NCF Nation: Mike Neal

Kawann Short didn't make a rash decision on whether to remain at Purdue for his senior season or enter the NFL draft.

[+] EnlargeKawann Short
Jeff Hanisch/US PresswirePurdue defensive tackle Kawann Short hopes to improve areas like endurance, flexibility and quickness.
He laid out the pros and cons in the days following Purdue's win in the Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. He talked extensively with his mom, who like any mother, wants her son to earn his college degree. He also reached out to former Boilermakers teammates and current NFL defensive linemen Ryan Kerrigan and Mike Neal.

Short received a third-round grade from the NFL draft advisory board, which didn't disappoint him. He also faced the uncertainty of playing for a new defensive coordinator for the third straight year, as Purdue parted ways with Gary Emanuel after the bowl game.

"Every day is something different, like yeah, should I go, or yeah, should I stay," Short said Friday. "That whole week was pretty interesting."

Ultimately, he decided to return. The desire to boost his draft stock and complete his degree brought him back to Purdue, a team that could make some noise in a wide-open Leaders division in 2012.

The correspondence with both Neal and Kerrigan helped Short during the process. Neal received a fifth-round grade after the 2008 season but opted to return and was selected in the second round of the 2010 draft by the Green Bay Packers.

Kerrigan also finished his career at Purdue, earning unanimous All-America honors as a senior before becoming a first-round pick of the Washington Redskins last April. He starred for the Redskins this past season and made the NFL's all-rookie team.

"Both of their speeches were pretty amazing," Short said.

The big gamble for Short in returning to Purdue is the coordinator change. He excelled in Emanuel's system, earning All-Big Ten honors the past two seasons and recording 12.5 sacks and 29.5 tackles for loss during the span.

Short asked himself questions like: What's next? What scheme will they bring in? Will it mess me up or benefit the whole team?

Like many, he was caught off guard by Emanuel's departure, which took place while players were on winter break. He found out after teammates started calling and texting.

"I thought everything was good," he said. "A couple days later you find out coach is leaving and a new defensive coordinator [is coming in]."

Short has yet to talk with new Boilers coordinator Tim Tisebar, who comes to Purdue from the CFL's Montreal Alouettes.

"I heard he's a pretty good guy, coming from [strength coach Duane Carlisle]," Short said. "I don't think he’ll steer us in the wrong direction. ... I don't know what type of defense he'll run or what scheme. I just have to step up and face it."

Short wants to become one of the nation's elite defensive linemen in 2012. He aims to become an every-down player and improve areas like endurance, flexibility and quickness. He hopes to become a captain again -- "Hopefully, I'll get re-voted," he said with a laugh.

"The draft can make you or break you," Short said. "There's a lot of stuff I know I need to work on."
Indiana made things official Monday afternoon and announced Mike Ekeler and Doug Mallory as its new co-defensive coordinators.

Ekeler comes to IU from future Big Ten member Nebraska, where he coached the linebackers and helped mold players like Lavonte David and Phillip Dillard into stars. Mallory, a very familiar surname to Indiana fans, served as New Mexico's defensive coordinator the past two seasons.

Ekeler will continue to coach linebackers with the Hoosiers, while Mallory, the son of former IU coach Bill Mallory, will work with the safeties.
"I am excited to have Doug, Mike and their families join the IU football family," new Indiana coach Kevin Wilson said in a prepared statement. "They are both great additions to our program, university and the Bloomington community. Both men bring unparalleled character, energy, experience, enthusiasm and winning attitudes. This is a great start to the foundation we are building here."

These are undoubtedly Wilson's most important hires as he forms his staff at Indiana. The Hoosiers' defense has been bad for more than a decade and has prevented the program from consistently competing in Big Ten play. Wilson has the track record and the personnel to make things happen on offense at Indiana, but if Ekeler and Mallory can't get the job done on defense, it won't matter.

I like both hires as individuals -- especially Ekeler -- but I've never been a fan of co-coordinators. It didn't serve Indiana well the past few seasons with Joe Palcic and Brian George. Illinois also encountered problems with Dan Disch and Doug Mallory's brother, Curt, before Ron Zook brought in Vic Koenning as the sole coordinator last year.

Maybe this time the pairing works, but the jury is out.

