Big Ten: Pat Devlin

Who'll start Saturday -- Christian Hackenberg or Tyler Ferguson?

Whatever the answer is, the quarterback will face the same challenge on Saturday by making his first career start. We can't peer into the future to see what the end result will be. (Hey, as Bill O'Brien likes to say, we're no genies.)

But we can look back to see how the last five Penn State quarterbacks fared in their first career starts. Here they are:

Matt McGloin, redshirt sophomore
vs. Michigan on Oct. 30, 2010
Outcome: PSU 41-31
Stats: 17-of-28 for 250 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions

Synopsis: After Rob Bolden suffered a head injury against Minnesota the week before, McGloin became the next man up. He was the first former walk-on to ever start under Joe Paterno.

After holding on to a 14-10 lead late in the second quarter, McGloin led PSU on two touchdown drives to give the Lions a 28-10 advantage by halftime. Said Paterno after the game: "That's about as well as we can play."

[+] EnlargeRob Bolden
Randy Litzinger/Icon SMIRob Bolden made history in 2010 as the first true freshman quarterback to start an opener for Penn State under coach Joe Paterno.
Rob Bolden, true freshman
vs. Youngstown State on Sept. 4, 2010
Outcome: PSU 44-14
Stats: 20-of-29 for 239 yards, two touchdowns, one interception

Synopsis: He was the first true freshman in a century to start an opener for Penn State, and he fared relatively well against lesser competition.

PSU started off slow and led just 16-7 at halftime, but Bolden was able to get some breathing room when Chaz Powell returned the second-half kickoff 100 yards for a touchdown. Bolden didn't get much help from the running game -- Evan Royster had 40 yards on 11 carries -- but PSU dominated after the touchdown return.

Daryll Clark, redshirt junior
vs. Coastal Carolina on Aug. 30, 2008
Outcome: PSU 66-10
Stats: 11-of-14 for 146 yards, one touchdown, no interceptions

Synopsis: Penn State performed as expected against an FCS cupcake and didn't even really need to pass. PSU rushed for 334 yards and led 38-0 by halftime.

Pat Devlin and Paul Cianciolo played later in the game because, well, there was really no reason for Clark to risk injury. Clark said this afterward: "When you first start, you want everything to go right. I don't think I got touched today."

Anthony Morelli, junior
vs. Akron on Sept. 2, 2006
Outcome: PSU 34-16
Stats: 16-of-32 for 206 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions

Synopsis: Morelli started off hot and drove the Lions to a score on their first drive, on a 42-yard touchdown pass to Deon Butler. He was 7-of-10 passing for 110 yards and two scores on just his first three drives -- and he was the first PSU quarterback since joining the Big Ten to throw three TDs in his first career start.

Said Akron coach J.D. Brookhart: "That kid can throw from one half to the other, 20 yards deep. You won't see a better arm this year."

Michael Robinson, redshirt sophomore
vs. Wisconsin on Oct. 4, 2003
Outcome: Wisconsin 30-23
Stats: 22-of-43 for 379 yards, two touchdowns, no interceptions; nine carries for 19 yards

Synopsis: Robinson stepped up when Zack Mills went down the week before with a sprained left knee, and he performed admirably. Although PSU didn't win, Robinson guided PSU on touchdown drives of 74, 80 and 70 yards. And, at the time, only one other PSU quarterback (Mills) had thrown for more yards in a game.

Robinson said this to the Philadelphia Inquirer: "Before the game, I kind of thought they would blitz me a little more, because that's what you usually do to a guy making his first start. You kind of want to get in his head a little bit. They played back and basically told me, 'Look, if you're going to beat us, you're going to have to throw the ball.' And I think we did a pretty good job."

Big Ten lunch links

December, 17, 2010
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Thanks to colleague Heather Dinich for filling in on the links Thursday. I caught a 24-hour flu bug, and it wasn't pretty.
ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper has updated his latest Big Board, as well as his top-5 positions lists for both seniors and non-seniors.

You need to be an ESPN Insider member to view the complete files, but here's where Big Ten players stack up:

Kiper's Big Board
  • Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn, the first Big Ten player on the board, dropped to No. 8 from No. 5 last week
  • Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan held steady at No. 13
  • Ohio State DL Cameron Heyward held steady at No. 15
Position Rankings: Seniors
  • Ohio State's Brandon Saine is No. 5 among running backs
  • Wisconsin's Lance Kendricks is No. 1 among tight ends
  • Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi is No. 5 among offensive tackles
  • Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski is No. 2 among centers (Wisniewski has moved back to guard this year)
  • Iowa's Clayborn is No. 1 among defensive ends
  • Purdue's Kerrigan is No. 3 among defensive ends
  • Ohio State's Heyward is No. 4 among defensive ends
  • Michigan State's Greg Jones is No. 1 among inside linebackers
  • Ohio State's Ross Homan is No. 4 among outside linebackers
  • Iowa's Ryan Donahue is No. 1 among punters
Position Rankings: Non-Seniors
  • Penn State's Joe Suhey is No. 4 among fullbacks
  • Northwestern's Al Netter is No. 4 among offensive tackles
  • Purdue's Ken Plue is No. 5 among guards
  • Ohio State's Mike Brewster is No. 1 among centers
  • Michigan's David Molk is No. 5 among guards
  • Wisconsin's J.J. Watt is No. 4 among defensive ends
  • Wisconsin's Philip Welch is No. 3 among kickers
  • Purdue's Carson Wiggs is No. 5 among kickers

