Big Ten: Trevor Anderson

Poaching another idea today, this time from colleague David Ubben at the Big 12 blog. I'll be taking a look at several key players going, staying and coming into the program for each Big Ten team.

First up, Michigan State.

Going ...

Joel Nitchman, C: Nitchman helped anchor the offensive line last year and earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the league's coaches. He started three seasons for the Spartans and made 31 starts at center. John Stipek impressed the Michigan State staff this spring, he'll have some big shoes to fill.

Trevor Anderson, DE: Although Anderson never quite lived up to the hype he had after transferring from Cincinnati, he still recorded 7.5 tackles for loss and four sacks last season. Anderson earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors in each of his two seasons as a Spartan. He also provided solid leadership in the locker room.


Staying ...

Greg Jones, LB: Jones' decision to return to Michigan State was one of few bright spots in a rough offseason for the program. Put simply, he's one of the nation's best and most accomplished defenders, and he should be even better as a senior. Jones has led Michigan State in tackles in each of his three seasons, recording 154 stops in 2009. He has added weight and looks considerably stronger, but he hasn't lost any speed and still closes extremely well on ball-carriers.

Keshawn Martin, WR: Martin gave the Big Ten a taste of what he could do on special teams last season. He'll make an even bigger impact as a receiver this fall and got a head start with six receptions for 109 yards in the spring game. Martin averaged 22.8 yards per reception last year and has the ability to go the distance any time he touches the ball.


Coming ...

William Gholston, LB: Gholston was the Big Ten's second-highest rated prospect, according to ESPN recruiting, and should make an immediate impact this fall. The ESPNU 150 selection checks in at 6-foot-7 and 250 pounds, but Michigan State fully intends to keep him as a linebacker. Gholston and classmate Max Bullough are part of the reason why Michigan State will use more of the 3-4 alignment this fall.

Isaiah Lewis and Kurtis Drummond,S : It's no secret that Michigan State struggled against the pass in 2009, and the secondary needs all the help it can get this fall. Both Lewis and Drummond both bring some exciting skills to the table and could compete for playing time right away if returning players don't step up.
My basketball responsibilities caused me to fall behind on monitoring pro days at Big Ten schools, but I'm back in football mode now. Four Big Ten schools -- Illinois, Michigan State, Penn State and Northwestern -- all held their annual pro days on Wednesday, and here are some highlights.

ILLINOIS

  • Wide receiver Arrelious Benn certainly helped himself by clocking a 4.36 in the 40-yard dash, more than a tenth of a second faster than his time (4.48) at the NFL combine.
  • Wide receiver/tight end Jeff Cumberland clocked a 4.46 in the 40. Cumberland boasts excellent size, but his pass-catching ability has been questioned.
  • Tight end Michael Hoomanawanui ran a 4.83 in the 40.
  • Quarterback Juice Williams had his first chance to work out before NFL scouts, while guard Jon Asamoah sat out pro day with a shoulder injury that has limited him since Senior Bowl practice.
MICHIGAN STATE

  • Wide receiver Blair White continued a strong pre-draft performance by running the 40 in 4.46 seconds, improving on his time from the combine (4.5). He also recorded a 33.5-inch vertical leap and a broad jump of 10 feet.
  • Defensive end Trevor Anderson ran a 4.66 in the 40, had a 37-inch vertical leap and a broad jump of 10 feet, 7.5 inches.
  • According to The Detroit News, cornerback Jeremy Ware ran an unofficial time of 4.37 in the 40, while safety Danny Fortener, running back A.J. Jimmerson and cornerback Ross Weaver all ran better than a 4.5.
PENN STATE

  • Quarterback Daryll Clark said he clocked a 4.61 in the 40-yard dash after not running at the combine because of a hamstring injury.
  • Linebacker Navorro Bowman said his 40 time improved to 4.61 seconds (he had a 4.72 in Indy).
  • Linebacker Josh Hull improved substantially on his poor 40 time at the combine (4.91 seconds) by clocking a 4.71 on Wednesday.
  • Linebacker Sean Lee improved his 40 time from 4.74 seconds in Indianapolis to unofficially 4.55 Wednesday.
  • Defensive tackle Jared Odrick said he improved on his 40 time, recording several attempts below five seconds after clocking a 5.03 at the combine. He also improved on his broad jump.
  • Tight end Andrew Quarless said he ran the 40 in the 4.5 range Wednesday after recording a 4.69 in Indianapolis.
  • Tackle Dennis Landolt and defensive end/linebacker Jerome Hayes both said they had 24 reps in the 225-pound bench press.
  • Former Penn State quarterback Anthony Morelli worked out for scouts Wednesday as he tries to revive his pro career.
NORTHWESTERN

  • Quarterback Mike Kafka continued a strong pre-draft performance on pro day, reportedly hitting on almost every throw.
  • Wide receiver Andrew Brewer recorded a 4.60 in the 40, a 39-inch vertical leap, a 10-foot broad jump and a short shuttle run of 4.08 seconds.
Let's take a look at three issues facing each Big Ten team heading into spring practice:

