Tag:DeVier Posey
Posted on: December 20, 2011 2:14 pm
Edited on: December 20, 2011 6:11 pm
 

NCAA gives Ohio St. bowl ban, Tressel show-cause



Posted by Adam Jacobi

Urban Meyer may have high hopes for his first season at Ohio State in 2012, but his team's first appearance in the postseason is going to have to wait until 2013 at the earliest. Ohio State has been given a one-year postseason ban, effective next year, by the NCAA. The NCAA also found Ohio State's offer of giving up five scholarships over three years inadequate, and will require that the Buckeyes give up a total of nine scholarships over that period instead.

The sanctions stem from a litany of NCAA violations committed by various Buckeyes and ousted head coach Jim Tressel. Terrelle Pryor was one of the worst offenders, repeatedly receiving impermissible benefits and allegedly participating in a system where he traded signed memorabilia for free tattoos, and DeVier Posey was suspended for a total of 10 games in 2011 for multiple instances of receiving impermissible benefits.

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Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith had said previously that he didn't anticipate a bowl ban for Ohio State, and Meyer told reporters after being hired that he had received "extremely positive feedback" about OSU's prospects before the NCAA.

Tressel was also given a five-year show-cause penalty by the NCAA. The "show-cause" label means that the NCAA considers Tressel a serious offender, and any NCAA school interested in employing Tressel must show why it does not deserve sanctions for doing so. The five-year sanction effectively ends Tressel's coaching career in the collegiate ranks.

Tressel's decision not to inform the NCAA of the violations once he learned of them played heavily into the decision to hit him with such a heavy penalty.

"Of great concern to the committee was the fact that the former head coach became aware of these violations and decided not to report the violations to institutional officials, the Big Ten Conference or the NCAA," the NCAA said in its report.

Tressel is now a game-day consultant for the Indianapolis Colts in the NFL.

Smith said in a statement that Ohio State would not contest the NCAA's ruling.

“We are surprised and disappointed with the NCAA’s decision,” said Smith. “However, we have decided not to appeal the decision because we need to move forward as an institution. We recognize that this is a challenging time in intercollegiate athletics. Institutions of higher education must move to higher ground, and Ohio State embraces its leadership responsibilities and affirms its long-standing commitment to excellence in education and integrity in all it does.

“My primary concern, as always, is for our students, and this decision punishes future students for the actions of others in the past,” said Smith. “Knowing our student-athletes, however, I have no doubt in their capacity to turn this into something positive – for themselves and for the institution. I am grateful to our entire Buckeye community for their continued support.”

Urban Meyer also released a statement that was even more forward-looking than Smith's.

“I agreed to become the Head Football Coach at The Ohio State University because Shelley and I are Ohio natives, I am a graduate of this wonderful institution and served in this program under a great coach. I understand the academic and athletic traditions here and will give great effort to continue those traditions.

“It is still my goal to hire excellent coaches, recruit great student-athletes who want to be a part of this program and to win on and off the field. The NCAA penalties will serve as a reminder that the college experience does not include the behavior that led to these penalties. I expect all of us to work hard to teach and develop young student-athletes to grow responsibly and to become productive citizens in their communities upon graduation.” 

Posted on: November 19, 2011 7:49 pm
 

QUICK HITS: Penn State 20, Ohio State 14

Posted by Adam Jacobi

PENN STATE WON. A high-powered first half gave way to a defensive struggle after halftime, and Penn State hung on to a 20-14 victory at Ohio State. The win was the first for interim head coach Tom Bradley and his retooled staff. Every point of this game came in the first half, as Anthony Fera knocked home a 46-yard field goal as time expired in the second quarter to give the Nittany Lions the six-point lead. After the 34-point first half, few watching the game could have possibly predicted the second half would be scoreless.

WHY PENN STATE WON: We thought coming into the game that one of these two teams would be exerting its will with a multi-faceted ground game to wear down the opposition; we just didn't think that team would be Penn State. Stephfon Green rushed 16 times for 93 yards and two scores, and the Nittany Lions as a whole gashed OSU for 239 yards on 39 attempts -- over six yards per carry. That total is twice OSU's season average for rushing yards given per game (119.3) coming into this week's game, and it's a critical reason why Penn State was able to engineer those scoring drives in the first half and keep its defense fresh late.

