Big Ten: Marcel Jones

The NFL draft is a little more than 24 hours away, and our analysts Todd McShay and Mel Kiper Jr. have come out with their final mock drafts.

(Let's pause here for a moment of silence for the 2012 mock draft process. May it rest in peace. But never fear, the 2013 mocks are just around the corner!).

There's not a ton of change in Kiper's final first-round mock Insider. Iowa's Riley Reiff is still the top Big Ten player off the board, now at No. 18 to San Diego. Kiper has Illinois DE Whitney Mercilus one spot behind Reiff, to the Bears. The only other Big Ten player he has going in the first round is Wisconsin guard Kevin Zeitler, at No. 30 to San Francisco.

McShay, along with Steve Muench and Kevin Weidl from Scouts Inc. have undertaken the massive enterprise of mocking the entire seven rounds of the draft Insider. Whew. Here's where they have Big Ten products heading:

Round 1

No. 13: Reiff
No. 25: Jerel Worthy, DT, Michigan State
No. 28: Mercilus
No. 30: Zeitler

Round 2

No. 34: Jeff Allen, OT, Illinois
No. 35: Devon Still, DT, Penn State
No. 43: Lavonte David, LB, Nebraska
No. 44: Peter Konz, C, Wisconsin
No. 47: Mike Adams, OT, Ohio State
No. 51: Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State
No. 63: A.J. Jenkins, WR, Illinois

Round 3

No. 89: Mike Martin, DT, Michigan

Round 4

No. 96: Mike Daniels DT, Iowa
No. 97: Alfonzo Dennard, CB, Nebraska
No. 99: Adam Gettis, G, Iowa
No. 106: Nick Toon, WR, Wisconsin
No. 118: Shaun Prater, CB, Iowa
No. 120: Keshawn Martin, WR, Michigan State
No. 121: Markus Zusevics, OT, Iowa
No. 123: Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin
No. 126: Edwin Baker, RB, Michigan State
No. 132: Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska

Round 5

No. 137: David Molk, C, Michigan
No. 150: Marvin McNutt, WR, Iowa
No. 161: Trent Robinson, S, Michigan State
No. 163: Michael Brewster, C, Ohio State
No. 165: DeVier Posey, WR, Ohio State

Round 6

No. 207: Jack Crawford, DE, Penn State

Round 7

No. 211: B.J. Cunningham, WR, Michigan State
No. 216: Aaron Henry, S, Wisconsin
No. 219: Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State
No. 221: Derek Dimke, K, Illinois
No. 223: Tyler Nielsen, LB, Iowa
No. 231: Marcel Jones, OT, Nebraska
No. 244: Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan
No. 247: Bradie Ewing, FB, Wisconsin
No. 248: Kevin Koger, TE, Michigan

A few notables not listed on this seven-round mock: Northwestern WR Jeremy Ebert, TE Drake Dunsmore, and QB Dan Persa; Penn State WR Derek Moye; Minnesota WR Da'Jon McKnight, Michigan DE Ryan Van Bergen, Wisconsin OT Josh Oglesby.

How accurate are these mock drafts? It is almost time to find out. Let's do this for real.

Big Ten lunchtime links

January, 25, 2012
1/25/12
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Have you considered cutting the entire fire department? I have personally put out several local fires, at no cost to the taxpayer.
My apologies for posting this a bit late, but the initial invitations list is out for the 2012 NFL scouting combine, which takes place next month in Indianapolis. This list does not include the five Big Ten juniors who have declared for the draft.

Let's check out which players made the initial list (a full list will come out later this month).

Quarterbacks
Running backs
Wide receivers
Offensive linemen
Defensive tackles
Defensive ends
Outside linebackers
Cornerbacks
Safeties
  • Trenton Robinson, Michigan State
Kickers
Punters

There are no Big Ten tight ends, inside linebackers or long snappers on the initial list.

I'm a bit surprised not to see several names, including Penn State WR Derek Moye. Still, wide receiver was a position of strength for the Big Ten in 2011, along with defensive tackle.

Weekend rewind: Big Ten

November, 28, 2011
11/28/11
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For the final time in the 2011 regular season, let's press the rewind button:

[+] EnlargeRussell Wilson
Mary Langenfeld/US PresswireRussell Wilson's one season at Wisconsin was surely something to smile about.
Team of the week: Wisconsin. The Badgers had an uphill climb after losing back-to-back games against Michigan State and Ohio State to end October. But they battled back to win their final four games in impressive fashion, including Saturday's 45-7 blowout of Penn State in Madison. Now they're just one win away from their second straight Rose Bowl appearance.