ILLINOIS

Spring practice starts: March 30

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:
  • The quarterback competition. Four-year starter Juice Williams departs, and a host of young players (and one older one) are in the mix to replace him. New offensive coordinator Paul Petrino wants to shape his system around the starting signal-caller, so he'll be looking for some separation this spring. Jacob Charest got valuable playing time behind Williams in 2009, and Eddie McGee, a part-time wide receiver, has extensive playing experience at quarterback. They'll compete with redshirt freshman Nathan Scheelhaase and true freshman Chandler Whitmer, an early enrollee.
  • Fixing the defense. New defensive coordinator Vic Koenning brings an impressive résumé to Champaign, but he'll be challenged to fix a unit that hasn't been right since J Leman and Co. left following the Rose Bowl run in 2007. Koenning wants to identify leaders on defense this spring and will look to players like end Clay Nurse and linebackers Ian Thomas and Martez Wilson. Illinois' most pressing needs likely come in the secondary after the team finished 100th nationally against the pass in 2009.
  • Line dance. Illinois needs to get tougher and better on both lines to turn things around in 2010. The Illini tied for eighth in the Big Ten in sacks allowed last fall, and while the run game got going late, top lineman Jon Asamoah departs. Perhaps a bigger priority is finding a pass rush on defense after finishing last in the league in both sacks and tackles for loss in 2009.
INDIANA

Spring practice starts: March 23

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:
  • Rebuilding the back seven on D. Indiana loses three starters in the secondary and two linebackers, including blog favorite Matt Mayberry. The Hoosiers brought in three junior college defenders, two of whom, linebacker Jeff Thomas and cornerback Lenyatta Kiles, will participate in spring practice. Needless to say, jobs are open everywhere, and coordinators Brian George and Joe Palcic will be looking for playmakers to step up. Several players are moving from offense to defense, including wideout Mitchell Evans to safety.
  • End game. Indiana loses a lot of pass-rushing production as multiyear starters Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton depart. Both starting jobs at defensive end are open this spring, and IU will look to Darius Johnson, Terrance Thomas and others to step up and make plays.
  • Willis watch. Indiana hopes 2010 is the year when running back Darius Willis becomes a superstar. Getting him through spring practice healthy will be a key first step. Willis has been impressive on the field, but he has struggled with injuries for much of his career. IU's passing attack should be very strong in 2010, and if Willis can elevate the run game, the Hoosiers should put up a ton of points.
IOWA

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:
  • The offensive line. Rebuilding the offensive line is far and away Iowa's top priority heading into the 2010 season. The Hawkeyes are stacked at running back and boast a strong passing attack, but they'll struggle if things aren't solidified up front. Tackle/guard Riley Reiff blossomed last season and guard Julian Vandervelde also returns, but Iowa will look to fill three starting spots this spring.
  • Refilling at linebacker and cornerback. Iowa's defense has been one of the nation's most opportunistic units the last two seasons, and players like Pat Angerer, A.J. Edds and Amari Spievey were three big reasons why. All three depart, so Iowa needs to reload at linebacker and find a shut-down corner (Shaun Prater?). The spotlight will be on guys like Prater, Tyler Nielsen and Jeff Tarpinian this spring.
  • Sorting out the running back spot. Iowa is absolutely loaded at running back, but there's only one ball to be carried on a given play. The Hawkeyes likely will use a rotation in 2010, but who will be the featured back? Jewel Hampton will try to reclaim the top spot, which he lost because of a knee injury last summer. Adam Robinson filled in extremely well for Hampton in the lead role, and Brandon Wegher was one of the heroes of the Orange Bowl win.
MICHIGAN

Spring practice starts: March 14

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:
  • Defense, defense, defense. Head coach Rich Rodriguez always will be known for his spread offense, but he won't be around much longer at Michigan if the defense doesn't significantly improve. A unit that ranked 82nd nationally last season loses its two best players (Brandon Graham and Donovan Warren) and must find contributors at linebacker, safety and cornerback. Help is on the way from the 2010 recruiting class, but Michigan can't afford a bad spring on defense.
  • Devin Gardner. The heralded quarterback recruit enrolled early and will enter the mix this spring. Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson are the front-runners at quarterback, but Gardner might be the ultimate answer for the Wolverines. His ability to pick up the system and push Forcier and Robinson this spring will determine whether he sees the field in the fall or takes a redshirt.
  • Running back. Carlos Brown and Brandon Minor depart, but Michigan once again should be good at the running back spot. Vincent Smith will miss spring ball as he recovers from knee surgery, but several others, including Michael Shaw and Fitzgerald Toussaint, will be competing throughout the 15 workouts. Shaw, who scored two touchdowns on 42 carries in 2009, could create a bit of separation with a good spring.
MICHIGAN STATE

Spring practice starts: March 23

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:
  • Team morale. The residence hall incident and the subsequent fallout really rocked the Michigan State program. Head coach Mark Dantonio has yet to address the status of several suspended players, and the final outcome could impact the depth chart, particularly at wide receiver. It's important for Michigan State's team leaders -- Greg Jones, Kirk Cousins and others -- to unite the locker room in the spring and do all they can to prevent further problems.
  • Line dance. Michigan State needs to improve on both the offensive and defensive lines in 2010, and it all starts this spring. The Spartans must replace left tackle Rocco Cironi and center Joel Nitchman, and they also lose top pass-rusher Trevor Anderson at defensive end. As strong as the Spartans should be at the skill positions, they need to start building around linemen like Joel Foreman and Jerel Worthy.
  • Keith Nichol. The versatile junior could be moved to wide receiver, but he'll get a chance to push Cousins at quarterback this spring. Nichol's skills are too valuable to waste on the sideline, particularly if Michigan State has a pressing need at receiver, but he still could be a factor at quarterback if his improves his accuracy. The speedy Nichol could run the Wildcat in addition to serving as a wide receiver, if MSU chooses to go that route.
MINNESOTA

