NCF Nation: Malcolm Arrington
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Most of the major transfer news in the Big Ten has centered on players leaving the league, particularly at the quarterback position. Three prominent signal-callers transferred from Big Ten schools -- Michigan's Steven Threet, Penn State's Pat Devlin and Iowa's Jake Christensen -- and Wisconsin announced Monday that reserve quarterback James Stallons was granted his release.
But there are several key additions to Big Ten teams who will become eligible this fall. Here's a look at five transfers from other FBS programs who could make a major impact in 2009.
|Michigan transfer Justin Boren could step in and be the Buckeyes' top offensive lineman.|
Michigan State quarterback Keith Nichol (Oklahoma) -- It's hard to blame Nichol for transferring from Oklahoma, particularly with that Bradford guy ahead of him on the depth chart. He returns to his home state and will compete for the starting job alongside sophomore Kirk Cousins. A dual-threat quarterback who has drawn comparisons to former Spartans star Drew Stanton, Nichol brings a unique skill set to an offense that needs a spark without Javon Ringer.
Ohio State offensive lineman Justin Boren (Michigan) -- There's already talk that Boren will be Ohio State's top offensive lineman when he steps on the practice field this spring. He started all 13 games for Michigan as a sophomore in 2007 and looks like a lock for a starting guard spot with the Buckeyes. Boren will be a lightning rod for the rest of his career because he transferred from Michigan to Ohio State, but his ability merits attention as well.
Illinois wide receiver Jarred Fayson (Florida) -- Quarterback Juice Williams mentioned Fayson as an emerging team leader during the offseason, and the Florida transfer will enter the receiver rotation this fall. Illinois boasts a lot of talent at wide receiver, so Fayson will need to distinguish himself in spring ball. But the heralded high school recruit contributed as a receiver, runner and return man for Florida in 2006 and should find his way on the field.
Minnesota offensive lineman Matt Carufel (Notre Dame) -- Minnesota's offense is getting a makeover under coordinator Jedd Fisch and line coach Tim Davis, and Carufel should play a role this fall as the Gophers emphasize the power run again. Carufel started the first three games of 2007 at Notre Dame before deciding to transfer. The Gophers' struggles on the line should create plenty of competition during the spring and summer, and Carufel will be in the mix for a starting job.
Northwestern linebacker Aaron Nagel (Notre Dame) -- A traffic jam at linebacker last spring caused Nagel to leave Notre Dame for Northwestern, where he joins his brother Brett, a redshirt freshman fullback/tight end. The Wildcats lose two starting linebackers (Malcolm Arrington and Prince Kwateng), so Nagel will have the opportunity to earn significant playing time, which he wasn't getting with the Irish.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Without Penn State or Ohio State on the slate, the Big Ten looked strapped for storylines on Saturday. But an entertaining five-pack of games produced top-shelf highlights, fantastic finishes and important lessons. It's time to study up.
1. Michigan State has turned the corner -- Those not quite convinced of the Spartans' renaissance after the Michigan win had to be sold after Saturday's dramatic victory against Wisconsin. In the past, Michigan State wouldn't survive sluggish starts or an opponent shutting down its best player (Javon Ringer). The Spartans would have lost a game like this one. But head coach Mark Dantonio has instilled a stronger mind-set with his team, and Michigan State surged in the fourth quarter.
2. Michigan coach Rich Rodriguez hasn't delivered -- Rodriguez might be fine once he gets his own recruits, but his failure to successfully adapt to Michigan's current personnel raises some serious doubts. Sure, the offseason transition was tumultuous, the program's culture changed significantly and the holdovers were largely untested. But Michigan had found ways to reach bowls in 33 consecutive seasons and had posted winning records for four decades. Both of those streaks are history, and a segment of Michigan fans are left wondering whether the school made the right choice with RichRod.
3. Northwestern boasts greater depth than in past seasons -- The Wildcats lost starters at arguably the three most important positions on the field -- quarterback, running back and middle linebacker -- and they still found a way to beat No. 17 Minnesota on the road. Mike Kafka became the latest Big Ten backup quarterback to step up in a tough situation, raising hope for the program's future beyond the season. Despite the season-ending loss of Malcolm Arrington at middle linebacker, Northwestern's defense shut out Minnesota in the second half and forced the decisive turnover in the final minute.
