Big Ten: Tyler Replogle

I apologize for the delay, but it's finally time to examine the Big Ten's top candidates to reach 100 tackles or more in the 2011 season. We've already looked at the league's top touchdown scorers (15 or more), 1,000-yard rushing candidates, sack-masters, 3,000-yard passers and top interceptors.

The Big Ten had six players record 100 or more tackles in 2010: Michigan linebacker Jonas Mouton (117), Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs (116), Penn State linebacker Chris Colasanti (112), Illinois linebacker Martez Wilson (112), Northwestern safety Brian Peters (107) and Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones (106). Seven Big Ten defenders reached the 100-tackle mark in 2010, led by Jones (154) and Iowa linebacker Pat Angerer (146).

[+] EnlargeLavonte David
Brett Davis/US PresswireNebraska linebacker Lavonte David is expected to be among the Big Ten's top tacklers next season.
Nebraska star linebacker Lavonte David actually is the Big Ten's leading returning tackler after recording 154 stops in 2010.

Let's be clear that tackles don't mean everything, and there have been some mediocre defenders who end up high on the tackles charts. I've also noticed that some of the Big Ten's historically elite defenses, like Ohio State, rarely have players approach 100 tackles. This can be attributed in part to good team defense and also to being on the field for fewer plays. So if a player from your favorite team doesn't appear below, it might not be a bad thing.

Still, 100 tackles is a milestone and several Big Ten players should approach it.

Here are the top candidates:

1. Nebraska LB Lavonte David: He set a team single-season record for tackles in 2010 and should be able to surpass 100 stops for the second consecutive year. David recorded 10 tackles or more in eight contests in 2010 and had 15 stops or more three times. It'll be interesting to see how he adjusts to Big Ten offenses, but he's too good not to be around the ball.

2. Northwestern S Brian Peters: I'm not sure Northwestern wants to have a safety eclipse 100 tackles again, but Peters once again could be the team's go-to tackler as it loses two multiyear starters at linebacker. He recorded 10 tackles or more in six games last fall.

3. Penn State LB Michael Mauti: Sure, he only had 67 tackles last fall, but Mauti is poised for a breakout season if he can stay healthy. Mauti has a chance to put up Posluszny/Connor tackle numbers as he continues to mature. Penn State will be a more linebacker-driven defense this fall, and several players -- Mauti, Nathan Stupar, Gerald Hodges -- could challenge for 100 tackles.

4. Iowa S/CB Micah Hyde: Hyde had 82 tackles from the cornerback spot in 2010 and should see that number increase if he plays more safety this fall. Although an Iowa linebacker like James Morris certainly could climb up the tackles chart this fall, Hyde seems to have a knack for being around the football.

5. Purdue S Logan Link: After leading the team with 91 tackles in 2010, Link is poised for another productive season. Purdue has some question marks in the seven front seven, and it will rely on Link and other defensive backs to move down and make plays against the run.

6. Indiana LB Jeff Thomas: Thomas finished last season with 82 tackles, five shy of team leader Tyler Replogle. As Replogle departs, Thomas will move into a more featured role at linebacker and should definitely be in the mix for 100 tackles or more. Indiana's defense also could spend a lot of time on the field this fall, giving Thomas plenty of tackle opportunities.

Also keep an eye on the following players:

  • Michigan LB Kenny Demens and S Jordan Kovacs
  • Iowa LB James Morris
  • One of Michigan State's LBs (Chris Norman, Max Bullough, TyQuan Hammock)
  • Illinois LB Ian Thomas
  • Minnesota LBs Gary Tinsley or Mike Rallis
Spring practice is creeping closer, and Purdue will hit the field in less than two weeks (March 1 to be exact) for the first of its 15 workouts.

Here's a snapshot of what to expect in the Leaders Division this spring.

ILLINOIS

Spring practice starts: March 29
Spring game: April 23

What to watch:
  • New look at linebacker: Illinois loses first-team All-Big Ten selection Martez Wilson as well as playmaker Nate Bussey. They combined for 195 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, two interceptions and four fumble recoveries. The Illini need a middle linebacker and could turn to productive senior Ian Thomas or promising sophomore Jonathan Brown. Illinois also is replacing linebackers coach Dan Disch.
  • Ford tough: All-American running back Mikel Leshoure departs, turning the spotlight to Jason Ford. At 235 pounds, Ford is a true power back who will give the Illinois offense a slightly different look in 2011. The Illini also want to build depth at running back with players like Troy Pollard.
  • Replacing Liuget: Illinois begins the difficult task of replacing the Big Ten's most disruptive interior defensive lineman in Corey Liuget, a likely first-round draft pick in April. Akeem Spence had a very solid redshirt freshman season and will take on a larger role, but Illinois must build around him with Glenn Foster and others. This is a major priority for defensive coordinator Vic Koenning and line coach Keith Gilmore this spring.
INDIANA

Start of spring practice: March 8
Spring game: April 16
End of spring practice: April 19

