Big Ten: Ryan Russell

Spring game recap: Purdue

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
No team in the Big Ten wants the 2014 season to arrive faster than Purdue, which wrapped up spring practice Saturday with the Black & Gold spring game at Ross-Ade Stadium. The Gold team scored a late touchdown to record a 12-7 win against the Black squad before an announced crowd of 7,125.

For more coverage, read here and here and here.

[+] EnlargeRyan Russell
Joe Robbins/Getty ImagesDefensive end Ryan Russell shined in Purdue's spring game.
Star of the game: Defensive end Ryan Russell. Purdue has waited years for Russell to take the next step, and it could finally happen in his last season. He came on strong late in the spring and recorded a game-high 11 tackles, as well as 3.5 sacks (some against non-live quarterbacks) and a forced fumble. "He's going with such a higher motor than I've ever seen him go with," quarterback Danny Etling said Saturday. "He's tough to go against. I feel sorry for the other quarterbacks who have to go against him."

How it went down: Both defenses controlled play for most of the game, generating two interceptions, two forced fumbles and 10 tackles for loss, seven by the Black squad. Although Purdue's offense looked better at times this spring, there are some unanswered questions entering the summer, namely quarterback.

Etling completed 10 of 17 passes for 96 yards with no touchdowns or interceptions and faced a lot of pressure from Black team defensive linemen. He led the game-winning touchdown drive and appeared to emerge from the spring with a slight edge against Austin Appleby, who struggled, completing seven passes for 21 yards with two interceptions and no touchdowns. Stretching the field proved to be very difficult for both Etling and Abbleby, although freshman David Blough made some plays, including a 41-yard scoring pass to Danny Anthrop.

To be fair, neither Etling nor Appleby played with a full complement of receivers or top linemen.

"The package was very limited with what they called," coach Darrell Hazell said. "I'm sure there was more on the call sheet."

Purdue needs improvement from the quarterbacks this summer, but it can feel better about the potential at running back. Raheem Mostert had an excellent spring and finished with a decent day (44 rush yards on 10 carries). Akeem Hunt ended the spring on a good note with 54 rush yards and 73 receiving yards. Mostert and Hunt form a nice 1-2 punch, and both are threats on returns as well.

The Gold team repeatedly forced three-and-outs and received nice lifts from tackle Michael Rouse III (two tackles for loss, forced fumble), end Antoine Miles and cornerback Anthony Brown. Miles and Brown both had interceptions.

Big Ten's lunch links

April, 14, 2014
Apr 14
I missed all the spring games this weekend because I was busy attending Joffrey's wedding.

Video: Purdue DE Ryan Russell

April, 3, 2014
Apr 3
Purdue defensive end Ryan Russell talks with Adam Rittenberg about his spring and maximizing his final season as a Boiler.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- There's no sugarcoating 1-11.

[+] EnlargeDarrell Hazell
Pat Lovell/USA TODAY SportsPurdue coach Darrell Hazell hopes his offseason message gets through to his players.
When a team performs as poorly as Purdue did in 2013, honesty isn't the best assessment, but the only assessment. As the Boilers closed the book on the season and looked ahead to winter workouts and a pivotal offseason, coach Darrell Hazell bluntly stated what needed to happen.

"Two strong messages," Hazell told "The strong have to overtake the weak, and the right have to overtake the wrong. The guys in this program who are doing it the right way have to overtake the guys who are doing it the wrong way.

"We just keep hitting them with that message: the strong overtake the weak, and the right overtake the wrong."

The takeover is happening this spring. Is it hostile? At times.

But Purdue's coaches have seen differences in who is leading, who is working hard, and how much time players are devoting to the game.

"We don't have time for people who aren't going in the direction that we're going," quarterback Austin Appleby said. "The guys that aren't all about it are getting suffocated by us. Our goal is the Rose Bowl. Our goal is the Big Ten championship. In order to do that, everyone's got to buy in."

More players are. When offensive coordinator John Shoop shows up to make his morning coffee, players are in the office watching film. Before leaving at night, he tells players to turn off the lights.

But the cleansing isn't complete.

"It's maybe not all the way weeded out, but it's been identified," senior defensive end Ryan Russell said. "Everyone knows basically if you're not giving it your all and you're not committed, we see you, the seniors see you, and we're not taking that lightly."

Added Appleby: "Those guys eliminate themselves."

Russell admits the older players had to recommit to Hazell and his staff after coming to play for predecessor Danny Hope. The lack of coaching continuity, especially on defense, has burdened players and tested their willingness to trust.

But older players such as center Robert Kugler, linebacker Sean Robinson, tight end Dolapo Macarthy, cornerback Frankie Williams and safety Landon Feichter are leading the takeover, and others are falling in line.

"We're not going to let a weak link hold us down," Appleby said. "We aren't going to have any weak links. We're all going."
Purdue's oldest defenders have endured only one complete coaching change since they arrived on campus. So why does it feel like more?

Former Boilermakers coach Danny Hope made changes to the defensive coordinator position after the 2009, 2010 and 2011 seasons. After Hope's ouster, another new defensive play-caller, Greg Hudson, arrived with Darrell Hazell last season.

The changes don't excuse a defense that last fall finished 111th in points allowed, 104th in yards allowed, 114th against the run, 101st in pass efficiency and 120th in red zone defense. Purdue's offense might have been historically bad, but the defense wasn't far off.

