NCF Nation: DeAnthony Arnett

Wide receivers Kyle Prater and DeAnthony Arnett never expected to run routes like these.

Both players emerged from high school as top-60 recruits. Prater was the No. 9 wideout in the 2010 class according to ESPN Recruiting Nation; Arnett was the No. 9 wideout in the 2011 class. Both grew up in the Midwest but both elected to play for famous, faraway programs -- Prater at USC, Arnett at Tennessee -- that had produced great wide receivers over the years.

Then, in January 2012, both elected to transfer closer to home. Arnett, from Saginaw, Mich., transferred to Michigan State to be near his father, William, awaiting a kidney transplant. Prater, from Maywood, Ill., transferred to Northwestern and also cited family reasons, although he hasn't gone into detail.

[+] EnlargePrater
Rich Barnes/USA TODAY SportsNorthwestern WR Kyle Prater feels that he's finally past the annoying injuries that have hamstrung his career to date.
Both fanbases celebrated the arrivals. The good vibes continued when the NCAA ruled that both Arnett and Prater could play immediately because of the circumstances that sparked their transfers. Each had three years of eligibility left.

Although their situations weren't ideal, both wideouts appeared to be back on track.

But they had more detours ahead. They have combined for only 23 receptions and no touchdowns the past two seasons. Prater dealt with a "plethora" of lower-body injuries that limited his effectiveness. Arnett took longer than expected to adjust to the offense and slipped down the depth chart as other receivers emerged.

Fans didn't forget them, but the buzz that existed when they arrived practically disappeared.

Prater and Arnett are still around and, after strong performances during spring practice, both could finally make the impact many expected two years ago.

"I'm looking forward to great things happening this year," Prater told "I can honestly say I feel like I'm back, and I’m ready to go."

Added Arnett: "I had a big spring, so I’m continuing to build on that."

Both receivers drew high marks from their coaches during the spring, as they put themselves in the two-deep heading into the summer.

Prater's chief challenge was making it through the 15 practices intact, which he did. Despite a 6-foot-5, 225-pound frame, Prater hasn't been structurally sound during his college career. Injuries limited him at USC, where he had only one catch in two seasons, and have continued at Northwestern, where he recorded 10 receptions in 2012 and nine last season.

"You could not put together a worse script from an injury standpoint for a person," Northwestern coach Pat Fitzgerald said. "It's been such a bad deal for him."

Prater hasn't had one single major injury, but several issues "built up to a degree where I couldn't perform where I wanted to." He thinks many of the issues could have been prevented with the right stretching or training regimen.

When Northwestern's training room opens at the ungodly time of 5:45 a.m., he's often the first one through the door. He has improved his flexibility and tried to lower his hips to create more explosion out of breaks.

"It's just being proactive," he said. "Like if it’s a hamstring, I'm going to do the things to not have [an injury], strengthening my glutes, all the areas around there."

[+] EnlargeDeAnthony Arnett
Mike Carter/USA TODAY SportsMichigan State WR DeAnthony Arnett hopes to build on a strong spring to have a big 2014 season.
Arnett also has worked on his body, adding 18 pounds last season, when he appeared in just one game -- the opener against Western Michigan -- and had only one reception. But his challenge has been grasping the system and competing for time in a Michigan State receiving corps that improved significantly after the 2012 season. Dantonio said late in the 2012 season that he wished he had redshirted Arnett, who played as a true freshman at Tennessee and had 24 receptions.

This spring, Dantonio called Arnett the team's "most pleasant surprise" and noted his consistency, aggressiveness and run-after-catch ability. The suspension of Macgarrett Kings created more opportunities for Arnett, who had five receptions for 63 years during a mid-spring scrimmage.

"It's given me a chance to, I don't know, re-state myself," Arnett said. "I feel more comfortable knowing everything, knowing all the positions, about where to go on the field. Now it's making plays."

Arnett is more relaxed, and his time on the sideline last season, while not what he hoped, allowed him to absorb the playbook. After a diet of pasta, steak, rice and iron -- the kind you find in the weight room -- Arnett expects to play this season between 190-195 pounds.

"I don't think just because I haven't been playing, the expectations should be lower," he said. "I want them to be high. I want to be in the situation where there's a lot of pressure on me to produce."

Fitzgerald called Prater "outstanding" this spring, and Prater thinks he surprised the coaches with his play. His next goal: silencing his doubters when the season begins.

"There's always a lot of naysayers, lot of people felt I didn't have it," he said. "They thought I wasn't there anymore, but I never stopped believing."

There were days when Prater wondered about all the injuries, why they kept happening, and whether he had a future in football. He admits the accolades he had coming out of high school overwhelmed him.

The last few years have brought growth and perspective.

"I look at the game as far as being more appreciative, having fun and being blessed that I'm out there," Prater said. "My whole career has been overcoming adversity. It shows a true test of my will that [I can] talk to you today and say I'm still here. I'm very confident in my ability to play. Everything I've been through has made me who I am now.

"This is the best I've ever felt, and I look forward to great things."

There are no guarantees for either Prater or Arnett this season, as both play on teams with multiple returning starters at receiver.

But if called upon, they'll be ready to finish their roundabout routes the right way.
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- For nearly a season and a half, Michigan State leaned hard on its defense to try to win games while the offense sputtered.

That pattern finally changed midway through last season, as Connor Cook settled the quarterback position, Jeremy Langford developed into a star at running back and the receivers started making tough catches. Heading into 2014, a new paradigm could be in play. The offense returns the vast majority of its production while the defense must replace stalwarts such as Darqueze Dennard, Max Bullough, Denicos Allen and Isaiah Lewis.

Nobody is expecting the Spartans defense to fall off a cliff, especially with Pat Narduzzi back at coordinator and plenty of fresh talent ready to step forward. But if that side needs time to find its footing early in the season, things could be OK.

"Our defense has obviously been very, very strong," offensive coordinator Dave Warner said. "But as an offense, we want to be able to carry this football team if need be. And do it right from start, rather than wait until four or five games into the season to get it figured out."

Michigan State isn't suddenly going to turn into Baylor or Oregon -- "I still think you've got to play well on defense to win championships," head coach Mark Dantonio says -- but there's reason to believe that an offense that averaged a respectable 29.8 points per game during Big Ten play could continue moving forward.

[+] EnlargeJeremy Langford
Kevork Djansezian/Getty ImagesWith Jeremy Langford and several key players returning on the Michigan State offense, the defense doesn't have to carry the Spartans anymore.
Cook is back and should ride a wave of confidence following his MVP turns in the Big Ten championship and Rose Bowl games. The Spartans did lose Bennie Fowler, who led all receivers with 622 yards and six touchdowns, but they return every other pass-catcher of note and expect bigger things out of guys such as Aaron Burbridge and R.J. Shelton, as well as DeAnthony Arnett. Langford, who ran for 1,422 yards and scored a Big Ten-best 19 total touchdowns, added about five pounds of muscle this offseason.

"I think it helps with my durability," he said. "I can take a hit and bounce off a couple tackles. I still feel fast, and I feel stronger now."

Michigan State was young at tight end last season and didn't utilize that position a lot, though Josiah Price made a crucial touchdown catch against Ohio State in the league title game. Tight end could become a strength this year with Price back and spring head-turner Jamal Lyles, a 6-foot-3, 250-pound potential difference-maker.

"We're better right now at tight end than we were at any time last year," Warner said.

Warner also wants to find ways to use tailbacks Nick Hill, Gerald Holmes and Delton Williams. And don't forget quarterback Damion Terry, whose athleticism could lead to several possibilities.

"We're experimenting a little bit right now," Cook said. "I feel like some new things will be added to our arsenal on offense."

The biggest question marks for the Spartans on offense are on the line, where they must replace three senior starters (Blake Treadwell, Dan France and Fou Fonoti) from what might have been the best O-line in Dantonio's tenure. The line doesn't have as much depth this spring as the coaching staff would like, but veterans Travis Jackson, Jack Conklin and Jack Allen provide a nice starting point. Donavon Clark and Connor Kruse have played a lot as backups, and Kodi Kieler is expected to make a move up the depth chart.

