhian [Johnson] asked me, ‘Do you really think you’re ready to play?’ I thought about it, and it was like, no, I don’t think I am. Then I talked to Roby, he was my big brother, and he told me every day, you’ve only got one chance to live this life, you should make the best out of every opportunity you get. What I would do is, I was on scout team, so I approached it like, ‘OK, this is my chance.’ I was going against the starters every day, Devin Smith and Philly Brown, and I’m trying to work on my technique and those guys really helped me out. They would point out that I should watch their hips or tell me to pay attention to certain things, help me out to make me a better player. And then, obviously, [cornerbacks coach Kerry] Coombs was staying on me every day. By the end of the year, I started making plays on scout team and the offensive coaches were referencing me to Coach Coombs and telling him I was out there making plays.

Coombs has made it well known how hard he was on you last year. What is your relationship with him like, and was there any adjustment period with that aggressive style?

TP: Not really, because I would say my high school coach, Sean Williams [at Bedford High School in Ohio] used to talk to me just like that. He was on me, anything I did wrong he’d let me know. He’d tell me, ‘Tyvis, this is how they’re going to talk to you on the next level.’ He basically prepared me for it, so when Coach Coombs did it, I kind of liked it. I need that energy. I’d rather him get on me and try to correct me like that than not say anything at all, that would be like giving up on me. That energy, I appreciate it now, I think it made me better. I got it, the way he talked to me, he brought this inner me out of me, got me mad and [I] started making plays better.

After all that happened in the last year, you get on the field on Saturday as a starter in the win over Buffalo. Take me through the emotions out there.

TP: Oh man, first I had to get up and thank God about it. Basically, for the first time playing in the Shoe and knowing you’re going to play, I couldn’t sleep that night. I was in the hotel tossing and turning. I only caught a little bit of sleep, but when it was game time, I was hype, ready to go. Once the ball is kicked off, and you’re with your friends, it’s just fun. At first it’s like, ‘Oh, my God, it’s fast, it’s unbelievable out here.’ But as the game went on, I kind of realized to myself it was the same game I’ve been playing since I was 9 years old -- just a little bit faster. I was able to adjust and be able to make some plays.

Were you happy with the debut and how you played?

TP: I mean, I wouldn’t say I’m satisfied. I’m never satisfied. [I'm] very hard on myself and trying to figure out what things I can do better. So, for my first game in the Shoe, I would say I did decent. I made a couple errors, and they weren’t big, but I’d rather eliminate all errors and play a perfect game. But stuff happens, and I’ve got to get better every week.
Only 22 Big Ten players heard their names called during the 2013 NFL draft, the league's lowest total in nearly two decades (it had 21 draftees in 1994).

But as soon as the draft ended Saturday, the free-agent signings began. And there were plenty around the Big Ten from all 12 squads.

Here's our first look list of free-agent signings or team tryouts from the conference. As a reminder, this is not a final list, and we'll have updates later on either here on the blog or on Twitter.

Here we go ...

ILLINOIS

C Graham Pocic, Houston Texans
DE Justin Staples, Cleveland Browns
DE Glenn Foster, New Orleans Saints

INDIANA

C Will Matte, Kansas City Chiefs (tryout)
DE Larry Black Jr., Cincinnati Bengals
DT Adam Replogle, Atlanta Falcons

IOWA

WR Keenan Davis, Cleveland Browns
OL Matt Tobin, Philadelphia Eagles
QB James Vandenberg, Minnesota Vikings

MICHIGAN

WR Roy Roundtree, Cincinnati Bengals
S Jordan Kovacs, Miami Dolphins
LB Kenny Demens, Arizona Cardinals
DE Craig Roh, Carolina Panthers
OL Elliott Mealer, New Orleans Saints
OL Patrick Omameh, San Francisco 49ers
OL Ricky Barnum, Washington Redskins
LB Brandin Hawthorne, St. Louis Rams
(WR Darryl Stonum, dismissed before the 2012 season, signed with the Kansas City Chiefs)

MICHIGAN STATE

CB Johnny Adams, Houston Texans
DT Anthony Rashad White, Pittsburgh Steelers
OL Chris McDonald, New England Patriots

MINNESOTA

CB Troy Stoudermire, Cincinnati Bengals
TE MarQueis Gray, San Francisco 49ers
CB Michael Carter, Minnesota Vikings

NEBRASKA

DE Eric Martin, New Orleans Saints
LB Will Compton, Washington Redskins
TE Ben Cotton, San Diego Chargers
TE/FB Kyler Reed, Jacksonville Jaguars
K Brett Maher, New York Jets
DE Cameron Meredith, Oakland Raiders

NORTHWESTERN

OL Patrick Ward, Miami Dolphins
DL Brian Arnfelt, Pittsburgh Steelers
LB David Nwabuisi, Carolina Panthers (tryout)
WR Demetrius Fields, Chicago Bears (tryout)

OHIO STATE

CB Travis Howard, Houston Texans
S Orhian Johnson, Houston Texans
FB Zach Boren, Houston Texans
TE Jake Stoneburner, Green Bay Packers
DE Nathan Williams, Minnesota Vikings
DL Garrett Goebel, St. Louis Rams
LB Etienne Sabino, New York Giants

