NCF Nation: Terrelle Pryor

Looking back on B1G freshman QB starters

September, 2, 2013
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It's rare for a true freshman like Christian Hackenberg to earn the starting quarterback job -- but it's not unheard of in the Big Ten.

[+] EnlargeChristian Hackenberg
Nabil K. Mark/Centre Daily Times/Getty ImagesChristian Hackenberg started his Penn State career with a win over Syracuse on Saturday.
We took a look at the Big Ten true freshmen who came before the Penn State signal-caller to see how they fared. We looked at quarterbacks from the past 10 years who started at least six games that first year and offered a rundown of those true freshman seasons, along with how their careers played out.

There's no telling right now where the four-star Hackenberg (Scout grade: 88) might end up. But here's what Big Ten history has to say:

Minnesota, 2012
Philip Nelson, Scout grade: 74

Freshman stats: 75-of-152 (49.3 percent) for 873 yards, eight TDs, eight INTs; 69 carries for 184 yards

Record as freshman starter: 2-5

Freshman synopsis: Nelson was expected to redshirt but, between injuries and inconsistent QB play, his number was called earlier. He started the last seven games and had limited success. But he showed some potential such as the Purdue win, where he completed 68 percent of his passes and threw three touchdowns.

College career & beyond: He started Week 1 and helped lead Minnesota to a 51-23 win over UNLV. He could be in line to become a four-year starter, and all eyes will be on whether he can guide Minnesota to back-to-back bowls.

Penn State, 2010
Rob Bolden, Scout grade: 81

Freshman stats: 112-of-193 (58 percent) for 1,360 yards, five TDs, seven INTs; 30 carries for minus-11 yards, one TD, one fumble lost

Record as freshman starter: 5-3

Freshman synopsis: Bolden became the first true freshman to start a PSU opener in 100 years. He impressed in Week 1 by dominating Youngstown State with 239 passing yards, two TDs and a pick -- but his season would falter afterward. He seemed to regress, and a quarterback battle with Matt McGloin lasted all season. (Actually, for two seasons.) PSU finished 7-6 and lost to Florida in the Outback Bowl. Bolden didn't play in the postseason.

College career & beyond: Bolden transferred to LSU last year but has yet to attempt a pass. He's not poised for any playing time, and rumors have continued to circulate that he's considering another transfer.

Michigan, 2009
Tate Forcier, Scout grade: 81

Freshman stats: 165-of-281 (58.7 percent) for 2,050 yards, 13 TDs, 10 INTs; 118 carries for 240 yards, three TDs, four fumbles lost

Record as freshman starter: 5-7

Freshman synopsis: He got off to a solid 4-0 start and made his mark by throwing a last-second, game-winning TD against Notre Dame. ESPN analyst Matt Millen, echoing a shared sentiment of Forcier's bright future, called him the best QB in the B1G. But his career took a nosedive in Week 5. The Wolverines lost to Michigan State, 26-20, and Forcier would win just one more game -- against Delaware State -- the rest of the season. His early performance still helped him earn a spot on ESPN's All-Big Ten freshman team.

College career & beyond: He was briefly listed as the third-string QB at the start of the next season and saw limited time behind Denard Robinson. He hoped to transfer to Miami (Fla.) after a sophomore slump but ended up at San Jose State. He then withdrew from that school in January, 2012 because of poor academic standing.

Ohio State, 2008
Terrelle Pryor, Scout grade: 93

Freshman stats: 100-for-165 (60.6 percent) for 1,311 yards, 12 TDs, four INTs; 139 carries for 631 yards, six TDs, one fumble lost

Record as freshman starter: 8-1

Freshman synopsis: He came in as a consensus top-five national recruit, and he lived up to expectations. By Week 4, the dual-threat rookie supplanted Todd Boeckman -- a quarterback who took the Buckeyes to the national title game a year before -- and started the rest of the regular season. OSU finished 10-3 and lost the Fiesta Bowl to Texas. He was named Big Ten freshman of the year.

College career & beyond: He helped OSU earn three straight BCS berths before declaring early for the NFL's 2011 supplemental draft when it looked as if he'd be suspended. Oakland gave up a third-round pick for him, and he currently looks to be the backup. He has thrown for 155 yards so far in his NFL career.

Illinois, 2006
Juice Williams, Scout grade: 82

Freshman stats: 103-for-261 (39.5 percent) for 1,489 yards, nine TDs, nine INTs; 154 carries for 576 yards, two TDs, six fumbles lost

Record as freshman starter: 1-8

Freshman synopsis: Williams got the nod in Week 4 and shocked the nation one week later at Michigan State. Coming in as huge underdogs -- about four touchdowns -- Illinois' Williams threw for 122 yards and rushed for 103 to upset the Spartans 23-20. Illinois dropped the last seven games and finished 2-10, but four losses were decided by one score. He was an honorable mention on The Sporting News' freshman All-American team.

College career & beyond: Williams' sophomore campaign was a memorable one, as he beat No. 1 Ohio State -- the Illini's first win over the top-ranked team in a little over a half-century -- and finished 9-4 with a season-ending loss in the Rose Bowl. That was the highlight of his career, however, as he won just eight games over the next two seasons.

Michigan, 2004
Chad Henne, Scout grade: N/A

Freshman stats: 240-of-399 (60.2 percent) for 2,743 yards, 25 TDs, 12 INTs; 55 carries for minus-137 yards, two TDs, two fumbles lost

Record as freshman starter: 9-3

Freshman synopsis: The Pennsylvania native started Week 1 when a sore arm hindered Matt Gutierrez, and Henne never looked back. He picked up national headlines in October after back-to-back 300-yard games. Said Minnesota coach Glenn Mason: "If you didn't know he was a freshman, you wouldn't know he was a freshman." He tied Elvis Grbac's season record for touchdown passes with 25 and, unsurprisingly, made the All-American freshman team. He also led Michigan to the Rose Bowl, in which it lost to Texas, 38-37.

