NCF Nation: Justin Siller

It took a big-time demotion to truly prepare Caleb TerBush for the big-time role he now occupies at Purdue.

About a week before the 2010 season kicked off, Purdue declared TerBush academically ineligible. After pushing Robert Marve for the starting quarterback job the previous spring, TerBush had to sit and watch the entire season. Injuries wiped out Marve and backup Rob Henry. Purdue eventually had to turn to a true freshman (Sean Robinson) and a wide receiver (Justin Siller) at the quarterback spot, while TerBush, by far the team's best option by then, could do nothing to help.

[+] EnlargeCaleb TerBush
Brian Spurlock/US PresswireCaleb TerBush missed the 2010 season because of academics. "Going through that experience has definitely humbled me," he said.
"It was definitely a tough period," TerBush recalled.

But in the end, a valuable one. Rather than sulk at his situation, TerBush took charge of the scout team. As a third-year player who had seen the field in 2009 (albeit briefly) and who had stood out during spring practice, TerBush had more experience than most of the players in his unit.

The same holds true these days, as TerBush is the team's No. 1 quarterback and a fifth-year senior captain. Although Purdue returns nine offensive starters from 2011, TerBush is one of the old men in the meeting room. That's where his scout-team experience comes in handy.

"I was able to work on skills with younger players and communicate with them," he recently told ESPN.com. "That's helped me now. I get along with a bunch of younger kids. It's easier for me to talk to them now. I’ve been where a bunch of them have been before."

While TerBush started every game in 2011, helping Purdue to its first bowl game and bowl victory since 2007, his position as a leader seems more solidified now. Head coach Danny Hope made it clear after spring ball that TerBush is his No. 1 quarterback, even though Marve is back for his final year and Henry, the team's projected starter until a week before the 2011 season, is back from an ACL injury.

A year as the starter helps TerBush command respect, but a year on the scout team remains the pivotal stretch of his career.

"Going through that experience has definitely humbled me," he said. "There was a period before that where I was taking things for granted, and it caught me in the butt. I was happy to get a second chance. It made me respect the game more, and make myself work that much harder to make myself better and not take it for granted again."

He views the starter's tag in a similar light.

"For coach to keep naming me the starter, it's an honor, and I'm not going to take it for granted," he said. "But it's just part of it. You've got to come in every day, ready to work."

TerBush put up decent numbers in 2011, completing 61.7 percent of his passes 1,905 yards with 13 touchdowns and six interceptions. He'll have most of his weapons back for 2011, including receivers Antavian Edison and Gary Bush, Wright and running backs Akeem Shavers, Ralph Bolden and Akeem Hunt.

Hope has been open about calling the 2012 Boilers his best team in West Lafayette. TerBush sees things a bit differently.

"There's always room for improvement," he said. "When you say you're the best, you kind of put limits on what you can do. I'd say we're a better team than last year, but we control our own fate. We have to put in the same amount of work as last year, and even more, if we want to achieve our goals."

TerBush learned the lesson on the scout team in 2010. Despite the setback, he controlled his fate, and his work helped him reach the top of Hope's depth chart.
We're all square in predictions through the first nine weeks. Will anything change in Week 10?

The lineup of games isn't too exciting and features four games with heavy home favorites (Wisconsin, Nebraska, Ohio State and Michigan State). The one truly intriguing matchup, barring a surprise, takes place in Iowa City as No. 15 Michigan visits an Iowa team that hasn't lost at home this season.

Let's get picky ...

MINNESOTA at NO. 17 MICHIGAN STATE

Brian Bennett: It was great to see the Gophers go hog wild and get their moment last week. That moment won't last against a Spartans team that plays at a different level at home. Jerel Worthy and William Gholston make life miserable for MarQueis Gray. ... Michigan State 31, Minnesota 3

Adam Rittenberg: The Spartans get their groove back in East Lansing, and an offense that simply didn't show up in Lincoln takes advantage of Minnesota's secondary. Kirk Cousins and B.J. Cunningham connect for two touchdown passes as Michigan State starts a bit slowly before opening things up in the second and third quarters. ... Michigan State 34, Minnesota 10

INDIANA at OHIO STATE

Adam Rittenberg: This is the perfect opportunity for Braxton Miller and the Buckeyes' offense to build off of a strong finish to the Wisconsin game. Miller and Dan Herron run wild on a young and overmatched Indiana defense. While the Hoosiers are running the ball well, Ohio State's defensive line is playing at another level right now. ... Ohio State 37, Indiana 6

Brian Bennett: Indiana has allowed at least 41 points in its last four Big ten games, and opponents are averaging more than 50 a game in that span. Yikes. The Hoosiers' lone attribute right now is their offense, but John Simon and the Silver Bullets shut that down. ... Ohio State 41, Indiana 10

NO. 15 MICHIGAN at IOWA

Brian Bennett: Big Ten teams have had trouble on the road all season, and the Hawkeyes are a much better team at Kinnick. But I just can't pick a team that just got beat at Minnesota and has way too many defensive issues right now. Iowa's James Vandenberg makes it interesting, but too much Denard Robinson keeps Michigan in the Legends hunt. ... Michigan 35, Iowa 27

Adam Rittenberg: This is a tricky one as Iowa will be motivated to atone for last week's shocking defeat and maintain its unbeaten record at home. Michigan is a bit banged up right now, but the Wolverines have the better defense and an offense that will make enough big plays to overcome its mistakes. Iowa leads at halftime, but Michigan, as it has much of the season, comes on strong in the second half behind the run game. ... Michigan 35, Iowa 31

NORTHWESTERN at NO. 10 NEBRASKA

Adam Rittenberg: Nebraska is on a roll, and the Huskers offense should run all over a Northwestern defense that can't stop anybody. Northwestern will move the ball in this game, as it has all season, but the Huskers will limit points and get plenty of their own from Rex Burkhead and Taylor Martinez. ... Nebraska 42, Northwestern 20

