NCF Nation: Moses Alipate

CHICAGO -- Minnesota running back Donnell Kirkwood was browsing the Web about the developments in the Ed O'Bannon antitrust lawsuit against the NCAA when two names caught his eye.

They belonged to his Gophers teammates Moses Alipate and Victor Keise.

"I was on the Internet and their names popped up and I was like, 'What?'" Kirkwood said Thursday at Big Ten media days. "We support them all the way with it, as long as it doesn't interfere with the team and bring negative attention. As long as they show up to workouts every day and do their part, I think it's all right."

Alipate and Keise are among six current FBS players who joined the O'Bannon lawsuit, which alleges that the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co., the nation's leading trademark and licensing firm, violated antitrust laws by using players' names, likenesses and images without compensation. Both Minnesota players are fifth-year seniors who haven't played much at the college level.

Kirkwood hasn't discussed the case with Alipate and Keise other than to ask one question.

"If y'all win, how much do we get?" he said with a laugh.

Like many college players, Kirkwood played the "NCAA" video game from EA Sports, which has contained his likeness in recent years. He doesn't feel as strongly as Alipate and Keise about the pay-for-play debate but would like to see the value of his athletic scholarship go a little further, a proposal the Big Ten has backed for several years.

"When I signed my letter of intent, I knew I wasn't going to be getting paid, so it never really crossed my mind," Kirkwood said. "I started finding out about the revenue when I got to college. It'd be nice to have a little extra money in your pocket when times get rough at the end of the month, but I know we're not NFL players and we shouldn't get millions of dollars in college."

A stipend could help players with basic living expenses, Kirkwood said, as well as help their families travel to far-away games. But the Gophers junior opposes a full-blown pay-for-play system in college football featuring agents and contracts.

"That would be too much," he said. "That might mess up the whole entire recruiting process. If they choose to do that, everybody should get the same amount across the country."
Minnesota football players Moses Alipate and Victor Keise have had undistinguished careers to date. But they could turn out to be two vitally important figures in the pay-for-play debate.

Alipate, a senior tight end, and Keise, a senior wide receiver, are among six current FBS players to join a federal anti-trust lawsuit against the NCAA, originally filed in 2009 by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon. The O'Bannon plaintiffs claim the NCAA, EA Sports and Collegiate Licensing Co., the nation's leading trademark and licensing firm, violated antitrust laws by preventing players from receiving compensation from video games and other products that use their names, likenesses and images. The lawsuit was amended last year to include current players.

From ESPN's Tom Farrey:
By adding their names to a highly contentious lawsuit originally filed in 2009 by former UCLA basketball player Ed O'Bannon, the players -- all from college football's largest conferences -- enhance the chances that damages in the suit could reach into the billions of dollars.

Keise has played in 14 career games, recording one catch, while Alipate, a decorated quarterback recruit, has yet to play for the Gophers. They are the only current players in the suit who don't have avatars in the NCAA Football 2014 video game.

From SI.com:
In the amended complaint, plaintiffs' attorneys point out Alipate and Keise signed "one or more release forms." So the inclusion of the two Minnesota players may serve to challenge the name and likeness release forms Big Ten athletes are required to sign.

The NCAA this week cut ties with EA Sports, the manufacturer of the yearly "NCAA Football" video game. EA Sports will continue to produce college football video games that feature individual schools, which have their own trademarks.

It will be interesting to see how Minnesota athletic director Norwood Teague and others react to Alipate and Keise joining what could be a historic lawsuit.
When you think Big Ten football, what usually comes to mind is big, corn-fed Midwestern players and bruising offenses. The kind of place that would be perfect for a tight end.

But the 2011 season was a little lackluster for that position in the league, at least as far as the passing game goes. Sure, Northwestern's Drake Dunsmore and Wisconsin's Jacob Pedersen were Mackey Award semifinalists, but those two and Michigan State's Brian Linthicum were the only two tight ends in the conference to record more than 25 catches. Some guys we expected to have big years, like Nebraska's Kyler Reed, Minnesota's Eric Lair and Indiana's Ted Bolser, were nearly invisible on the stat sheet. And there was certainly no one who rose the level of recent Big Ten stars like Dallas Clark, Matt Spaeth, Travis Beckum, Lance Kendricks or Dustin Keller.