College career & beyond: Henne's college career saw its ups and downs, but he's still at -- or near -- the top of most Michigan passing records. He went 0-4 against Ohio State, but UM still finished in the top 25 in three of his four seasons. Miami selected him the second round of the 2008 NFL draft, and he's now the backup QB on Jacksonville.
Jordan Hall watched most of Ohio State's 12-0 season from the sideline with mixed emotions.

"It was tough to watch and miss," Hall told ESPN.com. "I played in two and a half games or something. I was happy for my team, but I just wanted to be out there so bad."

[+] EnlargeJordan Hall
David Dermer/Diamond Images/Getty ImagesHealthy again, RB Jordan Hall is giving Ohio State options within its offense.
The running back figured to be out there a lot for Ohio State after the team completed spring practice last April. New head coach Urban Meyer singled out Hall as one of few bright spots for an offense he called a "clown show." But Hall's fortunes turned in late June, when he cut his foot on a broken glass bottle strewn in the front yard of his residence.

The "freak accident" set off a series of setbacks for Hall, the Buckeyes' likely starting running back before his injury. After undergoing surgery, missing preseason camp and the first two games, Hall returned in Week 3 against Cal but suffered a partial tear of his PCL two weeks later at Michigan State. He sat out the rest of the season and received a medical hardship. This spring, the coaches moved Hall to the slotback role where Percy Harvin had shined in Meyer's spread offense, and Hall had a strong start to the session before being slowed by a hamstring injury.

"I just want to get out there," Hall said. "I had to miss a lot of time."

Hall is back to full strength this summer and looks forward to going through a full preseason in the offense. The slotback role is similar to what Hall played in high school, when he teamed with former Ohio State quarterback Terrelle Pryor in Jeannette, Pa.

Hall also has slimmed down 10-12 pounds from his 2012 playing weight and checks in at 191 pounds, the lightest he has been since high school.

"I feel a lot better in and out of my cuts," said Hall, who had 653 rush yards, 197 receiving yards and 1,494 return yards in the 2010 and 2011 seasons. "Top-end and everything, it just feels better. I feel like I'm hitting a gear I never really hit before. I'm 100 percent healthy, so I feel like I’m ready to go."

Ohio State took no chances with Hall after the hamstring injury this spring, and Hall admits he wasn't completely ready when he returned to the field last season.

"I didn’t really get to do the summer conditioning, none of the summer training, none of that," he said. "I was just lifting upper body, running on the underwater treadmill a little bit and then I practiced Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday of the Cal week and then I played. I feel my leg just wasn't ready for competition, and that's what made me have my knee [injury]."

Hall looks forward to his first full preseason in the Meyer-led offense and recognizes the competition at his position will heat up. Chris Fields had a strong spring, and incoming freshmen Dontre Wilson and Jalin Marshall could fill the slotback role.

As a fifth-year senior who served as a co-captain before last season, Hall isn't concerned about re-proving himself to the coaches, especially Meyer.

"He's just always on me, [asking] if I'm catching, am I with the quarterbacks, am I doing my rehab," Hall said. "He's just making sure I’m ready to go. He has seen what I can do, and he says I can be a great player if I can stay healthy and do all the right things.

"Everyone's excited."

Hall's Twitter page contains the following words below his avatar: "This year I said it's all business." He has been through a lot Ohio State -- from off-field issues to moderate success to injuries -- and he wants to complete his comeback and be a part of another special season.

"I've just got tunnel vision," he said. "I'm not going to have any distractions. My only focus is football, really, and school. This is my last go-round, so I'm putting everything into it."

Hope springs in the Pac-12

May, 22, 2013
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The 2013 season will be the final year of the BCS era.

And there was much rejoicing!

So, what have been the Pac-12 highs and lows of this often confounding system? Thanks for asking!

Best

1. USC drubs Oklahoma for the 2004 national title: The 55-19 victory over unbeaten Oklahoma was the most dominant display of the BCS era. It was also the pinnacle of the Trojans' dynasty under Pete Carroll. It's worth noting that future Pac-12 member Utah also whipped Pittsburgh in the Fiesta Bowl to finish unbeaten that same year.

[+] EnlargeReggie Bush
Jamie Squire/Getty ImagesReggie Bush and USC ran away with the 2004 national title.
2. USC wins "real" national title: In 2003, USC was No. 1 in the AP and Coaches polls at season's end. If you had eyes and knew anything about football, it was clear the Trojans were the nation's most-talented team on both sides of the football, a notion that was reinforced the following season. Two teams picked by computers played in New Orleans -- most folks outside of Louisiana don't even remember who -- and that forced the Trojans to settle for three-fourths of a national title after dominating Michigan 28-14.

3. The year of the Northwest: After the 2000 season, three teams from the Northwest finished ranked in the AP top seven. Washington beat Purdue in the Rose Bowl and finished third. Oregon State drubbed Notre Dame in the Fiesta Bowl and finished fourth. Oregon beat Texas in the Holiday Bowl to finish seventh.

4. Oregon gets left out but finishes No. 2: One of the grand faux paus of the BCS era was Nebraska playing Miami for the 2001 national title. Nebraska was coming off a 62-36 loss to Colorado, but the computers failed to notice, and the Cornhuskers were euthanized by the Hurricanes before halftime. The Ducks would whip that same Colorado team 38-16 in the Fiesta Bowl and finish ranked No. 2.

