NCF Nation: Tyrone Carter

Big Ten all-BCS-era team

January, 13, 2014
1/13/14
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The BCS is dead. RIP. As we memorialize the BCS era throughout ESPN.com today, we're selecting All-BCS teams from each conference. As a reminder, the BCS era lasted from the 1998 season through the recently completed 2013 season. To narrow our selections a bit, players had to play at least two seasons in the BCS era to be eligible. Nebraska players are part of our list even though the Huskers played in the Big 12 until 2011.

Here's our Big Ten All-BCS team.

Coach: Jim Tressel, Ohio State -- Tressel led Ohio State to the 2002 national title, the Big Ten's only championship in the BCS era, as well as seven Big Ten titles (one vacated).

OFFENSE

QB: Drew Brees, Purdue (1997-2000) -- He led Purdue to the 2000 Big Ten championship and finished his career with league records for passing yards (11,792), touchdown passes (90), total offensive yards (12,693), completions (1,026), and attempts (1,678). Brees won the Maxwell Award in 2000.

RB: Ron Dayne, Wisconsin (1996-99) -- The 1999 Heisman Trophy winner set the NCAA's career rushing record with 6,397 yards (not including bowl games). He won all the major national individual awards in 1999 and became the first player to repeat as Rose Bowl MVP.

[+] EnlargeMontee Ball
Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesMontee Ball had 39 TDs for Wisconsin in 2011.
RB: Montee Ball, Wisconsin (2009-2012) -- The man nicknamed "MoneyBall" tied Barry Sanders' NCAA single-season touchdowns record with 39 in 2011 and set the mark for career touchdowns with 83. He won the Doak Walker Award as the nation's top running back in 2012.

WR: Braylon Edwards, Michigan (2001-04) -- The Big Ten's most recent Biletnikoff Award winner holds the league record for career touchdown receptions (39) and ranks fourth in career receiving yards (3,541). He's the only Big Ten receiver to record 1,000 yards in three consecutive seasons.

WR: Lee Evans, Wisconsin (2000-03) -- Evans twice led the Big Ten in receiving yards, eclipsing 1,500 yards in 2001 before rebounding from an ACL tear to record 1,213 yards and 13 touchdowns in 2003.

TE: Dallas Clark, Iowa (1999-2002) -- Clark earned the John Mackey Award in 2002 after recording 43 receptions for 742 yards as Iowa went undefeated in the Big Ten.

OL: Greg Eslinger, Minnesota (2002-05) -- One of the more decorated Big Ten linemen in the BCS era, Eslinger won the Outland Trophy in 2005. He was a two-time first-team All-America selection and a three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection for one of the nation's top rushing offenses.

OL: Joe Thomas, Wisconsin (2003-06) -- Another Outland Trophy winner (2006), Thomas earned unanimous consensus All-America honors that year. He earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in each of his final two seasons and was the No. 3 overall pick in the 2007 NFL draft.

OL: Dominic Raiola, Nebraska (1998-2000) -- In 1998, Raiola became the first Nebraska freshman offensive lineman to start a game in seven years. He went on to earn the Rimington Trophy as the nation's top center, first-team All-Big 12 honors in his final two seasons and consensus first-team All-America honors in 2000.

OL: Robert Gallery, Iowa (1999-2003) -- Gallery claimed the Outland Trophy in 2003 as well as first-team All-America honors. He twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors as the anchor of a nationally elite offensive line.

OL: Jake Long, Michigan (2003-07) -- Although Long didn't win the Outland, he twice earned consensus first-team All-America honors (unanimous selection in 2007) and twice earned Big Ten offensive lineman of the year honors (beating out Thomas in 2006). Long was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2008 NFL draft.

DEFENSE

DE: LaMarr Woodley, Michigan (2003-06) -- Woodley claimed the Rotary Lombardi Award in 2006 as the nation's top lineman. A first-team All-American that season, he finished his career with 10 forced fumbles, tied for seventh on the Big Ten's career list.

DE: Ryan Kerrigan, Purdue (2007-10) -- Unlike most of the men on this list, Kerrigan never played for any BCS bowl teams at Purdue but still had a remarkable career that ended with unanimous consensus first-team All-America honors in 2010. The Big Ten defensive player of the year tied the NCAA record for forced fumbles (14) and recorded 33.5 sacks and 57 tackles for loss.