[+] EnlargeRyan Russell
AP Photo/Damen Jackson via Triple Play New MediaIt's now or never for Purdue defensive end Ryan Russell, who has been up and down in his career.
The good news: the Boilers get a chance to push the reset button with the same coordinator and scheme.

"It's the first spring these older guys have gone into where they're speaking the same language," Hudson told "Now you're able to have football conversations with them. They're starting to retain it."

Hudson sees it in the increased numbers of players at Mollenkopf Center on their own time. He sees it in their willingness to learn and in the questions that they ask.

"It's very, very important that the players build equity in the defense," he said. "The more equity, the more ownership."

Purdue's seniors, in particular, have to take ownership of the defense. Hudson has applied the necessary pressure -- "If they don't play well, we're not going to be very good," he said -- while also making it clear that the coaches will go with younger players if they're deserving. Seniors such as end Ryan Russell, safety Landon Feichter and linebacker Sean Robinson all have plenty of snaps under their belts.

None are guaranteed to start when Purdue kicks off the season Aug. 30 against Western Michigan. Russell looked like Purdue's next elite pass rusher after the 2011 season, but his production the past two years has been spotty.

"It's do or die for him," Hudson said. "He's running out of reps. The ability's there. He's got to be at 100 miles an hour instead of 75. I just told him it's like driving. You need to break the speed limit every time the ball's snapped."

Hudson needs his seniors to elevate their play, but he's also optimistic about several younger players, including ends Evan Panfil and Jake Replogle, both of whom saw the field as true freshmen last fall. Replogle is working with the first-team defense in spring, while Panfil is backing up Russell.

Last spring, Purdue coaches stressed the need for players to become "Big Ten strong." It didn't show up in the fall, as the Boilers dropped all but one of their Big Ten games by 14 points or more and six league contests by 20 points or more.

Is Purdue any closer?

"We've taken another step," Hudson said. "There's another level out there that we need to get to. There's a fine line between building athletes and building football players. We have to find that fine line. They still have to play the game in this league at a very powerful level. I don't want to recruit a bunch of guys at Gold's Gym, but we've moved forward."

Hudson's two main goals for the spring are comprehension of the scheme and relentless play. The first is helped by greater familiarity for players; the second by constant competition.

"There's not very many guys that can separate themselves from the guy behind them," he said. "Their names are written in pencil."
We're taking snapshots of each position group with each Big Ten team entering the spring. Up next: the linebackers.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Illinois: This is a significant concern for the Illini, especially after the recent departure of Houston Bates, who started last season at the Leo (defensive end/outside linebacker) spot. Illinois also loses its other starting defensive end, Tim Kynard. The team will rely heavily on junior-college players such as Jihad Ward and Joe Fotu, but it also needs holdovers like Dawuane Smoot and Paul James III to step up on the perimeter. Illinois returns more experience inside with Austin Teitsma and Teko Powell, but there should be plenty of competition, especially with the juco arrivals, after finishing 116th nationally against the run.

Indiana: The anticipated move to a 3-4 alignment under new coordinator Brian Knorr creates a different dynamic for the line this spring. Indiana must identify options at the all-important nose tackle spot, and possibilities include sophomores Ralphael Green and Darius Latham, both of whom are big bodies. Nick Mangieri had a nice sophomore season and should be in the mix for a starting job on the perimeter (end or outside linebacker), while David Kenney could be a good fit as a 3-4 end. Defensive end Ryan Phillis is the team's most experienced lineman, and Zack Shaw also has some starting experience.

Iowa: This group should be the strength of the defense as Iowa returns three full-time starters -- tackles Carl Davis and Louis Trinca-Pasat, and end Drew Ott -- as well as Mike Hardy, who started the second half of the season opposite Ott. End Dominic Alvis departs, but Iowa brings back almost everyone else from a line that allowed only eight rushing touchdowns in 2013. Junior Darian Cooper could have a bigger role and push for more playing time inside, and Nate Meier provides some depth on the perimeter after recording two sacks in 2013. Iowa is in good shape here.

Maryland: The Terrapins employ a 3-4 scheme and appear to be in good shape up front, as reserve Zeke Riser is the only rotation player to depart. Andre Monroe leads the way at defensive end after an excellent junior season in which he led Maryland in both sacks (9.5) and tackles for loss (17). Quinton Jefferson started at defensive end last season and recorded three sacks. There should be some good competition this spring at nose tackle between Keith Bowers and Darius Kilgo, both of whom had more than 30 tackles last season. The challenge is building greater depth with players such as end Roman Braglio.

Michigan: If the Wolverines intend to make a big step in 2014, they'll need more from the front four, which didn't impact games nearly enough last fall. Michigan's strength appears to be on the edges as veteran Frank Clark returns after starting every game in 2013 and recording a team-high 12 tackles for loss. Brennen Beyer, who started the second half of last season, is back at the other end spot, and Michigan has depth with Mario Ojemudia and Taco Charlton. There are more questions inside as Willie Henry, Chris Wormley and others compete for the starting job. Young tackles such as Henry Poggi and Maurice Hurst Jr. also are in the mix, and Ondre Pipkins should be a factor when he recovers from ACL surgery.