5. Oregon and Stanford both win: The 2012-13 bowl season wasn't good to the Pac-12, but Oregon pounded Kansas State in the Fiesta Bowl and Stanford beat Wisconsin in the Rose Bowl. The Ducks finished ranked No. 2 and Stanford was seventh. It was just the second time two Pac-10/12 teams won BCS bowl games in the same season.

Worst

1. Just one BCS national title, lots of frustration: No conference has more legitimate gripes with the BCS system than the Pac-12. Multiple seasons saw the conference have teams skipped over, most notably Oregon in 2001 and USC in 2003 and 2008. And ask California fans about how Texas coach Mack Brown gamed the system in 2004, preventing the Bears from playing in the Rose Bowl.

2. USC's three-peat gets Vince Younged: It's difficult to look at Texas's epic 41-38 win over USC as anything but great college football art -- perhaps the all-time greatest game -- but Trojans fans don't feel that way. The loss prevented USC from claiming three consecutive national titles and, of course, a second BCS crown for the Pac-10/12.

3. Oregon falls short versus Auburn: Oregon looked like a great team and Auburn a team with two great players before the BCS title game after the 2010 season. The Ducks chose a bad time to play one of their worst games of the season, but they still nearly prevailed before being undone by a dramatic game-winning drive from the Tigers.

4. Make a field goal, Stanford: Stanford kicker Jordan Williamson missed three field goals, including a certain game-winner from 35 yards on the last play of regulation, in the Cardinal's 41-38 loss to No. 3 Oklahoma State in the Fiesta Bowl after the 2011 season. Williamson also missed from 43 yards in overtime, which set the Cowboys up for the win. Stanford dominated the game, outgaining the Cowboys 590 yards to 412, with a 243-13 edge in rushing.

5. Ducks drop Rose Bowl: Oregon fell flat in Chip Kelly's first BCS bowl game, with the favored Ducks losing to Ohio State 26-17 in the Rose Bowl after the 2009 season. Buckeyes QB Terrelle Pryor had perhaps the best game of his career -- 266 yards passing, 72 rushing -- and the Ducks offense struggled, gaining just 260 yards.

Instant QB impact at Arizona?

January, 29, 2013
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Arizona's biggest question heading into 2013 is at quarterback. Not only are the Wildcats replacing Matt Scott, who earned second-team All-Pac-12 honors and was sixth in the nation with 343.8 yards of total offense per game, but the options on hand this spring are decidedly unproven.

There's 2012 backup B.J. Denker, a JC transfer who was a late addition last summer. And there's Jesse Scroggins, another JC transfer who had academic issues at USC after signing in 2010.

Both have some skills. Neither, however, would be considered a sure-thing, particularly when you consider how valuable Scott was in 2012.

It's possible then that coach Rich Rodriguez might consider a third, youthful option, and it turns out that he's received a commitment from a quarterback that Sports Illustrated believes might have an "instant impact": Anu Solomon.

SI ranks Solomon No. 1 among incoming freshmen QBs in terms of potential "instant impact":
Solomon was a four-year starter at Bishop Gorman. Over that span, the Gaels went 57-3 and won four state championships. Solomon passed for 10,112 yards and 138 touchdowns to just 17 interceptions throughout his career, and he participated in nationally televised showcases against high school powerhouses from California, Florida, Arizona, New Jersey and Maryland. He told Rivals.com analyst Dallas Jackson in October, "The coaches have told me that they want me to come in and compete for the starting job."

Arizona fans are rightfully excited about Solomon, who seems like a nice fit for Rodriguez's spread-option offense.

But the Pac-12 blog would like to insert a "Be Careful What You Wish For." The Wildcats might be better off if Solomon ends up redshirting. At the very least, it would be better for Solomon to see spot action rather than take over the starting job.

Why? Well, the history of true freshman QBs is pretty spotty, other than Jamelle Holieway, who won a national championship as a true freshman at Oklahoma in 1985. And, of course, Holieway's best season was his first for the Sooners.

Few true freshmen QBs start from Day 1, and most are forced into action, rather than winning the job outright. Holieway only stepped in due to an injury to Troy Aikman. Same with Peyton Manning at Tennessee. Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor, Notre Dame's Jimmy Clausen and Georgia's Matt Stafford all became the starters when more senior players faltered.

Chad Henne went 9-2 as a true freshman leading Michigan in 2004, but he was surrounded by a lot of talent. We can all agree Robert Griffin III became a spectacular player, but Baylor went 4-7 with him as a true freshman QB.

The best recent example of a true freshman QB in the Pac-12 is USC's Matt Barkley in 2009. He was the first true freshman to start at QB for a top-five team since Michigan's Rick Leach in 1975. That USC team finished 9-4, losing three of its final four regular season games. The Trojans had lost seven games the preceding six seasons. Barkley threw 14 interceptions and 15 TD passes.

We've seen a number of freshmen QBs play really well of late. Texas A&M's Johnny Manziel became the first freshman to win the Heisman Trophy, and in the Pac-12 Oregon's Marcus Mariota and UCLA's Brett Hundley posted outstanding seasons this past fall, with Mariota winning first-team All-Pac-12. And, of course, there's Andrew Luck. He turned out OK.

But they all were redshirt freshmen when they became starters.

It's also notable that a lot of true freshmen QBs, such as Barkley, enroll early and participate in spring practices. That gives them a significant advantage in terms of getting use to the speed and complexity of the college game.

Solomon won't report until fall camp.

