NCF Nation: Sirod Williams
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Four spring games in the books, six more on tap this week (no spring game this year for Iowa).
A big helping of links for you today.
- Curt Phillips boosted his stock in Wisconsin's quarterback competition, plus a position-by-position review of spring ball, courtesy of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel's Jeff Potrykus. Whoever wins the top quarterback job should have more help from the wideouts this fall, Tom Mulhern writes in the Wisconsin State Journal.
- After battling cancer, Michigan State offensive lineman Arthur Ray Jr. envisions a return to the football field, Eric Lacy writes in The Detroit News.
"I have this favorite quote: 'Never give up on anything that you're going to think about the rest of your life,'" Ray said. "If I quit football, I'll be an old man someday sitting in my room thinking about my glory high school football days. No way, no way."
- Michigan should see a decline in season-ticket sales, but not a dramatic one, Mark Snyder writes in the Detroit Free Press. Former Wolverines quarterback Drew Henson understands the challenge facing former Duke hoopster Greg Paulus, John Niyo writes in The Detroit News.
- After battling a multitude of injuries for most of spring ball, Indiana running back Darius Willis finally took center stage at the spring game, Terry Hutchens writes in The Indianapolis Star.
- It would be a big surprise if Arrelious Benn didn't turn pro after this season, but the Illinois wide receiver isn't getting wrapped up in the NFL draft talk, Bob Asmussen writes in The (Champaign) News-Gazette. Meanwhile, Illini defensive tackle Sirod Williams is on the mend and hopes to return for the season opener.
- There's a lot to like about this Iowa team, Pat Harty writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Converted quarterback Marvin NcNutt, a candidate to start at wide receiver, is among the Hawkeyes' bright spots, Scott Dochterman writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
- Here's the good and the bad from Ohio State's jersey scrimmage on Saturday, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch.
- Bad news for Big Ten offensive linemen, as Penn State defensive tackle Jared Odrick looks to get violent this fall, Bob Flounders writes in The (Harrisburg) Patriot-News.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Juice Williams enters 2009 as one of the Big Ten's most recognizable players, a proven quarterback in a league starved for them.
|Chuck Rydlewski/Icon SMI|
|Juice Williams was a second-team All-Big Ten selection last fall.|
Williams has experienced just about everything at Illinois: A 10-loss season as a raw, yet talented freshman, a thrilling Rose Bowl run as a sophomore and a very disappointing campaign as a junior last fall. Illinois led the Big Ten in passing and ranked second in total offense but struggled to a 5-7 finish. Williams, a second-team All-Big Ten selection last fall, wants to end his college career on a good note, and perhaps for the first time he has truly taken ownership of the team.
Earlier this week, Williams discussed his up-and-down 2008 season, his outlook for the future and his legacy at Illinois.
What's been the mood for you and the guys during offseason workouts after things didn't go the way you wanted them to last fall?
Juice Williams: The attitude of this year's team is completely different from what we had last year at this time. Obviously, we didn't end up the way we should have or what we thought we should have. But that's affected this team in such a positive way. [The struggles] may be one of the best things to happen to this team.
Guys now are realizing that if we don't come to play every week, we're not going to be successful. And in order to come out there and play like that, we have to train and prepare our bodies to play 12 games to the maximum potential. Guys have really taken on that role, and I think we'll be ready by the time the season comes around.
Do you think guys were taking things for granted a little bit last year, especially coming off a Rose Bowl run?
JW: I think it had some type of affect on it. Guys kind of slacked off a little bit. We didn't really have the same intensity in the offseason as we should have. But like I said, I think it was probably the best thing that happened to us, not going to a bowl game. Us bringing back so many seniors and so much experience for this year, it's going to really prepare this team in the right direction.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
It's time to go inside five Big Ten teams as they prepare for the start of league play on Saturday.
Illinois -- The defensive line might finally be taking shape for the Illini after some illness/injury issues. Sophomore Josh Brent is back in the fold at defensive tackle, which has allowed standout Will Davis to move back to his natural position of defensive end. Freshman Cory Liuget also has emerged at defensive tackle, a spot vacated when projected starterSirod Williams tore his ACL during training camp. "It's important that we can [rotate] guys in there and keep us fresh," head coach Ron Zook said. Zook called the defensive line the team's strength before the season, but the group will need to elevate its play Saturday night against Penn State's powerful rushing attack, which ranks eighth nationally (274.3 ypg).
