NCF Nation: Mickey Shuler

Welcome to National Depth Chart Day. No day on the college football calendar inspires more curiosity about depth charts than the Monday before the season, when most teams release their Week 1 two-deeps.

(And then there's Purdue, which didn't include a depth chart in its game notes for Notre Dame. Ugh.)

I've had the chance to review depth charts from those programs that released them today -- two-deeps from Illinois, Michigan State and Minnesota are coming soon -- and I checked in on several coaches' news conferences.

Here's what stood out:

  • Even though Indiana will shift to a 3-4 defensive alignment this year, the depth chart lists a 4-3 with Darius Johnson and Fred Jones as the starting ends and Chad Sherer and Tyler Replogle flanking junior college transfer Jeff Thomas at linebacker.
  • Interesting to see several veteran offensive linemen like Justin Pagan and Cody Faulkner listed as backups rather than starters. Junior Andrew McDonald steps into some big shoes at left tackle as Rodger Saffold departs to the NFL.
  • The backup quarterback job remains open, as Dusty Kiel and Edward Wright-Baker are both listed as No. 2 behind Ben Chappell.
  • Indiana expects big things from redshirt freshman Duwyce Wilson, listed as a starter at wide receiver, kick returner and punt returner.
  • Sophomores Micah Hyde and Greg Castillo are listed as the starting cornerbacks. Shaun Prater doesn't appear on the depth chart after dealing with a leg injury in camp. Prater hasn't been officially ruled out for the Eastern Illinois game, but I wouldn't expect to see much of him on Saturday.
  • James Ferentz is listed as the starting center, a spot where Iowa might be a little thin following Josh Koeppel's motorcycle accident Monday morning.
  • Starting defensive end Broderick Binns is suspended for the opener, so Christian Ballard is listed as a possible starter at both end and tackle. Mike Daniels and Lebron Daniel are the next options behind Ballard.
  • Sophomores Denard Robinson and Tate Forcier and freshman Devin Gardner are listed as co-starters at quarterback. Head coach Rich Rodriguez reiterated Monday that Gardner won't redshirt this fall.
  • Vincent Smith and Michael Shaw are listed as co-starters at running back, with Michael Cox behind them.
  • True freshman Carvin Johnson is listed as the starter at the spur position (safety/linebacker). Pretty big surprise here, and a testament to Johnson's work in camp.
  • Senior James Rogers steps into Troy Woolfolk's starting cornerback spot opposite J.T. Floyd.
  • Receivers Martavious Odoms and Kelvin Grady clearly showed enough in camp to be listed as starters or possible starters against Connecticut.
  • Sophomore running back Arby Fields returned to practice Monday and wore a no-contact jersey after being sidelined with a shoulder problem. He's listed as a co-starter at running back with Jacob Schmidt and Stephen Simmons. Northwestern wanted a clear No. 1 running back to emerge in camp, but Fields' injury changed the plan.
  • Junior Bryce McNaul is listed as the third top linebacker alongside returning starters Quentin Davie and Nate Williams. McNaul won the job in camp.
  • Venric Mark is the only true freshman listed on the depth chart, both as a backup wide receiver and a co-starter at punt returner. I'll go out on a huge limb (sarcasm) and predict Mark will be the man on returns for the Wildcats very shortly.
  • Junior defensive end Nathan Williams, a projected starter, will miss the Marshall game with a knee injury. He should be back shortly thereafter. Solomon Thomas will start in Williams' spot Thursday night.
  • Starting cornerback Chimdi Chekwa (hamstring) is questionable for the Marshall game, but corner Devon Torrence (hamstring) should be fine.
  • Sophomore C.J. Barnett's strong performance in camp lifted him ahead of Orhian Johnson on the Week 1 depth chart. Johnson missed a chunk of camp with an injury.
  • Start salivating, Buckeyes fans, because running backs Jordan Hall and Jaamal Berry likely will handle kickoff returns against Marshall.
  • Sophomores Kevin Newsome and Matt McGloin and freshman Robert Bolden are listed as co-starters at quarterback for the Youngstown State game.
  • Sophomore Devon Smith's strong camp landed him a starting spot at both receiver and kick returner, and a backup role on punt returns.
  • Redshirt freshman Garry Gilliam is listed as the starting tight end, as Andrew Szczerba likely will miss the opener with a back injury. Penn State obviously is thin here after losing Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.
  • Veterans Nate Stupar, Chris Colasanti and Bani Gbadyu are listed as the starting linebackers, with promising younger players like Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges right behind them.
  • After a very impressive camp, freshman running back James White appears at No. 3 on the depth chart behind both John Clay and Montee Ball. White also is the No. 2 punt returner behind David Gilreath. His emergence likely will result in veteran Zach Brown redshirting the season.
  • Senior Blake Sorensen likely will start at outside linebacker, as Mike Taylor continues to rehab after undergoing a second procedure on his knee in camp. Culmer St. Jean and Chris Borland are listed as the other starting linebackers.
  • The starting cornerback spots remain open, as Niles Brinkley, Antonio Fenelus and Devin Smith will compete in practice this week.