WHEN PENN STATE WON: Sure, OSU had the ball back at the end of the game, but this game was really lost when Ohio State couldn't convert a 4th and 10 at Penn State's 42 with under two minutes to play. Braxton Miller (7-17, 83 yards, 1 TD) couldn't find anyone open on the play and made a nice move on the outside to get moving toward the first down line, but a desperation dive by Miller came up a yard shy, and that was that.

WHAT PENN STATE WON: In terms of the division race, Penn State's win Saturday was largely meaningless; with Wisconsin beating Illinois, the season finale between the Badgers and Nittany Lions was going to decide the Leaders division regardless of whether Penn State took a one-game lead into the game or came in tied. And yet, getting that first post-Joe Paterno win -- in front of a hostile Ohio State crowd, no less -- will likely do wonders for the team's stability going forward. Nothing is spiraling out of control, nothing is forever ruined. Penn State can still play ball.

WHAT OHIO STATE LOST: Rumors are swirling about the future coach of Ohio State, and while they're still just rumors, it's important to note that none of them involve Luke Fickell remaining the head coach. And that was before his Buckeyes lost their fifth game of the year with a road game at Michigan still on the docket. Meanwhile, that fifth loss means OSU's going to be hurting when it comes time for bowl selection; while we're still talking about a high-profile program that draws fans and ratings wherever it goes, the simple fact is that there are now six conference teams with more wins than the Buckeyes, and that's going to complicate any effort to get OSU into a high-profile bowl game.

THAT WAS CRAZY: This game was star WR DeVier Posey's first on the season, after serving two consecutive five-game suspensions for impermissible benefits. On Posey's first catch, he went 39 yards on a deep fade to convert a 3rd and 15. But it was Posey's second catch -- a one-handed grab while falling out of bounds -- that had everybody in the 'Shoe buzzing and ruing the fact that Posey had been hit so severely by suspension. It's a legitimate contender for catch of the year.
Posted on: October 7, 2011 8:02 pm
Edited on: October 7, 2011 8:03 pm
 

More suspensions for the Buckeyes

Posted by Tom Fornelli

The NCAA announced on Friday that four Ohio State football players were to be suspended for accepting improper benefits from boosters. The players are DeVier Posey, Dan Herron, Marcus Hall and Daniel Fellow.

"Ohio State University football student-athlete Devier Posey must sit five games and repay benefits after receiving approximately $720 from a booster for work not performed, according to a decision today by the NCAA student-athlete reinstatement staff," said the statement on the NCAA website. "Posey also accepted approximately $100 in golf fees from another individual, which is a preferential treatment violation.

"Three additional Ohio State football student-athletes – Marcus Hall, Melvin Fellows and Daniel Herron – will miss one game and must repay benefits after receiving pay for work not performed from the booster. Herron and Fellows both accepted approximately $290 in excess pay while Hall received $230 in overpayment. In its decision, the staff noted the overpayment occurred over an extended period of time."

As you'll likely recall, both Posey and Herron were already serving suspensions due to benefits they already received, including free tattoos, that caused Ohio State to vacate its entire 2010 season. These new suspensions will be added on to those old suspensions, so for DeVier Posey, that means he'll be forced to sit out 10 of Ohio State's 12 regular season games this year.

"This penalty is harsh considering the nature of the violation and the five game suspension already served by this student athlete," said Ohio State athletic director Gene Smith regarding Posey's latest suspension.

He's right, too, the penalty is harsh, but that's what happens when you're a repeat offender: the punishment gets worse. You'd think the poster child for compliance would know that.
Posted on: October 5, 2011 2:19 am
 

Buckeye WR depth takes hit before Nebraska game

Posted by Adam Jacobi

For Ohio State, the 2011 season has been one of a nearly unprecedented amount of challenges. We all know about the off-season oustings and suspensions, and that resultant instability -- probably moreso at quarterback than at head coach -- has led to a 3-2 start that seems even more worrisome than the record would indicate.

At the very least, though, Week 6 was supposed to be when the cavalry arrived for the Buckeyes. Five starters, including offensive stars Dan Herron and DeVier Posey, were to come off of suspension, and the influx of high-caliber talent was going to kick-start the season into the high gear that most Buckeye fans were accustomed to. Well, clearly, that's not quite going as planned either, and for the Buckeye passing game, the news gets even worse.