Solomon might indeed become a revelation for the Wildcats next fall. He could win the job, play admirably and three years later become an All-American.

But history suggests he won't be immediately ready, and that the best course is patience. It seems like at least a year of seasoning really helps create a tastier quarterback.
Former Ohio State coach Jim Tressel paid the heaviest price in the tattoos-for-memorabilia scandal, but the school's compliance department took a beating as well.

The details that emerged about Ohio State's compliance structure -- or lack thereof -- didn't paint the athletic department in a good light. Ohio State in February approved a new university compliance office, and the school appears to be taking the right steps to prevent similar violations from happening again.

As The Toledo Blade first reported this week, Ohio State sent the NCAA a 805-page report that, among other things, details new policies in place that increase athlete education about violations, prevent memorabilia sales and track car ownership (a major issue with former quarterback Terrelle Pryor). Ohio State is directly addressing the issues that surfaced in the scandal.

Check out the full report.

From The Blade:
An athletics compliance staff bolstered from five workers to a dozen is leaving little to chance. According to the report reviewed by The Blade, the school nearly tripled its number of rules education sessions, charged a former NCAA investigator with monitoring its highest-profile players, and reached out to 2,000 area businesses -- then employs exhaustive measures to verify the lessons take hold.

Among the safeguards include random audits to ensure current players have not sold or exchanged gear or awards, and license-plate software that allows school officials to determine car ownership.

One of the most publicized elements of the old compliance structure was the lack of a staff member in the Woody Hayes Athletic Center, Ohio State's football headquarters. Ohio State added former Tennessee compliance director Brad Bertani to its staff to deal specifically with football. Bertani has his office in the WHAC and travels with the football team.

Ohio State is also focused on ensuring no school-issued memorabilia is sold while athletes are still playing.
Players used to be able to purchase and take home gear and apparel like bowl-game jerseys or the alternate Nike helmets worn against Michigan in 2009 and 2010. Now, the uniforms will be kept in a secure container at the football facility until the player leaves the school.

As for awards like Big Ten championship rings or the gold pants trinket the Buckeyes receive for beating Michigan, players can still take those home. But they must be able to produce the goods in "random audits." Athletes sign a form acknowledging the school can make them "prove that I have not sold these items."

These are encouraging steps for a department that justifiably took a beating after the scandal. While time will tell how effective these measures will be, Ohio State deserves credit for directly addressing some major problems.

Video: Discussing Terrelle Pryor, scandal

May, 10, 2012
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video
Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett talks about why the former Buckeyes quarterback has decided to revisit the Ohio State scandal.

Terrelle Pryor is trying to put his past behind him and become a successful NFL quarterback. But he's not finished talking about what happened at Ohio State.

In an interview with SI.com's Jim Trotter, the disgraced former Buckeyes star and current Oakland Raider offered a new perspective on why he sold his memorabilia for cash and favors, which eventually helped lead to the downfall of coach Jim Tressel and NCAA problems for the program.

Pryor was suspended for the first five games of last season and then decided to enter the supplemental NFL draft. He was later banned from associating with the school for five years.
"The reason why I did it was to pay my mother's gas bill and some of her rent," Pryor told Trotter. "She was four months behind in rent, and the (landlord) was so nice because he was an Ohio State fan. He gave her the benefit of the doubt and she said, 'My son will pay you back sometime if you just let me pay you back during my work sessions.'

"She ended up losing her job, and she and my sister lived there. Let me remind you it was freezing cold in November, December, and she's using the oven as heat. That's what I did as a kid. I was telling the NCAA, 'Please, anything that you can do. I gave my mother this so my sister wouldn't be cold, so my mother wouldn't be cold.' They didn't have any sympathy for me.

"It's not like I went there and bought new Jordans. It's documented. Whenever I write my book the proof will be in there, the receipt that the money I gave my mother was to pay the electric and heat bill. The truth is going to come out one day when the time is right. I don't think I deserved (being punished) in that way, because of the reason I was doing it. I felt like I was doing God's work in a way, and I was getting driven into the ground."

Your heart would have to be constructed of stone not to feel some sympathy for a kid trying to pay the rent and heating bill for his mother and sister. And we all know that the system is stacked against college athletes, who make millions for their schools and see little besides tuition in return.

But is Pryor really credible? One of the key parts of the Ohio State scandal involved Pryor and other players receiving tattoos in exchange for memorabilia. Unless body ink contains some heating ability I'm not aware of, it's hard to see how that helped his family. (Or, just possibly, Pryor has found the solution to our energy crisis: tattoo power!)

And remember this ESPN story that alleged Pryor made as much as $40,000 signing autographs from 2009-10? Was that "God's work?" Just how much was that rent and heating bill, anyway?

There's more from Pryor in the interview.
"It was humbling," he said. "A mistake I made when I was a freshman by selling my pants for $3,000 just took away everything from me. I was just driven into the ground. I was the worst person in the world. My face popped up on the screen, and it seemed like I was the only one who did anything. I was the only one who was getting attacked.

"At that point last year, I'm 21 and it just felt like everything was against me, like I can't do anything right. I did something to help somebody else out, and I end up getting into trouble. I understand. I shouldn't have sold the stuff and taken $3,000. But I was kind of in a place where I didn't understand why this is happening to me -- especially for the reason that I did it."

Again, there's at least a glimmer of something here with which we can emphasize. What Pryor and others did, selling their Ohio State rings, jerseys and other memorabilia -- things they earned, by the way, and which the school is more than happy to handsomely profit from -- is not the worst crime in the world, especially compared to some of the other scandals we've seen in college football in the past year alone.