Spring practice starts: March 23

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:
  • The coordinator and the quarterbacks. Minnesota will welcome its third offensive coordinator in as many seasons, though Jeff Horton doesn't plan to overhaul the system like Jedd Fisch did a year ago. Horton's primary task will be developing quarterbacks Adam Weber and MarQueis Gray, who both struggled last fall in the pro-style system. Weber has the edge in experience, but he needs to regain the form his showed in his first two seasons as the starter. Gray brings tremendous athleticism to the table but must prove he can succeed in a pro-style offense.
  • The offensive line. Head coach Tim Brewster has insisted that when Minnesota gets the offensive line on track, things really will get rolling. The Gophers need better players and arguably tougher players up front, and the line should benefit in Year 2 under assistant Tim Davis. The group should be motivated by finishing last in the Big Ten in rushing in each of the past two seasons.
  • Young defenders. Minnesota loses most of its starting defense from 2009, but fans are more excited about the young talent returning on that side of the ball. Spring ball could be huge for players like Michael Carter, D.L. Wilhite and Keanon Cooper as they transition into leading roles. The Gophers' biggest losses come at linebacker, as all three starters depart.
NORTHWESTERN

Spring practice starts: March 29

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:
  • Identify a running back. The Wildcats produced an impressive string of standout running backs under former coach Randy Walker and at the beginning of Pat Fitzgerald’s tenure, but they struggled in the backfield in 2009. Northwestern returns the Big Ten’s most experienced offensive line, so identifying a primary ball carrier or two this spring is vital. Arby Fields and Scott Concannon showed a few flashes last year but must get more consistent, while Mike Trumpy will be an interesting addition to the mix.
  • Polishing Persa. Dan Persa steps in at quarterback for second-team All-Big Ten selection Mike Kafka, and he’ll try to walk a similar career path. Kafka transformed himself in the offseason a year ago to become an extremely consistent passer, and Persa will need to do the same. Persa could be the best running quarterback Northwestern has had since Zak Kustok, but his size and the nature of the offense suggests he’ll need to make strides with his arm. NU also needs to see progress from backup Evan Watkins, as it lacks overall depth at quarterback.
  • Reload in the secondary. Northwestern loses three starters in the secondary, including all-conference selections Sherrick McManis and Brad Phillips. Fitzgerald will lean heavily on cornerback Jordan Mabin and safety Brian Peters to lead the group, but he needs a few more players to emerge this spring. Defensive backs like Justan Vaughn have experience and must transition into featured roles.
OHIO STATE

Spring practice starts: April 1

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:
  • Running back competition resumes. Brandon Saine and Dan Herron finished strong in 2009, but they can’t get too comfortable. Several young running backs, including Jordan Hall, Jaamal Berry, Jermil Martin and Carlos Hyde, will be competing for carries this spring. Saine likely has the best chance to lock down a featured role at running back, but if the hype about Berry pans out, it’ll be a dogfight.
  • Pryor’s evolution. After Ohio State’s victory in the Rose Bowl, both Terrelle Pryor and Jim Tressel talked about the game being a key juncture in Pryor’s development. The junior quarterback must build on his performance this spring, especially from a passing standpoint. Ohio State can be a more balanced and more effective offense in 2010, but Pryor needs to keep making strides.
  • Safety squeeze. The Buckeyes didn’t lose much from the 2009 team, but the safety spot took a hit as first-team All-Big Ten selection Kurt Coleman as well as key contributor Anderson Russell depart. Jermale Hines looks like the answer at one spot, and he’ll enter the spring with high expectations. Ohio State needs to build around Hines and identify playmakers for an increasingly opportunistic unit.
PENN STATE

Spring practice starts: March 26

Spring game: April 24

What to watch:
  • Quarterback, quarterback, quarterback. No surprise here, as Penn State’s quarterback competition will be one of the Big Ten’s top storylines until September. Two-year starter Daryll Clark departs, leaving a major void under center. Sophomore Kevin Newsome played a bit last fall and has been in the system for a full season. He’ll enter the spring with a slight edge, but Matt McGloin and early enrollee Paul Jones also will be in the mix before Robert Bolden arrives this summer.
  • Getting better up front. All-America candidate Stefen Wisniewski leads an offensive line that will have more experience and needs to make strides this spring. The line struggled against elite defensive fronts last year (Iowa, Ohio State) but should have more cohesion after another offseason together. The tackle spots will be interesting to watch, as Dennis Landolt departs. Penn State’s defensive line needs to shore up the middle after losing Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Year Jared Odrick.
  • Linebacker U. put to the test. Penn State has a proven track record of reloading in the defensive front seven, but it loses a lot of production, especially at linebacker. All three starting spots are open this spring, and the spotlight will turn to players like Nate Stupar, Bani Gbadyu, Chris Colasanti and others to fill the production and leadership gaps left by Sean Lee, Navorro Bowman and Josh Hull.
PURDUE