Michigan State: The Spartans return the best defensive end tandem in the league as Shilique Calhoun, a second-team All-American in 2013, returns alongside Marcus Rush, one of the Big Ten's most experienced defenders. Joel Heath, Brandon Clemons and others provide some depth on the perimeter. It's a different story inside as MSU loses both starters (Micajah Reynolds and Tyler Hoover), as well as reserve Mark Scarpinato. Damon Knox, James Kittredge and Lawrence Thomas, who has played on both sides of the ball, are among those who will compete for the starting tackle spots. If Malik McDowell signs with MSU, he could work his way into the rotation.

Minnesota: Defensive tackles like Ra'Shede Hageman don't come around every year, and he leaves a big void in the middle of Minnesota's line. The Gophers will look to several players to replace Hageman's production, including senior Cameron Botticelli, who started opposite Hageman last season. Other options at tackle include Scott Ekpe and Harold Legania, a big body at 308 pounds. Minnesota is in much better shape at end with Theiren Cockran, arguably the Big Ten's most underrated defensive lineman. Cockran and Michael Amaefula both started every game last season, and Alex Keith provides another solid option after recording five tackles for loss in 2013.

Nebraska: Other than MSU's Calhoun, Nebraska returns the most dynamic defensive lineman in the league in Randy Gregory, who earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in his first FBS season. If the Huskers can build around Gregory, they should be very stout up front this fall. Nebraska won't have Avery Moss, suspended for the 2014 season, and players such as Greg McMullen and junior-college transfer Joe Keels will compete to start opposite Gregory. The competition inside should be fascinating as junior Aaron Curry and sophomore Vincent Valentine both have starting experience, but Maliek Collins came on strong at the end of his first season and will push for a top job.

Northwestern: It will be tough to get a clear picture of this group in the spring because of several postseason surgeries, but Northwestern should be fine at defensive end despite the loss of Tyler Scott. Dean Lowry, Ifeadi Odenigbo and Deonte Gibson all have significant experience and the ability to pressure quarterbacks. Odenigbo, who had 5.5 sacks as a redshirt freshman, could become a star. The bigger questions are inside as Northwestern must build depth. Sean McEvilly is a solid option but must stay healthy. Chance Carter and Max Chapman are among those competing for starting jobs at tackle.

Ohio State: A total mystery last spring, the defensive line should be one of Ohio State's strengths in 2014. Noah Spence and Joey Bosa could become the Big Ten's top pass-rushing tandem, and the Buckeyes have depth there with Jamal Marcus, Adolphus Washington and others. Returning starter Michael Bennett is back at defensive tackle, and while Joel Hale might move to offense, there should be enough depth inside with Tommy Schutt, Chris Carter and Washington, who could slide inside. Nose tackle is the only question mark, but new line coach Larry Johnson inherits a lot of talent.

Penn State: Like the rest of the Lions defense, the line struggled at times last season and now much replace its top player in tackle DaQuan Jones. The new coaching staff has some potentially good pieces, namely defensive end Deion Barnes, who won 2012 Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors but slumped as a sophomore. Barnes and C.J. Olaniyan could form a dangerous pass-rushing tandem, but they'll need support on the inside, where there should be plenty of competition. Austin Johnson will be in the mix for a starting tackle spot, and early enrollees Tarow Barney and Antoine White also should push for time. Anthony Zettel provides some depth on the perimeter.

Purdue: The line endured a tough 2013 campaign and loses two full-time starters (tackle Bruce Gaston Jr. and end Greg Latta), and a part-time starter (end Ryan Isaac). Competition should be ramped up at all four spots this spring. Senior end Ryan Russell is the most experienced member of the group must take a step this offseason. Evan Panfil and Jalani Phillips will push for time at the end spots, along with Kentucky transfer Langston Newton. The group at tackle includes Ryan Watson and Michael Rouse III, both of whom started games in 2013.

Rutgers: Keep a close eye on this group in the spring as Rutgers begins the transition to the Big Ten. The Scarlet Knights lose two starters in end Marcus Thompson and tackle Isaac Holmes, as well as contributor Jamil Merrell at tackle. Darius Hamilton provides a building block on the inside after recording 4.5 sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss in 2013, and end Djwany Mera is back after starting throughout last season. David Milewski played tackle last year, but both he and Hamilton likely need to add weight for their new league. Rutgers has some talent in the younger classes and needs players such as Sebastian Joseph, Kemoko Turay and Julian Pinnix-Odrick to emerge.

Wisconsin: Linebacker Chris Borland is the biggest single departure for the Badgers' defense, but the no position group loses more than the line. Wisconsin must replace several mainstays, most notably nose tackle Beau Allen, who performed well in the first year of the 3-4 set under coordinator Dave Aranda. Senior Warren Herring will step in for Allen after three years as a reserve. Konrad Zagzebski is a good bet to fill one of the end spots, but there will be plenty of competition with players such as Jake Keefer, James Adeyanju, Arthur Goldberg and Chikwe Obasih.