Yet Pryor knew what he was doing was wrong and that it would hurt Ohio State. He often seemed like he felt bigger than the program. He admitted in the SI.com interview that "I had some type of ego with me" during his college days.

Pryor is not a super villain. He may have had some legitimate and understandable reasons for some of the rules he broke at Ohio State. Hopefully, he learned some important lessons.

But Buckeyes fans would like him to just go away. And the prospect of him writing a book, which he mentioned in the interview, has got to be highly unsettling for Ohio State supporters.
The Big Ten has had some odd choices for preseason offensive player of the year -- Terrelle Pryor in 2009 -- but this year's pick should be obvious. Wisconsin running back Montee Ball won the award after the 2011 season, and he's back in Madison for his senior year. Ball, one of two Heisman Trophy finalists returning for 2012, should be the preseason pick, end of story. We'll save you the suspense about our preseason player rankings: Ball will be No. 1.

SportsNation

Which Big Ten player is most likely to challenge Wisconsin's Montee Ball for offensive player of the year honors this fall?

  •  
    34%
  •  
    16%
  •  
    35%
  •  
    15%

Discuss (Total votes: 8,074)

But the preseason pick for OPOY often doesn't mean much. In fact, the preseason pick hasn't won the postseason award since Ohio State quarterback Troy Smith in 2006. Smith, by the way, is the last Big Ten player to win the Heisman Trophy.

2007
Preseason pick:
Michigan RB Mike Hart
Winner: Illinois RB Rashard Mendenhall

2008
Preseason pick:
Ohio State RB Chris Wells
Winner: Iowa RB Shonn Greene

2009
Preseason pick:
Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
Winner: Wisconsin RB John Clay

2010
Preseason pick:
Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
Winner: Michigan QB Denard Robinson

2011
Preseason pick:
Michigan QB Denard Robinson
Winner: Wisconsin RB Montee Ball

Ball will be the favorite, but he's far from a shoo-in. There are several players who should challenge the Wisconsin star this season, and we've listed four of them in the accompanying poll. Vote and let us know who you think has the best chance to beat Ball for the offensive player of the year award.

Nebraska running back Rex Burkhead, Penn State running back Silas Redd and Michigan's Robinson are obvious choices. Burkhead and Redd carried their respective offenses as times last season, and both logged more than 240 carries (Burkhead had 283, the second most in the league behind Ball's 307). Burkhead plays for a unit that should see more balance and more weapons develop this season, but he remains the top ball-carrying option. Redd, meanwhile, might once again be Penn State's only viable offensive threat if the quarterback situation doesn't improve.

While Robinson's inclusion undoubtedly will spark some snide remarks, the guy has won the award before and remains one of the nation's most exciting offensive players. He's entering his third season as Michigan's starter, and if he can cut down on interceptions and become a more consistent passer, he'll be in the mix for both league and national awards.

The fourth choice was tough, and I considered several candidates, including Ohio State QB Braxton Miller, Iowa QB James Vandenberg and Michigan RB Fitzgerald Toussaint. Any of them could contend for offensive player of the year honors, as could several others. But I've always thought Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell could be a potential superstar in this league. As Michigan State transitions back to a run-heavy offense behind an improved offensive line, Bell will have a chance to shine.

What say you? Be sure and vote in the poll.
COLUMBUS, Ohio -- From his 10th floor office across the street, Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith has an excellent view of the football practice fields next to the Woody Hayes Athletic Center.

Smith only attended three practices this spring -- a busier-than-normal schedule, highlighted by the men's basketball team's run to the Final Four, kept him occupied -- but he occasionally used his binoculars to check in on the team. When the Buckeyes resume workouts in August, he'll be a regular fixture on the sideline.

"I see things," Smith told ESPN.com. "And the players talk to me. Because of my background [Smith played defensive end at Notre Dame], they come and talk to me. I know when something's out of whack in that regard."

[+] EnlargeGene Smith and Urban Meyer
AP Photo/Terry GilliamOhio State AD Gene Smith, left, said he has "a great deal of trust" in Urban Meyer's football program.
But Smith doesn't expect any issues to surface. He has full confidence in the way new head coach Urban Meyer manages his players.

Smith took notice of the recent Sporting News investigation alleging, among other things, that Meyer coddled star players, oversaw a program filled with drug use among players and let character issues get out of control during his time as Florida's coach. Smith encouraged Meyer to respond to the reporter, Matt Hayes, which Meyer did.

The report "disturbed" Smith because of its timing, not its content.

"It bothers me that there's a continued attack on him about something that happened supposedly two, three years ago," Smith said. "Where are we? I just don't get that. Those are things Urban and I talked about in the hiring process."

Smith addressed the number of Florida players arrested during Meyer's six-year tenure, which varied in media reports.

"There were reports of everywhere from 41 to 26 arrests," Smith said. "I never could figure it out, so I said, 'Urban, where are we at? What's the number?' We actually talked about the issues he had at Florida, talked about the behavioral issues he had at Florida.

"But he talked about his system. He has a system like you and I deal with. As an employee, we get rewarded when we do well. We get bad reviews when we do poorly."

Meyer acknowledges he gives preferential treatment to players who earn it through their commitment to the program both on and off the field. He plans to operate the same way at Ohio State.

"It reminds me of Ara Parseghian a little bit," said Smith, who played for Parseghian at Notre Dame, "in that he's rewarding the guys that ultimately commit themselves. Whether you're a 4.0 student or a 2.2 student, it doesn't matter. If 2.2 is your capacity, that's you, you still get rewarded. We had a long conversation about it, and I like it."