Indiana -- When the NCAA cleared Florida transfer Jerimy Finch to play this season, Indiana's secondary looked like one of the deepest groups on the team. That depth will be tested Saturday against Michigan State (ESPN, noon ET). The Hoosiers will be without at least one starting safety (Nick Polk, knee) and could miss their other starter, as strong safety Austin Thomas is questionable for the game with a lower leg injury. Coach Bill Lynch announced that starting cornerback Chris Phillips will miss the remainder of the season with a torn ACL. So the Hoosiers could be replacing three starters against the Spartans. Finch figures to see plenty of time.
Michigan -- A bye week allowed Michigan's offensive line time to heal, though a knee injury to tackle Perry Dorrestein last week in practice clouded things a bit. Mark Ortmann is expected back from a dislocated elbow and should rotate at left tackle with Dorrestein if Dorrestein can play. Left tackle is one of three offensive line spots that have an "OR" listed between potential starters on the depth chart. Converted defensive linemanJohn Ferrara could start at right guard in place of David Moosman, who is listed at both guard and center on the depth chart. Redshirt freshman Mark Huyge also should be back from an ankle injury, so the coaches have some decisions to make up front.
Minnesota -- True freshman running back DeLeon Eskridge has stepped up in the two games after Duane Bennett's knee injury, but coach Tim Brewster isn't quite ready to call Eskridge his featured back. Brewster said Eskridge, freshman Shady Salamon and junior Jay Thomas all will play Saturday at No. 14 Ohio State, and Minnesota will stick with whoever has the hot hand. The coach admitted that identifying a clear-cut starter has become less of a concern than it was after Bennett went down. Eskridge has 192 rushing yards and five touchdowns the last two games.
Ohio State -- Quarterback isn't the only offensive position where youth will be served Saturday against Minnesota. Freshman Michael Brewster remains the starter at center on this week's depth chart after playing a prominent role last week against Troy. The Buckeyes movedJim Cordle from center to left guard after Steve Rehring injured his foot against USC. Rehring will miss "another week or so," coach Jim Tressel said, so that means more time for Brewster, one of several heralded freshmen in Ohio State's recruiting class.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Game week is almost here, and coaches around the league have some big decisions to make. Your only decision is to keep reading.
- Rejus Benn could use a shave, particularly if he ends up on stage accepting an award or two in December. But the Illinois sophomore wideout isn't concerned about his preseason hype, Bob Asmussen writes in The (Champaign, Ill.) News-Gazette. Sirod Williams' season-ending knee injury put Illini defensive tackle Josh Brent in the mix to start, Mark Tupper writes.
- No one at Indiana has said much about the reasons behind quarterback Kellen Lewis' spring suspension. But Lewis finally opened up Monday, saying he had thrown himself into "a party lifestyle," skipping classes and team meetings, Terry Hutchens writes in The Indianapolis Star. Very candid stuff from the junior:
"There were times when they called me and couldn't get a hold of me for three days. I had gone out and partied and then missed two classes and didn't wake up until 12:30. ... When you start believing in your own hype a little bit, you start thinking you can slide in a little bit later than everybody else. And now that you don't have to follow the same rules, you can bend this rule or that one. 'The essay is due on Thursday, but I can just e-mail it to [the instructor] later that night,' that kind of thing. And then it all just kind of caught up with me and my grades slipped to a point they had never slipped to before."
Also, some notes from Hoosiers practice, as wideouts Andrew Means and Brandon Walker-Roby returned to the field.
- Iowa's linebacking corps has a youthful look after the losses of the Mikes (Humpal and Klinkenborg). Jacody Coleman leads the next generation of Hawkeyes linebackers, Ryan Suchomel writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. Derrell Johnson-Koulianos' name isn't the only interesting thing about the sophomore wideout, Marc Morehouse writes in The (Cedar Rapids) Gazette.
- More details are emerging about Michigan running back Kevin Grady's drunken driving arrest. According to police, the Wolverines junior was passed out at the wheel, The Grand Rapids Press reports. Michigan doesn't have many definitive answers on its depth chart, but coach Rich Rodriguez isn't lacking for options, Angelique Chengelis writes in The Detroit News. The healing process continues for Wolverines offensive lineman Elliott Mealer, who lost his father and girlfriend in a car accident last Christmas.
- Brandon Long was overshadowed by Michigan State teammate Jonal Saint-Dic last season. The defensive end knows his time is now, Chris Solari writes in the Lansing State Journal. Long and the other Spartans defensive linemen face an immediate test in Cal's Jahvid Best, Eric Lacy writes in The Detroit News.
- Minnesota's offensive line is young and banged-up, but guards Chris Bunders and D.J. Burris are back in the mix after injuries, Kent Youngblood writes in the Star Tribune.
- Northwestern broke camp in Kenosha, Wis., after a solid 10 days.