Game of the week: Michigan 40, Ohio State 34. Five lead changes, more than 800 yards of offense, a duel between two super-athletic quarterbacks and a game that came down to the final two minutes in a huge rivalry. Yep, this one was a no-doubter this week. Best edition of The Game since 2006.

Biggest play: Josh Johnson's interception of Indiana quarterback Tre Roberson late in the fourth quarter. The Hoosiers had moved the ball well all day and only trailed Purdue by eight points as they started their final drive. Johnson and receiver Nick Stoner caught Roberson's pass simultaneously, but Johnson ripped the ball away when they hit the turf. That allowed the Boilermakers to run out the clock, get back the Old Oaken Bucket, clinch bowl eligibility and quite possibly save Danny Hope's job. Good thing for them the play was not reviewable by rule.

Best call: Nebraska's decision to let Rex Burkhead break the school record for carries with a kneel down for No. 38 against Iowa. Burkhead, who hadn't played for several minutes after scoring a touchdown on his 37th carry, was typically humble when asked to go in for the record, telling his teammates he didn't want to get it that way. But offensive lineman Marcel Jones convinced him to do it for the seniors. Burkhead wasn't anywhere near 100 percent for last week's game but has been one of the biggest warriors in the Big Ten all season. He deserves as many places in the Nebraska record book as he can get.

Big Men on Campus (Offense): Michigan's Denard Robinson and Wisconsin's Montee Ball. These two share the award for a second straight week, and with good cause. Robinson accounted for five touchdowns and more than 330 yards of total offense, becoming just the fourth player in NCAA history to gain 2,000 yards passing and 1,000 yards rushing in a season twice in his career. He ran for 170 yards in the 40-34 win over Ohio State. Ball just keeps on piling up the touchdowns, adding four more in the win over Penn State. He ran for 156 yards on 25 carries and set the NCAA record with multiple touchdowns in 12 straight games. He has 34 touchdowns on the season, second-most of any FBS player in history and just five short of Barry Sanders' record of 39.

Big Men on Campus (Defense): Minnesota's Kim Royston and Nebraska's Lavonte David. Royston had 13 tackles against Illinois, the eighth time this season he finished a game with 10 or more stops. He also had his first sack of the season and a pass breakup while finishing the season with 123 tackles, the most by a Gopher since 2001. David capped his spectacular regular season with eight tackles and a sack, along with two pass break-ups, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery, as the Huskers nearly shut out Iowa.

Big Man on Campus (Special teams): Purdue's Carson Wiggs. He made four field goals -- from 48, 43, 29 and 22 yards -- in the Boilers' bowl-clinching 33-25 win over Indiana.

Best moment: It wasn't quite "Rudy," but it was close at Camp Randall on Saturday.

Wisconsin senior defensive end Greg Russo served two tours in Iraq before walking on to the Badgers last spring. For almost the entire season, he'd been waiting for the NCAA to clear him to appear in a game.

He finally got on the field for the first time with about a minute left in the win over Penn State. He didn't record a tackle like Rudy, but he didn't care.

"We stand on the field every day for practice," Russo told the Wisconsin State Journal. "But tonight, standing in the middle of the field and looking around and seeing the fans there and knowing I was a part of something that big, a part of being the Leaders Division champs, it was a totally different feeling, like I was on a completely different field and I was in a completely different place."

Halloween in the Big Ten

October, 31, 2011
10/31/11
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The Big Ten blog is haunted today. Bennett is going as Albert Pujols, for obvious reasons.

Halloween came a little early for teams like Michigan State and Wisconsin, which has endured a two-week nightmare.

In keeping with the Halloween spirit in Big Ten country and beyond, we present this primer ...

Haunted House: Camp Randall Stadium remains the toughest place to win in the Big Ten, and Wisconsin can't wait to return home after the past two weeks. Wisconsin has won 14 consecutive games there, including the past seven by 31 points or more. The Badgers have averaged 48.5 points during the span. Spartan Stadium is quickly becoming a haunted house, too.

Boo (boo): Nebraska's defense lost one of its leaders and stars as tackle Jared Crick suffered a season-ending torn pectoral muscle against Ohio State. Purdue couldn't avoid the injury bug before the season, losing projected starting quarterback Rob Henry to a season-ending ACL tear.

[+] EnlargeDevin Smith
Greg Bartram/US PresswireOhio State's Devin Smith caught this winning TD pass against Wisconsin in one of the Big Ten's most thrilling games this season.
Thriller: The Big Ten has had three ultimate thrillers this season. Michigan and Notre Dame combined to score three touchdowns in the final 72 seconds, including the game-winner by the Wolverines with two seconds left. Wisconsin and Michigan State then had a see-saw battle that ended with a 44-yard Hail Mary touchdown pass from Kirk Cousins to Keith Nichol with no time left on the clock. And Wisconsin and Ohio State combined to score four touchdowns in the final 4:39 Saturday night, including the game-winning pass from Braxton Miller to Devin Smith.