I'm very interested to see how Ekeler and Mallory will work together. Mallory brings a lot of experience to the table and served as Indiana's defensive backs/special teams coach in 1994-96. Ekeler is a rising star and did great work at Nebraska under Bo and Carl Pelini, but he inherits a much tougher challenge in Bloomington.

Indiana's defensive staff also will include Mark Hagen, who moves over from archrival Purdue to coach the Hoosiers' defensive line and special teams. Although IU hasn't officially announced Hagen's hiring, it's going to happen.

Hagen spent the past 11 seasons at Purdue, the past two as the Boilers' linebackers coach. The Indiana alum is no stranger to coaching line play as he worked with Purdue's defensive tackles for most of his tenure in West Lafayette and helped to mold players like Mike Neal and Alex Magee. He's a strong recruiter in the state and in the region.

Overall, I like these hires for Wilson at IU, but it all comes down to whether the co-coordinator thing can actually work.
Who are the most irreplaceable players in the Big Ten? These aren't necessarily the best players, but the guys who teams really can't afford to lose.

Let's take a team-by-team look at who they are:

Illinois: Offensive tackle Jeff Allen. Illinois already has lost one starting offensive tackle to injury in Corey Lewis (ACL), placing a major burden on Allen to protect a young starting quarterback. Allen has started two seasons and should contend for All-Big Ten honors this fall. He drew praise from the coaches this spring for absorbing Paul Petrino's new offense, and he'll anchor the line at weak-side tackle. If he goes down, Illinois likely will turn to Craig Wilson, who has played mostly special teams in his career.

[+] EnlargeBen Chappell
Scott Boehm/Getty ImagesBen Chappell finished last season with 17 touchdowns and almost 3,000 yards.
Indiana: Quarterback Ben Chappell. History shows that for Indiana to have a chance at a bowl game, it needs to put up a lot of points. The running game has been inconsistent the past few years, but Chappell is poised to have a big senior season through the air. The Big Ten's third-leading passer in 2009 will have a bunch of weapons at his disposal, led by first-team, all-conference wide receiver Tandon Doss. Indiana has virtually no experience behind Chappell and would turn things over to a redshirt freshman (Dusty Kiel or Edward Wright-Baker).

Iowa: Quarterback Ricky Stanzi. This isn't a knock against backup James Vandenberg, who certainly proved himself last fall at Ohio State. But Iowa is simply a different team with Stanzi on the field, drawing confidence from him through his ups and downs. You could see how much Stanzi meant to his teammates on offense after he went down against Northwestern last November. Although offensive tackle Riley Reiff, defensive end Adrian Clayborn or safety Tyler Sash certainly can make their case to be in this spot, Stanzi is the player who shapes Iowa's success more than any other player. He's got the 'it' factor.

Michigan: Cornerback Troy Woolfolk. Woolfolk provides leadership and some experience in a Wolverines secondary that looks pretty shaky even with him on the field. The thought of Woolfolk being out would certainly raise the anxiety level among Michigan fans. Woolfolk had some good moments last fall and has a chance to be a very solid Big Ten cornerback this year. He also can play safety in an emergency. Given Michigan's lack of depth in the defensive backfield, Woolfolk's presence is crucial.

Michigan State: Linebacker Greg Jones. This one is pretty obvious. Not only has Jones led Michigan State in tackles in each of his three seasons on campus, but he's the undisputed leader on defense. Without Jones' tackling and play-making ability in the offensive backfield, an average Michigan State defense would be a lousy one. Although the Spartans boast some depth at linebacker with Chris Norman, Eric Gordon and incoming freshmen William Gholston and Max Bullough, Jones is the one guy the coaches are counting on for a ton of production.

Minnesota: Safety Kyle Theret. There's not an obvious choice for the Gophers, but the team's defense lost some major experience after safety Kim Royston broke his leg this spring. Theret, who was suspended during spring ball but should return, has started 32 games at safety. He ended the 2009 season on a strong note with two interceptions and a tackle for loss in the Insight Bowl. If Royston can't return or is limited, Theret will have to lead a young Gophers' secondary.