Brian Bennett: Northwestern is allowing 38 points per game in Big Ten play, and while Nebraska won't exploit its pass defense as much as others have, the Huskers will still score at will. The Blackshirts will have a little tougher time than they did against Michigan State's predictable attack, but Alfonzo Dennard slows down Jeremy Ebert and gets a pick six. ... Nebraska 45, Northwestern 24

PURDUE at NO. 20 WISCONSIN

Brian Bennett: Caleb TerBush hits Justin Siller on a 60-yard pass with one second left as the Boilers ... Nah. Wisconsin might suffer a bit of a hangover from the previous two gut-wrenching losses, but they'll still mash Purdue at home with another three touchdowns from Montee Ball. ... Wisconsin 38, Purdue 17

Adam Rittenberg: I agree Wisconsin might be a little off its game early on, but soon enough the Badgers will look around and realize where they are. Wisconsin's dominance on its home field continues, and Camp Randall Stadium continues to be a house of horrors for the Indiana schools. Russell Wilson records three touchdowns (2 pass, 1 rush) and James White reaches the end zone once. ... Wisconsin 41, Purdue 14

Bonus pick alert! You might have heard a thing or two about this game ...

NO. 1 LSU at NO. 2 ALABAMA

Adam Rittenberg: Most folks seem to be picking Bama at home, and I get it. The Tide linebackers are out of this world, and Trent Richardson is a beast. But LSU has repeatedly impressed me, not just with its play and its across-the-board talent, but with its ability to overcome adversity time and again. The Tigers once again will be in a tough spot Saturday, but I like The Hat and his crew to come out of T-Town with a win. ... LSU 17, Alabama 14

Brian Bennett: Adam, you won't get served at Dreamland with a prediction like that. I get the feeling LSU is a bit better overall, and you never bet against The Hat. But home field is just enough of an advantage between two extremely good teams. Richardson makes his Heisman statement, and Penn State enjoys the BCS bump as Alabama escapes. Let the rematch debate begin. ... Alabama 21, LSU 17

SEASON RECORDS

Bennett: 55-18 (.753)

Rittenberg: 55-18 (.753)

Halftime: Purdue 21, Illinois 0

October, 22, 2011
10/22/11
1:36
PM ET
Earlier this week, Brian Bennett discussed the significance of Illinois-Purdue as a potentially season-turning game for both teams.

If the first half is any indication, Purdue will be a team to watch in the second half of Big Ten play.

The Fighting Illini? Uh oh.

Purdue dominated the first half at Ross-Ade Stadium, surging to a 21-0 lead against No. 23 Illinois at the break. The Boilers are building on a nice effort at Penn State and putting it together in all three phases, while the Illini look shell-shocked coming off of their first loss.

Regardless of how this game ends, Purdue has found its quarterback in Caleb TerBush. The junior has been brilliant against his home-state school, completing 12 of 16 passes for 145 yards and two touchdowns. Credit Purdue offensive coordinator Gary Nord for being creative with his personnel. The Boilers have run a bit of Wildcat with Justin Siller and gotten several backs involved, including Raheem Mostert, who has a 21-yard touchdown run.

Illinois looks very shaky in all three areas, including the kicking game, where it muffed a punt and continued to have adventures on punt returns. The muffed punt turned into a Purdue touchdown, although Illinois didn't help itself with a personal foul penalty after holding the Boilers on third down. Put bluntly, Illinois isn't surviving the mistakes it did earlier in the season, while a mistake-ridden Purdue squad has cleaned up its act.

Illini quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is struggling for the second consecutive week, completing just 5 of 10 passes for 51 yards. Illinois recorded only three first downs with Scheelhaase in the game before going to Reilly O'Toole, who briefly provided a spark before an ill-advised deep throw was picked off by Ricardo Allen. Opposing teams are finding out that when A.J. Jenkins is taken out of the game, Illinois doesn't have much else on offense.

Barring a major turnaround, Illinois could be headed for its second consecutive loss, which would increase chatter about a second-half collapse.

Purdue, meanwhile, is 30 minutes away from making a statement to the rest of the Big Ten.

Don't sleep on the Boilers.

Penn State will be called the worst 6-1 team in America.

People will continue to point to the quarterback confusion, the inability to score touchdowns in the red zone and other obvious flaws with the Nittany Lions. But the record speaks for itself, and the Lions deserve credit for continuing to find ways to win.

Penn State's defense fueled a 23-18 victory against Purdue by forcing four turnovers, and Joe Paterno's team exploited a huge edge on special teams to beat the mistake-ridden Boilers. Among the heroes were linebacker Nate Stupar, who recorded two interceptions, kicker Anthony Fera (3-for-3 on field-goal attempts) and Chaz Powell, who had a 92-yard kick return before drawing a highly questionable penalty for tossing the ball in the air in celebration.

The Lions' quarterback situation didn't get much clearer as Matthew McGloin and Rob Bolden combined to complete just 10 of 23 passes for 185 yards with no touchdowns and an interception. It's hard to imagine that the quarterback situation won't catch up with Penn State at some point, but that point hasn't arrived yet.

One major bright spot was sophomore running back Silas Redd, who had 131 yards and a touchdown on 28 carries.

Purdue has to be kicking itself -- literally -- after another loss filled with major boo-boos. Standout kicker Carson Wiggs had a tough day, missing a 44-yard attempt and clanking a potential game-tying PAT try off of the upright that proved extremely costly. Purdue also allowed Powell's return at a very bad time, right after it closed to within two points with 8:08 to play.