Spring practice starts: March 24

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:
  • Marve watch begins. The starting quarterback job is open, and all eyes will be on Miami transfer Robert Marve. One of the nation's most decorated recruits in 2007, Marve started for the Hurricanes in 2008 but ran into problems and transferred. Slowed by an ACL injury last summer and fall, Marve will have every chance to establish himself this spring as he competes with Caleb TerBush.
  • Wide-open secondary. All four starters depart in the secondary, creating plenty of competition back there this spring. Players like safety Albert Evans and cornerback Charlton Williams will be in the spotlight as they try to nail down jobs. Purdue should be better in the front seven in 2010, but you can bet opposing quarterbacks will attack an unproven secondary.
  • The run defense. It's a huge priority for Purdue to improve against the run after finishing last in the Big Ten in rush defense in each of the past two seasons. Linebacker Jason Werner's return for a sixth year is huge, and Purdue boasts one of the Big Ten's top D-linemen in Ryan Kerrigan. Those two must provide leadership and foster more cohesion from the younger players around them. New D-line coach Gary Emanuel will be instrumental in the process this spring.
WISCONSIN

Spring practice starts: March 13 (break from March 29-April 2)

Spring game: April 17

What to watch:
  • The secondary. Wisconsin looks pretty solid on the defensive line and at linebacker, so getting the secondary up to par will be key this spring. Safety Jay Valai is a vicious hitter, but can he become an All-Big Ten-caliber safety? Aaron Henry joins Valai at safety after struggling at cornerback in 2009. Wisconsin also will look for continued progress from corners Devin Smith and Niles Brinkley.
  • Replacing Schofield. Bret Bielema told me earlier this week that the competition at defensive line is once again heating up this offseason. Wisconsin must replace first-team All-Big Ten end O'Brien Schofield, who ranked second nationally in tackles for loss (24.5) in 2009. J.J. Watt has superstar written all over him, but Wisconsin will look for more pass-rush ability from David Gilbert and Louis Nzegwu.
  • The wide receivers/tight ends. Wisconsin showed at times last fall that its passing attack could be dynamic, and it will look for big things from several players this spring. Wideout Nick Toon certainly has what it takes to be a star in the Big Ten, and Lance Kendricks showed in the Champs Sports Bowl that he's a capable successor for Garrett Graham at tight end. The Badgers will look to David Gilreath, Isaac Anderson and Kyle Jefferson to fill the No. 2 wideout spot.
Tags:

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, Keith Nichol, Terrelle Pryor, Jewel Hampton, Jermil Martin, Jerel Worthy, Anderson Russell, Ian Thomas, Riley Reiff, Mitchell Evans, Arby Fields, Joe Palcic, Randy Walker, Ryan Kerrigan, Justan Vaughn, Navorro Bowman, Clay Nurse, Paul Jones, David Gilbert, Jon Asamoah, Joel Nitchman, Chris Colasanti, Louis Nzegwu, Garrett Graham, Lance Kendricks, Stefen Wisniewski, Martez Wilson, Nate Stupar, Tim Brewster, Robert Marve, Darius Johnson, Evan Watkins, Brian Peters, Brandon Wegher, Devin Smith, Rich Rodriguez, Albert Evans, Jason Werner, Michael Carter, Michael Shaw, Pat Fitzgerald, Chandler Whitmer, Jermale Hines, Jeff Horton, Kyle Jefferson, Robert Bolden, Matt Mayberry, Zak Kustok, Kirk Cousins, Jordan Mabin, Dennis Landolt, Jacob Charest, Carlos Hyde, Caleb TerBush, Dan Herron, Denard Robinson, Bret Bielema, Rocco Cironi, Jammie Kirlew, Pat Angerer, Jim Tressel, Keanon Cooper, Tyler Nielsen, Brandon Graham, Jeff Tarpinian, Juice Williams, Daryll Clark, Mike Trumpy, Niles Brinkley, Sherrick McManis, Jared Odrick, Devin Gardner, Shaun Prater, Nathan Scheelhaase, Isaac Anderson, D.L. Wilhite, Matt McGloin, Brandon Minor, Bani Gbadyu, Aaron Henry, Darius Willis, Brad Phillips, Kevin Newsome, Mark Dantonio, Tate Forcier, Adam Weber, Jaamal Berry, Eddie McGee, Kurt Coleman, Scott Concannon, Amari Spievey, Brian George, Fitzgerald Toussaint, Brandon Saine, Donovan Warren, David Gilreath, Carlos Brown, Mike Kafka, Greg Jones, Julian Vandervelde, Joel Foreman, Greg Middleton, Trevor Anderson, O\'Brien Schofield, Adam Robinson, Jordan Hall, Terrance Thomas, Paul Petrino, Jeff Thomas, Lenyatta Kiles, Gary Emanuel, 2010 spring what to watch

Big Ten team recruiting needs

January, 20, 2010
1/20/10
11:43
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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.
My biggest problem with college football awards is that they're often based too much on preseason hype rather than on what happens between September and December.

