NCF Nation: Pat Devlin
"While Tebow was in a system that asked him to run and he liked to run, Young and Pryor don't need to run, but they can run. It's a big distinction. Part of Young's growth and value as an NFL quarterback is his knowledge of his physical skills allowing him to run, but he doesn't have to just to have value. What Pryor will need to prove is that he has footwork, not just good feet, an accurate arm, not just a cannon, and that he can read plays and deliver with anticipation, not just find open receivers."
As I've written before, Pryor likely never will have textbook mechanics. But if he can improve in other areas, namely footwork and decision-making, he can be a heck of a college quarterback, and possibly a great pro quarterback. This spring, I saw improved footwork from Pryor, and if he can make smart decisions -- and anticipate the right throws, as Kiper says -- he should have a great junior season.
Kiper also weighs in on former Penn State quarterback Pat Devlin, now at Delaware, as well as former Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham, the first-round draft pick of the Philadelphia Eagles.
I also missed this from last week, but Kiper has come out with his position rankings (top 5) for the 2011 NFL draft . These are seniors only, so draft-eligible juniors like Pryor and Wisconsin's John Clay aren't on the list.
Here are the Big Ten players who made it:
- Wisconsin's Gabe Carimi, No. 2 offensive tackle
- Ohio State's Justin Boren, No. 2 offensive guard
- Michigan's Stephen Schilling, No. 3 offensive guard
- Wisconsin's John Moffitt, No. 5 offensive guard
- Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski, No. 2 center (note: Wisniewski practiced at guard this spring and likely will stay there this season)
- Iowa's Adrian Clayborn, No. 2 defensive end
- Ohio State's Cameron Heyward, No. 4 defensive end
- Michigan State's Greg Jones, No. 3 inside linebacker
- Iowa's Ryan Donahue, No. 1 punter
A solid list of players there. I was a little surprised not to see Purdue defensive end Ryan Kerrigan or Ohio State linebacker Ross Homan, but the others look to be in the right places.
Kiper on Jones: "Jones is one of the purest tacklers you'll see in college football. His stock could rise next season on a potentially underrated Michigan State team, but he'll need to overcome questions about his size. I wouldn't be surprised to see him come into camp with 10 more pounds on that frame, which should help solidify his stock."
Kiper on Clayborn and Heyward: "Heyward came on strong this past season and should be an anchor of a top-five defense next season. Clayborn was a beast down the stretch, and it's huge for coach Kirk Ferentz to get him back as an anchor point for that defense, which loses significant talent elsewhere."
Kiper on Boren and Moffitt: "Moffitt is the only guy to be added to this list; Wisconsin should have an elite line next season with Moffitt and OT Carimi. RB John Clay will enjoy running behind them. Justin Boren isn't No. 1 here yet, but could jump [Rodney] Hudson with a dominant season for a Big Ten power."
Daryll Clark should have been Big Ten preseason Offensive Player of the Year. Instead, the honor went to Terrelle Pryor.
|Maxwell Kruger/US PRESSWIRE|
|Penn State has a 19-3 record with Darryl Clark as the starter.|
Penn State head coach Joe Paterno recently started to stump for Clark, saying the senior quarterback deserves more national recognition, perhaps even Heisman Trophy consideration. If Pryor boasted the same numbers as Clark, Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel wouldn't need to say a word.
When it comes to hype and popularity, Pryor will always be No. 1 in this league. When it comes to production and leadership, Clark's the guy.
“He was a five-star recruit, a big-time guy coming out of high school, able to make plays with both his arm and his legs," Clark told ESPN.com this week. "So it’s a juicy story. He's going to receive a lot of media attention."
The attention has reached a fever pitch as Pryor returns to Happy Valley with No. 16 Ohio State to face No. 11 Penn State on Saturday (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET). The Jeannette, Pa., product considered both Ohio State and Penn State during the recruiting process but opted to cross state lines and become a Buckeye.