[+] EnlargeJacob Pedersen
AP Photo/Matt SaylesJacob Pedersen led the Big Ten's tight ends with eight touchdown catches last season.
Dunsmore, who won the league's inaugural Kwalick-Clark tight end of the year award, and Linthicum have both graduated. Yet 2012 is shaping up as a potentially big season for tight ends across the league.

Some of it has to do with changing offenses and playcallers who love utilizing the tight end. Urban Meyer made a star out of Aaron Hernandez at Florida and could do the same with Jake Stoneburner, who started off blazing hot last year before the Ohio State offense forgot about him. With the Buckeyes searching for playmakers, expect Stoneburner to be utilized heavily in 2012.

"Seeing Hernandez make all those plays makes someone like me pretty happy," Stoneburner told Adam Rittenberg last month. "It's something I've been waiting for since I graduated high school, being able to go out there knowing you're going to get the opportunity to get the ball more than once or twice a game. "

Bill O'Brien coached Hernandez and Rob Gronkowski as offensive coordinator with the New England Patriots, which featured the tight end as much as anybody in football. Now O'Brien is at Penn State, where tight ends have mostly been an afterthought. That will change quickly.

"That’s a very important part of what we’re going to do offensively,” O’Brien told reporters in March. “Obviously, the last two years in New England taught me a lot about the use of a tight end, multiple tight ends.”

At Iowa, new offensive coordinator Greg Davis is raving about sophomore C.J. Fiedorowicz, a 6-foot-7, 265-pounder who began to emerge late last season as a weapon. With an uncertain running game and an excellent passer in quarterback James Vandenberg, Fiedorowicz could follow in the footsteps of Clark and Tony Moeacki as breakout Hawkeyes tight ends. Coincidentally, Iowa's new offensive line coach is Brian Ferentz, who coached the tight ends with the Patriots last year.

“You’ll see the tight ends playing outside sometimes,” Davis told the Des Moines Register during spring practice. “Used to seeing them in motion, but there will be motion in wide receiver sets in some situations because they’re tough match-ups.”

Wisconsin returns one of the best tight ends in the country in Pedersen, who had led Big Ten tight ends with eight touchdown catches a year ago. Bret Bielema is also excited about the depth at the position, with veterans Brian Wozniak and Sam Arneson, redshirt freshmen Austin Traylor and Austin Maly and Pittsburgh transfer Brock DeCicco. Given the inexperience at receiver outside of Jared Abbrederis, the Badgers could look to throw to their tight ends even more this season.

Indiana's Bolser had only 14 catches last year, but he was one of the stars of the spring for the Hoosiers. An improved passing game should help him become more of a factor. Purdue likes the depth it has at tight end, led by Gabe Holmes and Crosby Wright.

“A year ago it was one of the leanest positions on our football team," Boilers coach Danny Hope told reporters in the spring, "and now I think going into the season that the tight end position is going to be one of our strengths.”

Reed's numbers dropped last year, but he still led Nebraska with an average of 17.1 yards per catch. He and fellow senior Ben Cotton form a nice tandem of targets for Taylor Martinez. Michigan State must replace Linthicum but is optimistic about 6-foot-5, 280-pound Dion Sims, who practiced this spring with a cast on his hand. Sims could provide a safety valve for new quarterback Andrew Maxwell early on as the Spartans break in some green receivers.

Minnesota's Moses Alipate will at least be a curiosity as a former quarterback who grew to 290 pounds. Michigan needs Brandon Moore or someone else to step in for Kevin Koger, while Illinois' Jon Davis could have a different role in the team's new spread offense after a promising freshman campaign. Whoever replaces Dunsmore for Northwestern should get a lot of touches.

Tight ends could play an important part of many Big Ten teams' attacks this fall. Just as it should be.

Big Ten scrimmage notes

April, 11, 2011
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The Big Ten featured only one spring game this weekend, but plenty of teams took to the field for scrimmages. I've compiled some scrimmage highlights from around the league based on reports from official team websites and other media sources. Several teams didn't provide specifics about their scrimmages, but I included what I could find.

ILLINOIS

The Illini scrimmaged for about 90 minutes Saturday, and all players were involved in contact aside from starting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase.