Interesting selections here from Kiper. I was a bit surprised not to see Carimi higher on his lists, and the Big Ten's senior guards -- Ohio State's Justin Boren, Wisconsin's John Moffitt and Michigan's Stephen Schilling -- were shut out. Penn State fans might be interested to know that former Nittany Lion Pat Devlin ranks as the No. 3 senior quarterback.
ESPN's NFL draft expert Mel Kiper recently addressed a question Insider I get all the time: Where does Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor project for the NFL?

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport/US PresswireTerrelle Pryor's draft stock should soar if improves his footwork and decision-making.
Kiper drops the dreaded name -- Tim Tebow -- but points out an important difference between the former Florida star and quarterbacks like Pryor and Vince Young.
"While Tebow was in a system that asked him to run and he liked to run, Young and Pryor don't need to run, but they can run. It's a big distinction. Part of Young's growth and value as an NFL quarterback is his knowledge of his physical skills allowing him to run, but he doesn't have to just to have value. What Pryor will need to prove is that he has footwork, not just good feet, an accurate arm, not just a cannon, and that he can read plays and deliver with anticipation, not just find open receivers."

As I've written before, Pryor likely never will have textbook mechanics. But if he can improve in other areas, namely footwork and decision-making, he can be a heck of a college quarterback, and possibly a great pro quarterback. This spring, I saw improved footwork from Pryor, and if he can make smart decisions -- and anticipate the right throws, as Kiper says -- he should have a great junior season.

Kiper also weighs in on former Penn State quarterback Pat Devlin, now at Delaware, as well as former Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham, the first-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles.

I also missed this from last week, but Kiper has come out with his position rankings (top 5) for the 2011 NFL draft Insider. These are seniors only, so draft-eligible juniors like Pryor and Wisconsin's John Clay aren't on the list.

Here are the Big Ten players who made it:

  • Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, No. 2 offensive tackle
  • Ohio State's Justin Boren, No. 2 offensive guard
  • Michigan's Stephen Schilling, No. 3 offensive guard
  • Wisconsin's John Moffitt, No. 5 offensive guard
  • Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski, No. 2 center (note: Wisniewski practiced at guard this spring and likely will stay there this season)
  • Iowa's Adrian Clayborn, No. 2 defensive end
  • Ohio State's Cameron Heyward, No. 4 defensive end
  • Michigan State's Greg Jones, No. 3 inside linebacker
  • Iowa's Ryan Donahue, No. 1 punter

A solid list of players there. I was a little surprised not to see Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan or Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan, but the others look to be in the right places.

Kiper on Jones: "Jones is one of the purest tacklers you'll see in college football. His stock could rise next season on a potentially underrated Michigan State team, but he'll need to overcome questions about his size. I wouldn't be surprised to see him come into camp with 10 more pounds on that frame, which should help solidify his stock."

Kiper on Clayborn and Heyward: "Heyward came on strong this past season and should be an anchor of a top-five defense next season. Clayborn was a beast down the stretch, and it's huge for coach Kirk Ferentz to get him back as an anchor point for that defense, which loses significant talent elsewhere."

Kiper on Boren and Moffitt: "Moffitt is the only guy to be added to this list; Wisconsin should have an elite line next season with Moffitt and OT Carimi. RB John Clay will enjoy running behind them. Justin Boren isn't No. 1 here yet, but could jump [Rodney] Hudson with a dominant season for a Big Ten power."

Big Ten lunch links

April, 27, 2010
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Jack: Lemon, are you wearing a cup?
Liz: Oh, I forgot. Only guys can get hurt there.

Big Ten lunch links

April, 23, 2010
4/23/10
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Six spring games on tap Saturday, and then another college football Sahara begins. Ugh.

Here's the second half of my interview with Penn State Nittany Lions quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno. For Part I, click here.

You've been in this system [Spread HD] now for a couple of years. You did some different things with Daryll [Clark] in Year 1 versus Year 2, so there's some adaptability, right?

Jay Paterno: Yes. When we go out Friday and Saturday to practice, they're not going to be able to handle everything that Daryll did, but you continue to build toward that. You have your base building blocks, things that are bread-and-butter plays for you, and things that they ran last fall, so you've just got to build off that. I think we'll see good progress as we go through spring with them. Just in looking at film with the guys, you could see toward the end of last year, we had one or two games left before the bowl, you could see both Matt and Kevin start to project, 'Hey, Daryll only has two or three more games.' As soon as he's done on Jan. 1 or whatever date we ended up playing, in their mind, they're thinking, 'I better start to ramp it up a little bit.' And they both did. They were starting to prep themselves last November and all of December. And we held four or five bowl practices where Daryll did very, very little and those guys ran the team. They ran the first team to get a feel for it. We started, in their mind, getting ready that way.