The Boilers are a talented team with some exciting individual players -- Ralph Bolden, Justin Siller, Antavian Edison, Gary Bush -- who showed off their skills against a very good defense today. But mistakes kill you, and Purdue continues to make far too many to win in the Big Ten.

Friday Q&A: Purdue QB Robert Marve

September, 30, 2011
9/30/11
9:00
AM ET
Purdue is searching for a boost, and Robert Marve hopes to provide one.

Marve made his first appearance for the Boilers in nearly a year Sept. 17 against Southeast Missouri State, completing 7 of 8 pass attempts for 91 yards and a touchdown. Although Caleb TerBush remains the Boilers' starting quarterback, Marve is ready to help if called upon.

Little has come easily for Marve at Purdue. He suffered a torn ACL days after he announced he was transferring from Miami. Four games into the 2010 season, he suffered another ACL tear. More knee issues cropped up in preseason camp, keeping him sidelined for Purdue's first two games.

[+] EnlargeRobert Marve
AP Photo/Darron CummingsWith its experienced QBs, including Robert Marve, Purdue says it has the ability to compete with the Big Ten's elite in 2012.
Now he's back and ready to contribute. ESPN.com recently caught up with the signal caller.

How did it feel to finally play again?

Robert Marve: It's good. It was a little frustrating at first. In camp, I thought I was going to be ready. My tendon started flaring up. One day, you feel normal and then you can't practice for two or three days. But I'm happy where I'm at now.

How did you feel when you finally got out there on the field?


RM: It was a good feeling, a feeling that you finally got back and you overcame the injury. I was happy, too, because a lot of my family was in town. They deal with me the most, going through the whole surgery and everything. So I was happy for the whole situation.

Was it hard to see Rob [Henry] go down, especially after you dealt with your own knee injury?

RM: Yeah, it was. Rob and I are close friends, so I know exactly what he's going through. It's frustrating. I'm trying to be there any way I can. He's a great quarterback, and I really was looking forward to playing with him. Hopefully, next year, we can.

Where do you fit in as far as leadership with this offense? Can you be a leader even though you've been out for a while?

RM: I feel better about it actually this year than I did last year, when I started right away. I've been around the team longer. They've gotten to see my work ethic, and I really started understanding the playbook a lot better. Once you understand, you can do more helping and coaching. So it's been good for me, and I think they're responding well to me.

How do you feel about your understanding of the playbook now?

RM: I noticed it a lot last week. You start noticing things without really looking hard, like the coverages and the fronts and where the linebackers stand. I had a couple audibles I felt good about, and I've been doing it in practice. Once you get an understanding of what the coaches want, you can build the plays off of that.

All the injuries really limited you on offense last year. How broad can this offense be this season?

RM: I definitely think we can open it up a little more because, as you said, we have more guys not hurt. So hopefully we can open it up, get the ball downfield, but at the same time, be able to power it down against a couple of opponents. I hope it's going to be high-powered, so we can get this thing rolling.

How important is this game against Notre Dame?

RM: I was very impressed with Notre Dame when I watched them on film. You see a team that's 2-2 on paper, but when I started seeing their front and how their linebackers flow, it's pretty impressive. It's going to be a big opponent for us, but lucky for us, we have it at home and in a night game, so the atmosphere should be in our favor.

How important is it to win a game like this, to get guys believing you can do something special this season?

RM: This game is kind of a program-changer. You go through a big game like this, with a sold-out crowd at home, before Big Ten play, and you can get the program excited about the rest of the season. It could change a lot of things. I definitely see an urgency in practice, guys playing more attention. I was impressed with how many guys came and started watching film on our bye week. Coach gives us off a couple days and I felt like I wasn't going to see a lot of people around, but a lot of guys came through, the receivers, the tight ends, the offensive line, a lot of people came through to watch film and try to pick up little things and see the players they're going to play against.

Coach [Danny] Hope has been very open about wanting to play two quarterbacks. How do you feel about that?

RM: I feel like I'm in a blessed situation. I can't be real choosy. I'm coming off of two ACLs and all that, so whatever I can do to help out. Last week, it felt good and I felt like I played very well. I'm happy the most that I'm comfortable in the offense now. I can audible out of stuff, I can get the flow of the game a lot better, so I just want to manage the game and whenever my number is called, I'll be ready.

You've been through a lot with the injuries. How has that experience changed you?

RM: It's definitely humbling. You definitely view the game as a game. I felt like when I was a little bit younger, coming out of high school, you see football as your world and your everything. Not that I don't still love the sport and I love playing it, but you have to understand there's much more to life than just a football game. And it also brought my family a lot closer. They're always there for me, and there are a lot of dark days before there are bright days. Hopefully, we get a couple wins.

What are your expectations individually and for the team the rest of the year?

RM: The biggest one is just to win and be a leader. I feel like I can bring some different things to the table from the quarterback position and just get the ball out of my hands. We've got a lot of playmakers people need to know about on this team. Hopefully, I can help that process.

Who are some of those guys?

RM: Justin Siller, No. 2, is a big-time receiver, a physical guy on the edge. We've got to get the ball in his hands. Then you've got guys like O.J. [Ross] and Antavian Edison out there at slot [receiver]. It's a great matchup because [Edison] lines up a lot against linebackers, and if you can get him one-on-one with the safety, that ball normally comes out to him.

Is this an opportunity for the Purdue offense to make a statement?

RM: It's a big statement for the team, the program, to see where we're at. You've got to start beating the big dogs, and Notre Dame's obviously that. I have a lot of respect for them, and hopefully, we can go out there, sling it around a little bit and get a win.
You expected a few hiccups from Purdue's offense after it lost starting quarterback Rob Henry to a torn ACL less than two weeks before the season.

The Boilers struggled in the first quarter of their opener against Middle Tennessee, committing two turnovers and failing to convert on any of their first four third-down opportunities. But the defense has limited the damage, and Purdue just mounted a confidence-building 11-play, 98-yard yard touchdown drive to take a 10-7 lead.