Purdue Boilermakers, Minnesota Golden Gophers, Penn State Nittany Lions, Big Ten Conference, Michigan State Spartans, Northwestern Wildcats, Indiana Hoosiers, Illinois Fighting Illini, Ohio State Buckeyes, Michigan Wolverines, Wisconsin Badgers, Iowa Hawkeyes, Nebraska Cornhuskers, Rutgers Scarlet Knights, Maryland Terrapins, C.J. Olaniyan, Ryan Phillis, Louis Trinca-Pasat, DaQuan Jones, Konrad Zagzebski, Tyler Hoover, Larry Johnson, Micajah Reynolds, Warren Herring, Aaron Curry, Ra\'Shede Hageman, Harold Legania, Beau Allen, Austin Teitsma, Ryan Russell, Marcus Rush, Sean McEvilly, Lawrence Thomas, Dominic Alvis, Deion Barnes, Chance Carter, Max Chapman, Zack Shaw, Bruce Gaston Jr., Shilique Calhoun, Deonte Gibson, Michael Amaefula, Damon Knox, Darian Cooper, Jalani Phillips, Joel Hale, Jake Keefer, Anthony Zettel, Houston Bates, Tyler Scott, Carl Davis, Noah Spence, Nick Mangieri, Greg McMullen, Arthur Goldberg, Randy Gregory, Ryan Isaac, Tommy Schutt, Adolphus Washington, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Vincent Valentine, Jamal Marcus, Teko Powell, Greg Latta, Ryan Watson, James Kittredge, Tim Kynard, Mark Scarpinato, Chris Carter, Ralphael Green, Chikwe Obasih, Malik McDowell, David Kenney, Dawuane Smoot, Darius Latham, Nate Meier, Dean Lowry, Joey Bosa, Dave Aranda, Evan Panfil, Cameron Botticelli, Theiren Cockran, Avery Moss, Michael Rouse III, Drew Ott, Scott Ekpe, Antoine White, Alex Keith, Paul James, Joe Keels, Tarow Barney, Jihad Ward, Maliek Collins, Langston Newton, Joe Fotu, Andre Monroe, B1G spring positions 14, Quinton Jefferson, Keith Bowers, Darius Kilgo, Roman Braglio, Marcus Thompson, Isaac Holmes, Jamil Merrell, Djwany Mera, David Milewski, Sebastian Joseph, Kemoko Turay, Julian Pinnix-Odrick, James Adeyanju

LINCOLN, Neb. -- Only twice in its illustrious history has Nebraska averaged 200 yards rushing and 200 yards passing in the same season.

Only once – last season – has it reached 250 rushing and 200 passing.

Through six games this fall, the Huskers sit at 285 rushing and 205 passing. Granted, three of the Big Ten’s top four rushing defenses – Michigan State, Iowa and Michigan – await Nebraska in November, and the other top unit against the run, Ohio State, might well be there for the Huskers in Indianapolis on Dec. 7 if things go as planned in Lincoln.

Regardless, credit the Nebraska offensive line, whose members talked in August of ranking as a vintage Huskers group. That’s a mouthful at a school that won six Outland Trophies and 13 NCAA rushing titles in the 1980s and 1990s alone.

[+] EnlargeSpencer Long
Reese Strickland/US PresswireSpencer Long will miss the rest of the season with a knee injury, forcing a shift on the Nebraska offensive line.
These guys have held their own, though, allowing a FBS-low three sacks in the season’s first half.

Now they meet their biggest challenge, the test the Nebraska linemen hoped they would never face: the loss of Spencer Long. How they respond will define the way they are remembered.

“From here on out, we’re playing for Spencer,” said junior Mike Moudy, Long’s likely replacement at right guard next Saturday when Nebraska visits Minnesota. “We’ve got the drive to compete for him. Without him, we wouldn’t be where we’re at. But everyone’s just taking that in stride and saying we’re going to give our all to Spence.”

Long meant so much to his teammates. He was a throwback to the great linemen of Huskers past – a walk-on from Elkhorn, Neb., who toiled on the scout team, earned his scholarship, then all-conference honors and a recognition as a captain in his fifth-year senior season.

He started 33 games. He remains a top student, majoring in pre-med. He’ll probably be a doctor, even if the NFL delays his continued studies.

He went down on the fifth play from scrimmage last week in the Huskers’ 44-7 win at Purdue. Long was hustling around the backside of a rush by Imani Cross and fell over the legs of defensive end Ryan Russell. Long’s left knee buckled.

Coach Bo Pelini was among the first to reach him on the ground. Long underwent surgery Thursday to repair a torn MCL. Don’t bet against his return in time to work for NFL scouts ahead of the May 8-10 NFL draft.

“What happened to Spencer sucks,” senior left tackle Jeremiah Sirles said. “There’s no way around it. His career got cut short here at Nebraska, but a lot of young guys have got great opportunities now.

“We’re going to honor Spencer with our effort. We’re going to honor Spencer with the way we play, because he was our captain. We followed him.”

Who will they follow now? Perhaps Sirles, a veteran of 34 starts, fellow seniors Andrew Rodriguez at right tackle and center Cole Pensick. With Moudy and junior Jake Cotton at left guard, the offensive line is still a seasoned group.

Coaches have talked this week of shifting Pensick, using untested Ryne Reeves or Givens Price or even pulling the redshirt from junior college transfer Chongo Kondolo.

It will work best if Moudy sticks. He fits the pedigree at 6-foot-5 and 300 pounds, another top student who has worked in the program for four years. As recently as last season, Moudy spent time on the scout team. Pelini said he noticed a big jump in the spring.