Robert [Bolden] is the other guy here, and he's not getting in until the fall. Do you have to wait and see how these three other guys do and then evaluate how he might fit in? Would you like to redshirt Paul or Robert? Is it too early to tell?

Jay Paterno: I don't think we'll know that until we get through August. We have 15 spring practices and 27, 28 in August before our first game. We'll probably go through all but seven or eight of those practices before we really make a decision, which is similar to what we did with Daryll and Pat Devlin. About a week and a half before the first game [in 2008], it became pretty evident who the guy was. At that point, we said, "OK, we're going to name our starter." I would imagine we're going to be in about the same timetable. It'll create a long summer for me because already it's been, "Hey, who's gonna start? Do you guys know who's gonna start yet?" That's the one difference. When you've got a starter returning, people leave you alone. But when you don't know, and you've got a bunch of young guys, everybody wants to know what's going on, and there's a lot of interest. Which is good. It's one of the things about being at Penn State that's great, there's always a lot of interest. But we won't know until August.

Would you be comfortable playing two quarterbacks?

JP: You'd like to have a lot of guys that are really good. We're going to have a handful of guys that are really top-level talent, it seems like. If we evaluated these guys well at all, we'll be in pretty good shape, talent-wise. You'd like to have a dominant guy, but if that's not the case, people forget that Chris Leak and [Tim] Tebow both played when Florida won the national championship a couple years ago. Leak was the guy, but Tebow came in. We've done it with Kevin Thompson and Rashard Casey back in '99, and we had a really good offensive football team that year doing that. Whether that's the case or not, who knows? That's something that down the road, it's going to sort itself out. Ideally, you'd like to have one guy, but sometimes you have different talents and you want to utilize them. But that'll be something that comes down the road.

And finally, Jay, you have experience elsewhere on the offense. How helpful will that be when you have a new starting quarterback? You have Evan [Royster] coming back, a lot of your wide receivers, too.


JP: We've been pretty fortunate in that in '05, we had Mike [Robinson] as a first-year starter at quarterback, but an experienced guy, a guy who had been around and knew the system. He was an experienced guy with young wideouts, so he was able to make sure in the huddle they knew what they were doing. And then Daryll's first year as a starter [2008], we had experienced wideouts, so he knew where they were going to be and could rely on them. And then Daryll's last year, in '09, you had an experienced quarterback with young wideouts, so he could get them going.

Now we've got experienced wideouts with a young quarterback. So we're fortunate in that there are people around him, whoever the starter is, that know what they're doing, that have been in a lot of tough games and know what's going on, and have talent. We have good talent at the skill positions, we've got speed, so it's a good situation for a young quarterback to step into. You have some guys you can trust and who can make plays for you. There's some experience in the offensive line that's back, too. If we had a whole new offensive line, new wideouts and a new running back and we were breaking in a new quarterback, I'd be more worried. But the fact that he's going to be surrounded by some guys that have played is going to be a big help, whoever [the starter] is.
When Penn State opens spring practice later Friday, only one position group will be in the spotlight. The Nittany Lions are looking for a quarterback after losing two-year starter and Big Ten co-MVP Daryll Clark, who set several team passing records and led Penn State to consecutive 11-win seasons in 2008 and 2009. There's a ton of youth and very little experience at the position, as sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin will try to hold off talented incoming recruits Paul Jones (already enrolled) and Robert Bolden. Quarterbacks coach Jay Paterno will oversee the intriguing competition, and he took some time this week to talk about the personnel and his expectations for the spring.

How different will this spring be for you with so many young guys on the field?

Jay Paterno: Obviously, it's a lot different. You can't immediately do all the things we did last year with Daryll. We were able to do a lot from Day 1, so that makes it different. It's challenging, it's going to be a lot of fun, and it's why you coach. If this was the NFL, we'd have re-signed Daryll for five more years, and I'd have no worries this spring. But that's the difference between college and pro. We've got to move on.

What are your expectations, realistically, for these guys, and where would you like to see them at the end of the spring?

JP: It's hard to say where you want to see them. Kevin was the No. 2 guy last year, and McGloin was the No. 3 guy. So we had a package all year long that we would have played with if they had to play, if Daryll got hurt. So we have a launch point from that package to move on from there. And the things we had for them last year, there was enough variety -- formations, motions, things like that -- that we could have played a game and felt comfortable and we would have had enough to keep people off balance. So hopefully we can get those guys to move beyond that and be able to add some things and continue to grow. And I think they will be able to. The meetings we've had so far have gone really, really well. They're on top of what they need to know so far. I see a lot more maturity, a lot of intensity because all of a sudden, they're all in the mix. So it's been a good winter so far, and I'm hoping to see them build off what we did last year.

Were you hoping to get Kevin and maybe Matt into more games last year?