[+] EnlargePersa
Jerry Lai/US PresswireDan Persa is the only Wildcats quarterback with any game experience.
Northwestern: Quarterback Dan Persa. Persa hasn't even started a game for Northwestern, so how can he be labeled as irreplaceable? First off, no other Wildcats quarterback has game experience, while Persa appeared in 10 contests last fall. Backup Evan Watkins remains a bit raw, and Northwestern will have a true freshman, most likely Trevor Siemian, as its third-stringer this season. Persa already has established himself as a team leader, and he would create problems if he went down.

Ohio State: Quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Another easy choice, as Pryor has started 22 of Ohio State's past 23 games at quarterback. Although the Buckeyes have won games without major contributions from Pryor, the offense will be shaped around him more this fall. He'll need to build off of what he showed on Jan. 1 in the Rose Bowl against Oregon. Backups Joe Bauserman and Kenny Guiton lack game experience, and Ohio State would need everyone else to step up around the quarterbacks to survive without Pryor.

Penn State: Running back Evan Royster. An experienced running back can be a young quarterback's best friend, and Royster certainly qualifies as a veteran. He has started the past two seasons for the Nittany Lions, racking up 2,405 rushing yards and 18 touchdowns. Penn State needs big things from Royster this fall as an inexperienced signal caller takes over for Daryll Clark. Backup running back Stephfon Green has shown flashes, but he lacks Royster's consistency.

Purdue: Defensive end Ryan Kerrigan. We'll find out if running back Ralph Bolden is replaceable this season, but Purdue doesn't want to see anything happen to Kerrigan. The senior is one of the nation's top pass rushers, and he's the most experienced member of a defensive line that loses standout tackle Mike Neal. Kerrigan led the Big Ten with 13 sacks last fall and will make life easier for those around him. Aside from Gerald Gooden, Purdue looks a little thin at D-end.

Wisconsin: Quarterback Scott Tolzien. If Tolzien's value wasn't known after the 2009 season, it became even clearer during spring ball after backup Curt Phillips tore his ACL. Tolzien led the Big Ten and ranked 22nd nationally in pass efficiency (143) last season, completing 64.3 percent of his passes. He limits major mistakes and spreads the ball around well to his receivers. Redshirt freshman Jon Budmayr has talent but lacks game experience and looked shaky this spring. Wisconsin would much rather let Budmayr have more time to prepare.

Big Ten NFL draft roundup

April, 26, 2010
4/26/10
9:00
AM ET
The 2010 NFL draft is in the books, so let's take a look at the 34 Big Ten players who heard their names called in New York. When the full list of undrafted free agents comes out, I'll post it later in the week.

ROUND 1

ROUND 2

ROUND 3

ROUND 4

ROUND 5

ROUND 6

  • No Big Ten players selected
ROUND 7


Here are the selections according to Big Ten team:

Illinois: 3
Indiana: 3
Iowa: 6
Michigan: 3
Michigan State: 1
Minnesota: 2
Northwestern: 3
Ohio State: 4
Penn State: 6
Purdue: 1
Wisconsin: 2

Quick thoughts:

  • Three of the biggest draft steals from the Big Ten were pass-catchers in 2009: Illinois wideout Arrelious Benn, Minnesota wide receiver Eric Decker and Iowa tight end Tony Moeaki. Benn had first-round skills but a fourth-round college résumé. Decker most often was compared to former Broncos wideout Ed McCaffrey, and if healthy, he could do big things in Denver. If Moeaki stays healthy, the Chiefs might have found the next Tony Gonzalez. Kirk Ferentz puts Moeaki right up there with Dallas Clark in Iowa's top tight ends.
  • Love the Colts' pick of Angerer, who could be a very good pro in a great situation in Indy. With Angerer and Indiana's Fisher going to Indianapolis, the Colts now have drafted 26 Big Ten players under Bill Polian.
  • Northwestern's Kafka also goes to a very good situation in Philly, as the Eagles love to pass the ball and will run some shotgun.
  • Penn State's Lee, Purdue's Neal, Wisconsin's Schofield and Northwestern's McManis could all be steals for their teams. Health has been an issue for Lee, Schofield and McManis, so they need to find ways to get on the field and stay there.
  • It was interesting how one Big Ten left tackle, Indiana's Saffold, rose up the draft boards late in the process, while another, Iowa's Bulaga, dropped.
  • Ohio State had four players drafted, but this has to be the Buckeyes' weakest draft class in recent memory. I thought Gibson would go in the second or third round, but Worthington, Coleman and Spitler barely made the cut. Did Jim Tressel deserve Big Ten Coach of the Year over Ferentz? The case looks stronger now.
  • Draft snubs included Michigan State wide receiver Blair White, Michigan cornerback Donovan Warren, Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark and Purdue quarterback Joey Elliott. Warren was the only Big Ten junior not to get drafted, though it was tough to fault his decision at the time. All four players have reportedly signed free-agent deals.
WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. -- Several photos line the wall outside Danny Hope's office at the Mollenkopf Center, commemorating Purdue's string of bowl appearances under former head coach Joe Tiller.

