Big Ten: William Gholston
Let's check the inbox ...
Greyson from Lansing, Mich., writes: Hey Adam, I believe those fans who are calling for Brady Hoke's head need to simmer down a little bit. If they look back, Lloyd Carr lost four games in each of his first two seasons, and that was without having to go through a complete overhaul of the offensive system. The Sugar Bowl gave a false sense of accomplishment, but Michigan has an excellent defensive coordinator, and five players on USA Today's All-USA High School Football Team. It is ugly growing pains with the offensive line this year, but with all the youth there, as well as who is coming in, I think if Michigan fans can sit on their hands for another year or two, they will be extremely happy they did.
Adam Rittenberg: Some really good points here, Greyson, especially about the Sugar Bowl inflating the expectations for Hoke. The hard thing to reconcile is the exceptional recruiting and the mediocre results, although many of those players need more time to develop. The other difficult thing for Michigan fans is seeing a team that doesn't reflect the values Hoke preaches about, especially toughness along the line of scrimmage. Michigan should always be able to run the ball, but Hoke's teams have had a hard time doing so the past two seasons, and especially in recent weeks. It will be interesting to see how the season ends, but I don't think a coaching change makes much sense now.
Lance from Greensboro, N.C., writes: Adam, as a B1G fan I'm actually pulling for 'Bama and FSU to win out. Why? Because I think it would be better for the B1G to have Ohio State beat Stanford in the Rose Bowl while Wisconsin and Michigan State beat good SEC teams in Florida than to have the Buckeyes serve as the next sacrificial lamb for the Tide. I know some think FSU can give 'Bama a game -- but they are no better analysts than those who thought ND would last year. I live in ACC country and the ACC is atrocious this year. What do you think?
Adam Rittenberg: Lance, if your assumption is Alabama would smash Ohio State, then the scenario you outline is certainly better for the Big Ten. A Rose Bowl win, one of few for the Big Ten in recent years, would help perception, and so would a strong overall bowl record. I think Michigan State and Wisconsin could hold their own against good, but not great, SEC teams in the Capital One and Outback Bowls. And this scenario would prevent Big Ten teams from moving up a spot, creating potential mismatches.
Grant from San Francisco writes: Hi, Adam. I feel like the Taylor Lewan suspension (or lack thereof) got glossed over last week. In 2011, when William Gholston was suspended, it was all we heard about in the days before, during, and after the ruling. What was the difference exactly between the two actions (there was a face mask twist, a punch to the head and extracurriculars in both cases) that led them to not suspend Lewan? And if there is not a true difference, what does this say about the priorities of the B1G brass? When Hoke called Lewan's actions "unacceptable," I at least expected some punitive measures from either Michigan or the B1G. I guess I just must not understand the definition of the word "unacceptable."
Adam Rittenberg: Grant, my apologies for not addressing this earlier. The difference with William Gholston is a punch was thrown and caught on camera. If you recall, the Big Ten referenced the punch and not the face mask twist in its ruling on Gholston. Does that mean the league condones what Taylor Lewan did? You could argue it considers face mask twisting part of the game, while a punch clearly crosses the line. I'm not saying it's right, and I thought a partial-game suspension would have been warranted for Lewan. But his display wasn't as blatant as Gholston's, regardless of the circumstances.
Chris from Madison, Wis., writes: Very hypothetical situation here, but if Ohio State wins out and makes the national championship game, Michigan State loses to OSU in the B1G championship game and Wisconsin wins out, MSU is 11-2, UW is 10-2* and both are in the top 14 of the BCS. Assuming the Rose Bowl wants the 100th Granddaddy of them All to be a B1G/Pac-12 battle, which team do you see getting the at-large spot?
Adam Rittenberg: Chris, it's pretty unlikely both teams would be in the top 14. But if so, I think the Rose Bowl would go with Michigan State. The Spartans haven't been to Pasadena since after the 1987 season, while Wisconsin has been each of the past three years. Michigan State would be a more appealing choice even if it lost its last game.
Derek from Eden Prairie, Minn., writes: Hi, Adam. I have not been overly optimistic about the Gophers bowl chances. I have been a loyal fan all my life and know the realities. So my question is a BIG "what-if." What if the Gophers win the legends and lose to OSU. Are they in contention for an at-large BCS bid? Again. it's just a what if, from a daydreamer in an off week.
Adam Rittenberg: Derek, that's probably a pipe dream, as Minnesota still doesn't appear in the BCS standings. The Gophers would have to rise into the top 14 after beating Wisconsin and Michigan State and then stay there after a loss to Ohio State just to remain eligible for at-large selection. That's not happening this year, but Minnesota still should go somewhere nice for its bowl.
Fatback from Newark, Ohio, writes: Just trying to figure out how Carlos Hyde isn't getting any love for any awards. He has 701 yards with 7.3 yards a carry in only five games. Yes he has played in six games but had just five carries in the game against FAMU. He is on pace to have 1,122 yards and he will become the first Urban Myer back to gain 1,000 yards. Is the reason he is getting no love due to the fact that he missed the first 3 games?
Adam Rittenberg: The suspension definitely hurts Hyde when it comes to national awards consideration. Other backs simply have better numbers, and while anyone who has watched Hyde respects his game, it's hard to give him the edge when others have played in more games. It's more about what the other backs are doing throughout the entire season than what Hyde hasn't done. He'll certainly be in the mix for All-Big Ten honors.
Mike from Ossian, Iowa, writes: All right, Rittenberg, you coward. So what's the scoop? The week that I send you a question about how you can justify ranking Minnesota ahead of Iowa even though Iowa has the head-to-head victory over the Gophers and four losses to teams with a combined three losses, you don't have a mailbag? Huh? No answer? I think I know why. It's because you know I'm right. You know that you can't defend your ranking. You know that Iowa should be first, but you were just looking at records. Shame on you, Rittenberg. Shame on you. Boom. Lawyered.
Adam Rittenberg: Boom, lawyered? What does that even mean? The mailbag has been there every week, pal. The power rankings always have been how a team is playing right now, not how a team was playing in late September. I've made that clear since the power rankings started on this blog. Iowa has dropped three of its last five games; Minnesota is on a four-game win streak with a victory against Nebraska. You can't use head-to-head results as the sole mechanism for determining power rankings. If Iowa wins its final two games, then there will be a debate about which team should be ranked higher. But Minnesota is the hotter team right now.
College football coaches are the kings of qualifying statements, hesitant to let the evidence stand on its own without mentioning mistakes or the room for improvement.
Of the key national stories in Week 10 -- Florida State's latest destruction of a top-10 foe, Nebraska's Hail Mary, the bad blood between Georgia and Florida -- arguably nothing resonated more than Michigan State's defense.
Narduzzi, who has orchestrated a top-10 defense for the past three seasons, was asked Saturday whether the unit -- ranked No. 1 nationally in total defense (210.2 ypg), rush defense (43.4 ppg) and pass efficiency defense (90.3 rating) and third in scoring defense (11.6 ppg) -- is exceeding his expectations.
"There's no question," he said. "You never think you're going to be that good."