Caleb TerBush seems to be getting a little more comfortable at quarterback, and he's getting help from receiver Justin Siller (4 receptions, 57 yards) and running back Ralph Bolden (8 carries, 37 yards). The long drive certainly could be the start of a surge for TerBush, who has hit on 8 of 13 passes with a touchdown and an interception.
We've been ranking each position group in the Big Ten, and so far we've looked at running backs and quarterbacks. Today, let's finish off the offensive skill positions with receivers and tight ends.

The Big Ten is blessed with plenty of standout wide receivers, but remember these rankings heavily account for overall depth at the position, not just isolated star power. We're also including the tight ends in this group while acknowledging that the best ones aren't necessarily big-time pass-catchers.

Here's how we rank them:

[+] EnlargeB.J. Cunningham
Andrew Weber/US PresswireB.J. Cunningham had the best numbers last season among a deep group of receivers and tight ends.
1. Michigan State: The Spartans may lack a true superstar, though senior B.J. Cunningham (50 catches for 611 yards and nine touchdowns in 2010) is pretty darn good. What Mark Dantonio can really count on is depth. Cunningham has good size at 6-foot-2, while Keshawn Martin is a speed-burner. Keith Nichol and Bennie Fowler fill out a solid cast of receivers, and when you throw in Brian Linthicum and Dion Sims at tight end, this group deserves the top spot.

2. Michigan: If Darryl Stonum weren't suspended indefinitely, this group might be No. 1. It's still pretty good as things stand now. Roy Roundtree leads the way after catching 72 passes for 935 yards and seven touchdowns last year, and Junior Hemingway is a strong secondary option for Denard Robinson. Tight end Kevin Koger is a third-year starter who can occasionally make big plays in the passing game.

3. Northwestern: Senior Jeremy Ebert (62 catches for 935 yards and eight touchdowns last season) was a first-team All-Big Ten performer as voted by the media. Demetrius Fields had 25 receptions last year, and the Wildcats are counting on big improvements from sophomores Rashad Lawrence, Tony Jones and Venric Mark. Northwestern uses its superback position as a tight end, and Drake Dunsmore had 40 catches from that spot last year.

4. Indiana: The Hoosiers languish at the bottom of many of these rankings, but receiver/tight end is a point of pride. Senior Damarlo Belcher led the Big Ten with 78 catches last year on his way to 832 yards. Even with the loss of Tandon Doss and Terrance Turner, who each had more than 60 catches in '10, new coach Kevin Wilson has a solid corps behind Belcher with Duwyce Wilson and Kofi Hughes, among others. And Ted Bolser is a highly productive tight end who had 27 catches for 407 yards and five scores a year ago.

5. Penn State: Three of the top four receivers from last year return, including No. 1 target Derek Moye (his 16.7 yards per catch average was second in the Big Ten a year ago). Justin Brown and Devon Smith need to continue moving forward. Will the Nittany Lions get anything out of Curtis Drake, who's trying to return from his second broken leg? Penn State hopes to get something out of the tight end position, where Andrew Szczerba and Garry Gilliam dealt with season-ending injuries last year.

6. Wisconsin: Once we reach the middle of these rankings, the units start to become interchangeable and a little indistinguishable. Wisconsin doesn't have to throw it too much because of its stellar running game, but the Badgers have some solid choices when they do go to the air. Senior Nick Toon has the talent to record more than the 36 catches and 459 yards he produced a year ago. Jared Abbrederis should continue to come along after a nice freshman campaign. There's potential but not much experience among the rest of the receivers. Star tight end Lance Kendricks will be tough to replace, but Jake Byrne is an outstanding blocker and Jacob Pedersen caught two touchdowns last year.

7. Nebraska: Brandon Kinnie is the leader here, and the 6-foot-3 senior isn't afraid to make the big catch. Freshmen Jamal Turner and Kenny Bell had nice springs and could add some playmaking skills to a largely unproven crew around Kinnie. Kyler Reed might be the most dangerous pass-catching tight end in the Big Ten, if not the country, after hauling in eight touchdowns and 18 yards per reception a year ago.

[+] EnlargeMarvin McNutt
Scott Boehm/Getty Images Marvin McNutt will be expected to be the No.1 wideout for the Hawkeyes this season.
8. Iowa: Senior Marvin McNutt is the go-to option after recording 861 yards and eight touchdowns last season. The Hawkeyes will look to junior Keenan Davis to improve and become the No. 2 target. Just about everyone else is green. Tight end is usually a strength for Kirk Ferentz and should be again with senior Brad Herman and a group of talented backups behind him.

9. Ohio State: Seems like we write this a lot, but the Buckeyes would be ranked higher if their star player in this group were available an entire season. But DeVier Posey's five-game suspension means this is an awfully young corps, and that inexperience showed with some inconsistent play this spring. Ohio State will need talented sophomore Corey "Philly" Brown to take a big leap forward and youngsters like Chris Fields, T.Y. Williams and James Louis to contribute in Posey's absence. Tight end Jake Stoneburner might have to become a bigger presence in the passing game.

10. Purdue: The Boilermakers have some decent depth but no proven stars. Antavian Edison is the leading returning receiver with just 314 yards last year, though the junior does have good speed. Justin Siller is talented but has had trouble staying healthy. Purdue lost two solid veterans at tight end in Kyle Adams and Jeff Lindsay and added a couple of potential replacements, including former basketball player Patrick Bade, this summer.

11. Minnesota: Da'Jon McKnight tied for second in the Big Ten last year with 10 receiving touchdowns. But the Gophers' second-leading receiver last season was MarQueis Gray, who's now their starting quarterback. Brandon Green could help after an injury-plagued season. Tight end Eric Lair can grab a few passes, as he did 39 times in 2010.