Pryor's decision didn't sit well with Penn State fans, especially when he said he didn't like the State College area, calling it "too country." Nittany Nation is ready for his return, and Penn State students even made a T-shirt depicting "The Terrelle Cryer Story," which mocks Pryor's anguish following last year's loss to the Lions at Ohio Stadium.
"I'd like to get a few [T-shirts] before the game," Pryor told reporters Wednesday. "I'd like to wear one in warm-ups. I guess they're trying to get in my head. ... I can't let anything get to me."
|Jeffrey Hixon-US PRESSWIRE|
|Pennsylvania native Terrelle Pryor passed up a chance to play in Happy Valley.|
Pryor ascended to the starting job in just his fourth collegiate game and helped Ohio State reach the Fiesta Bowl last season. Clark led Penn State to a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl appearance last year and boasts a 19-3 record as the starter.
Though Clark was far less decorated than Pryor coming out of Youngstown, Ohio, his performance on the field has won over Penn State fans, who often tell him they're glad he's their guy.
"I do get that a lot, and it definitely means a lot," Clark said. "When Ohio State lost to Purdue and Pryor was under a lot of scrutiny, everyone was talking bad about him not being a quarterback, I would hear from home that Ohio State should have recruited me. That’s just the way it is. The quarterback is a tough position. You go through a lot of ups and downs."
Clark beat out another highly recruited quarterback, Pat Devlin, for the starting job last summer and thinks nothing would have changed had Pryor come to Penn State.
"He would have obviously come in and competed for the job, along with everyone else," Clark said. "The job would have been up in the air, but I definitely feel very confident that I would still become the starter and the season would have happened the way it happened. I don't know how they would use him, if they would use a Wildcat offense or whatnot, or maybe flank him out at receiver like you saw in the Fiesta Bowl last year."
Pryor is still trying to prove he can be a complete quarterback at the college level. He has rushed for 187 yards and two touchdowns on 24 carries (7.8 yards per carry) in his last two games but ranks last among Big Ten starters in completion percentage (54.6).
Clark, meanwhile, leads the Big Ten in pass efficiency (149.3) and ranks sixth nationally in touchdown passes (18), having thrown only one interception in his last five games.
"Experience is everything," Tressel said. "This week we're facing Daryll Clark, and I think this is his sixth year out of high school. He's had a bunch of snaps. You can see he's in command of the football game. You can't flip a switch to get to that level.
"In Daryll's Year 2, he probably wasn't there, and I think Terrelle's a little bit ahead of the curve."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
One of the things Jake Christensen likes about playing football at Eastern Illinois is the appreciation Panthers players have toward the game.
"The guys care more about football at this level, honestly," Christensen said Monday on a conference call with reporters. "It’s easy to care about football when you’re playing in front of 100,000 people every weekend and you’re a superstar in town."
|Stephen Mally/Icon SMI|
|Jake Christensen returns to Penn State Saturday, this time as Eastern Illinois' quarterback.|
EIU players will get a taste of the limelight Saturday (ESPN Classic, noon ET) when they face Penn State at Beaver Stadium (capacity: 107,282). The atmosphere will be unlike any the Panthers experience in the Ohio Valley Conference.
Christensen expects many of his teammates to be "awestruck at first," but he won't be. The former Iowa quarterback will be making his second trip to Happy Valley as a player after facing Penn State in 2007. Christensen endured a rough day in a rough season, as Iowa lost 27-7 and he was sacked five teams as the Hawkeyes recorded only eight first downs.
His lasting impression from Beaver Stadium?
"Real loud," he said. "They're going to be bigger than we are and probably faster than we are at every position, but it’s been done before and there’s no reason why we can’t do it. We’re not scared, we're not intimidated. We're ready to play football."
Christensen, who transferred to EIU this summer, would rather not look back at his time in Iowa City, but his connection to the Hawkeyes does work in his favor Saturday. After all, Iowa has won seven of its last eight games against Penn State, including a 21-10 triumph on Sept. 26.
"I don’t know, man," he said when asked to explain Iowa's success in the series. "They get some breaks against that team that I’ve never seen before in my life."