Dantonio used the word dominant several times, noting that Michigan State hasn't allowed a touchdown in its past three games.
"In modern-day football, you just don't see that very often," he said.
Indeed, this is unique. Michigan State's defense has been among the nation's best the past two seasons, finishing in the top-10 in points allowed, yards allowed and rushing yards allowed. The self-titled Spartan Dawgs have gained respect both in the Big Ten and nationally.
They were near the top, but not quite at the top. A step separated MSU between great and elite, one many programs struggle to take.
In 2012, Michigan State created a blueprint for its defense, defining the Spartan Dawgs as: "An Elite Group United to Wreak Havoc, Instill Fear and Dominate the Country." The Spartans are reflecting their mantra this season.
How has it happened? Three factors have contributed.
1. An elite pass rusher and more overall pressure
Lost amid all the impressive numbers the Spartan defense put up last season is a rather ugly one: 20 sacks. Michigan State tied for 93rd nationally in sacks per game, and only Iowa (13) recorded fewer sacks than the Spartans among Big Ten teams.
MSU didn't get the season it expected out of end William Gholston, who had 4.5 sacks, and no other defensive lineman had more than two. But the pass rush picked up toward the end of the season, as the Spartans recorded 14 sacks in their final five contests.
It has continued this fall, as the Spartans already have 16 sacks after Saturday's surge. Sophomore Shilique Calhoun leads the Big Ten with 6.5 sacks, providing a fearsome presence on the edge. Linebacker Denicos Allen, an effective blitzer who finished second in the Big Ten in sacks with 11 in 2011, has recaptured his former form. Allen recorded two sacks against Michigan and earned national defensive player of the week honors, in addition to becoming the fourth Spartan this season to earn Big Ten defensive player of the week honors.
"That's what we want to do, attack 'em for four quarters," Narduzzi said.
Five MSU players have multiple sacks this season, including linemen Marcus Rush and Tyler Hoover. The swarm looks a lot more like 2011, when the Spartans led the Big Ten and finished seventh nationally in sacks.
"We're a pressure team, but we're getting better pass rush collectively from four guys," Dantonio said.
2. Takeaways (especially takeaways for points)
Michigan State stifled opposing offenses in 2012, but it didn't take away the ball at an exceptional rate. The Spartans had 20 takeaways, a more respectable number than their sacks total but one that still ranked in the middle of the Big Ten. Although seven different players had interceptions and nine different players recovered a fumble, none went on to score touchdowns. Michigan State's only defensive score came on a Gholston safety against Northwestern.
The opportunistic play is back this fall, as Michigan State already has 16 takeaways, including a Darqueze Dennard interception Saturday that essentially sealed the win. MSU leads the nation with five defensive touchdowns, three by Calhoun (two fumble, one interception).
Last year, statistically, we were very, very good, and not a lot of people scored on us. But we didn't get the turnovers that we had the previous year, and we didn't get the sacks. We're getting both those aspects more this year.
-- Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio
It's a lot like the 2011 defense, which had four pick-sixes.
"Last year, statistically, we were very, very good, and not a lot of people scored on us," Dantonio said. "But we didn't get the turnovers that we had the previous year, and we didn't get the sacks. We're getting both those aspects more this year.
"Those are the two things we worked on that we knew we needed to improve on. We're getting that production."
3. Embracing excellence
Michigan State's ascent from a great defense to an elite one isn't simply statistical. It's also cultural.
The Spartans aren't becoming a top-10 defense. They've already been one for several years. Seniors like linebacker Max Bullough, Allen, Dennard, Hoover, safety Isaiah Lewis and nose tackle Micajah Reynolds understand the expectations for the unit. Younger players like sophomore cornerback Trae Waynes, sophomore tackles Mark Scarpinato and Damon Knox, and sophomore linebacker Ed Davis, who had 2.5 sacks against Michigan, have been indoctrinated into the system.
"We've grown," Dantonio said. "We've been good for three years: 2010 we were very good as well, '11, '12. Now those guys who were freshmen in 2010 or 2011 redshirt freshman, 2012, they're now growing up and they're three years into the system, so they're able to adjust. We've got a good pass rush, we're not afraid to pressure, we've got a good scheme, but it's the players who make plays."
The Spartans have playmakers in all three units. When Dantonio looks at the defense as currently constructed, he wouldn't trade any of his pieces.
"We've got a certain amount of talent out there," Dantonio said, "but when you tack on confidence to that talent level, and the belief in the system, and the belief in each other, great things are possible."
Elite things, too. That's what Michigan State's defense has become in 2013.
MICHIGAN STATE SPARTANS
Coach Mark Dantonio (69-45 overall, 51-28 at Michigan State)
2012 record: 7-6 overall, 3-5 Big Ten
Key losses: DE William Gholston, RB Le’Veon Bell, RB Larry Caper, TE Dion Sims, DB Johnny Adams, LB Chris Norman, K Dan Conroy
Newcomer to watch: Running back Riley Bullough. The redshirt freshman converted linebacker can be considered a true newcomer because this is his first season at the position. The Spartans are looking for someone to step into the big shoes Bell left, and Bullough has seemed to rise to the occasion throughout fall camp.
Biggest games in 2013: at Notre Dame (Sept. 21), at Iowa (Oct. 5), vs. Michigan (Nov. 2), at Nebraska (Nov. 16), at Northwestern (Nov. 23)
Biggest question mark heading into 2013: Will the offense really be able to get it going? Maxwell remains the biggest question mark. Dantonio pulled Maxwell during the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl last season and put in Connor Cook. The same could happen this season as the two battle it out trying to find consistency in the offense and chemistry with wide receivers. Bullough should help, but neither he nor junior Nick Hill has ever been a featured back in an offense. Running back by committee could be the Spartans’ best bet.
Forecast: The Spartan defense will be stout, even without Gholston. It returns most starters and Max Bullough is ready to lead. It’s the offense that will struggle to find its identity, which happens to most teams when they don’t have a starting quarterback who has consistently proven himself. This season, Michigan State might head into the fall with that part still unanswered. The Spartans return multiple wide receiver threats, so Maxwell should have some kind of chemistry there, but how long his leash will be remains to be seen, and Cook could be thrown into the fire relatively quickly.
The schedule does set up the Spartans to play their best football later in the season. The front half of their conference schedule isn’t too bad. The Spartans should be better than the Hawkeyes, but playing at Iowa is never easy. Indiana and Purdue at home, as well as a road game against Illinois, should provide ample confidence building as the Spartans face a tougher three-game stretch in November. They’ll host in-state rival Michigan before hitting the road for Nebraska and Northwestern, which could be a true contest this season, unlike in most. Minnesota at home should be a fine way to close out, especially considering that will be the week that fellow Legends team Michigan faces a tough competitor in Ohio State, possibly with both teams vying for a spot in the Big Ten championship game the following weekend.
Shazier is the overwhelming choice for Big Ten preseason defensive player of the year, according to a poll of media members, including yours truly and ESPN.com colleague Brian Bennett. Shazier received 16 of 26 votes in the poll, compiled by The (Cleveland) Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises. The Buckeyes' linebacker received first-team All-Big Ten honors from the league's coaches last season after recording 115 tackles, including 17 for loss and five sacks, to go along with three forced fumbles, 11 pass breakups and an interception.
Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland finished second with four votes, followed by Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough (3), Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby (2) and Northwestern defensive end Tyler Scott (1).
All five players are excellent choices, but my vote went to Bullough, the most complete player on the Big Ten's best defense.
Michigan State defensive end William Gholston was the writers' choice for preseason defensive player of the year in 2012. Ohio State defensive lineman John Simon eventually took home the award.
2012 conference record: 3-5 (fourth in Legends division)
Returning starters: Offense: 8; defense: 7; kicker/punter: 1
LB Max Bullough, CB Darqueze Dennard, LB Denicos Allen, S Isaiah Lewis, DE Marcus Rush, QB Andrew Maxwell, LT Fou Fonoti, C Travis Jackson, WR Aaron Burbridge
DE William Gholston, DT Anthony Rashad White, CB Johnny Adams, RB Le'Veon Bell, TE Dion Sims, G Chris McDonald, K Dan Conroy
2012 statistical leaders (*returners)
Rushing: Le'Veon Bell (1,793 yards)
Passing: Andrew Maxwell* (2,606 yards)
Receiving: Bennie Fowler* (524 yards)
Tackles: Max Bullough* (111)
Sacks: William Gholston (4.5)
Interceptions: Darqueze Dennard* and Johnny Adams (3)
1. Waynes, Calhoun secure spots: The Spartan Dawgs just keep on rolling. Michigan State's defense didn't have too many major questions entering the spring, but it needed an end to replace William Gholston and a cornerback to play opposite Darqueze Dennard. It found both. Shilique Calhoun, who had a mini-breakout game in the bowl against TCU, secured a starting spot at defensive end. Trae Waynes and fellow sophomore Arjen Colquhoun logged most of the snaps at cornerback as Dennard recovered from hernia surgery, and Waynes did enough to land the No. 1 job.
2. Life of Riley: Riley Bullough opened the spring backing up his big brother Max at middle linebacker. He ended the session as a bulldozing running back, a spot where Michigan State is looking for answers after losing national carries leader Le'Veon Bell to the NFL draft. No other running back distinguished himself in practice, so the coaches moved Riley Bullough to the position, and he did some impressive things. Bullough was Michigan State's leading rusher (46 yards) in the spring game. Although he could move back to linebacker, he gives the Spartans another option in the offensive backfield.
3. Burbridge continues to emerge: The Spartans are searching for offensive playmakers and appear to have found one in sophomore wide receiver Aaron Burbridge. He moved into the starting lineup midway through the 2012 season and provided a bright spot for the struggling receiving corps. Burbridge benefited from a full offseason in the program and capped the spring with a five-catch, 113-yard performance in the Green-White Game. He could emerge as Michigan State's No. 1 receiver and/or push veterans Bennie Fowler and Keith Mumphery.
1. Quarterback quandary: Michigan State is still looking for the man to lead its offense in 2013. Senior Andrew Maxwell started all 13 games last season, and although he did some good things in practices, he didn't separate himself and looked a bit shaky in the spring game. Connor Cook answered the coaches' challenge to improvise when plays broke down, and he'll continue to push Maxwell when fall camp begins. Redshirt freshman Tyler O'Connor and incoming recruit Damion Terry also could be in the mix.
2. Third linebacker: The Spartans boast one of the nation's top linebacker tandems in Max Bullough and Denicos Allen, both of whom enter their third season as starters. Who will line up next to them this fall? It could be Taiwan Jones, who capped the spring with 11 tackles in the Green-White Game. But Jairus Jones, who moved from safety to outside linebacker this spring, is very much in the mix and drew praise from the coaching staff and teammates. Jones made a good transition to linebacker and helps an already strong position group.
3. Man on the run: Riley Bullough's emergence adds a new twist to the running back competition, but nothing is settled entering fall camp. Nick Hill and Jeremy Langford took most of the reps with the first-team offense this spring but didn't separate themselves, and Hill underwent sports hernia surgery last week. The coaches also want to see how incoming freshmen Gerald Holmes, R.J. Shelton and Delton Williams perform when they arrive this summer. Although Michigan State typically has one featured back, it could use more of a committee system this season. But there are definitely questions in the offensive backfield.
- Bill O'Brien stays honest with his players, especially his quarterbacks. Penn State will work to get Christian Hackenberg up to speed quickly. O'Brien revealed Tuesday that Zach Zwinak injured his wrist in the spring game, while offensive lineman Anthony Stanko left the team.
- Mark Hollis pushed for more trips to Chicago for Michigan State in the future. William Gholston reflects on his career as a Spartan. MSU is off to a strong start in recruiting.
- Urban Meyer sees some drawbacks with the new playoff system. The Buckeyes will remain a attractive draw for primetime.
- A snapshot of Iowa's recruiting efforts. Even with the nine-game schedule, the Hawkeyes will continue to play Iowa State every year.
- The latest Michigan commit has a high ceiling -- and a highly sought-after teammate, too. Six Wolverines who earned more playing time by their spring practice performance.
- Fred Glass has led the Indiana athletic department out of some nightmarish circumstances (subscription required).
- The demise of football would be catastrophic for Nebraska.
- Athlon asks if Michigan is the Legends Division favorite.
- Many student tickets are going unused at Wisconsin.
- The Illibuck game was a casualty of Big Ten realignment.
- Northwestern should be wary of opening at Cal.
- A Chicago defensive lineman talks about his commitment to Minnesota.
- It was a mixed year in Purdue athletics.
- Is college football ready for an openly gay player?
- The East-West split has pluses and minuses, Lee Barfknecht writes.
- The NFL draft was a slow one both for Ohio State and the Big Ten in general. Gene Smith talks night games at Ohio Stadium, the new league alignment and more in this piece. Braxton Miller is just scratching the surface.
- There's no clarity yet in the Iowa quarterback race. The Hawkeyes would love to see the Carl Davis who showed up in the spring game this fall. Micah Hyde's versatility will give him a shot with the Green Bay Packers.
- The good and the bad for Wisconsin with the division alignment. Montee Ball ended up on his favorite team: the Broncos. James White eyes his path to the NFL.
- Michigan AD Dave Brandon says the new division alignment was a result of compromise. Taylor Lewan's 2013 draft outlook is sunny. The Detroit Lions should have taken Denard Robinson, Drew Sharp writes.
- What the new Big Ten means for Michigan State. A transfer from Penn gives the Spartans some depth at tailback. William Gholston and Dion Sims were fourth rounders, but Johnny Adams went undrafted.
- The West Division should be best for Minnesota. The Little Brown Jug got no respect.
- Bo Pelini hopes Nebraska's defensive line recruiting pays off quickly. Two draftees is too few for the Huskers. Rex Burkhead is eager to prove himself with the Bengals.
- Northwestern got shut out in the draft, but Pat Fitzgerald keeps it in perspective. The Wildcats will have to make some schedule changes in 2016.
- Illinois had twice as many draft picks as 2012 wins. Akeem Spence made the right choice to leave early.
