NCF Nation: Andy Brodell
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Kirk Ferentz calls them Ricky Stanzi's Kodak moments, and Stanzi had an album full of them last season for Iowa.
|Stephen Mally/Icon SMI|
|Consistency and limiting mistakes will be key for quarterback Ricky Stanzi this season.|
Stanzi made his share of mistakes in his first year as the Hawkeyes' starting quarterback, but he also showed impressive poise to bounce back virtually every time.
After committing a total of five turnovers (two interceptions, three fumbles) in consecutive losses to Northwestern and Michigan State, Stanzi steadied himself in wins against Indiana and Wisconsin. The sophomore endured a miserable performance at Illinois (2 INTs, lost fumble returned for a touchdown), only to lead Iowa to a season-defining win against then-No. 3 Penn State the following week.
The Penn State game brought out both the worst and the best of Stanzi. He had an interception and a lost fumble turn into 10 points for the Nittany Lions, but responded to lead three Hawkeyes scoring drives in the final 25 minutes.
"The interception against Penn State was about as ugly as you can throw," Ferentz said. "I guess you could kind of see one of our guys in there, but it was through three or four of their guys. And then the Illinois thing, I've seen those situations just implode negatively for you. But both those instances, he just came right back and played and did a good job.
"That's something that's hard to teach anybody or give anybody. He really has that gene, that trait. That's a good starting point."
Iowa knows Stanzi can bounce back when things go south, but whether he can avoid difficult situations in the first place will largely shape how the team performs this season. Stanzi no longer has Shonn Greene in the backfield, and with wideout Andy Brodell and tight end Brandon Myers gone, the junior quarterback will face increased pressure to make plays.
Though Stanzi must limit turnovers and become more consistent in the red zone -- Iowa came up empty nine times last year, the second-highest total in the league -- he has no plans to overhaul his approach.
"It's just being conscious of what you're doing out there," he said. "I know there's been times when I've turned the ball over too much. That's obvious. You can write that down as a stat. At the same time, it's not going to change my style of play because if I start doing that, you're pulling back from something that helps you make some plays."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Catching up on a weekend full of links and several more from this morning ...
- Iowa wide receiver Andy Brodell does not expect to be granted a sixth year of eligibility, likely making the Outback Bowl his final collegiate game, Andy Hamilton and Randy Peterson write in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
- Michigan State quarterback Brian Hoyer is still trying to make people forget about his last bowl performance, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal.
- Former Michigan defensive coordinator Scott Shafer won't be ripping Rich Rodriguez any time soon, at least not in public, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press.
"Shafer parted ways with Michigan by 'mutual agreement' a week before the school announced the change in the letter from athletic director Bill Martin, but there were conditions. It said Shafer could not publicly release the terms of his agreement, and he also agreed 'that I will not issue any statements to the media or in a public or similar setting which demean or disparage the University of Michigan, the football program, or any of their employees, in any way.'"
- Penn State defensive coordinator Tom Bradley isn't campaigning for Joe Paterno's job, even though many think he deserves it, Cory Giger writes in The Altoona Mirror. Paterno's toughness and longevity resonate with his players, Chris Dufresne writes in the Los Angeles Times.
- The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus does an autopsy on Wisconsin's disappointing season and how the Badgers must bounce back despite losing plenty of seniors.
- Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber got rid of his goatee and hopes to atone for "below average" play down the stretch, Kent Youngblood writes in the Star Tribune.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
A light news day around the league. More answers will come later today.
- The struggles by both the Pac-10 and the Big Ten could put the Rose Bowl in a tight spot, Loren Tate writes in The (Champaign, Ill.) News-Gazette.
- Despite his team's bland performance against Louisiana-Lafayette, Illinois coach Ron Zook is staying positive, Herb Gould writes in the Chicago Sun-Times. Safety Donsay Hardeman should be in the mix next week after WR Jeff Cumberland and DT Josh Brent returned from injuries against the Ragin' Cajuns.
- Ball State is getting pumped for Saturday's matchup at Indiana, Doug Zaleski writes in The (Muncie) Star Press.
- A torn hamstring sidetracked Andy Brodell last fall, but the Iowa wideout/return man is making plays again, Andy Hamilton writes the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Can you spot Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz in this 1980 picture?
