NCF Nation: Carson Butler
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
A quick programming note that the lunch links will no longer appear every day until spring practice kicks off in March. If there are links worth linking, I'll link 'em. But you'll get your daily diet again in March.
Here's today's sampling.
- Ohio State's two-quarterback system, unveiled in the Fiesta Bowl, might help land top recruit Tajh Boyd, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
"The only promise sought by Boyd -- the throwing/running threat led Phoebus to a state championship and then shared the MVP award in the U.S. Army All-American game on Jan. 3 in San Antonio -- is a chance.
"'I just want an opportunity to play early,' Boyd said. 'That's going to be a big part of it because I feel like I am one of the top players in the country and I really don't want to sit.'"
- Michigan tight end Carson Butler was among the underclassmen who declared for the NFL draft, giving the Wolverines another reason to focus on pass-catchers in recruiting, Josh Helmholdt writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Chicago Cubs chairman Crane Kenney is checking to see if Wrigley Field would be big enough to accommodate a Northwestern-Illinois football game, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune.
"One key question was answered Monday: If NU wants to move its game Nov. 20, 2010, against Illinois from Ryan Field to Wrigley, it does not need Illinois' approval.
"'The only time a school would need approval is if it wanted to have a date changed,' said Big Ten Associate Commissioner Mark Rudner."
- Arizona State might want to change the dates of its scheduled series against Wisconsin in 2010 and 2012, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
- Todd Fitch might have wanted a longer contract to coordinate Minnesota's offense than Tim Brewster was willing to offer, Kent Youngblood writes in the Star Tribune.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- As usual, Wisconsin is not winning any style points, and the Michigan offense has started to show a pulse.
After a miserable first half, quarterback Steven Threet settled into a mini-rhythm, moving better in the pocket and making more authoritative throws. Threet threw a nice ball to freshman tight end Kevin Koger for a 26-yard touchdown, and Michigan avoided its first home shutout since 1967 against Michigan State. Starting tight end Carson Butler has yet to play and still could be in the doghouse for the punch he threw against Notre Dame.
The Wolverines probably don't have enough firepower to come all the way back, but their defense is keeping them close. Wisconsin doesn't have top tight ends Travis Beckum and Garrett Graham, but the offense gained only 34 yards in the third quarter, all on the ground.
Quarterback Allan Evridge has shown a greater willingness to run, though an option call on third-and-1 from the Michigan 37-yard line was a head-scratcher. He's also getting no help from his receivers, who have continued their preseason habit of dropping passes.
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
ANN ARBOR, Mich. -- Former walk-on Nick Sheridan will start at quarterback for Michigan in today's season opener against Utah. Sheridan and redshirt freshman Steven Threet had been competing for the starting job throughout training camp. True freshman Sam McGuffie will start at running back ahead of classmate Michael Shaw.
The son of a former Michigan defensive assistant, Sheridan appeared in two games last season and did not attempt a pass. Threet, who came out of spring ball with a slight edge in the competition, has never appeared in a college game after transferring to Michigan from Georgia Tech. Coach Rich Rodriguez expects both quarterbacks to play today.
Other previously undetermined starters include wide receiver Greg Mathews, right guard David Moosman, center David Molk, tight end Carson Butler and wide receiver Darryl Stonum.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The e-mails are flowing in, and it's obvious that Big Ten fans are geared up for the 2008 season.
Let's see what's on your mind:
Shadd, from Toledo, Ohio, writes: Adam, Do you see Ohio State using Terrelle Pryor in a "read option" type of offense when he comes into the game, or do you see the OSU coaches having him execute the same dropback style gameplan that Boeckman plays? Seems like Jim Bollman can be thick headed sometimes when it comes to play packages with different personnel.
Adam Rittenberg: Pryor's skills definitely translate for a read option system, much like the one Illinois uses at times with Juice Williams. It's the reason Michigan wanted Pryor so badly for its new offense. Though he will be used in those situations, I think Ohio State also will have Pryor operate in a more traditional system as he progresses. The first two games, Youngstown State and Ohio, provide excellent opportunities for Pryor to get playing time and run the team's standard offense. If he shows he can pass effectively against college defenses, the Buckeyes should gradually increase his workload. His transition as a runner and a playmaker will be easier than as a drop-back passer, but he's got to learn sometime.
Andrew from Pittsburgh writes: First off, the 2005 field goal kicking meltdown occurred at MSU, not at Michigan. I was at that game, and at the Ohio State game a week later, and I can personally say that the OSU match-up was infinitely more heartbreaking. However, those two losses pale in comparison to the agony of Notre Dame, 2006. I vaguely remember the feeling of happiness while building a lead, but otherwise the entire evening is nothing but a cold, dark, and lonely sinkhole of a memory that haunts me to this day.
Adam Rittenberg: Thanks to Andrew and several other e-mailers for pointing out that the 2005 Michigan-Michigan State game did take place in East Lansing, not Ann Arbor. Like Minnesota, Michigan State has had too many traumatic losses in recent years. I covered the Notre Dame game in 2006, and it was a total collapse for the Spartans. The game began under clear skies, but the rain came at halftime and gradually increased. Michigan State led 37-21 with 10 minutes to play, but then went ultra-conservative on offense down the stretch as Notre Dame rallied. Drew Stanton didn't throw a pass in the fourth quarter until three minutes remained, and ND cornerback Terrail Lambert intercepted it and scored the game-winning touchdown. The loss spelled the end for coach John L. Smith and sparked one of the greatest radio rants I've ever heard.