- Indiana is fine playing in the "Big Boy Division." The Hoosiers aren't complaining.
- The Big Ten nine-game schedule will affect Purdue-Notre Dame. Some Boilers signed free-agent deals.
- Examining the draft potential of Penn State's "Supa Six." Christian Hackenberg has star potential. The Ireland game is still in flux for the Nittany Lions.
- More on quarterback Steven Bench's departure from Penn State here and here and here and here. Bob Flounders looks at Penn State's all-time draft team on defense. The draft is here for Penn State's NFL hopefuls.
- A good look at the Big Ten's recent NFL draft numbers from Tom Dienhart. The NFL draft underscores why Big Ten football is reeling right now, Doug Lesmerises writes.
- A former NFL general manager says Michigan State running back Le'Veon Bell is underrated but not a first-round pick, while defensive end William Gholston should have stayed in school. Spartans running back Nick Hill tweets about his hernia surgery.
- Michigan is expected to go without a first-round pick for the third straight year, something we haven't seen for 23 years, Kyle Meinke writes. The Wolverines could have only one player drafted for the first time since 1994. Michigan safety Jordan Kovacs just wants a chance.
- Iowa offensive coordinator Greg Davis talks quarterbacks, tight ends and the quest to go vertical. The Hawkeyes' offense should improve this spring, but it needs to show real evidence on the field this fall. It's a real spring game again in Iowa City. Iowa could be shut out of the NFL draft.
- Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short, a potential first-round pick, awaits the call from the NFL. A look at all of the Boilers' draft hopefuls.
- Inside the film room with Ohio State offensive coordinator Tom Herman. Buckeyes linebacker Etienne Sabino is ready to play the waiting game in the draft.
- Illinois defensive linemen Michael Buchanan and Akeem Spence are anxious to learn about their football futures.
- Travis Frederick is ready to become Wisconsin's next NFL offensive lineman. A look at where Frederick and other Badgers might go in the draft.
- Minnesota needs to shore up its linebacking corps for 2013. A look at the Gophers' offensive line, receivers and tight ends entering the spring game.
- Predicting where Nebraska's NFL hopefuls go in the draft.
- A look at Northwestern's history in the NFL draft.
- An interesting timeline on realignment around college football.
Mel Kiper Jr.'s final Big Board doesn't include a Big Ten player, and both Kiper's and Todd McShay's final mock first rounds have no Big Ten players.
Lets look beyond the first round, as ESPN Scouts Inc. has put together a complete seven-round mock draft .
How did the Big Ten contingent fare? If Scouts Inc., is correct, 42 selections will be made before a Big Ten player hears his name called. Purdue defensive tackle Kawann Short is the first Big Ten player on the board at No. 43, going to Tampa Bay in the second round. Only one other Big Ten player, Wisconsin running back Montee Ball, is pegged as a second-round pick.
Here's the rest of the Scouts Inc. Big Ten forecast (in order of predicted selection)...
Round 3: Michigan State RB Le'Veon Bell, Wisconsin C Travis Frederick, Ohio State DE John Simon, Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins, Illinois DT Akeem Spence
Round 4: Michigan State DE William Gholston, Illinois DE Michael Buchanan, Illinois G Hugh Thornton, Ohio State T Reid Fragel
Round 5: Michigan State TE Dion Sims, Penn State DT Jordan Hill, Wisconsin T Ricky Wagner
Round 6: Michigan QB Denard Robinson (will play WR), Iowa CB Micah Hyde, Ohio State TE Jake Stoneburner, Penn State LB Gerald Hodges, Michigan State CB Johnny Adams, Purdue CB Josh Johnson
Round 7: Nebraska S Daimion Stafford, Illinois CB Terry Hawthorne, Penn State LB Michael Mauti, Ohio State DE Nathan Williams (listed at OLB)
Thoughts: Overall, it's a pretty gloomy draft forecast for the Big Ten. Denard Robinson in the sixth round? That's lower than many have predicted. Ohio State's Hankins, once considered a likely first-round selection, wouldn't be pleased to slip to No. 89 overall. The Scouts Inc. forecast also excludes Nebraska RB Rex Burkhead, plagued by knee injuries during his senior season. Other players not showing up include Minnesota QB MarQueis Gray (will play TE in the NFL), Iowa QB James Vandenberg, Penn State C Matt Stankiewitch, Wisconsin LB Mike Taylor and Michigan S Jordan Kovacs. Once again, Illinois is pegged to be one of the Big Ten's top NFL draft producers despite poor results on the field. Penn State's standout trio on defense will be waiting a while, although I wouldn't be surprised if a guy like Hill goes earlier than Round 5. Three Big Ten teams -- Indiana, Minnesota and Northwestern -- are pegged to be shut out of the draft. Future Big Ten member Rutgers is pegged to have six draft picks, led by defenders Khaseem Greene and Logan Ryan in the third round, while Maryland is pegged to have just one (TE Matt Furstenburg).
We'll have draft-related posts on the Big Ten both Friday morning and Monday after all the selections are made.
What will the weekend hold for Big Ten products? Who will be the top pick from the league? Which players should be garnering more buzz? Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett try to answer those questions and more in this blog debate:
Brian Bennett: Adam, another NFL draft is nearly upon us. What better way to spend 96 hours of a spring weekend than listening to analysts describe a player's upside? At least we won't have to read any more 2013 mock drafts after Thursday afternoon.
But let's get down to Big Ten business. According to our colleagues with the good hair -- Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay -- the league very well might not produce a first-round pick for the first time since the AFL-NFL merger. Last year, the first Big Ten player taken was all the way down at No. 23. What's going on here? Is there that big of a talent shortage in the conference, or is this just a blip? And do you think any Big Ten players hear their names called on Thursday night?
I thought the Big Ten still would have a first-round pick even after Michigan LT Taylor Lewan announced he would return in 2012. But now I'm not so sure. Ohio State DT Johnathan Hankins and Purdue DT Kawann Short both could hear their names called, but it's far from a guarantee.
What do you think this year's draft says about the state of the Big Ten?
Brian Bennett: I think you hit on several of the reasons, and I'd add in the population and demographic shifts as another. Of course, if Lewan came out as expected, he'd probably be a top-15 pick. And if the NFL were to do last year's draft over, I'm pretty sure Russell Wilson would go in the first round, right?
Still, the downturn in top-level NFL talent, at least from a draft perspective, has to trouble the conference and offers a possible explanation as to why the Big Ten has struggled on the big stage of late. I believe that the way Urban Meyer and Brady Hoke are recruiting will mean more elite players will be entering the pros in the near future, but we shall see.
Let's talk about this year's prospects. Who do you think will be the first Big Ten player selected this weekend? And which Big Ten product do you think should be the first one taken?
Adam Rittenberg: As much as I'd love to see Wisconsin RB Montee Ball work his way into the first round, I think the first pick will be either Short or Hankins. Both are potentially great NFL defensive linemen, but I think Short has a little more versatility to his game and can be an effective pass-rusher in addition to his run-stuffing duties. Short wasn't healthy for a chunk of last season, which led to some erratic play, but he has the ability to dominate inside. So does Hankins, but he's more of a space-eater than a difference-maker on the pass rush. I think Short should be the first Big Ten player taken, and I think he will be.