Hope's first season at the helm of the Boilermakers' program won't make it to the wall. There's no bowl championship trophy, no pictures of players and coaches wearing T-shirts and shades in the dead of winter. Hope's players don't tote any bowl swag, because they didn't get any.

A 5-7 season doesn't produce any tangible rewards. But it left Hope feeling very optimistic about the future.

Sandra Dukes/Icon SMIPurdue coach Danny Hope hopes the Boilermakers can capitalize on their strong end to the 2009 season.



After a 1-5 start filled with turnovers and near misses, Purdue rallied to go .500 in Big Ten play. The Boilers stunned then-No. 7 Ohio State, snapping a 19-game slide against ranked opponents. They also notched their first win at Michigan Stadium since 1966.

So, what exactly did Purdue accomplish in 2009?

"We made some noise," Hope said. "We've got a lot of work to do, and we haven't arrived yet, but we made some noise on the field the second half of the season. We weren't that far off, and everybody could see that. We kept swinging away, and we kept getting better as a team.

"When it was all over, we had some special moments in 2009."

The next steps are obvious for Purdue. Find ways to win close games, avoid the 10-minute disaster stretches that cropped up throughout last season, improve ball security, run defense and special teams, and, most importantly, get back to the postseason.

Simply making a lower-tier bowl isn't enough for first-team All-Big Ten wide receiver Keith Smith.

"We want to go to a January bowl game," he said. "That's our goal."

Purdue might have the personnel to get there. Despite losing 20 seniors, including quarterback Joey Elliott, safety Torri Williams and defensive tackle Mike Neal, the Boilers should be a deeper team in 2010.

Wide receiver was a major question mark for Purdue entering last season, but Smith emerged as the team's latest top option with a league-leading 1,100 receiving yards on 91 catches. He'll lead a group of wideouts and tight ends that also features Kyle Adams, Keith Carlos, Antavian Edison, Cortez Smith and others.

Ralph Bolden came out of nowhere to finish third in the Big Ten in rushing (77.9 ypg) and second in scoring (5.5 ppg), and the speedy junior expects big things this fall, especially if Purdue can reload along an offensive line that loses three starters. Al-Terek McBurse is a promising No. 2 option, and fullback Dan Dierking also returns.

"From a skill standpoint, we could have as much skill as Purdue has had on offense in many, many years," Hope said. "We're very promising at running back, we have all our tight ends back, we have Keith Smith back.

"There's some firepower there. We have to develop it."

Many eyes will be on the quarterback competition this spring, specifically Miami transfer Robert Marve. Marve, who will compete with Caleb TerBush for the top job, gets a fresh start after a tumultuous two years at Miami that got ugly at the end.

Purdue coaches and players say Marve has matured a lot in the last 10 months, and Marve's ability as a former blue-chip recruit has never been in doubt.

"In [offseason workouts], he's taking control," Bolden said. "He pretty much knows our offense. I don't know how, but he just jumped in and knew it, telling people to run this, changing routes and everything. He pretty much knows what he's doing, so I'm just following his lead."

Big Ten sacks leader Ryan Kerrigan leads a defense that must get tougher against the run after finishing last in the Big Ten in each of the last two seasons. The Boilers are helped by greater depth up front and the return of standout linebacker Jason Werner, who received a sixth year of eligibility from the NCAA last month.

Hope and his assistants will spend much of the spring evaluating the secondary, which must replace all four starters.

"Obviously, the bar has been raised," Hope said. "The record that we had last year, even though we had some signature wins, was not good enough. We didn't make postseason play.