12. Illinois: The good news: A.J. Jenkins is a reliable weapon who had 746 yards and seven touchdowns last season. The bad news: There's not much experience behind him. Perhaps Ryan Lankford, who starred in the spring while Jenkins was out with an injury, will emerge as a star his sophomore year. Evan Wilson is back at tight end after starting 11 games as a freshman.

Spring game recap: Purdue

April, 11, 2011
4/11/11
11:00
AM ET
Purdue wrapped up spring practice Saturday with the Black and Gold Game, the first spring game in the Big Ten this year. The Gold team prevailed 14-3 behind touchdown receptions by Justin Siller and Normando Harris.

Let's take a closer look at the game.

Game coverage: Here and here and here.

Quotable: "We're not going to have great talent sitting on the sideline. Rob Henry is a great talent. Robert Marve is a great talent and Caleb TerBush is a great talent. We're going to find a way for all three of those guys to help us win, regardless of how it shakes down on the depth chart." -- coach Danny Hope on his quarterbacks

Highlights
  • Top quarterback Rob Henry had a decent day for the Gold squad, completing 8 of 12 passes for 76 yards with a touchdown and an interception, and adding 27 rush yards. Caleb TerBush called signals for both teams and completed 16 of 27 passes for 172 yards with a score and an interception. Receiver Antavian Edison capped a strong spring with five receptions and two rushes for 26 yards.
  • Purdue's defense was the more dominant unit for much of the scrimmage. Linebacker Antwon Higgs and safeties Logan Link and Jarrett Dieudonne all recorded interceptions, and the teams combined for seven "sacks," including two apiece by defensive ends Robert Maci and Ryan Russell (Black team).
  • It's rare when a kicker steals the show at a spring game, but Carson Wiggs isn't your typical specialist. The bionic-legged Wiggs, who kicked the nation's longest field goal (59 yards) last season, put on a display just before halftime. He kicked five field goals, including a 67-yarder that would have been good from 75. Wiggs also connected from 57, 52, 47 and 42 yards and missed from 62. That's called range, people.
  • Purdue on Friday announced six team captains for 2011: Henry, Wiggs, defensive tackle Kawann Short, offensive tackle Dennis Kelly and linebackers Joe Holland and Chris Carlino. The most significant selection is Henry, just a sophomore. Although Purdue's quarterback race isn't over as Robert Marve will rejoin the mix this summer, Henry separated himself this spring and clearly has the support of his teammates. It'll be an interesting decision for Hope, who has a lot invested in Marve but has repeatedly praised Henry's progress.
Keith Smith doesn't sound bitter or defeated.

Like he has many times before, the Purdue receiver is taking the high road.

We're still waiting for an explanation as to why the NCAA denied Smith a sixth year of eligibility at Purdue. Another season in college would have allowed Smith to fully recover from knee surgery, improve his game and showcase his skills for NFL talent evaluators during the fall.

Instead, the pro process speeds up for the Boilers' All-Big Ten receiver, but he's taking the news in stride.

"It’s not that it’s disappointing," Smith said Tuesday in a conference call with reporters. "It’s just a different path now. It’s now to go further and play in the NFL. I’m sad I can’t go out there on Saturdays and play with my teammates anymore, but now it’s to take my life a step further and play on Sundays."

Smith remained optimistic while awaiting a decision, but the longer he waited, the more he prepared for the NCAA to deny his request. He admitted his situation is unique but felt he had presented a strong argument for a sixth year at Purdue.

Central to Smith's case was him redshirting the 2007 season. He left school that spring because of a family situation at home in Texas and fell behind academically. Although he returned before the fall, an ankle injury prevented him from practicing and required surgery after the season.

Would Smith have been granted a sixth year if his redshirt season was solely because of injury? Tough to tell.

"When it comes down to stuff like this, you don’t really know which way it’s going to go," said Smith, who hasn't been given an explanation for the denial. "You hope for the best but you’re planning for the worst. I’ve been preparing for this decision and now I’m ready to get rolling."

Smith started the process during the weekend as he attended the NFL scouting combine in Indianapolis. Despite his eligibility situation, Smith received an invitation to the event.

Although his knee prevented him from participating in drills, Smith went through medical exams and interviewed with several teams, including the Chicago Bears, San Francisco 49ers and Carolina Panthers.

"The combine helped a lot," he said. "To see the business aspect of the NFL, it’s very straightforward and they let you know that from the first time you step into that building. I'm grateful they invited me."

Smith's rehab is going well and he's running routes at full speed. Although he won't be ready for Purdue's pro day, he plans to work out for NFL teams in mid April, just before the draft. His agent immediately started contacting pro squads after the NCAA's ruling Monday.

Although Smith's return certainly would have helped Purdue, Smith is optimistic about the receiver group, led by Justin Siller.

While Monday's ruling ended Smith's Purdue's career, he's excited about the future -- pro ball and then a career in law enforcement.

"It’s nice to finally get an answer," Smith said, "to know which path my life is going."
Can you feel the love?

It's Valentine's Day, and the celebration is on here at ESPN.com. As some of you scramble for those last-minute gifts, I'm going to pass out Valentine's Day cards to each Big Ten squad.

The cards represent a reason why each team should feel warm and fuzzy heading into the 2011 season.

[+] EnlargeNathan Scheelhaase
Jonathan Daniel/Getty ImagesIllinois QB Nathan Scheelhaase has a promising future.
ILLINOIS: Quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase. He showed a ton of promise in his first season as the starter and made significant strides with his passing between the end of the regular season and the Texas Bowl. Scheelhaase boasts the maturity, poise and confidence to lead the Illini offense for the next three seasons. It also helps that he's a perfect fit for Paul Petrino's offense.