David from Champaign, Ill., writes: Do you believe the matchup this year between Illinois-Indiana at 8pm in Champaign will be one of the more exciting games in the Big ten this year? Everyone around here is really looking forward to it! Also, what are your thoughts on Greg Middleton and rising star LB Matt Mayberry? How can we slow down the two quick defenders this year?
Adam Rittenberg: David, as an Illinois fan, you might want to be a little more concerned about Missouri, Wisconsin, Penn State and Ohio State than the Hoosiers, but that game will definitely be worth watching. I've gotten several e-mails about Mayberry, a junior middle linebacker who made 42 tackles as a reserve last season. It seems like hopes are very high for him to solidify Indiana's defensive midsection. Middleton is a beast, but Xavier Fulton can hold his own at left tackle. Should be a great matchup. I'm also interested to see two of the league's most versatile quarterbacks, Juice Williams and Kellen Lewis.
Stan in Grand Haven, Mich., writes: OK, I'm a UM fan so I hope you won't write this off before reading it. WR/TE rankings: did you forget about Carson Butler? Injury and his attitude lessened his p.t. a bit last year, but the dude is one of the best in the conference at his position. Also, why factor in the QB when ranking the unit? That makes no sense--it's like discounting a RB because his line isn't that good. Think Barry Sanders. Finally, all you have to ask yourself when ranking units is which one you'd trade for the other. I guarantee if you were Michigan's coach and you traded your receiving unit for that at Northwestern, you'd be fired instantaneously. 'Nuff said.
Adam Rittenberg: Stan, I'll never write you off, but I've got a hard time bumping up the Wolverines because of Carson Butler. He had a nice grab in the Capital One Bowl, but 39 catches in two years? Even with the off-field stuff and the injury, I need to see more from him. These preseason rankings are largely based on what these players have showed in the past, and besides Greg Mathews and Butler, Michigan hasn't shown much. It doesn't mean with additions like Darryl Stonum, Michigan won't have one of the league's top receiving corps in November. But judging the Wolverines against experienced groups, including Northwestern's, it's hard to put them higher right now. Rich Rodriguez shouldn't want to trade any of his players, but I'm sure he'd love more experience at that position.
Brian from New York, N.Y., writes:I'd like to comment on Penn State's returning DL if I may as I truly believe this could prove to be the best Penn State Defensive Line any of us have ever seen. Of course, every CFB fan knows who Maurice Evans is due to the terrific job he did in earning All-Conference honors last year as a true sophomore. But are outsiders aware of the fact PSU actually returns 52 starts from last year across the line? This represents every player from a unit that finished 2nd in the nation in sacks (46) and 7th in rush D, so we're talking about much more than just Mo Evans here. Opposite Evans at DE is Josh Gaines who started all 13 games and racked up 5 sacks while splitting time with situational pass rusher redshirt freshman Aaron Maybin who had 4 1/2 sacks of his own. And the depth inside - fuggadaboutit! Larry Johnson basically has five proven starter quality DTs in his arsenal including: Jared Odrick, Ollie Ogbu, Abe Koroma, BIG Phil Taylor and Chris Baker. The thing to remember with this group is four of the five were merely 2nd year players last fall meaning, redshirt freshmen or true sophomores. Have I mentioned freshmen Devon Still and Chimaeze Okoli yet? Let's just say the word this spring is both freshmen are "impressive". Anyways, just want to mention PSU's returning DL before you and others "lock" Wisconsin or somebody else into the #2 conference finish spot behind OSU in the Big Ten this preseason because last year's youngsters in the Blue and White are certain to be even better in '08.
Adam Rittenberg: Brian, that's a quality breakdown of Penn State's defensive line. The Nittany Lions have the league's best defensive front in my view, just ahead of both Ohio State and Illinois. There's experience and talent throughout the line, and the front four will help Penn State survive the loss of linebacker Sean Lee. I ranked Wisconsin at No. 2, but the Badgers are by no means a lock, particularly with all the injuries they had in spring ball. Penn State could jump into that spot, but a reliable quarterback must be identified in preseason camp.
Steve from Anchorage, Alaska, writes: I think Steve Breaston should have been a special teams addition to the All-Lloyd list in the Free Press. When he was healthy, Breaston was a threat every time he touched the ball. That sick return against Illinois where he watched it bounce toward the sideline, grabbed it just before going out, then made 10 guys miss back and froth acros
s the field before scoring stands out.
Adam Rittenberg: Steve, glad to hear Big Ten football is alive and well in Alaska. Breaston would have been a solid addition to the All-Lloyd team. He was the league's most feared return man for several seasons. After seeing your note, I checked out Breaston's highlights on YouTube this afternoon. The Illinois return is third on the rundown. What a play. By the way, any highlight clip with Kool Moe Dee rapping in the background will find its way to this blog.