What to watch:
  • Culture change: Kevin Wilson has talked extensively about changing the culture around the Indiana program, and the process begins in full force this spring. Players will have to adjust to the demands of Wilson and his staff, which still isn't in place but soon will be. There will be plenty of teaching and learning, as players must absorb Wilson's offense and a 4-3 defensive scheme (IU operated out of the 3-4 for part of last season).
  • Quarterback competition: Three-year starter Ben Chappell departs, and there's no clear-cut successor entering spring practice. Both Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker played sparingly in five games last season, and they bring different skills to the table. It'll be interesting to see who emerges under center this spring before acclaimed recruit Tre Roberson arrives for fall camp.
  • Identify defensive contributors: Indiana can't expect to get over the hump until it upgrades the defense, and co-coordinators Mike Ekeler and Doug Mallory begin a crucial evaluation process this spring. The Hoosiers need to build depth and identify Big Ten-ready players throughout the defense, particularly in the back seven after losing standout linebacker Tyler Replogle and others.
OHIO STATE

Start of spring practice: March 31
Spring game: April 23
  • Suspension preparation: Ohio State knows it will be without four offensive starters and a key defensive reserve for the first chunk of the 2011 season. This spring, the Buckeyes start the process of evaluating who will step in, especially at the quarterback spot for Terrelle Pryor. Joe Bauserman holds an edge in experience (though little has come in games), and he'll compete with Kenny Guiton and heralded incoming freshman Braxton Miller.
  • Receiving orders for Drayton: Stan Drayton left Florida for Ohio State primarily to expand his coaching repertoire and oversee a new position group. The career running backs coach will work with a mostly unproven group of Ohio State wide receivers this spring. Ohio State must replace All-Big Ten standout Dane Sanzenbacher, and DeVier Posey is among those suspended for the first part of the season. Says Drayton of his receivers, "Personnel wise, they're in competition with the whole offensive unit."
  • Up-the-middle defensive replacements: Excuse the baseball reference, but Ohio State loses several standout players in the core of its defense: linemen Cameron Heyward and Dexter Larimore, linebackers Brian Rolle and Ross Homan, and safety Jermale Hines. Although the Buckeyes always find ways to reload on defense, it will be interesting to see who emerges this spring, especially at linebacker.
PENN STATE

Start of spring practice: March 18
Spring game: April 16

What to watch:
  • The quarterbacks, especially Rob Bolden: Penn State's quarterback competition should be wide open this spring, and it might be the most fascinating race in the Big Ten. You've got sophomore Rob Bolden, who asked for his release after the Gator Bowl but didn't get it from Joe Paterno, and has returned to compete for a job he thought he never should have lost. Junior Matt McGloin tries to redeem himself after the bowl disaster, and Paul Jones and Kevin Newsome also are in the mix.
  • Line play on both sides: The Lions boast enough at the skill positions on both sides of the ball to be a much improved team in 2011. But they have to get better and more consistent on both lines. The offensive line must replace standout Stefen Wisniewski and find the form it displayed in 2008. The defensive line tries to regain its swagger after backsliding in 2010, and identify a pass-rushing threat or two.
  • Kicking it: Collin Wagner was Penn State's top offensive weapon for much of the 2010 season, but the standout kicker departs the program, leaving a void. Punter Anthony Fera likely will handle the bulk of the kicking duties this spring until incoming freshman Sam Ficken arrives.
PURDUE

Start of spring practice: March 2
Spring game: April 9

What to watch:
  • Replacing Superman: Purdue returns nine defensive starters, but the Boilers lose Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year Ryan Kerrigan. The Boilers were the league's top pass-rushing team in 2010, but Kerrigan's production and presence played huge roles in the overall sacks and tackles for loss totals. The entire defensive line took a step forward last fall, and will need to do so again without No. 94.
  • The quarterbacks: Robert Marve is still recovering from his second ACL tear, so Rob Henry, Caleb TerBush and Sean Robinson will be in the spotlight this spring. Henry showed promise when healthy in 2010, and TerBush had a strong spring a year ago before being ruled academically ineligible for the season. The quarterback race won't be decided until the summer, but all the candidates can help themselves in spring ball.
  • The offensive identity: A wave of injuries forced Purdue to overhaul its plan on offense in 2010. Although several key players will be out or limited this spring, the Boilers can start to reshape their plan on offense. Coach Danny Hope is optimistic Marve and the others return at full strength, but he doesn't want to take anything for granted. This is a huge spring for players a notch or two down the depth chart to get noticed.
WISCONSIN

Start of spring practice: March 22
Spring game: April 23

What to watch:
  • Finding Tolzien's successor: After a one-year respite, Wisconsin's annual spring quarterback competition resumes. Sort of. Jon Budmayr will have every opportunity to establish himself as the Badgers' top option before Curt Phillips (knee) returns to full strength. Budmayr turned heads with his performance two springs ago, but played sparingly last season behind Scott Tolzien.
  • New leadership on defense: Charlie Partridge and Chris Ash are familiar faces who step into new roles this spring. Partridge and Ash were promoted to co-defensive coordinators following Dave Doeren's departure, and they'll get their first opportunity to shape the defensive vision this spring.
  • Reloading on the lines: Wisconsin loses three All-American linemen from 2010: Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt on the offensive side, and J.J. Watt at defensive end. Although the Badgers must replace more bodies on the offensive front, they boast excellent depth there and should be able to fill the gaps. Watt leaves a bigger void, and Wisconsin needs strong springs from players like Louis Nzegwu and David Gilbert.