Not only is Posey -- the unquestioned top wide receiver of the team -- still out for this week's tilt against Nebraska after Ohio State admitted that Posey accepted over $700 in unearned wages, but his top backup is now out for the year. As RapidReporter Doug Bean notes, WR Verlon Reed (seen at right) has been lost for the season after he suffered a torn ACL against Michigan State. Reed led all wide receivers with nine catches on the season, and only TE Jake Stoneburner had more catches on the year (10) thus far.

Reed's injury is particularly cruel, because it didn't occur while he was playing his usual position. After Ohio State scored a touchdown with four precious seconds remaining on the clock, OSU brought out its hands team for the onside kick, of which Reed is a member. The kick went to Reed's side, and he was hit hard in the ensuing collision before he crumpled backwards. Michigan State eventually recovered the kick and won the game.

As Bean notes, this likely means that Reed's vacated starting WR role will be filled by either Evan Spencer or T.Y. Williams, who are both freshmen who have combined for all of five catches this season. Devin Smith, who has eight catches for 183 yards and three scores on the year, remains the other starting wideout.

Posted on: October 3, 2011 11:39 am
Edited on: October 3, 2011 11:40 am
 

Status of Herron, Posey in doubt for Ohio State

Posted by Tom Fornelli

Ohio State has now played five games this season, which means that the suspensions that players like Mike Adams, Solomon Thomas, Dan Herron and DeVier Posey for their involvement in Tattoogate is over. However, that doesn't mean that every single one of them will be able to play when the Buckeyes take on Nebraska on Saturday.

According to a report in the Columbus Dispatch, the status of both Posey and Herron is still in question.
A separate probe by the NCAA into Herron and Posey apparently showed they may have received improper benefits in terms of alleged inflated remuneration while working summer jobs in the Cleveland area. It could mean at least one more game of suspension for Herron, for whom the benefits was said to be in the $200 to $400 range, and perhaps multiple games for Posey, for whom the benefit was said to be about $500.

Sources said both refuted the charges. Herron, a source said, produced evidence that he thought showed he had received no improper benefit.
The NCAA started a separate probe into Herron and Posey earlier this season while looking into the benefits Jordan Hall, Travis Howard and Corey Brown received from booster Robert DiGeronimo for attending a charity event. Those three were all suspended for the first two games of the season for accepting $200 from DiGeronimo.

Ohio State is scheduled to make an announcement at 3:30pm Eastern on Monday.

If Herron and Posey can't play this weekend against Nebraska, it would be a big blow to the Buckeyes. The Ohio State offense has been pretty dreadful this season, so getting two playmakers like Herron and Posey back would be a nice boost.

Both Mike Adams and Solomon Thomas are expected to be cleared to play.
Posted on: September 16, 2011 4:16 pm
 

Miami-Ohio St looking for a game, not headlines

Posted by Bryan Fischer

MIAMI -- Is Oklahoma going to the Pac-12? Did you see LSU's defense Thursday night? The NCAA reinstated someone from Boise State!

The world of college football this year seems to be about everything but the games six days a week. Saturday, of course, things stop. There's tailgates and touchdowns, quarterbacks and queso, defensive backs and racks full of ribs.

Likewise, much to Mark Emmert, Donna Shalla and E. Gordon Gee's chagrin, Saturday's primetime match up between Miami and Ohio State has seemingly been about everything but what will take place at Sun Life Stadium. The Ineligible Bowl. The Tats and Cash Fiesta. The Yahoo! Sports Bowl. Convict Boosters vs. well… Convict Boosters.

For what it's worth though, there will be no boosters on the sideline according to Miami officials.

Everyday this week, it seemed that each program was in the news for off the field distractions. Tuesday, the NCAA reinstated three Buckeyes after accepting money - via disgraced quarterback Terrelle Pryor - from a booster. On Thursday, Miami's most famous booster, Uncle Luke, announced plans to sue Miami's most infamous booster, Nevin Shapiro. Before the game on the field, games were played in the headlines during the run-up.

"What has been our strategy? Just focus on what we can control," Hurricanes head coach Al Golden said. "Again, I keep saying it. No one on our staff was involved with anything that occurred here, and 90% of our team wasn't.