4. Inconsistency continues in Big Ten's second tier -- The Big Ten hierarchy seems clear after 10 weeks, with Penn State, Ohio State and Michigan State at the top and positioned to play on Jan. 1 or, in the Nittany Lions' case, even later. But the next cluster of teams has been wildly unpredictable. Minnesota joined the Jekyll-and-Hyde posse after a Homecoming loss to Northwestern, which rebounded from an unsightly setback last week at Indiana. Illinois continued its win-one, lose-one pattern with a big win against Iowa, which looked flat on offense after a bye week. Wisconsin blew another fourth-quarter lead at Michigan State and needs a win next week to boost its bowl hopes.
5. Quarterback play could be better in 2009 -- It hasn't been a good year for Big Ten quarterbacks, particularly fifth-year seniors, but better days are ahead. Kafka's running ability makes him an excellent fit for Northwestern's spread offense. Purdue's Justin Siller shined in his first career start, accounting for four touchdowns in a shootout win against Michigan. Wisconsin's Dustin Sherer gave his team a chance to win. All three players will be in the mix to start next season.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Check back later this afternoon for an item about Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber and his amazingly quick recovery from knee surgery. But first, read about what's happening around the Big Ten.
- Ohio State simply won't go away, and no matter your feelings on the Buckeyes, you have to admire their resiliency. More adversity arrives Saturday night in the form of No. 3 Penn State, Ken Gordon writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Penn State likely will remain No. 3 in the BCS standings if both Texas and Alabama continue to win, and Lions coach Joe Paterno no longer can affect the voting. He withdrew from the coaches' poll in 2004 after the Auburn controversy, Jeff McLane writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Mark Dantonio is great for the Michigan State-Michigan rivalry, and the Spartans coach doesn't back down from his comments after last year's game, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press. Here's a great piece about the cultural differences between the two schools from Lynn Henning of The Detroit News.
- With Wisconsin struggling and the heat rising on Bret Bielema, athletic director and former football coach Barry Alvarez needs to speak up, Tom Oates writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
But now that Bielema is facing his first major crisis in three years as UW's head coach, Alvarez has been as invisible as the Badgers' defense was Saturday. He has turned down all media requests to discuss the state of the program and the performance of its coach.
It's obvious why Alvarez is taking that approach. He doesn't want to dignify the public discussion of Bielema's job status by even acknowledging it.
That may be a noble sentiment, but it is horribly unrealistic. The talk is out there and ignoring it won't make it go away. In the meantime, it is potentially damaging to Bielema and to the program.
- Indiana's search for an athletic director is down to five finalists, and Oregon State AD Bob De Carolis looks like the frontrunner, Chris Korman writes in the Bloomington Herald-Times (subscription required).
- Despite the late date, Northwestern middle linebacker Malcolm Arrington will apply for a medical hardship waiver after sustaining a season-ending left knee injury, Jim O'Donnell writes in the Chicago Sun-Times.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
While I listen to Big Ten coaches yak about their teams, you should check out what's happening around the league.
- Michigan has beaten in-state rival Michigan State six consecutive times, but the struggling Wolverines will be the more desperate team Saturday, Drew Sharp writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Who deserves to be called Linebacker U? Both Penn State and Ohio State stake their claim to the nickname, Cory Giger writes in The Altoona Mirror.
"They talk about these linebackers from USC and Ohio State,'' former Penn State linebacker LaVar Arrington said Monday. ''Let's be realistic here. Ohio State got whupped by USC, which shows how inferior they are. Oregon State whupped on USC and showed how inferior USC's linebackers are. And you know what? Penn State whupped on Oregon State, and they're going to whup on Ohio State."
- Wisconsin's losing streak has brought down sales of cardinal windbreakers in Madison -- and coach Bret Bielema's approval rating, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
Someone told Bielema about comments complaining about the zipped-up windbreaker he wears for every game.
"I thought back to my freshman [first] year [at UW] when I was told by the merchandising people [that] they couldn't keep enough windbreakers in stock," Bielema said. "It goes to show, when you're winning, everybody agrees with what you're doing. When you're losing, everybody's got all the answers, because the right answer isn't out there. So, I appreciate that and thank God we have fans that care."