That wasn't the only jab he took at his former team. When asked if left-handers get picked on by their coaches, Christensen, a southpaw, said with a laugh, "Well, apparently Iowa's coaches didn't like me very much."
Christensen has done well at Eastern Illinois, completing 65.4 percent of his passes for 1,090 yards and 11 touchdowns with three interceptions in five games.
Here's a look at how several quarterback transfers from the Big Ten are faring with their new teams.
- Jake Christensen (Iowa), Eastern Illinois: 89 of 136 passing for 1,090 yards, 11 TDs, 3 INTs, 218 ypg, 155.04 rating, 4-1 record
- Kellen Lewis (Indiana), Valdosta State: 93 of 142 passing for 934 yards, 3 TDs, 3 INTs, 123.5 rating, 233.5 ypg, 4 rush TDs, 2-2 record
- Pat Devlin (Penn State), Delaware: 100 of 155 passing for 1,252 yards, 7 TDs, 2 INTs, 144.7 rating, 4 rush TDs, 3-2 record
- Clint Brewster (Minnesota), Tennessee Tech: No pass attempts this season.
- Steven Threet (Michigan): sitting out the season at Arizona State, per NCAA transfer rules.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
A team is often only as good as its backup quarterback, a fact that held true throughout the Big Ten in 2008.
Pat Devlin scored arguably the biggest touchdown of Penn State's season at Ohio State as the Nittany Lions rallied for a 13-6 win. Mike Kafka's record-setting rushing performance against Minnesota helped Northwestern to a huge win after injuries had hit several important positions. Several Big Ten squads also had backups emerge into starters, such as Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor and Iowa's Ricky Stanzi.
Several Big Ten backups haven't played a down in a college game, so it's tough to pass judgment on them. But here's my stab at ranking the league's backup signal callers coming out of spring ball.
1. Michigan State -- The competition for the starting job between Kirk Cousins and Keith Nichol remains too close to call, and that's not a bad thing. Both players performed very well during spring ball and particularly during the spring game. Whoever doesn't win the top job provides head coach Mark Dantonio with a solid No. 2 option. Cousins already held the role last fall and performed well.
2. Minnesota -- Head coach Tim Brewster reiterated throughout the spring that Adam Weber is his starter, but he also acknowledged that talented freshman MarQueis Gray will get on the field a lot this fall. Gray lived up to the hype in spring ball, and the Gophers likely will use a special package of plays to feature him in games. Should Weber go down, Minnesota should be fine with Gray.
3. Illinois -- The Illini boast the Big Ten's most experienced signal caller in Juice Williams, and they also have the league's most seasoned backup in Eddie McGee. McGee appeared in 12 games in 2007 and came up big against Missouri, Wisconsin and Penn State. The coaches have even used McGee on a series or two when Williams gets into trouble. Redshirt freshman Jacob Charest provides another solid option.
4. Ohio State -- Overall depth at quarterback is the only reason the Buckeyes aren't higher on the list. The coaches have confidence that Joe Bauserman can step in if Terrelle Pryor goes down with an injury. Bauserman boasts a strong arm and good knowledge of the scheme. It remains to be seen what Ohio State gets out of third-stringer Kenny Guiton, a late signee in February.
5. Wisconsin -- The starting job is not set in stone, though senior Dustin Sherer remains the frontrunner heading into the summer. Curt Phillips' push toward the end of spring should ease offensive coordinator Paul Chryst's concerns about the position. Phillips brings speed and athleticism to the backfield, and junior Scott Tolzien is a smart player who has been in the system for some time.
6. Michigan -- True freshman Tate Forcier emerged from a solid spring as the frontrunner at quarterback, though he'll still be pushed by Nick Sheridan and Denard Robinson in August. Sheridan has been in the fire and showed some good signs during spring ball before breaking his leg. But he might not be as strong of a fit as Robinson, who boasts track-star speed and, like Forcier, provides the improvisation skills needed to run this offense.