"There are some distractions there. There are a lot of things. I'm sure Coach (Luke) Fickell has the same issues in terms of every move that you make requires a double move basically."

Golden's starter at quarterback tomorrow, Jacory Harris was suspended for the opener, a loss to Maryland. He's looking to make up for his performance in the Horseshoe last year when he threw four interceptions in a 36-24 loss. For a team looking to put it all out on the field after a rough month off of it, perhaps it is fitting that the Hurricanes' fate will rest on someone who was taken off of it for eligibility issues.

Beyond last year's loss and Harris' issues though, this game means something to Miami. They're looking to avoid an 0-2 start for the first time since 1978 and end their four game losing streak. It's Golden's home debut leading the Hurricanes as well, something the team is clearly focused on - not the nicknames for their Ohio State showdown.

“He's been through the thick and thin with us through this whole [NCAA investigation]," senior Travis Benjamin said. ”We just want to come out and get a W for coach Golden.”

The Buckeyes are not without their own issues as they take their slightly less talented roster to South Beach. The team struggled last week and almost lost to Toledo were it not for John Simon's interception of the Rockets' backup quarterback late in the game. They'll be without four key players due to suspension in receiver DeVier Posey, tackle Mike Adams, running back Dan Herron and backup end Soloman Thomas. Those four will stay in Ohio while the other member of the Buckeye Five will be in Oakland. Not that anyone will bring any of that up.

"We hope and we think that this is what the game is all about, to be able to handle adversity and we believe it's going to make us stronger in the long run," Fickell said. "It starts from the top down. We can't let it affect me so that we can't let it affect them, as well."

Speaking of suspended players, Miami has at the early lead going on: they'll get back five players to Ohio State's three.

The Hurricanes will likely play a key role in the game as well. Linebacker Sean Spence will be a key defender in the middle of the defense behind linemen Marcus Forston and Adewale Ojomo. A speedy receiver, Benjamin should also provide a boost for the offense. Starting running back Jordan Hall, corner Travis Howard and reserve safety Corey Brown are back for the Buckeyes.

It won't quite be the 2003 Fiesta Bowl in terms of talent on the field but there's no ignoring how big a game it is between the two programs who are not on friendly terms.

"We try not to focus on, `Hey, this is a national game because of Miami and their great history and Ohio State's great history,'" Fickell said. "We're still making sure we understand it's one game at a time, like we always say, but it's still about getting better. It's a chance to obviously test ourselves."

Miami's home opener will be emotional. Ohio State is no doubt looking to silence critics. There will be story lines aplenty.

But as 7:30 eastern rolls around, it will - finally - be just a game.
 

Posted on: August 12, 2011 3:54 pm
Edited on: August 12, 2011 4:57 pm
 

CBSSports.com Preseason All-Big Ten team

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As part of the CBSSports.com season preview, here are one writer's choices for the preseason All-Big Ten team. 

Offense

QUARTERBACK

Kirk Cousins, Senior, Michigan State

For as many high-level quarterbacks as there are in the Big Ten, it looks as if the stars have aligned the best for Kirk Cousins this year. Cousins returns his stable of running backs, two of his top three wideouts (and experienced senior backups at the third receiver and starting tight end), and his same offense from 2010. Cousins also didn't suffer a catastrophic injury last year. Oh, and Cousins is a very, very good passer. There isn't another quarterback in the conference that can make all of those claims, so while the MSU schedule is just brutal this year, if any losses occur, it's unlikely that a healthy Cousins will be to blame for any of them.

Also watch for: Even without Terrelle Pryor lining up under center, this is a loaded position in the conference. Denard Robinson and Dan Persa can also make legitimate claims as the top quarterback in the conference, and Wisconsin newcomer Russell Wilson might get there by the end of the year. This is a conference where Nathan Scheelhaase and Taylor Martinez are competing to even be mentioned in the top five quarterbacks. Big Ten secondaries, beware.

RUNNING BACK

Edwin Baker, Junior, Michigan State

In a Spartan backfield loaded with depth, Baker is the best of the bunch, rushing for over 1,200 yards and 13 TDs in his sophomore campaign. Baker is a low, powerful rusher with some of the best instincts in the conference, and he’ll be counted on to produce even more -- provided he can keep his talented teammates from stealing even more carries in 2011.