"The standard is set, and the expectation level is always high at Purdue."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Faith never wavered inside the walls of the Mollenkopf Athletic Center and on the practice fields nearby.

Purdue players and coaches saw the progress each week, and despite their infuriating results on Saturdays, they maintained morale. The Boilermakers practiced hard and entered each game expecting to win, even as the losses piled up.
 
 Michael Hickey/Getty Images
 Joey Elliott completed 31 of 50 passes for 281 yards and two touchdowns Saturday.


"We have a great team," first-year head coach Danny Hope said Sunday afternoon. "We just don’t have a great record."

At 2-5, the Boilers still don't have a great record. But for the first time since 2003, they have a great victory on their résumé, a 26-18 triumph against then-No. 7 Ohio State on Saturday.

Purdue snapped a five-game losing streak this season. More importantly, the Boilers snapped a 19-game losing streak against ranked opponents, a stretch that left a stain on the program and its fans.

For the players and coaches, the win validates the improvement that has taken place in practice. Their eyes are not betraying them. The difference now is 50,000 others, many of whom rushed the field late Saturday afternoon, can see it, too.

"We’ve gone into every Saturday expecting to win and playing to win," Hope said. "But for our program, it certainly is a huge boost. It brings us some national attention and certainly some credibility to the direction that we’re going in. So it was a huge shot in the arm in a number of ways."

(Read full post)

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten lacks an official preseason all-conference team, which would be interesting to see but prevents situations like Tebow-gate. We're a little more bold here at ESPN.com, so here's my All-Big Ten squad. There will be time for debate later. For now, enjoy the names.

OFFENSE

QB: Daryll Clark, Penn State
RB: Evan Royster, Penn State
RB: John Clay, Wisconsin
WR: Eric Decker, Minnesota
WR: Arrelious Benn, Illinois
OT: Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
OG: Jon Asamoah, Illinois
C: Stefen Wisniewski, Penn State
OG: Justin Boren, Ohio State
OT: Kyle Calloway, Iowa
TE: Garrett Graham, Wisconsin

DEFENSE

DE: Brandon Graham, Michigan
DT: Jared Odrick, Penn State
DT: Mike Neal, Purdue
DE: Corey Wootton, Northwestern
LB: Greg Jones, Michigan State
LB: Navorro Bowman, Penn State
LB: Pat Angerer, Iowa
CB: Amari Spievey, Iowa
CB: Traye Simmons, Minnesota
S: Kurt Coleman, Ohio State
S: Brad Phillips, Northwestern

SPECIALISTS

P: Zoltan Mesko, Michigan
PK: Brett Swenson, Michigan State
KR: Troy Stoudermire, Minnesota
PR: Ray Small*, Ohio State

*-Currently not with team

Penn State leads the way with five selections, followed by Iowa (4), Ohio State (3), Minnesota (3), Illinois (2), Wisconsin (2), Northwestern (2), Michigan (2), Michigan State (2) and Purdue (1).

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

All 11 Big Ten camps will open by the end of the day, and it's time for your latest installment of the power rankings. There have been a few key transfers since the last rundown in May, but not much to really shake things up.

I've made a few changes to the league's midsection and bottom, but the top four remain in place. The hardest section was undoubtedly Nos. 7-9. Those teams look fairly interchangeable.

1. Ohio State -- As long as quarterback Terrelle Pryor and the offensive line continue to build off of a very solid spring, Ohio State's offense will be fine after a difficult 2008 season. Defensive ends Thaddeus Gibson, Lawrence Wilson and Cameron Heyward lead the league's best line, which anchors a defense that has ranked among the top 15 nationally in five of the last six seasons.

2. Penn State -- This is the year for Penn State to truly establish itself as the third Big Ten powerhouse. To do so, the Lions must show they can reload at wide receiver, offensive line and defensive back. Penn State has the star players and a favorable schedule with both Iowa and Ohio State at home. Quarterback Daryll Clark could lead the Lions back to Pasadena.

3. Iowa -- It's a close call between Iowa and Michigan State for No. 3, but the Hawkeyes get the nod as they return their starting quarterback and the league's best offensive line. Most will eliminate Iowa from the Big Ten title race because of a treacherous conference road schedule, but Kirk Ferentz's team can make a major statement by winning Sept. 26 in Happy Valley.

