Big Ten: Ted Ginn Jr.
Brian from Atlanta writes: Adam, What are your thoughts on the Jim Bollman hire by Michigan State? Seems to fit the mold of a Mark Dantonio coordinator?
Adam Rittenberg: He definitely fits Dantonio and what Michigan State likes to do on offense. He's a pro-style guy who believes in run-first football, stout offensive line plan and limiting mistakes. Bollman drove Ohio State fans nuts at times with conservative play calls, especially at the end of his tenure. He recruited well as the Buckeyes' offensive line coach, but some of his lines didn't always perform to their potential. To be fair, Ohio State had some productive offenses under Bollman, and former Buckeyes head coach Jim Tressel had a lot of control over the offensive game plan. Should Bollman's hiring make Michigan State fans do back flips? No. But did anyone expect Dantonio to hire the next Gus Malzahn? Of course not. I'm not crazy about the move, but I'm not surprised, either. One area Bollman could really help is the offensive line, which has typically been a notch below the Big Ten's elite. If Michigan State can push defenders off of the ball, it can efficiently run the ball, use play-action, control possession and limit mistakes. Teams that do those things well typically win a lot of games.
Kyle from Kingston, Ontario, writes: Adam, I will never understand this B1G vs. SEC thing. Maybe I am showing my age! As an Iowa fan, I will never cheer for an Ohio State or a Michigan Victory. In fact, I hope they lose every game, I don't care if they are playing an SEC team. Conferences don't win championships, teams wins championships! At the end of the day I want one team to win, and that is Iowa! Maybe I am the crazy one! When It comes down to it, lets say Ohio St. wins the BCS championship, does Iowa get any more glamor and praise? Help me out Adam! I just don't get it anymore....I mean rooting for your rivals? Not this Hawkeye! How about you?
Adam Rittenberg: Kyle, I understand your point of view, and you're certainly not the only fan who feels this way. It does, though, illustrate a difference between the Big Ten and the SEC. There's more league pride among SEC fans even though they also have bitter rivalries in their league. The attitude is, "If my team can't win a title, I'd rather see another SEC team raise the crystal football than those snob Yankees!" Were Auburn fans rooting for Alabama against Notre Dame? Some of them were, because of their SEC pride.
I do think Iowa would get a bit more credit for being in a strong league that wins national titles even if it doesn't win any of those titles. Say Iowa goes 9-3 and loses to two Big Ten teams that make the four-team playoff, one of which wins the national title. I think Iowa is viewed in a better light nationally because it plays in such a strong league. The conference vs. conference thing is a fairly recent phenomenon, but it has become bigger and bigger. It's a big reason why we do the conference blogs at ESPN.com. There's also a genuine Big Ten-SEC rivalry. I can sense it when I'm around Big Ten officials. These are the two richest leagues -- both financially and in tradition. They have fundamental cultural differences. But they're also both chasing championships (right now, only one of them is winning them). My sense is Big Ten fans would rally around a league title contender now more than they would have a few years ago, but the league pride likely will never match the SEC's.
Derek from La Crosse, Wis., writes: In the past three NFL drafts, the B1G has had 11 WRs drafted, the SEC has had 12, the ACC has had 10, the Pac-12 has had 8, and the Big 12 has had 10. This year may not be the greatest year for the B1G, but at least over the past three years we are doing fine. It seems like this might just be another case of people thinking the B1G is a lot worse than it actually is.
Adam Rittenberg: Derek, it's good to point out those numbers, but let's look at them a little deeper. Last April, Illinois' A.J. Jenkins became the first Big Ten wide receiver drafted in the first round since Ohio State's Ted Ginn Jr. in 2007. The Big 12 has had five wideouts drafted in the first round between 2008-12, and the SEC and ACC both have had three. Let's also look at the NFL's receiving leaders from this past season. The highest-rated former Big Ten player -- the Miami Dolphins' Brian Hartline, who played at Ohio State -- checks in at No. 16. The ACC, SEC and Big 12 all have multiple players in the top 15. When it comes to receptions, the highest-rated former Big Ten player -- Denver's Eric Decker, who played at Minnesota -- is tied for 13th. Decker did finish second in receiving touchdowns (13). We also should note that Mario Manningham (Michigan product) was injured, but the Big Ten isn't mass-producing stars at receiver. It's a position that needs to be upgraded through recruiting. And I think it will be.