Montee Ball, Junior, Wisconsin

Ball gets the nod here just for being a year ahead of his teammate listed below, but the truth is both are going to be major weapons for the Badgers this year. Ball was a hair away from hitting 1,000 yards rushing last year, but his nose for the end zone is impeccable; he scored 18 rushing touchdowns last year, which is even more ridiculous considering half-man, half-truck John Clay was also a Badger last year and scored 14 TDs of his own. 20 touchdowns is totally in play for Ball this year.

Also watch for: All the true sophomores. There's a lot of them. First of all, both Baker and Bell have superlatively talented teammates in their backfields; Ball's partner in crime is reigning Big Ten Freshman of the Year James White, who racked up 1,057 yards and 14 touchdowns as a true freshman. Meanwhile, the Spartans have true sophomore big back Le'Veon Bell, who rushed for 605 yards at 5.7 yards a carry last year. Iowa boasted its own a true freshman breakout star in Marcus Coker, who scorched Missouri for 219 yards and two scores in the Insight Bowl. Penn State's starting tailback Silas Redd was also a true freshman in 2010, looking impressive as he tallied 437 yards (5.7 yards per carry) in relief of since-departed Evan Royster. Ohio State has a trio of workhorses in its backfield in Rod Smith, Jaamal Berry (8.3 ypc as, yep, a true freshman in 2010), and suspended starter Boom Herron. Meanwhile, junior Rex Burkhead (Nebraska) and senior Jason Ford (Illinois) have been significant contributors in the backfield for years, and both have opportunities to put forward a big year.

WIDE RECEIVER

Derek Moye, Senior, Penn State

Penn State may not have its quarterback situation shored up just yet, but one thing for sure is that whoever steps forward will have the conference's best target to aim at. Moye is 6'5" and fast, and he led the Nittany Lions' receiving corps with 53 catches, 885 yards, and eight TDs -- all team highs last year. Ostensibly, both Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin (PSU's dueling QBs) have an even better rapport with Moye than they did last year, so don't be surprised to see all three of Moye's stats rise in his senior campaign.

Marvin McNutt, Senior, Iowa

McNutt first came onto the scene in 2009, when he was listed ahead of returning starter (and future Iowa record-holder in career receptions and receiving yards) Derrell Johnson-Koulianos on Iowa's depth chart coming out of camp. McNutt and Johnson-Koulianos eventually played their way into starting roles alongside each other, but the more surprising aspect was that McNutt -- recruited as a quarterback out of high school, and the Hawkeyes' 3rd stringer under center the year prior -- could work his way into the starting lineup that easily. McNutt quickly emerged as the surest catcher on the team, and his big play ability has put the Hawkeyes' career touchdown reception record in dire jeopardy (he needs just five scores to match Tim Dwight and Danan Hughes at 21).

Also watch for: Jeremy Ebert of Northwestern has a record of production that's as good as just about anybody else in the conference, and his familiarity with Dan Persa is going to be key as Persa continues to work his way back from a torn Achilles tendon. Ohio State wideout DeVier Posey was a favorite target -- by a pretty wide margin -- of Terrelle Pryor, and it's hardly a stretch to think that whoever OSU's new QB might be will depend on Posey often (once Posey comes back from suspension, anyway). 6'5" Indiana WR Damarlo Belcher would probably be in the NFL today if he had held onto a game-winning 4th down pass against Iowa last season. He didn't, the Hawkeyes won, new Hoosiers coach Kevin Wilson convinced Belcher to stay, and here we are. Keshawn Martin and BJ Cunningham should both put up big numbers for Kirk Cousins at MSU.  

TIGHT END

Drake Dunsmore, Senior, Northwestern

From a purist's standpoint, Dunsmore is not technically a tight end; he's classified by Northwestern as a "superback," which means he can be found all over the place in the Wildcats' different offensive sets. He fits the same role that a tight end usually does, however, mixing a healthy amount of both blocking and receiving. Think of Dunsmore as Northwestern's Frank Wycheck. Also, think of him as Dan Persa's safety valve, being the second-leading receiver returning to the Wildcats and by far the leader among Big Ten tight ends with 40 receptions in 2010.