What happened?

“Probably just wanting to play, “Moudy said. “The desire to play. I kind of got tired of sitting on the scout team. I had to take another step mentally.”

Long, with Cotton and offensive line coach John Garrison, aided Moudy in his ascent.

He began to prove himself at Purdue. Moudy allowed one sack but otherwise played well.

The other linemen chided him for the mistake.

“He did a great job,” Sirles said, “but he’s going to held to the same standard Spencer was held to. People are like, ‘Oh, that’s not fair.' But we all hold ourselves to a high standard. It doesn’t matter who’s out there playing.”

Injuries such as this one are all too common over the past two seasons at Nebraska. Senior defensive tackle Baker Steinkuhler went down last year during the Huskers’ regular-season finale against Iowa.

The defense did not respond well as Wisconsin and Georgia gouged Nebraska for 115 points in subsequent games.

I-back Rex Burkhead, a leader and motivational figure in the same vein as Long, missed six games of his senior year with a knee injury last season. In his place, the Huskers found a new star, Ameer Abdullah, and hardly missed a beat.

Which path will the offensive line take over the next six weeks? It figures to define their legacy.

Nebraska lineman Long out for season

October, 15, 2013
Nebraska senior co-captain and three-year starting right guard Spencer Long is done playing for the season with an injury to his left knee that will require surgery.

Coach Bo Pelini said Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches’ teleconference that an evaluation after the Huskers’ 44-7 win on Saturday over Purdue showed less damage than originally feared, but Long, a first-team All-Big Ten pick by ESPN and second-team Associated Press All-American a year ago, will undergo surgery on Thursday.

Long was hurt on a running play during Nebraska’s opening drive against the Boilermakers when he fell over Purdue defensive end Ryan Russell as the Nebraska lineman tried to block on the backside of a rush by Imani Cross. A former walk-on from Omaha, Neb., Long has started 33 games since 2011.

He was the most experienced member of an offensive line that helped the 5-1 Huskers rush for 284.8 yards this season, eighth nationally and second to Wisconsin in the Big Ten. Additionally, Nebraska has allowed three sacks in six games, tied for the fewest nationally with Fresno State, Northern Illinois and Toledo.

Junior Mike Moudy replaced Long against Purdue and will likely move into the starting lineup on Oct. 26 against Minnesota, opposite junior Jake Cotton at left guard. The Huskers are off this week.

Sophomores Givens Price and Ryne Reeves could also receive more playing time as a result of the injury. Newcomer Chongo Kondolo, a junior-college transfer who is on target to redshirt this season, could also factor, Pelini said.

“We’re looking at all our options,” Pelini said.

Taylor Martinez’s status has not changed. He’s still not returned to practice or cleared to return, according to Pelini.

Purdue season preview

August, 8, 2013
Can Darrell Hazell bring Purdue back to contender status? Let's take a closer look at the 2013 Boilermakers …


Coach: Darrell Hazell (16-10 overall, two seasons; first season at Purdue)

2012 record: 6-7 (3-5 Big Ten)

Key losses: DT Kawann Short, CB Josh Johnson, QB Robert Marve, RB Akeem Shavers, WR Antavian Edison, C Rick Schmeig

Key returners: DT Bruce Gaston Jr., DE Ryan Russell, S Landon Feichter, CB Ricardo Allen, RB Akeem Hunt, C Robert Kugler, TE Gabe Holmes

[+] EnlargeDanny Etling
AP Photo/Daryl Quitalig via Triple Play New MediaFreshman Danny Etling will battle senior Rob Henry for the Boilers' starting quarterback job.
Newcomer to watch: True freshman QB Danny Etling enrolled in January and was impressive during the spring. So impressive, in fact, that he emerged as one of the top two contenders for the No. 1 quarterback job, along with senior Rob Henry. Don't be surprised to see Etling starting early on.

Biggest games in 2013: The Boilermakers have a difficult nonconference schedule that includes trips to Cincinnati (Aug. 31) and visits from 2012 BCS bowl teams Notre Dame (Sept. 14) and Northern Illinois (Sept. 28). They open conference play at Wisconsin on Sept. 21 and also play Nebraska (Oct. 12), at Michigan State (Oct. 19) and Ohio State (Nov. 2) in their first four Big Ten games. They close the season on the road against rival Indiana.

Biggest question mark heading into 2013: The quarterback battle is obviously a big question looming over this team in preseason camp, and the Boilers might have to live with some mistakes there, especially if they start a true freshman. An even bigger question might be at linebacker. Though there is some experience at the position with Will Lucas, Sean Robinson and Joe Gilliam, Purdue has had subpar linebacker play the past couple of seasons, and that has held the defense back in some of its bigger games. Robinson did a nice job last season, but the fact that he converted from quarterback and earned a starting job tells you a lot about the depth at the position.

Forecast: Just about everybody loved the hire of Hazell, a former longtime Ohio State assistant who worked some magic at Kent State. Hazell has already won over players and fans with his upbeat yet no nonsense style, and he promises to bring far more discipline on and off the field than former coach Danny Hope, who was fired despite getting the team to a second straight bowl game last season.