4. Michigan State -- Michigan State reminds me a lot of Penn State in 2008. The more I look at the Spartans' depth chart, the more I like their chances this fall. Big Ten preseason Player of the Year Greg Jones leads a defense that looks stacked in the secondary but a bit shaky up front. The big questions here are obvious, and if Michigan State solidifies its offensive backfield, look out.

5. Northwestern -- Another close call here between Northwestern and Illinois. The Wildcats should have their best defense in recent memory and loads of questions at the skill positions on offense. The Illini bring back arguably the Big Ten's most electric offense but look shaky at best on defense. In the end, the better defense wins out as All-America candidate Corey Wootton tries to lead Northwestern to another bowl game.

6. Illinois -- There's a lot to like on the offensive side, from the league's most experienced quarterback (Juice Williams) to arguably the league's best wide receiver (Arrelious Benn). The addition of Florida transfer Jarred Fayson should only improve a dynamic pass attack. Illinois must address its pass rush and its pass coverage on defense, and this needs to be the year linebacker Martez Wilson becomes a star.

7. Wisconsin -- The quarterback position once again could drive Badgers fans nuts this fall, but teams with solid line play usually do well in the Big Ten. Wisconsin's offensive line will create room for bruising sophomore running back John Clay, and the defensive line, which adds Central Michigan transfer J.J. Watt, had a terrific offseason. There are still some uncertainties in Madison, but a favorable schedule leads me to believe the record will improve.

8. Minnesota -- Can the Big Ten's most experienced team adjust to a host of offseason changes? If so, Minnesota will climb up the list and possibly make a major statement in the Big Ten. But this could easily be a better team that finishes with a worse record because of another set of new systems and a tough schedule. You've got to like the passing combo of quarterback Adam Weber and wideout Eric Decker.

9. Michigan -- Before you send the hate mail, hear me out. Until I see Michigan in a game, showing tangible improvement on offense and especially at quarterback, I can't put the Wolverines any higher. This is still a team that likely will be playing a true freshman quarterback and returns only five starters to a defense that has its third coordinator in as many seasons. Michigan should improve, but let's wait and see.

10. Purdue -- It could be a rough first season for head coach Danny Hope, but Purdue moves up a spot based on a solid group of running backs and a defense poised to make improvement from 2008. The Boilers have the right idea to emphasize the run game on offense, and if quarterback Joey Elliott elevates his play, this could be a decent team. The linebacker position concerns me, and Purdue's young defensive linemen need to grow up fast alongside standouts Mike Neal and Ryan Kerrigan.

11. Indiana -- Head coach Bill Lynch has seen positive changes from a team that backslid in 2008, and he believes experience and improved depth will help overcome the loss of Kellen Lewis. Lynch's confidence in quarterback Ben Chappell is admirable, but I need to see more from the junior and Indiana's young wideouts. If the Hoosiers don't make strides on defense this year, it probably will never happen. The personnel is there for an upgrade, but Indiana has a very troubling track record on that side of the ball.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- Mike Neal's first step toward becoming a leader for Purdue took place at Notre Dame Stadium in the wake of a disheartening loss last September. 

 
  Sandra Dukes/Icon
  Purdue's Mike Neal hopes to build on the 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss he posted last season.

That's when Neal delivered one of the more pointed statements of the season, one that revealed a lot about a 4-8 Boilermakers football team. 

"When you come out flat and you're not ready to play a football game and you look bored at halftime, what do you expect?" Neal told reporters. "Then you have a lot of guys after you go through a first series like that, and they run the ball down your throat and you get to the sideline and look into everybody's faces, and they don't look interested in playing a football game."

Neal isn't afraid to speak his mind, and more importantly, he gets it done on the field.

The senior defensive tackle is one of the more underrated defenders in the conference. He recorded 5.5 sacks and 10 tackles for loss last year, numbers that ranked among the league leaders for defensive tackles. 

"He's got a good motor and he's usually in a bad mood, and that's usually a good sign," new Purdue head coach Danny Hope said. "He was dominant in the spring, and he has a chance to be dominant in 2009."

Neal has no regrets about what he said in South Bend, and he'll demand better results from his Purdue teammates this fall as one of the Boilermakers' leaders. 