Blaine from Westfield, N.J., writes: Everyone keeps saying the lack of talent in the BIG is driven by population shifts to the south, but if that is true how do you explain the talented and highly ranked basketball programs?
Adam Rittenberg: Blaine, there are several key differences in the two sports. Roster size is probably the biggest, as basketball teams don't need nearly as many top recruits to reach an elite level as football teams do. Two or three great players can get a basketball team in the mix for a national title. Football, in most cases, requires much more depth. The number of major cities in or near the Big Ten footprint also helps. Chicago, for example, produces nationally elite basketball players every year, many of whom end up at Big Ten programs. The city isn't nearly as fruitful for nationally elite football recruits (proportionally). The same goes for Indianapolis and other Midwestern cities. You also have states or regions where basketball is as big or bigger than football. The state of Indiana certainly comes to mind. Although basketball in the South isn't a complete afterthought, we all know football is king in states like Florida, Texas, Georgia and Louisiana. The Big Ten also has more good to great programs in basketball than in football. There are more Big Ten basketball programs that have competed at an elite level in the past 25 years than Big Ten football programs.
Corey from State College, Pa., writes: Hey Adam, avid reader of the blog when I am procrastinating studying for midterms (like right now). Anyways, I don't think I am too crazy in thinking that the hardest recruiting is behind Bill O'Brien. Obviously the number of scholarships hurts in how many prospect they can miss on, but in terms of actually recruiting them to Happy Valley, I think it will be getting easier. These kids will have the opportunity to play in bowl games. While you could argue our teams may struggle with only 65 scholarship players, you can tell the recruits that our Nittany Lions' performance on the field will be up to them. Like I said, maybe I am too excited about Hackenberg and Breneman, but with one year left in the #1 student section in the country, how could you blame me?
Adam Rittenberg: You make some good points, Corey. Being able to offer the bowl experience -- in addition to the chance to win Big Ten championships -- certainly aids O'Brien and his staff on the recruiting trail. O'Brien also can use the success of the 2012 season as a major selling point. The concern is how Penn State's recruiting would be affected by a down season or two. What if the effects of the sanctions show up more in 2013 than in 2012? What if Penn State lacks the leadership it had from a special senior class in 2012? A losing season or two always impacts recruiting, whether or not there are NCAA sanctions involved. So the key for O'Brien is to keep getting good to great results on the field. Penn State doesn't need to win nine or 10 games every year to maintain recruiting through the sanctions phase, but like any team, it can't really afford 3-9 seasons, either. My point is the sanctions themselves might directly be less of a factor going forward in recruiting because these recruits will be able to participate in bowl games, but the effects of the sanctions on the current team could hurt recruiting if the wins don't keep coming.
Les from Bloomfield Hills, Mich., writes: First round forecast "not good?" If Lewan hadn't decided to stay in school, he was projected as a high 1st round pick, according to the journalists. I guess the pundits got lucky because now they can complain about the conference. I realize it's the offseason, and interest has to be created, but why not wait until the actual draft to see what happens when the actual teams decide who they want, before bemoaning the league's fate? Also...Tom Brady, 6th round, Drew Brees, second round, Brett Favre, second round, Joe Montana, low third round...It's silly to somehow keep score based on this stuff, especially considering it hasn't happened yet.
Adam Rittenberg: Les, as I pointed out in the story, if Lewan had declared for the draft he'd likely be the first Big Ten player selected, perhaps in the Top 10 overall. The larger point is that players like Johnathan Hankins and Kawann Short, who had been on Mel Kiper's Big Board for much of the season, have seen their stock drop in recent weeks. The fact no Big Ten players are listed among Kiper's top 25 is significant when you compare the results to other conferences. And the fact the Big Ten hasn't had a player go in the Top 10 since 2008 -- after having six straight seasons of Top 10 picks -- also is significant. Of course there are examples of Big Ten players -- and those from other leagues -- who were drafted later and became stars in the NFL. The Big Ten also has produced good pros recently like J.J. Watt. But the number of high draft picks is undoubtedly on the decline. Perhaps that will change next year with Lewan and others entering the draft.
Mac from Cincinnati writes: Adam, I know he didnt make a splash in the NFL but you forgot to add Vernon Gholston in the early first round picks in your article. I believe he went 5 or 6 overall.