INDIANA: A demanding coaching staff led by Kevin Wilson. Mediocrity no longer will be tolerated in Bloomington, and while it might take some time to get things fully on track, Wilson is going to change the culture around the program. He comes from a big-time program (Oklahoma), has orchestrated a big-time offense and carries big-time expectations for the Hoosiers.

IOWA: Young playmakers on both sides of the ball. Iowa didn't win the Insight Bowl because of its seniors. It won because of a record-setting performance by freshman running back Marcus Coker and a pick-six by sophomore cornerback Micah Hyde. Quarterback James Vandenberg returns to the spotlight after impressing a lot of folks in 2009. Outside expectations likely will be tempered, but the future looks promising for Iowa.

MICHIGAN: Defensive coordinator Greg Mattison. Coach Brady Hoke hit a home run with his choice to rebuild an historically bad defense. Mattison boasts an impressive track record at the college and pro levels, and his recruiting prowess speaks for itself. Although Michigan's defense faces significant challenges in 2011, it no longer will be held back by coaching.

MICHIGAN STATE: A restocked offensive backfield. Most Big Ten teams lose their top quarterback or running back from 2010, but the Spartans bring back all of their leading men. Kirk Cousins enters his third season as the starting quarterback, making him the league's second-most experienced signal caller. He'll be joined by talented running backs Edwin Baker, Le'Veon Bell and Larry Caper.

MINNESOTA: Quarterback MarQueis Gray. Not only is Gray back at his preferred position of quarterback, but he'll be operating in an offense that best suits his talents. It likely will take some time for things to click, but Gray should eventually thrive in a system that values a dual-threat quarterback.

NEBRASKA: The return of three key defenders. Sure, the Huskers lose their share of defensive standouts, but to get defensive tackle Jared Crick, linebacker Lavonte David and cornerback Alfonzo Dennard all back for their senior seasons is huge. Crick will be the Big Ten's most decorated defensive tackle heading into 2011, and he and the other two form a very solid nucleus for Carl Pelini's unit.

OHIO STATE: No juniors departing to the NFL. The silver lining in the suspension saga is Ohio State returns all of its juniors for the 2011 season. If the Buckeyes can survive the first chunk of their season, they'll welcome back some of the league's more proven offensive performers. Ohio State also got a big boost when center Michael Brewster, who isn't among the suspended players, opted to return for his senior season to anchor the offensive line.

NORTHWESTERN: Dan Persa's work ethic. It's not easy to recover from a ruptured Achilles', but no player will work harder in his rehab than Persa, who already is well ahead of schedule. The quarterback had established himself as the team's hardest worker before the injury, and although time will tell if he reclaims his All-Big Ten form, you have to like his chances.

PENN STATE: A stockpile of offensive skill players. Whoever emerges as Penn State's starting quarterback will be surrounded by plenty of weapons in 2011. Derek Moye leads a receiving corps filled with playmakers, and Silas Redd and Stephfon Green give Penn State two home-run threats at running back. Devon Smith and Justin Brown both should see increased touches this coming season.

PURDUE: An offseason to get healthy. No college football team in America needed a healing period more than Purdue, which could be extremely explosive on offense if several players return at full strength. Quarterback Robert Marve, running back Ralph Bolden and receivers Keith Smith and Justin Siller are among the Boilers on the mend. Reserve quarterback Caleb TerBush also is expected to be back this fall.

WISCONSIN: Running backs Montee Ball and James White. Normally, a team losing its starting quarterback, its most experienced running back and two All-American offensive linemen would have reason to be concerned. But the emergence of both Ball and White plus tremendous depth along the offensive line should put Wisconsin in good shape entering the fall. The quarterback question is a valid one, but the Badgers will be able to run the ball effectively.
Why did Purdue miss a bowl for the third consecutive season?

There's an easy answer and a more complicated one.

No college football team in the country endured more major injuries to key offensive players than Purdue did in 2010. The Boilers lost starting running back Ralph Bolden, the Big Ten's third-leading rusher in 2009, to an ACL tear in spring ball. All-Big Ten receiver Keith Smith was the next to go down, tearing both his ACL and MCL after recording 18 receptions in the first two games.

More bad news arrived in Week 4 as starting quarterback Robert Marve tore his ACL against Toledo, marking the second knee ligament tear for the Miami transfer in 15 months. Since backup quarterback Caleb TerBush was ruled ineligible just before the season, Purdue had to turn to a redshirt freshman, Rob Henry, who had auditioned at other positions in spring ball.

But Henry wasn't immune to the injury bug, either, suffering a laceration on his throwing hand against Ohio State after leading Purdue to back-to-back Big Ten wins. Justin Siller, the team's No. 2 wide receiver and a former starting quarterback in 2008, was sidelined with a foot injury, so Purdue turned to true freshman Sean Robinson at quarterback. When Siller returned to the field Nov. 13 against Michigan, he started at quarterback but re-injured his foot on the first play from scrimmage.

It was that kind of season for Purdue.

The injury wave certainly qualifies as a valid reason why the Boilers missed a bowl.

But Purdue still had a chance to go to the postseason despite all its misfortune on the health front.

The Boilers played Wisconsin tough for a half and had chances to win each of their final three games, squandering late leads against both Michigan State and Indiana. They boasted the Big Ten's best defender in end Ryan Kerrigan, the Big Ten's top freshman defender in cornerback Ricardo Allen, an improved defensive front and several offensive playmakers.

Why couldn't the Boilers get over the hump?

They still made too many major mistakes at inopportune times, like getting a punt blocked near the goal line late in the Michigan State game. Purdue ranked near the bottom of the Big Ten in several special-teams categories and struggled on third downs on both sides of the ball.