PENN STATE

OL Mike Farrell, Pittsburgh Steelers
CB Stephon Morris, New England Patriots
OL Matt Stankiewitch, New England Patriots
FB Michael Zordich, Carolina Panthers

PURDUE

CB Josh Johnson, San Diego Chargers
QB Robert Marve, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
RB Akeem Shavers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

WISCONSIN

CB Marcus Cromartie, San Diego Chargers
CB Devin Smith, Dallas Cowboys
S Shelton Johnson, Oakland Raiders

Big Ten Monday personnel roundup

November, 12, 2012
11/12/12
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Some personnel news and nuggets from around the league Monday afternoon:

Ohio State

Coach Urban Meyer says he doesn't know what percentage linebacker Etienne Sabino is at right now, but the senior will start at Wisconsin. Sabino broke his leg last month against Nebraska, and his return will be a big boost to the defense for the final two games.

Meyer also said freshman running back Bri'onte Dunn has an MCL sprain that won't require surgery but will keep him out of this week's game. Dunn is questionable to play in the finale against Michigan, too. Dunn had his best game two weeks ago against Illinois, when he ran for 73 yards and a touchdown.

Special teams ace Armani Reeves (ankle) and safety Orhian Johnson (shoulder) will be back this week for the Buckeyes.

Nebraska

Star running back Rex Burkhead plans to test his injured knee in practice today in hopes that he can return for Saturday's senior day game against Minnesota. Burkhead said he's "pretty close" to getting back on the field but that he wants to be smart about the injury so he can play in a potential Big Ten title game and possibly the Rose Bowl. Bo Pelini said the team does not want to play Burkhead until he is 100 percent healthy.

Michigan

Brady Hoke is once again not providing much information on his quarterback situation. Hoke described Denard Robinson (nerve issue in elbow) as "day-to-day" without any further details. Robinson has missed the past two games. Hoke also said there was no update on backup quarterback Russell Bellomy, who has been out with an undisclosed injury. Robinson will not speak to the media this week even though Saturday is senior day and he's had an historic career. Hoke said Robinson's availability to play this week would have "nothing to do" with it being senior day.

Northwestern

Losing cornerback Nick VanHoose (shoulder) has hurt the Wildcats' secondary, maybe never more so than at the end of last week's Michigan game. Will VanHoose play this week? Head coach Pat Fitzgerald said the team "will have to see how he progresses this week" before making that determination. Fitzgerald also said star running back Venric Mark has an undisclosed injury but should play this week against Michigan State.

Illinois

Star linebacker Jonathan Brown (shoulder) has still not been cleared to play after missing the past two games. Head coach Tim Beckman said Brown is no longer using a sling and looks to be improving, however.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Well, well, this has been a much more exciting game than I expected. Anyone predict these two teams to combine for 34 first-half points. Yeah, didn't think so.

No. 21 Penn State takes a 6-point lead into the locker room.

Some quick halftime hits:

Turning point: Penn State led 17-7 and had the ball in good field position when a Matthew McGloin first-down pass was tipped and intercepted by Ohio State cornerback Orhian Johnson. Buckeyes quarterback Braxton Miller answered with an electrifying 24-yard run and fired a touchdown pass to Jake Stoneburner to cut his team's deficit to three points.

Stat of the half: Both teams have been terrific on third down, with each converting 5 of 7 chances. DeVier Posey's brilliant one-handed grab on third-and-10 moved the chains and set up Ohio State's first touchdown. Derek Moye had a 16-yard grab on third-and-4 to set up Penn State's opening touchdown. Ohio State entered the game ranked 78th nationally in third-down conversions (38.4 percent), while Penn State ranked 96th (38.5 percent).

What Penn State needs to do: Continue the creativity in the run game. Penn State has mixed backs and formations and had good success. The Lions finished the half with 188 rush yards on 21 carries. They got 91 of those yards from the Wildcat formation, as wide receivers Curtis Drake and Bill Belton both have been effective. Drake, Stephfon Green and Silas Redd each have runs of 38 yards or longer. Defensively, it's all about containing Miller, who has been tough to bring down in the open field.

What Ohio State needs to do: Shore up the tackling, for starters. Luke Fickell can't be pleased with his defense, which has missed tackles and been out of position repeatedly against Penn State's offense. The Buckeyes need to tighten things up a bit. Offensively, Ohio State should show greater willingness to throw the ball, especially with Posey (2 catches, 57 yards) back in the fold. The Buckeyes must let Miller be a playmaker out there.

Overtime in West Lafayette

November, 12, 2011
11/12/11
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One thing about the Big Ten: the games have been pretty exciting this year. We've got another thriller in West Lafayette, where Ohio State and Purdue are going to overtime tied at 20.

The Buckeyes methodically chipped away at a 17-7 halftime deficit and tied the score on a fourth-quarter touchdown pass from Braxton Miller to Jordan Hall. It was a spectacular play by Miller, who hurdled prone center Michael Brewster to stay alive against the pressure, then threw across the field to Hall for the score. But Purdue's Bruce Gaston blocked the extra point to keep the score tied.

