NCF Nation: Chris Phillips

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

In addition to the big news that Minnesota star wide receiver Eric Decker will miss Saturday's game at Wisconsin (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET), here are some other injury updates from around the Big Ten.

MICHIGAN
Head coach Rich Rodriguez said quarterback Steven Threet (concussion) is improving and should return to practice today. If Threet practices, he will split first-team snaps with Nick Sheridan. Threet made eight consecutive starts before sitting out last week as Sheridan helped Michigan to a 29-6 win at Minnesota.

Running back Brandon Minor (shoulder, wrist, ribs) also is improving but won't practice today. Rodriguez hopes Minor can practice later this week, though it's unlikely the junior will start Saturday against Northwestern (ESPN2, noon ET).

"Obviously he's very questionable for this weekend," Rodriguez said. "We'll see how he responds [Wednesday] and Thursday. He's definitely not going to practice today. He's a tough guy and I'm sure if he's able to go at all in practice this week, he will."

INDIANA
Quarterbacks Kellen Lewis (ankle) and Ben Chappell (head) both should be fine for Saturday's game at No. 8 Penn State after leaving last week's loss to Wisconsin with injuries, head coach Bill Lynch said.

Linebacker Will Patterson (knee) will miss the Penn State game, while cornerback Richard Council (ankle) is questionable and likely will be replaced in the starting lineup by Donnell Jones. Indiana already has lost three starters in the secondary -- cornerback Chris Phillips and safeties Austin Thomas and Nick Polk -- to season-ending knee injuries.

WISCONSIN
Starting middle linebacker Jaevery McFadden (concussion) has been cleared and will practice today. Right tackle Eric Vanden Heuvel will undergo an MRI on his lower right leg and could return to practice Wednesday.

PURDUE
Fifth-year senior quarterback Curtis Painter (separated throwing shoulder) is improving and should return to practice today. Painter told head coach Joe Tiller that he threw about 50 passes Monday -- the team is off that day -- and experienced minimal pain.

Tiller said Purdue likely will start redshirt freshman Justin Siller for the third consecutive game but could rotate Siller and Painter from series to series against Iowa.

Big Ten internal affairs

September, 24, 2008
9/24/08
11:50
AM ET

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's time to go inside five Big Ten teams as they prepare for the start of league play on Saturday.

Illinois -- The defensive line might finally be taking shape for the Illini after some illness/injury issues. Sophomore Josh Brent is back in the fold at defensive tackle, which has allowed standout Will Davis to move back to his natural position of defensive end. Freshman Cory Liuget also has emerged at defensive tackle, a spot vacated when projected starterSirod Williams tore his ACL during training camp. "It's important that we can [rotate] guys in there and keep us fresh," head coach Ron Zook said. Zook called the defensive line the team's strength before the season, but the group will need to elevate its play Saturday night against Penn State's powerful rushing attack, which ranks eighth nationally (274.3 ypg).

Indiana -- When the NCAA cleared Florida transfer Jerimy Finch to play this season, Indiana's secondary looked like one of the deepest groups on the team. That depth will be tested Saturday against Michigan State (ESPN, noon ET). The Hoosiers will be without at least one starting safety (Nick Polk, knee) and could miss their other starter, as strong safety Austin Thomas is questionable for the game with a lower leg injury. Coach Bill Lynch announced that starting cornerback Chris Phillips will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. So the Hoosiers could be replacing three starters against the Spartans. Finch figures to see plenty of time.

Michigan -- A bye week allowed Michigan's offensive line time to heal, though a knee injury to tackle Perry Dorrestein last week in practice clouded things a bit. Mark Ortmann is expected back from a dislocated elbow and should rotate at left tackle with Dorrestein if Dorrestein can play. Left tackle is one of three offensive line spots that have an "OR" listed between potential starters on the depth chart. Converted defensive linemanJohn Ferrara could start at right guard in place of David Moosman, who is listed at both guard and center on the depth chart. Redshirt freshman Mark Huyge also should be back from an ankle injury, so the coaches have some decisions to make up front.

Minnesota -- True freshman running back DeLeon Eskridge has stepped up in the two games after Duane Bennett's knee injury, but coach Tim Brewster isn't quite ready to call Eskridge his featured back. Brewster said Eskridge, freshman Shady Salamon and junior Jay Thomas all will play Saturday at No. 14 Ohio State, and Minnesota will stick with whoever has the hot hand. The coach admitted that identifying a clear-cut starter has become less of a concern than it was after Bennett went down. Eskridge has 192 rushing yards and five touchdowns the last two games.