7. Northwestern -- Pat Fitzgerald and his staff are fully prepared to play a second quarterback at times this season. The nature of Northwestern's spread offense elevates the injury risk for quarterbacks, and Dan Persa likely will see the field, much like Kafka did in 2008. Persa's size (6-1, 200) is a bit of a concern, though he brings above-average mobility to the pocket. Incoming freshman Evan Watkins likely will redshirt this fall, but he's considered the team's quarterback of the future.
8. Purdue -- The Boilers would have been much better off with Justin Siller still in the fold, but the coaches liked what they saw from redshirt freshman Caleb TerBush this spring. Career backup Joey Elliott will get the first shot under center this fall, but TerBush is a big kid (6-5, 222) who can step in if things go south. The problem here is depth, as Purdue can't play Robert Marve until 2010.
9. Penn State -- Devlin's decision to transfer really stings Penn State, which can't afford to lose Daryll Clark and keep its Big Ten title hopes afloat. True freshman Kevin Newsome did some nice things this spring, but he's got a long way to go before leading the Spread HD offense in a Big Ten game. Matt McGloin provides the Nittany Lions with another option under center, but Penn State should take every precaution to keep Clark healthy.
10. Indiana -- The coaches' decision to move Kellen Lewis to wide receiver not only reaffirmed their faith in starter Ben Chappell, but also the men behind him. Teddy Schell came to Indiana as a decorated high school quarterback in Illinois and should finally get a chance to showcase himself. But Schell is unproven on the college level, and the same goes for promising redshirt freshman Adam Follett.
11. Iowa -- Nothing against James Vandenberg or John Wienke, but the college canvas is pretty blank on both redshirt freshmen right now. Despite all the Jake Christensen hatred, many level-headed Hawkeyes fans wouldn't mind having him around this season to back up Ricky Stanzi. An injury to Stanzi could derail Iowa's Big Ten title hopes, particularly with four very difficult conference road games (Penn State, Wisconsin, Michigan State, Ohio State).
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
A year ago, Daryll Clark was an unproven commodity competing for Penn State's starting quarterback spot alongside Pat Devlin. Clark now finds himself at the helm of the Nittany Lions as arguably the best quarterback in the Big Ten.
|Paul Spinelli/Getty Images|
|Already entrenched as the starter, Daryll Clark hopes to build on what he accomplished in 2008.|
He beat out Devlin for the top job and went on to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors, tallying 2,592 passing yards and 19 touchdowns with only six interceptions. Clark added 282 rush yards and 10 touchdowns for the nation's 14th-rated offense. After helping guide Penn State to an 11-2 mark and a Rose Bowl appearance, the 6-foot-2, 233-pound senior steps into a primary leadership position this spring on an offense that returns only five starters.
Here are Clark's thoughts on spring practice, his emergence last fall and the coming challenges for Penn State.
How different has this spring been for you as opposed to last year?
Daryll Clark: Last spring, it was a big decision on who was going to be the quarterback. It was competition. Whereas now, it's a little bit different. With Kevin Newsome being here, he's a freshman, he has a lot to learn. So this is a time for me to critique the mistakes I made from the past season and fine-tune everything I have to, to become a better quarterback and a better asset to this football team. Just become a bigger and better leader. There was a lot of help with all of the seniors we had last year. We have some this year, and our coaches have been calling upon a lot of our young guys to step to the forefront because we're going to need a lot of leadership to step up this year and fill some gaps. There are a lot of positions up in the air this spring. It's been real interesting. The first practice was pretty weird going out there and not seeing those three wideouts that I'm used to seeing [Derrick Williams, Deon Butler and Jordan Norwood].
Have you spent a lot of time watching those position battles at O-line and wide receiver?
DC: It's kind of tough to watch because I'm practicing in the thick of things throughout the entire practice. My reps are not limited. My main thing is just trying to get the timing down with all the wide receivers we have now. And it's going very well. With Derrick, Deon and Jordan, after the  Alamo Bowl game, we started working on timing two weeks after. The same thing happened after the Rose Bowl this year with the younger guys. We have everyone on the same page to what we're trying to get accomplished this year, both offensively and defensively. Things have been pretty much going back and forth each practice, so that's a pretty good thing. Our wideouts are doing a great job of catching the ball, downfield blocking and making runs after the catch. Everything is on the up and up right now.