The Boilers were nearing field-goal range in the final minute, but Robert Marve inexplicably overthrew his receiver and Ohio State's Orhian Johnson intercepted it on the 15. Danny Hope will be questioned for that call if Purdue loses in OT.

Video: Ohio State S Orhian Johnson

August, 1, 2011
8/01/11
4:30
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Adam Rittenberg talks with Ohio State safety Orhian Johnson.
Best call for change: Jim Delany. The Big Ten commissioner said he wouldn't disagree with any of the reform proposals SEC commissioner Mike Slive raised last week. Delany said college football leaders need to work together and clean up the game.

"We compete with the Big 12, the Pac-10 and SEC on the field," he said. "This is not a time for competition. This is a time for collaboration, for coming together, for giving [NCAA president] Mark Emmert the ideas and concepts that he needs to produce to university presidents around the country and to establish a renewed way of ensuring that the intercollegiate athletic model can be sustained in the 21st century."

Best sartorial statement: Nick Toon, Wisconsin. One of the fun parts of any media day is seeing how the players deck themselves out. The most head-turning outfit of the day belonged to Wisconsin receiver Toon, who combined a seersucker suit with a pink tie and white shoes. "I am a wardrobe connoisseur," he said. "I was debating whether to pull it out, but why not?" Red carpet analysts might have had a field day debating another one of Toon's choices: going sockless with his suit.

Best guest questioner: Orhian Johnson, Ohio State. As new Ohio State coach Luke Fickell dealt with a mob of reporters, defensive back Johnson sneaked into the scrum and asked the coach where the players were heading for dinner. Fickell said it depended on how well behaved the players were. "So are we getting steak?" Johnson asked. "That's to be determined," Fickell answered.

Best quote: Joe Paterno. You can always count on the Penn State legend to make things interesting on media day. Here is how Paterno answered a question about all the recent scandals in college football:

"The old days when I first started to coach, … I used to get a telephone call from one of the campus cops who'd say, 'Hey, Coach, you better come up here and get a hold of Mike. Too much to drink, making a lot of noise.' I'd go up at 2 in the morning, grab Mike, put him in bed, get him up at 5 in the morning, run his rear end off for a week. You guys never heard about it.

"Every once in a while, I hear one of these guys that I know a little bit talking about when they were 19 and 20, about all the kids today. They ought to go back and read Socrates. Socrates, 400 years B.C., said, 'The kids today are terrible; they're tyrants. They don't pay attention.' That's 2,500 years ago, OK?'

"Anyway, I'm shooting my mouth off too much. Let's go."

Best memory: Jeff Allen. Most college football fans probably would be hard-pressed to identify which teams are in the Legends Division and which are in the Leaders Division. Not Allen. The Illinois left tackle said he studied the divisions in the offseason, then proved it by correctly naming each team's division assignment. If Allen is that good at comprehending scouting reports, Nathan Scheelhaase won't have to worry about his backside this season.

Best tribute: Mark Dantonio. Jim Tressel wasn't at Big Ten media days for the first time since 2000, but his close friend and former colleague had some warm words for the disgraced Ohio State coach.

"He's had a lot to do with my life as a mentor really since 1983, and that's a long time," Dantonio said. "He's done a lot of good for college football. Every person he's come in contact with as a player and a coach, he's made a positive impact on their lives.

"To me, it's tragic. He becomes a tragic hero in my respect, in my view. Usually tragic heroes have the ability to rise above it all in the end, and that's what I'll look for in the end."
The Big Ten on Thursday announced its list of players appearing at preseason media days, which will be held July 28-29 in Chicago.

This announcement is probably bigger for media types than fans, but it gives an idea of who teams view as leaders and positive representatives for their programs.

Here's the list:

ILLINOIS
  • Jeff Allen, Sr., OL*
  • A.J. Jenkins, Sr., WR
  • Tavon Wilson, Sr., DB*
INDIANA
IOWA
  • Mike Daniels, Sr., DT*
  • Marvin McNutt, Sr., WR*
  • Tyler Nielsen, Sr., LB
MICHIGAN
MICHIGAN STATE
MINNESOTA
NEBRASKA
  • Rex Burkhead, Jr., RB*
  • Jared Crick, Sr., DT*
  • Lavonte David, Sr., LB*
NORTHWESTERN
  • Jordan Mabin, Sr., CB*
  • Al Netter, Sr., OT*
  • Dan Persa, Sr., QB*
OHIO STATE
  • Mike Brewster, Sr., C*
  • Orhian Johnson, Jr., DB
  • Andrew Sweat, Sr., LB
PENN STATE
PURDUE
  • Albert Evans, Sr., S
  • Joe Holland, Sr., LB
  • Carson Wiggs, Sr., K/P*
WISCONSIN
  • Patrick Butrym, Sr., DT
  • Aaron Henry, Sr., S*
  • Nick Toon, Sr., WR*

