NCF Nation: Ervin Baldwin
OK, moving on to less depressing topics, like the Big Ten and Super Bowl XLIV.
Once again, the Big Ten has plenty of connections to the game, including 20 former players on the two teams, more than any other conference.
All 11 member schools will be represented by a player and/or coach participating in the game. Michigan has the highest number of former players (four), followed by Ohio State (three) and then six teams -- Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Northwestern, Purdue and Wisconsin -- each with two former players. Penn State and Minnesota will have former coaches on the sideline Sunday.
Both head coaches have Big Ten roots, as the Colts' Jim Caldwell played at Iowa and served as an assistant at Iowa, Northwestern and Penn State. The Saints' Sean Payton had a one-year stint as an Illinois assistant in 1996.
Here's the full lineup of Big Ten links to Super Bowl XLIV, courtesy of the league office:
Kelvin Hayden, DB, Illinois
Dallas Clark, TE, Iowa
Bob Sanders*, DB, Iowa
Mike Hart, RB, Michigan
Marlin Jackson*, DB, Michigan
Ervin Baldwin, DE, Michigan State
John Gill, DL, Northwestern
Anthony Gonzalez*, WR, Ohio State
Curtis Painter, QB, Purdue
Jim Sorgi*, QB, Wisconsin
Jim Caldwell, Head Coach (Played at Iowa from 1973-76; Assistant at Iowa in 1977, Northwestern in 1981 and Penn State from 1986-92)
Larry Coyer, Defensive Coordinator (Assistant at Iowa from 1974-77 and Ohio State from 1991-92)
Gene Huey, Running Backs (Assistant at Ohio State from 1988-91)
Tom Moore, Offensive Coordinator (Played at Iowa from 1957-60; Assistant at Iowa from 1961-62 and Minnesota from 1972-73 and 1975-76)
Ray Rychleski, Special Teams (Assistant at Penn State in 1991)
Bill Teerlinck, Defensive Assistant (Assistant at Indiana from 2003-04)
John Teerlinck, Defensive Line (Assistant at Illinois from 1980-82)
NEW ORLEANS SAINTS
Pierre Thomas, RB, Illinois
Tracy Porter, CB, Indiana
Courtney Roby, WR, Indiana
Adrian Arrington, WR, Michigan
Jonathan Goodwin, C, Michigan
Zach Strief, OT, Northwestern
Malcolm Jenkins, CB, Ohio State
Will Smith, DE, Ohio State
Drew Brees, QB, Purdue
Jonathan Casillas, LB, Wisconsin
Sean Payton, Head Coach (Assistant at Illinois in 1996)
Greg McMahon, Special Teams (Assistant at Minnesota from 1983-84 and Illinois from 1992-2004)
Bret Ingalls, Running Backs (Assistant at Northwestern from 2006-08)
Aaron Kromer, Offensive Line/Running Game (Assistant at Northwestern from 1999-2000)
Mike Mallory, Assistant Special Teams (Played at Michigan from 1982-85; Assistant at Indiana from 1986-87 and Illinois from 2001-05)
Terry Malone, Tight Ends (Assistant at Michigan from 1997-2005)
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Life seemed good for defensive end Trevor Anderson after Cincinnati's spring game in 2007, but things were about to change.
"I was like, 'Man, I did good in the spring game. I killed. Man, I'm about to get ready for a big season,'" said Anderson, who had recorded 10 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in his first two years with the Bearcats. "But God, He has a way of humbling you."
A "personal conversation I had spiritually" told Anderson he needed to leave Cincinnati, which became a difficult process.
New Bearcats coach Brian Kelly initially refused to release Anderson from his scholarship if the defensive end transferred to Michigan State, coached by Kelly's Cincinnati predecessor, Mark Dantonio. Several other possible destinations were approved, including Michigan, but not East Lansing.
Anderson had to overcome some academic hurdles in transferring his credits from Cincinnati, but he eventually got his wish, to play for Dantonio again and, more importantly, to be closer to his family. After sitting out last season, he returns to the field this fall and is expected to start on a Spartans line looking to replace standout ends Ervin Baldwin and Jonal Saint-Dic.