That's why it was nice to see Purdue's Ryan Kerrigan added to the watch list for the Ted Hendricks Award, given to the nation's top defensive end. Kerrigan's name didn't appear on the 30-man preseason watch list, but the Boilermakers junior earned his way on with a strong performance this fall.

He leads the Big Ten and ties for eighth nationally in sacks with 11. Kerrigan is tied for third in the league in tackles for loss (16.5) and earned national defensive player of the week honors after leading Purdue to an upset victory against Ohio State on Oct. 17.

Hendricks Award finalists will be named in the coming weeks, and the winner will be announced Dec. 9. The preseason watch list included seven Big Ten players: Michigan State's Trevor Anderson, Michigan's Brandon Graham, Illinois' Doug Pilcher, Ohio State's Lawrence Wilson, Northwestern's Corey Wootton and Indiana's Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

When it comes to providing information and media access, Michigan State is one of the more open programs in the Big Ten. But not this week.

Head coach Mark Dantonio didn't issue a depth chart, citing lingering injury questions from the Spartans' loss to Minnesota. And he only allowed team captains to talk to the media, a departure from the standard routine, when all players are available for interviews.

The Detroit News' Eric Lacy called it a "bunker mentality."

Clamping down on media access isn't uncommon for major college programs, but you usually see it before national showcase games or major rivalries. Michigan State on Saturday hosts Western Michigan, a 4-5 Mid-American Conference team.

If it feels like the tension is mounting for the 4-5 Spartans, it is.

"Any time you have a football team that is all of a sudden 4-5 after nine games, you begin to lose a little bit of respect," Dantonio said. "I think that's natural. What we want to try to do is make sure we're regaining that respect."

Dantonio rarely discusses injuries, but health is a concern after running back Larry Caper and safety Danny Fortener suffered head injuries against Minnesota. Offensive lineman Joel Nitchman (knee) and defensive end Trevor Anderson (ankle) also left the game. Dantonio said the absence of the depth chart had nothing to do with performance issues, and he quickly dismissed a question Tuesday on the Big Ten teleconference about replacing quarterback Kirk Cousins.

"We have to see where we're at," Dantonio said. "It's purely are we going to play this guy over here, this guy over here, how are we going to align things based on injuries, that type of thing."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


Michigan State defensive end Trevor Anderson is the team's resident historian on defensive line play.

He's a YouTube junkie and often watches clips of his favorite NFL pass-rushers, trying to pick up things for his own game. He nearly went to Chuck Smith's training center for defensive linemen and linebackers this summer after researching the program on the Web. Anderson also is a sponge when it comes to advice, like the tip he received last summer from former Michigan State defensive tackle Ogemdi Nwagbuo, who now plays for the San Diego Chargers.
 
 Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
 Trevor Anderson and the Michigan State defense have turned up the heat the past two games.


"He told me, 'Defeat the hands, defeat the man,'" Anderson said. "I tried to remember that."

The pointer has helped Anderson and his fellow lineman during their midseason renaissance. The Spartans have recorded 10 sacks and 18 tackles for loss in their previous two games, eclipsing their totals (8 sacks, 17 TFLs) from the previous four contests.

It's hardly a mystery why Michigan State has posted back-to-back wins after starting the season 1-3.

No one will confuse the Spartans' defensive line with the Minnesota Vikings' front, and there's no Williams Wall in East Lansing. Michigan State's four starters average 273.5 pounds; they're not petite, but they're not behemoths either.

Anderson is generously listed at 260 pounds, while fellow end Colin Neely checks in at 248.

"We're not the biggest defensive line," Anderson said, "so we've got to excel at rushing the passer. Being able to stop the run, that's a bonus, and we've been doing a pretty decent job there, but rushing the passer is where we've got to excel. We've got to give our [defensive backs] time to cover."

(Read full post)

Big Ten helmet stickers: Week 5

October, 3, 2009
10/03/09
10:30
PM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg


It's time to recognize the best and the brightest from Week 5 in the Big Ten:

Wisconsin RB John Clay -- Stop the running back rotation. Clay proved against Minnesota why he should be Wisconsin's featured back. The sophomore had 32 carries for 184 yards and three touchdowns as Wisconsin overpowered the Gophers to retain Paul Bunyan's Axe.

Wisconsin DE O'Brien Schofield -- The senior co-captain has played at an All-Big Ten level throughout the season, and he turned in another huge performance against Minnesota. Schofield recorded 3.5 tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble on Gophers quarterback Adam Weber that sealed the Badgers' 31-28 victory.

Penn State's offensive line -- It deserved the blame last week, and it deserves the credit this week. I could give stickers to quarterback Daryll Clark or running backs Stephfon Green and Evan Royster, but the line did the dirty work and Penn State racked up a whopping 338 rushing yards against Illinois. It seems like the new-look line is finally starting to jell.

Northwestern's special-teams units -- I've given this group a lot of heat over the years, but it really stepped up in the win at Purdue. Kicker Stefan Demos went 4-for-4 on field goal attempts, and safeties Brian Peters and David Arnold both forced fumbles on kickoff returns that led to Wildcats points.