JP: You always wish you'd played the second guy and the third guy more than you did. There's really nobody in the country who would tell you differently. But we got them about as much playing time as we could, without jeopardizing the success of our team. People say, "Why didn't you play the second guy more often?" And the answer is, "Well, do you want us to stick him in there in the third quarter against LSU when we're in a tight game? When would you want to see him play?" It's one of those things that you always wish you'd played them a little bit more, but we did get Kevin a pretty good number of plays. He played more than people think. Obviously, he didn't start any games, but we got him some reps and he's been in games and he's comfortable going in there and running the huddle, things like that. So I don't think that'll be a problem.

Does Kevin have a bit of a leg up on the other guys, just because he's been out there more, or is everyone starting from square one?

JP: He would have a leg up, simply because he ran as our No. 2 last year. One of the things I do in the spring is I chart every pass they throw: why it was successful, why it wasn't. Sometimes, a play isn't successful because they were in the right defense. Sometimes, a kid drops the ball and that's not on the quarterback. We went through this with [Pat] Devlin and Clark, where we charted every pass, so on my computer I could pull up every pass we did. What they did last fall and where they came from in high school, none of that stuff matters. It's all going to be a matter of performance as we go forward. So [Newsome] would have a little bit of a leg up because he got more reps last spring and last fall than the other guys. But once we hit practice No. 1, it's not going to matter.

You've obviously seen these guys a lot more than we have on the outside. From a stylistic standpoint, are they very different? Are they similar? How will that affect what you do schematically?

JP: In terms of the difference in styles, Matt McGloin's probably more of a pocket guy than Kevin, just because that was the offense he ran in high school. Kevin was in more of a Wing-T, running, the same type of offense Michael Robinson ran in high school. Kevin, when he breaks contain, he does some really good things running the ball down the field. Matt is really comfortable sitting in the pocket and making the throws. We're getting Kevin to that point. That's going to be one thing we're going to work on, and with most young quarterbacks, that's the case. They have a tendency, when things break down, [to say] 'I better get out of here,' instead of staying in there like Daryll did for us so much. And then Paul, I haven't really seen Paul do anything live for us yet, so it's hard for me to really make any kind of judgment as to what he will be stylistically. He ran really well when we timed the guys. We did some winter conditioning, some things where they were running around and stuff. He moves really well, so he has the escapability that you want. And having had him in camp a year ago, we know he can throw.

How we are schematically, we start with the things that they handled last year and were comfortable with, and seemed to build from there. In the back of my mind, the ideal situation is they develop into all the things we want to do with them. But you're starting with the base point of what they could handle last fall, and you continue to build on that. If you get all the way to all the things you want to do, then great. If not, you've got to run with what they're best at doing. We're not going to be drastically different. We have a system that we're in now, and we're going to pretty much be in that system. We're not going to all of a sudden become three tight ends, two backs. We're not going to be running the wishbone.

Coming in Part II: Timetable for a decision on the starter, Bolden's outlook

Big Ten team recruiting needs

January, 20, 2010
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National Signing Day is right around the corner, and Big Ten teams will look to add depth and identify a few immediate contributors in the upcoming recruiting classes. What do these squads need the most?

Here's a look:

ILLINOIS

Offensive line: The line hasn't been great the last two seasons, and Illinois loses standout Jon Asamoah and center Eric Block. Illinois looks strong at running back in 2010, but someone needs to create rushing lanes.

Safety: The Illini defense hasn't been the same since the departures of safeties Kevin Mitchell and Justin Harrison following the 2007 season. Ron Zook could really use a safety or two who could step in and contribute right away against the run and in coverage.

INDIANA

Defensive end: The Hoosiers lose two multiyear starters at end: Jammie Kirlew, a two-time All-Big Ten selection, and Greg Middleton, who led the nation in sacks in 2007. Indiana's pass rush will suffer unless it builds depth at end and throughout the line.

Secondary: Indiana loses starting safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk as well as its top cornerback, Ray Fisher. Expect the Hoosiers to go very heavy with defensive back recruits as they try to shore up an area that has been problematic during the last decade.

Offensive line: The situation on the line certainly is better than it was a year ago, but the departure of talented left tackle Rodger Saffold creates a void. Indiana is the type of team that always could use more depth up front so the drop-off between starters and backups isn't so dramatic.

IOWA

Offensive line: Iowa loses four linemen who started most or all of its games last year, including All-Big Ten performers Bryan Bulaga and Dace Richardson. The Hawkeyes can't expect freshmen to come in and start right away up front, but they need some insurance if injuries crop up.

Linebacker: Standouts Pat Angerer and A.J. Edds depart, and while Iowa has some guys ready to step in, it can always use depth in the defensive midsection. The Hawkeyes defensive line should sizzle in 2010, but they need sure tacklers at linebacker, too.

MICHIGAN

Secondary: There's no mystery here, as the Wolverines really struggled with breakdowns in the back four and lose standout cornerback Donovan Warren to the NFL draft. Michigan needs to bolster its talent level at both cornerback and safety to have improved results in 2010.