Big Ten position rankings: WR/TE

August, 23, 2010
The position rankings move on to the wide receivers and tight ends, who will be grouped together. The Big Ten remains a defense-first conference, but I really like the depth at receiver and, to a lesser extent, tight end throughout the league. Although star power was considered, I put a very strong emphasis on overall depth and 2010 potential here.

This was the toughest position to whittle down to five (actually, six), but here goes ...

[+] EnlargeCunningham/Dell
Al Messerschmidt/Getty ImagesMark Dell (left) and B.J. Cunningham headline an experienced group of receivers for Michigan State.
1. Michigan State: Sure, there's a lack of star power entering the season, but trust me, that will change. There's not a deeper group of receivers and tight ends in the Big Ten than this one. Veterans B.J. Cunningham and Mark Dell anchor the receiving corps, and dangerous speedster Keshawn Martin will play a much bigger role in the offense this season. Converted quarterback Keith Nichol also joins the mix there. Michigan State also boasts three talented tight ends, including Mackey Award watch list members Charlie Gantt and Brian Linthicum.

2. Indiana: The Hoosiers return two of the Big Ten's top five receivers in Tandon Doss, a first-team all-conference selection, and Damarlo Belcher. They also add experience with Terrance Turner and exciting young players like Duwyce Wilson and Dre Muhammad. Overall depth is a bit of a question mark, but both Doss and Belcher will get the attention of opposing defensive backs after combining for 1,732 receiving yards and 10 touchdowns last fall. Max Dedmond returns at tight end after recording 18 receptions in 2009.

3. Wisconsin: I'm not completely sold on this entire group, although receiver Nick Toon and tight end Lance Kendricks should contend for All-Big Ten honors this fall. Isaac Anderson and David Gilreath both boast a ton of experience, but must take the next step in their development. Wisconsin could use a rebound season from Kyle Jefferson, and walk-on Jared Abbrederis continues to make plays in practice and should be a contributor this fall.

4. Purdue: Surprised by my choices so far? You won't be when the season starts. Like Michigan State, Purdue's depth will reveal itself this fall. The Boilers are led by Keith Smith, a first-team All-Big Ten selection in 2009 and the league's top returning receiver (1,100 yards). He's joined by two veterans in receiver Cortez Smith and tight end Kyle Adams. But the real boost could come from young players like Antavian Edison and Gary Bush, as well as Justin Siller, the team's former starting quarterback who brings size and big-play ability to the perimeter.

T-5: Penn State: I'm tempted to rank the Lions a little higher but want to see how the entire group performs this season, provided they get the ball thrown to them. Derek Moye has all the tools to be an All-Big Ten receiver after recording 48 receptions for 765 yards and six touchdowns last season. Graham Zug is a very solid target who reached the end zone seven times in 2009. Although Chaz Powell moves to defense, Penn State boasts several exciting young wideouts like Devon Smith. Tight end is a big question mark after the departures of Andrew Quarless and Mickey Shuler.

T-5. Iowa: The Hawkeyes boast the league's top big-play tandem at receiver in Derrell Johnson-Koulianos and Marvin McNutt. DJK is on track to become the team's all-time leading receiver this fall, and McNutt averaged 19.8 yards per catch and scored eight touchdowns in 2009. I like the potential of guys like Keenan Davis and Paul Chaney Jr., who returns from a knee injury. Tony Moeaki is a major loss at tight end, but Allen Reisner returns and talented freshman C.J. Fiedorowicz enters the fold.