Adam Rittenberg: Mac, I only listed the Big Ten's top overall selection for each draft. Gholston went No. 6 overall to the New York Jets in the 2008 draft, but Michigan's Jake Long was the Big Ten's top overall pick that year at No. 1 (to Miami). That's why Gholston isn't listed, but the fact the Big Ten had two players selected in the top six shows how times have changed.
The San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Ravens boast a combined 19 Big Ten players on their rosters for Super Bowl XLVII. That's tied with the ACC for the second highest total among conferences this season.
Here's the Big Ten contingent for the Big Ten in New Orleans on Feb. 3.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ERS
A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois
Garrett Celek, TE, Michigan State
Trenton Robinson, S, Michigan State
Jonathan Goodwin, C, Michigan
Alex Boone, OL, Ohio State
Ted Ginn Jr., WR, Ohio State
Larry Grant, LB, Ohio State
Donte Whitner, S, Ohio State
NaVorro Bowman, LB, Penn State
Scott Tolzien, QB, Wisconsin
Mario Manningham, WR, Michigan
Al Netter, OG, Northwestern
Nate Stupar, LB, Penn State
Sean Considine, S, Iowa
Tandon Doss, WR, Indiana
Sam Koch, P, Nebraska
Bernard Pollard, S, Purdue
Marshal Yanda, OL, Iowa
Jack Cornell, OL, Illinois
Here are some coaching staff connections for each team ...
- Head coach Jim Harbaugh played quarterback at Michigan
- Quarterbacks coach Geep Chryst served as a Wisconsin assistant in 1988
- Assistant secondary coach Greg Jackson was a Wisconsin assistant in 2010
- Linebackers coach Jim Leavitt joined Hayden Fry's staff at Iowa in 1989
- Running backs coach Tom Rathman played running back at Nebraska
- Head coach John Harbaugh coached Indiana's defensive backs and special teamers in 1997
- Assistant head coach/special teams coordinator Jerry Rosburg coached Minnesota's secondary in 1996
- Offensive coordinator Jim Caldwell played at Iowa; served as a Penn State assistant from 1986-92 and a Northwestern assistant in 1981
- Defensive coordinator Dean Pees held the same post at Michigan State from 1995-97
- Secondary coach Teryl Austin held the same post at Michigan from 1999-2002 and served as a graduate assistant at Penn State
- Offensive line coach Andy Moeller played linebacker at Michigan and coached the Wolverines offensive line from 2000-07
Because there were so many deserving players left off the list, I decided to put together an all-decade team to recognize some of the other standouts in the Big Ten from 2000-09. I made the offensive line a bit more general to acknowledge the best players there.
Unlike the top 10, I was a bit more lenient about players who had only one outstanding season during this decade.
QB: Troy Smith, Ohio State
RB: Mike Hart, Michigan
RB: Larry Johnson, Penn State
WR: Braylon Edwards, Michigan
WR: Charles Rogers, Michigan State
TE: Dallas Clark, Iowa
C: Greg Eslinger, Minnesota
OL: Joe Thomas, Wisconsin
OL: Robert Gallery, Iowa
OL: Jake Long, Michigan
OL: Eric Steinbach, Iowa
DE: LaMarr Woodley, Michigan
DT: Wendell Bryant, Wisconsin
DT: Jared Odrick, Penn State
DE: Tamba Hali, Penn State
LB: Paul Posluzsny, Penn State
LB: A.J. Hawk, Ohio Sate
LB: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State
CB: Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin
CB: Malcolm Jenkins, Ohio State
S: Bob Sanders, Iowa
S: Mike Doss, Ohio State
K: Mike Nugent, Ohio State
P: Travis Dorsch, Purdue
Returners: Ted Ginn Jr., Ohio State and Steve Breaston, Michigan
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Hall, ranked as the nation's 13th-best offensive tackle by ESPN's Scouts Inc., picked Ohio State over Tennessee and Miami. He continues the Buckeye pipeline from Cleveland's Glenville High School, which has sent players like Troy Smith and Ted Ginn Jr. to Columbus.
Ohio State landed three stud offensive linemen in last year's class, one of whom, center Mike Brewster, earned a starting job as a true freshman. If Hall performs as expected at either tackle or guard, Ohio State's offensive line should be solid for years to come. After last year's group underperformed, the Buckeyes should demand and receive a better showing in 2009.