Michigan State LBs Eric Gordon and Greg Jones -- The Spartans' front seven shut down the Big Ten's top scoring offense, and Gordon and Jones led the way. They combined for 16 tackles, 2.5 tackles for loss, 1.5 sacks, a forced fumble and an interception. Michigan State held Michigan to only 28 rushing yards in its huge home victory.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

EAST LANSING, Mich. -- If you blacked-out Michigan State's win-loss record from 2008 and just examined where the team ranked statistically in the Big Ten, you'd probably peg the Spartans for no more than six or seven wins.

Michigan State finished no higher than fifth in any of the major statistical categories. In most cases, the team finished right in the middle of the pack.

Sixth in scoring (25.1 ppg)
Fifth in points allowed (22.1 ppg)
Fifth in turnover margin (plus-.15)
Ninth in rushing offense (130.2 ypg)
Seventh in rushing defense (142.5 ypg)
Sixth in pass offense (213.3 ypg)
Seventh in pass defense (213.4 ypg)
Eighth in total offense (343.5 ypg)
Seventh in total defense (355.8 ypg)

So how did the Spartans go 9-4, finish third in the league and reach the Capital One Bowl? They won close games and buckled down in the red zone, leading the league in red zone defense (75.6 percent).

"We've got goals where we'd like to do this in the run game and this in the pass game, but ultimately, in the end, it's all about wins," defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said. "When you look at those stats, they're deceiving, but they're important because it does let you know where we are."

Narduzzi recalled several big plays that skewed Michigan State's defensive statistics, including a 78-yard touchdown run by Indiana's Marcus Thigpen at the end of the first half in Bloomington. Thigpen's run serves as a reminder that while the defense made strides from the year before, better consistency remains a goal.

For the players, the numbers hold some value.

"We know that high statistics mean we're going to win games," cornerback Ross Weaver said. "We don't want a whole bunch of picks just so we can say we got 'em. We know that if we do get picks, it means our secondary will do better and help win games. We do like to be the best in what we do."

Added defensive end Trevor Anderson: "Being in the middle of the pack is OK, but it's time we take the next step and try to be [No.] 1 or 2, preferably 1."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

EAST LANSING -- Trevor Anderson was nearly out the door this summer.

In an effort to elevate his game before his senior season at Michigan State, Anderson logged onto YouTube and researched available instruction for defensive linemen. He soon came upon Defensive Line Inc., a training center for defensive linemen and outside linebackers run by former Atlanta Falcons standout Chuck Smith in Suwanee, Ga.

    Cliff Welch/Icon SMI   Michigan State defensive lineman Trevor Anderson honed his craft, with his teammates, in the offseason.

Anderson got in touch with one of the directors of the center through Facebook and received information about the program. He'd be able to rub elbows with NFL pass rushers and other college standouts, and get the instruction to elevate his game before a season that largely will determine his draft status.

The prospect of spending the summer in Georgia intrigued Anderson, who led Michigan State with eight sacks last fall.

"I thought about doing it," Anderson said. "But it would be kind of selfish for me to leave and not be with the team, not be sweating with them. Here, it was a little bit more structured. I went through the summer grind, as we call it, not being able to pay for food all the time, being able to bond with the players. It's a part of college, man, a college experience, and I really enjoyed it."

Anderson discussed the possibility of going through the program with his coaches, who were pleased to see him ultimately stick around.

"We had one guy a year ago go do [a program] at a different position," defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said, "and I'm not sure his teammates looked at it as real fair, as far as, 'Hey, where's he at? Why isn't he with us? Is he something special?' It's important that those guys be together because they grow together during the summer.

"Everybody says, 'You don't have experience coming back [on the defensive line].' It doesn't matter how good you are. It matters how well you jell together."

Anderson is determined to unite the defensive line, which returns only two starters but has stood out so far in camp.

"One of the things I share with the younger players is, 'You need to decide what type of player you are,'" he said. "'Are you a run stopper? Are you a pass rusher? Are you a power rusher? Are you a finesse rusher?' You need to decide and work on getting yourself better at that and work on your weaknesses.

"I'm pretty much trying to be a player first, and then a coach, for our team."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Defensive end was unquestionably the Big Ten's strongest position in 2008, and a look as who's returning this fall shows another strong group. Sacks leader Aaron Maybin has moved on to the NFL, but a host of standout ends are back. 

The Ted Hendricks Award committee seems to agree and included seven Big Ten defensive ends on its preseason watch list of 30 players. There will be a midseason watch list that eventually gets narrowed down to several finalists. The winner will be announced Dec. 9.

Here's the rundown from the Big Ten:

  • Trevor Anderson, Sr., Michigan State
  • Brandon Graham, Sr., Michigan
  • Jammie Kirlew, Sr., Indiana
  • Greg Middleton, Sr., Indiana
  • Doug Pilcher, Sr., Illinois
  • Lawrence Wilson, Sr., Ohio State
  • Corey Wootton, Sr., Northwestern

Of these players, three jump out as potential front-line candidates for the Hendricks Award: Graham, Wootton and Kirlew.

Graham led the Big Ten in tackles for loss last year (20), while Kirlew ranked second in tackles (10.5) and third in TFLs (19.5). Wootton might be the league's best all-around defensive end, recording 16 TFLS, 10 sacks, seven quarterback hurries, an interception, a forced fumble and a blocked kick. 

