NCF Nation: Justin King

Big Ten Friday mailbag

November, 21, 2008

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

I'm reporting from Columbus, where I'll be covering Ohio State-Michigan on Saturday (ABC, noon ET). Not to worry, as we'll also have coverage from State College, where No. 15 Michigan State takes on No. 8 Penn State (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).

Time for your last-minute questions on Big Ten rivalry week.

Stephen from Baltimore writes: Adam, how high do you see D-Will getting drafted after the season? Justin King went in the third round last year on pure speed and athleticism alone, so since Williams has actually produced nicely this season, I would think he would have a spot in the league (plus he can make an impact on punt and kick returns).

Adam Rittenberg: Derrick Williams, who Stephen is referring to, has really come on strong down the stretch. He's showing why he was the No. 1 recruit in the country back in 2005. Still, I think Williams will need a strong showing at the scouting combine to solidify his draft status. Williams' versatility as a ball-carrier and on special teams could put him in the first or second round.

Nathan from Cedar Rapids, Iowa, writes: I'm starting a petition and would appreciate your signature as well as those of your readers. My cause is the effort to change the name of the UGA running back's name to No Shonn.

Adam Rittenberg: Good one. Nathan will be here all night, folks. The 11 o'clock show is totally different from the 8 o'clock show.

Nick from Boulder, Colo., writes: Adam, A buddy sent me an email that if OSU wins Saturday, they will be the winningest team in Big Ten History-based on win %. Is that true? This would be the best yardstick of comparison, because it would take out a lot of the subpar competition that the teams played when football was more like rugby.

Adam Rittenberg: That is correct. Ohio State currently is .2 percentage points behind Michigan and would edge ahead by a miniscule margin with a win Saturday. This story in The Cleveland Plain Dealer details how close the two teams are on the all-time chart.

Brad from Chicago writes: Adam, In regards to Shonn Greene coming out of nowhere, I would say Larry Johnson in his senior year at Penn State would have been a similar situation. Without looking at his stats, if my memory is correct he split time with other running backs his first three years so nobody knew exactly what he was capable of.

Adam Rittenberg: Thanks for the submission, Brad. Several of you have brought up Larry Johnson at Penn State. Todd from Detroit mentioned Devin Thomas at Michigan State. But what I truly find unique about Greene is that he wasn't even a little-used guy in the program last year, getting a few carries here and there. He wasn't a junior-college transfer. A year ago, he had nothing to do with playing football for a FBS program. He was hauling furniture and working out on his own, having very little to do with the Iowa program. To come back from that at a servicable level is one thing. To come back as an All-American and a potential Heisman Trophy finalist is something else. Can any of you remember a guy who was completely out of football, and then came back to have a season like Greene's?

(Read full post)

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

 Matthew Emmons/US Presswire
 Malcolm Jenkins had four interceptions last season.

The rankings return with the cornerbacks, followed by the safeties later. Malcolm Jenkins and Vontae Davis top the list, but things get a little bit cloudy after those two. Just a reminder that the rundown is only cornerbacks, so if you're looking for names like Anderson Russell, Anthony Scirrotto and Austin Thomas, check back in a bit.

1. Malcolm Jenkins, Sr., Ohio State -- It's a tight race with Davis for the top spot, but Jenkins gets the nod. He enters the fall as the Thorpe Award frontrunner after passing up NFL millions. The back-to-back first-team All-Big Ten selection had four interceptions last season and can shut down one side of the field.

2. Vontae Davis, Jr., Illinois -- His pro stock is skyrocketing and Davis soon will join his big brother Vernon in the NFL. Last season the Thorpe Award semifinalist had four interceptions, eight pass breakups, nine tackles for loss and two blocked punts, one of which he returned for a touchdown.

3. Lydell Sargeant, Sr., Penn State -- With Justin King gone, Sargeant moves into a featured cover role and has the tools to step up. In his first season as a starter he led Penn State defensive backs and ranked third on the team with 70 tackles. And Sargeant isn't afraid of big stages -- in March he was one of the introductory speakers at an on-campus rally of 22,000 people that featured presidential candidate Barack Obama.

4. Donald Washington, Jr., Ohio State -- His two-game suspension at the start of the season could hurt, but Washington has plenty of experience to readjust. Often overshadowed by Jenkins, Washington has big-play potential, as he showed by returning his lone interception last fall 70 yards for a touchdown.

5. Donovan Warren, So., Michigan -- One of the top young defensive backs in the league, Warren earned several freshman All-America distinctions last fall. He recorded 52 tackles and forced and recovered a fumble against Notre Dame. Like most Wolverines players, Warren improved his conditioning level this summer and should turn in a strong sophomore season.

6. Morgan Trent, Sr., Michigan -- The team's most experienced player has made 29 career starts in the secondary, collecting 108 tackles [92 solo] and 19 pass breakups. He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors last season. Trent has been burned at times by elite receivers, but he brings leadership to the secondary and complements Warren.

7. A.J. Wallace, Jr., Penn State -- Wallace turned heads as a freshman, playing on both sides of the ball and dazzling on kickoff returns and reverses. Hopes remain high for his progress at cornerback, as he moves into the spot vacated by King. After a superb Alamo Bowl performance [five tackles, interception, fumble recovery], Wallace should do big things this fall.

8. Bradley Fletcher, Sr., Iowa -- Charles Godfrey and Adam Shada had Iowa's starting cornerback spots on lockdown, but Fletcher still contributed with 53 tackles and two interceptions last fall. With those two gone, Fletcher steps into a featured role this fall. He has played a lot the last two seasons and should step up as a senior.

9. Allen Langford, Sr., Wisconsin -- How Langford responds following ACL surgery is critical, but he brings plenty of experience to a suspect Badgers secondary. He has six career interceptions and 19 pass breakups, including seven in 10 games last fall before the injury. If healthy, the fifth-year senior provides a big boost in the back half.

10. Kendell Davis-Clark, Sr., Michigan State -- Davis-Clark ranked second on the team in tackles [73] in his first season as a starter and should continue to progress this fall. He had eight pass breakups and was effective on blitzes with four sacks in 2007. Davis-Clark's next step is making more plays for a takeaway-starved Spartans defense.