Graveyard: The Big Ten's BCS title hopes; Russell Wilson's Heisman Trophy hopes; Penn State's losing streak against Iowa; Iowa's losing streak against Northwestern; Michigan State's road losing streak against Ohio State.

Trick or treat (high-stakes game): The Nov. 12 matchup between Penn State and Nebraska in State College should have enormous implications for both teams and both divisions. Penn State is the only unbeaten team in Big Ten play and holds a two-game lead in the Leaders division. A victory would move Joe Paterno's team one big step closer to Indianapolis. If Nebraska gets by 3-5 Northwestern this week, the Huskers will remain in good shape to challenge for the Legends division championship. They'll need some signature road wins at Penn State and the following week at Michigan to stay alive.

Jason Voorhees (team that won't die): Ohio State. Written off after a Week 3 loss at Miami and left for dead after its collapse at Nebraska, Ohio State has sprung back to life following back-to-back Leaders division wins. Luke Fickell's team stepped up in every phase against Wisconsin and remained very much in the division race. The Buckeyes have no margin for error, but they seem to embrace the adversity and everyone counting them out.

Witchcraft: Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson haunted Notre Dame for the second consecutive year, lifting his team to a dramatic win against the Fighting Irish. After racking 502 yards of total offense last year in South Bend, Robinson helped Michigan rally from a 24-7 fourth-quarter deficit to beat Notre Dame 35-31 in Week 2. Michigan scored 28 fourth-quarter points and won on Robinson's touchdown strike to Roy Roundtree with two seconds left.

Cursed team: Wisconsin. No team in America has experienced back-to-back losses in more heartbreaking fashion than Bret Bielema's Badgers. Wisconsin has mounted impressive comebacks on the road the past two weeks, only to lose on a Hail Mary at Michigan State and Miller's on-the-run heave at Ohio State. The Badgers have made enough mistakes to lose both games, but they have to be questioning the football gods. Iowa certainly feels cursed after its second consecutive loss to Minnesota on Saturday, a game in which Hawkeyes running back Marcus Coker racked up 252 rush yards and two touchdowns.

Halloween costumes
The last time Nebraska took on a ranked Big Ten contender, things didn't end so well. The Cornhuskers, of course, got spanked 48-17 at Wisconsin in their official league debut.

So you can imagine the reaction when the players returned home from last week's game at Minnesota in time to catch the end of Michigan State's win over those same Badgers.

"I think we all kind of realized what we've got ahead of us this week," defensive end Cameron Meredith said.

The Huskers, though, think they're better equipped to deal with their next Big Ten challenge when the No. 11 Spartans come into Memorial Stadium on Saturday. That Wisconsin loss caused lots of second-guessing and criticism of the team and quarterback Taylor Martinez in particular. Nebraska then fell behind 27-6 at home against Ohio State in its next game out before mounting a huge comeback to beat the Buckeyes and to possibly save their season.

[+] EnlargeRex Burkhead
Jesse Johnson/US PresswireRunning back Rex Burkhead proved to be a workhorse for Nebraska this past season.
"We rallied around each other," offensive lineman Marcel Jones said. "We told ourselves that we're better than what we showed the country. I feel that we've come together a lot closer since then, and we've been able to overcome adversity. We learned not to panic, and that if we keep steering the course we'll be just fine."

The Cornhuskers need to bring their best effort this week, because they can't afford a loss and still realistically hope to win the Legends Division. Michigan State is already one game ahead of Nebraska in the standings, and if the Huskers lose Saturday, they'd need the Spartans to lose two more times just to have a chance to tie for the division lead. And Nebraska still must play at Michigan and Penn State this season. That's why receiver Kenny Bell called this a must-win this week.

Others have stopped short of applying that label to this game, but there's little doubt about its importance. The Huskers, after all, are the only Big Ten team used to how division play works from their Big 12 days.

"We understand what have we ahead of us and the opportunity," Meredith said. "We can't go too all-in to the hype, but we do understand what's on the line. Coach [Bo Pelini] has emphasized and made it real noticeable that this is a very important game, but we're still preparing just as we have all season."