Who has stood out to you among the young guys?
DC: No one's really stood out. I think everyone is working at an even rate -- at a high rate, actually. To name a few, Chaz Powell, Derek Moye, Brett Brackett, Graham Zug, James McDonald, those guys really know that they're going to play this year, so it's important that they get everything down, get the whole terminology of the offense down and get used to the positions that they're going to play. I really haven't seen any nerves or anything like that because a lot of the guys have been playing, but just didn't get as many reps as our senior receivers from last year. They've played in a couple games already. Now they're going to be moving into a starting role, so I think they'll be ready.
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
Here's what's happening in your neck of the woods.
- For the first time in several years, linebacker is a position of uncertainty for Ohio State, and The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises breaks it all down.
- Former Penn State quarterback Pat Devlin has no regrets about his decision to transfer to Delaware and harbors no ill will toward anyone in State College, Kevin Tresolini writes in The News Journal.
"From top to bottom, everybody [at Penn State] was great," Devlin said. "I just got a call from Tom Bradley [Penn State defensive coordinator] checking up on me. So no bridges are burned. I don't think Joe's happy about it, but no looking back. I loved the experience I had there. I made friends I'll never forget. I played in games I'll never forget. Sad to see it's over, but it was a business decision."
- Wisconsin's latest batch of recruits is used to winning, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
- Minnesota's next wide receivers coach inherits a young and deep group of players and a sizable recruiting void to fill after George McDonald's departure, the Star Tribune's Kent Youngblood writes in his blog.
- The interview process with NFL teams will largely determine where former Iowa running back Shonn Greene winds up in April's draft, The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette's Marc Morehouse writes in his blog.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
As you might have noticed, we're rolling out our season recaps this week. The posts for Illinois and Indiana are already up, and check back later today for recaps on Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State and Minnesota.
Coming Tuesday: Northwestern, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin.
Here's a quick roundup of links before getting back to the recaps.
- Iowa fans have complained about Kirk Ferentz in recent seasons, but Hawkeye Nation is in a much better position than the other FBS program in the state, Pat Harty writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen.
"You could argue that Hayden Fry stuck around too long as the Iowa coach in the late 1990s, but what a small price to pay for two decades of stability, sunny bowl trips and Fry's classic one-liners.
You could argue that current Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz is too stubborn about certain things and too loyal to his assistants.
But you can't argue about whether Ferentz is the right fit for the Iowa job. A person doesn't keep the same job for 10 seasons and win two conference titles without being the right fit."
- Ohio State's decision to replace quarterback Todd Boeckman with Terrelle Pryor sparked debate throughout the season, but Boeckman has tried to take the demotion in stride, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
"All I know is I wasn't performing to my best, the team wasn't doing its best, and maybe we needed a little boost," Boeckman said.
- The timing of quarterback Pat Devlin's departure doesn't help Penn State heading into the Rose Bowl, Jeff McLane writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer.
- Bowl practices are allowing Michigan State to get a head start on its quarterback competition for 2009, as Keith Nichol and Kirk Cousins go head-to-head, Andrew Mouranie writes in the Lansing State Journal.
- Family issues triggered Sam McGuffie's decision to transfer from Michigan, Angelique Chengelis writes in The Detroit News.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Did any of you catch Purdue coach Joe Tiller posing for pictures with his two top quarterback pupils, Drew Brees and Kyle Orton, following Thursday night's Bears-Saints game? It looked like a pretty cool moment for Tiller, who officially turns over the Boilermakers program to Danny Hope in January.
Tiller was diplomatic in his rooting interest Thursday night. He pulled for "both offenses," as Vaughn McClure writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Minnesota star wide receiver Eric Decker underwent left knee surgery Monday but is expected back for the Insight Bowl, Kent Youngblood writes in the Star Tribune. Fellow Gophers wide receiver Ralph Spry, who started for portions of the season before being sidetracked by a suspension, has decided to transfer from Minnesota.