"We need to get that offensive line back in working order," co-offensive coordinator Jim Bollman said.

Overall, though, Michigan State feels good about the state of its offense. So good that maybe the defense can lean on it for a change, if needed.

"Last year, we got off to a horrible start and didn't really get going until Week 5," Cook said. "We don't want to have that happen ever again. With the offense we have and what we proved last year, we want to get off to a hot start and get the rock rolling early. That's what everyone on our team offensively has in mind."

What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 4

September, 20, 2012
Ten items to track around the Big Ten as Week 4 kicks off Saturday.

1. Notre Dame's nightmare: Few college players have tormented a rival like Michigan quarterback Denard Robinson has tormented Notre Dame the past two years. After a record-setting performance in South Bend in 2010 -- 502 yards of total offense -- Robinson led an incredible comeback last season as Michigan stunned the Irish in the first night game ever played at the Big House. Robinson returns to South Bend on Saturday, and Michigan likely needs another special effort from its senior to knock off No. 11 Notre Dame. The Irish come off of a stifling defensive effort against Michigan State, and their offense should test a young Michigan defense. Notre Dame looks like the more complete team in this contest, but if the game is close and Robinson has a chance for fourth-quarter magic, the Irish should start to worry.

2. Penn State protects its house: NCAA sanctions have limited Penn State's goals this season, but a few remain on the table. The Lions can still win a Leaders Division title. They also want to keep their winning streak against Temple alive, particularly at Beaver Stadium, where the Owls have never won. Penn State hasn't lost to Temple since 1941 (seven PSU victories between 2003-2011 were vacated). Although Temple clearly has improved in recent years, Nittany Lions seniors like linebacker Michael Mauti don't want to be the ones who let the win streak end. Penn State finally got a chance to celebrate last week against Navy and looked strong on both sides of the ball. It's important to keep the momentum going before Big Ten play kicks off with a spicy matchup at Illinois.

[+] EnlargeMax Shortell
Marilyn Indahl/US PresswireReserve QB Max Shortell has made a solid impact to help Minnesota to a 3-0 start.
3. Minnesota takes it to the Max: Life is good in Gopher Country, as Minnesota sits at 3-0 with a chance to sweep its nonconference slate Saturday night against Syracuse at TCF Bank Stadium. Backup quarterback Max Shortell stepped up in a big way last week after starter MarQueis Gray suffered a high ankle sprain. Now Shortell makes his first start of the season -- third of his career -- against a Syracuse team that has performed better than its record (1-2) would indicate. Shortell and his pass-catchers take aim at a Syracuse defense that hasn't been efficient against the pass (97th nationally, 145.1 rating). He'd be helped by a boost from Donnell Kirkwood and the run game, but Minnesota likely will need to put up points as Syracuse quarterback Ryan Nassib will challenge the Gophers' defense.

4. Badgers' offense looks for leadership: Wisconsin's offensive downturn has been the most surprising story in the Big Ten through the first few weeks. Line play was in the spotlight after Week 2 as Bret Bielema dumped assistant Mike Markuson, and now the attention shifts to quarterback. Wisconsin benched Danny O'Brien in favor of Joel Stave in the second half of last Saturday's win against Utah State, and both men are listed as co-starters on this week's depth chart. Bielema has made his decision on the starter, but he isn't revealing it publicly. Stave, the former walk-on, reportedly took most of the first-team reps this week in practice. Ranked 116th nationally in total offense, the Badgers need to iron out a lot of things, including their quarterback situation, before Big Ten play begins next week at Nebraska.

5. Comm studies in Champaign: Illinois attributed some of its defensive struggles at Arizona State to poor communication against the Sun Devils' fast-paced offense. Despite allowing 45 points and 510 yards to ASU, Illinois isn't losing its swagger, and linebacker Jonathan Brown declared last week, "We've got the best front seven in the country. I firmly believe that." Brown and his teammates can back up that claim Saturday night in a tricky game against Louisiana Tech. The Bulldogs rank third nationally in scoring (56 ppg), fifth in total offense (603.5 ypg), ninth in rushing (289 ypg) and 17th in passing (314.5 ypg). They provide a very tough challenge for an Illinois team that says it has sorted out its communication issues. The Illini offense is banged up and still finding its identity, so Brown and the defense need a big effort Saturday night.

6. Buckeyes get back to basics: Ohio State has had quite a few highlights on defense through the first three games, but the Buckeyes' fundamentals aren't up to their typical standards. Missed tackles nearly cost Ohio State last week against Cal, and while the Buckeyes shouldn't have too much trouble with UAB on Saturday, Urban Meyer and his staff are looking for a more polished performance from the silver bullets. Meyer calls Ohio State's tackling woes "not acceptable," and he planned to double the amount of time his players spent on tackling this week in practice. As good as quarterback Braxton Miller has been, the Buckeyes need to tighten up on defense before Big Ten play begins.

7. Weisman for Heisman: Despite an inexplicable run of personnel problems at running back, Iowa always seems to find someone to step up and carry the rock. The latest back to emerge might be the most surprising: Mark Weisman, a walk-on fullback who transferred from Air Force and recorded 113 rush yards and three touchdowns in Iowa's much-needed win against Northern Iowa last week. Hawkeyes coach Kirk Ferentz quipped that Weisman "must have not liked having guys bounce quarters off his bed" at Air Force and left for Iowa, where he got the staff's attention in the spring and really stood out during fall camp. Iowa likely won't have top backs Damon Bullock (head) and Greg Garmon (elbow) for Saturday's game against Central Michigan, and Weisman is expected to get his first career start. Weisman is quickly earning cult hero status at Iowa, and it'll be interesting to see if he can follow up last week's performance with another big one.

8. Northwestern's quarterback rotation: If there's such thing as a functional quarterback rotation, Northwestern seems to have found it with Kain Colter and Trevor Siemian, neither of whom has thrown an interception this season. After Siemian led fourth-quarter drives in the Wildcats' first two wins, Colter was at the helm last week as the Wildcats put away Boston College. Coach Pat Fitzgerald seems content to stick with the rotation, go with the hotter hand when necessary and use matchups to his advantage. But in most of these cases, some separation occurs. Colter is a top-shelf athlete who extends drives with his feet but misses key throws at times. Siemian has better field vision and pure passing skills but isn't the natural playmaker Colter can be. Both men will play Saturday against South Dakota, and we could get some more clues about who will be leading the offense more as Big Ten play beckons. Despite a 3-0 start, Northwestern needs to start finishing more drives with touchdowns. The quarterback who does it best likely will be in a bigger role going forward.

9. MSU receivers look for green light: Mark Dantonio said Michigan State's staff would face some "tough decisions" after the team failed to score a touchdown or stretch the field in last week's loss to Notre Dame. Although the Spartans' depth chart for Eastern Michigan shows no adjustments at the wide receiver spots, Dantonio planned to evaluate the wideouts throughout the practice week and make no public announcements about changes. He noted that wide receiver is one of several positions where Michigan State has youth and equal ability level. If that's the case, we might see some new players in bigger roles Saturday, including Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett, who has barely played, and possibly freshmen Andre Sims Jr., Macgarrett Kings Jr. and Aaron Burbridge. Dantonio hinted that a lower-pressure game could help the young receiving corps. "We'll have to go through some of those growing pains," he said. "I think we have a lot of talent at that position, and it will show itself before the season is over. That talent will show itself."