Michigan State is led by its ferocious defense, a formula Nebraska was supposed to utilize this season. The Blackshirts, though, have been disappointing and now lack the services of defensive tackle Jared Crick, who's out for the season with a torn pectoral muscle. Meredith said he saw improvement during the team's bye week two weeks ago as the team focused on fundamentals. The Huskers allowed only 14 points and 254 yards to Minnesota last week while scoring a defensive touchdown, but the Gophers are hardly a worthy measuring stick this year.

One thing that might help the defense is that the Spartans don't have a running quarterback. Nebraska has faced a lot of mobile signal-callers this season, including Washington's Keith Price, Wisconsin's Russell Wilson, Ohio State's Braxton Miller and even Minnesota's MarQueis Gray. Kirk Cousins isn't likely to burn the Blackshirts with a long scramble or deep pass on the run.

"He's a great football player, but he's more of a pocket passer," Meredith said. "That should allow us to rush the passer a little more freely."

On the flip side, the Huskers offense hopes to slow down Michigan State's aggressive defense with Martinez and Rex Burkhead. The Spartans will have to focus on containing the edge, especially when Nebraska goes to its option plays. And with a no-huddle offense and a deep rotation of offensive linemen, perhaps the home team can wear out Jerel Worthy and the other Michigan State defensive linemen.

"It's very important to bring in fresh legs," Jones said. "We come at the defense with wave after wave."

Nebraska had better perform a whole lot better than it did in its last test against a ranked Big Ten team. Or else it can probably wave its league title hopes goodbye.

Big Ten did you know? Week 2

September, 9, 2011
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Some notes and nuggets to hopefully make you smarter as you head out to the games this weekend.
  • Penn State's 23-game nonconference home winning streak is tied for second-longest in the nation with Florida. LSU leads at 31. The Nittany Lions' last nonconference loss in Beaver Stadium was to Boston College on Sept. 6, 2003.
  • Wisconsin accumulated 499 yards of total offense on just 53 plays against UNLV, averaging 9.42 yards per play. That was the second best mark in the country, behind only Georgia Tech’s 10.34 yards per play against Western Carolina. The Badgers have scored at least 37 points in the first half in each of their past three home games. In its past six home games, Wisconsin has combined to score 346 points. That is an average of 57.7 points per game.
  • Michigan had a plus-3 turnover margin against Western Michigan in Saturday's season-opening win, the first time the Wolverines won the turnover battle since Sept. 11, 2010, when they were plus-3 at Notre Dame.
  • With the 42-0 win against Akron last Saturday, Luke Fickell became the first Ohio State head coach to record a shutout in his head-coaching debut since Woody Hayes in 1951.
  • Tackle Tyler Moore last week became first true freshman offensive lineman to start a season opener in Nebraska history, and just the fourth freshman offensive lineman to earn a start in Nebraska's season opener, joining redshirt freshmen Jeremiah Sirles (2010 vs. Western Kentucky), Marcel Jones (2008 vs. Western Michigan) and Richie Incognito (2002 vs. Arizona State). Moore is only the fourth true freshman offensive lineman to start a game at any point in a season, and only the 10th true freshman offensive lineman to play at Nebraska.
  • Illinois was penalty-free in the opener, marking the first time in 18 years it did not commit a penalty in a game. The last time it happened was Nov. 20, 1993, against Wisconsin. Illinois is one of just three FBS teams that did not get flagged in the opening week (Eastern Michigan and Navy).
  • Iowa has held its opponents to two touchdown passes or fewer in 35 straight games. The Hawkeyes' defense has collected at least one takeaway in 57 of its last 63 games, dating back to 2006.
  • Minnesota came from behind in all six of its victories in 2009 and all three in 2010. The last time the Gophers won a game without trailing was a 17-6 win at Purdue on Oct. 25, 2008.
  • After spending much of 2010 searching for a consistent running attack, Northwestern has now surpassed 200 yards rushing in back-to-back contests for the first time since the final two games of 2003. NU totaled 229 ground yards in the TicketCity Bowl to close last season and went for 227 Saturday against Boston College.
  • With 222 passing yards against Youngstown State, Michigan State senior quarterback Kirk Cousins became just the fourth Spartans quarterback to eclipse the 6,000-yard mark, joining Jeff Smoker (8,932 yards), Drew Stanton (6,524 yards) and Brian Hoyer (6,159 yards). Cousins also moved into a tie for fifth place at Michigan State for most touchdown passes (42) as he threw an 18-yard strike to B.J. Cunningham in the third quarter. Cousins now has 6,037 career passing yards and his completion percentage of .648 is currently the best in team history and third in Big Ten history.
  • After rushing for 201 yards in the opener against Middle Tennessee, Purdue improved to 7-1 under coach Danny Hope when eclipsing the 200-yard rushing mark. Purdue racked up 200 rush yards or more in all four victories last season.
  • Ten true freshmen saw action for Indiana in the opener against Ball State, the most for an IU squad since 11 took the field during the 2003 campaign. Indiana only played eight true freshmen from 2007-10.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

August, 26, 2011
8/26/11
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A few questions and answers for ya. Enjoy the last weekend before the season!