*previous All-Big Ten or All-Big 12 (Nebraska) selection

Thoughts: Not a lot of surprises here. Six teams took the all-senior route with invitations, and no sophomores made the list. Three sophomores I hoped to see were Illinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase, Nebraska QB Taylor Martinez and Wisconsin RB James White, the 2010 Big Ten Freshman of the Year. It's a little surprising that neither White nor fellow running back Montee Ball made Wisconsin's list. ... There's a pretty good quarterback presence overall with Cousins, Denard Robinson, Gray and Persa. I was interested to see if Iowa would bring James Vandenberg, who has been tabbed as a team leader. ... As for charismatic personalities, there's not a Jay Valai on this list, but another Badger, Henry, should provide some entertainment. Other quotable players include Crick, Mabin, Gray, Cousins, Mauti, Trenton Robinson, Jeff Allen and Marvin McNutt. I'm sure I'll add a few names by the end of media days. ... Cousins will speak on behalf of the players at the Big Ten kickoff luncheon July 29. ... Purdue's Wiggs is the lone specialist making the trip to Chicago, just like Michigan State punter Aaron Bates was last year. ... The list includes 18 former All-Big Ten selections, while all three Nebraska players earned All-Big 12 honors in 2010. Six first-team all-conference honorees will be in attendance. ... The list likely includes the preseason offensive and defensive players of the year. I'd expect Denard Robinson or Persa to earn offensive honors and Crick or David to take home defensive honors.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- I had a chance to watch about 30 minutes of Ohio State's full-pads workout indoors Tuesday. Despite the limited media viewing period, there was a lot to observe in an extremely physical Buckeyes practice.
  • Kenny Guiton stood out to me among the quarterbacks. He put some nice zip on the ball in both individual and team drills, and he showed good mobility. Before team drills, Guiton worked in a group with Braxton Miller and Taylor Graham. Terrelle Pryor, wearing a yellow no-contact jersey, threw a few passes with a separate group. Pryor didn't do much with his footwork as he's recovering from clean-up surgery on his foot Monday.
  • Miller definitely has mobility and created extra room for himself on a check down to Adam Homan. He followed it up with a nice throw to receiver Ryan Ross.
  • Expect Ohio State's running backs to be more involved in the pass game this year. During one period, the offense lined up solely with running backs or tight ends out wide, and several backs looked good catching the ball. Rod Smith, who generated hype during bowl practice, beat linebacker Andrew Sweat for a catch during a goal line drill. Carlos Hyde delivered a nice hit on a defender after a reception. There's some really nice versatility in both size and style among the Buckeyes' backs. I don't think they'll miss Dan Herron too much during the first five games, but we'll see.
  • Jim Tressel was very involved in the practice during the media viewing period. The coach lined up as a cornerback during some passing drills and gave pointers to the quarterbacks, running backs and tight ends.
  • Former Buckeyes defensive backs Malcolm Jenkins, now of the New Orleans Saints, and Donald Washington, now of the Kansas City Chiefs, attended Tuesday's practice.
  • There were several nice defensive plays: second-team cornerback Dionte Allen, a transfer from Florida State, had a diving interception of a Graham pass; linebacker Etienne Sabino "sacked" Guiton; linebacker Dan Bain broke up a pass to Carlos Hyde during goal line; and Adam Bellamy tipped a Guiton pass at the line of scrimmage. Allen could help Ohio State's secondary depth this fall.
  • For those depth chart aficionados ... DeVier Posey and Corey Brown worked as the first-team wide receivers ... Christian Bryant and Orhian Johnson worked as the first-team safeties ... Travis Howard and Dominic Clarke worked as the first-team cornerbacks ... the first-team defensive line consisted of Nathan Williams and John Simon on the outside and Garrett Goebel and Johnathan Hankins on the inside.
  • The wide receivers had some ups and downs. Chris Fields had a nice hit on two defenders after making a catch, and T.Y. Williams caught my eye with his impressive physique (6-5, 228).

Overall, I liked the tempo and the hitting. Tuesday marked only Ohio State's second practice in pads, but the players weren't holding much back.
Jermale Hines laughs when told that he's the old man among Ohio State's safeties.

"Something like that," he said.

Hines is a little old by college football standards -- he turns 23 next month -- but he also boasts by far the most experience of any Buckeyes safety. He's one of Ohio State's most valuable players because if there's a spot on the depth chart that looks a little, well, young, it's safety.

[+] EnlargeJermale Hines
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesJermale Hines has helped lead an Ohio State secondary that ranks 13th nationally in pass defense.
After the 2010 Rose Bowl, the Buckeyes said farewell to veteran safeties Kurt Coleman and Anderson Russell, with Coleman being the team's only consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection. Tyler Moeller returned from a head injury to start at the "star" position -- a safety-linebacker hybrid used in Ohio State's nickel package -- but he's now out for the year with a torn pectoral muscle. Promising sophomore C.J. Barnett also won't return following a knee injury, and junior Nate Oliver has been banged up.

Ohio State's two-deep for Saturday night's showdown at No. 18 Wisconsin lists Hines as the starting free safety, sophomore Orhian Johnson, a first-year starter, at strong safety, and true freshman Christian Bryant at the "star" position.

There's little doubt as to who leads the group.

"It's been an experience trying to tell guys what to do and where to be, just helping them out as much as I can," Hines said. "Somebody came along and did it to me, Kurt and Anderson and those guys, so I'm just looking to give back and do the same thing."