Hall's commitment adds to the Big Ten's best recruiting class, which includes center Jack Mewhort and six other ESPNU 150 prospects.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Greetings from the banks of the Olentangy, where the stadium JumboTron is showing Ohio State's national championship win over Miami in the 2003 Fiesta Bowl. Craig Krenzel was a beast in that game.
This has been the first true carnival-like atmosphere I've seen this season. Ohio State fans followed Jim Tressel's advice and wore scarlet to the game. The parking lots surrounding the stadium are filled with scarlet and some blue-and-white. Several members of the Cleveland Glenville High School football team, which produced Ted Ginn Jr. and other Buckeyes standouts, were milling about one of the parking lots. Brutus the Buckeye also was making the rounds. And for the second time this season, I was recognized outside a stadium, this time by a Penn State fan who said he reads the blog daily.
OK, onto the game.
First, the all-important weather report. The forecast calls for chilly temperatures (45-53 degrees) throughout the game, but thankfully no rain. Most of the wet stuff cleared out of here last night, though it wasn't a fun flight from Chicago.
Penn State enters the game 8-0 and ranked No. 3 in the BCS standings. The Nittany Lions have won all eight games by 14 points or more and rank among the top 25 nationally in rushing offense, total offense, scoring offense, rushing defense, total defense, scoring defense, pass defense, turnover margin and kickoff returns. In other words, this might be the most complete team in the country. We'll find out tonight.
Ohio State comes in at 7-1 and ranked No. 9 in the BCS standings. The Buckeyes have won five straight since their disastrous loss at USC and played by far their best game of the season last week at Michigan State. Quarterback Terrelle Pryor hasn't lost as the starter, and running back Chris "Beanie" Wells seems to be getting stronger after missing three games with a right foot/toe injury. The defense also has stiffened in the last two games, rising to 12th nationally in points allowed and 10th in yards allowed.
And finally, here are some things I'll be watching tonight:
Quarterback play and pressure: Both Pryor and Penn State's Daryll Clark haven't looked like first-year starters so far. Neither has lost a game and both engineered big wins on the road. Pryor seems to welcome pressure, whether it was the be-a-man challenge from Wells before the decisive drive at Wisconsin or teammates speculating about a two-quarterback system last week. The freshman's ability to limit mistakes and keep his cool will loom large tonight. Clark has brought a swagger to the huddle and answered questions about his passing ability (152.7 quarterback rating). But Ohio State is the best defense he's seen this season, and his poise on the road will be tested.
Special teams: This is a truly fascinating component of tonight's game. Tressel coaches special teams better than arguably any coach in the country, and the Buckeyes are always solid in the third phase. But it's hard not to give Penn State the edge with senior return man Derrick Williams, who ranks fifth nationally in kick return average (32.2 ypr). The Lions also boast one of the nation's top kickers in senior Kevin Kelly. The team that prevails in special teams likely will be the one walking away with a W.
Offensive line play: Several pundits have targeted Penn State's offensive line as a potential weakness. I just don't see it. The Lions rank sixth nationally in sacks allowed, and their primary running back (Evan Royster) averages 7.7 yards per carry and 111.6 yards per game. Ohio State's front seven will provide a stern challenge, but Penn State's veteran line should be up for it. The Buckeyes offensive line certainly stepped up last week, but this group has underperformed most of the season. Lions defensive Aaron Maybin will be tough to contain, and the Buckeyes need big games from tackles Alex Boone and Bryant Browning.
Intangibles: The stat has been stated throughout the week, and its bears repeating: Penn State has never won at Ohio State as a member of the Big Ten. These current players have nothing to do with that streak, but it could play a role. Ohio State hasn't played a home night game since 2005, when it fell to Texas. But the Buckeyes are 6-1 in home night games since 1959.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
|Jamie Sabau/Getty Images|
|Ohio State may be without injured back Chris Wells for a third game.|
Ohio State coach Jim Tressel said starting running back Chris "Beanie" Wells heads into practice this week questionable for Saturday's game against Troy. As was the case last week, Wells' response to drills in practice will ultimately determine his availability.
The toe injury clearly is more serious than originally thought, and if Wells has much lingering soreness after testing things out this afternoon, Ohio State won't push him to play. Making cutbacks seemed to aggravate the toe last week.
Ohio State's main goal at this point is winning the Big Ten and going to the Rose Bowl for the first time since 1997. Getting Wells to 100 percent by the league opener next week against Minnesota or, at the very latest, for an Oct. 4 trip to Wisconsin, should be the team's top priority.