Linebacker: The Wolverines linebackers struggled in 2009, and there are opportunities for young players to step in here and contribute. Obi Ezeh and Jonas Mouton are back, but it's obvious this is another area Michigan must upgrade this coming season.

Specialists: Michigan loses both of its starting specialists, including All-Big Ten punter Zoltan Mesko, a Ray Guy Award finalist. This is always an area where a strong true freshman can step in and contribute immediately.

MICHIGAN STATE

Trenches: Line play was a weakness for the Spartans in 2009, and they'll be looking to upgrade on both sides of the ball. They lose top pass rusher Trevor Anderson as well as left tackle Rocco Cironi, center Joel Nitchman and guard Brendon Moss on the offensive line.

Secondary: This unit turned out to be a major disappointment, considering the preseason expectations. Michigan State loses safety Danny Fortener and corners Ross Weaver and Jeremy Ware, and there should be ample opportunities for freshmen to step in and play.

Linebacker: Probably not a critical need, but Michigan State needs to start preparing for life after Greg Jones. The Spartans also lose Adam Decker and Brandon Denson from the 2009 team, and Eric Gordon will depart with Jones after 2010.

MINNESOTA

Cornerback: The Gophers lose both of their starters, Traye Simmons and Marcus Sherels, and will be looking to build depth behind Michael Carter in 2010. I'm very excited about what Minnesota returns at safety, but the situation at corner seems a bit unsettled.

Offensive line: Minnesota will stick with the pro-style offense no matter who becomes its next coordinator, but for the system to truly click, the Gophers really need to upgrade their line. The team returns quite a few linemen for 2010, but it'll look for improved depth up front.

Running back: After finishing last in the Big Ten in rushing each of the last two seasons, Minnesota certainly will look to get better here. Kevin Whaley's departure creates a spot for a newcomer to compete with Duane Bennett and DeLeon Eskridge for carries.

NORTHWESTERN

Secondary: The Wildcats lose three multiyear starters in the secondary, including All-Big Ten honorees Sherrick McManis and Brad Phillips. They'll need to build depth around safety Brian Peters and corner Jordan Mabin to avoid a major drop-off.

Defensive line: Corey Wootton's departure leaves NU without a proven pass rusher who can command double teams. The Wildcats also will look to build depth at defensive tackle after losing Adam Hahn and Marshall Thomas.

OHIO STATE

Safety: This is one of few spots where Ohio State loses two long-time contributors in Kurt Coleman, a first-team All-Big Ten selection, and Anderson Russell. Though Jermale Hines played a lot in 2009, the Buckeyes want to build depth around him.

Wide receiver: If the Buckeyes' offense builds off of its Rose Bowl performance, the wideouts figure to be more involved. Ohio State should be fine for 2010 with DeVier Posey and Dane Sanzenbacher, but it could lose both after the season and needs to start grooming replacements. These recruits also could help the return game, where Ohio State loses Ray Small and Lamaar Thomas.

PENN STATE

Quarterback: Two-year starter Daryll Clark is gone and Pat Devlin transferred following the 2008 season, creating a wide open competition at quarterback heading into 2010. Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin will compete, but Penn State always wants others in the mix there.

Linebacker: Penn State rarely has trouble reloading here, but it loses all three starters, including back-to-back first-team All-Big Ten selection Navorro Bowman. The Lions will look to build depth and identify an early contributor or two for the 2010 season.

Tight end/wideout: The Lions lose both Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler, so expect them to add a tight end or two in the incoming class. Quarless was a major part of the passing attack and Shuler hauled in two touchdowns, so Penn State won't neglect this position.

PURDUE

Secondary: A no-brainer here, as Purdue loses all four starters in the secondary, which has ranked in the upper half of the league against the pass. The Boilers likely need a newcomer or two to contribute right away in 2010.

Linebacker: Jason Werner hopes to return for a sixth year, but Purdue can't take any chances with a position that has struggled a bit the last two seasons. Danny Hope likes his young linebackers (Antwon Higgs, Dwayne Beckford), but he's looking for more.

Wide receiver/tight end: Purdue can never have enough pass receivers, and Hope will look to build around All-Big Ten performer Keith Smith in 2010. The Boilers lose No. 2 wideout Aaron Valentin, and Smith and tight end Kyle Adams depart after 2010.

WISCONSIN

Defensive line: All-Big Ten defensive end O'Brien Schofield departs, and the Badgers will be pretty young up front in 2010. It's important that Wisconsin builds depth behind players like J.J. Watt and Jordan Kohout.

Tight end: Lance Kendricks certainly eased concerns about this spot in the Champs Sports Bowl, but Wisconsin still loses All-Big Ten selection Garrett Graham as well as reserve Mickey Turner. No team in the Big Ten features the tight end spot as much as Wisconsin, so it'll be important to find a few recruits.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Daryll Clark should have been Big Ten preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Instead, the honor went to Terrelle Pryor.

 
 Maxwell Kruger/US PRESSWIRE
 Penn State has a 19-3 record with Darryl Clark as the starter.
Clark's masterful October should be the talk of the Big Ten right now. Instead, Pryor's struggles at Ohio State have dominated the discussion.

