NCF Nation: Chris Pressley
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Paul Chryst isn't trying to skirt his responsibilities as a well-paid decision maker, but he also knows that the easier his choices are, the better off Wisconsin should be this fall.
The Badgers' offensive coordinator is gearing up for another quarterback competition, which begins March 24 as the team opens spring practice. Chryst will be evaluating four players -- senior Dustin Sherer, junior Scott Tolzien, redshirt freshman Curt Phillips and true freshman Jon Budmayr -- aiming to lead a Badgers offense that ranked third in the Big Ten last fall but flat-lined at key times.
|David Stluka/Getty Images|
|Dustin Sherer helped lead Wisconsin to wins in four of its final five regular-season games.|
"When you're deciding who your starters are at quarterback or any other position, there really aren't a lot of hard calls," Chryst said. "If you've got a good team, it's pretty clear to see who your guys are. What was hard about last year was there wasn't a lot of separation and there was inconsistency. That's what makes hard decisions."
Chryst didn't make any decisions on the quarterback spot last spring and expressed disappointment about the lack of separation. Allan Evridge eventually claimed the job late in fall camp, but Chryst didn't enter the season feeling great about the position.
"That was my biggest concern, and it was because there wasn't separation, because there was inconsistent play," he said. "That's your worst-case scenario. I remember in camp, a couple times pleading for someone to take the job and also talking to them about [the fact that] this is a position that's got a big question mark on it. And I kind of challenged them, 'Who's going to take the question mark off and put an exclamation point on it?'
"If you look back and if you're truly honest with yourself, it was a question mark and at times, a negative behind that position. We, as a group, have got to take that personal and don't want that spot to be the weak link on the offense."
Quarterback play hurt Wisconsin during a disappointing 2008 campaign that began with legit BCS bowl aspirations. Evridge started the first five games, throwing as many touchdowns as interceptions (5), before giving way to Sherer, who helped Wisconsin to wins in four of its final five regular-season games but struggled in the Champs Sports Bowl against Florida State.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- Taking a Buckeye breather to see what else is going on around the league. A lot of Big Ten Network news.
- Several Iowa media outlets are reporting that the Big Ten Network and Mediacom have reached an agreement, which would guarantee that Iowa's season opener against Maine will be seen in the state.
- Two days after Ohio State AD Gene Smith wrote a letter urging Ohio State fans to switch their cable providers to get the Big Ten Network, Time Warner Cable made a proposal to Smith to carry Ohio State games broadcast on the BTN, but not the network itself. Shockingly, the BTN didn't like the idea. The back-and-forth between the two sides is getting out of hand, The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises writes in his blog.
- Time Warner made the same proposal to Wisconsin AD Barry Alvarez regarding Badgers games on the Big Ten Network.
- Wisconsin starting fullback Chris Pressley will miss the season opener against Akron with a broken right thumb, but the senior is anxious to lead this fall as a co-captain, the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus writes on the Badgers Blog.
- This would be a truly amazing story, as Michigan State offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr. hopes to play football in the next year following surgery to remove a cancerous tumor from his leg, Eric Lacy writes in The Detroit News.
- Will Joe Paterno announce Penn State's starting quarterback Tuesday? Will A.J. Wallace and Lydell Sargeant lock up the starting cornerback spots, or does Tony Davis sneak in? Bob Flounders of The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News hopes for some answers. Former walk-on Deon Butler is in position to move up Penn State's career receiving chart this fall, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.
- Here are the names of former Illinois stars scheduled to attend the Fighting Illini home opener Sept. 6 at the renovated Memorial Stadium. A very impressive list.
- I have a difficult time disliking Ohio State despite the national title game losses, and CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd feels the same way.
- The BCS Guru blog also likes the Buckeyes, ranking them No. 1.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It's Big Ten preview day, so check back for updates about the league's top stories this season. If my flight to O'Hare arrives relatively on time -- famous last words -- I'll be chatting today at 4 p.m. My opening act is Illinois quarterback Juice Williams, who chats at 1:15 p.m. ET. He'll do. After finishing up a few things in Bloomington, I'm on to Ohio State tomorrow, where Beanie Wells, Brian Robiskie and others will be available.
- Illinois coach Ron Zook thinks Williams can complete 70 percent of his passes this fall, CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd writes. The (Champaign, Ill.) News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen hands out his Camp Rantoul awards for Illinois. Wideout Chris Duvalt takes home MVP honors.
- Investigators in the sexual assault case involving two former Iowa football players questioned the alleged victim and her family, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reports. The Hawkeyes' receiving corps is healthy and deep, Eric Page writes in the Quad City Times.
- Indiana's depth at the skill positions has kept expectations high, LaMond Pope writes in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
- Michigan offensive lineman Elliott Mealer is struggling to regain a sense of normalcy after the car crash that killed his father and girlfriend and seriously injured his brother last Christmas Eve, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Guard Cory Zirbel's injury has prompted John Ferrara to move from defense to offense, John Heuser writes in the Ann Arbor News. Wideout Terrance Robinson is also out for several weeks with an injury.
- Greg Jones is Michigan State's best linebacker, but which spot will he occupy this season? The Spartans are still figuring it out, Andrew Mouranie writes in the Lansing State Journal. Michigan State got a wonderful surprise Wednesday as Arthur Ray Jr., the offensive lineman who battled cancer last season and is still working his way back, visited practice, Eric Lacy writes in The Detroit News.