Indiana Hoosiers season recap

December, 7, 2010
12/07/10
11:30
AM ET
Coach Bill Lynch talked a lot this summer about Indiana being only 12 plays away from a nice season in 2009.

The Hoosiers got even closer to an elusive bowl berth this fall, winning five games and playing competitive contests against Michigan, Northwestern and especially Iowa. But a program that can't seem to get over the hump in Big Ten play fell just short again, and Indiana athletic director Fred Glass determined that the time had come for a change at the top.

Glass' decision to fire Lynch on Nov. 28 wasn't an easy one, but it made sense after Lynch won only three Big Ten games in the past three seasons. Like several of his IU predecessors, Lynch fostered success on offense, as quarterback Ben Chappell had another big season as one of the Big Ten's top signal-callers. He got plenty of help from his outstanding receiving corps, led by All-Big Ten selection Tandon Doss and fellow junior Damarlo Belcher.

But Indiana's defense continued to struggle mightily, despite the arrivals of several junior college players. Indiana allowed the most points (408) of any Big Ten team and didn't generate much of a pass rush aside from end Darius Johnson.

The Hoosiers' wins came against four weak nonconference foes and a banged-up Purdue team in West Lafayette. Although there were some nice moments, especially the players lifting the Old Oaken Bucket on Nov. 27, the time for change had arrived.

Offensive MVP: Ben Chappell. Few Big Ten players meant more to their teams than Chappell, who led the league in passing yards (3,295) and tossed 24 touchdowns and only nine interceptions for a one-dimensional Hoosiers offense. Overshadowed by so many other great Big Ten quarterbacks, Chappell ranked 22nd nationally in total offense and recorded six 300-yard passing performance this season. Belcher and Doss merit mentions here.

Defensive MVP: Tyler Replogle. Indiana endured another rough year on the defensive side, but Replogle did his part. The senior linebacker led Indiana with 87 tackles, six for loss, and added an interception, three quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery. His leadership for a young Hoosiers defense was invaluable.

Turning point: Indiana still had a chance to make a bowl game when it hosted Iowa on Nov. 6 at Memorial Stadium. The Hoosiers' defense kept the Hawkeyes out of the end zone until the closing minutes, and Iowa took an 18-13 lead with 2:50 remaining. Chappell drove Indiana downfield and lofted a fourth-down pass to an open Belcher in the end zone. But the normally sure-handed junior dropped the ball. Indiana was pasted 83-20 the next week at Wisconsin.

What's next: Glass acted quickly to find a successor for Lynch and will introduce Oklahoma offensive coordinator Kevin Wilson as the team's new coach today at a 4 p.m. ET news conference in Bloomington. Wilson has Big Ten ties at Northwestern and brings a strong track record to Indiana, which returns several exciting offensive weapons for 2011. His biggest task is no different from the one facing the men who came before him -- fix Indiana's defense.

What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 13

November, 24, 2010
11/24/10
10:15
AM ET
It's rivalry week in the Big Ten, and here are 10 things to watch on Saturday.

1. Title talk: Wisconsin, Ohio State and Michigan State all can claim at least a share of the Big Ten title by winning on Saturday. The Badgers are primarily rooting for a Michigan State loss, although if all three teams win, Wisconsin likely heads to Pasadena because of its higher place in the BCS standings. Michigan State is pulling for hated rival Michigan to upset Ohio State, while the Buckeyes want Northwestern to shock Wisconsin in Madison. Should be an interesting day of scoreboard watching around the league.

[+] EnlargeWisconsin running back Montee Ball
Rick Osentoski/US PRESSWIREMontee Ball and Wisconsin could be heading to the Rose Bowl with a win over Northwestern this weekend.
2. Penn State looks toward the future: Joe Paterno said this week that he'll return in 2011 for his 46th season as Penn State's head coach. Paterno cited having a young team with the potential to get better. Well, Saturday provides the Nittany Lions with the chance to take a big step forward. Penn State has struggled mightily against ranked teams this season, falling by more than 20 points to Alabama, Iowa and Ohio State. A win against No. 10 Michigan State would give Penn State wins in five of its final six regular-season games and raise the bar for next fall.

3. Lynch's last stand: Indiana doesn't want to fire Bill Lynch, but it might have to if the coach goes winless in Big Ten play in his fourth season at the helm. Lynch can avoid such a fate and improve his cause by beating archrival Purdue in West Lafayette. The Hoosiers players are in Lynch's corner, as linebacker Tyler Replogle said this week: "We've been trying to win for Coach Lynch all year." After so many near misses, the Hoosiers need to show that they can get over the hump in a Big Ten game.