- Michigan has a multitude of problems, but quarterback may not longer be one of them as Steven Threet emerges as the starter, John Heuser writes in The Ann Arbor News. Rich Rodriguez continues to take a realistic approach to the season and not side with the Chicken Little crowd, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Also, tight end Carson Butler won't be suspended despite being ejected from the Notre Dame game.
- Who's the Big Ten MVP at this point? Michigan State RB Javon Ringer, hands down, as Steve Grinczel details. The Spartans will face an improved Notre Dame offensive line this week, Neil Hayes writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Sorry I missed this from the other day, but Minnesota star wideout Eric Decker, who also could play pro baseball, says he'll be back with the Gophers in 2009, Marcus Fuller writes in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Northwestern quarterback C.J. Bacher has limited mistakes so far. Now his coach wants him to stretch the field in the passing game, Lindsey Willhite writes in the Daily Herald. Pat Fitzgerald also weighs in on Northwestern's surprising poll placement and Andrew Brewer's nicks and bruises, Jim O'Donnell writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
- Chris "Beanie" Wells might have made a veteran Ohio State offensive line look better than it actually is, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch. May and fellow Dispatch beat writer Ken Gordon sift through Ohio State's disastrous loss to USC.
- Penn State center A.Q. Shipley plays through pain, but the team loses another defensive lineman in converted O-lineman Mike Lucian, Jeff Rice writes in the Centre Daily Times. Has unheralded Evan Royster surpassed LeSean McCoy as the best back in Pennsylvania? The Patriot-News' Bob Flounders takes a look.
- It sounds a bit odd at Purdue, but offense is the area that needs an upgrade going forward, Stacy Clardie writes in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
- Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema continues to bite his tongue about the blown fumble call against his team at Fresno State, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal. Bielema was much more chatty about Michigan, a team he's wary of despite its 1-2 start.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
I'll be taking a more in-depth look at the Week 2 games today. Saturday isn't so much a chance for that, and the mailbag is coming up, so send in those last-minute e-mails.
Love those links:
- The Big Ten lost the three games that mattered in Week 1, so the league's rep is still hurting, Howie Beardsley writes in The Grand Rapids Press. Since the SEC and Big Ten will never schedule a challenge series, The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises is holding a fake one.
- Illinois coach Ron Zook admits he might have restrained his defense too much against Missouri, Mark Tupper writes in The Decatur Herald & Review. The Illini's reality show, "The Journey," premieres tonight on the Big Ten Network.
- Despite an easy opening win, Indiana still has questions at running back and with a defense susceptible to big plays, Jared Poertner writes in The Hoosier Scoop blog.
- Iowa fans should be giddy about getting Andy Brodell back, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette. Despite an impressive running game against Maine, quarterback Jake Christensen must prove more.
- Rich Rodriguez wants to see more physical play from Michigan, particularly the offensive line, John Heuser writes in The Ann Arbor News. Rodriguez wouldn't name a starting quarterback, but several signs point to Steven Threet getting the nod, Angelique Chengelis writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Gap control will be a focus for Michigan State's defense after the Cal loss, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Heralded Minnesota freshman quarterback MarQueis Gray must re-take the ACT to get back in school, Myron Medcalf writes in the Star Tribune.
- Last year's embarrassing home loss to Duke kept Northwestern out of a bowl game, but the Wildcats are playing down the revenge factor before a rematch, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Ohio State fans hope they don't see a repeat of 1985, when Heisman Trophy candidate Keith Byars broke a bone in his foot just before the season, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch. The Buckeyes aim for win No. 800 on Saturday, Matt Markey writes in The Toledo Blade.
- Penn State prepares for its first real test Saturday against Oregon State, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- With some questions on offense, Purdue's season hinges on senior quarterback Curtis Painter, Craig Pearson writes in The Terre Haute News-Star.
- Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema knows first-hand just how dangerous Marshall can be, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. The Badgers could have star tight end Travis Beckum ready for Saturday's matchup, Jim Polzin writes in The Capital Times.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten preseason has seemed downright boring compared to the rest of the country.
There's no Mark Sanchez or Ben Olson crisis in this league, and though Ohio State has endured a few recent off-the-field incidents, the Buckeyes have nothing on Georgia. None of the four major quarterback competitions -- Michigan, Wisconsin, Penn State and Indiana -- are settled, and the one in Ann Arbor could drag on for some time. Wisconsin dismissed running back Lance Smith, but the Badgers remain well-stocked at the position.