10. Wolverines get nasty: If Michigan intends on beating Notre Dame for the fourth straight season, it must have season-best performances from both its offensive and defensive lines. Alabama overwhelmed the Wolverines at the line of scrimmage in the opener, and Michigan looks like a team missing its stars from 2011 (David Molk, Mike Martin, Ryan Van Bergen). Standout left tackle Taylor Lewan challenged the offensive line this week, saying, "You have to be physical, you've got to play angry, play nasty." The line faces a Notre Dame defensive front seven that overwhelmed Michigan State last week and has 11 sacks in the first three games. Coach Brady Hoke admits Michigan's defensive line remains a work in progress and doesn't generate enough push into the opposing backfield. It'll need to Saturday night against a Notre Dame team that Hoke says has superior speed to past Irish squads.

Predictions: Big Ten Week 4

September, 20, 2012
Prediction time!

It's our final regular-season chance to pad our stats make predictions for a Saturday filled with nonconference games. Although both Purdue and Indiana have one nonleague game remaining, those contests will take place during the Big Ten season.

The Week 4 slate isn't very appetizing, although the three prime-time games, especially the one in South Bend, should fill you up. Both bloggers rebounded from the Week 2 debacle to go 10-2 last week, but we're both seeking our first perfect predictions performance of the 2012 season.

Let's get started ...


Brian Bennett: The Buckeyes should enjoy a laugher against a bad UAB team before Big Ten play starts. Braxton Miller racks up three touchdowns before getting an early rest, and the defense comes up with a pick-six. ... Ohio State 45, UAB 14

Adam Rittenberg: UAB ranks 109th nationally in rush defense, so it can load up all it wants against Miller, and he'll still go nuts with 120 yards and two scores. I actually think Buckeyes running back Jordan Hall has a bit of a breakout game in this one as Ohio State starts fast and avoids the mid-game lull, while the defense produces only one takeaway but also very few missed tackles. ... Ohio State 41, UAB 10


Adam Rittenberg: Is this the week Wisconsin finally gets it together? I'll go out on a limb and say sorta. The Badgers start slowly again but gain confidence after new starting quarterback Joel Stave finds wide receiver Jared Abbrederis for a long touchdown pass. Montee Ball, James White and the run game then get going against a shaky Miners rush defense. ... Wisconsin 31, UTEP 17

Brian Bennett: Baby steps, Badgers, baby steps. Still not sold on this offense, especially against a UTEP team that did manage to hold Oklahoma to 24 points. Wisconsin once again leans on its defense, and the Stave/Danny O'Brien debate rages on as both play and have middling stats. ... Wisconsin 24, UTEP 10


Brian Bennett: Who steps up at running back for Iowa this week? The lead trombonist in the marching band? It shouldn't matter much against Central Michigan, as the Hawkeyes start to get back on track offensively. James Vandenberg finds Kevonte Martin-Manley for two scores, and the Mark Weisman legend grows. ... Iowa 31, Central Michigan 14

Adam Rittenberg: More Weisman? Yes, please. Central Michigan gets a heavy dose of the walk-on fullback, who records another 100-yard performance. Iowa's defense records two takeaways against the Chippewas, including a pick-six, and pulls away in the third quarter. ... Iowa 31, Central Michigan 17


Adam Rittenberg: South Dakota beat Minnesota in 2010 and isn't a pushover, but Pat Fitzgerald has his Wildcats locked in and looking to improve. Expect a big day from running backs Mike Trumpy and Venric Mark, who combine for 250 rush yards and three touchdowns. Northwestern's wide receivers also step up as the team improves to 4-0. ... Northwestern 38, South Dakota 13

Brian Bennett: These Coyotes may be wily, but they can't keep up with a Northwestern team brimming with confidence right now. I see a big game from Kain Colter coming -- 300 total yards and a couple of scores. The Wildcats keep on winning, this time easily. ... Northwestern 35, South Dakota 16


Brian Bennett: Le'Veon Bell promised he would not let Michigan State lose again after the Notre Dame debacle. An angry Bell is the last thing the nation's worst rush defense wants to see. Bell goes for 150 and two scores -- in the first half -- and the Spartans take out some frustration on EMU. ... Michigan State 49, Eastern Michigan 3

Adam Rittenberg: This is the perfect opponent for Michigan State to re-establish its offensive identity with Bell. As we saw last week at Purdue, the Eagles can't stop the run at all, and Bell goes for 200 yards and three touchdowns. DeAnthony Arnett gets more involved in the pass game with a touchdown catch as the Spartans roll. ... Michigan State 37, Eastern Michigan 6


Adam Rittenberg: Superman (Rex Burkhead) returns and breaks off a big run early to show Huskers fans he's just fine. The coaches wisely don't overdo it with No. 22, and Ameer Abdullah and Imani Cross combine for 300 rush yards and four scores. Nebraska breezes through its final tune-up before Big Ten play. ... Nebraska 49, Idaho State 7

Brian Bennett: What, you weren't impressed with Idaho State's win over Black Hill State last week? The Cornhuskers make mashed potatoes out of the Vandals on both sides of the ball. Taylor Martinez completes 13 of 15 passes and throws two scores and a bevy of backs finds the end zone in a romp to welcome back Bo and Rex. ... Nebraska 56, Idaho State 10


Brian Bennett: I could see this one going either way. But I think Penn State got some much-needed confidence in the Navy win, and Temple's loss to Maryland was less than inspiring. Michael Mauti won't let the Lions lose to the Owls for the first time since 1941 and comes up with a key interception late to seal a close one. ... Penn State 21, Temple 19

Adam Rittenberg: Penn State players expect a close game and get one, at least early, from the upset-minded Owls. But there will be no history made Saturday as Mauti turns in another big performance against Temple, recording four tackles for loss and a forced fumble. Quarterback Matt McGloin has a few struggles early but steps up in the fourth quarter as Penn State prevails. ... Penn State 24, Temple 16


Adam Rittenberg: Denard Robinson once again keeps Michigan in the game, but Notre Dame refuses to lose this time and capitalizes on its advantages at the line of scrimmage. Manti Te'o and the Irish defense bottle up Robinson in the fourth quarter and Michigan squanders an early lead as Notre Dame running back Cierre Wood has a big day on the ground. ... Notre Dame 27, Michigan 20

Brian Bennett: Everything is pointing in Notre Dame's direction for this one ... except that it's Michigan and Robinson on the other sideline. No. 16 has huge game No. 3 against the Irish and actually gets some help this time from Fitz Toussaint and a couple of big catches by Devin Funchess. ... Michigan 28, Notre Dame 24


Brian Bennett: Love the 3-0 start by the Gophers, but this is a big step up in competition from the first three games. And while Max Shortell should be fine, Minnesota will miss the playmaking abilities of MarQueis Gray. A late turnover dooms their chances, and Ryan Nassib throws for more than 300 yards as the Gophers get Orange-crushed. ... Syracuse 31, Minnesota 28

Adam Rittenberg: I'm impressed with the Gophers so far, and they'll pick up some wins in the Big Ten. But Syracuse desperately needs this one after a 1-2 start, and Nassib is by far the best quarterback Minnesota has faced. Shortell has some ups and downs in his first start of the season at quarterback, and Nassib rallies the Orange in the fourth quarter for the win. ... Syracuse 28, Minnesota 27


Adam Rittenberg: The Illini defense is better than what it showed at Arizona State, but Illinois hasn't been a lock-down unit against up-tempo spread offenses like Louisiana Tech's. While Nathan Scheelhaase's return at quarterback is an encouraging sign, Illinois has too many injuries and not enough offense to keep pace with the high-powered Bulldogs, who steal one in Champaign. ... Louisiana Tech 31, Illinois 28

Brian Bennett: Very tempted to go with the upset pick, as the Bulldogs' offense, averaging 56 points per game, could go nuts. But the Illini defense will be much tougher than anything Louisiana Tech has seen so far this season. The apparent healthy returns of Scheelhaase and Josh Ferguson should be just enough for Illinois to hold on at home. ... Illinois 28, Louisiana Tech 25

Purdue and Indiana both are off this week.