But there's little doubt that Hazell faces a rebuilding job, even though the Boilers pushed both Notre Dame and Ohio State to the wire last season. There are question marks at quarterback and linebacker, and the team will need several young players to step forward at the skill positions. Hunt had a great offseason and could be a dynamic running back with a track star's speed, but he is small in stature and took only 42 carries last season. Can Purdue's offensive line mash people enough to play Hazell's preferred power-run style? The defense has some really strong building blocks in defensive tackle Gaston, defensive end Russell and cornerback Allen, but opposing Big Ten offenses have been able to exploit the Boilers' weaknesses the past two seasons.

The biggest hurdle for Purdue might be that schedule. The Boilers could be underdogs in six of their first seven games, and that might make getting back to a bowl difficult. Hazell doesn't want to settle for more 6-6 type seasons, anyway.

"One of the first things that I said to our team -- our very first team meeting on that Sunday night -- was Purdue was always a team that's perceived in the middle of the Big Ten," Hazell said at Big Ten media days. "And I told them it's going to take a lot of work, but we're going to climb ourselves out of the middle, and we're going to put this program in national prominence for a long point in time."

Hazell looks like the right coach to lift Purdue back up. It just might not happen this season.
We've spent the past several days looking at which Big Ten players can reach some major single-season statistical milestones in 2013. On Tuesday, we hit the defense and which players could compile 100 tackles this season. Let's wrap this up now by analyzing who might record another impressive defensive achievement: double digits in sacks.

(We do so in honor of the late, great sack master Deacon Jones, who was so good that he is credited with inventing the term "sack." I have a feeling some quarterbacks in heaven are looking over their shoulders right about now).

The Big Ten didn't have any players reach 10 sacks last year, but two did so in 2011, including national leader Whitney Mercilus of Illinois. Who's the most likely to bring the pain to opposing backfields and potentially crack double digits this fall? Let's examine the candidates in order of likelihood.

Deion Barnes, DE, Penn State: The Big Ten's reigning freshman of the year finished with six sacks in 2012, and while that leaves him pretty far away from 10, we think he'll only continue to get better. Losing Jordan Hill might mean he gets more attention, but Barnes still has plenty of room to grow.

Tyler Scott, DE, Northwestern: Perhaps Scott should have topped our list, as he did have nine sacks last year. He looked like one of the most improved players in the league last year and has the strength to cause opposing offensive tackles all kinds of problems.

Adolphus Washington and Noah Spence, DE, Ohio State: The Buckeyes' two super sophs deserve to be mentioned together right now. Both got a taste of playing time last year, with Washington having a bigger impact than Spence. Both wreaked havoc this spring against a veteran offensive line. Offensive tackle Jack Mewhort has predicted Spence will lead the Big Ten in sacks. But will he even lead his own team in that category?

Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: The Gophers' large human being had six sacks a year ago and has been tearing it up this offseason. It's not always easy for an interior lineman to rack up big sack totals, though. It could be that he creates traffic jams and opens up opportunities for teammates like Thieren Cockran and Michael Amaefula to reach the quarterback.

Ryan Russell, DE, Purdue: Russell had only four sacks last year and has yet to put up the big stats that his potential suggests he can. But that's just it: the potential is there. He could be ready to make the leap.

Denicos Allen, LB, Michigan State: Allen managed only three sacks last year, but the "Waterboy" put up 11 in 2011, so the ability is there. The Spartans were strangely poor at bringing down the quarterback in 2012 despite their defensive talent, but the speedy Allen could help change that in '13 if he rediscovers his heat-seeking form.

Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska: If you want to speculate on sacks, Gregory is a good stock to buy. He was ranked by some as the top junior college defender in the nation last year, and he racked up 21 tackles for loss and nine sacks at Arizona Western. The opportunity for immediate playing time is definitely there on the Huskers' D-line.

Others to watch: Frank Clark, DE, Michigan; Brendan Kelly, DE/OLB Wisconsin; Carl Davis, DT, Iowa; Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois.
Welcome back from the holiday weekend. Today, we're going to begin taking a look at several Big Ten players who have a lot to prove in the 2013 season. We'll break this up by division, with the Leaders getting the first close-up.

Here are five Leaders players with much to prove this fall:

1. Curtis Grant, LB, Ohio State: Grant was one of the top-rated recruits in the Class of 2011, as ranked him No. 3 in the country at his position and 46th overall, while Rivals had him as the No. 2 overall prospect. He's now a junior with only 10 career tackles, and he was beaten out last year by a converted fullback. But Grant looked good this spring and is once again slated to start at middle linebacker; he and others believe this is the year he finally starts to live up to his prodigious talent and hype. "He's learned to calm down, stop over thinking everything and just play the game," outside linebacker Ryan Shazier told this spring. Ohio State will need Grant to emerge as a solid contributor with only one returning starter in its defensive front seven.

2. Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois: Few Big Ten quarterbacks have as much experience under their belts as Scheelhaase, who has played in 36 games and has been the team's starter since his redshirt freshman year in 2010. But injuries, a poor supporting cast and a coaching change all took its toll on Scheelhaase last year, as he threw for just 1,361 yards and a career-low four touchdowns, with eight interceptions. Scheelhaase should be back at the controls this year in new offensive coordinator Bill Cubit's spread offense, which will depend heavily on good decision-making by the quarterback. If Scheelhaase can't bounce back from his 2012 performance, Reilly O'Toole and freshman Aaron Bailey will be nipping at his heels.