Indiana returns one of the nation's most accomplished sacks tandem in Kirlew and Middleton, who led the nation in sacks (16) in 2007. It's interesting to see Ohio State's Wilson get the nod over junior Thaddeus Gibson, though Wilson can be effective when healthy.  

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

They're baaaaack. Many of you who checked out colleague Heather Dinich's ACC position rankings asked when I'd be doing the same for the Big Ten. Well, Big Ten media days are done and we have a bit of a break before the first preseason practice begins Aug. 6 at Illinois. This seems like the perfect time to rank the positions heading into the season.

Defensive line is up first. There's only one elite group on paper, but no truly bad units, either. Really not much difference between Nos. 4-11.  

1. Ohio State -- The group has drawn comparisons to the 2002 line that helped Ohio State win a national title. Ohio State looks loaded at defensive end with Cameron Heyward, Thaddeus Gibson and Lawrence Wilson, a one-time starter who comes off of two major leg injuries. Gibson should have a big year after coming on strong late last fall. The tackles have been a bit iffy in recent years, but Doug Worthington boasts a ton of experience and should shore up the middle with Todd Denlinger, Dexter Larimore and Garrett Goebel.

2. Penn State -- Larry Johnson's body of work is simply too powerful to overlook, even though Penn State loses a lot from a group that led the Big Ten and ranked eighth nationally against the run (93.2 ypg). Jared Odrick is the Big Ten's most dominant interior defensive lineman, and he'll lead a group of promising young players. Hopes are extremely high for sophomore end Jack Crawford, and juniors Kevion Latham and Eric Latimore hold down the other end spot. Depth is a bit of a question, but Penn State should get a boost from a healthy Jerome Hayes. 

3. Iowa -- The Hawkeyes are another team dealing with major personnel losses as four-year starting tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul depart. But what Iowa loses inside, it makes up for on the edges with ends Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard. Clayborn recorded eight tackles for loss last year and should contend for All-Big Ten honors. It'll be interesting to see how Karl Klug and Mike Daniels adjust to playing more on the inside.

4. Northwestern -- A lot depends on Corey Wootton's durability after the senior defensive end tore his ACL in December. Wootton is probably the Big Ten's most versatile lineman, applying pressure to quarterbacks and also clogging pass lanes with his 6-foot-7 frame. Sophomore Vince Browne is primed for a big season at the other end spot. Replacing standout tackle John Gill won't be easy, but the Wildcats have veterans in Corbin Bryant, Marshall Thomas and Adam Hahn.

5. Wisconsin -- I'm taking a bit of a chance here, seeing how the Badgers lose three multiyear starters up front. But the line dominated Wisconsin's offseason program and boasts several exciting pieces, including Central Michigan transfer J.J. Watt, who can play either end or tackle. O'Brien Schofield is a solid leader at defensive end, and young linemen Brendan Kelly and Louis Nzegwu should blossom.     

6. Illinois -- The Illini lose their top four sacks leaders from last year, but they should be much better against the run, an area that really hurt the defense in 2008. With Josh Brent back in the fold, Illinois boasts arguably more depth at defensive tackle than any Big Ten team. Corey Liguet showed a lot of potential as a true freshman, and senior Sirod Williams returns from a torn ACL.  There are some questions at end aside from Doug Pilcher.

7. Michigan -- Senior end Brandon Graham should be the Big Ten's most dominant pass-rusher this fall, and if he gets some help from his teammates, he'll be even better. Michigan is very young elsewhere on the line but boasts a good deal of talent. Sophomores Ryan Van Bergen and Mike Martin showed promising signs in the spring, and it'll be interesting to see how much true freshman William Campbell gets on the field. 

8. Michigan State -- This is the only area of Michigan State's defense that doesn't wow me, but senior end Trevor Anderson leads a decent group. Anderson should build off of a nice junior season (8 sacks, 10.5 TFLs), but the Spartans need a second pass-rusher to emerge. Brandon Long and Justin Kershaw will be missed, and it'll be up to Colin Neely, Oren Wilson and others to fill the void. 

9. Minnesota -- The Gophers tied for the league lead in sacks last fall (34) but lose standout end Willie VanDeSteeg, who accounted for 10.5 of those sacks. Minnesota's strength is inside with senior tackles Garrett Brown and Eric Small. If Cedric McKinley or someone else develops into a reliable pass-rusher, Minnesota should finish the year higher on the list.

10. Purdue -- It wouldn't surprise me one bit if Purdue finished the year much higher on the list, but there are quite a few questions entering the fall. The Boilers know what they have in end Ryan Kerrigan and tackle Mike Neal, but the other two spots are mysteries. There are high hopes for Kawann Short and Gerald Gooden, but I need to see more evidence in games before bumping up the Boilers.     

11. Indiana -- We all know the Hoosiers can rush the passer with standout ends Jammie Kirlew and Greg Middleton. But can Indiana stop the run? There are some major question marks at defensive tackle entering preseason camp, and Bill Lynch needs a bona fide run-stopper to emerge. Junior tackle Deonte Mack needs to step up after missing spring ball with a hip injury.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Biggest reason for hope -- Depth on defense

Michigan State started to look like a Mark Dantonio defense last fall, and the unit should take another step forward in 2009. All-Big Ten linebacker Greg Jones headlines a group that led the Big Ten in red zone defense (75.6 percent) last season. Defensive end Trevor Anderson anchors the pass rush, and the Spartans should be even stronger in the secondary. Despite losing All-Big Ten safety Otis Wiley, Michigan State can go eight or nine deep in the back four. If another defensive lineman or two emerges, the Spartans will be very tough and continue to reflect their head coach's core values.

