NCF Nation: Jerry Brown

It's a very sad day for the Illinois program as two former players now competing for the Dallas Cowboys were involved in a deadly one-car accident early Saturday in Irving, Texas.

Former Illini player Jerry Brown was killed in the crash, and former Illini defensive lineman Josh Brent, who drove the car, has been charged with intoxication manslaughter. They played together at Illinois.

Irving police spokesman John Argumaniz said the accident happened about 2:20 a.m. Saturday in the Dallas suburb. Brent was speeding when the vehicle hit a curb and flipped at least once, Argumaniz said.

Argumaniz says the 25-year-old Brown was found unresponsive at the scene and pronounced dead at a hospital. Brent, a three-year veteran, was booked in the Irving, Texas city jail at 4:14 a.m. Saturday morning.

Brown had been promoted from the Cowboys practice squad to the active roster on Oct. 10, while Brent had been starting for the Cowboys at defensive tackle.

Brent served jail time in 2009 after a drunken driving arrest. He had a suspended license at the time and failed to appear in court, eventually reaching a plea agreement that required two years probation and 60 days in jail. Brent entered the NFL supplemental draft in 2010 rather than play his senior season for the Illini.

Illinois coach Tim Beckman tweeted Saturday afternoon: "Sad news for the Illini #Family today. Jerry Brown, former Illini and current NFL player has passed away. Keep him in your prayers." Former Illini wide receiver Arrelious Benn and others expressed their condolences on Twitter.

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

Spring practice has wrapped up in the Big Ten, and it's time to look back at some of the superlatives from the last eight weeks.

Best spring game performance -- The quarterbacks made this a tough choice, but I've got to go with Michigan State tandem Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol. Both players passed for 357 yards and four touchdowns with no interceptions in the Green-White Game. Honorable mentions to go Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor, Illinois defensive end Jerry Brown and Wisconsin quarterback Curt Phillips.

Best performance by a freshman -- Early enrollee Tate Forcier left Michigan fans feeling a bit more comfortable about the quarterback position after the spring game. Forcier tossed four touchdown passes and ran for another to complete an encouraging spring in Ann Arbor. He still has a ways to go, but he impressed the coaches this spring with his playmaking ability and willingness to learn the system. Honorable mentions go to Minnesota quarterback MarQueis Gray and Michigan State safety Trenton Robinson.

Best out-of-the-blue performance -- No one saw Ralph Bolden coming this spring, including Purdue's defenders, evidently. Bolden not only put himself in the mix for the Boilers' starting running back spot, but he might enter the summer as the frontrunner. A virtual unknown before the spring, Bolden rushed for 420 yards and four touchdowns in Purdue's spring scrimmages, including 153 yards and two scores in the Black & Gold Game.

Best position change -- Indiana's Kellen Lewis might have fit here if not for his dismissal days after spring ball ended. The nod goes to another quarterback-turned-receiver, Iowa's Marvin McNutt, who impressed the coaches and shot up the depth chart this spring. McNutt brings excellent size and athleticism to the wide receiver position, and should be one of Ricky Stanzi's top targets this season.

Best spring game atmosphere -- A spring game record crowd of 95,722 filled Ohio Stadium on a sun-splashed Saturday for the spring game. Packing one of the nation's biggest stadiums for a glorified scrimmage definitely adds some atmosphere. Michigan and Penn State also drew impressive crowds for their spring games.

Best story of the spring -- The development of quarterbacks around the league this spring bodes well for the Big Ten come September. Holdovers Daryll Clark and Juice Williams looked polished, while Iowa's Stanzi and Ohio State's Pryor build off strong first seasons as the starters. Teams like Michigan State, Minnesota and Wisconsin can feel better about their depth at quarterback, and Michigan was pleased with Forcier.

Best non-story of the spring -- Greg Paulus' brief flirtation with Michigan generated a ton of buzz, though the possibility of the former Duke point guard joining the Wolverines as a quarterback always seemed remote. The Paulus story has gone away (thankfully), but it kept Michigan in the news and might have helped Paulus generate attention from other schools.

Best quote -- "If we've got a room full of guys that think, 'Well, that's what you do. You come to Ohio State and you're Big Ten champs,' if that's the reality in their mind, then we're going to have a problem," Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel said. "Because it is hard. People that know just how hard it is are gone. Because they're the ones that traversed that mountain.

"It's our job to get guys to understand how difficult it's been. It's not, 'Wish upon a star and I'm entitled to that.' That's the fun of raising kids up, helping them understand that goals are wonderful, but the plan and the action taken toward those goals it what it's all about."

Best quote II: "I don't want to have a quarterback controversy, but I also want to provide equal opportunity for everybody involved," Michigan State head coach Mark Dantonio. "I don't want it to be, 'He played well one time, so he's the guy.' What we're building for is consistency and performance over the long term."

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

The crowd was small, no more than 100 people. It was mostly members of the marching band, but also a few fans who live around Ryan Field.

They showed up to greet the Northwestern football team after it returned from last Saturday's 22-17 road win against Iowa. The Wildcats improved to 5-0 for the first time in 46 years, and the welcoming party reminded head coach Pat Fitzgerald and longtime assistant coach Jerry Brown of a more exciting time in the program's mostly bleak history. 

"We got off the bus and Jerry looked at me and he goes, 'Kind of reminds me a little bit of '95,'" Fitzgerald said. "We'd come back from road games and we'd have a lot of fans and our band there."

In 1995, Northwestern was one of the nation's top sports stories, winning the Big Ten championship and going to the Rose Bowl behind Fitzgerald, a star middle linebacker, and running back Darnell Autry. Brown coached the secondary that year. 

This year's team has a long way to go to be put in the same category, but for a program where attendance is a major challenge, any excitement is a positve step.  

"There's a lot of pride here," Fitzgerald said, "and we've got some positive momentum here, obviously starting the season the way we have."