"Perfect timing," defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi said.
"He can be looked at and say, 'Hey, here's an example of how to do it,' whether it's this pass rush or this particular stunt," Dantonio said. "That's powerful to have on your football team."
Anderson was popular Tuesday at Michigan State's media day, as a sizable crowd formed around the man pegged to be the team's most impact addition. The 6-foot-2, 250-pound end seemed anxious to return to the spotlight on Saturdays, especially after a season of watching his new team and hearing about his old team, which went 10-3 and was ranked No. 17 in the final AP Poll.
"I knew in my heart I did the right thing," Anderson said. "Even when I left and players still Facebooked me or called me, saying, 'Man, if we had you, we're doing good, but we'd be doing [even better],' I told them, 'I wish y'all the best. I wish you win the national championship.' I had no hard feelings toward any of my teammates. I was kind of sour about the way the situation went, but that's the business of college football. Things like that happen and they're going to continue to happen."
Prohibited from playing in games last season, Anderson turned his attention toward reestablishing ties in his hometown of Detroit. Though Spartans defensive line coach Ted Gill said Anderson's dream has always been to play for Michigan State, Anderson remembers wanting to play several times zone away.
He considered UCLA, something that didn't go over well with his mom, Dionne.
"She prayed that I wouldn't get a scholarship more than five hours away," Anderson said. "And where did I end up? Cincinnati. Five hours away."
When Dantonio left Cincinnati for Michigan State in November 2006, Anderson's mom asked him if he wanted to come home, but at that time he was preparing for the International Bowl and wanted to stay put. Several months later, he changed his mind.
"I left high school three days after graduation," Anderson said, "so [when I came back] me and my mother reconnected in so many ways. It actually turned out to be a blessing off the field, especially with family. Football's cool, but at the end, your body's going to wear out. I got a lot of close relationships reattached."
Among them were those with Dantonio and assistants like Narduzzi and Gill, who followed the head coach from Cincinnati to Michigan State.
"He knows us, he knows what's expected within the defense," Gill said. "He knows the breakdowns if he doesn't do certain things and he knows if he does certain things, what it can give us. You're really excited about that."
|Scott Boehm/Getty Images|
|Brian Hoyer returns to lead the Michigan State offense.|
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
EAST LANSING, Mich. -- Michigan State media day is under way, so check back for updates later in the morning and this afternoon. For now, here's a look at three major questions facing the Spartans entering what should be a defining 2008 season.
1. Can Brian Hoyer take the next step in his evolution and silence his critics?
Hoyer did a lot of good things last season, but quarterbacks are ultimately judged in the fourth quarter and Michigan State went 2-6 in games decided by seven points or fewer. His play in crunch time will go a long way in determining if the Spartans back up their preseason label as the Big Ten's surprise team. Hoyer can be extremely efficient, as he proved with just seven regular-season interceptions last fall, but the nightmare of his four-interception meltdown in the Champs Sports Bowl lingers with Spartans fans. As a senior, Hoyer should limit his mistakes, and if several capable wide receivers emerge, he'll have a big season.
2. How will Michigan State replace Devin Thomas' playmaking ability?
Thomas' rapid rise as a wide receiver/return man probably can't be duplicated by one player, but the Spartans feel confident in their mostly unproven receiving corps. Both Deon Curry and Mark Dell appeared in all 13 games last season, combining for 44 catches, and redshirt freshman B.J. Cunningham could be the team's top big-play threat. The two Chris Ruckers -- Chris D. and Chris L. -- provide depth and heralded freshman Fred Smith could contribute immediately.
3. Who will anchor the pass rush after the losses of Jonal Saint-Dic and Ervin Baldwin, both of whom ranked among the Big Ten's top seven in sacks?
Expectations are high for end Trevor Anderson, a transfer from Cincinnati and a proven commodity. Anderson recorded 10 sacks and 21.5 tackles for loss in two seasons playing for Michigan State coach Mark Dantonio at Cincinnati. He might be a bit rusty after a year off but should provide a big boost on the edge. The Spartans also need increased production from seniors Justin Kershaw and Brandon Long, who combined for 3.5 sacks last season.