Also watch for: If Dunsmore's role as "superback" is too much of a departure from tight end for comfort, Nebraska TE Kyler Reed could easily take Dunsmore's place on this list. Reed's athleticism makes him one of the toughest tight ends to cover in the league, and at 18 yards per reception in 2010, he's proven the ability to move chains as well as any end in the conference. His eight touchdowns (tops among Big Ten TEs) don't hurt either.

OFFENSIVE LINE

Center Mike Brewster, Senior, Ohio State

Forget the Big Ten, Mike Brewster might well be the best center in the nation. In a position that usually attracts shorter linemen, Brewster stands tall at 6'5" 305 and still boasts elite technique. The four-year starter has become something of a folk hero in Columbus, and for good reason: he's probably going to be an All-Pro at the next level.

Guard Kevin Zeitler, Senior, Wisconsin

Now that First Team All-Americans Gabe Carimi and John Moffitt are gone to the NFL, the Wisconsin offensive line needs a new anchor, and Zeitler likely fits that bill. Zeitler is the most experienced offensive lineman on the Badgers, with 22 starts to his name, and his senior season should be his best.

Guard Joel Foreman, Senior, Michigan State

Foreman worked his way into the starting lineup early in his redshirt freshman season, and never relinquished the role. 36 starts later, he's the premier guard in the Big Ten, and his ability to get to the second level has been critical to Michigan State's considerable success rushing the ball. Foreman's pass protection skills are also stellar; it's no accident that Kirk Cousins has flourished as a passer over the last few years.

Tackle Mike Adams, Senior, Ohio State

Mike Adams shouldn't be on this list. He should be in the NFL, because he likely would have been a first-round pick last year. His role in the tattoo scandal and subsequent NCAA investigation led Jim Tressel to demand Adams return for his suspension-shortened senior season, and here we are. With the aforementioned Carimi off in the NFL, Adams takes over the mantle as the best tackle in college football, and his return to the Buckeyes' lineup after his five-game suspension is going to be a major factor in the Buckeyes' fight to stay atop the conference.

Tackle Riley Reiff, Junior, Iowa

As Iowa's left tackle, there's no denying Reiff has big shoes to fill; his recent predecessors include former All-Americans (and first-round NFL draft picks) Robert Gallery and Bryan Bulaga. Reiff could soon fit that bill himself; he's a big, mean masher who excels in downfield blocking and at the point of attack. Reiff's pass protection isn't as impressive quite yet, but he's still got two seasons left at Iowa to take that next step. He may not need two before the NFL comes calling.

Also watch for: Michigan center David Molk would probably be first-team in just about any other conference, but with Brewster manning the role for OSU, Molk is relegated to second-team status here. RT J.B. Shugarts is a third senior starter on the line for the Buckeyes, and if his foot injury is healed, he'll likely have a big year. Wisconsin RT Josh Oglesby is back from an injury that robbed him of all but two games in 2010, and he could easily play his way into all-conference consideration.  

Defense

DEFENSIVE LINE

DE Cameron Meredith, Junior, Nebraska

In Meredith’s first year starting in 2010, he racked up 10 quarterback hurries and 6.5 TFLs. That would be disconcerting enough by itself, but with the bevy of talent in the front seven, most of the help blocking will have to be devoted to other defenders -- meaning Meredith will likely be on an island with his opposing tackles, terrorizing them and opposing quarterbacks all season long. Look for his sack numbers to go way up in 2011.

DE Vince Browne, Senior, Northwestern

One of the most underappreciated players in the Big Ten is probably Vince Browne, who registered seven sacks and 15.5 TFL in relative obscurity last year. The spotlight's on Browne now as a consensus preseason first-team all-Big Ten player, and his production continues to improve, he'll quickly make Wildcats fans forget about former all-conference DE Corey Wootton.

DT Jared Crick, Senior, Nebraska

It's slightly unfair to Crick (pictured above right) that he shared a defensive front with former Heisman candidate DT Ndamukong Suh, because it only invites comparisons between the two rather than letting Crick define his own legacy at Nebraska. On the other hand, earning comparisons to Suh is fantastic news for Nebraska, because it means Crick's incredible. Crick is a likely All-American at DT, with 32 TFLs to his name over the last two seasons and the potential to pass 20 TFLs this year. He's big, strong, and disruptive, which probably means instant double-teams on the majority of snaps in 2011. That still might not be enough to slow Crick down.