Rittenberg: 28-8 (.778)

Bennett: 27-9 (.750)
Many of us wondered why wide receiver DeAnthony Arnett didn't see the field more in Michigan State's season-opening win against Boise State. The Spartans weren't doing much in the pass game, and Arnett, a transfer from Tennessee who recorded 24 receptions as a freshman last season, seemed like a sensible option.

Arnett saw the field a bit more Saturday against Central Michigan and recorded a 48-yard reception in Michigan State's 41-7 win. But the question of playing time came up following the game, and again Monday on Arnett's Twitter page.

Arnett took to Twitter -- where else? -- to defend himself against what he believed to be media miscasting following the CMU contest.

Here are some of his tweets (@DeAnthonyArnett) from Monday morning:
  • "Wow All these miss leading tittles & quotes from you guys is just a shame. Trying to make me out to be a bad apple! That's not my character"
  • "Anyone will tell you that I'm the most happiest person on the planet right now! To even be playing! NCAA could have easily denied me"
  • "Theres guys that have been here for 3 & 4 yrs @ my position waiting for there opportunity. I'm learning from them! It's there time to shine"
  • "I'm not frustrated about anything at all. It'll come! I've only been here 8 months."

Here's what Arnett told the Detroit Free Press after Saturday's game:

"It was definitely frustrating not playing last week. I felt like I could have helped the team a lot. We were struggling a little bit, and like I said, all I can do is continue to keep guys' heads up and give them positive advice. I know the offense. The word has been I don't know the terminology, but that's not true."

Arnett seems to be irked by a story in The State News, Michigan State's student newspaper, headlined: "Arnett frustrated with playing time against CMU." He's quoted in the story as saying, "I'm not used to sitting on the bench … but all I can do is try to help those guys. It's been real frustrating, knowing that I know the offense, I know everything, [and] I should be playing."

Quotes can be wrong and can be taken out of context, but this seems to spell it out pretty clearly. Is there some degree of frustration with Arnett? Looks like it. But it also doesn't seem overwhelming or overly detrimental to the team.

If anything, Arnett appears more upset by the perception that he doesn't know the Spartans' offense well enough.

Arnett also tweeted Monday that he's done talking to the media and will only do interviews if asked by his coaches. Guess we'll have to keep following him on Twitter, where the Spartans have provided plenty of entertainment so far this season.

Michigan State quarterback Andrew Maxwell had the luxury of being able to learn from a shaky performance that still resulted in a key win for his team.

Despite three interceptions and no touchdown strikes in his first career start last week against Boise State, Maxwell walked out of Spartan Stadium a winner -- with plenty of work ahead of him. He took advantage this week and delivered a much more polished performance Saturday as Michigan State crushed Central Michigan 41-7 on the road.

After a few hiccups in the first quarter, Maxwell came alive and finished the first half with more than 200 passing yards. He spread the ball around to his receivers, namely Bennie Fowler, who recorded his first 100-yard receiving performance. Michigan State's coaches also got more pass-catchers involved, namely Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett, who had a 48-yard reception in the third quarter that helped set up a touchdown. Maxwell finished the game 21-of-32 passing for 287 yards with two touchdowns and no interceptions. A solid performance.

Michigan State received typical play from its defense, the top unit in the Big Ten, which recorded a pair of interceptions (Isaiah Lewis and Johnny Adams) and held Central Michigan to 14 first downs and 238 total yards. If not for a late pick-six by the Chippewas, the Spartans would have recorded the shutout.

Junior running back Le'Veon Bell made a couple of trips to the end zone, and backup Larry Caper had a nice day (9 carries, 66 yards).

But this game was all about Maxwell and getting him more on track before next week's showdown against Notre Dame in Spartan Stadium. Most agree Michigan State looks like a championship team on defense and boasts a major weapon in Bell. But if the quarterback situation isn't settled and the Spartans don't have a threat in the passing game, they'll have a tough time getting to Pasadena. Maxwell took a step Saturday. He'll have to take another as the competition level goes way up again with the Irish coming to town.

Big Ten Friday mailblog

September, 7, 2012
Should be a fun Saturday of games. Hope you enjoy 'em.

Victor 614 from Columbus, Ohio, writes: Whats up with all this hate on the Big Ten? I know Michigan got killed by alabama, but I think everyone knew they were overrated. And I know that the rest of the teams struggled, but Wisconsin is breaking in a new QB, Iowa isn't the Iowa of 4 years ago, and Northwestern has always been shaky at best. Michigan State beat Boise State, who all of a sudden is a bad team without Kellen Moore and Doug Martin, even though they've proven to be a consistent program. I know Michigan was expected to compete for a Big Ten title in the preseason, but it was just that, preseason. The Big Ten isn't on SEC level or even USC or Oregan's level, but this is really a rebuilding year for the conference as a whole. Am I wrong to think that there is alot of unfair animosity toward the Big Ten compared to other conferences?

Adam Rittenberg: Victor, I agree that any win against Boise State means something, and while I think some go too far in using Michigan's performance to paint the entire Big Ten, you can't spin Week 1 as a positive one for the league. Other than Nebraska and, to a certain extent, Illinois, no team notched a truly impressive win. Part of that was the schedule, but the week would have been a bit better had Wisconsin pounded Northern Iowa, Northwestern held onto its big lead at Syracuse and Penn State beaten Ohio. That said, it's way too soon to say the Big Ten is down or a bad conference this year. The league clearly can't compete with the nation's elite at the very top, and its recent record against top 5 teams is downright shameful. But as I've written many times, it's all about building depth in the Big Ten. I see progress there with Ohio State on the rise again, Michigan State and Wisconsin racking up wins, Nebraska stabilizing and Michigan recruiting really well. The overall depth in the league could turn out to be decent this year, although we'll likely only find that out when the bowl season rolls around.

Decker from Hastings, Neb., writes: Adam, Haven't heard much about DeAnthony Arnett so far, after quite the buzz during the offseason. What can you tell me about his status right now and also whether you expect the Spartan wideouts to pick up their game. I know Maxwell was rushed on plenty of throws on Friday but we saw a handful of miscues from the receivers. This weekend should be good for Maxwell and the rest of his offensive squad to find their rhythm. Your thoughts?

Adam Rittenberg: Decker, I was really surprised not to see more of Arnett against Boise State, especially given the Spartans' struggles in the pass game. Michigan State receivers coach Terry Samuel said this week that Arnett should have a bigger role Saturday against Central Michigan. While Arnett might not have had the best offseason as far as standing out among the receiver group, he seems to be picking things up now. Plus, the guy had 24 catches last year in the SEC as a freshman. Can't hurt to make him a bigger part of the game plan this week.

JT from West Coast Hawk Town writes: You and Brian both picked Iowa over Iowa State this weekend. That gives me some relief. The clones seem overly confident in this game. The clone fanbase is usually delusional, but I'm still not confident in my Hawks yet. What do you guys see, aside from the game being in Kinnick, that gives Iowa the edge?

Adam Rittenberg: Playing at Kinnick obviously benefits Iowa. Only two of the Hawkeyes' seven losses to Iowa State under Kirk Ferentz have happened at home and none since 2002. Iowa usually takes care of its turf, even against the dreaded Cyclones. Also, I was pleasantly surprised with the defensive line play against Northern Illinois. Steele Jantz had his way with Iowa last year, and the Hawkeyes must put more pressure on him Saturday. I feel better about that happening after seeing what Joe Gaglione, Dom Alvis and co., did against NIU. I also don't think Iowa State can handle Iowa's rushing attack for four quarters, especially if Damon Bullock duplicates what he did in the opener, getting stronger as the game goes on. It'll be close, but Iowa should prevail.

Ben from Ann Arbor, Mich., writes: Adam, today you posted an article saying that Penn State and OSU ARE eligible to be named Leaders Division champs. If this is true, and, say, Wisconsin finishes second or third in the standings behind them yet beats the Legends Division champion in the B10 championship, Wisconsin would officially be named Big Ten Champion, but not a division champion. That, like Alabama being National Champions but not Conference Champions, just doesn't sound right. Penn State and OSU are banned from the postseason and B10 championship, they shouldn't be a champion of their division.