You mention Wilson, who was arguably the biggest steal of the 2012 draft. Which Big Ten player will fill that role this year? Who are the value picks out there from the league?
Brian Bennett: Wilson slipped in last year's draft because of concerns over his height. And I think there may be a similar thing going on with Ohio State's John Simon. He's viewed as a tweener because he's only 6-foot-1, but there's no questioning Simon's motor, heart or leadership. As long as he can stay healthy, he'll be a productive player for a long time in the NFL.
Penn State's Jordan Hill is another guy who's shorter than the prototype for a defensive lineman but who also makes up for it with his performance and drive. I also believe Nebraska's Rex Burkhead is being undervalued, though running backs aren't the commodities they once were at the next level. A knee injury hurt Burkhead's stock, but he showed at the combine what kind of athlete he is. And I think Michigan State cornerback Johnny Adams, who was looked at as a first-round draft pick not that long ago, could be had at a good price this weekend.
Which players do you think are being undervalued? And what do you see as the draft fate for Michigan's Denard Robinson?
Ohio State tackle Reid Fragel is another guy who could be a great value, although his stock seems to be rising quickly. He started his career as a tight end but really thrived last year at the tackle spot.
Robinson will be one of the weekend's top story lines. He's clearly a work in progress as a receiver, but you can't teach that speed and explosiveness. Robinson is a risk-reward guy, but I'd be surprised if he's still on the board midway through the third round.
The Big Ten sends a fairly small contingent of underclassmen to this year's draft. How do you think those players pan out?
Brian Bennett: Michigan State has three of 'em in Le'Veon Bell, Dion Sims and William Gholston. I think there's a chance that some team reaches for Bell in the first round, and he's got the body to be a very good NFL running back for a long time. Sims also presents an intriguing option for teams, especially with the increased use of tight ends in the pro passing game. Despite Gholston's impressive physical traits, he didn't test that well in Indianapolis and had a questionable motor in college. Teams could shy away from him.
You mentioned Spence from Illinois, a guy whose stock seemed to climb as he showed some great strength in workouts. Hankins will be a second-rounder at worst. Then there's Wisconsin center Travis Frederick, who posted a slow sprint time at the combine. But how many times do centers need to sprint? I still think he'll be a good player, and one who shouldn't fall past the second round.
This is getting to be as long as the draft itself, so we should probably start wrapping things up. Any final thoughts on the Big Ten's outlook this weekend?
Adam Rittenberg: The big story lines for me, other than whether the Big Ten has a player drafted in the first round, are where running backs like Ball, Bell and Burkhead land, the Denard Watch, how the underclassmen fare and where the potential sleepers we outlined above end up. This won't be a transformative draft for the Big Ten because it lacks elite prospects at the positions we mentioned earlier, especially cornerback and quarterback. But there are always a few surprises along the way. As a Chicago Bears fan, I'm always interested to see if a Big Ten player ends up at Halas Hall.
What Big Ten story lines intrigue you heading into the draft?
Brian Bennett: You mentioned most of the big ones. I'll also be interested to see if any team takes a chance on Penn State's Michael Mauti and whether Iowa's James Vandenberg gets drafted after a disappointing senior year. I predict the Big Ten keeps its first-round streak alive -- barely -- and that Robinson stays in Michigan when the Detroit Lions draft him in the fourth round.
And then we can all put the 2013 NFL draft to bed -- and start studying those 2014 mock drafts.
Prospects for that are starting to look slim, at least according to our ESPN.com draft experts.
Mel Kiper Jr.'s latest Big Board , which ranks the top 25 overall players in the draft, does not contain a single Big Ten product. His Grade A draft , in which he presents the best pick for every team, has Wisconsin's Montee Ball as the first league player taken, at No. 37 overall. Todd McShay's most recent mock draft likewise does not include any Big Ten players in the first round.
How rare would this be? The Big Ten has produced at least one first-round draft pick in every year since the NFL-AFL merger. The league had four first-round picks last year, though the first one didn't arrive until No. 23 (Iowa's Riley Reiff).
Of course, predicting the draft -- especially the back end of the first round -- is no exact science, and it only takes one team to like a Big Ten player enough to ensure that the league's first-round streak survives. Ohio State's Johnathan Hankins, Purdue's Kawann Short, Wisconsin's Ball and Travis Frederick and Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell all have a chance at cracking the first 32 overall picks.
McShay has a list of draft talent tiers at each position, which gives you an idea of where the Big Ten draft entrants stand. The list includes seven tiers and 109 total players. Here's where the Big Ten checked in on McShay's scale:
Tier 5 -- Value picks early in Round 2 should they fall out of Round 1.
No. 32 overall: Kawann Short, DT, Purdue
Tier 6 -- Worthy of mid-to-late-second-round consideration.
No. 56: Johnathan Hankins, DT, Ohio State
No. 64: Travis Frederick, C, Wisconsin
Tier 7 -- Solid third-round prospects.
No 68: Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin
No. 77: Akeem Spence, DT, Illinois
No. 84: Le'Veon Bell, RB, Michigan State
No. 94: William Gholston, DE, Michigan State
No. 96: Michael Buchanan, DE, Illinois
No. 98: John Simon, DE, Ohio State
No. 106: Hugh Thornton, OT, Illinois
We'll see if the experts are right, and had Michigan's Taylor Lewan not surprised everybody by returning to school, there would be no doubt about the Big Ten's first-round status. Still, next Thursday night is shaping up as potentially a quiet one for the league.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- The Michigan Man label carries a price tag. Those who earn it invest their bodies and their minds.
Some pay with deferred income.
For Taylor Lewan, becoming a Michigan Man carries a very hefty price tag, one with two commas. Lewan, the Wolverines' All-America left tackle, passed up millions in January when he announced he would return to Michigan for his senior season. After an excellent junior season and a solid performance against South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, Lewan had, in the view of most analysts, locked up a spot in the first round of the NFL draft. Some projected him as a top-10 pick.
"Everybody knew what Taylor could have been worth," Michigan defensive end Frank Clark said. "The type of season Taylor had -- All-American, All-Big Ten, he won the [Big Ten] offensive lineman of the year award -- I knew he was gone.
"I mean, who wouldn’t be?"
So why did it take Lewan all of 3½ hours to decide he'd be back at Michigan in 2013? Two words meant more to him than three letters and two commas.
He wants a title that, in his own blunt assessment, he doesn't deserve yet.
"I can't call myself a Michigan Man," Lewan told ESPN.com, "but that's what I want to become."
Lewan's decision to return served as an acknowledgement that his journey at Michigan isn't complete. He hasn't helped the Wolverines to their 43rd Big Ten championship (and first since 2004). He hasn't put himself among the greats -- Jake Long, Dan Dierdorf, Jumbo Elliott, Jon Jansen -- to play tackle for the Maize and Blue. He hasn't restored Michigan to the standard that coach Brady Hoke talks about on a daily basis.