John from Au Gres, Mich., writes: Hi Adam,I really enjoy the blog, I check it out daily. Rethink your prediction of "worst case" for Michigan State, 5-7 or 6-6. A 7 loss season for MSU means they lose every competitive game on the schedule (ND, tOSU, Nebraska, Iowa, Michigan, Wiscy, and Northwestern). Two of those are home games. Think about your reference to 2010, you only point out the losses at Iowa and to Alabama on the road. Don't the get credit for winnin at Michigan, at Happy Valley and at Northwestern? They were at least 3-2 in tough road games in 2010. 10-2 isn't a bad best case, but so much rides on that tOSU game. Win that one, and look out.

Adam Rittenberg: John, I totally agree with you about the Ohio State game. It sets the tone for the rest of the Spartans' season, as the Buckeyes are the only Big Ten team (besides Nebraska) that Mark Dantonio hasn't beaten in his MSU tenure. Keep in mind that this is a worst-case scenario, and yes, Michigan State could lose all of its road games plus Wisconsin and maybe Michigan at home. The road wins against Michigan, Penn State and Northwestern were nice last year, but all three of those teams went 7-6. Meh. If things go badly -- Kirk Cousins injury, offensive line struggles, defense doesn't generate as many turnovers -- a seven-loss season is possible.


Vasav from Tokyo writes: 7 years later...inviting them back. I've got a sick feeling. I know we can't make it go away. I hope we don't make ourselves fools twice. I like that Dave Brandon is a feisty sonofa*****.But mostly...I really don't know what to think of this. Good or bad? There's not much upside, and there's a ton of downside. But Michigan Arrogance is back. And that cannot be a bad thing.

Adam Rittenberg: Vasav, I love the move, but then again, I'm not a Michigan fan who still cringes whenever Appalachian State is mentioned. It shows Dave Brandon has a sense of humor, and its a smart branding opportunity because more people are going to pay attention to that game rather than one against another FCS school (Appalachian State could be FBS by then, who knows). Sure, it'd be terrible if Michigan lost again to Appalachian State, but the Wolverines shouldn't put themselves in that position again. Either way, from an outside perspective, it's interesting.


Justin from Upper Arlington, Ohio, writes: Adam, are there actually an inordinate amount of leg injuries in West Lafayette over the past five years? Or does it just seem that way because of the timing in which they have occurred and the high profile positions (i.e., offensive skill positions) that have been affected the most? If the former, do they need to take a look at their strength and conditioning program; the turf on which they practice and play; the Omega-3 fatty acid content of their training table, etc.?

Adam Rittenberg: Justin, the conspiracy theories are out there, but these all could be unfortunate isolated incidents. The fact that most of the injuries have involved high-profile players undoubtedly brings more attention to the situation. That doesn't mean Purdue isn't very concerned about the rash of knee injuries. The school has to evaluate at all the areas you list. Purdue in March hired a new director of sports performance in Duane Carlisle, who comes from the San Francisco 49ers. It's important for the athletic department to continue to be proactive about this topic, but pinning down the problem isn't easy.


Tyler from Omaha writes: Adam,Like any Husker fan, I travel to away games quite frequently. I've met some great fans (namely Auburn and Virginia Tech), and some not so great (Colorado and Missouri). I'm planning on trips to Madison, Minneapolis, and Ann Arbor this year, with trips to the rest of the B1G over the coming years. What can I expect?

Adam Rittenberg: Tyler, I think you'll enjoy yourself in those three cities. There's great tailgating before games, particularly in Madison, but also in Ann Arbor and Minneapolis. You'll probably encounter some knucklehead fans, who are everywhere, but for the most part you'll be treated well. You're also seeing three exceptional stadiums: the Big House, Camp Randall (my personal favorite) and TCF Bank Stadium, which is new but terrific. Both Madison and Ann Arbor will be buzzing the night before games, so definitely take a walk around downtown. Minneapolis is a huge city with plenty of things to do.


Mike from Allentown, Pa., writes: Hey Adam,I was wondering if you could explain, or maybe shoot down, the double standard I keep reading about on the blog. Why is it that Larry Johnson is held to a different standard than a position coach at other schools? Specifically, I keep reading about how Penn State's D-Line won't be able to re-load (partly due to injuries) with the talent they currently have on the roster. Why does it seem like there's a lack of faith that LJ can't coach up the younger guys to step up, and make an impact? It just seems like a QB coach as say Alabama can reload the QB position, but LJ can't? I'm not saying Penn State should be ranked #2 in the nation, but Alabama lost a lot of experience at QB but everyone has faith they can reload. What would it take for LJ to get on that level, and get the same respect as others who are the best at coaching a given position?