- Playing college football is all in the family for the Tow-Arnett brothers at Minnesota, Dennis Brackin writes in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. Quad injuries have dogged Ben Kuznia, but the Gophers wideout now finds himself running with the 1's, Scott Thoma writes in the West Central Tribune.
- Northwestern hopes for a defensive resurgence with Malcolm (Arrington) in the middle, Jim O'Donnell writes in the Chicago Sun-Times. Arrington will replace standout Adam Kadela, who still stings from missing a bowl game last season.
- Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith sent a letter to fans lamenting Time Warner's decision not to pick up the Big Ten Network and asking subscribers to switch their cable providers, Jeffrey Sheban writes in the Columbus Dispatch. Here's Smith's letter. Turning back to the field, the Buckeyes hope to regain their trademark excellence on special teams, Matt Markey writes in The (Toledo) Blade. Former Texas and Arizona coach John Mackovic picks Ohio State to knock off USC.
- Special teams is also on the brain at Penn State, which struggled on kickoff coverage last year, Ben Brigandi writes in The Altoona Mirror. Lions coach Joe Paterno is looking for a leader at linebacker. Todd Sponsler of the 50-yard Lion blog reveals his preseason Top 25, which includes Penn State at No. 14. Bleacher Report ranks its top 12 surprise blowouts in college football history, and Penn State's 48-14 trouncing of No. 1 Pitt in 1981 tops the list.
- Boilermakers coach Joe Tiller weighs in on the NCAA's decision to ban horse-collar tackles.
- Allan Evridge is Wisconsin's starting quarterback, but the No. 2 job remains open, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Wisconsin fullback Chris Pressley welcomes the responsibility of being a captain this fall, Jim Polzin writes in The Capital Times. Central Michigan transfer J.J. Watt can't wait to suit up for the Badgers, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Day 2 of practice around the Big Ten is in the books, and my tour of Michigan has finished. Up next is Northwestern for practice and media day on Thursday before a weekend with the Wisconsin Badgers in Madison.
Let's hop on the Big Ten bus:
- Wisconsin's team leadership should be more solid this season, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Linebacker Jonathan Casillas served as a captain last year, but he'll share the load with linebacker DeAndre Levy and fullback Chris Pressley.
- The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises tuned into the Big Ten Network for coverage of Ohio State's practice on Tuesday. What did he see? Linebacker Tyler Moeller practiced with the first-team defense, reserve running back Brandon Saine isn't getting hit yet and Curtis Terry is working with the first-team offense at fullback. The Columbus Dispatch's Ken Gordon also watched practice from his couch and liked what he saw from reserve quarterback Joe Bauserman.
- Cornerback James Scott didn't make Ohio State's 105-man roster for training camp, which seems a bit odd, The Columbus Dispatch's Gordon writes in his blog.
- Kirk Ferentz still has the same coordinators at Iowa, but the rest of his coaching staff shuffled around quite a bit during the offseason, Andy Hamilton writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
- Minnesota's freshmen are getting immediate opportunities to play at both wide receiver and along the offensive line, Marcus Fuller writes in the St. Paul Pioneer Press. The line will have to be a group effort this season, as coach Phil Meyer experiments with different combinations, Kent Youngblood writes in The [Minneapolis] Star Tribune.
- Quarterback Ben Chappell is running with Indiana's first-team offense, but Kellen Lewis looks to be closing the gap quickly.
- The Detroit Free Press' Shawn Windsor goes inside Michigan's first preseason practice under coach Rich Rodriguez.
- The Champaign (Ill.) News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen has an extensive report from Illinois practice, including a breakdown of the team's wide receivers.
- Chris Burke of The Diag blog released his preseason top 25. He's not too high on Georgia but has Wisconsin higher than most prognosticators.
- Will Indiana retire James Hardy's number? No one has claimed it so far in preseason practice, The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens writes in his blog.
- Man, I love these photo galleries from the Detroit Free Press. Here's one that chronicles Michigan State's top wide receivers of the last 30 years. Not surprisingly, Plaxico Burress is No. 1.
- When Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio split the team into classes to sing the fight song earlier this week, the freshmen filled the stage while the crowd of seniors was sparse. Not surprisingly, Dantonio is looking for leadership from the younger players, Dave Dye writes in The Detroit News.
- Yes, this story is about a punter. But at Wisconsin, both punter and placekicker are in the spotlight after the losses of two All-Big Ten players.
- The Penn State blog Black Shoe Diaries had some issues with my list of top Big Ten rivalries, but I'm not bitter. And besides, they followed up by putting together a list of the league's coolest rivalry trophies. Mmmm, bacon.
- The Ohio State blog Eleven Warriors takes a look at the Buckeyes' projected starting offense and defense, complete with diagrams. Some good analysis here.
TOP 25 SCOREBOARD
Final 20 Duke 7 1 Florida State 45 Final 2 Ohio State 24 10 Michigan State 34 Final 5 Missouri 42 3 Auburn 59 Final 17 Oklahoma 33 6 Oklahoma State 24 Final 7 Stanford 38 11 Arizona State 14 Final 25 Texas 10 9 Baylor 30 Final 16 UCF 17 Southern Methodist 13 Final Utah State 17 23 Fresno State 24