The 6-foot-1, 216-pound Hines knows he needs to show some patience as a leader. After all, he wasn't always the easiest pupil for Coleman and Russell.

"There were times where I didn't want to follow them, but they made me," said Hines, who moved past Russell on the depth chart in 2009 and recorded 57 tackles, 3.5 tackles for loss and two interceptions. "Just basically going to seek me out, talking to me, making me listen, telling the coaches and things like that. Or putting me on the spot. They showed me the ropes, the little things to be successful. And that's what I’m trying to do with these guys."

Hines has led by example on Saturdays.

He recorded an interception in Ohio State's Big Ten opener at Illinois and ranks third on the team with 26 tackles. The Cleveland native attributes his progress to a better understanding of Ohio State's defense and how opposing offenses want to attack the Buckeyes.

Along with cornerback Chimdi Chekwa and others, Hines has helped Ohio State lead the Big Ten and rank 13th nationally in pass defense (158.3 ypg). The Buckeyes have surrendered only four pass touchdowns through the first six games (only Miami, San Diego State and Missouri have allowed fewer).

Hines' personal project has been Bryant, who took over for the injured Moeller against Illinois and made his first career start last week against Indiana, recording one tackle.

"I'm definitely his big brother," Hines said. "Any time I can be, on the field, off the field, just making sure he understands things, checks and things like that, just making sure his head is right."

Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel said Hines could play the "star" spot if need be, a move Hines wouldn't oppose. But if Hines' tutelage works, he can stay put and Ohio State likely will be better off for it.

"Anywhere I can help the team win," Hines said. "We've all got one goal, and I'm a part of it."

A big part.

Big Ten mailblog

September, 14, 2010
9/14/10
6:00
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As always, you can contact me here. And don't forget to follow me on Twitter. It's a smart choice.

Sarah from Gahanna, Ohio, writes: Adam, how much effect will losing C.J. Barnett be on the Buckeyes? He was making his second start, but it looked like he was making plays back there. Is it actually good Ohio State has two more/less practice games to break-in the new starter at safety?

Adam Rittenberg: It's certainly a blow, Sarah, especially with how Barnett looked in the first two games. He was all over the field last week against Miami before the injury, and he seemed to be gaining more and more confidence out there. Seeing the No. 4 jersey making plays at safety definitely reminded me a bit of Kurt Coleman. While Ohio State doesn't have a ton of depth at safety, Orhian Johnson was the projected starter before being slowed by a calf injury. Although Johnson lacks game experience, he has made a good impression on teammates like linebacker Brian Rolle, who told me in August, "We have the two biggest, most physical safeties in the country in Jermale Hines and Orhian Johnson. I just can't wait to see those guys roam the deep half, the deep third, like missiles back there." We'll get to see a lot more of Johnson now.


Eric from Lansing, Mich., writes: Adam, i have a confession. as a spartan fan i wish the ND game was on at noon. It seems to me, while there haven't been many, that Coach D has not done well in night games or even games that kickoff in late afternoon. and all spartan fans remember the last time we had a night game against ND, added a player to the ring of fame (Bubba Smith in 06) if it rains i might not be able to watch. are any of my fellow spartans airing these same concerns to you??

Adam Rittenberg: Eric, having witnessed the Notre Dame-Michigan State game in 2006 from the press box, I understand your feelings here. I think your bigger question is whether Michigan State can truly handle the national spotlight, because that's what this game means. Sure, Notre Dame is 1-1, but the Irish always attract national attention when they play. For Michigan State, this is one of two chances every season -- the Michigan game being the other -- to truly be on the national stage. Eventually, Mark Dantonio's teams need to step up and win these games, and I think this squad will be up for the challenge. Keep in mind Dantonio is 2-1 against ND. But your feelings are totally understandable. The good news: the current forecast for Saturday night calls for partly cloudy skies and only 20 percent chance of rain.


Steven Clow from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Adam,Just curious as to why you do not have Iowa RB Adam Robinson on your Heisman update or Heisman horizon? I have noticed that you believe that John Clay is in the running, but yet no love for Robinson? Let?s compare their statistics so far from this season. Clay has rushed for 260 yards and is averaging 6.5 per carry with 4 touchdowns, while Robinson has rushed for 265 yards averaging 7.0 per carry with 4 touchdowns as well. When compared side to side, Robinson has outperformed Clay, even after splitting carries with Jewel Hampton last week at the Iowa State game...Where is the love?

Adam Rittenberg: Steven, first of all, props to you for having a cool last name. I know one of my colleagues would be jealous. Here's the deal with the Heisman: it's not just about statistics. Far from it. You need some degree of name recognition to be considered, since voting takes place around the country. Right now, no one outside of the Midwest knows who Adam Robinson is. If he goes out and blasts Arizona for 200 yards on Saturday night, a lot more folks will know the name. John Clay, while putting up some very good numbers as well, already has name recognition nationally after winning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors. Denard Robinson wasn't on the radar before the season but has put up great numbers for a very recognizable program (Michigan). This is why I listed Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi on my "Heisman Horizon" rather than Robinson. People know who Stanzi is. I know it sounds a little unfair given the numbers, but to ignore the name-recognition factor would make these weekly updates pointless.