Adam Rittenberg: I hear ya, Ben, and it sets up some potentially embarrassing situations, like having to present a team on postseason probation an official Big Ten trophy for winning the division. The Big Ten's rationale is that because Ohio State's and Penn State's games count in the division race, they should be part of that race. It would be odd to have a division champion go against a division "representative" in Indianapolis and for that representative to win the title. But that's the path the Big Ten has chosen to go down with two of its marquee programs on postseason probation.

Brian from Portland, Ore., writes: Adam, Longtime Northwestern football fan, which I know seems like an oxymoron (don't worry, Illini fans; it's OK that you don't know what that word means). Given the incredible disparity between the offense and the defense for the past few seasons, is it legitimate to question whether Fitz should replace Hankwitz? I know we had a good defensive season or two, but the recruiting is getting better and the results don't show on the field. I know Fitz is loyal, but there has to be a limit, right?

Adam Rittenberg: Brian, while I'm not in favor of coaches making rash changes whenever things start to go downhill, everyone on a staff needs to be held accountable. I think this is an important season for Hankwitz and the rest of Northwestern's defensive staff. Hankwitz boasts a ton of experience, but he has been dumped before (Wisconsin) and is far from foolproof. It's more than fair to question whether Fitzgerald is too loyal to certain folks, whether they be moderately talented veteran players or assistants who aren't getting the job done well enough in the Big Ten. I think Fitzgerald has a lot of great qualities as a head coach and clearly represents Northwestern well. But part of the job is making tough decisions with personnel and assistants, and if the defense doesn't improve, Fitz will face some difficult choices after the season.

Amit from New York writes: Adam, as a Michigan fan I'm deeply disappointed (although not unexpected) with the outcome of the Alabama game. It really seemed like Denard regressed during the game. I know you guys read MGoBlog, so I wanted to pass along the play-by-play analysis that Brian Cook did for the game: Interesting enough, he deduced that Denard actually played well, and the stagnancy/regression on offense was more so a combination of poor OL play, playcalling from Borges, inconsistency and lack of separation from the WRs, and simply fantastic DB play (from Milliner in particular).Thoughts? Passing it along not b/c it's making excuses for Denard, but it's actually insinuating that Denard played well (which I haven't heard anyone in the MSM contend).

Adam Rittenberg: Amit, good stuff. Brian and the MGoBlog crew do an excellent job, especially with play breakdowns like these. I think it's a stretch to say Denard played "well," but the game definitely showed me bigger issues at offensive line and running back than it did at quarterback. If you get dominated up front like Michigan did, you can't execute the majority of your game plan and either have to scrap it entirely or go with a limited set of plays. I'm not absolving Borges, either, but it's hard to scheme your way through an ineffective line. Michigan had to be a lot better up front in order to hang with Alabama. While it doesn't excuse some of the bad decisions Denard made, he doesn't deserve the bulk of the blame for the loss. He didn't have much of a chance to attack the Tide.

Travis from St. Louis writes: Adam- I recently located a summary B1G football schedule and noticed a trend. Four teams (Indiana, Minnesota, Nebraska, and MSU) get two weeks to prepare for Northwestern. Several teams in the B1G (most notably OSU and Nebraska) do not have to worry about teams getting two weeks to prepare for them at all. I realize it is not absolute that teams will win if they get two weeks to prepare for an opponent, but don?t you think there is a distinct schedule disadvantage Northwestern has to overcome?

Adam Rittenberg: Interesting observation, Travis. I'll check with the Big Ten about this and see if there are rules to prevent potential disadvantages for certain teams. That said, I think the bye week is vastly overrated as something that helps teams. We've seen examples here and here of teams struggling quite a bit following open weeks. While these breaks in the schedule allow teams to rest and recharge, the evidence doesn't show that they give teams huge edges as far as preparation.

Michael from Columbus, Ohio, writes: With Oregon State game cancelled this past weekend, how much of a disadvantage is Wisconsin at for preparing for OSU with no game tape available. I know this team needs to works on things and Wisconsin doesn't play to well on the road against Pac-12 opponents. What must the Badgers do to stymie the upset on the road?

Adam Rittenberg: It's always nice to have tape on your opponent, Michael, but I think Wisconsin just needs to play its game and not get too wrapped up in Oregon State. The Badgers destroyed this team last year and had a terrific performance on the defensive side. If Wisconsin can establish the run and the play-action pass, and generate a good pass rush up front, I don't think Oregon State can hang with the Badgers for four quarters. The Oregon State program is trending downward, and even in good seasons, Mike Riley's teams get better as the fall goes along. While I'm sure Oregon State will have some schematic things to throw off Wisconsin, it's a four-quarter game and the better team should win if it plays its game.
It's time for the second half of our Big Ten personnel roundup entering season-opening weekend. In case you missed Part I, which featured most of the Week 1 depth charts, be sure and check it out.

Michigan State released its depth chart, so we'll start there. Minnesota and Nebraska will release theirs later this week.


Depth chart
  • There are two unsettled positions on defense as Michigan State lists co-starters at defensive tackle (Micajah Reynolds and Tyler Hoover) and at free safety (Jairus Jones and Kurtis Drummond). Head coach Mark Dantonio called the Reynolds-Hoover competition "a flip of the coin" and praised Reynolds' progress during fall camp. Reynolds has a 33-inch vertical leap and bench-presses more than 400 pounds. Hoover, a converted defensive end, missed all but one game last season with a fractured rib.
  • Linebacker Darien Harris and defensive end Lawrence Thomas both don't appear on the depth chart because of injuries but will be contributors this season. Harris could see the field early Friday night against Boise State. Sophomore Skyler Burkland is listed as the backup left tackle but likely won't play because of a hand injury.
  • Junior Bennie Fowler and sophomores Keith Mumphery and Tony Lippett are listed as Michigan State's top receivers. Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett, who had 24 receptions last season for the Vols, appears as Fowler's backup.

Here are some other personnel notes from around the league ...


Running back is the big question mark for the Hawkeyes after another summer of attrition. Iowa enters Saturday's opener with three primary backs -- Damon Bullock, Greg Garmon and Michael Malloy -- as well as two fullbacks in Brad Rogers and Mark Weisman.

Bullock, who had 10 carries for 20 yards, likely will get the start against Northern Illinois, although Garmon, a heralded true freshman, should get plenty of work as well. Rogers is a familiar name, and coach Kirk Ferentz praised Weisman's progress during camp.

"You play the cards that are dealt," Ferentz said. "The running back position is one where we’ve had a lot of players playing. The good news is they've performed pretty well."

Sophomore Jordan Canzeri, who suffered a torn ACL in spring practice, has returned to practice, but Ferentz said it's "weeks or months before we talk about him entering contact or anything live at all." Iowa has been cautious about live tackling involving its running backs in practice, particularly those who have game experience.


Boilers coach Danny Hope didn't sound too concerned about playing without top middle linebacker Dwayne Beckford, indefinitely suspended Monday following his latest arrest. Purdue practiced without Beckford during spring ball -- he was working his way back from another legal issue -- and rotated several players at middle linebacker. Senior Antwon Higgs appears to be the next man in, and converted quarterback Sean Robinson is behind him.

Sophomore Joe Gilliam, who recorded seven tackles last year and made one start, should be a bigger part of the plan as well.

"I thought in the recruiting process he was one of the top players in our state," Hope said of Gilliam. "I thought Joe was probably the next guy in line [behind the starters]."