But the decision also acknowledged how far Lewan had come at Michigan and how his view on the school had changed. Because when he arrived, the thought of leaving millions on the table for another year in school was laughable.
"When I came here, I didn't know anything," Lewan said. "All my friends are Ohio State fans, so I was always like, 'Ohio State's badass.' That's all I thought. I didn't know. I was getting away from Arizona for a couple years. I had no idea what I was getting myself into. The first couple years I was here, I still didn't know any of the tradition. I was playing for myself, I was playing for the opportunity to go to the NFL as soon as possible. That was my focus."
“Things began to shift when Hoke arrived and started his push to restore Michigan to glory.
I enjoy the pain of it. Maybe I'm a little messed up in the head, I don't know, but I enjoy hitting my face on another man's face and trying to put him in the dirt and make him feel every single inch of it. Something about that, it puts me on cloud nine.” -- Taylor Lewan
"Coming into a room and expecting excellence, talking about a Big Ten championship every single day, knowing we have 42 championships and there needs to be a 43rd, that repetition, talking about it, talking about it, it makes you think," Lewan said. "Now I know more about the tradition here. I know more about the winged helmet, 115,000 people at the game, the largest stadium in the country. There’s a tractor or something under the stadium because it fell in while they were building.
"The little things, it becomes a part of you."
Hoke calls it "an education," and Lewan will continue his on the field and in the classroom and outside of it at Michigan. Winning a Big Ten title and completing his degree factored into his decision, but Lewan also wants more out of his college experience.
He hopes another year at Michigan allows him to do what few college football players can -- engage in campus life.
"As a football player, the biggest thing you do is hang out with the football people," he said. "Maybe some hockey guys, maybe some baseball guys here and there. I don't really know what Michigan has out there. If you play college football, your college experience is officially different from everybody else's and that’s how it’s going to be. I think it would be cool to see the different societies going on at Michigan, meet different people, all the things they do to contribute to the University of Michigan.
"I contribute in such a little way compared to some other people. I'm a source of entertainment. The things other people do are much bigger than what I do."
Lewan's perspective is refreshing, but don't tell anyone around Schembechler Hall that the things he does are small.
Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner knows his blind side will be sealed this fall. Wolverines offensive line coach Darrell Funk knows he'll have arguably the nation's best offensive lineman anchoring the front five and helping lead a group that must replace starters at all three interior positions. Clark knows he'll have the best possible preparation for opposing offenses by battling the 6-foot-8, 308-pound Lewan every day in practice.
"When Taylor announced [his return], that was pretty much at the peak of recruiting," Funk said. "All the arguments around the country were who has the No. 1 player? Who has the No. 1 recruit?
"I know when I went home that night, thinking of who got the No. 1 player in the country; I know I did."
Lewan often says the decision to return to Michigan is his and his alone. Like many high-level NFL prospects staying in school, he'll take out an insurance policy to guard against a career-threatening injury.
But there was no doubt in his mind when he made the announcement. If there had been, he'd be meeting with NFL teams right now and likely planning a trip to New York on April 25. Instead, he's preparing for Michigan's spring game Saturday at the Big House.
"People are going to absolutely think, 'He's crazy, he left all this money,'" said Lewan, whose decision drew skepticism from ESPN's Mel Kiper and others. "It doesn't matter. If I don't do what I'm supposed to do now, I shouldn't be in the NFL anyway.
"It wouldn't be fair to Michigan for me to hold anything back. There's no foot-out-the-door attitude."
Lewan thinks he can improve every part of his game in his final season, from pass protection to double-teams to base blocks to the screen game. He's "nowhere near perfect" despite having a unique blend of size and athleticism that allows him to defeat pass-rushers in one-on-one matchups.
Funk notes that while Lewan certainly could have made the jump -- "Everyone that I talked to knew he was in that elite status" -- he also has areas to upgrade, such as certain run-blocking techniques.
"The scary thing about him," Funk said, "and I know it and he knows it, when we really break him down on tape, he’s got two to three things that when he improves on those, his stock's going to rise even further."
Funk has coached talented offensive linemen who need to be prodded to finish blocks. Lewan is the opposite, playing to the whistle and sometimes beyond it.
He earned a reputation for being "nasty" even before he made his debut as a redshirt freshman in 2010. In 2011, Lewan and Michigan State defensive end William Gholston exchanged unpleasantries during a game in East Lansing. Gholston received two personal-foul penalties and a one-game suspension for punching Lewan, but Lewan wasn't exactly a saint in the game.
"If I do my job and do it 100 percent between the whistles and just try to physically dominate someone every single play and make them hurt at the end of the game, that's enough for me to go home happy every Saturday," he said. "I enjoy the pain of it. Maybe I'm a little messed up in the head, I don't know, but I enjoy hitting my face on another man's face and trying to put him in the dirt and make him feel every single inch of it.
"Something about that, it puts me on cloud nine."
Lewan wasn't always this way. A future in contact sports seemed unlikely after his career as a young hockey player ended very early.
"I played for a team called the Tarantulas," Lewan recalled. "It was a mite league, so there was no checking allowed. I was good. I would wield the stick. I was money at hockey. And then they had tryouts for a team and it was pee-wee, so you could check all of a sudden. Some guy laid me out. This guy hit me so damn hard.
"I got up and just skated off. I was done."
Despite a love for baseball, Lewan eventually warmed to football and the contact it brought. He started nine games at left tackle as a redshirt freshman and has remained a fixture there ever since. Lewan earned second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2011 before making numerous All-America teams last fall.
Lewan will hold his own draft party of sorts later this month. He'll watch the first-round selections, rooting on top linemen such as Texas A&M's Luke Joeckel, Central Michigan's Eric Fisher and Oklahoma's Lane Johnson, as well as USC quarterback Matt Barkley, with whom he played in a high school all-star game.
"Watching them fulfill their dreams and knowing that someday I’ll hopefully be there, it’s just so cool to see," he said. "There's no jealousy or anything. If I'd wanted to leave, I would have left."
He's too busy enjoying himself at Michigan, whether he's growing an incredibly weak mustache as part of the line's "Muzzy Maulers" campaign, competing daily against Clark on the field and in the weight room, or tormenting Gardner in every way possible ("He's a bully, a big bully," Gardner said. "He picks on me, and he's so large I really can't do much about it. And he protects my blind side, so it's a lose-lose").
Michigan could have managed without Lewan, but his return "lifted a weight off our shoulders," Clark said.
"It brought joy back to the team," Clark continued. "He's one of the characters on the team, one of the motivators, one of the leaders. When I found out he’s coming back, that’s when it really clicked for me that it’s bigger than the NFL for him. It’s bigger than the money."
Lewan used to be a football player who happened to play for Michigan. He has become something more.
"The statement he made when he was asked why he came back and he said, 'You've never played football at Michigan,' that speaks volumes," Hoke said. "His goal is to help mold a young offensive line. His goal is to win a Big Ten championship. His goal is to become a better football player in all aspects. All those things are why he came back, but he wouldn’t have come back if he didn't play football at Michigan."
Lewan isn't sure how a Big Ten championship in 2012 would have affected his decision. He'd like to think he would have stayed. Maybe he would have bolted. The bottom line, he said, is it didn't happen.