4. Robinson vs. Pryor: The Big Ten's two most recognizable players meet Saturday at The Horseshoe, and the league's Offensive Player of the Year Award could be at stake. Robinson has broken records and put up some incredible numbers, but he's still looking for a signature win. Beating No. 10 Ohio State certainly would qualify. Pryor boasts a 29-4 record as Ohio State's starting quarterback and came up big in the clutch last week at Iowa. Both signal callers have significantly improved their passing numbers this season, but both remain threats to run.

5. Getting piggy wit it: Sorry, couldn't resist. The Floyd of Rosedale is at stake Saturday when Minnesota and No. 24 Iowa meet at TCF Bank Stadium. The Hawkeyes need to finish strong after back-to-back heartbreaking losses, and they've taken their anger out on Minnesota in recent years. The Gophers saw coach Tim Brewster fired midseason for, among other things, not winning enough rivalry trophies. Bringing the pig back to Minneapolis in a huge upset would help Minnesota end a disappointing season on a very good note.

6. Wildcats try to rebound against three-headed monster: Northwestern's defense got absolutely shredded for 519 rush yards against Illinois last week at Wrigley Field. It's not the type of performance the Wildcats needed before a game against an even better ground attack in Wisconsin. The Badgers called 28 consecutive run plays last week against Michigan and have been dominant on offense during Big Ten play. John Clay could return to join sophomore Montee Ball and freshman James White, forming a fearsome three-headed monster in the backfield.

7. Kirk Cousins' health: The Michigan State quarterback hasn't looked like himself for a few weeks, and there are reasons why. He has been dealing with a sprained ankle since an Oct. 16 game against Illinois and a sprained shoulder for just about as long. Like his team, Cousins has shown resiliency to play through the pain, and he scored the game-winning touchdown last week against Purdue. But he also reaggravated his injuries in the game. Cousins is never one to complain and will try to lead Michigan State to its first Big Ten title in 20 years Saturday, but will his body hold up in Happy Valley?

8. Greg Robinson's stuffed animal: Robinson is trying just about anything to help Michigan's poor defense, apparently even a stuffed animal. The Wolverines defensive coordinator was seen rubbing the stuffed animal on the neck of linebacker Kenny Demens in last week's game against Wisconsin. I'd prefer to see Jobu show up on the Michigan sideline this week. Then again, it might take more than gimmicks to help this unit become respectable.

9. Gophers try to end scoreless streak: Minnesota has been shut out in its previous two meetings with Iowa, a scoreless streak Hawkeyes' fans never hesitate to point out (pun intended). The Gophers haven't exactly been dynamic on offense this season, but they put up 38 points two weeks ago against Illinois to record their first conference win of the season. Senior quarterback Adam Weber hopes to end an up-and-down career on a strong note against an Iowa defense looking to start strong and finish stronger after blowing fourth-quarter leads in consecutive games.

10. Endgame for Kerrigan: Purdue isn't going bowling, so Saturday marks the final chance for Boilers fans to salute star defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. Former defensive tackle Jeff Zgonina is the only Purdue player to win Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors, taking home the award in 1993. Kerrigan soon should add his name to the list, and he tries to go 3-1 against Indiana in his career.
Indiana's season finale this week at archrival Purdue could have significant implications for Hoosiers fourth-year coach Bill Lynch.

Or it could not.

[+] EnlargeIndiana head coach Bill Lynch
AP Photo/Darron CummingsIndiana coach Bill Lynch has the support of his players, but it might not be enough.
Athletic director Fred Glass hasn't made any big public declarations about Lynch's status -- like he did last year -- and has said he will evaluate the coach and the program at the end of the season. While Glass might have already made up his mind about Lynch, it's not a stretch to suggest the AD is waiting to see how Indiana performs this week at Purdue.

Glass previously has talked about the importance of honoring contracts, and Lynch has a year left on the deal he signed in November 2007 after guiding Indiana to its first bowl appearance in 13 years. But in the current climate of college football, coaches entering the final year of their contracts almost always get extended or get canned. It can really hurt recruiting to let things stand pat.

(Indiana, by the way, has 21 players verbally committed for the 2011 class, which could help Lynch's cause to be retained.)

"His support has been unbelievable," Lynch said of Glass at today's news conference. "We've had a great relationship and everything that he's said has been exactly what it's been throughout the year. He's been as supportive as can be, week-by-week."

Glass clearly doesn't want to fire Lynch, but it's no secret why he might have to.

Indiana is 2-21 in Big Ten since Lynch received his extension. The Hoosiers are the league's only winless team in conference play heading into Week 13.

Sure, Indiana has been close to a lot of wins, but close doesn't cut it after a while.

Will a win against a banged-up Purdue team to reclaim the Old Oaken Bucket be enough for Lynch to save himself? Tough to say. It certainly wouldn't hurt.

This much is clear: Indiana players know the situation this week, and they're definitely in Lynch's corner.