If the first two weeks of preseason practice have revealed anything, it's that a position that seemed weak in the league could be much better than forecasted.
The Big Ten lost seven of its top 10 receivers from last season, a group that included three-time league receptions leader Dorien Bryant, big-play dynamo Devin Thomas, Indiana career receiving leader James Hardy and Michigan stars Mario Manningham and Adrian Arrington. Aside from Ohio State, Penn State and Northwestern, every Big Ten team entered camp with some degree of uneasiness about the wide receivers.
Michigan State and Indiana lost superstars. Michigan lost almost everybody. So did Purdue. Illinois and Minnesota needed second options. Iowa welcomed back several prominent pass-catchers from injuries. Wisconsin was very young at the position.
The anxiety level has dropped quite a bit.
Illinois, which will stress the pass more this fall, has produced several good candidates to complement Arrelious Benn, including juniors Jeff Cumberland and Chris Duvalt, sophomores Chris James and Alex Reavy and freshmen Jack Ramsey, A.J. Jenkins and Cordale Scott. Highly touted Fred Smith will make an impact this fall at Michigan State, but he's been overshadowed a bit by classmate Keshawn Martin. Michigan's young wideouts impressed first-year coach Rich Rodriguez from the get-go, and the Wolverines will lean on players like Darryl Stonum, Martavious Odoms, Terrance Robinson, Toney Clemons and Junior Hemingway come Aug. 30.
I was extremely impressed after watching Wisconsin sophomore David Gilreath, a big-play threat with tremendous speed. Though I didn't see Purdue practice after media day, junior-college transfer Arsenio Curry certainly looks like he can contribute alongside Greg Orton. Playmaker Andy Brodell is back in the fold at Iowa, and sophomore Colin Sandeman looks to be pushing incumbent Derrell Johnson-Koulianos for the starting job. Ray Fisher and Andrew Means headline a group of Indiana wideouts that also include some promising freshmen.
There has been so much buzz about the spread offense sweeping through the Big Ten. It looks like the league will have the moving parts to make those schemes work this fall.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Purdue's media day begins later Thursday morning, and I'll be there to check in with Heisman candidate Curtis Painter, coach-in-waiting Danny Hope and the rest of the Boilers.
First, I give you the links on the other 10 teams.
- My appearance at Camp Rantoul made Bob Asmussen's daily practice recap in The [Champaign, Ill.] News-Gazette. Thanks, Bob. Much more newsworthy items include a note on Illinois center Ryan McDonald and the fact several projected starters will appear on special teams this fall. Zook's best recruits at Illinois have come from the Washington, D.C., area, but he's also going back to his Ohio roots for talent. No big secret here, but the 2008 season hinges heavily on quarterback Juice Williams.
- Forget about Iowa's history of bouncing back from bad seasons on and off the field. Want a reason to be optimistic about the Hawkeyes? Wide receiver Andy Brodell is back in the fold, Susan Harman writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Brodell is a difference-maker. Forbes magazine calls Iowa's Kirk Ferentz the worst value in college football, given his salary. I still think Iowa had to finalize Ferentz's contract at the time.
"The most overpaid coach is Iowa's Kirk Ferentz, who made $3.4 million last year despite lackluster results on the field, for a score of 71. Just how lopsided is Ferentz's deal? During the last three years he's pocketed $10 million, including a record $4.7 million in 2006, but has led the Hawkeyes to just a 19-18 record."
- Mitchell Evans came to Indiana with an open-minded attitude about where he'd play. The Hoosiers are putting that approach to the test by moving Evans to wide receiver, Terry Hutchens writes in The Indianapolis Star. A couple of more previews on Indiana, which wants to get back to a bowl game and win it this time.
- Rich Rodriguez might not be beloved on the practice field, but he also keeps his door open for his new players, the AP's Larry Lage writes. Nebraska's Bo Pelini isn't the only big-time coach looking to rebuild the walk-on program at his school. RichRod wants all the help he can get, John Heuser writes in The Ann Arbor News.