"Sometimes, our team, we want to put the blame on the coaches," Neal said Tuesday. "Regardless of what the call is, the coaches don't have on shoulder pads. You're not going to call the perfect play every time. It's like playing chess. You can only guess what the next team is going to do. 

"Last year, on some of those games, we needed to get away from blaming the coaches on the calls that they made and step up as a defense and play football. I said what I said. I meant what I said, too."

Purdue's coaching staff will be in the spotlight this fall as the Hope era begins. Hope has brought in new coordinators Gary Nord (offense) and Donn Landholm (defense), and if things go south in West Lafayette, most will point to the transition on the sideline. 

But Neal doesn't buy into easy excuses and said Landholm's defense isn't a dramatic departure from what Purdue ran under Brock Spack. With a veteran secondary, some experience at linebacker and two standout linemen in Neal and end Ryan Kerrigan, the Boilers' defense has the ingredients to adjust well.

"We need to be more accountable for what we do," Neal said. "It's not about the coaching change. It's what we do out there. We'll be better this year."

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

You know football season isn't too far away when the Big Ten releases the list of players who will be attending media days, to be held July 27 and July 28 in Chicago. The rundown includes 17 All-Big Ten selections, including nine first-team honorees from last year. Minnesota star wideout Eric Decker will speak on behalf of the players at the Big Ten kickoff luncheon on July 28.

Of course, I'll be making the short trip down Lake Shore Drive for all the action, so be sure to chain yourself to the blog during those days.

Without further ado ...

ILLINOIS
Arrelious Benn*, Jr., WR
Doug Pilcher, Sr., DL
Juice Williams*, Sr., QB

INDIANA
Ben Chappell, Jr., QB
Jammie Kirlew*, Sr., DE
Will Patterson, Sr., LB

IOWA
Pat Angerer*, Sr., LB
A.J. Edds*, Sr., LB
Tony Moeaki, Sr., TE

MICHIGAN
Stevie Brown, Sr., LB/S
Zoltan Mesko*, Sr., P
Mark Ortmann, Sr., LT

MICHIGAN STATE
Greg Jones*, Jr., LB
Brett Swenson*, Sr., PK
Blair White*, Sr., WR

MINNESOTA
Garrett Brown, Sr., DT
Lee Campbell, Sr., LB
Eric Decker*, Sr., WR

NORTHWESTERN
Mike Kafka, Sr., QB
Brad Phillips*, Sr., S
Corey Wootton*, Sr., DE

OHIO STATE
Jake Ballard, Sr., TE
Kurt Coleman*, Sr., DB
Doug Worthington, Sr., DL

PENN STATE
Daryll Clark*, Sr., QB
Sean Lee*, Sr., LB
Jared Odrick*, Sr., DT

PURDUE
Joey Elliott, Sr., QB
Mike Neal, Sr., DT
Keith Smith, Sr., WR

WISCONSIN
Garrett Graham*, Sr., TE
Jaevery McFadden, Sr., LB
O'Brien Schofield, Sr., DL

*-indicates previous All-Big Ten selection

It's a pretty solid list overall. There are some very quotable players coming to Chicago, namely Penn State's Daryll Clark and Sean Lee, Illinois' Juice Williams, Iowa's A.J. Edds and Wisconsin's O'Brien Schofield. I'm also looking forward to chatting with some of the guys I missed during spring ball, including Illinois' Arrelious Benn, Wisconsin's Garrett Graham, Michigan's Stevie Brown and Zoltan Mesko, Purdue's Mike Neal and Indiana's Jammie Kirlew.

As far as notable absences, there are a few. At some point, Ohio State needs to acknowledge that Terrelle Pryor is a team leader and stop shielding him from the media. Last year's extremely limited access to Pryor was somewhat justified given his age, but he's quickly becoming the face of the team and needs to be out in front. Yes, yes, I know this event is all about the seniors, but people want to hear from Pryor, who usually has something interesting to say.

I also was hoping to talk with Minnesota quarterback Adam Weber, a two-time captain and three-year starter. Same goes for Iowa quarterback Ricky Stanzi, whose performance could make or break the season for the Hawkeyes.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

Prognostication guru Phil Steele released his preseason All-Big Ten teams Tuesday, and fans of Penn State and Ohio State undoubtedly will be pleased.