From The (Bloomington) Herald-Times:
Quarterback Ben Chappell: "I think you feel kind of personally responsible because we’re the guys who are playing. I think he’s done a great job of getting us prepared every week. We’ve said this a lot where it’s come down to very few plays where if one of us steps up and makes a play, we have some different outcomes. That’s obviously tough, but I have the ultimate respect for coach. I love playing for him, and I'd do anything for him.”

Linebacker Tyler Replogle: "We've been trying to win for Coach Lynch all year. We talk as players all the time. We love Coach Lynch. We want to go undefeated for him because he means the world to us. But you try to win for him every week, and I think that’s what we've tried to do. If there’s anything left that we can give more, we're going to try to."

If the players can hoist the Bucket on Saturday, they might buy Lynch some more time to get things on track.
I think you feel kind of personally responsible because we’re the guys who are playing. I think he’s done a great job of getting us prepared every week. We’ve said this a lot where it’s come down to very few plays where if one of us steps up and makes a play, we have some different outcomes. That’s obviously tough, but I have the ultimate respect for coach. I love playing for him, and I’d do anything for him.”
You had to feel sick for Damarlo Belcher on Saturday afternoon.

The Indiana junior receiver is having an outstanding season, leading the Big Ten with 65 receptions and tying for 10th nationally in receptions per game (7.2). He also ranks second in the conference in both receiving yards (706) and receiving yards per game (78.4).

Belcher has four touchdown catches this season. But he should have five.

Indiana was poised to record the biggest win in recent team history Saturday against No. 13 Iowa. The Hoosiers trailed 18-13 with less than a minute to play when quarterback Ben Chappell lofted the ball to Belcher on fourth-and-10 from the Hawkeyes' 18-yard line.

Belcher leaped for the ball in the end zone and appeared to make the catch ...

"I jumped up when he caught it," fellow Hoosiers receiver Duwyce Wilson told The (Bloomington) Herald-Times. "Then, as I was coming down and he was coming down, he dropped it."

A catch Belcher makes 98 times out of 100 turned into a drop Indiana fans won't soon forget. It resulted in yet another close Big Ten loss for a Hoosiers team that has endured too many of them the last two seasons. Indiana now must win two of its last three games to become bowl eligible.

The good news is how the Hoosiers and Belcher are handling the situation.

Belcher is "doing fine," Hoosiers coach Bill Lynch said Tuesday, and the team has rallied around him.

When team captains Tyler Replogle and Chappell convened the team's leadership council for its regular Monday meeting, they conducted their weekly vote for two game captains to serve in this week's contest at No. 7 Wisconsin.

"They unanimously voted Damarlo a game captain," Lynch said. "They're telling him they've got his back. And that's what makes a football team."

That's great to see from the Hoosiers.

Midseason review: Indiana

October, 12, 2010
10/12/10
10:30
AM ET
Indiana Hoosiers

Record: 3-2 (0-2 Big Ten)

Indiana still can't compete with the Big Ten's elite (read: Saturday's ugly loss at Ohio State), but the Hoosiers have enough firepower to reach a bowl game for the second time in four seasons. This program is looking to take a step this fall, and a favorable schedule plus a dynamic passing attack gives IU a good chance to do so. Although the annual problems on defense must be addressed, Indiana can feel good about the potential on offense with Ben Chappell leading the way. The senior quarterback leads the Big Ten and ranks ninth nationally in passing average (295.2 ypg) with 12 touchdowns, just three interceptions and a 70.2 percent completion ratio. He has an outstanding receiving corps at his disposal, led by Tandon Doss and Damarlo Belcher. Indiana remains too one-dimensional on offense, a problem that will prove costly against the Big Ten's better defenses. It's important to get Darius Willis going in the second half. It's more important to get more stops on defense after being shredded by Denard Robinson and Terrelle Pryor in the first two Big Ten games. Indiana must find ways to protect its secondary. The Hoosiers should win their final nonconference game, but they need at least two Big Ten wins to qualify for a bowl.

Offensive MVP, Ben Chappell: The senior has evolved into one of the nation's most proficient passers, completing 132 of 188 attempts for 1,476 yards. He threw 12 touchdown passes before he threw his second interception and set team records for completions (45), attempts (64) and pass yards (480) in a shootout loss to Michigan. Chappell tossed three or more touchdown passes in three consecutive games -- Western Kentucky, Akron, Michigan -- and shows tremendous chemistry with his receivers and tight ends. Belcher and Doss, the Big Ten's top two pass-catchers, also merit mentions.

Defensive MVP, LB Tyler Replogle: There aren't many candidates on a struggling unit, but Replogle has done a good job as the defense's undisputed leader. He leads Indiana in tackles (32) despite missing a game with a concussion and boasts an interception, a fumble recovery and 1.5 tackles for loss. Linebacker Leon Beckum (4 tackles for loss, 2 sacks) also had done some good things in the first half.

Indiana injury report

September, 30, 2010
9/30/10
7:32
PM ET
Indiana has issued its official injury report for Saturday's home showdown against No. 19 Michigan.