DT Mike Martin, Senior, Michigan

Last year, Mike Martin faced the same challenge that former teammate Brandon Graham did in 2009: being the best defensive lineman on a truly terrible defense. At the very least, Martin gets another crack at helping the Wolverines turn their defense around, and with the arrival of Greg Mattison as defensive coordinator, that looks to be a real possibility. Martin wasn't at 100% very often last year, but he's healthy right now, and that plus the move back to a 4-3 lineup (with space eater William Campbell next to him at NT) should be enough to propel Martin and the Wolverines DL to a much-improved season.

Also watch for: Jerel Worthy is a monster on the interior for Michigan State and may supplant Martin as a first-team DT by season's end; Worthy's production needs to improve, though. Iowa DT Mike Daniels is in his second year of starting, and the aggressive senior showed flashes of potential last season. He's going from the "fifth starter" in 2010 to the leader of the retooling Iowa defensive line. Ohio State DE Nathan Williams is in his second year starting for the Buckeyes, and he's expected to put together a solid senior year.

LINEBACKER

Michael Mauti, Junior, Penn State

When healthy, Mauti is one of the most fearsome linebackers in the Big Ten. It's that health that poses a bit of an issue. Mauti missed all of 2009 with an ACL injury, then struggled through various maladies last season -- including a shoulder injury suffered against Ohio State. Sheer probability suggests Mauti will have better luck with injuries this year, and he's manning the inside linebacker spot in a defense that puts the ILB in the best position to make plays. Tackles will be plentiful for the talented junior this year.

Lavonte David, Senior, Nebraska

It's bad enough for Nebraska's opposing offensive linemen that they have to deal with Jared Crick and Baker Steinkuhler at defensive tackle at the same time. It's worse that behind them lurks All-American candidate MLB Lavonte David. With needing three blockers to engage Crick and Steinkuhler a near-certainty, Davis will be free to get to the edges and and hit the point of attack, both things the speedy linebacker can do extremely well. Look for unholy amounts of production from David in 2011.

Chris Borland, Sophomore, Wisconsin

Wisconsin's defense wasn't spectacular last year, but with an offense scoring over 30 points in all but one Big Ten game, it didn't need to be. That defense is getting a major boost this year as 2009 Big Ten Freshman of the Year Borland returns after taking a medical redshirt last season. Borland is strong and aggressive, and he represents a significant step up from departing MLB Culmer St. Jean. It wasn't exactly easy to run on Wisconsin last year, but it'll be legitimately tough now.

Also watch for: Andrew Sweat takes over as the leader of Ohio State's defense now, and the rangy OLB is poised for a big year. Iowa MLB James Morris stepped in as a 215-pound true freshman last year, and now that he's bigger, he may never leave the starting lineup; Iowa coaches are especially high on him. Senior Nate Stupar is versatile and productive, and he'll help bolster the Penn State linebacking corps in a big way.

SECONDARY

Cornerback Alfonzo Dennard, Senior, Nebraska

With former teammate and All-American CB Prince Amukamara off to the NFL, it's Dennard's time to shine as Nebraska's lockdown cornerback. He showed all the necessary potential last year as opposing quarterbacks threw for under 50% all season long (tops among BCS teams), and while the loss of Amukamara might push opposing passer ratings up a bit, throwing at Dennard is still going to be a terrible, terrible idea. 

Cornerback Shaun Prater, Senior, Iowa

Prater's interceptions are about to drop precipitously. Not because the returning All-Big Ten cornerback is about to get any worse, but with his accolades and the uncertainty in the rest of the Iowa secondary, there isn't going to be a whole lot of sense in testing Prater anymore.

Safety Aaron Henry, Senior, Wisconsin

Henry, a cornerback for the Badgers until 2010, made a successful transition to safety by registering 58 tackles, seven PBUs, and a pair of interceptions last year. With a year of experience at free safety under his belt and a wealth of athleticism to boot, Henry should be even better in 2011.

Safety Trenton Robinson, Senior, Michigan State

It's hard to argue with results, so it's hard to argue with Trenton Robinson's eight passes broken up and four interceptions; only Northwestern cornerback Jordan Mabin had more passes defended last season, with 14 PBUs and a pick. Robinson is also the leading tackler among returning MSU starters, so look for a big senior year in center field for him.