  • Not surprisingly, Tre Roberson has emerged as Indiana's starting quarterback after taking over the top spot as a true freshman in 2011. Roberson beat out junior college arrival Cam Coffman and freshman Nate Sudfeld for the job. Coffman will serve as Roberson's backup. Although Roberson struggled in Tuesday's morning workout, coach Kevin Wilson has been pleased with the sophomore. "He's embraced the challenge," Wilson said. "He definitely can make some plays as a bit of a dual-threat guy. He's embraced the competition. He has been by far our most consistent quarterback."
  • Roberson will be passing the ball more in 2012, and he'll have a deeper group of wide receivers at his disposal. How deep? Wilson said that veterans Kofi Hughes and Duwyce Wilson enter the season as the team's No. 5 and No. 6 receivers (Hughes is suspended for the opener against Indiana State). Kevin Wilson had high praise for sophomore Cody Latimer, limited by a sports hernia injury last season. Speedster Nick Stoner also should be a bigger part of the mix at receiver. "It's not because they've [Hughes and Duwyce Wilson] fallen off but because we've got some good players," the coach said. "We've got some competition, we've got some depth, we've got some young speed and I just think we're close to having a more complete unit there. We're not great at receiver, but we do have more playmakers."
  • Illinois' secondary isn't anywhere near full strength as it prepares to face Western Michigan and talented quarterback Alex Carder. The team's top two safeties, Steve Hull and Supo Sanni, both are nursing injuries and didn't appear on Monday's depth chart. Also, top cornerback Terry Hawthorne has a sprained ankle that will limit him only to defense for the first few games. Illinois wanted to use the athletic Hawthorne as another option at receiver, a position with little proven depth. The bigger question is how much the ankle will limit the senior with his primary cornerback responsibilities.
  • Although the Illini will rotate plenty at running back, receiver and tight end on Saturday, they won't employ a two-quarterback system, which had been rumored during camp. Co-offensive coordinator Chris Beatty said Tuesday that he's not a big believer in rotating quarterbacks, so junior Nathan Scheelhaase will take most or all of the snaps.
  • Urban Meyer expects "six seconds of great effort" from Ohio State's freshmen in Saturday's opener against Miami (Ohio). Asked which freshman he was most curious to see, Meyer identified defensive back Devan Bogard as well as freshman linebacker David Perkins, who "really exploded the last couple of days."
  • Meyer said freshman Bri'onte Dunn and sophomore Rod Smith are "very close" for the No. 2 running back spot behind Carlos Hyde. Dunn has been a bit more consistent in camp and has a slight edge.
  • Meyer said Storm Klein's role going forward is yet to be determined and that recently reinstated linebacker is still "making up a bunch of stuff" after missing almost all of fall camp. Meyer based his decision to reinstate Klein on a domestic violence charge being dismissed against the senior, who pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct.

Coach Pat Fitzgerald acknowledged that it has been easier to go through the preseason this year as opposed to 2011, when talk of quarterback Dan Persa's health dominated fall camp. Although Northwestern knew all along that Persa wouldn't play in the first few games and Kain Colter would start, it has been easier for Colter this time around.

"Unfortunately, Danny had to go through that tough offseason," Fitzgerald said. "That was not fun. Kain handled the opportunity really well a year ago. ... You could definitely tell it was his first start in college football Now he's settled down, he's settled into the role."
Bennie Fowler's big moment in the 2011 season for Michigan State came in the 37-31 home win over Wisconsin. He recovered a blocked punt in the end zone for a touchdown that provided a huge momentum swing.

But other than that, Fowler doesn't have much on his résumé from last year. Which is definitely not how he thought things would go.

"I thought I could have stepped in last year and started that transition," he told

[+] EnlargeBennie Fowler
Cal Sports Media via AP ImagesWide receiver Bennie Fowler hopes to be a bigger part of Michigan State's offense in 2012.
And by transition, he means from last season's senior trio of receivers -- B.J. Cunningham, Keshawn Martin and Keith Nichol -- to the next wave of Spartans wideouts. Instead, Fowler missed the first half of the season because of a stress fracture in his foot, an injury that cost him effectiveness when he did play and curtailed the end of his season early when it resurfaced. The same problem limited him during spring practice this year.

So Fowler wasn't able to build on his strong 2010 redshirt freshman season, and now Michigan State enters this fall without any proven players at the receiver position. But after finally getting his foot healthy and turning in what was, by all accounts, an impressive summer, Fowler hopes to help put those wideout questions to rest.

"I'm very confident in my abilities," he said. "I think I can stretch the field. I think I've got good route-running ability and I can separate from a defender. I think I can make the big catch and the big play."

Fowler showed glimpses of that as a freshman, scoring on a reverse against Northwestern when Martin was hurt and hauling in the Spartans' only touchdown in the Capitol One Bowl blowout loss to Alabama.

"He'll be a guy that, as we look at him, can work underneath and work on coverage in there and be physical and separate," offensive coordinator Dan Roushar told reporters earlier this week. "At the same time, we think he has the vertical explosion and speed to threaten the field deep. He brings that to the table. When you go to Bennie, you have a longer guy, taller, right in that 6-foot-3 range. [He's] physically mature right now."

Michigan State still has a major experience gap in the passing game, with Andrew Maxwell stepping in as a first-time starter at quarterback. But Fowler and Maxwell have built a chemistry over the years as backups.

"This is our fourth summer together," he said. "We've had that relationship like Kirk [Cousins] did with B.J and Keshawn. I know what he's thinking and he knows what I'm thinking. We've gotten our reps together as twos, and we have a good feel for each other and what's going on out there."

Fowler also points to the game experience Tony Lippett got on defense last year, that Keith Mumphery gained on special teams and that transfer DeAnthony Arnett brings after a year at Tennessee. And he says he has been very impressed with the true freshmen receivers who have come in.

"I think we're going to be exciting and make a lot of plays," Fowler said of the Spartans' receivers. "People are questioning us, but at the same time we go against one of the best defenses in the country every day and they're getting us prepared. So it's not like when we go out and play Boise State [in the opener] that we haven't seen a defense before. We've played against some of the best corners in the country in Darqueze Dennard and Johnny Adams."

Will that be enough to get the Michigan State receivers up to speed? We'll see. But Bennie Fowler plans on being a much bigger part of the answer than he was a year ago.
"Megatron" is coming to a Big Ten city near you this fall.

No, it's not another "Transformers" sequel (thank goodness), but the immediate and much-anticipated arrival of receiver Kyle Prater to Northwestern. The NCAA ruled on Tuesday that Prater could play right away this season after transferring from USC in the winter. Prater, who's from the Chicago area, requested the waiver by saying he had transferred closer to home for a family issue.

[+] EnlargeKyle Prater
Jeff Lewis/Icon SMIUSC transfer Kyle Prater will be able to play for Northwestern this season.
If you simply look at Prater's career numbers -- one catch for 6 yards last year with the Trojans -- you might say, "Big deal." But it is kind of a big deal, minus the sarcasm. Prater was a high-school All-American and one of the top recruits in the country in 2009. He battled thumb and hamstring problems as a redshirt freshman at USC, which had Robert Woods and Marqise Lee to throw to, anyway.

Oh, and there's this: he's 6-foot-5 and 220 pounds. It's that size, combined with his athleticism, that had Northwestern teammates calling Prater "Megatron" this spring. At one point, quarterback Kain Colter compared him to Calvin Johnson.

Now, to be sure, Prater has a long way to go to play like Johnson. But at the very least, he's going to be a huge target on third downs and in the red zone for Colter, which will be a nice advantage as Colter adjusts to becoming a full-time quarterback. And Prater has the talent and potential to do a whole lot more than that.

I ranked Northwestern No. 1 in the Big Ten receiver rankings earlier this month, and that was without knowing Prater's status. This only solidifies the Wildcats' claim to having the deepest receiving corps in the league, as Prater joins Demetrius Fields, Christian Jones, Tony Jones, Rashad Lawrence and and others. Northwestern should once again have a prolific passing attack, even with the loss of the league's all-time leader in passing percentage (Dan Persa) and one of the best pass-catchers in school history (Jeremy Ebert).