OUT
  • S Chris Adkins, ankle
  • K Nick Freeland, hip
PROBABLE
  • S Donnell Jones, knee

The big name missing is senior linebacker Tyler Replogle, who will return after missing last week's win against Akron with a concussion. Indiana needs a big performance from Replogle as it tries to improve its shaky run defense against the nation's leading rusher (Michigan QB Denard Robinson). Redshirt freshman Mitch Ewald will handle the kicking duties in Freeland's absence.

Big Ten Monday news roundup

September, 27, 2010
9/27/10
5:30
PM ET
A few notes from around the league on the Monday before conference play kicks off:

  • Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson should be fine for this week's game at Indiana after suffering a bruised left knee in the first quarter of Saturday's win against Bowling Green. Robinson will be limited in Monday's practice but is expected to do more in Tuesday's workout. Coach Rich Rodriguez said after Saturday's game that Robinson could have returned if needed. Rodriguez said Monday that reserve quarterback Tate Forcier also should be fine after sustaining a bruised quad against Bowling Green. Running back Fitzgerald Toussaint (shoulder) and Michael Shaw (knee) will be evaluated throughout the week.
  • Illinois offensive lineman Hugh Thornton was arrested for simple battery and damage to property following a weekend incident at a Champaign bar. Thornton hasn't been suspended as coach Ron Zook continues to gather information. The sophomore suffered a scary neck injury against Northern Illinois and had to be carted off the field, but he was released from the hospital later that day and had been expected to play this week against No. 2 Ohio State.
  • Thanks to colleague David Ubben for passing along this nugget from The Austin American-Statesman's Kirk Bohls: "[Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe] also said Big Ten commissioner Jim Delany told him last week that the Big Ten has 'zero activity' for further expansion." This is fairly consistent with what Delany said following the Big Ten divisions announcement, as the league has several items to address before it can devote more time to the expansion study. Does this mean the Big Ten is totally done with expansion? Not necessarily, although I get the sense that the league is very content with its current setup.
  • Wisconsin receivers Nick Toon (toe) and David Gilreath (concussion) both are listed on the depth chart for the Michigan State game. Gilreath hasn't been cleared for full contact just yet, but he might be later this week. I'd definitely expect to see Toon on the field at Spartan Stadium. "Probably since fall camp started, this is the healthiest we've been," Badgers coach Bret Bielema said Monday.
  • Indiana senior linebacker Tyler Replogle is back on the depth chart after missing Saturday's game against Akron with a concussion. Coach Bill Lynch expects Replogle to return to practice this week.
  • Northwestern running backs Mike Trumpy and Jacob Schmidt have been elevated to co-starters on this week's depth chart for the Minnesota game. Trumpy provided a lift to the run game in the second half against Central Michigan, while Schmidt rushed for two touchdowns. Arby Fields has been moved to second string following his costly fourth-quarter fumble.
The first Big Ten night game is in the books, and here are some quick thoughts:

Indiana 35, Akron 20: We won't get a true gauge on Indiana until Michigan visits Bloomington next week, but this much is clear: quarterback Ben Chappell and his receivers/tight ends are playing at an extremely high level. Chappell turned in another tremendous performance against Akron, completing 22 of 33 passes for 342 yards and four touchdowns. He got plenty of help from Terrance Turner (6 catches, 121 yards, 1 TD) and the other receivers, as well as tight ends Ted Bolser and Max Dedmond, who combined for three touchdown receptions.

Indiana also did a better job of establishing Darius Willis and the rushing attack in the second half. I'm still very concerned about a Hoosiers defense that surrendered 20 points and 160 rushing yards. IU missed senior linebacker Tyler Replogle (concussion), who might be back next week, but the Hoosiers have to tighten things up against Denard Robinson and the Wolverines' offense.

Big Ten lunch links

September, 23, 2010
9/23/10
12:00
PM ET
Getting picky today.

The Big Ten is still perfect in 2010. All three teams in action Thursday night came out victorious. You've already seen my thoughts on Ohio State-Marshall.

Let's take a look at the other two games:

Minnesota 24, Middle Tennessee 17: It wasn't a masterpiece, but Minnesota took a big step toward establishing its offensive identity. Coach Tim Brewster has talked about "pound the rock" for a while, but until Thursday night, the Gophers hadn't been that power-run, clock-killing offense. They achieved both of those goals in a big way at Middle Tennessee, rushing for 281 yards and holding the ball for 45:34. That's exactly what new offensive coordinator Jeff Horton wants to do with this unit. Running back Duane Bennett had a huge night (30 carries, 187 yards), and I couldn't be happier for fullback Jon Hoese, who scored all three Minnesota touchdowns, including the game-winner in the fourth quarter. Hoese nearly didn't make the trip after his father suffered a severe stroke this week. He ends up playing, scoring three touchdowns and recovering a fumble on a kickoff return. He'll be getting a helmet sticker Saturday night. Minnesota's defense looked shaky at times in the middle quarters but did enough to win, and senior quarterback Adam Weber completed 10 of 17 passes. Most important, Minnesota played a more disciplined game, committing no turnovers and had just four penalties. The Gophers had to take advantage of Middle Tennessee without Dwight Dasher, and they did with a second-half rally.