Notes
  • The offense prevailed in the scrimmage and gashed the defense for several big runs. Troy Pollard took most of the reps at running back as Jason Ford sat out with a sore knee, and Pollard helped his cause with 110 rush yards on 19 carries. Scheelhaase completed 7 of 12 passes for 53 yards and added 58 yards on the ground, while backup Miles Osei had a 63-yards pass to Fred Sykes and finished the day with 165 yards through the air.
  • Coach Ron Zook singled out linebacker Houston Bates for his play in the scrimmage. Bates had a sack and a quarterback hurry. He saw increased playing time after Jonathan Brown was kicked out of the scrimmage after throwing a punch and drawing a personal foul penalty.
INDIANA

The Hoosiers held their second scrimmage of the spring Saturday afternoon at Memorial Stadium. Check out coach Kevin Wilson's thoughts as well as some highlights.

Notes
  • The offense got the best of the defense Saturday after the D shined in Indiana's previous scrimmage. Receivers Duwyce Wilson and Kofi Hughes stood out in the highlights Indiana showed on its website, as Hughes had a long touchdown reception and Wilson was forced out just shy of the goal line. Both players have been impressive this spring and should complement top wideout Damarlo Belcher in the fall.
IOWA

No official information from Iowa's scrimmage Saturday, but here's a photo gallery and some recent player interviews from the team's website.

MICHIGAN

No official information from Michigan's scrimmage Saturday, but here are video interviews with defensive tackle Mike Martin and offensive lineman Patrick Omameh. Running backs Vincent Smith, Michael Cox and Stephen Hopkins had some nice runs in the video highlights.

MICHIGAN STATE

The Spartans held their first jersey scrimmage Friday and the defense prevailed 55-45 in a modified scoring system. The defense had 18 ways to score points, while the offense had 11 ways to score, including touchdowns and field goals.

Notes
  • The defense dominated the scrimmage, holding the offense without a first down on the first five possessions and without points for the first 13 possessions. Michigan State's D recorded three sacks and two interceptions during the stifling stanza. The only two touchdowns scored came during the goal line and red zone portions of the scrimmage.
  • Defensive ends William Gholston and Tyler Hoover combined for nine tackles, three tackles for loss, a sack and a pass breakup. Sophomore linebacker TyQuan Hammock recorded an interception. "The defense played well -- tackled effectively, pressured the quarterback and came away with some turnovers," coach Mark Dantonio said in a news release.
  • Starting quarterback Kirk Cousins had a rough day (6-for-16 passing, 41 yards, INT), although he didn't get much help from his receivers, who dropped three passes. Backup Andrew Maxwell completed 15 of 26 passes for 116 yards with an interception.
  • The touchdowns came from Edwin Baker (22-yard run) and Le'Veon Bell (6-yard run). Receiver Keith Mumphery caught a 43-yard pass from Maxwell.
MINNESOTA

The Gophers scrimmaged Saturday at TCF Bank Stadium and ran about 120 plays.

Notes
  • Minnesota's defense held the upper hand as the offense struggled to gain a first down early in the scrimmage. The defensive line had a very good day as tackles Brandon Jacobs and Brandon Kirksey both stood out. Jacobs sacked No. 1 quarterback MarQueis Gray and Kirksey recorded a blocked field goal attempt. Ends D.L. Wilhite and Ra'Shede Hageman also made some plays. "The defensive line got up the field a lot more than we have been. [It was] a lot more aggressive," coach Jerry Kill told reporters. "And we need that. We need more push. We had nine sacks last year, and that can't happen."
  • Gray and top receiver Da'Jon McKnight hooked up on receptions of 45 and 20 yards. McKnight also recorded a punt block in the scrimmage.
  • Reserve quarterback Tom Parish threw two interceptions and fumbled a snap. Moses Alipate ran a few series at quarterback and led a scoring drive.
NEBRASKA

The Huskers ran about 150 plays in a scrimmage Saturday in Lincoln. Quarterbacks Brion Carnes, Cody Green and Kody Spano took most of the reps and drew praise from coach Bo Pelini.
  • The coaches limited reps for quarterback Taylor Martinez after the sophomore hurt his toe in a recent workout. Running back Rex Burkhead participated in the scrimmage and "looked great," according to Pelini, although Burkhead's reps were limited as well.
  • Nebraska had two false-start penalties and one fumble during the scrimmage. "That's not bad," Pelini said. "Most of it is with the young guys. It shows me the emphasis is working and there's progress, but one's too many as far I'm concerned."
NORTHWESTERN

The Wildcats scrimmaged Saturday in Evanston in preparation for this week's spring game.