Prater wasn't available for interviews after the announcement but had this to say via Twitter: "I want to thank the NCAA for allowing me to play this upcoming year, I'm so blessed for this opportunity, it has been a journey #GoCats"

The NCAA got this one right and sure seems to be leaning more toward players in these cases. Receiver DeAnthony Arnett received a similar waiver as he moved from Tennessee to Michigan State, as did Prater's former USC teammate Amir Carlisle with Notre Dame. I'm all for fewer restrictions on player movement, especially if that player has a legitimate family reason for transferring closer to home.

This is great news for Northwestern and should make for one happy Megatron.

Impact transfers in the Big Ten

July, 14, 2012
Who are the impact transfers in (and out) of the Big Ten in 2012? Keep an eye on these players who switched four-year schools and who should be eligible this season:

Incoming transfers

Danny O'Brien, QB, Wisconsin (from Maryland): O'Brien hopes to follow Russell Wilson's playbook and go directly from the ACC to the Rose Bowl with the Badgers. O'Brien, who graduated from Maryland to become immediately eligible, is expected to start at quarterback and solve the depth problems Wisconsin has. And he'll be able to play in 2013, too.

DeAnthony Arnett, WR, Michigan State (from Tennessee): Receiver is a major position of need for the Spartans, so it was great news when Arnett was ruled immediately eligible after transferring to be close to his ailing father. Arnett had 24 catches for 242 yards and two touchdowns as a true freshman for the Volunteers in 2011.

Kyle Prater, WR, Northwestern (from USC): Prater is still awaiting word on whether he'll be immediately eligible this season. But if he is cleared, the former blue-chip recruit should make a major contribution for the Wildcats with his size and speed.

Quinn Evans, CB, Northwestern (from Stanford): The Wildcats know that Evans, who graduated from Stanford, can play right away. And though he missed all of last year with an injury, Evans could provide help to a secondary that really struggled in 2011.

Brock DeCicco, TE, Wisconsin (from Pitt): DeCicco started three games for Pittsburgh in 2010 before switching to the tight end haven that is Wisconsin. The Badgers already have All-America candidate Jacob Pedersen at the position, but DeCicco should provide additional depth and playmaking skills.

Tommy Davis, S/KR, Illinois (from Northern Illinois): Davis graduated from Northern Illinois and became immediately eligible for the Illini when he transferred earlier this summer. He's a two-time All-MAC kick returner who could help Illinois' woeful special teams while providing depth in the secondary.

Outgoing transfers

Marcus Coker, RB, Stony Brook (from Iowa): Coker led Iowa in rushing and was second in the Big Ten with 1,384 yards and 15 touchdowns. He transferred to the FCS after some off-the-field problems. His departure was a big loss for the Hawkeyes and he figures to dominate at a lower level if focused.
A couple of weeks ago, I took a look at the Big Ten quarterbacks who were most likely to throw for 3,000 yards. Last week, I examined the running backs most likely to crack 1,000 yards. If you sense a pattern, you're right. Today, we're going to check out which players can reach the milestone of 1,000 receiving yards in 2012.

It's not an easy achievement. Last season, only four Big Ten receivers exceeded 1,000 yards after none got there in 2010. Only 39 players in the FBS posted 1,000-plus yards receiving.

Complicating things for this exercise is the fact that the Big Ten's top pass-catchers have all departed. Iowa's Marvin McNutt, Illinois' A.J. Jenkins, Northwestern's Jeremy Ebert and Michigan State's B.J. Cunningham were all seniors in 2011, leaving the league without a returning receiver who had a 1,000-yard season.

The receiver position is a big question mark throughout the league, but here are some players who could jump up and get to quadruple digits, in order of most likely:

[+] EnlargeJared Abbrederis
David Hood/CSMWisconsin's Jared Abbrederis had 933 receiving yards last season despite a foot injury.
1. Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin: Abbrederis wasn't far off from the mark last season, posting 933 receiving yards as the Big Ten's top returning wideout. He also played most of the season on an injured foot which he had surgically repaired in the winter. With Nick Toon gone, Abbrederis becomes the clear No. 1 target. The only question is how much the Badgers will pass the ball now that Russell Wilson has moved on.

2. Keenan Davis, Iowa: Davis had 713 receiving yards last season as the secondary target next to McNutt. Now the No. 1 receiver for the league's best pocket passer in James Vandenberg, Davis has a chance to make a similar leap his senior season as McNutt did. He's always had the talent. He just needs more consistency, and to avoid costly drops.

3. Roy Roundtree, Michigan: Roundtree's numbers went way down last season, but just two seasons ago he caught 72 balls for 935 yards. He played a complementary role to Junior Hemingway in 2011, but is poised to regain his No. 1 status this year. If Denard Robinson truly has improved his throwing mechanics, Roundtree could be the main beneficiary.

4. Justin Brown, Penn State: Derek Moye is gone, leaving Brown as the likely main target in the Penn State passing game. That passing game should be more efficient under the coaching of Bill O'Brien, and quite possibly a more stable starting quarterback situation. But can Matt McGloin pitch it well enough for Brown to improve on his 517 yards last season? That's a big if.

5. Christian Jones, Northwestern: The Wildcats' offense creates a lot of opportunities for receivers, and someone will have to fill the considerable void left by the highly productive Ebert. Jones, coming back after an injury, could be that guy. Or maybe it's Demetrius Fields. Maybe the best bet is USC transfer Kyle Prater, but as of this writing he hasn't heard back on his eligibility appeal from the NCAA. Northwestern should be deep and talented at receiver; it's just a matter of whether Kain Colter can sling it nearly as well as Dan Persa.

6. Kofi Hughes, Indiana: Kevin Wilson was dissatisfied with his team's passing performance last season, and wants to be more dangerous through the air this season. If the Hoosiers can start approximating Wilson's old Oklahoma offenses, then Hughes -- who had 536 receiving yards last season while playing with a rotating cast of quarterbacks -- might set some career highs.

7. Antavian Edison, Purdue: Edison led the Boilers with 584 receiving yards last season, and the team's passing game should get better with a healthy Robert Marve and a more experienced Caleb TerBush at the controls. Edison could become more of a primary target with Justin Siller graduated. But Purdue also tends to spread the wealth, hurting the chances of any one player reaching 1,000 yards.

8. Unnamed Ohio State receiver: Maybe freshman Michael Thomas builds upon his huge spring-game performance, or a guy like Corey "Philly" Brown breaks out and has a huge season. The Buckeyes need someone to step up at receiver, and they figure to throw it a whole lot more than they did last season. But also consider this: Urban Meyer never had a 1,000-yard receiver while at Florida.

9. Unnamed Michigan State receiver: Receiver is a huge question mark for the Spartans, who lack experience at the position. But Michigan State showed it wasn't afraid to throw the ball all over the field last season with Cunningham and Keshawn Martin. Maybe Tony Lippett or Andre Sims Jr. or DeAnthony Arnett has a huge season. More likely, though, the Spartans will ease into the passing game with new quarterback Andrew Maxwell and spread the ball around more than they did in '11.

10. Kenny Bell, Nebraska: Bell had a really strong freshman campaign, leading the Huskers with 432 receiving yards. Word out of Lincoln is that Taylor Martinez and the passing game look a lot better. Still, since Nebraska has never had a 1,000-yard receiver in its history, we're going to call this one a long shot.
The book is closed on spring football in the Big Ten, but what did the chapters reveal? Although no games are played during the spring, which fuels optimism for all 12 teams, the 15 practices provide clues for the upcoming season. The Big Ten saw few major injuries to key players, some good news (the NCAA declaring Michigan State WR DeAnthony Arnett eligible for 2012) and some potentially troubling signs.

It's time to revive the power rankings coming out of the spring. We see separation with the top two teams, while Nos. 3-5 are closely matched. The same holds true for Nos. 7-10.

Here they are ...

1. Michigan State: The Spartans' defense looks like the single best unit in the Big Ten entering the season. Spring practice only enhanced our opinion of Pat Narduzzi's group, which has no shortage of stars. While the passing game needs work, Arnett's presence should help, and the Spartans will rely more on their run game with Le'Veon Bell and an improved offensive line.