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno recently started to stump for Clark, saying the senior quarterback deserves more national recognition, perhaps even Heisman Trophy consideration. If Pryor boasted the same numbers as Clark, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel wouldn't need to say a word.

When it comes to hype and popularity, Pryor will always be No. 1 in this league. When it comes to production and leadership, Clark's the guy.

“He was a five-star recruit, a big-time guy coming out of high school, able to make plays with both his arm and his legs," Clark told ESPN.com this week. "So it’s a juicy story. He's going to receive a lot of media attention."

The attention has reached a fever pitch as Pryor returns to Happy Valley with No. 16 Ohio State to face No. 11 Penn State on Saturday (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). The Jeannette, Pa., product considered both Ohio State and Penn State during the recruiting process but opted to cross state lines and become a Buckeye.

Pryor's decision didn't sit well with Penn State fans, especially when he said he didn't like the State College area, calling it "too country." Nittany Nation is ready for his return, and Penn State students even made a T-shirt depicting "The Terrelle Cryer Story," which mocks Pryor's anguish following last year's loss to the Lions at Ohio Stadium.

"I'd like to get a few [T-shirts] before the game," Pryor told reporters Wednesday. "I'd like to wear one in warm-ups. I guess they're trying to get in my head. ... I can't let anything get to me."

 
Jeffrey Hixon-US PRESSWIRE 
Pennsylvania native Terrelle Pryor passed up a chance to play in Happy Valley. 
There's still some ill will toward Pryor in Happy Valley, but things seem to have worked out for both quarterbacks.

Pryor ascended to the starting job in just his fourth collegiate game and helped Ohio State reach the Fiesta Bowl last season. Clark led Penn State to a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl appearance last year and boasts a 19-3 record as the starter.

Though Clark was far less decorated than Pryor coming out of Youngstown, Ohio, his performance on the field has won over Penn State fans, who often tell him they're glad he's their guy.

"I do get that a lot, and it definitely means a lot," Clark said. "When Ohio State lost to Purdue and Pryor was under a lot of scrutiny, everyone was talking bad about him not being a quarterback, I would hear from home that Ohio State should have recruited me. That’s just the way it is. The quarterback is a tough position. You go through a lot of ups and downs."

Clark beat out another highly recruited quarterback, Pat Devlin, for the starting job last summer and thinks nothing would have changed had Pryor come to Penn State.

"He would have obviously come in and competed for the job, along with everyone else," Clark said. "The job would have been up in the air, but I definitely feel very confident that I would still become the starter and the season would have happened the way it happened. I don't know how they would use him, if they would use a Wildcat offense or whatnot, or maybe flank him out at receiver like you saw in the Fiesta Bowl last year."

Pryor is still trying to prove he can be a complete quarterback at the college level. He has rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries (7.8 yards per carry) in his last two games but ranks last among Big Ten starters in completion percentage (54.6).

Clark, meanwhile, leads the Big Ten in pass efficiency (149.3) and ranks sixth nationally in touchdown passes (18), having thrown only one interception in his last five games.

"Experience is everything," Tressel said. "This week we're facing Daryll Clark, and I think this is his sixth year out of high school. He's had a bunch of snaps. You can see he's in command of the football game. You can't flip a switch to get to that level.

"In Daryll's Year 2, he probably wasn't there, and I think Terrelle's a little bit ahead of the curve."

Big Ten lunch links

October, 29, 2009
10/29/09
12:30
PM ET
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

There are nights when the wolves are silent and only the moon howls. -- George Carlin

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


One of the things Jake Christensen likes about playing football at Eastern Illinois is the appreciation Panthers players have toward the game.

"The guys care more about football at this level, honestly," Christensen said Monday on a conference call with reporters. "It’s easy to care about football when you’re playing in front of 100,000 people every weekend and you’re a superstar in town."
Stephen Mally/Icon SMI
Jake Christensen returns to Penn State Saturday, this time as Eastern Illinois' quarterback.

EIU players will get a taste of the limelight Saturday (ESPN Classic, noon ET) when they face Penn State at Beaver Stadium (capacity: 107,282). The atmosphere will be unlike any the Panthers experience in the Ohio Valley Conference.

Christensen expects many of his teammates to be "awestruck at first," but he won't be. The former Iowa quarterback will be making his second trip to Happy Valley as a player after facing Penn State in 2007. Christensen endured a rough day in a rough season, as Iowa lost 27-7 and he was sacked five teams as the Hawkeyes recorded only eight first downs.

His lasting impression from Beaver Stadium?

"Real loud," he said. "They're going to be bigger than we are and probably faster than we are at every position, but it’s been done before and there’s no reason why we can’t do it. We’re not scared, we're not intimidated. We're ready to play football."

Christensen, who transferred to EIU this summer, would rather not look back at his time in Iowa City, but his connection to the Hawkeyes does work in his favor Saturday. After all, Iowa has won seven of its last eight games against Penn State, including a 21-10 triumph on Sept. 26.

"I don’t know, man," he said when asked to explain Iowa's success in the series. "They get some breaks against that team that I’ve never seen before in my life."