Justin from Tipton, Ind., writes: Did I read that right? Did you really say that Indiana is part of the schedule that gives Michigan's secondary time to mature? The same Indiana who has the best receiver in the conference. The same Indiana who has a James Hardy clone as their 2nd guy. The same Indiana who has a 3rd year starter at QB will pick them apart if they blow coverages. The same Indiana who loses no one in the receiving corps, but adds two redshirt freshmen who could be future first-team all-Big Ten selections (Bolser at TE and Wilson at WR). Sure, the Hoosiers have plenty of questions on D. And it remains to be seen how well the OL will open holes for Willis and the rest of the running backs. But those questions don't extend to the receiving corps, and Michigan's secondary will have anything but time to mature on October 2nd.

Adam Rittenberg: Justin, these are all good points, and I should have omitted Indiana from Michigan's maturation process. I'll admit it when I'm wrong. The Indiana receiving corps -- Tandon Doss, Damarlo Belcher, Terrance Turner and co., for those unfamiliar -- is outstanding and will test Michigan's young secondary. Indiana certainly moved the ball well against the Wolverines last year. My main concern for IU is how well the nonconference schedule prepares the Hoosiers for anything they'll face in Big Ten play. The Hoosiers should face Michigan at 3-0, but we won't know much about this team. You face Towson, Western Kentucky and Akron, and then you've got to try and stop Denard Robinson? Good luck.


Kevin from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Easier to believe Michigan this time? Are you serious? The offense is a little better than last year with Robinson but the defense is worse. They are a lot closer to 0 and 2 than you want to believe. Oh, and thanks for proving that you are in fact and Michigan homer. Just wait until the Big Ten season starts. They have no chance against Iowa, Penn State, Wisconsin and Ohio State. A slim chance against Michigan State and will likely drop another game somewhere. That one trick pony is about to die a slow death once the conference season starts in a couple of weeks because they are no better than the eighth best team in the league. Look for them to finish no better than 7 and 5.

Adam Rittenberg: Kevin, you're lucky I don't print your address in Ann Arbor, pal. But thanks for writing. At least this can show the Michigan fans who think I hate the Wolverines that not everyone believes that's the case. Why don't you go back and re-read the post? Actually, I'll help you out: "We could end up seeing a 2009 re-run, which likely would spell the end for Rodriguez. Robinson's health is a HUGE concern going forward. And if Michigan falls apart, I'll be the first to say I was wrong. But this team looks different. Will Michigan win 10 games? Probably not. But I don't see another collapse, either." I never said Michigan will win 10 games, and Big Ten play could be tough for the Maize and Blue. But I also think Michigan will win two of its games against Iowa, Wisconsin, Penn State, Michigan State and Ohio State.


Drew from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey Adam,Anything the big 10 can learn from Penn State's loss in the event it plays 'Bama for the national title? Penn State managed to put a few drives together a probably deserved more than 3 points for it.

Adam Rittenberg: Drew, you already touched on it here, but you have to finish drives against Alabama and execute better in plus territory. You also can't be tentative against a team like the Tide, a problem Joe Paterno acknowledged Tuesday. "We played the first half down in Alabama just about the way I was afraid we'd play it: very tentative," Paterno said. "We weren't aggressive." It's the same thing against any elite team: maximize your opportunities, take some calculated risks and don't commit turnovers. Alabama is an extremely well-coached squad, but the Tide aren't unstoppable.
There has been quite a bit of news on the health front around the Big Ten today, and unfortunately several players are done for 2010.

To recap some of the major injury/health stories:

Purdue wide receiver Keith Smith

The bad news: Smith will miss the remainder of the season after tearing both the ACL and MCL in his right knee during Saturday's win against Western Illinois. Purdue feared a serious injury following the game but got the official word early Tuesday after Smith underwent an MRI. Smith was a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2009 and led the league in both receiving yards (1,100) and receptions. He leads the league with 18 receptions through the first two games. Needless to say, it's a major loss for Purdue and a rough situation for Smith, one of my favorite players to cover in the league.

The quote: "He was one of our best players, one of the best players in the country at his position, so it's a tough setback when you lose that quality of a player. You lose his presence on the field, but he can still help us a bunch from a leadership standpoint. It's a big loss, and the team's very upset about it." -- Boilers coach Danny Hope

What's next: Smith must decide if he'll pursue an NFL career or apply for a sixth year of eligibility. Hope expects Justin Siller and Antavian Edison to help fill the void on offense, and Purdue has quite a few options at receiver, including promising young players O.J. Ross and Gary Bush. "It's the one place on our football team going into this season that we have some pretty good depth," Hope said.

Iowa defensive coordinator Norm Parker

The bad news: Parker isn't expected to be with No. 9 Iowa for this week's game at No. 24 Arizona (ESPN, 10:30 p.m. ET) after recently being hospitalized with back pain. Parker, a diabetic, has been hospitalized several times in the last few years and had to spend the second half of the 2009 season coaching from the press box. Coach Kirk Ferentz said Parker, 68, is still receiving care, and "it's doubtful" the veteran assistant will be in Tucson.