Biggest reason for concern -- Lack of star power on offense

Quick: Name two players on Michigan State's starting offense. All-American running back Javon Ringer is gone, and while the Spartans return some solid players, there are no bona fide stars. The team's new starting quarterback (Kirk Cousins or Keith Nichol) needs a wide receiver to emerge as a top target, with Mark Dell and Blair White being the top candidates. Michigan State finished eighth in the Big Ten in total offense last year (343.5 yards per game), and that was with a workhorse running back. This year's unit could be more explosive, but some headliners must emerge.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

During the next few weeks, the blog will rank the Big Ten's top 30 players entering the 2009 season. Rankings are a combination of past accomplishments and future potential.

 Anderson

Let's get started ... 

No. 30

Trevor Anderson, DE, Michigan State, Sr., 6-2, 259

Why he's here -- Anderson last fall showed flashes of being the superstar pass-rusher Michigan State thought it would get when he transferred from Cincinnati to rejoin head coach Mark Dantonio. After recording 10 sacks in two seasons at Cincinnati, Anderson led Michigan State with eight sacks in 2008. 

Not surprisingly, the Detroit native had his best performance of the season against archrival Michigan, recording three sacks. Anderson also racked up 2.5 sacks against Iowa's talented offensive line.

More than one-third of Anderson's tackles last fall came behind the line of scrimmage, but you'd like to see him factor in more stops this season. He's a bit undersized but brings good speed off the edge. With a good senior year, Anderson should join a deep group of elite defensive ends in the league. 

The Rundown

  • No. 30 -- Trevor Anderson, DE, Michigan State

Michigan State spring wrap

May, 6, 2009
5/06/09
9:30
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Michigan State Spartans
2008 overall record: 9-4

2008 conference record: 6-2

Returning starters

Offense: 7; Defense: 8; Special teams: 2

Top returners

WR Blair White, WR Mark Dell, C Joel Nitchman, TE Charlie Gantt, LB Greg Jones, DE Trevor Anderson, S Danny Fortener, K Brett Swenson

Key losses

RB Javon Ringer, QB Brian Hoyer, RT Jesse Miller, DT Justin Kershaw, DE Brandon Long, S Otis Wiley

2008 statistical leaders (* returners)

Rushing: Javon Ringer (1,637 yds)
Passing: Brian Hoyer (2,404 yds)
Receiving: Mark Dell* (679 yds)
Tackles: Greg Jones* (127)
Sacks: Trevor Anderson* (8)
Interceptions: Otis Wiley (4)

Spring answers

2009 Schedule
Sept. 5 Montana State
Sept. 12 Central Michigan
Sept. 19 at Notre Dame
Sept. 26 at Wisconsin
Oct. 3 Michigan
Oct. 10 at Illinois
Oct. 17 Northwestern
Oct. 24 Iowa
Oct. 31 at Minnesota
Nov. 7 Western Michigan
Nov. 14 at Purdue
Nov. 21 Penn State
1. Quarterback options -- The Spartans' quarterback competition is far from over, and that's not a bad thing. Sophomores Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol both performed well this spring and put up the exact same totals (357 pass yards, 4 TDs) in the Green-White game. The coaches are comfortable with either player, and both quarterbacks have the athleticism that will allow the offense to expand.

2. Safety depth -- Several key contributors in the secondary missed spring ball with injuries, but the Spartans bolstered their depth at safety with Trenton Robinson. The redshirt freshman continually impressed head coach Mark Dantonio, who mentioned Robinson every time he met with reporters. Robinson could push for a starting spot alongside Danny Fortener or Kendell Davis-Clark.

3. High and tight -- The tight end spot might be phased out for many college teams, but not Michigan State. The Spartans could have more depth at tight end than any Big Ten team -- Wisconsin's right there, too -- as Clemson transfer Brian Linthicum joins Charlie Gantt and Garrett Celek.

Fall questions

1. Ringer's replacement -- Arguably no player in the Big Ten did more for his team last fall than running back Javon Ringer, and Michigan State continues to look for a capable successor or two. None of the four candidates created much separation this spring, and incoming freshman Edwin Baker and Larry Caper will have opportunities to compete in preseason camp. Head coach Mark Dantonio wants to identify 2-3 reliable backs.

2. Offensive line -- Dantonio saw promising signs from a revamped line toward the end of the spring, but some doubt still remains. Junior J'Michael Deane and sophomore Jared McGaha must continue to develop on the right side of the line. Left tackle Rocco Cironi also returns from a shoulder injury and needs to re-establish himself.

3. Pass-rush help -- The Spartans finished eighth in the league in sacks last season (26) and need to identify a second pass-rusher to complement Trevor Anderson. The starting end spot opposite Anderson remains up for grabs, and redshirt freshman Tyler Hoover could land it after a solid spring. Colin Neely also is in the mix.

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