That wasn't the only playful jab he took at his former team. When asked if left-handers get picked on by their coaches, Christensen, a southpaw, said with a laugh, "Well, apparently Iowa's coaches didn't like me very much."

Christensen has done well at Eastern Illinois, completing 65.4 percent of his passes for 1,090 yards and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions in five games.

Here's a look at how several quarterback transfers from the Big Ten are faring with their new teams.
  • Jake Christensen (Iowa), Eastern Illinois: 89 of 136 passing for 1,090 yards, 11 TDs, 3 INTs, 218 ypg, 155.04 rating, 4-1 record
  • Kellen Lewis (Indiana), Valdosta State: 93 of 142 passing for 934 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs, 123.5 rating, 233.5 ypg, 4 rush TDs, 2-2 record
  • Pat Devlin (Penn State), Delaware: 100 of 155 passing for 1,252 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs, 144.7 rating, 4 rush TDs, 3-2 record
  • Clint Brewster (Minnesota), Tennessee Tech: No pass attempts this season.
  • Steven Threet (Michigan): sitting out the season at Arizona State, per NCAA transfer rules.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A team is often only as good as its backup quarterback, a fact that held true throughout the Big Ten in 2008.

Pat Devlin scored arguably the biggest touchdown of Penn State's season at Ohio State as the Nittany Lions rallied for a 13-6 win. Mike Kafka's record-setting rushing performance against Minnesota helped Northwestern to a huge win after injuries had hit several important positions. Several Big Ten squads also had backups emerge into starters, such as Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi.

Several Big Ten backups haven't played a down in a college game, so it's tough to pass judgment on them. But here's my stab at ranking the league's backup signal callers coming out of spring ball.

1. Michigan State -- The competition for the starting job between Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol remains too close to call, and that's not a bad thing. Both players performed very well during spring ball and particularly during the spring game. Whoever doesn't win the top job provides head coach Mark Dantonio with a solid No. 2 option. Cousins already held the role last fall and performed well.

2. Minnesota -- Head coach Tim Brewster reiterated throughout the spring that Adam Weber is his starter, but he also acknowledged that talented freshman MarQueis Gray will get on the field a lot this fall. Gray lived up to the hype in spring ball, and the Gophers likely will use a special package of plays to feature him in games. Should Weber go down, Minnesota should be fine with Gray.

3. Illinois -- The Illini boast the Big Ten's most experienced signal caller in Juice Williams, and they also have the league's most seasoned backup in Eddie McGee. McGee appeared in 12 games in 2007 and came up big against Missouri, Wisconsin and Penn State. The coaches have even used McGee on a series or two when Williams gets into trouble. Redshirt freshman Jacob Charest provides another solid option.

4. Ohio State -- Overall depth at quarterback is the only reason the Buckeyes aren't higher on the list. The coaches have confidence that Joe Bauserman can step in if Terrelle Pryor goes down with an injury. Bauserman boasts a strong arm and good knowledge of the scheme. It remains to be seen what Ohio State gets out of third-stringer Kenny Guiton, a late signee in February.

5. Wisconsin -- The starting job is not set in stone, though senior Dustin Sherer remains the frontrunner heading into the summer. Curt Phillips' push toward the end of spring should ease offensive coordinator Paul Chryst's concerns about the position. Phillips brings speed and athleticism to the backfield, and junior Scott Tolzien is a smart player who has been in the system for some time.

6. Michigan -- True freshman Tate Forcier emerged from a solid spring as the frontrunner at quarterback, though he'll still be pushed by Nick Sheridan and Denard Robinson in August. Sheridan has been in the fire and showed some good signs during spring ball before breaking his leg. But he might not be as strong of a fit as Robinson, who boasts track-star speed and, like Forcier, provides the improvisation skills needed to run this offense.

7. Northwestern -- Pat Fitzgerald and his staff are fully prepared to play a second quarterback at times this season. The nature of Northwestern's spread offense elevates the injury risk for quarterbacks, and Dan Persa likely will see the field, much like Kafka did in 2008. Persa's size (6-1, 200) is a bit of a concern, though he brings above-average mobility to the pocket. Incoming freshman Evan Watkins likely will redshirt this fall, but he's considered the team's quarterback of the future.

8. Purdue -- The Boilers would have been much better off with Justin Siller still in the fold, but the coaches liked what they saw from redshirt freshman Caleb TerBush this spring. Career backup Joey Elliott will get the first shot under center this fall, but TerBush is a big kid (6-5, 222) who can step in if things go south. The problem here is depth, as Purdue can't play Robert Marve until 2010.

9. Penn State -- Devlin's decision to transfer really stings Penn State, which can't afford to lose Daryll Clark and keep its Big Ten title hopes afloat. True freshman Kevin Newsome did some nice things this spring, but he's got a long way to go before leading the Spread HD offense in a Big Ten game. Matt McGloin provides the Nittany Lions with another option under center, but Penn State should take every precaution to keep Clark healthy.