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, I have a ton of respect for Larry Johnson, and it wouldn't surprise me if he develops Penn State's defensive line this season. But you're looking at a group that underperformed last season, and there are some depth issues at end because of injuries. Several Big Ten coaches told me Pete Massaro, who suffered a knee injury during spring, was Penn State's best threat on the edge. Can Jack Crawford stay healthy and reach his potential? Who else steps up at defensive end? Penn State reloaded for years under Johnson, but last year represented a drop-off and there are additional question marks entering this fall. But that doesn't mean he can't get it done again.


Mike from Richmond, Va., writes: Ridiculous that you have Persa so high on your list. Based upon the unknow, if this were basketball the seeders would have dropped NW several seeds for this injury.Argue this: given what we know right NOW, Cousins has the much better chance at success leading his team than Persa.

Adam Rittenberg: Mike, you bring up some good points. We compile the top 25 list before preseason camp because we need to complete it before the season. When camp started, Persa's injury didn't appear to be as big of a question mark as it does right now. If we were starting the top 25 now, we might have dropped him a bit lower. But Persa still could be very effective for Northwestern, particularly with his passing and decision-making. Yes, his feet are a big part of his game, but he could be a different type of player and still very effective. Cousins has a chance to be very good, too. Both he and Persa have excellent receivers and tight ends. Cousins has the better running backs, while Persa has a more seasoned offensive line. It'll be interesting to see how they fare.


Marty from Omaha writes: Does anybody in the B1G have a better throwback 70s look than Marcel Jones?

Adam Rittenberg: I love it, Marty. Very impressive fro/beard combo. He's the retro tackle.

Big Ten preseason camp roundup

August, 8, 2011
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By the end of the day, all 12 Big Ten preseason camps will be under way. The weekend featured practices, players reporting and several media days around the league, so we wanted to get caught up.

We already hit on some of the bigger items, such as Nebraska quarterback Bubba Starling being held out of practice as his baseball-football decision looms and Michigan redshirting wide receiver Darryl Stonum and suspending two others.

Here are other notable nuggets from around the league:

IOWA
  • Strength and conditioning coach Chris Doyle met with reporters Friday during media day and for the first time addressed the outbreak of rhabdomyolosis in January that put 13 players in the hospital. You can check out video of Doyle's comments here. He didn't go into too many details, calling the situation a "problem" and saying the program has moved forward. Doyle said the well-being of players remains his top priority and that while the intense workout that led to the rhabdo has been eliminated, Iowa will continue to "train with volume."
  • Iowa expects freshman defensive tackle Darian Cooper to report in the middle of the week after a "complication" prevented him from reporting with his classmates.
  • Offensive lineman Nolan MacMillan isn't practicing because of a sports hernia suffered during spring ball.
ILLINOIS
  • Freshmen Donovonn Young and Josh Ferguson are making things interesting in the running back competition. Jason Ford remains the front-runner, but offensive coordinator Paul Petrino continues to challenge the senior, as he did in the spring after Ford was limited by injuries. "I need to see Jason run downhill, violent, and get up and do it again," Petrino told the Chicago Sun-Times. Both Young and Ferguson have looked impressive early in practice and could push for carries. Competition is good at every position, but specifically at running back, so I definitely see this as a positive development for the Illini.
  • Offensive tackle Corey Lewis won't be ready for the start of the season as he continues to work his way back from knee surgery. Illinois will look to unproven players Michael Heitz and Simon Cvijanovic to emerge during camp.
PURDUE
  • The Boilers got some bad news at a thin position as defensive end Rashad Frazier didn't show up for the team's first practice Saturday. Frazier was expected to compete with Robert Maci and Ryan Russell for playing time. "We'll move on without him," coach Danny Hope said. Purdue has moved defensive tackle Ryan Isaac to the end spot to help with the low numbers there. The good news is veteran end Gerald Gooden has impressed the coaches so far.
WISCONSIN
  • Keep an eye on the competition at right tackle as Josh Oglesby and Rob Havenstein will vie for the starting job. Oglesby, a heralded recruit, has been plagued by injuries throughout his career, undergoing six knee surgeries, according to coach Bret Bielema. Oglesby will be limited in camp, so Havenstein, who practiced with the first-team offense this spring, has a good opportunity.
  • Bielema listed seven starting spots that are up for grabs in camp: quarterback, running back, right tackle, strong safety, one defensive end spot, one defensive tackle spot and strongside linebacker.
MICHIGAN STATE
  • Heralded incoming freshman Lawrence Thomas could play linebacker or defensive end, coach Mark Dantonio said Sunday after the team's first practice. The 6-foot-3, 275-pound Thomas will begin practicing at linebacker but could make a move, much like another top recruit, William Gholston, did last year.
  • Wide receiver Keshawn Martin and running back Nick Hill entered camp as Michigan State's top two kick returners. Martin, the league's top punt return man in 2010, will be a busy man on special teams, which is a good thing given how dangerous he can be in that area.
PENN STATE
OHIO STATE
  • Buckeyes players reported during the weekend and will practice for the first time today. All 105 players expected to be part of the preseason camp roster reported, but the group didn't include linebackers Dorian Bell and Jonathan Newsome, and receiver James Louis. Newsome has announced he'll transfer to Ball State and both Bell and Louis could be heading elsewhere as well.
NEBRASKA
  • Two Huskers offensive linemen, senior Marcel Jones and freshman Givens Price, are sitting out with injuries. Jones should be back this month, while Price will miss all of camp. Incoming freshman cornerback Charles Jackson also isn't practicing because he hasn't been cleared academically.
The preseason position rankings march on with the offensive lines. Team rankings are below, and we'll take a look at the individual rankings for tackles, centers and guards early next week.