Although both teams lost sizable and decorated senior classes, Penn State put six players on Steele's first team, while Ohio State has four. The big surprise is that Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark, widely considered the league's best signal-caller, slipped to the third team behind Illinois' Juice Williams and Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor.

Steele also released his preseason All-America teams, and here's the breakdown for the Big Ten:

First team -- Illinois WR Arrelious Benn, Michigan P Zoltan Mesko

Second team -- Penn State RB Evan Royster, Iowa LT Bryan Bulaga, Minnesota WR Eric Decker, Penn State LB Sean Lee

Third team -- Michigan DE Brandon Graham, Penn State DT Jared Odrick, Penn State LB Navorro Bowman, Ohio State PR Ray Small

Fourth team -- Ohio State LG Justin Boren, Northwestern DE Corey Wootton, Illinois LB Martez Wilson, Michigan State LB Greg Jones

Getting back to the Big Ten list, which was generally pretty solid but had some interesting notes and surprises:

  • There are clearly two elite wide receivers in the Big Ten in Benn and Decker. After that, it's a crapshoot. Purdue's Keith Smith was the third wideout named to Steele's first team. Unproven players like Minnesota's Hayo Carpenter (second team), Ohio State's DeVier Posey (third team) and Northwestern's Andrew Brewer (fourth team) also earned recognition.
  • I was a little surprised to see Purdue's Jaycen Taylor listed as a second-team running back ahead of Iowa's Jewel Hampton. Taylor comes off an ACL injury and never beat out Kory Sheets for the starting job when he was healthy. Hampton filled in very well behind Shonn Greene last year.
  • Michigan State running back Edwin Baker was the only incoming freshman to make Steele's list as a fourth-teamer.
  • Illinois defensive tackle Josh Brent, who was suspended for spring ball after receiving a DUI in February, is listed on the first team next to Odrick. Brent is a talented player, but Purdue's Mike Neal might have been the safer pick here.
  • The offensive line selections were interesting. Experience beat out potential as Wisconsin's John Moffitt earned the second-team nod over Ohio State's Mike Brewster. I was very surprised not to see Northwestern linemen Al Netter or Ben Burkett on the list. Indiana had two linemen selected (Cody Faulkner and Rodger Saffold) despite really struggling in that area a year ago, and Iowa surprisingly only had tackles Bryan Bulaga (first team) and Kyle Calloway (second team) on the rundown.

Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg 

Not a whole lot going on around the league today, but you'll check out these links, if you know what's good for you:

  • The Lansing State Journal continues its interesting State of State series. Football isn't in trouble, but Michigan State soon could cut one of its other varsity sports to reduce overall department spending, Joe Rexrode writes. MSU hasn't cut a sport since 2001 -- men's gymnastics -- and did so to meet Title IX requirements. Continued success on the gridiron could heal the department's finanical woes.
  • Linebacker Navorro Bowman is back with his Penn State teammates and hopes to put a difficult period behind him, Bob Flounders writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News. Bowman sat out the Alamo Bowl and spring practice after being involved in an on-campus fight in October. He also recently lost his father to complications from a blood clot.
  • Heisman Pundit takes a look at Beanie Wells' chances to strike a pose in New York this winter. A triple-digit rushing effort against USC could put Wells ahead of the pack.
  • The Web site Vegas Insider lists the national championship odds and projected victory totals for every Division I-A team. As for the Big Ten, Ohio State comes in at 8:1, followed by Wisconsin at 30:1 and both Illinois and Michigan at 40:1. Vegas likes Iowa's chances to turn things around (7.5 wins), while Indiana could fall off a bit (5 wins).
  • Purdue linebacker Anthony Heygood throws teammate Mike Neal under the bus about his fear of needles, Tom Kubat writes in the Lafayette (Ind.) Journal and Courier.
  • Bleacher Report has a list of 15 great coaching quotes. Woody makes the list at No. 14, a few spots behind Michigan State's Duffy Daugherty.
  • Ohio State freshman offensive lineman Mike Adams probably won't be ready for the start of practice Aug. 3 following shoulder surgery, Tim May writes in the Columbus Dispatch.

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