Big Ten: Stuart Schweigert
Here are a few things that stood out to me.
The Big Surprise
Let me preface this by saying Penn State's Jared Odrick is an outstanding player, the best defensive tackle in the Big Ten and most likely a future star in the NFL. But I was extremely surprised to see the coaches select Odrick as both Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Lineman of the Year. I had a similar reaction to seeing the media pick Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor as preseason Offensive Player of the Year.
In what might have been the most competitive Defensive POY race ever, Odrick wasn't on the radar for most people. If the award would go to a Penn State player, linebacker Navorro Bowman appeared to be the No. 1 choice. Bowman was in the mix with linebacker Greg Jones, end Brandon Graham, end O'Brien Schofield, safety Kurt Coleman, linebacker Pat Angerer, end Adrian Clayborn and end Ryan Kerrigan.
Odrick is a great player who commands double teams on almost every play, but how do you ignore Graham, who had 25 tackles for loss on a bad defense? Or Jones, who makes every tackle on the field? Or Coleman, the top playmaker on the league's best defense? And if the coaches think interior line play is underappreciated, they should have voted Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King, not Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis, as Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year in 2008. King was much more of a difference maker than Laurinaitis last fall.
Again, nothing against Odrick, but this pick was a head scratcher.
Other thoughts and notes
- It's not a huge surprise, but Ohio State's lack of representation on the first-team All-Big Ten squads certainly stands out. The Buckeyes had only one player (Coleman) on the coaches' ballot and only two (Coleman and guard Justin Boren) on the media's. This certainly strengthens Jim Tressel's case for Coach of the Year, an award he has never won.
- For the most part, the selections didn't penalize players who missed time because of injuries. Iowa left tackle Bryan Bulaga was a consensus first-team selection and Offensive Lineman of the Year despite missing three games (thyroid). Bulaga's teammate, tight end Tony Moeaki, also made All-Big Ten (first-team coaches, second-team media) despite missing time (ankle). Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker was a first-team pick by the coaches even though he missed the final four regular-season games. Northwestern cornerback Sherrick McManis, Iowa guard Dace Richardson and Penn State linebacker Sean Lee also earned all-conference honors despite sitting out games.
- Both the coaches and the media identified the top eight defensive linemen in the league for the first and second teams. They also did a nice job with the defensive backs. The second-team linebacker selections were a little curious. I don't know how Ohio State's Brian Rolle or Indiana's Matt Mayberry get left out.
- Iowa's Adam Robinson would have been a good pick for second-team running back, but I don't have a major problem with the selections.
- Northwestern finally got some recognition this year with five All-Big Ten selections. The Wildcats won one more game last year (9-3) but had only one All-Big Ten player (defensive end Corey Wootton).
- The coaches' voting was very close, as three positions (defensive back, center and wide receiver) ended up with ties.
- Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark was the right choice for the first team. It was a very close call between Northwestern's Mike Kafka and Purdue's Joey Elliott for second team, but Kafka led his team to more wins.
- Both the coaches and media got it right with Wisconsin's Chris Borland for Big Ten Freshman of the Year. Borland is the first defensive player to win the award since Purdue safety Stuart Schweigert in 2000.
- The selections include 15 members of the first or second team from 2008, including seven first-team selections from last fall who are on this year's first team: Michigan punter Zoltan Mesko, Jones, Decker, Bowman, Clark and Odrick, and Wisconsin tight end Garrett Graham.
Michigan State: 4
Ohio State: 6
Penn State: 9
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Joe Tiller enters his final season at Purdue much like he did his first, with an under-the-radar team that could surprise people this fall. "The more things change, the more they stay the same," he said.
After having some fun during team pictures on the Ross-Ade Stadium field -- on the final do-what-you-want shot, Tiller turned his cap to the side, C.C. Sabathia style, and flexed for the camera -- the Boilermakers coach met with the media.
Here are some of the items he touched on:
- Tiller announced that defensive end Nickcaro Golding, safety Josh McKinley and defensive tackle Preston Numa will be suspended for the season opener against Northern Colorado for "conduct detrimental to the team." Senior safety Torri Williams, a candidate to start, has been fully reinstated. Williams was suspended this spring after an arrest for shoplifting.
McKinley started one game last fall but looks to be in a reserve role this year. Both Golding and Numa redshirted last year.
- Linebacker depth is Purdue's biggest concern in training camp. Fifth-year senior Anthony Heygood and promising junior Jason Werner look good at the two outside spots, and Tiller is hopeful Kevin Green can step up in the middle. But after those three, the cupboard is pretty bare.
Purdue conducts its first full-pads practice later today, and the coaches will closely examine who else they have at linebacker, and who could move over to the position.
"It's a daily discussion," Tiller said. "Today's an important day for us. We've been out there dancing our underwear for a couple day and playing pass-and-tap with shells on. Now we're going to start playing football, so we'll see if somebody will demonstrate an ability to help us. Until that happens, we're reluctant to move anyone."
Green recorded only seven tackles in eight games last fall, and Tiller wants to see more from the man at the core of the Boilermakers defense.
"He could really help us," Tiller said. "Kevin's the type of guy that's had his moments but from a consistency point of view hasn't been there yet."
- Purdue made several moves with its starting offensive linemen, who are all healthy after a painful spring. The Boilers swapped tackles Sean Sester and Zach Jones, moved Jared Zwilling to guard and established Cory Benton as the No. 1 center. Sester, one of the team's top pro prospects, moves to right tackle after protecting Curtis Painter's blind side a year ago. Tiller said he didn't know what to expect from Jones a year ago and wanted a more experienced player at left tackle.
But after evaluating Jones in his first season as a starter, Tiller made the switch.
"Jones is the more athletic guy than Sester and really is better suited to play the left side than Sean is," Tiller said of the former walk-on. "And Sean is better suited to play the right side. We think we have them at their natural positions now."
Tiller likened Zwilling to Jones, saying guard is an easier position to transition into than center. Benton played mainly at guard but is expected to perform well at center.
"He smells it," Tiller said of Benton. "He knows he's got a chance to be the lead tank and be the starter at center all year."
- Tiller provided a little background on Purdue's big home showdown with Oregon on Sept. 13. Six or seven years ago, Tiller started discussing the game with then-Oregon athletic director Bill Moos, who Tiller had coached at Washington State in the early 1970s.
Moos brought up the idea of playing Purdue, but Tiller didn't have much interest.
"Finally Bill said, 'Well, let's schedule a game that's so far out there that both of us will be retired, so it really won't matter,'" Tiller recalled. "And of course, Bill's retired and I'm not, so that worked for one guy and not the other."
The "real reason" Tiller agreed was that Oregon had dropped September road games against Big Ten teams, falling to Michigan State in 1999 and to Wisconsin in 2000.
"I thought, 'You know, here's a West Coast team that has to travel a long way and probably doesn't play well on the road early, so let's sign 'em up,'" Tiller said. "That was a long time ago and obviously isn't true about them any longer."