The Boilers certainly have the potential to end their bowl drought in 2011, especially if all the injured players get healthy. Smith has applied for a sixth year of eligibility and should receive it, and the return of players like Marve and Bolden will spark the league's worst offense. A new-look secondary this fall becomes a more experienced unit in 2011 with players like Allen and safety Logan Link leading the way.

Purdue's biggest challenge will be replacing Kerrigan. Although the Boilers led the Big Ten in both sacks (33) and tackles for loss (91), Kerrigan accounted for big chunks of those totals (12.5 sacks, 26 tackles for loss). Coach Danny Hope needs linemen like Kawann Short and Bruce Gaston to keep making progress.

It's unrealistic to think Purdue will replace Kerrigan, but the team's depth throughout the defense should be better in 2011.

And if the offense gets healthy, the Boilers will be bowling next year.

Big Ten personnel updates

November, 16, 2010
11/16/10
3:00
PM ET
Some personnel nuggets from around the league as we spin toward Week 12.

MICHIGAN STATE

True freshman defensive end William Gholston will miss the remainder of the season after undergoing shoulder surgery. Coach Mark Dantonio said Gholston could have played out the season with the injury, but the surgery would have kept him out for spring practice.

"We felt like, because he's a true freshman and has such a big upside, we needed to have him there for spring ball," Dantonio said.

Gholston, a decorated recruit who began preseason practice at linebacker before moving to defensive end, has appeared in all 10 games this fall and has recorded 13 tackles, five quarterback hurries, a pass breakup and a tackle for loss.

The good news is the Spartans will get dynamic receiver/return man Keshawn Martin back from a foot/ankle injury.

"Keshawn's a huge playmaker for us, a big-play guy, so it'll be a huge boost for us," Dantonio said.

PENN STATE

The Lions will stick with Matt McGloin as their starting quarterback despite the sophomore's struggles in the second half against Ohio State. McGloin tossed two first-half touchdown passes and completed 12 of his first 15 pass attempts against the Buckeyes, but he went just 3-for-13 with two interceptions returned for touchdowns in the second half.

I think Penn State needs to watch McGloin closely against Indiana. He should be able to make plays against the Hoosiers' defense, but it also presents an opportunity to get Rob Bolden some valuable reps.

Linebacker Michael Mauti (elbow) likely will miss the Indiana game, which is a big loss, while reserve running back Stephfon Green should play, Paterno said.

Paterno isn't sure if No. 2 running back Silas Redd will play after the freshman was cited for public urination earlier this week.

ILLINOIS

Sophomore linebacker Evan Frierson has been dismissed from the team two days after his arrest for aggravated battery. Check out more details here, but Frierson is alleged to have punched two people on a street near the Illinois campus early Sunday before fleeing the scene.

"As I have always done, I review each situation on an individual basis and make sure I have all the information," Illinois coach Ron Zook said in a prepared statement. "After a full review, I think it's in Evan's best interest to concentrate on his academics and his legal issues, and he no longer remains a part of our football program."

Frierson isn't a major loss for this year, as he has only six tackles in nine games played. But his departure could thin Illinois' linebacker depth for the future, as Illinois loses Nate Bussey after the season and fourth-year junior Martez Wilson could opt to enter the NFL draft.

PURDUE

The good news is that quarterback Rob Henry's hand seems better this week and the redshirt freshman should take on an increased role Saturday at No. 12 Michigan State. Purdue wants to use Henry as much as possible but will go with true freshman Sean Robinson if necessary.

"We think he's further along now than he has been, obviously, since the Ohio State game, and feel a lot better about him to go out and execute the run offense as well as a pass offense this weekend," coach Danny Hope said. "That hasn't been the case the last couple of weekends."

Justin Siller, meanwhile, likely won't return for Purdue's final two regular-season games after reaggravating his foot injury on the first play from scrimmage against Michigan. Siller made a surprise start at quarterback but left after one play.

INDIANA

Quarterback Ben Chappell didn't practice Monday, which has been the case for the last 4-5 weeks. Coach Bill Lynch remains very optimistic that the senior will play Saturday against Penn State.

That's a very good thing after Chappell left the Wisconsin game in the second quarter with a hip injury.

"As a football team, we did not handle him leaving the game," Lynch said. "As a result, we had no offensive production."

Freshman Antonio Banks will miss the rest of the season after tearing his ACL. Banks is the third Hoosiers freshman back to suffer a major knee injury, joining Matt Perez and Xavier Whitaker.

All three players likely will miss spring practice, Lynch said.

Michigan's defense gets on the board

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
12:25
PM ET
After surrendering far too many big plays for touchdowns this season, Michigan's defense recorded one of its own.

The Wolverines answered a Denard Robinson fumble by forcing one from Purdue, as Craig Roh jarred the ball loose and safety Cameron Gordon raced 61 yards for a touchdown. We know Robinson and the Wolverines don't need much help to score points, but any lift from the defense is appreciated. Roh looks a lot more comfortable at the defensive end spot after playing a hybrid role for the first half of the year.

Purdue is shuffling quarterbacks all over the place. The Boilers started with Justin Siller, who reinjured his foot on the first play from scrimmage and won't return. Rob Henry and Sean Robinson also have taken snaps, but Michigan's D looks good so far.

Michigan leads 7-0 midway through the first quarter.

Justin Siller starts at QB for Purdue

November, 13, 2010
11/13/10
12:06
PM ET
Surprise, surprise: Justin Siller started at quarterback for Purdue today against Michigan.

Siller hasn't played quarterback in a game since 2008, when he started three games and led Purdue to a win against, yep, Michigan. After being suspended for the 2009-10 academic year, Siller returned to the team but was moved from quarterback to wide receiver.

The move came largely because Purdue had enough depth at quarterback. But as we all know, the depth is no more.