Notes
  • Top running back Mike Trumpy had runs of 33 and 25 yards, while Tyris Jones added a scoring run. Jones has had a really nice spring for the Wildcats, who are looking for more options in the backfield.
  • Trevor Siemian and Evan Watkins took the reps at quarterback as Kain Colter was held out of the scrimmage. Siemian completed 8 of 12 passes for 86 yards with an interception, while Watkins, victimized by dropped passes, completed 8 of 21 passes for 71 yards and a touchdown strike to Charles Brown.
  • Defensive end Tyler Scott picked off Siemian on the second play of the scrimmage. Siemian later responded with a 36-yard pass to Rashad Lawrence. Demetrius Fields led the receivers with five receptions, while walk-on Torin Dupper had three catches for 46 yards.
OHIO STATE

The Buckeyes held a special-teams scrimmage followed by a full jersey scrimmage Saturday in Ohio Stadium. The team went through about 20 possessions and the offense prevailed 56-45.
  • Receiver DeVier Posey recorded two touchdown receptions, a 33-yarder from Joe Bauserman and an 8-yarder from Taylor Graham. Freshman quarterback Braxton Miller had the only other touchdown of the scrimmage on an 11-yard run.
  • Bauserman completed passes of 33 and 16 yards and also threw an interception on a pass tipped by defensive lineman John Simon. Graham completed 10 of 20 passes for 80 yards, while Miller hit on 4 of 6 passes for 43 yards and looked impressive on the touchdown run. Kenny Guiton struggled at quarterback, leading the offense to only one score (field goal) in six possessions.
  • Posey recorded five receptions for 83 yards and two scores, while the other scholarship wideouts combined for only five receptions. Think Ohio State will miss No. 8 in the first five games?
  • Senior running back Dan Herron didn't get much work Saturday, and Jaamal Berry and Rod Smith stood out among the backs with several nice gains.
  • Defensive linemen Adam Bellamy and Melvin Fellows both recorded sacks, while other defensive standouts included cornerback Travis Howard and linebacker Etienne Sabino.
PENN STATE

The Lions scrimmaged Saturday, but there's not much info out there aside from this ($$$).

WISCONSIN

The Badgers held a scrimmage Saturday, running more than 120 snaps, and coach Bret Bielema shares his thoughts here.
  • Sophomore linebacker Conor O'Neill had a big day with interceptions on back-to-back plays, picking off Joe Brennan and Joel Stave. Wisconsin auditioned O'Neill at safety last year, and his experience defending the pass is paying off.
  • Bielema said center Peter Konz will miss the rest of the spring because of ankle and knee injuries. Konz will undergo minor knee surgery and should be fine for fall camp. Versatile sophomore Ryan Groy is seeing time at center and can play all three interior line spots.
  • Remember Zach Brown? The running back is still around in Madison and hopes to enter a crowded backfield this fall. Brown had a 17-yard touchdown reception and an 8-yard scoring run Saturday. "Zach is an angry running back," Bielema told reporters. "Everybody wants to talk about those other guys. People forget he ran for 200 yards [in a game] as a freshman, and he has won some games for us."
I got my first glimpse of Adam Weber in 2007, when he took the field as a redshirt freshman for Minnesota in a game at Northwestern.

That day, Weber passed for 341 yards and five touchdowns and added 89 rushing yards and a touchdown in a 49-48 double-overtime loss at Ryan Field. Northwestern escaped with the win after Weber's pass attempt on a game-deciding 2-point conversion attempt fell incomplete. Weber's 430 yards of total offense marked the third highest single-game total in team history.

Adam Weber
AP Photo/Paul BattagliaAdam Weber struggled last season for Minnesota, completing just 52 percent of his passes.
My thought that day: this guy is going to be really good.

My thought today: Weber can still be really good.

As expected, Minnesota has announced that Weber will open the 2010 season as its starting quarterback. The man who has started the last 38 games for the Golden Gophers will lead the offense onto the field Sept. 2 at Middle Tennessee.

Weber had to compete to retain his job this spring, with MarQueis Gray as his primary challenger. Moses Alipate also was in the mix.