His career is incomplete. He wants to be a champion. He wants to be a Michigan Man.
"I don't think there's any doubt about it," Hoke said. "The way he's carried himself, the way he's led, how he approaches every day, he's put himself in that position."
Michigan State needed a rally in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl against TCU and, as usual, relied on its defense for a lift. The Spartans' most talented defensive lineman, junior end William Gholston, was playing his final college game. Leading 14-13, Michigan State needed a stop in its own territory. Calhoun, already with a tackle for loss to his credit, beat TCU tackle Aviante Collins around the edge and dropped quarterback Trevone Boykin for his first career sack. Although TCU converted a long field-goal try, Michigan State only needed three points to answer and got the game-winning field goal from Dan Conroy moments later.
"Before the sack, I felt like I was underachieving," Calhoun told ESPN.com "I didn't feel like I played to the best of my abilities. But after that performance, it showed me I could go a lot harder and work more. It kind of catapulted me into this year.
"It's given me a lot of pride in my game, a little more than I had before."
"There would be a lot more playing time," he said. "I’d be a little more exhausted. That was the first thought."
To prepare for a bigger role, Calhoun had to add weight in the winter. He's about 255 pounds these days and hopes to be around 260 for the season.
Calhoun knows the added weight can help his game, as long as it doesn't come with a cost.
"The best aspect of my game is my speed, so for me to lose that, it would be a crucial mistake," he said. "With this style of play at Michigan State, it's a great opportunity for me to make plays with my speed.
"As long as I can maintain it, I’ll continue to gain weight."
Calhoun typically lines up on the field side, where he has to cover more green against dual-threat quarterbacks and the like. Michigan State has built its defense around speed, and Calhoun fits the scheme extremely well.
The redshirt sophomore opened the spring listed as a starter on the depth chart, but several others are in the mix at end, including veteran Denzel Drone and young players like Jamal Lyles and Joel Heath.
"I want it to be a dogfight, I want to fight for my position," said Calhoun, a standout on the scout team in 2011 who finished with six tackles, 2.5 for loss, and two pass breakups last fall. "Competition makes me work a lot harder, and I don't want to ever stop working hard. There's guys who are working just as hard as me. I want them to keep pushing me because I want to keep working hard."
Calhoun sees a similar attitude throughout Michigan State's defense, which has ranked sixth and fourth nationally the past two seasons.
"The coaches, my teammates, we're all striving to get better," Calhoun said. "Last year was a good year, yes, but we need to be better ... until we’re No. 1, and even then, we're not going to stop trying to be the best."
ESPN.com caught up with Dantonio this week to talk spring ball.
What are some of your primary objectives for the spring?
Mark Dantonio: The first thing we have to do is address where we're at and look forward. We have a new staff member on each side of the ball, and there's no question that we can improve on both sides of the ball. With that being said, there's a lot of experience coming back. There are areas every football team needs to address. Some of that is concept-based. We're going to try new things and move from there. Our objectives will be to get out of there without getting people hurt and move forward as a program, allow our young players, the guys who redshirted, to make a move on the depth chart and then solidify our No. 1s.
What will be different offensively with Dave [Warner] the lead play-caller and Jim [Bollman] coming in from the outside?
What areas need to be improved on that side of the ball?
MD: When you look at where we were at last year, we need to improve in the red zone, obviously. We have to catch the ball, protect the quarterback more consistently. But we've got to score touchdowns in the red zone. We had too many field-goal attempts. We had 32. So it's not that we're not getting down there. We're getting down there and stalling out. We're going to work toward that. And then we've got to do some things conceptually that takes you forward.
We need change. There's no question we need some change in some areas, but there's also a lot of good things we've done. We've won a lot of football games here. When you look at last season, we were so close in so many different areas from having another 10-, 11-win season.
Grant from Detroit writes: In response to your article about a Narduzzi succession, that would be extremely ideal. I know Dantonio won't be retiring any time soon, but he has brought such a sense of stability to a program that, before him, was a joke of a coaching carousel. I feel that Izzo and Dantonio are on similar paths. Izzo took a MSU job and turned it into a destination position when he decides to retire. There will be a line to fill that spot. I feel that Dantonio has a similar philosophy about the head coach position for football. He has taken the right steps in making that a reality, and I think the smartest move he has made so far may be the promotion of Narduzzi to assistant coach. Narduzzi has obviously been an invaluable part of the Michigan State machine, always fielding a competitive (and lately dominant) defense that has made up for shortcomings elsewhere. He has also been great for recruiting, as defensive players WANT to come to MSU, after seeing us turn out professional players (and prospects) like Greg Jones, Jerel Worthy, Trenton Robinson, Will Gholston, etc. I doubt that Narduzzi will stick around long enough for the MSU position to be handed to him, even with the assistant coach label. I fear that he will go the way of Will Muschamp and jump ship before the head coaching position becomes available. But I still think the move at least establishes a mold for candidates for the position, should Dantonio decide to retire.
Chris K. from Jackson, Mich., writes: Regarding Narduzzi, I would love it if he would become head coach at MSU after Dantonio. Narduzzi is a high-energy guy and a good recruiter and I think that would be the style of the assistant coaches, whether the current assistants are there or not.
Brian from Conshocken, Pa., writes: I love the idea of Pat Narduzzi taking over as head coach (when Coach D is ready to step down, of course) and I hope his acceptance of the assistant head coach shows that the feeling is mutual. Having his guidance over the years is the best chance for MSU Football to compete with the rest of the league in the years to come.
Adam Rittenberg: It doesn't surprise me to see such strong support for Narduzzi among Spartans fans. He has done an excellent job building Michigan State's defense into a nationally elite unit, and his recruiting efforts certainly have helped shape the defense. He's a fiery guy, which appeals to most fans, and certainly would bring energy to the job, perhaps more so than Dantonio does. I've been very impressed by Narduzzi as well and was surprised he didn't get more of a look for the Cincinnati job. My only concern with him is whether he's too much of a loose cannon. He got in trouble for his "60 minutes of unnecessary roughness" comment in 2011 and publicly discussed what he felt was abridged game film from Ohio State last year. As a media member, I love Narduzzi's candor, but most athletic directors usually like their coaches a little more restrained.
Ed from Philadelphia writes: Adam, Regarding the Ireland game for Penn State: It seems that you've chosen not to mention one of the more important pieces of the puzzle, which is that NCAA bylaws allow a 13th regular season game if it's played in Hawaii or otherwise outside the mainland US. In other words, PSU wouldn't have to worry about dumping a non-conference game if they do it while the sanctions are still in effect. They could just count it as their extra game.Obviously, it would still probably have to be done at the beginning of the season rather than the back end, as nobody would agree to interfere with their possible bowl season preparation. In fact, really the only realistic time would be the very first game of the year to minimize the fatigue of traveling.
Adam Rittenberg: Ed, thanks for bringing up this issue with the potential Penn State game in Ireland. I checked the NCAA bylaws regarding maximum number of contests, and there are a few things of note. The bylaw you cite about a team being allowed to play a 13th game if it takes place in Hawaii only applies to games placed against NCAA institutions in Hawaii, Alaska or Puerto Rico. It doesn't apply to two mainland teams playing a game out of the country.