Just missed the cut: Ohio State, Michigan

Up next: Quarterbacks

More rankings ...

Posted by's Adam Rittenberg

1. Daryll Clark's response -- The Penn State quarterback took the blame for the Iowa loss and admits he's struggling right now. There has also been some ridiculous talk about replacing Clark with Pat Devlin. Clark shouldn't have to worry about his job, but he needs to get on track again against a woeful Indiana defense that has been hit hard by injuries in the secondary. This is the perfect game for Clark and the Nittany Lions to revive the big-play attack.

2. Ohio State defense vs. Juice Williams -- Williams toyed with the Buckeyes last fall in Columbus, throwing four touchdown passes and racking up 70 rush yards. He almost single-handedly ran out the final eight minutes to preserve a 28-21 upset. You can bet Malcolm Jenkins, James Laurinaitis and Ohio State's other defenders are itching to face Williams again in Champaign (ESPN, noon ET). Ohio State's defense is hitting its stride, but Williams will provide a good test.

3. Bret Bielema and Tim Brewster -- Something is bound to happen in the already simmering Wisconsin-Minnesota rivalry, and it will be interesting to see what the two head coaches say and do during and after Saturday's game. Bielema's dash to midfield after last year's Wisconsin win made waves this week, and Brewster has already declared Wisconsin as Minnesota's top rival. There should be some fireworks in Madison (ABC, 3:30 p.m.).

4. Makeshift offensive backfields at the Big House -- Both Northwestern and Michigan are dealing with injuries at quarterback and running back heading into Saturday's matchup (ESPN2, noon ET). Given both teams' problems with turnovers this season, the group that takes better care of the football likely comes out with the win. Michigan quarterback Nick Sheridan tries to build off a strong performance last week in his second straight start, while Northwestern senior quarterback C.J. Bacher likely will return to the field after sitting out the past two weeks with a hamstring injury. Michael Shaw (Michigan) and Stephen Simmons (Northwestern) likely get the starts at running back.

5. Illinois tries to continue crazy pattern -- Since Sept. 13, Illinois has alternated wins and losses. It's not what head coach Ron Zook had in mind, but he wouldn't mind if it continued Saturday against No. 11 Ohio State. Illinois lost last week against Western Michigan and needs a win to get bowl eligible. The Illini usually play the Buckeyes tough, but Ohio State has won 14 straight Big Ten road games.

6. Purdue's quarterback situation -- Fifth-year senior Curtis Painter should return in some form at Iowa, but redshirt freshman Justin Siller is expected to start for the Boilermakers. Head coach Joe Tiller hinted at having a quarterback rotation, with Painter being used for the two-minute drill. The quarterbacks' differing skill sets could present some problems for Iowa, but both players will need to perform well to give Purdue a chance for the upset.

7. Minnesota tries to survive without Eric Decker -- The Gophers' offense was downright awful last week, and they'll be without star wide receiver Eric Decker (high ankle sprain) at Wisconsin. Freshmen Brandon Green and Brodrick Smith and sophomore Ralph Spry will have to step up, but perhaps more important, Minnesota must generate a running game outside of quarterback Adam Weber.

8. Derrick Williams -- If Penn State had held on to beat Iowa, Williams would have been a big story. Penn State used Williams in the "Wildcat" formation, in part to protect Clark, and the senior showcased his speed and versatility. In addition to running for a touchdown, Williams completed a 23-yard pass to Mickey Shuler for Penn State's only play of longer than 20 yards. The Lions likely will continue to expand Williams' role and maximize his versatility against Indiana.

9. Shonn Greene -- Expect to see the Iowa junior running back on this list for the rest of the season. He's just that good, and I don't think we'll see him in college next fall. Greene aims for his 11th consecutive 100-yard rushing game against Purdue, which ranks 90th nationally in rush defense (172.8 ypg). He got a bit banged up on a fourth-quarter touchdown run last week against Penn State but is expected to be fine for Saturday's game.

10. Michigan's final home appearance -- The Wolverines won't be going bowling, but a second straight win and a favorable send-off for the seniors would dull the pain for their fans, who have booed quite a bit this season. Obviously, an upset next week in Columbus would be bigger for the Wolverines, but another victory against a team with a winning record will help matters.