Looking at the league landscape, offensive line could be a major strength throughout the Big Ten this season. Although standout players such as Outland Trophy winner Gabe Carimi and All-American Stefen Wisniewski depart, I see improved depth for several teams as well as quite a few multiyear starters.

Honestly, there aren't any bad lines in the league; just some with more question marks than others.

Let's get to the rundown.

1. Wisconsin: Talk about an ability to reload. The Badgers lose All-Americans Carimi and John Moffitt, plus the versatile Bill Nagy, and they still shouldn't take any steps backward. Injuries have allowed Wisconsin to build depth the past few seasons, and four of the five spots look extremely solid. Tackle Ricky Wagner, center Peter Konz and guard Kevin Zeitler lead a group that will block for the league's top running back tandem. Wisconsin's track record up front is impossible to ignore, and this year's line should continue the trend.

[+] EnlargeRiley Reiff
David Purdy/Getty ImagesWill arm length be an issue for former Iowa left tackle Riley Reiff in the NFL?
2. Iowa: The line is undoubtedly Iowa's biggest strength and should be one of the nation's elite units in 2011. Iowa returns starting experience at all five positions and should have decent depth. Left tackle Riley Reiff, projected as a first-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, will enter the fall as a leading candidate for the Outland Trophy. James Ferentz is one of the league's top centers, and Markus Zusevics is poised for a big year at right tackle.

3. Ohio State: Depth is the only reason the Buckeyes' line isn't higher in the rankings. Ohio State boasts arguably the nation's top center in Mike Brewster, and first-team All-Big Ten tackle Mike Adams will be back after a five-game suspension to begin the season. The Buckeyes need big things from tackle Andrew Norwell during Adams' absence, and tackle J.B. Shugarts must play like a veteran. After struggling to put two sets of capable linemen on the field this spring, Ohio State has to find more depth in preseason camp.

4. Michigan: This is another group that could climb up the rankings by season's end. Center David Molk is a terrific piece to build around, and if gifted players like Taylor Lewan and Patrick Omameh continue to develop, Michigan's line will be a major strength. The concerns are Molk's ability to stay healthy and an adjustment to a new offensive system under Al Borges. The line did an excellent job of protecting Denard Robinson in 2010, allowing a league-low 11 sacks.

5. Illinois: The Illini flat-out punished opponents at the line of scrimmage on several occasions last season, and I really like the potential for the front five in 2011. The biggest reason? Left tackle Jeff Allen, one of the Big Ten's most experienced linemen. Allen and center Graham Pocic will contend for All-Big Ten honors, and if Corey Lewis gets healthy, this should be one of the league's top offensive lines.

6. Purdue: Expectations are high for a line that coach Danny Hope thinks will be Purdue's strength in 2011. Left tackle Dennis Kelly is an All-Big Ten candidate with NFL potential who has started the past 24 games. Center Peters Drey and tackle Nick Mondek help anchor the group. The big question is whether mammoth guard Ken Plue, a multiyear starter, can get out of Hope's doghouse to help lead the way. Plue will be pushed by James Shepherd this summer. The combination of experience up front and the return of running back Ralph Bolden bode well for the Boilers.