Wells and Daniel Herron are listed as co-starters on this week's depth chart.
"Terrelle has shown he's got an unusual moxie about him," Tressel said. "He didn't seem to be out of place in that football game [USC]. He seemed to have a good presence about him. The thing Todd will tell you first and foremost is he can't throw the ball to the other team, especially when the team is as good as USC. ... We'll have some good lively competition. How much playing time will be based in large part on how practice goes."
Sounds like Boeckman has something to prove this week after getting picked off twice against USC.
Tressel also mentioned Pryor when discussing Ohio State players who could match USC's quickness. The coach said USC's defensive front had more speed than the Buckeyes' offensive line and likened Trojans running back Joe McKnight's quickness to that of former Buckeyes star Ted Ginn Jr. Tressel added that Ohio State's speed matched up in most areas.
"We feel as if we could have made a better performance for ourselves and on behalf of Big Ten," Tressel said. "We made errors you can't afford to make against a team as good as Southern California."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- What began as a benign comment quickly turned into a playful shouting match of slams across the Ohio State media room.
Sitting at the main interview table Friday afternoon, Buckeyes wide receiver Brian Hartline was asked to liken his skills to those of Ohio State's other Brian, senior wideout Brian Robiskie.
"Anything I can do, he can do," Hartline said, "and anything he can do, I can do."
When informed of Hartline's claim, Robiskie, sitting in the corner, shook his head.
"He can't do what I do," Robiskie said quietly, looking at his teammate.
"He cannot do what I can do!" Robiskie repeated, hoping to get Hartline's attention. "He can't do it! It can't happen!"
Hartline never heard him. When a messenger -- OK, it was me -- relayed Robiskie's assertion, Hartline immediately countered.
"Robo, what can you do?" Hartline asked loudly.
"Huh? Robiskie replied. "What can I do? I can be on the sidelines."
"Yeah, you can stay on the sidelines, hurt," Hartline chirped, referring to a shoulder injury that has kept Robiskie out of portions of the preseason. "I can't do that.
Robiskie said his shoulder is fine, and when Ohio State opens the season Aug. 30 against Youngstown State, the dynamic receiver tandem known as the Brians will be fully intact. The team's two top wideouts combined for 107 receptions, 1,629 receiving yards and 17 touchdowns last season, their first as full-time starters.
Both players are 6-foot-3, both joined the team in 2005 and both can punish defenses down the field, but there's some debate about how similar they really are.
Robiskie, a member of Ohio State's 4x100 relay team in track, plays outside receiver and hooked up with quarterback Todd Boeckman for several plays of 50 yards or longer last season. Hartline brings an intrepid attitude to the slot receiver spot, taking punishment and dishing it back when he goes over the middle.
"We've played with each other so much, worked with each other so much that there's not too many things that really differ in our games, said Robiskie, who led Ohio State with 935 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns last year. "The only thing that might jump out at me is that he plays inside in the slot where I might play a lot outside. That's not to say that he couldn't come outside and play.
Hartline isn't so sure about Robiskie's versatility.
"He definitely couldn't play the slot," Hartline said. "I can. I can play on the outside, too. It's fun, though. We're pretty fun-loving guys. I think I've rubbed off on him enough so that he'll stay a little loosened up."
Robiskie was Boeckman's top big play option last season, but Hartline should be more of a threat this fall after a strong preseason. Hartline often gets compared to former Ohio State wideout Anthony Gonzalez, who was overshadowed by Santonio Holmes and Ted Ginn in 2005 before nearly matching Ginn's production in 2006.
"It's a pretty fair comparison," Hartline said. "Gonzo got better, [quarterback] Troy [Smith] got better, I'm getting better, Todd's getting better. Once I start making some plays for [Boeckman], he'll trust me even more. ... The same plays we ran with Troy and Gonzo are the same plays we're running now."
Hartline might make a bigger name for himself this fall, but odds are he'll always be mentioned with Robiskie, much like Buckeyes linebackers James Laurinaitis and Marcus Freeman on the defensive side. But the wideouts don't mind getting grouped together.
As they showed Friday, it's hard to keep them separated.
So how different are they?
"They're completely different players, completely different attitudes, completely different personalities," wide receivers coach Darrell Hazell said. "The only thing the same is their name."