- Shonn Greene never ballooned to 300 pounds, as some Internet rumors suggested, but the Iowa running back and Big Ten MVP proved to be quite a load for opposing defenses this fall, Teddy Greenstein writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Ohio State fans don't seem too motivated about making another bowl trip to Arizona in tough economic times, Steve Stephens and Ken Gordon write in The Columbus Dispatch.
"Buckeye fan Janice Paudicz has been to three bowl games in Phoenix, including the national-title games in January 2007 and January 2003.
She won't be in Arizona, however, when No. 10 Ohio State plays No. 3 Texas.
"When they announced (the destination), my husband and I just looked at each other. It was, 'Do you want to go there again? No, I don't, either.'"
- FCS-member Delaware continues to look like the top destination for quarterback Pat Devlin, who decided to transfer from Penn State earlier this week, Kevin Tresolini writes in The (Wilmington) News Journal.
- Michigan State running back Javon Ringer knows Georgia will be tough, but the Spartans senior aims for a big day in his final collegiate game.
"I'm just not satisfied the way things ended, not satisfied at all," he said Thursday while attending the bowl-game promotion before Thursday night's College Football Awards ceremony. "That's why this bowl is so good. The perfect game for me would be something like 25 carries, 200 yards, three touchdowns and a victory. That's the way I want to go out."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Don't miss the awards show tonight (ESPN, 8 p.m. ET). I'm guessing the Big Ten takes home some hardware.
Time to read up.
- College football's love affair with quarterbacks and the spread offense has made it nearly impossible for elite running backs like Ohio State's Chris "Beanie" Wells -- or Iowa's Shonn Green, for that matter -- to take home the Heisman Trophy, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. Big backs have struggled to get in the Heisman mix since Ron Dayne.
"The Heisman campaign of Ohio State running back Beanie Wells didn't end when he hurt his right foot in the second half of the season opener against Youngstown State. It ended when quarterbacks at Oklahoma, Texas and Florida lined up under center and put defenses under attack. When it comes to the Heisman these days, you've got to throw for show. That's why anointing Wells as the preseason favorite, which was a popular opinion that I shared, was faulty logic from the start. "Genial quarterback with mind-blowing numbers for successful team" was the real favorite all along."
- Delaware might be Pat Devlin's next stop after deciding to transfer from Penn State, Don McKee writes in the Philadelphia Inquirer. Seemed to work out well for that Flacco guy.
- Finding a replacement for offensive coordinator Mike Locksley is only one of several key decisions facing Illinois head coach Ron Zook this offseason, Loren Tate writes in The (Champaign) News-Gazette. Illinois will host Northern Illinois in September 2010, Terry Bannon writes in the Chicago Tribune.
- Hard-hitting Wisconsin safety Jay Valai has become a YouTube sensation, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
- Shonn Greene's name made it onto the Heisman ballots of two voters, Mike Hlas and Marc Morehouse of The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
- SEC teams are making a push for offensive lineman William Campbell, a Detroit native who still has Michigan in the mix, Sam Webb writes in The Detroit News.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
|Matthew Emmons/US Presswire|
|Pat Devlin (7) played a key role in Penn State's win over Ohio State earlier this season.|
Devlin and his parents reportedly met with head coach Joe Paterno on Monday to discuss his status.
"By the end of the meeting, Pat Devlin had informed Paterno that he was leaving, the source said. With one game to play, however, Devlin's decision over whether he would play in the Jan. 1 Rose Bowl against Southern Cal was left dangling.
[Wednesday], according to another source close to the team, Paterno asked Devlin if he had reached a verdict. The sophomore said he had not. Paterno made the decision for him, and by the end of the day, Devlin's locker was cleaned out."
All-Big Ten quarterback Daryll Clark was granted a fifth year of eligibility before the season and will return in 2009, but Penn State has no one behind him. Third-stringer Paul Cianciolo is a senior who will back up Clark in the Rose Bowl, his final collegiate game.