3. Ryan Groy, OL, Wisconsin: The Badgers' run of All-Americans and major award winners on the offensive line ended last year, though center Travis Frederick still parlayed a strong junior season into a new job with the Dallas Cowboys. Even with a coaching change, Wisconsin will look to continue its tradition of standout linemen, and Groy could be the next star. The senior filled in at left tackle last year when Ricky Wagner was hurt and could start the year protecting the blind side, although he also could play guard. Head coach Gary Andersen is concerned about the depth on the line and will need Groy to serve as an anchor for the group.

4. Ryan Russell, DE, Purdue: Russell has been talked about as a future star since he debuted as a starter two years ago when he was a redshirt freshman. Bothered by some injuries last year, he recorded four sacks last year on a defensive line that did not meet lofty expectations. With Kawann Short off to the NFL, the Boilermakers need Russell to step up and become the next member of their defensive end "Den" tradition. He's got the talent to be one of the top pass-rushers in the league, and if he can play at an elite level, Purdue could surprise some people this fall.

5. Bill Belton, RB, Penn State: When Silas Redd transferred to USC last summer, Belton seemed like the obvious successor at tailback. But after being slowed by an ankle injury early in the season, Belton all but disappeared from the Penn State offense, compiling just 263 rushing yards and receiving only one carry in the final three games as Zach Zwinak put a firm grip on the running back job. Belton remains one of the fastest and shiftiest players the Nittany Lions have, and he reportedly turned in a good spring. Whether he can beat out Zwinak or hold off freshman Akeel Lynch remains to be seen, but he's too talented to remain merely an afterthought. If he can become the player most thought he would develop into, that would give Bill O'Brien another important weapon on offense.
Now that spring practice is over, we're examining the most indispensable players on each Big Ten team for the 2013 season.

By indispensable, we don't necessarily mean best. We mean the players who would be hardest to replace between now and the start of the season if they got hurt or suspended or forced to listen to William Hung songs until their ears exploded. That could be because of their value to the team, or because of a lack of depth at their position.

We'll pick two players from each team, usually offense and defense, but not always. Purdue is our penultimate team in the series.

Bruce Gaston Jr., DT, Sr.

The Boilers already will be without a standout defensive tackle in Kawann Short, a second-round pick in April's NFL draft (first Big Ten player selected). They can ill afford to lose another space-eater in the interior defensive line. Gaston is a three-year starter who recorded two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and 5.5 tackles for loss as a junior in 2012. Although Gaston hasn't put up All-Big Ten-type numbers, he has been consistently productive in his career and could take things to the next level as a senior leader. Gaston missed most of spring practice following thumb surgery but made an impact after returning for the final few workouts. "There’s weight classes in boxing for a reason," Boilers defensive coordinator Greg Hudson said, referring to Gaston. "When big guys move around, things happen. They create space and they alter the line of scrimmage." Hudson thinks Gaston, with a strong summer, could flourish at the 3-technique for Purdue this fall. He's critical to improving Purdue's run defense and overall consistency and would be missed if he goes down.

Akeem Hunt, RB, Jr.

There are several other possibilities here -- Ryan Russell, Dolapo Macarthy, Robert Kugler -- but it's hard to ignore what Hunt did this spring at a position where Purdue currently has very little depth. Hunt capitalized on the chance to establish himself as the Boilers' No. 1 back and more than just a speed guy. Although Purdue likely needs another back or two to emerge and could rely on incoming freshmen like Keyante Green, the coaches can enter camp knowing they have a good option with some experience and knowledge of John Shoop's offense. The passing game is a significant question mark as Purdue remains unsettled at quarterback and needs several receivers to step up. The Boilers can help their unproven signal-caller with a threat in the run game, and Hunt provides it. His contributions on special teams as arguably the Big Ten's fastest player also can't be overlooked.

More indispensable:

Michigan State
Ohio State
Penn State
Gerad Parker and his fellow Purdue assistants need no tutorial on what the state of Texas means to the Boilers' program.

They get a reminder every time they turn on the television every Sunday during the NFL season. Former Purdue coach Joe Tiller built his program largely on recruiting the Lone Star State, and the centerpiece of Tiller's efforts plays quarterback for the New Orleans Saints.

"We knew from what Coach Tiller was able to do here at Purdue," Parker, Purdue's recruiting coordinator and tight ends coach, recently told "The players that came out of [Texas], the first one obviously being You Know Who in Mr. [Drew] Brees. Those guys did a good job in Texas."

[+] EnlargeDarrell Hazell
AP Photo/J.D. PooleyNew Purdue coach Darrell Hazell and his staff will be making recruiting talent out of Texas a priority.
Purdue's 2000 team that won the Big Ten and reached the Rose Bowl included 12 Texans on the roster, including Brees, first-team All-Big Ten linebacker Akin Ayodele, linebacker Landon Johnson and safety Ralph Turner. The Boilers currently have five Texans on the roster, including starting defensive end Ryan Russell.

Those numbers could increase under the new staff. Although head coach Darrell Hazell and several of his assistants have ties to the East Coast and, of course, to Ohio, Texas will be a priority for Purdue's recruiting in the coming years. Parker had two assistants each spend a week recruiting in Texas during the post-spring evaluation period.