7. Northwestern: The Wildcats boast the nation's second most experienced line (137 combined career starts), but experience must start translating to production. This group still must prove it can spark a decent rushing attack after several years of decline. Left tackle Al Netter is an All-Big Ten candidate and center Ben Burkett enters his fourth season as the starter. If Northwestern gets more consistent play from right tackle Patrick Ward and others, it should be a solid group.

8. Penn State: This is a big year for Penn State's O-line, which has heard the criticism and has vowed to erase it in 2011. The tackle spots look solid with Quinn Barham and Chima Okoli, but Penn State needs to shore up the interior after losing Wisniewski, a mainstay for the past four seasons. If veterans like Johnnie Troutman and DeOn'tae Pannell step up and turn in consistent performances, the line should hold up nicely.

9. Nebraska: The Huskers ranked ninth nationally in rushing last season but have quite a few question marks up front. Center Mike Caputo is a building block and sophomore tackle Jeremiah Sirles is a returning starter, but Nebraska has little proven experience. The Huskers will benefit from a healthy Marcel Jones at right tackle, and Yoshi Hardwick adds depth. This could turn out to be a decent group, but the experience issue combined with a scheme change creates some uncertainty.

10. Michigan State: Not to put too much pressure on the line, but arguably no position group will have more influence on Michigan State's season. The Spartans must replace both starting tackles and their starting center, never an easy task. All-Big Ten guard Joel Foreman returns to lead the group, but Michigan State needs immediate contributions from unproven players. The coaches feel they've upgraded the athleticism up front by moving players like Dan France and Blake Treadwell over from the defensive side.

11. Minnesota: The Gophers boast a mix of veterans and youth, and it'll be interesting to see whether the group comes together this fall. Hopes are high for young tackles Eric Olson and Jimmy Gjere, but they'll need help from seniors like Ryan Wynn and Chris Bunders on the interior. Minnesota needs to regain its swagger as an elite rushing offense, and it starts up front this fall. This is a group that certainly has a chance to make strides.

12. Indiana: I like some of Indiana's individual pieces, but as a group, the Hoosiers must show they can create space for the running backs. Indiana switched to the pistol offense in hopes of sparking the ground game but produced barely 100 rushing yards a game in 2010 (112th nationally). The line allowed only 12 sacks and must continue to protect its unproven quarterbacks this fall, but getting the run game going is paramount. Returning starters Will Matte, Justin Pagan and Andrew McDonald give Indiana hope.
Nebraska is accelerating its offensive tempo and entering a league loaded with daunting defensive linemen.

What does that mean for the Huskers' offensive line? Hopefully more hands on deck.

Line coach Barney Cotton has wanted to establish an eight-man rotation up front. The past two seasons, Nebraska rarely used more than six in games. Cotton hopes the number can change this fall.

"This year, it’d be great to play 10," Cotton told me earlier this week. "I don't know if that's possible or not, but the spring is all about competition and development, and we've got a good start on that."

Nebraska returns two starters up front in center Mike Caputo and tackle Jeremiah Sirles. Tackle Marcel Jones missed most of last season with a back injury, but he has starting experience from 2009. The Huskers also bring back linemen like Andrew Rodriguez who saw a bit of time as reserves in 2010.

But the need to build depth is very real. Nebraska loses both of its starting guards, including first-team All-Big 12 selection Ricky Henry. The new offense largely eschews huddling and wants to stay a step ahead of the defense. There's also the matter of durability, especially after the poor end to last season.

"We're all about competing here and how we finish," Cotton said, "and we're certainly not happy up front with how we finished, especially those last two games.”

Conditioning will be a focal point in the summer months, but Cotton wants to have as many options as possible.

"Creating not just depth but playing depth is what’s really going to be important for us," Cotton said. "By playing depth I mean guys we feel comfortable putting in the game when the game's on the line."

Caputo fits into that category. The former walk-on started throughout last season and earned honorable mention All-Big 12 honors.

Cotton calls Caputo "the unquestioned leader" of the line, a role Caputo embraces.

"I’m working on that, trying to become more vocal," Caputo said. "Last year, we were all kind of old and now, me and [Marcel Jones] are really the only old guys left. It's a little different."

Caputo has seen several young linemen step up this spring, including Rodriguez, Brent Qvale and Brent Long, all sophomores. Nebraska's revamping of the coaching staff this offseason put a greater emphasis on the line as Bo Pelini promoted John Garrison to assist Cotton and coach the tight ends.

"This year, we’re very young," Cotton said. "We have three seniors in the top 10, so we've got kind of a youth movement here, but there are a lot of guys who look like they’re ready and willing to step up to the plate."

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