Also watch for: Iowa CB-turned-safety Micah Hyde might have a case for being on this list after scoring two touchdowns off interceptions last year, but he’ll need to produce at his new position for Iowa before any accolades come his way. True sophomore cornerback Ricardo Allen is a rising star in Purdue’s secondary after two defensive scores of his own; he’ll be getting All-American consideration before his career’s over. Also, as mentioned before, Jordan Mabin led the conference in passes broken up by a pretty substantial margin. That's worth something.

Specialists

KICKER

Derek Dimke, Senior, Illinois

Dimke is the returning first-team All-Big Ten kicker, and for good reason; the Lou Groza watch list member was 24-29 on field goals last year, and he's got one of the strongest legs in the conference. Look for another all-conference performance this year.

PUNTER

Brad Nortman, Senior, Wisconsin

Not only is Nortman one of the best (if not often-used) punters in the conference, he also led the Big Ten in rushing average after gaining 17 yards on a fake punt in Wisconsin's 31-30 win over Iowa last year. Sadly, Nortman's one rushing attempt did not qualify him for the official league crown. With the top three punters in the 2010 Big Ten all graduating, Nortman has an opportunity to step up and put together a big senior year.

Posted on: April 23, 2011 8:14 pm
 

Ohio State passing game suspect without Pryor

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The Ohio State Buckeyes held their spring game today, and even though the offense "scored" plenty of points in its 59-27 victory over the defense, it was clear that the passing game was far from perfect.

With starter Terrelle Pryor sidelined as he recovers from foot surgery, OSU coach Jim Tressel (at right, looking every bit as unusual in camouflage as you'd expect) made use of four backup quarterbacks in today's scrimmage, with each throwing at least nine passes. Taylor Graham made use of a picture-perfect 69-yard touchdown pass to T.Y. Williams to lead all passers with 91 yards, but he was only 4-9 on the day. All in all, the four quarterbacks combined to complete just 20 of 43 passes for 249 yards and four touchdowns -- one by each quarterback.

"We’re all battling hard to make strides," said senior quarterback and putative starter Joe Bauserman, who went 4-11 for 42 yards. "We made some mistakes and there were some good plays and some bad plays."

Kenny Guiton went 5-11 for 43 yards, and Braxton Miller added 73 yards on 7-for-12 passing.

Although the offense had 59 points on the scoreboard, only 40 were points in the traditional sense; the other 19 were rewarded for first downs and plays of 20+ yards. Moreover, those 40 points came against a secondary stretched thin by injuries, as 10 defensive backs (nine on scholarship) were forced to miss the spring game.

The question of quarterback play isn't exactly moot without Pryor around, either; even though he's likely to fully recover long before the opening of the season, he's one of five Buckeyes suspended for the first five games of the season, as is DeVier Posey, the senior leader of an otherwise inexperienced WR corps. Still, fortunately for the Buckeyes, those younger wideouts performed well today.

"We have young guys at receiver and they really came along this spring," said Tressel. "They are starting to understand. First, they have to know where to line up. Then they have to understand what to do. Then they have to figure out how to it against the best guys."

"They’re just out there practicing hard," added Posey. "It’s difficult since they haven’t even been here for an entire academic year yet. The older guys are getting them to understand how everything works here and just leading by example. I felt like a proud dad today seeing three of them score touchdowns."

All in all, there's a difference between "inconsistent" and just plain "bad," and what the Ohio State Buckeyes got from their passing game was inconsistent play. Four touchdowns and no interceptions is nothing to scoff at, after all, even against a depleted secondary. The quarterback battle is still going to take months to resolve itself, but that's not necessarily a bad thing for the Buckeyes as long as those quarterbacks are getting as much practice time as possible.

In fact, the substandard performance may be something of a blessing in disguise if Tressel can use it as an impetus for a strong QB battle through summer and fall practice. Any coach can say a player needs to improve, but when he's got the stats to back up such a statement, there's some extra motivation, and that's the situation Ohio State's in now. Today wasn't a disaster for the Buckeyes, but hopefully it wa a reminder to the quarterbacks that there's a lot of work to be done between now and September.

 
 
 
 
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