Indiana 51, Towson 17: Tandon Doss' absence clearly didn't slow down the Indiana offense, which surged both through the air and, more importantly, on the ground. As I expected, Damarlo Belcher picked up the slack for the injured Doss and came up big with eight receptions for 96 yards and a touchdown. Ben Chappell did what senior quarterbacks are supposed to do against poor FCS teams and delivered an efficient performance (17-for-24 passing, 186 yards, 2 touchdowns). But the big story was Willis and the run game. Coach Bill Lynch introduced the pistol formation to spark the rushing attack, but Indiana has been inconsistent and Willis has struggled to stay healthy. The junior back looked great Thursday with 102 rush yards and two touchdowns on only 13 carries. Linebacker Tyler Replogle led the defense, and two defensive backs who used to play receiver, Mitchell Evans and Matt Ernest, both recorded interceptions. Indiana has to capitalize on a very soft nonconference slate, and Thursday night was the first step.
Welcome to National Depth Chart Day. No day on the college football calendar inspires more curiosity about depth charts than the Monday before the season, when most teams release their Week 1 two-deeps.

(And then there's Purdue, which didn't include a depth chart in its game notes for Notre Dame. Ugh.)

I've had the chance to review depth charts from those programs that released them today -- two-deeps from Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota are coming soon -- and I checked in on several coaches' news conferences.

Here's what stood out:

INDIANA
  • Even though Indiana will shift to a 3-4 defensive alignment this year, the depth chart lists a 4-3 with Darius Johnson and Fred Jones as the starting ends and Chad Sherer and Tyler Replogle flanking junior college transfer Jeff Thomas at linebacker.
  • Interesting to see several veteran offensive linemen like Justin Pagan and Cody Faulkner listed as backups rather than starters. Junior Andrew McDonald steps into some big shoes at left tackle as Rodger Saffold departs to the NFL.
  • The backup quarterback job remains open, as Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker are both listed as No. 2 behind Ben Chappell.
  • Indiana expects big things from redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson, listed as a starter at wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner.
IOWA
  • Sophomores Micah Hyde and Greg Castillo are listed as the starting cornerbacks. Shaun Prater doesn't appear on the depth chart after dealing with a leg injury in camp. Prater hasn't been officially ruled out for the Eastern Illinois game, but I wouldn't expect to see much of him on Saturday.
  • James Ferentz is listed as the starting center, a spot where Iowa might be a little thin following Josh Koeppel's motorcycle accident Monday morning.
  • Starting defensive end Broderick Binns is suspended for the opener, so Christian Ballard is listed as a possible starter at both end and tackle. Mike Daniels and Lebron Daniel are the next options behind Ballard.
MICHIGAN
  • Sophomores Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier and freshman Devin Gardner are listed as co-starters at quarterback. Head coach Rich Rodriguez reiterated Monday that Gardner won't redshirt this fall.
  • Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw are listed as co-starters at running back, with Michael Cox behind them.
  • True freshman Carvin Johnson is listed as the starter at the spur position (safety/linebacker). Pretty big surprise here, and a testament to Johnson's work in camp.
  • Senior James Rogers steps into Troy Woolfolk's starting cornerback spot opposite J.T. Floyd.
  • Receivers Martavious Odoms and Kelvin Grady clearly showed enough in camp to be listed as starters or possible starters against Connecticut.
NORTHWESTERN
  • Sophomore running back Arby Fields returned to practice Monday and wore a no-contact jersey after being sidelined with a shoulder problem. He's listed as a co-starter at running back with Jacob Schmidt and Stephen Simmons. Northwestern wanted a clear No. 1 running back to emerge in camp, but Fields' injury changed the plan.
  • Junior Bryce McNaul is listed as the third top linebacker alongside returning starters Quentin Davie and Nate Williams. McNaul won the job in camp.
  • Venric Mark is the only true freshman listed on the depth chart, both as a backup wide receiver and a co-starter at punt returner. I'll go out on a huge limb (sarcasm) and predict Mark will be the man on returns for the Wildcats very shortly.
OHIO STATE
  • Junior defensive end Nathan Williams, a projected starter, will miss the Marshall game with a knee injury. He should be back shortly thereafter. Solomon Thomas will start in Williams' spot Thursday night.
  • Starting cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) is questionable for the Marshall game, but corner Devon Torrence (hamstring) should be fine.
  • Sophomore C.J. Barnett's strong performance in camp lifted him ahead of Orhian Johnson on the Week 1 depth chart. Johnson missed a chunk of camp with an injury.
  • Start salivating, Buckeyes fans, because running backs Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry likely will handle kickoff returns against Marshall.
PENN STATE
  • Sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin and freshman Robert Bolden are listed as co-starters at quarterback for the Youngstown State game.
  • Sophomore Devon Smith's strong camp landed him a starting spot at both receiver and kick returner, and a backup role on punt returns.
  • Redshirt freshman Garry Gilliam is listed as the starting tight end, as Andrew Szczerba likely will miss the opener with a back injury. Penn State obviously is thin here after losing Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.
  • Veterans Nate Stupar, Chris Colasanti and Bani Gbadyu are listed as the starting linebackers, with promising younger players like Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges right behind them.
WISCONSIN
  • After a very impressive camp, freshman running back James White appears at No. 3 on the depth chart behind both John Clay and Montee Ball. White also is the No. 2 punt returner behind David Gilreath. His emergence likely will result in veteran Zach Brown redshirting the season.
  • Senior Blake Sorensen likely will start at outside linebacker, as Mike Taylor continues to rehab after undergoing a second procedure on his knee in camp. Culmer St. Jean and Chris Borland are listed as the other starting linebackers.
  • The starting cornerback spots remain open, as Niles Brinkley, Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith will compete in practice this week.
I won't be making it out to many preseason practices this year. Fortunately, the Big Ten Network is giving all of us a peek at every Big Ten squad during its Football Preview Tour. My pal Dave Revsine and analysts Gerry DiNardo and Howard Griffith are more than halfway through the tour, but the first two episodes aired earlier this week: Indiana and Ohio State.