184.108.40.206 Annual Exemptions. [FBS/FCS] The maximum number of football contests shall exclude the following:
(j) Hawaii, Alaska, Puerto Rico. [FBS/FCS] Any football games played in Hawaii, Alaska or Puerto Rico, respectively, either against or under the sponsorship of an active member institution located in Hawaii, Alaska or Puerto Rico, by a Division I member institution located outside the area in question
There also is an exemption for a "foreign tour," but these games are against teams from other countries -- rather than another FBS team -- and don't count in the record book.
220.127.116.11 Opponents. The team shall not compete during the tour against other American teams (colleges or other U.S. teams) other than teams composed of U.S. armed forces personnel stationed at U.S. military bases in foreign countries
Here's what the manual notes about in-season foreign competition.
18.104.22.168.1 In-Season Foreign Competition. [FBS/FCS] A member institution may play one or more of its countable contests in football in one or more foreign countries on one trip during the prescribed playing season. However, except for contests played in Canada, Mexico or on a certified foreign tour 17 (see Bylaw 17.28), the institution may not engage in such in-season foreign competition more than once every four years.
It doesn't mention anything about exceeding the 12-game limit. A Penn State official told me a game in Ireland would count against the 12-game limit for the season. I agree with you that Penn State almost certainly would have to schedule the Ireland game as a season opener because of the travel issues.
Bryson from Madison, Wis., writes: Hey AR, Any chance that with the Boulware exit out of Madison we see our beloved Bart Miller come out and take over the TE's? I know Boulware was going to coach special teams as well and is a decorated recruiter. Who is on our radar for now? Oh and where did Bart Miller end up anyway?
Adam Rittenberg: It's funny you mention Miller's name, Bryson, because Brian Bennett and I brought him up immediately after the Boulware exit. Ultimately, I don't see it happening as Gary Andersen already had one chance to keep the popular Miller on staff and chose not to. Maybe the second time changes things, but Andersen has been pretty decisive in his hires. Also, Miller's inexperience as a full-time assistant coach likely would hurt him for this job as Andersen wants the coach to handle both a position group and special teams. Footballscoop.com reports that Jeff Genyk, a former Northwestern assistant and the former Eastern Michigan head coach, is interviewing for the job. He'd be a good hire.
Brock from Little Rock, Ark., writes: Not quite sure many people are paying attention to Kevin Wilson's and IU's recruiting class for 2013. If they are not they should be. With Taj Williams committing they jumped up to 4th in the B1G (according to Rivals). Coming off of a 4-8 season, is this a positive reflection of what Hoosier fans can expect year in and year out, both in recruiting and on field performance?
Adam Rittenberg: Brock, I agree more people should take notice of Indiana's recruiting efforts, and I think the Hoosiers are starting to make waves around the Big Ten. Williams is a big addition and will strengthen an already talented receiving corps led by Kofi Hughes, Shane Wynn and Cody Latimer. But the even bigger development in my view is Indiana's recruiting gains on the defensive side of the ball. Remember, the Hoosiers have had great wide receivers for years -- James Hardy, Tandon Doss, etc. -- but they haven't been able to stop anyone from scoring. They've simply lacked enough Big Ten-quality defenders, but things seem to be changing under Wilson. According to ESPN Recruiting, the top six players in Indiana's class will play defense in Bloomington (Williams hasn't been added to the list yet). That's a very encouraging sign because Indiana always will pile up yards and points under Wilson. Maybe the Hoosiers soon will prevent opponents from doing the same.
Craig from Braintree, Mass., writes: After reading the stories about assistant coaches moving from program to program, how about a story about Coach Kill and his staff staying together.
Adam Rittenberg: It's certainly worth noting, Craig. Minnesota and Northwestern are the only FBS teams to keep their entire coaching staffs in place for the past three seasons. Even Big Ten teams that had been incredibly stable, like Iowa, have seen sweeping changes in recent years. Kill's staff continuity is one of his hallmarks, and several of his assistants have been with him since his FCS and/or Division II days at Southern Illinois, Emporia State and Saginaw Valley State. The loyalty Kill has shown to his assistants and vice versa stands out in this volatile coaching environment, and it has played a role in Kill having success everywhere he's been.
Joe from Iowa City, Iowa, writes: Thoughts on Iowa's open practice in Des Moines being held on the same day as Iowa State's spring game?
Adam Rittenberg: I like it, Joe. For starters, it shows that Iowa notices Iowa State and the success the Cyclones have had in recent years. Although some Iowa fans always will dismiss Iowa State as inferior, the Iowa program shouldn't take an arrogant attitude toward their rival from Ames. The bottom line is Iowa State has more than held its own against Kirk Ferentz's teams, and the improved recruiting efforts from Ames should be noted in Iowa City.
Also, as Mike Hlas writes, the practice in Des Moines will generate buzz and interest for a portion of Hawkeyes fans who can't access the program as easily as those in the Eastern portion of the state.
For the first time, they’re coming to the people instead of the people coming to them. There’s no taking you for granted, central Iowans. The Hawkeyes need you, they love you, they want you to know how much you mean to them. It’s a smart play.
I completely agree. And yes, the fact Iowa went 4-8 last season has something to do with it. Iowa fans are extremely passionate and loyal and will continue to come to games, but last season did some damage. It's nice to see the Hawkeyes being proactive in reaching out to their fans and also to potential recruits deciding between Iowa and Iowa State. Good move.
BIG TEN SCOREBOARD
2:00 PM ET Washington State Colorado State 3:30 PM ET 20 Fresno State 25 USC 5:30 PM ET Buffalo San Diego State 9:00 PM ET Tulane Louisiana-Lafayette
6:00 PM ET Pittsburgh Bowling Green 9:30 PM ET Utah State 23 Northern Illinois
2:30 PM ET Marshall Maryland 6:00 PM ET Syracuse Minnesota 9:30 PM ET Brigham Young Washington
12:00 PM ET Rutgers Notre Dame 3:20 PM ET Cincinnati North Carolina 6:45 PM ET Miami (FL) 18 Louisville 10:15 PM ET Michigan Kansas State
11:45 AM ET Middle Tennessee Navy 3:15 PM ET Ole Miss Georgia Tech 6:45 PM ET 10 Oregon Texas 10:15 PM ET 14 Arizona State Texas Tech
12:30 PM ET Arizona Boston College 2:00 PM ET Virginia Tech 17 UCLA 4:00 PM ET Rice Mississippi State 8:00 PM ET 24 Duke 21 Texas A&M
12:00 PM ET Nebraska 22 Georgia 12:00 PM ET UNLV North Texas 1:00 PM ET Iowa 16 LSU 1:00 PM ET 19 Wisconsin 9 South Carolina 5:00 PM ET 5 Stanford 4 Michigan State 8:30 PM ET 15 UCF 6 Baylor
7:30 PM ET 13 Oklahoma State 8 Missouri 8:30 PM ET 12 Clemson 7 Ohio State