Purdue's lone commitment so far for the 2014 -- wide receiver Trae Hart -- hails from Texas. The Boilers are pursuing other Texas prospects like quarterback David Blough, a Carrolton native recently selected for the Elite 11 finals. Blough learned he had made the finals when Brees tweeted about it.

"Texas is another state that has great football, great tradition, those kids grow up playing, they're well-coached" Parker said. "So we wanted to get back and put our feet in the ground and obviously get some kids from that area."

Purdue's previous coaching staff didn't hide its preference for Florida recruits, and there are 19 Floridians on the current roster and five in the incoming recruiting class. Although the team's recruiting map will spread out a little more under Hazell and his assistants, they aren't going to neglect the Sunshine State.

Three of Hazell's assistants -- offensive line coach Jim Bridge, defensive line coach Rubin Carter and secondary coach Jon Heacock -- all have recruited Florida for years and will continue to do so.

"We've got Florida still covered, there's no question about it," Parker said. "With the players we have currently, who are all pretty good players, we want to keep that tradition alive, and the only way you do that is continue to sign kids from that area."
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue's reputation for producing great quarterbacks is recognized throughout college football, as names like Brees, Griese, Herrmann, Dawson and Everett are linked to the program.

But there's another position where Purdue has put together a similar track record of excellence: defensive end. The Boilers' D-end tradition isn't as well-known as its quarterback heritage, but consider the names who have come through the program in the past two decades: Roosevelt Colvin, Chike Okeafor, Akin Ayodele, Shaun Phillips, Ray Edwards, Rob Ninkovich, Cliff Avril, Anthony Spencer and Ryan Kerrigan, the 2010 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and a unanimous All-American.

All nine players went on to the NFL, and several like Kerrigan and Spencer are in starring roles. Purdue has called itself the Cradle of Quarterbacks for years. It now also uses the label Den of Defensive Ends.

Boilers junior defensive end Ryan Russell needs no education on the subject.

[+] EnlargeRyan Russell
AP Photo/Damen Jackson via Triple Play New MediaRyan Russell hopes to be next in the long line of disruptive defensive linemen developed at Purdue.
"Very aware," Russell told "A lot of those guys come back, Roosevelt Colvin, I had a chance to talk to Cliff Avril when we went to the Little Caesars [Pizza] Bowl in Detroit. I knew Ryan Kerrigan and he came back and talked to us.

"It's a big tradition, and I'm hoping definitely to uphold it."

After losing defensive tackle Kawann Short, a second-round pick in last month's NFL draft, Purdue is looking for the next star to emerge along a line that underperformed in 2012. The Boilers finished 78th nationally in both rush yards allowed (182.3 YPG) and sacks recorded (1.69 per game).

Along with veteran defensive tackle Bruce Gaston, Russell is viewed as a potential major contributor up front this fall. The 6-foot-5, 275-pound junior will enter his third season as a starter and his first under Purdue's new coaching staff. After recording 33 tackles and making 11 starts as a redshirt freshman in 2011, Russell had 37 tackles, including 8.5 for loss and four sacks, last season.

"He’s got a power-to-speed ratio that's good for him to be a factor," defensive coordinator Greg Hudson said. "He can play the run, but he's got that end build and speed where he can also affect the passer.

"He's got that prototype look and ability."

Russell might look the part, but like many of his teammates, he needs to get stronger. His speed and lower-body strength are in good shape, and he has fully recovered from knee and ankle injuries, but his upper body "isn’t really where I would like it to be."

After practicing alongside Kerrigan as a true freshman in 2010, Russell understands the gains he needs to make.

"Ryan Kerrigan was one of the strongest people I've ever met," Russell said, "so when that's the standard with the Big Ten, Purdue defensive linemen and defensive ends, we definitely and myself personally have a long way to go."

Kerrigan led the country in tackles for loss (26) in 2010, finished third in sacks (12.5) and tied for second in forced fumbles (5). Russell observed firsthand the relentless motor that drove the Boilers' star.

When one pass-rush move didn't work, Kerrigan would simply move to the next and the next until the whistle blew.

"Pass-rushing a lot of the time is a mentality, going 110 percent, outworking somebody all the time, every play," Russell said. "[Defensive line coach Rubin Carter] always says, 'If you're not going to make the play, they will.' So just always having that mentality that you’re going to get there is a big thing.

"Your get-off and your motor is the engine that runs the train."

Russell is taking well to the new staff, the faster practice pace and the new defensive scheme under Hudson. He has worked extensively with Carter, a former longtime NFL assistant, on using his hands more effectively to fend off offensive linemen.

Hudson, who last season had a front-row seat for one of the nation's best defensive lines as a Florida State defensive assistant, shapes his system around Russell and the other down linemen.

"We will do things to turn him loose," Hudson said. "We cater to the D-line. We're going to make sure they know what’s going on, there's no confusion and they're happy. And when the ball's snapped, we say, 'Take off, break off.'

"That's what we want them to do."

Russell continues to follow Kerrigan with the Washington Redskins, and he also studies the other Purdue greats he has met like Avril (Seattle Seahawks), Ninkovich (New England Patriots) and Spencer (Dallas Cowboys).

"You have a common ground," Russell said. "They started the same place you started, and what they're doing is the goal, so you’re trying to see what they're doing to get to the goal you all share."