DT: Ndamukong Suh, Nebraska (2005-09) -- The most dominant defender in recent years finished fourth in Heisman voting in 2009 (should have been higher) and earned several awards, including the Bednarik, Nagurski and Outland. Suh finished his career with 24 sacks, 57 tackles for loss, four interceptions, three forced fumbles and 41 quarterback hurries.

DT: Devon Still, Penn State (2008-11) -- Penn State produced a string of outstanding defensive tackles including Still, the Big Ten's defensive player of the year in 2011. Still earned consensus first-team All-America honors after recording 17 tackles for loss.

LB: James Laurinaitis, Ohio State (2005-08) -- Laurinaitis won major national awards in each of his final three seasons, including the Nagurski Trophy in 2006. The two-time Big Ten defensive player of the year became just the third Ohio State player to earn consensus All-America honors in three seasons.

LB: Paul Posluszny, Penn State (2003-06) -- Posluszny is one of only two players (Pat Fitzgerald) to twice win the Bednarik Award as the nation's top defender. He became the first Penn State linebacker to twice earn AP All-America honors.

LB: LaVar Arrington, Penn State (1997-99) -- A freakishly athletic linebacker at Linebacker U., Arrington twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and won the Bednarik and Butkus Awards as a junior in 1999. He was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2000 NFL draft.

CB: Jamar Fletcher, Wisconsin (1998-2000) -- Fletcher claimed the Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's top defensive back in 2000, won Big Ten defensive player of the year honors that year and was a three-time first-team all-conference selection. He's tied for fourth in league history with 21 career interceptions and holds the league record for interception return yards (459).

CB: Darqueze Dennard, Michigan State (2010-13) -- Dennard also claimed the Thorpe Award as he helped Michigan State to its first outright Big Ten title in 26 years and a Rose Bowl victory against Stanford. The two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection recorded 10 career interceptions and led the "No Fly Zone" Spartans secondary.

S: Tyrone Carter, Minnesota (1996-99) -- The only Big Ten safety to win the Thorpe Award, Carter also twice earned first-team All-Big Ten honors and earned unanimous All-America honors in 1999. He set the FBS record for career tackles by a defensive back with 528.

S: Mike Doss, Ohio State (1999-2002) -- A three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, Doss earned unanimous consensus All-America honors in 2002 as Ohio State won the national title.

SPECIAL TEAMS

K: Mike Nugent, Ohio State (2001-04) -- Nugent won the Lou Groza Award as the nation's top kicker in 2004 and claimed consensus All-America honors in both 2002 and 2004. He holds the Big Ten record for consecutive made field goals with 24.

P: Brandon Fields, Michigan State (2003-06) -- His name is on the Big Ten's punter of the year award for a reason. Fields earned consensus All-America honors in 2004, earned first-team All-Big Ten honors three times and twice led the league in punting, tying for third in career average (45 ypp).

Returns: Ted Ginn, Ohio State (2004-06) and Steve Breaston, Michigan (2003-06) -- Ginn holds the Big Ten single-season records for kick return average (25.6 ypr) and career punt return touchdowns (6), while Breaston claims the league mark for career punt return yards (1,599) and is tied for third in punt return touchdowns (4).

It's tough enough putting together these teams for one season, much less 16 seasons. You can't please everyone, and many exceptional players didn't make the cut.

We decided to go with five offensive linemen rather than a center, two guards and two tackles, in order to recognize the best overall players in the trenches.

There was some debate for a second receiver alongside Michigan's Edwards, as the Big Ten hasn't exactly mass-produced superstars at the position. Several players had great seasons like Michigan State's Charles Rogers in 2002, but we put more stock into overall career output and went with Wisconsin's Evans, who led the league in receiving in 2001 and 2003.

Cornerback created some debate among Fletcher, Dennard and Ohio State's Malcolm Jenkins, also a Jim Thorpe Award winner. We faced another tough decision at safety between Ohio State's Doss and Iowa's Bob Sanders.

Surprisingly, the defensive tackle spot produced few bona-fide superstars. Nebraska's Suh, who played his entire career in the Big 12, was an obvious choice but a second choice proved to be tough.

Arguably the toughest choice came at kicker between Nugent and Iowa's Nate Kaeding. Both won Lou Groza Awards and set numerous records. We gave the nod to Nugent, but not by much.
Tyrone Carter flew into Minneapolis last winter for an emergency rescue mission.