Recruiting now becomes paramount for Penn State, and it's an area that still creates anxiety in Happy Valley despite the program's renaissance this fall. The Lions' mediocre 2009 class currently features only one quarterback, Curtis Drake from Philadelphia.
Penn State undoubtedly will try to add another signal caller.
Tahj Boyd backed out of his commitment to Tennessee after meeting with new coach Lane Kiffin and would be an excellent late pickup for the Lions. Former Michigan commit Kevin Newsome also is a possibility. Newsome has Penn State among his top group of schools, and the chance to back up Clark next fall and start in 2010 could push him toward Happy Valley.
Posted by ESPN.com'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.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Three weeks ago, Justin Siller was practicing as a running back at Purdue, having made the move from quarterback in an effort to spark a sputtering offense.
|Harry How/Getty Images|
|Mike Kafka set a Big Ten quarterback record with 217 rushing yards.|
Mike Kafka hadn't switched positions at Northwestern, although some thought he'd be better served as a running back or a wide receiver. Two weeks ago, Kafka went through another round of workouts as Northwestern's backup quarterback, his on-field work limited to 14 pass attempts in the last two seasons.
Then Saturday arrived, and the scripts changed for both players.
Siller accounted for four touchdowns (3 pass, 1 rush) and threw no interceptions in leading Purdue to a 48-42 win against Michigan, which snapped the Boilermakers' five-game losing streak. Kafka set a Big Ten quarterback record with 217 rushing yards and also fired two touchdown passes as Northwestern upset then-No. 17 Minnesota at the Metrodome.
Two reserve quarterbacks, a backup (Kafka) and a third-stringer (Siller), shared Big Ten Offensive Player of the Week honors for Week 10. Given the quarterback landscape this season in the Big Ten, it comes as no surprise.
If this is the year of the quarterback in the Big 12, it's the year of the backup quarterback in the Big Ten. Backups have played prominent roles for seven of the 11 teams, either because of injury or performance.
"A change at Wisconsin, a change at Iowa, in our own case, in Northwestern's case, changes because of injuries," Purdue coach Joe Tiller said. "Same in [Indiana's] case. So circumstantially, there's a greater opportunity for guys to step up. And fortunately for all of us, we've had some guys that, when the season began, were relegated to a backup role that have come through."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Penn State quarterback Daryll Clark remembers the hit to the head he absorbed on a 7-yard run late in the third quarter against Ohio State.
|Matthew Emmons-US PRESSWIRE|
|Daryll Clark has been cleared to play Saturday after suffering a mild concussion Oct. 25 against Ohio State.|
He remembers Nittany Lions center A.Q. Shipley holding up two fingers and asking him to count them. He remembers staying in the game for seven more plays after the collision. But shortly after heading to the Penn State sideline, Clark's memory faded.
"There was a big gap," Clark said this morning. "I looked up at the clock and it was 13 [minutes] and the next time I looked up it was six minutes, in a matter of seconds."
Clark sustained a mild concussion on the play and blacked out for several minutes of the fourth quarter, the stretch where Penn State forced a Terrelle Pryor fumble and took the lead on a 1-yard scoring sneak by backup quarterback Pat Devlin. Though Clark appeared upset when TV cameras spotted him on the sideline, he admitted he didn't even know what was happening at the time.
The junior has been cleared by doctors after going through a series of tests. He's practicing fully this week and is expected to start Saturday at Iowa (ABC, 3:30 p.m. ET).
"It was really weird," Clark said. "I've never had something like that happened to me before, just blacked out and lose a couple minutes of your life. I'm very anxious to go out and get that first hit and get the jitters out and see where I am. I'm going to get hit in the game, and that will let me know where I am."
Though Clark didn't want to come out against Ohio State and continued to function immediately after the hit, he knew something was wrong.
"I remember having a big ringing in my head," he said. "I kind of knew this might be a concussion because that ringing did not disappear until the next day."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
The Big Ten hierarchy is beginning to clear up. It wouldn't surprise me if the rundown below remains more or less the same at the end of the season. Then again, college football wouldn't be so great without surprises, so things could change.