Most Ohio State fans could not care less about the allegations during Meyer's time at Florida, and there haven't been any major player-management incidents during his time with the Buckeyes. Yet the lone connection between the allegations and Ohio State is an important one. Many say Ohio State's recent NCAA maelstrom stemmed from the head coach (Jim Tressel) failing to rein in a key player (Terrelle Pryor).

While Ohio State has put measures in place to prevent problems, Smith reiterates he has full faith in Meyer and his staff.

"We have a compliance officer in the [football complex] now," Smith said. "He's in the building, right next to Urban's office. So that changes things a little bit. We continually talk about how we treat kids, not just in football but all sports. So I don't feel the need to micromanage that.

"I really have a great deal of trust in what they're doing."

Ohio State maintained contact with dealer

February, 21, 2012
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Ohio State University officials remained in contact with a memorabilia dealer they were investigating for wrongdoing and used him as a mole to rat out others, according to records released this month in response to a public records request submitted by ESPN.

First, a little helpful context: Sales of licensed collegiate merchandise is a multimillion-dollar revenue stream for the university. And, as we've seen time and time again, the memorabilia and autographs area can be an NCAA violation concern, too.

As far back as 2009, Ohio State officials had concerns about local photographer Dennis Talbott selling autographed photographs and items from players, including quarterback Terrelle Pryor. But rather than cut off Talbott entirely, the university maintained communication with him in order to root out unlicensed memorabilia dealers who were selling OSU items -- including those with the signatures of players. Players are not allowed to make money from their autographs, and it is up to the school to police such matters.

Read more from The File blog here.
The folks at ESPN Recruiting stepped into the rewind machine Wednesday and looked back at the ESPNU 150 from 2008 Insider to see which heralded recruits panned out and which did not.

From a Big Ten slant, this exercise is essentially a referendum on Ohio State's class, which ranked sixth nationally that year Insider and featured eight ESPNU 150 prospects, headlined by quarterback Terrelle Pryor. Several other Big Ten squads had prospects in the 150 as well.

Overall, the results are mixed. Some players matched their hype, like Ohio State center Mike Brewster and, when healthy, Penn State linebacker Michael Mauti. Others did not or have not, once again proving that recruiting rankings should be viewed with caution.

Here's a look.

Prospects ranked from 1-25 Insider

No. 4: Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State -- Helped Buckeyes win three Big Ten championships and two BCS bowls before departing in June because of multiple NCAA rules violations.

No. 18: Etienne Sabino, LB, Ohio State: -- Started the 2011 season after redshirting in 2010. Hasn't been a difference-maker for Buckeyes, but ended with a strong performance in the Gator Bowl and could be a key player in 2012.

Prospects ranked from 26-50 Insider

No. 42: Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State -- Four-year starter undoubtedly paid off for Ohio State. Brewster earned All-Big Ten honors and was an All-America candidate his final two seasons.

No. 48: Andrew Sweat, LB, Ohio State -- Sweat had a solid but unspectacular career for Ohio State. He was the team's top linebacker in 2011, and Ohio State missed him late in the season.

Prospects ranked between 51-75 Insider

No. 56: J.B. Shugarts, T, Ohio State -- Started the final three seasons at right tackle but never earned All-Big Ten honors.

No. 58: Michael Mauti, LB, Penn State -- Plagued by knee problems, but very effective when healthy. He turned in a strong 2010 season and entered 2011 as an All-America candidate before tearing his ACL in September. He'll be back in 2012.

No. 69: Dann O'Neill, T, Michigan -- Redshirted as a freshman before transferring to Western Michigan, saying Michigan wasn't the right fit. He earned third-team All-MAC honors in 2011.

No. 71: Darryl Stonum, WR, Michigan -- Turned in a nice year in 2010, but found himself in off-field troubles throughout his Michigan career. Wolverines coach Brady Hoke on Tuesday dismissed Stonum after his latest infraction that resulted in jail time.

Prospects ranked 76-100 Insider

No. 88: Mike Adams, T, Ohio State -- One of the Big Ten's top offensive linemen during his final two seasons, earning first-team all-conference honors in 2010 and second-team honors in 2011 despite playing in only seven games. He had some off-field issues with the Buckeyes and was part of the Tat-5 with Pryor.

Prospects ranked 101-125 Insider

No. 107: Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State -- An excellent weapon when used in the Ohio State offense. He recorded a team-high seven touchdown receptions in 2011, but had only 14 overall receptions. He returns in 2012 and should have a bigger role in a more wide-open offense.

No. 115: Brandon Moore, TE, Michigan -- Moore has two receptions in three years as a reserve tight end for the Wolverines. He could see a bigger role in 2012 as Kevin Koger departs.

No. 119 Baker Steinkuhler, DT, Nebraska -- Started the past two seasons on the Huskers' defensive line and recorded 40 tackles, including five for loss and two sacks, during the 2011 season. He earned honorable mention All-Big Ten honors and will be called upon to take a leading role for Big Red in 2012.

Prospects ranked 126-150 Insider

No. 128: Patrick Nixon-Youman, CB, Illinois -- Hip surgery a few years ago slowed Nixon-Youman's progression, but he appeared in 11 games in each of the past two seasons in a reserve role. He could play a bigger role in 2012.

No. 130: Keanon Cooper, LB, Minnesota -- Started in 2011 for Minnesota and recorded 77 tackles, including six for loss, as well as two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He enters his third season as a starter in 2012 and will need to be a big contributor for the Gophers' defense.

No. 135: Travis Howard, CB, Ohio State -- Took on a bigger role in 2011 and recorded 44 tackles, two interceptions, two forced fumbles and five pass breakups for the Buckeyes. He'll enter the 2012 season as a projected starter and could end his career with a flourish.