- Michigan State running back A.J. Jimmerson is no stranger to competition at his position, Chris Solari writes in the Lansing State Journal. A nationally televised opener at Cal gives the Spartans a chance to make an early statement, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Running back is a big concern at Minnesota, but a healthy Jay Thomas should help matters, Myron Medcalf writes in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. Two years ago, Jeff Tow-Arnett and Adam Weber worked on the quarterback-center exchange as young scout teamers at Minnesota. Now they're in the spotlight as starters, Marcus Fuller writes in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- The Chicago Sun-Times' Jim O'Donnell checks in from Camp Kenosha, where Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald sees his defense improving and his new-look offensive line coming together. The Wildcats' bowl hopes hinge heavily on senior quarterback C.J. Bacher, Jay Taft writes in the Rockford Register Star.
- Despite two national title misses, Ohio State's coaches aren't concerning themselves with the past, Rob Oller writes in the Columbus Dispatch. Probably a good thing. Defensive tackle could be a weak spot for the Buckeyes, but defensive coordinator Jim Heacock likes what he has, The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises writes in his blog. Buckeyes center Jim Cordle could fool defenders at the line by snapping the ball with both hands, Ken Gordon writes in the Columbus Dispatch.
- Tyrell Sales is filling some big shoes as Penn State's linebacker leader, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The starters look set in Penn State's secondary, but watch out for reserve safety Drew Astorino, The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News' Bob Flounders writes in his blog. The Philadelphia Inquirer's Jeff McLane has a rundown of the improvements at Beaver Stadium this fall.
- Wisconsin cornerbacks Allen Langford and Aaron Henry have walked parallel paths following ACL surgery. Both men are back in the mix for starting jobs, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Defensive end O'Brien Schofield, a projected starter opposite Matt Shaughnessy, will miss 1-2 weeks of practice after suffering an ankle injury. End Kirk DeCremer remained out of both Wednesday practices, while quarterback Allan Evridge could return today, Potrykus writes in the Badgers Blog.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Despite losing seven of the league's top 10 receivers from last season, this group should once again be solid in 2008. Teams like Ohio State, Penn State, Illinois and Northwestern return groups of receivers that have played together for a season or longer. Minnesota has a budding star in Eric Decker, while Wisconsin lacks a proven wide receiver but boasts arguably the nation's best tight end in Travis Beckum. Purdue is restocking at wide receiver but has history on its side, and Iowa welcomes back several key contributors from injuries.
As with the running backs, these rankings are broken down into two sections:
|AP Photo/Phelan Ebenhack|
|Wisconsin's Travis Beckum had 75 receptions for 982 yards last season.|
1. Travis Beckum, Sr., TE, Wisconsin -- It's rare that a tight end tops this list, but Beckum transcends his often overlooked position. The All-America candidate had 75 receptions for 982 yards and six touchdowns last season. If Beckum returns at top form following offseason shoulder surgery, he'll continue to flummox defenses with his size and speed.
2. Brian Robiskie, Sr., WR, Ohio State -- He averaged 17 yards a catch and had the third most touchdown catches (11) in the league last season. Now imagine what Robiskie will do without a torn meniscus in his knee that required offseason surgery. A deep threat on a squad with several of them, Robiskie is on the brink of a big season.
3. Arrelious Benn, So., WR, Illinois -- Fully healthy after shoulder surgery, Benn could easily become this season's Devin Thomas and rise to the top of the list. Illinois will get the ball in his hands as much as possible, whether it's in a ramped up passing attack, out of the backfield or on returns. A good route-runner with breakaway speed, Benn might be the league's most dynamic player.
4. Eric Decker, Jr., WR, Minnesota -- After putting up big numbers for a bad team last season, Decker should get more praise from fans and more attention from defenses this fall. A tremendous athlete who also plays baseball for the Golden Gophers, Decker gives quarterback Adam Weber a proven target who can get to the end zone (nine touchdowns in 2007).
5. Deon Butler, Sr., WR, Penn State -- Butler quietly has become one of the league's most reliable receivers. He needs just 36 receptions to become Penn State's all-time career receptions leader and likely will claim several other school records. As the Nittany Lions transition to more of a spread offense this fall, Butler should excel.
6. Eric Peterman, Sr., WR, Northwestern -- Just when defenses label Peterman as a standard possession wide receiver, he'll gash them for a big gain. He tied for seventh in the league in receptions last season and will once again be C.J. Bacher's top target in the passing game, particularly on third down.
7. Greg Orton, Sr., WR, Purdue -- After playing behind three-time Big Ten receptions leader Dorien Bryant, Orton takes center stage as a senior. He must stabilize a new-look Boilermakers receiving corps and provide senior quarterback Curtis Painter a reliable first option. Orton has 125 receptions the last two seasons.