2. Michigan: Quarterback Denard Robinson and Fitzgerald Toussaint, who affirmed himself as Michigan's top tailback this spring, form arguably the Big Ten's most dangerous backfield tandem. If Michigan can fill some key pieces on both lines, where there was some shuffling this spring, it will be back in the BCS bowl mix and among the favorites to win the Big Ten crown.

3. Wisconsin: It seems hard to fathom, but Montee Ball appeared to take his game to an even higher gear this spring. The Badgers' star running back will fuel the offense again, although quarterback remains a question mark as Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien arrives this summer. Wisconsin still needs more playmakers to emerge on the defensive line and in the secondary.

4. Nebraska: Tough call on this spot, but the Huskers return their core pieces on offense from a 9-4 team. Footwork-conscious quarterback Taylor Martinez received good reviews this spring, and he should be more comfortable in Year 2 at the helm of Tim Beck's offense. Coach Bo Pelini thinks the defense will be improved and potentially deeper, although the Huskers lose a lot of star power on that side of the ball.

5. Ohio State: There were few dull moments in Ohio State's first spring under Urban Meyer, who began installing an offense unlike any seen in Columbus. After resembling a "clown show" early on, the offense made strides and quarterback Braxton Miller looks like a strong fit for the system. An improved defense, led by linemen John Simon and Johnathan Hankins, should buy the offense some time to get acclimated.

6. Penn State: New coach Bill O'Brien ushered in a historic spring in Happy Valley, and Penn State players for the most part embraced the many changes taking place. The Lions still don't have a quarterback, but they have an excellent running back in Silas Redd and an improved offense line that pleasantly surprised O'Brien this spring. Penn State's defensive front seven, led by linebacker Gerald Hodges and tackle Jordan Hill, might need to carry the team at times.

7. Purdue: Fourth-year coach Danny Hope thinks this is clearly his best team in West Lafayette, and with 18 starters back, it's easy to see why. The Boilermakers are one of the Big Ten's deepest teams at positions like quarterback, defensive tackle, running back and cornerback. Purdue must continue to absorb the new defense installed by Tim Tibesar and fill some key gaps along the offensive line.

8. Iowa: Although Iowa's changes this spring didn't make national headlines like the ones at Penn State and Ohio State, they were very significant. New offensive coordinator Greg Davis began installing a more up-tempo and multifaceted offense that seems to be clicking with senior quarterback James Vandenberg. Jordan Canzeri's ACL injury once again clouds the picture at running back entering the summer, and Iowa needs its young defensive line to grow up in a hurry.

9. Northwestern: The Wildcats showcased one of the league's top wide-receiving corps this spring, and if Kain Colter can improve his passing, the offense should surge. Defense has been Northwestern's bugaboo in recent years, and young players like end Deonte Gibson and cornerback Nick VanHoose stepped forward this spring. It's crucial for the defense to keep making progress if Northwestern wants to maintain its bowl streak.

10. Illinois: There's little doubt Illinois will be a defense-driven team, and the Illini look loaded in the front seven with players like end Michael Buchanan, who turned in a very strong spring, as well as tackle Akeem Spence and linebacker Jonathan Brown. An offense that flatlined late last season began learning a new system this spring and still lacks playmakers at running back and wide receiver. Running back Josh Ferguson's spring-game performance is encouraging.

11. Minnesota: The second spring of the Jerry Kill era brought greater comfort for both players and coaches alike. Quarterback MarQueis Gray made strides in his second spring session as the starter, although the Gophers are still looking for more weapons to surround No. 5. The defensive line should be an improved group after several lifeless seasons. Minnesota still needs to develop depth in the secondary and at wide receiver.

12. Indiana: After playing an insane number of freshmen in 2011, Indiana began to reap the benefits this spring. An influx of junior-college defenders, including linebackers David Cooper and Jacarri Alexander, also should boost a unit that needs all the help it can get. The Hoosiers have some nice building blocks on offense at both quarterback (Tre Roberson) and running back (Stephen Houston, Isaiah Roundtree), but they still have a lot of work to do before the season.
As the weeks went by, doubt started creeping in for DeAnthony Arnett.

He had what seemed like a convincing case for an NCAA waiver that would allow him to suit up for Michigan State this coming season rather than sit out a year. After playing his freshman year at Tennessee, Arnett, a native of Saginaw, Mich., transferred to Michigan State in January to be close to his ailing father, William, who is waiting for a kidney transplant and is on dialysis.

[+] EnlargeDeAnthony Arnett
Cal Sport Media via AP ImagesDeAnthony Arnett caught 24 passes last season as a freshman for Tennessee.
While the NCAA can be unpredictable in waiver rulings, it seemed like if ever there was a player who deserved the green light, Arnett would be it. But the NCAA continued to ask the Arnetts for medical information, and no decision came during Michigan State's spring practice session.

"At one point in time, I wasn't sure because it was taking so long," Arnett told "They kept asking for information. But my dad just told me, 'Keep it in the good Lord's hands, and everything will happen."

Arnett was resting late Thursday morning before a workout at his old high school when the phone rang. Head coach Mark Dantonio told him the good news: the NCAA had granted his residence waiver. Arnett, who had 24 receptions for 242 yards as a freshman last season with Tennessee, has three years of eligibility left.

"I didn't even know it was coming," Arnett said. "It was a big surprise. It was a big relief off my back. I was able to really take a deep breath."

Arnett called his father, who had undergone a recent surgery.

"He was just happy," Arnett said. "He was glad it was over with and he didn't have to give any more information."

William Arnett attended Michigan State's spring game April 28. It was the first time he had seen his son play in college, and he told, "This brings joy to my heart."

William hopes to be in the Spartan Stadium stands Aug. 31 when Michigan State's season kicks off against Boise State.

"He's really looking forward to it," DeAnthony Arnett said. "He's excited, man. When I talked to him, that's all he talked about, being able to see me play."

This spring, Arnett acclimated himself with the Spartans offense, which is similar to the system at Tennessee. He's excited to work with former Spartans great Andre Rison, who is returning to school and will serve as a student assistant with the team.

"Me and Dre go way back," Arnett said. "He's going to be a big help for us."

The same can be said for Arnett, who provides a boost to a Michigan State offense that loses its top three receivers, its top tight end and its starting quarterback from the 2011 squad.

How can Arnett help the Spartans in 2012?

"Just be me, be the guy I've always been," he said. "A speed guy, be able to create separation and make plays. That's what I do.

"I'm just looking to take the offense to another level."
Sometimes the NCAA gets it right. When it came to DeAnthony Arnett's waiver application, the folks in Indianapolis had an easy decision to make.

Fortunately, the NCAA made the correct call Thursday and approved Arnett's residence waiver, which allows the wide receiver to play for Michigan State this season. Arnett transferred to Michigan State from Tennessee after the 2011 season to be closer to his ailing father, who is awaiting a kidney transplant and is on dialysis. The waiver prevents him from sitting out a season. Arnett, a native of Saginaw, Mich., has three years of eligibility remaining.

The NCAA can be tough to predict on waiver requests. But after green-lighting Notre Dame receiver Amir Carlisle, whose case didn't seem nearly as urgent Arnett's, the NCAA had only one decision to make here.

The decision is big news for Michigan State, which loses its top three wide receivers and its top tight end, not to mention starting quarterback Kirk Cousins, from the 2011 team. Arnett, a decorated recruit who left Big Ten country to play at Tennessee, recorded 24 receptions for 242 yards and two touchdowns as a freshman in 2011. He practiced this spring with the Spartans and will join Keith Mumphery, Bennie Fowler, tight end Dion Sims and others as quarterback Andrew Maxwell's top targets in the passing game.

Although Michigan State will remain a run-first team this fall, Arnett's presence on the field gives the Spartans a talented target who has produced at a high level.