No. 141: J.B. Fitzgerald, LB, Michigan -- Started only three games in his career, but appeared in 50 contests and was a valuable reserve and special teams performer for Michigan in 2011.

No. 148: Tyler Westphal, DE, Wisconsin -- Had a serious shoulder injury following his redshirt year in Madison and eventually transferred to North Dakota State.

Minnesota linebacker Brendan Beal, who has yet to play for the Gophers after transferring from Florida, is No. 133 in the rankings.
NEW ORLEANS -- Michigan's defense hasn't seen players quite like Virginia Tech quarterback Logan Thomas and Hokies running back David Wilson.

At least not this season.

[+] EnlargeLogan Thomas
AP Photo/Don PetersenQuarterback Logan Thomas presents a challenge through the air (2,799 pass yards in 2011) and on the ground (416 rush yards, 10 TDs).
The 6-foot-6, 254-pound Thomas isn't your typical quarterback. Michigan defensive coordinator Greg Mattison said the hulking Hokie is "bigger than some of our defensive linemen." And Michigan isn't exactly slight of build up front.

Thomas has 2,799 pass yards and has added 416 rush yards and 10 touchdowns on the ground. He's extremely tough to bring down, as Virginia Tech has allowed only 15 sacks all season, tied for 21st fewest nationally.

"He kind of reminds me of Terrelle Pryor when I played against him," Wolverines defensive end Ryan Van Bergen said. "Maybe a little bit less athletic. I don't know if he has the speed that Terrelle Pryor [had], and the elusiveness, but he stands tall in the pocket, delivers a good ball. You've seen times where he's got guys around his legs that are trying to sack him, and he's just looking downfield. It's impressive, it really is.

"It's going to be a challenge, not only to get to him because they have a good offensive line, but to bring him down."

Pryor went 3-0 against Michigan as Ohio State's quarterback but wasn't overly dominant. His best performance came last year when he passed for 220 yards and two touchdowns (with an interception) and added 49 rush yards.

Wilson, the Hokies' junior running back, gives Michigan's defenders a different look. Wilson ranks sixth nationally in rushing average (125.2 ypg) and has 1,627 rush yards on the season, just 28 shy of Virginia Tech's single-season record.

He has been clocked at 4.29 seconds in the 40-yard dash but also brings some power when he runs.

When looking for comparisons to Wilson, Van Bergen again cited a player Michigan hasn't faced since 2010.

"Montee Ball's probably the most comparable running back to him, just because I watched the tapes and stuff," Van Bergen said. "The backs at Michigan State probably rival him in athleticism and stuff, but obviously Michigan State has the rotation. The one thing that's good about [Wilson] is he's just so smart. He knows when to bounce it out, he knows when to cut it up. He gains all the yards some running backs miss out on because they think they can get more by making a move in the hole.

"He's one of those running backs coaches are happy to have because of the way he picks and chooses the way he's going to get upfield."

Ball gashed Michigan for 173 yards and four touchdowns last year in Ann Arbor. He's a much different back now, having slimmed down significantly during the offseason to more closely resemble Wilson in size.

Michigan also is vastly different on defense since its struggles against Pryor and Ball.

Fun with potential Pac-12/B1G matchups

December, 29, 2011
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The Big Ten and Pac-12 announced Wednesday that the two leagues would join forces for annual interconference games (And if somebody hasn't already trademarked the Biggie-Pac Midwest/Coast Feud as the title of this series, I'm running to the patent office tomorrow).

Anyway, many details are yet to be hashed out about which teams will play, when, where, etc. We know the football games between the leagues won't start until 2017. That's a long time from now. But that didn't deter me from coming up with a fun potential lineup of head-to-head, Big Ten/Pac-12 showdowns if the games were to begin next season.

Here's what I suggest:

Ohio State-USC: The Compliance Bowl. Loser has to eat the scholarship reductions from the winner. Terrelle Pryor and Reggie Bush serve as honorary captains.

Michigan-Arizona: RichRod's Revenge. Wildcats practice 20 hours a day to get ready. Let's make this happen.

Nebraska-Colorado: Buffs: "Hey, we're renewing our old Big 12 rivalry!" Huskers: "I'm sorry. Who are you again?"

Northwestern-Stanford: The SAT Bowl. The combined tuition payments from those in the stands would surpass our national debt.

Michigan State-Oregon: Almost happened this year if the Spartans would have held on in Indy. There would be so much green in this game that they should play at a neutral site: Boise's blue field.

Wisconsin-Cal: The cities of Madison and Berkeley also enter into a partnership. Their shared goal: mellowing out.

Penn State-Washington: Cue up the grunge music, because this game would totally rock if it were still the early '90s.

Indiana-Washington State: Two former Oklahoma offensive coordinators square off in Mike Leach and Kevin Wilson. Worth it just for the press conferences.

Purdue-UCLA: The John Wooden Bowl. Two programs that care more about basketball and often underachieve in football.

Illinois-Arizona State: These two teams played this season in just about the last time anybody thought either one was any good.

Minnesota-Oregon State: Beavers vs. Gophers just seems to fit.

Iowa-Utah: Uh, both states have four letters? OK, so these don't all work.

What are your dream Pac-12/Big Ten matchups?

Ex-Irish teammates back Crist's KU call

December, 22, 2011
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It is this time of the year when Twitter is the most useful and the most dangerous tool we have as sportswriters. The layoff between the regular season and bowl games is when coaches are hired and fired, transfers are decided upon and the rumor mill kicks into full swing.

It is through social media that much of the speculation and reaction is made upon such news, with nearly every move throwing a portion of the Twittersphere up in arms.