10. Indiana -- The coaches' decision to move Kellen Lewis to wide receiver not only reaffirmed their faith in starter Ben Chappell, but also the men behind him. Teddy Schell came to Indiana as a decorated high school quarterback in Illinois and should finally get a chance to showcase himself. But Schell is unproven on the college level, and the same goes for promising redshirt freshman Adam Follett.

11. Iowa -- Nothing against James Vandenberg or John Wienke, but the college canvas is pretty blank on both redshirt freshmen right now. Despite all the Jake Christensen hatred, many level-headed Hawkeyes fans wouldn't mind having him around this season to back up Ricky Stanzi. An injury to Stanzi could derail Iowa's Big Ten title hopes, particularly with four very difficult conference road games (Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State).

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Of all the quarterbacks to depart Big Ten programs during the winter and spring, Pat Devlin might have left the biggest void.

Devlin provided Penn State with a dependable backup for Daryll Clark. He nearly won the starting job last summer and came up big late against Ohio State. Without Devlin, the Lions are very inexperienced under center and need Clark to stay healthy this fall.

The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane recently caught up with Devlin, who went through practice at Delaware this spring and hopes to follow Joe Flacco's path from FBS also-ran to FCS star. He didn't have too much to say about Penn State, other than that he wanted more than one year as the starter.

The turning point seemed to be Penn State's loss to Iowa. Clark struggled coming off a concussion, but the coaches never replaced him with Devlin.

"He genuinely thought he had earned playing time," said Dan Ellis, a former quarterback at Virginia. "And by their own estimation it was close. ... So if you have such a capable backup quarterback that just barely lost the starting quarterback competition, and Daryll Clark can't throw the ball very well against Iowa, why isn't he playing?"

Devlin also discusses his departure from Penn State in December. After being granted his release, Devlin still thought he would travel with the team for the Rose Bowl. But head coach Joe Paterno decided Devlin would be a distraction in Pasadena.

Twenty minutes after the conversation, Devlin went to the Lasch Building to work out and ran into equipment manager Spider Caldwell.

"He said, 'Joe just called me and told me to clean out your locker,'" Devlin recalled. "So I grabbed a trash bag and threw everything in my locker and left. That's kind of how it ended."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

A year ago, Daryll Clark was an unproven commodity competing for Penn State's starting quarterback spot alongside Pat Devlin. Clark now finds himself at the helm of the Nittany Lions as arguably the best quarterback in the Big Ten.

 
  Paul Spinelli/Getty Images
  Already entrenched as the starter, Daryll Clark hopes to build on what he accomplished in 2008.

He beat out Devlin for the top job and went on to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors, tallying 2,592 passing yards and 19 touchdowns with only six interceptions. Clark added 282 rush yards and 10 touchdowns for the nation's 14th-rated offense. After helping guide Penn State to an 11-2 mark and a Rose Bowl appearance, the 6-foot-2, 233-pound senior steps into a primary leadership position this spring on an offense that returns only five starters.

Here are Clark's thoughts on spring practice, his emergence last fall and the coming challenges for Penn State.

How different has this spring been for you as opposed to last year?

Daryll Clark: Last spring, it was a big decision on who was going to be the quarterback. It was competition. Whereas now, it's a little bit different. With Kevin Newsome being here, he's a freshman, he has a lot to learn. So this is a time for me to critique the mistakes I made from the past season and fine-tune everything I have to, to become a better quarterback and a better asset to this football team. Just become a bigger and better leader. There was a lot of help with all of the seniors we had last year. We have some this year, and our coaches have been calling upon a lot of our young guys to step to the forefront because we're going to need a lot of leadership to step up this year and fill some gaps. There are a lot of positions up in the air this spring. It's been real interesting. The first practice was pretty weird going out there and not seeing those three wideouts that I'm used to seeing [Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood].

Have you spent a lot of time watching those position battles at O-line and wide receiver?

DC: It's kind of tough to watch because I'm practicing in the thick of things throughout the entire practice. My reps are not limited. My main thing is just trying to get the timing down with all the wide receivers we have now. And it's going very well. With Derrick, Deon and Jordan, after the [2007] Alamo Bowl game, we started working on timing two weeks after. The same thing happened after the Rose Bowl this year with the younger guys. We have everyone on the same page to what we're trying to get accomplished this year, both offensively and defensively. Things have been pretty much going back and forth each practice, so that's a pretty good thing. Our wideouts are doing a great job of catching the ball, downfield blocking and making runs after the catch. Everything is on the up and up right now.

Who has stood out to you among the young guys?

DC: No one's really stood out. I think everyone is working at an even rate -- at a high rate, actually. To name a few, Chaz Powell, Derek Moye, Brett Brackett, Graham Zug, James McDonald, those guys really know that they're going to play this year, so it's important that they get everything down, get the whole terminology of the offense down and get used to the positions that they're going to play. I really haven't seen any nerves or anything like that because a lot of the guys have been playing, but just didn't get as many reps as our senior receivers from last year. They've played in a couple games already. Now they're going to be moving into a starting role, so I think they'll be ready.

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