"We thoroughly evaluated every aspect of quarterback play throughout the spring and Adam has earned the right to be the starter entering the 2010 season," head coach Tim Brewster said in making the announcement on gophersports.com. "MarQueis Gray will be our No. 2 quarterback, with Moses Alipate No. 3.

"We are fortunate to have three very talented young men who can all lead our team. In the final analysis, Adam's command of the offense, his leadership, decision-making and his overall play won out and right now we believe he provides our program with its best opportunity for success."


Some Minnesota fans will be disappointed with this decision. After earning second-team All-Big Ten honors in 2008, Weber struggled mightily last season, completing only 52 percent of his passes with two more interceptions (15) than touchdowns. The Gophers' offense sputtered under his command, finishing last in the Big Ten in both scoring (20.9 ppg) and total offense (306.5 ypg).

Gray is a bigger and more athletic quarterback than Weber, and it's easy to see why a lot of folks wanted him to be the starter.

But Weber still has a major edge in experience, and it's hard to go away from that, especially for a coach like Brewster entering a pivotal season. Weber is still Minnesota's all-time leader in passing yards and completions. Gray isn't proven as a passer, completing just 6 of 15 pass attempts with a touchdown and an interception last year.

Why will Weber be better this fall? It starts with a simplified offensive scheme.

Not only did Minnesota install a dramatically different offense last season -- going from the spread, a system to which both Weber and Gray were recruited, to a pro set -- but the quarterbacks seemed to be flooded with information. I got to see this first hand before a game last season when I spent time with Minnesota and sat in on a quarterbacks' meeting.

New offensive coordinator Jeff Horton has simplified the system and tried to identify a few things that his quarterbacks do best. Weber and Gray both seemed to welcome Horton and the changes.

"Last year, my head was spinning in practice and in the meeting rooms," Gray said. "Coach Horton came in, and he did a lot of simplifying. His philosophy is getting better at what we're good at; start with little stuff and get better at it. That’s helping people out in a lot of ways."

"It’s not always another play when you come to the next practice," Weber said. "It’s getting better at the players you’re working on in yesterday’s practice."


Weber deserves another chance, not just from the team but from the fans. He separated himself early in spring practice and emerged as the likely starter. Now it's official.

This guy was a pretty good quarterback not that long ago. And he can be a good quarterback again.

Minnesota wants bowl to be springboard

December, 31, 2009
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This much is known: Tim Brewster will be back as Minnesota's head coach in 2010.

But we don't know who will be the Golden Gophers' starting quarterback next fall. We don't know who will emerge as the top ball carrier or the playmaking receiver. We don't know who will replace three outstanding linebackers, two solid defensive tackles and a top-level cornerback in Traye Simmons.

[+] EnlargeTim Brewster
Chris Gardner/Getty ImagesGophers coach Tim Brewster is hoping for a bowl win to springboard his team into next season.
Many of these answers won't come for several months, but we could have a better idea after Thursday's matchup against Iowa State in the Insight Bowl (NFL Network, 6 p.m. ET).

Every bowl-bound team hopes to use the extra game to get an idea of what to expect the following season. For Minnesota, today's game takes on added meaning before a pivotal 2010 campaign. Expectations will be higher then, and the pressure will be turned up on Brewster to produce better results.

"Every coach would love to be able to win the last game of the season because it springboards you," Brewster said. "It springboards you forward with positive momentum, positive energy. Not that a loss is going to determine your season the following season. I just think a last-game win certainly helps, particularly from a mental point of view, going into the offseason."

Though Minnesota loses more on defense, the offense will be the big question mark in the spring.

Quarterback Adam Weber is completing his third season as the starter, but he'll need to beat out talented backup MarQueis Gray and third-stringer Moses Alipate this spring to keep his job. Running backs Duane Bennett, Kevin Whaley and DeLeon Eskridge all return, but one of them needs to distinguish himself this spring, something that didn't happen during the season. The Gophers are also searching for the next Eric Decker at receiver and will be looking to players like Troy Stoudermire, Brandon Green and Da'Jon McKnight to step up.

The offense has been a unit of extremes, from the highs against Michigan State and Northwestern to the lows against Penn State, Iowa and Ohio State.

"The level of consistency has got to improve," Brewster said. "That's been our mindset in our preparation for the bowl game. 'Let's make good decisions with the ball, not turn the ball over, be able to run the football and take advantage of some strengths down the field.'

"I expect us to play well offensively, based on the practices we've had."

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