That is, of course, unless you are Dayne Crist and you just decided where you will play your final year of college ball.

"After a long & difficult decision making process, I'm incredibly excited to join the Kansas football team. Rock Chalk Jayhawk!" Crist posted at 11:59 a.m. ET.

That was the news. Within minutes, the reaction would have made you think Crist was taking all of Notre Dame with him:
  • Tight end Jake Golic: "Congrats to my long lost brother @dcrist10 for committing to Kansas!"
  • Nose guard Brandon Newman: "My man @dcrist10 made the best decision for himself & thats why I am super proud of him! Go win some football games buddy! #RockChalkJayHawk"
  • Defensive end Kapron Lewis-Moore: "Happy for my guy @dcrist10 and his decision. High character guy that will fit in perfectly. Great leader on and off the field. #rockchalk"
  • Center and Braxston Cave: "Just became a huge Kansas football fan for a year! Nothing but love for my bro @dcrist10"
  • Nose guard Louis Nix: "@dcrist10 Hell Yea…im going to miss u alot bro. Congrats!"
  • Center Mike Golic Jr.: "But I do love @dcrist10 and am very happy he's made the best decision for himself. Know he's gonna kill it next year."

Reading what Crist had to say to Douglas Farmer of the student paper Wednesday, it's easy to see why his former teammates felt this way.

The hiring of former Irish coach Charlie Weis no doubt helped with the decision immensely, as Crist will get one final shot with the coach who recruited him and in a system he is familiar with. Kansas was a two-win team last year and is a basketball school, so expectations will be tamed.

Wisconsin, believed to be the other finalist, would have been in better position to win its third straight Big Ten title after Tuesday's bowl ban placed on Ohio State, but it may have lost its hope as offensive coordinator Paul Chryst leaves to become Pitt's head coach.

Regardless, this is one final shot for Crist, who committed to Notre Dame as ESPNU's No. 2 quarterback from the Class of 2008. As colleague David Ubben points out, Landry Jones, Blaine Gabbert and Andrew Luck were all ranked behind him. Only Terrelle Pryor was ranked ahead of Crist.

Season-ending injuries in each knee and bad breaks on the field have spoiled Crist's opportunities, leaving many to wonder whether this last chance will actually provide a happy ending. That remains to be seen. For now, all it takes is a brief glance at Twitter to know nobody deserves one more than him.

Timeline of Ohio State's NCAA case

December, 20, 2011
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Ohio State's infractions case with the NCAA came to an end today after the events leading up to it had played out -- at least publicly -- for almost exactly one year. Here is a timeline of the Buckeyes' trying times:

April 2, 2010: Then-Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel gets his first email from Columbus lawyer Chris Cicero informing him that quarterback Terrelle Pryor and other players were trading their team memorabilia to local tattoo-parlor owner Edward Rife in exchange for tattoos. Tressel does not inform any of his superiors about this.

Dec. 7, 2010: The U.S. attorney’s office discovers Ohio State football memorabilia in a raid of Rife's business.

Dec. 23, 2010: Ohio State announces that Pryor, running back Dan Herron, receiver DeVier Posey, offensive tackle Mike Adams and defensive lineman Solomon Thomas would be suspended for the first five games of the 2011 season for trading their memorabilia. All five players are allowed to play in the Allstate Sugar Bowl, thanks to some lobbying by the Big Ten. The Buckeyes would go on to defeat Arkansas in the game.

Jan. 13, 2011: Ohio State unearths Tressel’s emails with Cicero, igniting an investigation.

Feb. 19: A group of Buckeyes players are paid $200 by booster Robert DiGeronimo for attending a charity event in Cleveland.

March 8: The school announces that Tressel will be suspended for the first two games of the 2011 season and will be fined $250,000. His bosses voice their support of Tressel, with school president E. Gordon Gee infamously saying, "I'm just hopeful the coach doesn't dismiss me."

March 17: Tressel’s suspension is extended to the first five games of the season.

May 30: Athletic director Gene Smith forces Tressel to resign. Luke Fickell is named interim coach.

July 8: Ohio State announces it has vacated all wins from the 2010 season and is self-imposing two years' probation stemming from the Tressel/tattoo controversy. The school later also says it will return its proceeds from the Sugar Bowl.

Aug. 12: Ohio State goes before the NCAA Committee on Infractions in Indianapolis.

Sept. 1: Less than 48 hours before the season opener against Akron, running back Jordan Hall and defensive backs Travis Howard and Corey “Pittsburgh” Brown are suspended two games each for accepting cash from DiGeronimo at the charity event.

Sept. 20: Ohio State publicly disassociates itself with DiGeronimo, who had given more than $70,000 to the athletic department in the previous 25 years.

Oct. 7: Posey is suspended an additional five games, while Herron and linemen Marcus Hall and Melvin Fellows are suspended one game for being overpaid for summer jobs at a company owned by DiGeronimo.

Nov. 3: The NCAA sends another notice of allegations to Ohio State concerning the DiGeronimo accusations. The NCAA says the Buckeyes will face a "failure to monitor" charge. The Buckeyes respond by stripping themselves of five total scholarships over a three-year period.

Nov. 28: Ohio State hires Urban Meyer as its new head coach. Meyer and Smith both say they are not worried about any serious NCAA penalties. Smith says there is no precedent for receiving a bowl ban in cases similar to this one.

Dec. 20: The NCAA doles out its punishment to Ohio State: a 2012 postseason ban, the loss of four scholarships on top of the school's own reduction, an extra year of probation and a five-year show-cause penalty for Tressel.

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