NCF Nation: Rafael Eubanks
Ohio State, Iowa and Wisconsin all return a large core of players from bowl championship squads. Penn State loses a bit more than the others, but running back Evan Royster's return solidifies the run game for 2010.
So how rosy is the Big Ten's outlook for the 2010 season? Colleague Mark Schlabach likes what he sees.
Schlabach lists three Big Ten teams in the top 10 of his way-too-early Top 25. The Big 12 is the only other league with multiple top 20 teams (Texas and Nebraska).
Rose Bowl champion Ohio State comes in at No. 2, one spot behind reigning national champ Alabama. Don't be surprised if the two teams who won bowl games in Pasadena meet for the national title in Glendale, Ariz., next year.
Iowa comes in at No. 9 in Schlabach's poll, as nine starters return on defense. Wisconsin surges to a No. 10 ranking and will return 10 starters on offense, including running back John Clay, the Big Ten's Offensive Player of the Year.
Penn State rounds out the Big Ten contingent at No. 19.
Here's what Schlabach wrote about each Big Ten squad:
Ohio State: "Terrelle Pryor finally looked like the quarterback everyone thought he would be, and coach Jim Tressel might finally be ready to open his playbook in 2010, Pryor's third season."
Iowa: "Iowa will have back six starters on offense, but the line must be rebuilt with center Rafael Eubanks, right guard Dace Richardson, left tackle Bryan Bulaga and right tackle Kyle Calloway leaving. Nine starters should return to a very stingy defense."
Wisconsin: "With tailback John Clay coming back, and quarterback Scott Tolzien making big strides at season's end, the Badgers should be very good on offense in 2010."
Penn State: "Penn State coach Joe Paterno needs six more wins to reach 400 career victories, but he'll have to rebuild his team's defense to match this season's 11-2 record."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
IOWA CITY, Iowa -- From the name on the back of his jersey to his obvious physical resemblance to Iowa's head coach, it's obvious that James Ferentz isn't like the rest of his Hawkeyes teammates.
Ferentz received a harsh reminder of this fact in April, when he and two teammates were arrested for public intoxication. It marked the second alcohol-related citation for Ferentz, a redshirt freshman offensive lineman for the Hawkeyes.
While both indiscretions were fairly minor, the arrest of head coach Kirk Ferentz's youngest son generated a great deal of local and regional media attention.
After being suspended for spring ball, Ferentz is back on the field for the start of Iowa's preseason camp. He will be suspended for Iowa's season opener against Northern Iowa.
"I just need to be smarter and make better decisions," James Ferentz said. "I learned a lot about myself this past season. I didn't make wise decisions. Now it's time to just get ready and get going for the season."
Kirk Ferentz expressed frustration about the attention his son's arrest received, but James said he knew the spotlight would be on him when he signed with Iowa.
"I made a mistake," he said, "but at the same time, I still think I'm in the right place and with the right people."
Ferentz, who was listed as the team's second-string center before spring practice, will compete for time alongside Rafael Eubanks and Josh Koeppel. Iowa loses starting center Rob Bruggeman, a second-team All-Big Ten selection.
After a trying offseason, Ferentz jumps at the chance to contribute on the field this fall.
"This is the one thing in my life that I really love and enjoy doing every day," he said. "It doesn't really matter where I'm at or what my position is on the team. I'm just excited to be a part of it."
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
There are some positions on the depth chart that make Big Ten coaches cringe. There are other spots that make them smile and nod their heads.
Let's take a look at several fully loaded positions in the Big Ten.
Ohio State's defensive line: There is talk the Buckeyes' front four could be the best since the 2002 national championship squad. Ohio State is stacked at defensive end with All-Big Ten candidate Thaddeus Gibson, Cameron Heyward and Lawrence Wilson, who can be effective if healthy. Tackle Doug Worthington brings a ton of experience to the interior line, and Dexter Larimore and Todd Denlinger add depth there.
Iowa's offensive line: This group is well on its way to restoring the tradition established during the early part of coach Kirk Ferentz's tenure. Iowa boasts the league's top tackles tandem in Bryan Bulaga and Kyle Calloway, and there are a host of experienced interior linemen. Julian Vandervelde developed nicely in 2008, and Andy Kuempel, Rafael Eubanks and Dan Doering all are solid options at guard. The emergence of oft-injured Dace Richardson this spring adds another body to the mix. Aside from the center spot, Iowa looks extremely solid up front.
Michigan State's secondary: Despite losing All-Big Ten safety Otis Wiley, Michigan State should be even stronger in the back half. Three starters return in the secondary, including corners Chris L. Rucker and Ross Weaver. Michigan State boasts depth with corners Jeremy Ware and Johnny Adams and safeties Kendell Davis-Clark and Marcus Hyde. And the breakout performance of the spring came from another safety, Trenton Robinson, who certainly will see playing time this season.
Penn State's linebackers: Linebacker U. is back in 2009. Penn State boasts one of the nation's top linebacker tandems in Sean Lee and Navorro Bowman, both of whom will contend for All-America honors. And it doesn't stop there, as sophomore Michael Mauti is poised for a big year on the outside. Penn State also boasts veteran depth with Josh Hull, Chris Colasanti and Bani Gbadyu.
Illinois' wide receivers: Juice Williams will have no shortage of options in the passing game this fall. All-America candidate Arrelious Benn leads the Big Ten's deepest receiving corps, which features Jeff Cumberland, Chris Duvalt, A.J. Jenkins, Cordale Scott and Jack Ramsey. Florida transfer Jarred Fayson worked his way into a starting spot this spring and will draw opposing defenders away from Benn.
Michigan's running backs: Whoever wins the starting quarterback job in Ann Arbor will have plenty of help in the backfield. Hopes are extremely high for senior Brandon Minor, who finished strong last season despite battling several injuries, including one to his right (ball-carrying) wrist. Backing up Minor will be Carlos Brown and Michael Shaw, both of whom will be more accustomed to Rich Rodriguez's offense. Bite-size back Vincent Smith emerged this spring to provide another option with breakaway speed.
Northwestern's secondary: One of the league's weakest units a few years ago has transformed into a major strength for the Wildcats. All four starters return from 2008, and safety Brad Phillips and cornerback Sherrick McManis are strong candidates for All-Big Ten honors. Safety Brendan Smith and cornerback Jordan Mabin both are natural playmakers, and Northwestern boasts depth in players like Brian Peters, Justan Vaughn and David Arnold.
Wisconsin's H-backs/tight ends: Travis Beckum's star-crossed senior season opened opportunities for other players in 2008, and the result is a multitude of options at tight end for 2009. Mackey Award candidate Garrett Graham leads the way at the H-back spot, and senior Mickey Turner and junior Lance Kendricks provide reliable options in the passing game.