- Ohio State opened its doors to the public Monday night, and freshman quarterback Terrelle Pryor didn't disappoint, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch. More on Pryor's throwing motion and wideout Dane Sanzenbacher, the star of Ohio State's camp, from The Cleveland Plain Dealer's Doug Lesmerises. Also, Buckeyes coach Jim Tressel weighs in on the debate about closing practices and scrimmages to the media and the public.
- Josh Hull has gone from walk-on to projected starter at Linebacker U., Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. The 50-yard Lion blog begins ranking Penn State's opponents, from easiest to hardest.
- The prognosis doesn't look good for Purdue running back Jaycen Taylor, who has his right knee evaluated today, Tom Kubat writes in The (Lafayette, Ind.) Journal and Courier. Boilers fifth-year senior safety Frank Duong has been rewarded with a scholarship, WNDU-TV reports.
- Wisconsin will name its starting quarterback Wednesday, with Allan Evridge the likely choice, Jim Polzin writes in The Capital Times. The team also could open the season without star linebacker Jonathan Casillas (ankle). Badgers cornerback Niles Brinkley, a possible starter, is inspired by the memory of his sister, who died earlier this month.
Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Happy birthday to me. I'll wish for ... a bunch of links. Here ya go:
- Projected starting wideout Jeff Cumberland missed Illinois practice with a sore foot, Bob Asmussen writes in The [Champaign, Ill.] News-Gazette. Also, Asmussen takes a look at the defensive tackles, where Josh Brent looks to step into a starting spot after Sirod Williams' season-ending knee injury. Illinois is returning to its roots as a football school, Mark Tupper writes in the Decatur Herald & Review.
- Indiana kicker Austin Starr fends off the one-and-done perception about the Hoosiers, Mike Lucas writes in The Capital Times. Here's a breakdown of Indiana's defense from The Indianapolis Star's Terry Hutchens.
- Standout tight end Tony Moeaki is expected to rejoin the mix at Iowa this fall, Susan Harman writes in the Iowa City Press-Citizen. There's a report he's injured again, which will be clarified on Saturday at the open scrimmage.
- Here's a look at Michigan Stadium's steel-clad facelift from Mark Snyder of the Detroit Free Press. The Wolverines go bowling next week to raise money for the paralyzed brother of offensive lineman Elliott Mealer, John Heuser writes in The Ann Arbor News.
- Oklahoma transfer Keith Nichol could set up an interesting competition at quarterback with Kirk Cousins next year at Michigan State. Here's a look at Nichol's journey, courtesy of Andrew Mouranie in the Lansing State Journal. The Spartans are getting local for the 2010 recruiting class, Matt Dorsey writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- If you didn't know already, the Big Ten Network launches on Comcast today, Shannon Shelton writes in the Detroit Free Press.
- Former Minnesota star safety Dominic Jones, now serving jail time for sexual assault, will address the team next week, Dennis Brackin writes in the [Minneapolis] Star Tribune. Jones requested the chance to talk about his experience.
"I think it will be a very positive message, and I know that I'm looking forward to it,'' head coach Tim Brewster said. "The exciting thing for me is that it seems like he's really trying to make something positive out of this. You look at different situations and try to learn from them, because that's all you can do.''
Minnesota's defensive renaissance hinges on better line play, Marcus Fuller writes in the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
- Northwestern's offensive line is filled with new faces but is slowly making progress, Shannon Ryan writes in the Chicago Tribune. After an exciting offseason, Wildcats coach Pat Fitzgerald is looking toward a bowl run.
- Ohio State wideout Brian Robiskie is fighting a shoulder injury, while Curtis Terry could be back on defense, Doug Lesmerises writes in The Cleveland Plain Dealer. An influx of talented freshmen gives Ohio State's offensive line unparalleled depth, Tim May writes in The Columbus Dispatch. Some of those freshmen linemen have hideous haircuts, Lesmerises notes on his blog.
- A.Q. Shipley came to Penn State to play defense, but he has become a perfect fit at center, Ron Musselman writes in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Also, former Nittany Lions offensive linemen Josh Marks has transferred to Pitt. Penn State's young running backs will throw different looks at defenses this fall.
- Retiring Purdue coach Joe Tiller doesn't mind being called a senior this season, Al Hamnik writes in The Times of Northwest Indiana. Coach-in-waiting Danny Hope is finally getting the chance to work with a full complement of offensive linemen, Tom Kubat writes in The [Lafayette, Ind.] Journal and Courier.
- More on Wisconsin cornerback Aaron Henry's knee injury from Jim Polzin of The Capital Times. Henry "re-tore" his ACL, coach Bret Bielema said, and could end up redshirting the season. Meanwhile, Defensive end Brendan Kelly is among the true freshmen to see the field this fall for Wisconsin, Jeff Potrykus writes in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.