The quote: "It’s like a football team. We're better off when we have all our best players with us, and Norm is a critical cog of our operation. … The good news is we've got a veteran staff. Guys work extremely well together. They'll just grab a little bit more of the responsibility. We'll find a way to get it done. We'd certainly all prefer that Norm was with us, and we hope he'll be back with us soon." -- Kirk Ferentz

What's next: Linebackers coach Darrell Wilson handled defensive play-calling duties against Iowa State and likely will do the same at Arizona.

Ohio State strong safety C.J. Barnett

The bad news: Barnett likely will miss the rest of the season after suffering a knee injury late in the third quarter Saturday against Miami. Coach Jim Tressel said Barnett, who started the first two games, needs surgery on the knee. Barnett was a somewhat surprising Game 1 starter after overtaking a banged-up Orhian Johnson in camp, and he made his presence known in both of Ohio State's first two games.

The quote: "He's a true sophomore and had some special teams time last year and took advantage of an opportunity. … He really impressed all of us and played very well those first couple games. We really hate to lose him because I thought he was playing very physical and he was really starting to learn the game." -- Jim Tressel

What's next: Johnson has recovered from a pulled calf muscle that slowed him in camp and will move into a starting role. Johnson has had some impressive flashes in practice but lacks much game experience.

Penn State linebacker Gerald Hodges

The bad news: Hodges will miss 4-8 weeks with what coach Joe Paterno called a "slight crack" in the lower part of the left leg. The sophomore suffered the injury on the opening kickoff of Saturday's loss to No. 1 Alabama. A backup outside linebacker, Hodges looked strong in the preseason and likely would have taken on an increased role on defense in the coming weeks.

The quote: "We're talking four to six to eight weeks, [the doctors are] not sure. It depends on how quickly he heals, but he’s going to be out for a while." -- Joe Paterno

What's next: Heralded true freshman Khairi Fortt appears in Hodges' spot on this week's depth chart behind Bani Gbadyu. Fortt and others will take on enhanced roles during Hodges' absence.

About to get started at Ohio Stadium

September, 11, 2010
9/11/10
3:22
PM ET
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- The teams have gone through their warm-ups without coming to blows, although they came close several times.

It doesn't appear that LeBron James will be here today, although he could show up in a suite. He won't be on the sidelines, so Ohio State fans can save their boos for Miami.

The Hurricanes' final injury report lists running back Graig Cooper as doubtful, while defensive lineman Luther Robinson and linebacker Kevin Nelson both are out. Ohio State should get defenders Nathan Williams and Orhian Johnson back from injury today.

It's still overcast here, but no rain yet. Let's hope it stays away.
Welcome to National Depth Chart Day. No day on the college football calendar inspires more curiosity about depth charts than the Monday before the season, when most teams release their Week 1 two-deeps.

(And then there's Purdue, which didn't include a depth chart in its game notes for Notre Dame. Ugh.)

I've had the chance to review depth charts from those programs that released them today -- two-deeps from Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota are coming soon -- and I checked in on several coaches' news conferences.

Here's what stood out:

INDIANA
  • Even though Indiana will shift to a 3-4 defensive alignment this year, the depth chart lists a 4-3 with Darius Johnson and Fred Jones as the starting ends and Chad Sherer and Tyler Replogle flanking junior college transfer Jeff Thomas at linebacker.
  • Interesting to see several veteran offensive linemen like Justin Pagan and Cody Faulkner listed as backups rather than starters. Junior Andrew McDonald steps into some big shoes at left tackle as Rodger Saffold departs to the NFL.
  • The backup quarterback job remains open, as Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker are both listed as No. 2 behind Ben Chappell.
  • Indiana expects big things from redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson, listed as a starter at wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner.
IOWA
  • Sophomores Micah Hyde and Greg Castillo are listed as the starting cornerbacks. Shaun Prater doesn't appear on the depth chart after dealing with a leg injury in camp. Prater hasn't been officially ruled out for the Eastern Illinois game, but I wouldn't expect to see much of him on Saturday.
  • James Ferentz is listed as the starting center, a spot where Iowa might be a little thin following Josh Koeppel's motorcycle accident Monday morning.
  • Starting defensive end Broderick Binns is suspended for the opener, so Christian Ballard is listed as a possible starter at both end and tackle. Mike Daniels and Lebron Daniel are the next options behind Ballard.
MICHIGAN
  • Sophomores Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier and freshman Devin Gardner are listed as co-starters at quarterback. Head coach Rich Rodriguez reiterated Monday that Gardner won't redshirt this fall.
  • Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw are listed as co-starters at running back, with Michael Cox behind them.
  • True freshman Carvin Johnson is listed as the starter at the spur position (safety/linebacker). Pretty big surprise here, and a testament to Johnson's work in camp.
  • Senior James Rogers steps into Troy Woolfolk's starting cornerback spot opposite J.T. Floyd.
  • Receivers Martavious Odoms and Kelvin Grady clearly showed enough in camp to be listed as starters or possible starters against Connecticut.
NORTHWESTERN
  • Sophomore running back Arby Fields returned to practice Monday and wore a no-contact jersey after being sidelined with a shoulder problem. He's listed as a co-starter at running back with Jacob Schmidt and Stephen Simmons. Northwestern wanted a clear No. 1 running back to emerge in camp, but Fields' injury changed the plan.
  • Junior Bryce McNaul is listed as the third top linebacker alongside returning starters Quentin Davie and Nate Williams. McNaul won the job in camp.
  • Venric Mark is the only true freshman listed on the depth chart, both as a backup wide receiver and a co-starter at punt returner. I'll go out on a huge limb (sarcasm) and predict Mark will be the man on returns for the Wildcats very shortly.
OHIO STATE
  • Junior defensive end Nathan Williams, a projected starter, will miss the Marshall game with a knee injury. He should be back shortly thereafter. Solomon Thomas will start in Williams' spot Thursday night.
  • Starting cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) is questionable for the Marshall game, but corner Devon Torrence (hamstring) should be fine.
  • Sophomore C.J. Barnett's strong performance in camp lifted him ahead of Orhian Johnson on the Week 1 depth chart. Johnson missed a chunk of camp with an injury.
  • Start salivating, Buckeyes fans, because running backs Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry likely will handle kickoff returns against Marshall.
PENN STATE
  • Sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin and freshman Robert Bolden are listed as co-starters at quarterback for the Youngstown State game.
  • Sophomore Devon Smith's strong camp landed him a starting spot at both receiver and kick returner, and a backup role on punt returns.
  • Redshirt freshman Garry Gilliam is listed as the starting tight end, as Andrew Szczerba likely will miss the opener with a back injury. Penn State obviously is thin here after losing Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.
  • Veterans Nate Stupar, Chris Colasanti and Bani Gbadyu are listed as the starting linebackers, with promising younger players like Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges right behind them.
WISCONSIN
  • After a very impressive camp, freshman running back James White appears at No. 3 on the depth chart behind both John Clay and Montee Ball. White also is the No. 2 punt returner behind David Gilreath. His emergence likely will result in veteran Zach Brown redshirting the season.
  • Senior Blake Sorensen likely will start at outside linebacker, as Mike Taylor continues to rehab after undergoing a second procedure on his knee in camp. Culmer St. Jean and Chris Borland are listed as the other starting linebackers.
  • The starting cornerback spots remain open, as Niles Brinkley, Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith will compete in practice this week.
The position rankings march on as I take a look at the top five secondary units in the Big Ten this fall.

1. Iowa: Playmaker extraordinaire Tyler Sash leads a group that boasts good experience but must fill a major void following the departure of All-Big Ten cornerback Amari Spievey. Sash has recorded 11 interceptions in his first two seasons and already holds the team record with 350 interception return yards. His heroics overshadow the very solid play of fellow safety Brett Greenwood, who has started for two and a half seasons and owns seven interceptions and 18 pass breakups in his career. Shaun Prater is a returning starter at corner, and Iowa also has Jordan Bernstine, Micah Hyde, William Lowe and others.

[+] EnlargeTyler Sash
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallIowa's Tyler Sash will be one of the leaders of the Big Ten's No. 1 secondary.
2. Penn State: The Lions are always solid in the front seven, but the secondary might lead the unit in 2010. Starting safeties Drew Astorino and Nick Sukay both return, and cornerback D'Anton Lynn takes on an enhanced leadership role after recording five pass breakups last fall. Penn State also has high hopes for cornerback Stephon Morris, who recorded 30 tackles and an interception as a freshman in 2009. Converted receiver Chaz Powell should add depth at the corner spot. Opponents completed just 54.1 percent of their passes against Penn State last fall.

3. Ohio State: There are some question marks here after the departures of All-Big Ten standout Kurt Coleman and veteran safety Anderson Russell, but Ohio State almost always finds a way to survive in the back four. The return of Tyler Moeller definitely helps, and safety Jermale Hines could have a big year after recording two interceptions in 2009. Is Chimdi Chekwa ready to be a shut-down corner in the Big Ten? We'll find out. Also keep an eye on athletic corner Devon Torrence and safety Orhian Johnson.

4. Wisconsin: This isn't a shut-down secondary -- evidence: 55th in pass defense in 2009 (217.5 ypg) -- but there are playmakers and hard-hitters, specifically veteran safety Jay Valai, among the group. There's good depth at cornerback with returning starter Devin Smith, Niles Brinkley, Antonio Fenelus and Marcus Cromartie, who has stood out in camp so far. Chris Maragos is a significant loss at safety, and it remains to be seen whether Aaron Henry can regain his pre-injury form as he moves from cornerback to safety.

5. Minnesota: I'm taking a little leap of faith here again, but if safeties Kim Royston and Kyle Theret are on the field together, good things will happen. The two combined for 159 tackles, four interceptions and 14 pass breakups in 2009, and finished with an outstanding performance in the Insight Bowl. I also like talented young cornerback Michael Carter, while Ryan Collado brings experience to the other corner spot. Minnesota expects juco transfer Christyn Lewis and redshirt freshman Kenny Watkins to add depth at safety.

Up next: Offensive line

More rankings ...

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