Coach Danny Hope said Tuesday that Siller was still struggling to run at full speed because of a foot injury that has sidelined him for several games. Sean Robinson entered the week as the projected starter, but Siller must have gotten healthy in a hurry to make the start.

Very interesting development at Ross-Ade Stadium.

What to watch in the Big Ten: Week 11

November, 11, 2010
11/11/10
10:15
AM ET
Ten items to track in the Big Ten heading into Week 11:

1. 'Eyes face final hurdles before showdown: Most folks believe that no remaining regular season game will impact the Big Ten title race more than No. 9 Ohio State at No. 13 Iowa on Nov. 20 at Kinnick Stadium. But for that game to truly mean something, both the Buckeyes and the Hawkeyes must take care of business this week. Ohio State faces a Penn State squad riding a wave of confidence following three consecutive Big Ten victories. Iowa goes up against its recent nemesis, Northwestern, which has beaten the Hawkeyes in four of the teams' last five games.

[+] EnlargeMcGloin
Charles LeClaire/US PresswireMatt McGloin has earned the starting quarterback job at Penn State.
2. Matt McGloin at the controls: Once an afterthought in Penn State's quarterback competition, McGloin has earned the starter's tag, and deservedly so, for Saturday's game in Columbus. The former walk-on has a distinct swagger and confidence about him that seems to be rubbing off on his teammates. McGloin has 475 pass yards, five touchdowns and no interceptions in his last two games. He faces a much tougher test Saturday in Ohio State, which is tied for sixth nationally in interceptions (16) and will challenge Penn State's improving offensive line with steady blitzing.

3. Hope, Rodriguez reunite: Purdue coach Danny Hope and his Michigan counterpart Rich Rodriguez had an awkward interaction after Purdue's historic win last year at Michigan Stadium. Hope called out Rodriguez for allegedly alerting the Big Ten about a play that resulted in the league suspending Boilers offensive lineman Zach Reckman. The post-game exchange surprised Rodriguez (and most of us, quite frankly). Both Hope and Rodriguez say the issue is in the past, but keep an eye on how the two coaches conduct themselves Saturday, especially if the score is lopsided.

4. Illinois aims to secure bowl eligibility: There's no time for Illinois to wallow in what might have been last week at the Big House. It's never easy to lose in triple overtime, much less when you've scored 65 points and have a plus-4 turnover margin. But Ron Zook must get his team to refocus for last-place Minnesota, as a win will make Illinois bowl eligible for the first time since 2007. Illinois' final two games -- vs. Northwestern at Wrigley Field, and at Fresno State -- are no gimmes, so the Illini must take care of business against the hapless Gophers. Look for big things from Mikel Leshoure, Nathan Scheelhaase and the Illinois ground attack against a Minnesota defense that ranks 106th nationally against the run (200.5 ypg).

5. Wisconsin's running back rotation: After providing a huge lift in Wisconsin's last two victories, Montee Ball is expected to get the start at running back Saturday against Indiana. Ball performed well last year against the Hoosiers, racking up 115 rush yards and two touchdowns in a 31-28 win. James White, who leapfrogged Ball for the backup job in the preseason, is getting healthy from a sprained knee and should get a nice chunk of carries as well. Coach Bret Bielema has gone back and forth on the status of starter John Clay (sprained knee), and I wouldn't expect to see much of No. 32 unless Wisconsin finds itself in real trouble.

6. Northwestern returns to finishing school: In two of the last three weeks, Northwestern has gotten away from a hallmark of its program -- the importance of finishing. The Wildcats squandered leads of 17-0 and 24-14 against Michigan State and watched a 21-0 lead against Penn State vanish quickly. Coach Pat Fitzgerald counted 27 missed tackles in the Penn State game, and a young defense seems to be showing its cracks against the play-action pass. Northwestern will need a much stronger performance from the defense against Ricky Stanzi and the dangerous Iowa offense.

7. Offensive Player of the Year race: There's still no clear favorite for Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year as we enter crunch time. Stanzi has been extremely effective and efficient, but he'll need a strong finish to hold off both Denard Robinson and Terrelle Pryor. Robinson, the nation's No. 2 rusher, goes up against Purdue star defensive end Ryan Kerrigan, the frontrunner for Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Pryor has completed better than 75 percent of his passes in five games this season, and he tries to make strides before the showdown against Stanzi and Iowa.

8. Gray day for Minnesota: Interim coach Jeff Horton finally used MarQueis Gray at quarterback last week against Michigan State and likely will do so in a limited role for the rest of the season. Most Minnesota fans consider Gray the team's quarterback of the future, and it's good that he's getting some reps at quarterback before the end of a lost season. Horton isn't going to have Gray run a large package of plays, but the talented sophomore could provide a much-needed spark for an offense that can't seem to get over the hump with Adam Weber at the controls.

9. Robinson vs. Robinson: You shouldn't have trouble remembering the names of the starting quarterbacks Saturday at Ross-Ade Stadium. Denard Robinson will start his 10th consecutive game for Michigan despite leaving last week's game against Illinois with concussion-like symptoms. Purdue once again will turn to true freshman Sean Robinson at quarterback, as both Rob Henry and Justin Siller are still recovering from injuries. Purdue's Robinson provided an early spark last week against Wisconsin and could do some damage against a suspect Michigan defense if he can avoid turnovers.

10. Backing up Belcher: Indiana receiver Damarlo Belcher "felt like a failure" after he dropped the potential game-winning touchdown in the final minute last Saturday against Iowa. Fortunately, Belcher's teammates have picked him up this week, unanimously voting him one of the game captains for the Wisconsin contest. For Indiana to have any shot at a monumental upset, the Hoosiers' passing attack must be on point and Belcher is a huge part of it. Coach Bill Lynch has seen a positive response in practice from Belcher, who leads the Big Ten with 65 receptions.

SPONSORED HEADLINES