- Coach Mark Dantonio's post-Michigan rant and Brandon Graham's claim that Michigan will never lose to Michigan State fuels the rivalry, which resumes Saturday in Ann Arbor, Joe Rexrode writes in the Lansing State Journal.
- Northwestern middle linebacker Nate Williams used to collect money from his dad for each hustle play. The Wildcats now need Williams to make dividends as a starter after the season-ending loss of Malcolm Arrington, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Iowa quarterback Jake Christensen has handled his demotion with class this fall, Pat Harty writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
BLOOMINGTON, Ind. -- It's Big Ten preview day, so check back for updates about the league's top stories this season. If my flight to O'Hare arrives relatively on time -- famous last words -- I'll be chatting today at 4 p.m. My opening act is Illinois quarterback Juice Williams, who chats at 1:15 p.m. ET. He'll do. After finishing up a few things in Bloomington, I'm on to Ohio State tomorrow, where Beanie Wells, Brian Robiskie and others will be available.
- Illinois coach Ron Zook thinks Williams can complete 70 percent of his passes this fall, CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd writes. The (Champaign, Ill.) News-Gazette's Bob Asmussen hands out his Camp Rantoul awards for Illinois. Wideout Chris Duvalt takes home MVP honors.
- Investigators in the sexual assault case involving two former Iowa football players questioned the alleged victim and her family, the Iowa City Press-Citizen reports. The Hawkeyes' receiving corps is healthy and deep, Eric Page writes in the Quad City Times.
- Indiana's depth at the skill positions has kept expectations high, LaMond Pope writes in The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette.
- Michigan offensive lineman Elliott Mealer is struggling to regain a sense of normalcy after the car crash that killed his father and girlfriend and seriously injured his brother last Christmas Eve, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Guard Cory Zirbel's injury has prompted John Ferrara to move from defense to offense, John Heuser writes in the Ann Arbor News. Wideout Terrance Robinson is also out for several weeks with an injury.
- Greg Jones is Michigan State's best linebacker, but which spot will he occupy this season? The Spartans are still figuring it out, Andrew Mouranie writes in the Lansing State Journal. Michigan State got a wonderful surprise Wednesday as Arthur Ray Jr., the offensive lineman who battled cancer last season and is still working his way back, visited practice, Eric Lacy writes in The Detroit News.
- Playing college football is all in the family for the Tow-Arnett brothers at Minnesota, Dennis Brackin writes in the (Minneapolis) Star Tribune. Quad injuries have dogged Ben Kuznia, but the Gophers wideout now finds himself running with the 1's, Scott Thoma writes in the West Central Tribune.
- Northwestern hopes for a defensive resurgence with Malcolm (Arrington) in the middle, Jim O'Donnell writes in the Chicago Sun-Times. Arrington will replace standout Adam Kadela, who still stings from missing a bowl game last season.
- Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith sent a letter to fans lamenting Time Warner's decision not to pick up the Big Ten Network and asking subscribers to switch their cable providers, Jeffrey Sheban writes in the Columbus Dispatch. Here's Smith's letter. Turning back to the field, the Buckeyes hope to regain their trademark excellence on special teams, Matt Markey writes in The (Toledo) Blade. Former Texas and Arizona coach John Mackovic picks Ohio State to knock off USC.
- Special teams is also on the brain at Penn State, which struggled on kickoff coverage last year, Ben Brigandi writes in The Altoona Mirror. Lions coach Joe Paterno is looking for a leader at linebacker. Todd Sponsler of the 50-yard Lion blog reveals his preseason Top 25, which includes Penn State at No. 14. Bleacher Report ranks its top 12 surprise blowouts in college football history, and Penn State's 48-14 trouncing of No. 1 Pitt in 1981 tops the list.
- Boilermakers coach Joe Tiller weighs in on the NCAA's decision to ban horse-collar tackles.
- Allan Evridge is Wisconsin's starting quarterback, but the No. 2 job remains open, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Wisconsin fullback Chris Pressley welcomes the responsibility of being a captain this fall, Jim Polzin writes in The Capital Times. Central Michigan transfer J.J. Watt can't wait to suit up for the Badgers, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.