8. Andy Brodell, Sr., WR, Iowa --Remember the 2006 Alamo Bowl? Brodell torched Texas for a bowl-record 159 receiving yards, including a 63-yard touchdown. A broken leg cut short his 2007 season, but he's back and ready to restore his place among the Big Ten's top receivers.
9. Brian Hartline, Jr., WR, Ohio State -- Don't forget about Ohio State's other Brian, who collected 52 receptions for 694 yards and six touchdowns last fall. As Robiskie stretches the field, Hartline provides an excellent complement who goes over the middle and absorbs contact. He turned in an excellent spring as Robiskie recovered from injury.
10. Derrick Williams, Sr., WR, Penn State -- Most thought Williams would be higher on this list when he arrived in Happy Valley, but he hasn't matched the hype -- yet. His speed and athleticism remain top notch, and he should do well in a spread offense. A big-play threat who can do damage in the return game, Williams could finish his career with a flourish.
1. Ohio State -- Finding a third option remains on Ohio State's to-do list, but few teams boast a better passing tandem than the Brians. After a season to jell with quarterback Todd Boeckman, Robiskie and Hartline will punish defenses worrying about Heisman Trophy candidate Beanie Wells.
2. Penn State -- In terms of continuity at wide receiver, Penn State ranks at the top of the list. But the long-tenured group of Butler, Williams and Jordan Norwood hasn't always met expectations. As seniors, they should shine despite having to work with a new starting quarterback.
3. Illinois -- The league knows all about Benn, who will do even more damage at 100 percent this fall. His supporting cast includes Jeff Cumberland, a 6-5, 247-pound former tight end who can outjump defenders, as well as Chris James, who missed all of last season with a torn ACL. The Illini will accentuate the passing game more this fall, and this group should step up.
4. Northwestern -- This could be the Wildcats' best group of wideouts sinc
e they installed in the spread offense in 2000. Peterman is good for 6-10 receptions per game. Ross Lane provides Bacher with a red-zone threat, and Andrew Brewer, considered the team's top wideout before suffering a fractured humerus in training camp, rejoins the group.
5. Iowa -- Embattled quarterback Jake Christensen is thrilled to see what's coming back this fall. Brodell returns from a broken leg and gives Iowa a viable deep threat. Promising tight end Tony Moeaki is also back in the fold following an injury. Sophomore Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, the team's top receiver last season, provides depth along with Trey Stross.
6. Wisconsin -- Beckum and understudy Garrett Graham are the only reasons why the Badgers are this high. For them to stay there, several wide receivers must emerge from an unproven group. Kyle Jefferson displayed promise as a freshman and David Gilreath showcased his speed as a returner, but there are more questions than answers here.
7. Purdue -- It's impossible to replace Bryant's production or the mismatch problems Dustin Keller created, but Orton gives Purdue a strong first option with good size. More important, the Boilermakers have a track record of success at wide receiver and a senior quarterback (Curtis Painter) who can help unproven players. Junior-college transfer Aaron Valentin bolsters a group that also includes Desmond Tardy.
8. Minnesota -- I'm tempted to put the Gophers higher because of Decker, but there's not much behind him. Ernie Wheelwright's departure leaves a hole, which could be filled by dynamic freshman Brandon Green, sophomore Ralph Spry or several others. If Minnesota finds a solid second option for Weber, it will climb several spots.
9. Michigan -- Before you flood my inbox, allow an explanation. The Wolverines have no proven quarterbacks, only one semi-proven wide receiver (Greg Mathews) and a dramatically different offense to learn. A drop-off is likely, but not certain. Freshman Darryl Stonum bolsters the new-look corps, and players like Junior Hemingway and Toney Clemons could shine after waiting their turn for playing time.
10. Indiana -- There's no James Hardy on the roster, but juniors Ray Fisher and Andrew Means should stabilize a passing game led by quarterback Kellen Lewis. Tight end Max Dedmond provides another option in the new no-huddle offense, though another target or two needs to emerge.
11. Michigan State -- Javon Ringer told me to expect big things from this group, but I'm not convinced. Thomas and underrated tight end Kellen Davis will be missed, and Ringer had more receptions last season than any of the returnees. Deon Curry, Mark Dell, B.J. Cunningham and Blair White have the chance to step up -- and move up the list.