Ohio State -- Quarterback isn't the only offensive position where youth will be served Saturday against Minnesota. Freshman Michael Brewster remains the starter at center on this week's depth chart after playing a prominent role last week against Troy. The Buckeyes movedJim Cordle from center to left guard after Steve Rehring injured his foot against USC. Rehring will miss "another week or so," coach Jim Tressel said, so that means more time for Brewster, one of several heralded freshmen in Ohio State's recruiting class.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

It's game week. Hallelujah. Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez addresses the media around 10 a.m. ET, at which time he could announce his starting quarterback for Saturday's season opener against Utah. Several of Rodriguez's colleagues also hold their news conferences today, so check back for updates.

Onto the links:

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Saturday scrimmages fill up your daily diet of links. Here's a look at how teams fared.

  • Illinois quarterback Juice Williams looks ready to take the next step after a strong scrimmage, Mark Tupper writes. The Illini are also pleased with their new digs as a renovated Memorial Stadium gets set to open. If you have some time, check out this lengthy feature on Phil Macklin, a decorated Illinois recruit serving a 24-year prison term for armed robbery.
  • I'd still be stunned if Kellen Lewis doesn't start for Indiana, but the quarterback competition remains very much alive, Pete DiPrimio writes in The (Fort Wayne, Ind.) News-Sentinel. Senior Chris Phillips seems to have locked up one of Indiana's vacant cornerback spots, but the other is still open, LaMond Pope writes in The (Fort Wayne, Ind.) Journal Gazette.
  • Iowa's defense dominated Saturday's scrimmage, which confirmed the doubts many have about the team's offense, Andy Hamilton writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. A bigger problem for the Hawkeyes could be a lack of desire in competing for playing time, Pat Harty writes. Coach Kirk Ferentz certainly wasn't pleased, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
  • Michigan won't name a starting quarterback any time soon, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Steven Threet and Nick Sheridan are the top candidates, with freshman Justin Feagin still adjusting to the college game. Feagin likely will play at some point, given his skill set, but Rich Rodriguez is looking to the two (slightly) older players:
"I think they understand what we want as far as our concepts go. They both need to work on making quicker decisions and not forcing things. Sometimes the big play may be there, but it's a little bit of a gray area and they should take the safe thing. It's typical things you'd have with a young quarterback. Just be patient, take what they give you. You don't have to make big plays all the time."
Michigan Stadium's massive construction will alter game-day routines, Dave Gershman writes in The Ann Arbor News.
  • Defense ruled the day at Michigan State's scrimmage, though starting running back Javon Ringer and two offensive linemen sat out, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal. A defensive note: cornerback Kendell Davis-Clark scrimmaged at safety after projected starter Roderick Jenrette took an indefinite leave from the team.
  • Minnesota also saw strides from its much-maligned defense Saturday, though three starting offensive linemen sat out with injuries, Kent Youngblood writes in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. Gophers quarterback Adam Weber admits two-a-days are beginning to take a toll, Marcus Fuller writes in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • Northwestern came away from Saturday's scrimmage pleased, as quarterback C.J. Bacher and the first-team defense both performed well, Lindsey Willhite writes in the Arlington Heights (Ill.) Daily Herald. The offensive line is still a work in progress, but the Wildcats' defensive backs are stepping up, Jim O'Donnell writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
  • Ohio State knows Terrelle Pryor can run and emphasized the passing game in Saturday's scrimmage, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Pryor seemed to meet the challenge.
"I think he's going to surprise a lot of people with how well he can throw the ball," senior cornerback Malcolm Jenkins said. "He's doing a good job with his reads and his progressions and not being so quick to run like everyone expected him to."
Though Ohio State plays one marquee nonconference game a year, the Buckeyes, like most Big Ten teams, take heat for their schedule, Ken Gordon and Tim May write in The Columbus Dispatch.
  • Get ready for the Stephfon Green show at Penn State, Jeff McLane writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Defensive line depth is becoming a bigger concern in Happy Valley after tackle Devon Still sustained a broken leg, Cory Giger writes in The Altoona Mirror. Linebacker is rarely a problem at Penn State, and despite injuries and graduation losses, the position looks solid to coach Ron Vanderlinden.
  • Purdue coach Joe Tiller looks more relaxed heading into his final season, The (Lafayette, Ind.) Journal and Courier's Tom Kubat writes in his blog.
  • Allan Evridge still looks like the starting quarterback at Wisconsin, but none of the signal callers impressed Saturday, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Also, starting linebacker Jonathan Casillas will miss 1-2 weeks after spraining his MCL at Saturday's scrimmage. A position switch helped tight end Travis Beckum reach his potential.

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