I'll be watching all 11 preview shows and posting my thoughts right here.

Up first, Indiana and Ohio State.

INDIANA
  • The Hoosiers practiced in shoulder pads and shorts, and head coach Bill Lynch is intentionally reducing the amount of hitting in this preseason (to keep his team fresher for the season), so the workout wasn't as revealing as most of the others should be.
  • Wide receiver Damarlo Belcher is a huge target and made several routine catches in space. Indiana also seemed to be swinging the ball a lot to the running backs, including Trea Burgess and Zach Davis-Walker. "Against the nonconference opponents, they can win those games with this pass game," DiNardo said. Starting quarterback Ben Chappell was a bit shaky on some throws, but I'm not worried about him.
  • The running backs didn't seem to have much room on the inside throughout the practice. A few backs did a nice job of bouncing to the outside. Freshman Matt Perez had a very nice run in team drills.
  • Defensive tackle Tony Carter did a nice job of crowding the middle on one play, and linebacker Tyler Replogle had a nice hit against Darius Willis.
  • I liked what I saw from Indiana's three junior college transfers on defense: linebacker Jeff Thomas and cornerbacks Andre Kates and Lenyatta Kiles. Kates has extremely fast feet, and Thomas brings good size to the table.
  • Despite the losses of left tackle Rodger Saffold and veteran guard Pete Saxon, Griffith said Indiana's offensive line looked the best it has in years.
  • Quarterback Edward Wright-Baker reportedly has fallen behind Dusty Kiel on the depth chart, but he looked good passing the ball in this practice.
OHIO STATE
  • DiNardo brought up a good point about the need for Ohio State to have a dominant running back again, and how it will keep defenses guessing against quarterback Terrelle Pryor.
  • Pryor definitely seemed different to me, both in his interview with the BTN crew and in the practice. He showed patience and footwork under pressure and fired a good pass to Dane Sanzenbacher in team drills. I also liked the way he yanked defensive lineman Garrett Goebel off the pile to help running back Dan Herron get out. Pryor seemed to be running hard during conditioning and talked about his new attitude toward meetings as he hopes to increase his leadership.
  • Pryor had one big mistake, though, as safety Jermale Hines stepped in front of a pass to Jake Stoneburner and made the interception. Just a perfect read by Hines.
  • Cameron Heyward just looks bigger than everyone else on the field (probably because he is). I particularly enjoyed watching Heyward go against All-Big Ten guard Justin Boren. Two All-America candidates right there. Everyone keeps calling Heyward a defensive end, but I saw him lining up inside several times during the practice. I'll keep going with the very vague "defensive lineman."
  • The running backs and linebackers went against each other during a goal-line drill, and both sides had their moments. Herron absolutely trucked Dan Bain on one play, living up to his "Boom" nickname. Jaamal Berry scooted by his man, while Scott McVey made a nice stop against Carlos Hyde, who boasts good size and had mixed results in the drill.
  • Running back Jordan Hall had some nice moments, including a burst up the middle in team drills.
  • Some of the reserve wide receivers stood out. Sophomore James Jackson made a nice catch along the sideline, and senior Grant Schwartz showed the ability to create vertical separation.
  • Defensive end Nathan Williams, currently sidelined with a knee injury, was in a stand-up position on one play, while the other three first-team linemen -- Heyward, John Simon and Dexter Larimore -- were down in a stance. You figure Ohio State will use Williams like it did Thaddeus Gibson in 2009.
  • Berry had a good blitz pickup on one play, nearly leading to a big completion from Joe Bauserman to Taurian Washington.
  • Linebackers Andrew Sweat and Dorian Bell showed good hitting and tackling skills.
Up next: Penn State

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