The mission was his cousin, Michael, a talented but troubled defensive back for the Minnesota Golden Gophers. As they walked around campus together, they were stopped by fans who wanted to talk about Tyrone's star-studded days at the school more than a decade earlier. No one seemed to even recognize Michael.

"I remember telling him, 'Look, they don't even know who you are,'" Tyrone Carter told ESPN.com. "'What are you doing here? You're wasting your talent.'"

Michael Carter could easily have finished his Minnesota career not being known for anything but disappointment if not for the intervention of his cousin, a second chance given to him by coach Jerry Kill and, at long last, his own maturation and focus. He turned in one of the great redemption stories in the Big Ten this season, developing into one of the top cornerbacks in the league as a senior and helping the Gophers revive their passing defense.

[+] EnlargeMichael Carter
Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY Sports Michael Carter finsihed the season with 14 passes defensed, tied for 14th-most in the country.
He'll be a key figure when Minnesota takes on Texas Tech in the Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas on Friday. A little more than a year ago, however, Kill very nearly kicked him off the team for repeated transgressions.

"Oh, man, it was close," Carter told ESPN.com this month. "Very, very close."

Carter was one of the top defensive back recruits in the country and played in the same high school secondary as former LSU star Patrick Peterson at Blanche Ely High School in Pompano Beach, Fla. But he arrived at Minnesota as if he, well, had already arrived.

There was an alcohol-related arrest as a freshman. A three-game academic suspension as a sophomore. He played only five games in 2010 for Kill, who made Carter go to study hall instead of practice. Carter said he was never one to skip class, but he wasn't exactly a great student. He didn't work hard in practice and showed up late for meetings.

"I kind of felt like I had it all wrong coming out of high school," he said. "I just had to get more mature and leave all the other things alone and focus more on school and football."

Kill enlisted Tyrone Carter for help late last year. The two cousins have always been close, and Tyrone could speak with the authority of success. He was a two-time All-American at Minnesota who won the 1999 Jim Thorpe Award as the nation's best defensive back. He also set an NCAA record for tackles and played 11 years in the NFL. As soon as he heard from Kill, Tyrone snapped into action, flying up from his home in Palm Beach, Fla., to confront his cousin.

"I cussed him out," he said. "I got in his face. I told him what he was doing wrong."

You're disgracing the Carter name, he told Michael. If you don't shape up, you'll end up back home in Pompano Beach with nothing to do, just another former Florida high school star talking about how he could have played in the NFL.

To Michael's credit, he received the message and did something about it. He shored up his school work. Then he took Tyrone up on his offer to come train at his house during the summer. Tyrone made him run wind sprints with parachutes and do other drills to get into shape. Then he taught him the fundamentals of playing cornerback, from pad level to footwork to route recognition. The rule was Michael had to train in Palm Beach all week in order to go home to Pompano on the weekend.

"I know nobody in the country worked harder than we did," Tyrone said.

The cousins still talk several times per week on the phone. Every game week this season, Tyrone would quiz Michael on the upcoming opponent. What's their favorite formation? Their favorite route? Who's their go-to receiver? Tyrone said Michael had trouble answering some of those questions early on. But when they talked the night before the Oct. 27 Purdue game, something was different. Michael was finishing Tyrone's sentences before he could even get the words out of his mouth.

"I told him, 'OK. You ready,'" Tyrone said.

The next day, Carter tied a school record with six pass breakups in the 44-28 win over the Boilermakers. Included in that was one virtuoso, five-play sequence where he knocked away three passes and intercepted the final one for a touchdown. Kill said he'd never before seen a cornerback have a series like that.

Carter ended the season ranked third in the Big Ten in both passes defended and broken up. He had a large hand in improving Minnesota's pass defense from a total liability last year to No. 11 in the nation in 2012.

He and the secondary will be put to the test Friday against one of the top passing offenses in the country. Texas Tech threw for more than 361 yards per game this season and boasts a pair of top-flight receivers in Eric Ward (75 catches, 974 yards, 11 touchdowns) and Darrin Moore (81, 948 and 13). This could serve as an NFL audition for the 5-foot-11, 189-pound Carter.

"It’s a great showcase for him," Kill told ESPN.com. "They’ve got great, big, tall receivers. It’s a very important game for our program, but for a young man like him, who had a great year, there will be a lot of people watching, and it will be a great opportunity.”

It's an opportunity that Carter nearly threw away. Luckily, he turned out to be a mission worth rescuing.

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