1. Penn State (9-0, 5-0 Big Ten) -- The Nittany Lions cleared their biggest hurdle to date and won in Ohio Stadium for the first time as a member of the Big Ten. Adversity arrived and Penn State found a different way to win, relying on a dominant defensive performance and poised play from backup quarterback Pat Devlin in the fourth quarter. The Lions are in prime position for a national title run heading into the bye week.
2. Ohio State (7-2, 4-1) -- Head coach Jim Tressel got beat at his own game, as a tightly contested contest characterized by hard-hitting defense, field position and special teams went to Penn State following Terrelle Pryor's fourth-quarter fumble. Ohio State's defense continues to play well, but an underachieving offensive line has held back this team.
3. Minnesota (7-1, 3-1) -- Opportunistic defense continues to spark Minnesota's renaissance under Tim Brewster. The Gophers forced four turnovers and held Purdue to 109 passing yards in Saturday's victory. They enter a manageable closing stretch with a chance to reach a New Year's Day bowl game after going 1-11 last season.
4. Michigan State (7-2, 4-1) -- Little brother no more, the Spartans traveled to Ann Arbor and won in Michigan Stadium for the first time since 1990. They overcame a disappointing effort last week and a bad call that gave Michigan a first-quarter touchdown, and they rallied to score the game's final 21 points. A New Year's Day bowl remains possible entering the final three games.
5. Iowa (5-3, 2-2) -- The idle Hawkeyes move up a spot and can continue to climb with a road win against Illinois this week. Shonn Greene faces a vulnerable run defense and can fuel his long-shot Heisman Trophy campaign. Iowa needs a win to become bowl eligible and two to secure a postseason spot. With Penn State and Minnesota left on the schedule, Saturday's game is huge.
6. Northwestern (6-2, 2-2) -- Disaster struck for the Wildcats at Indiana, as they lost an extremely winnable game and saw their starting offensive backfield go down with injuries. Running back Tyrell Sutton will undergo wrist surgery this week and likely miss the rest of the season. Quarterback C.J. Bacher also could miss time with a hamstring injury. The defense needs to step up to avoid a major slide.
7. Wisconsin (4-4, 1-4) -- The bleeding finally stopped in Madison as Wisconsin ended its four-game losing streak with an impressive performance against Illinois. Quarterback Dustin Sherer stepped up in his second career start, and the defense intercepted Juice Williams three times. The season-ending loss of star tight end/H-back Travis Beckum puts a damper on things, but Wisconsin should be able to get bowl eligible.
8. Illinois (4-4, 2-3) -- Head coach Ron Zook would certainly take consistency over talent right now. Despite playmakers on both sides of the ball, Illinois has become the Big Ten's biggest mystery: great one week, terrible the next. To be fair, the Illini were facing a desperate Wisconsin team Saturday, but turnovers and spotty run defense led to a loss. Saturday's game against Iowa is critical.
9. Michigan (2-6, 1-3) -- This is an atypical year for Michigan, but the team keeps delivering typical performances: solid for a half or three quarters, but never for an entire game. The Wolverines squandered a second-half lead and saw their hope for a winning season fade away. Another loss will ensure a losing season and no bowl for the first time since 1974.
10. Indiana (3-5, 1-4) -- Credit the Hoosiers for being opportunistic against Northwestern and pulling out a nice upset. Backup quarterback Ben Chappell avoided major mistakes and the defense prevented big plays. Northwestern gift-wrapped this one to a certain extent, but Indiana had a solid game plan on both sides of the ball and picked up its first league win.
11. Purdue (2-6, 0-4) -- You have to feel for Joe Tiller, who could endure his worst season at Purdue in his final year as Boilermakers coach. More disturbing is the fact that Tiller's trademark offense has been the primary reason for the team's struggles. Purdue had its lowest passing total (109) yards in Tiller's 12 seasons as coach and dropped its fifth straight game.