Tag:Adam Jacobi
Posted on: August 15, 2011 11:00 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 11:54 pm
 

Minnesota takes unusual approach to starters

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Gridiron Gold, a Minnesota Golden Gophers-themed blog for the Minnesota-St. Paul Star Tribune, had a report from the Gophers' first day of fall practices on Saturday. The main gist of the report is that the Gophers' offense was struggling mightily, which didn't even catch Minnesota offensive coordinator Matt Limegrover by surprise. That's fine, because offenses often struggle in a coach's first fall practice with his squad, and there's hardly cause for alarm in Minneapolis here.

That said, though... there might be a fundamental flaw in Minnesota's approach, and one that head coach Jerry Kill can easily fix. Here's a snippet burined lower in the above linked report:

The Gophers won't post 11-man depth charts for offense and defense, Kill said. "It's a starting 22 on offense and a starting 22 on defense. We'll play a lot of people," he said.

22 starters is way too many starters, guys! Anything over 11 is a penalty (we checked the rule book). Of course there's going to be confusion when there's seven wide receivers all out running routes and two quarterbacks fighting over the football. That's just bad football, everybody knows that.

Anyway, we got a hold of one of Minnesota's many new 22-player formations. Don't ask us how. Ladies and gentlemen, feast your eyes on the revolutionary, sensational, and completely illegal Jumbo Power Right Quintuple Wing-Crooked-I Pro:



You should see the spread flex. Impossible to stop, if only the refs would stop blowing every play dead as soon as the huddle breaks. Fun haters.

Posted on: August 15, 2011 6:08 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 6:09 pm
 

Terrelle Pryor still not in supplemental draft

Posted by Adam Jacobi

As the fine gentlemen at Eye On Football reported Sunday evening, Former Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor's status for the 2011 NFL supplemental draft is still in limbo, and he's still trying to meet with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell and get a definitive answer. The supplemental draft is scheduled for Wednesday, August 17, so there's clearly not a whole lot of time to be wasted here.

According to NFL rules, Pryor wouldn't be eligible for the supplemental draft unless he was kicked out of school or ruled academically ineligible. Pryor was indeed ruled permanently ineligible by Ohio State for not complying with the NCAA investigation he was involved in, so one would think that's enough to satisfy the NFL's requirements.

Now, it's plenty obvious that Pryor belongs in the NFL as soon as possible. He is clearly not going to be a member of Ohio State's football team ever again, we're already almost halfway through the CFL's 2011 season, and let's not even entertain the idea of "Terrelle Pryor, UFL rookie." However, if for whatever reason, Goodell decides that Pryor's circumstances aren't currently worthy of NFL supplemental draft inclusion, we may get the first instance in NCAA history where a student-athlete petitions to have his previous semester's grades lowered. "No no, you've got to give me an F instead of a C! I promise I cheated! Please believe me!"

But seriously. Let's let Terrelle Pryor in the NFL already, Mr. Goodell.

Posted on: August 15, 2011 5:28 pm
Edited on: August 15, 2011 11:49 pm
 

Texas A&M Regents authorize realignment action

Posted by Adam Jacobi

Monday was an eventful day for developments on Texas A&M's conference affiliation. The Aggies appear to be at least one step closer to joining the SEC, but Texas A&M's president didn't set a timetable on change, nor even confirmed that Texas A&M would be leaving the Big 12.

-- The Texas State House Committee on Higher Education canceled a hearing scheduled for Tuesday that would have involved officials from Texas A&M, the SEC, and the Big 12.

Committee chair Dan Branch had said that making any conference moves without meeting with his committee first would be "inappropriate," but according to Kirk Bohls, Branch postponed the meeting because Texas A&M had yet to "complete anything." Branch added that the hearing may re-convene at a later date.

-- As expected, the Texas A&M Board of Regents authorized Loftin to "take all actions relating to Texas A&M University's athletic conference alignment."

On Sunday, the presidents and chancellors of the SEC met and announced that the conference was happy with its 12-team alignment for right now, and "took no action" in regards to unhappy Big 12 member Texas A&M. The underlying message from the SEC was clear: the ball is in your court, Texas A&M, not ours.

To that end, the Texas A&M Board of Regents met on Monday, and as expected whent the agenda was released, has authorized Texas A&M president R. Bowen Loftin to leave the Big 12 or do whatever else he sees fit with the school's athletic conference alignment. Loftin is now expected to make an entreaty to the SEC.

Loftin told reporters after the meeting that the SEC has yet to invite Texas A&M, however, and when asked if there was a timetable, replied "Not for me." He also said that staying in the Big 12 still remained an option, and that any move to the SEC would be a "lengthy" process.

-- According to CBSSports.com's Dennis Dodd, NCAA president Mark Emmert contacted various conference CEO's to discuss the realignment situation.

Here's the statement issued by the office of Mark Emmert to CBSSports.com:

"President Emmert has had conversations with a number of presidents and commissioners related to recent conference realignment issues and these discussions mirror many of the topics raised last week during the [Division I] presidential meetings."

The NCAA did not elaborate on the discussions had between Emmert and the CEOs, nor did it specify which ones were contacted (though it's probably not hard to guess). The New York Times had a report about that call, however, in which Pac-12 commissioner Larry Scott said, "I think people have asked him to make some phone calls. He’s doing exactly what he should be doing.”

The New York Times' report also cites a high-ranking official who alleges that Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe and SEC commissioner Mike Slive had a heated phone conversation on expansion talks last week, but Beebe told Chuck Carlton of the Dallas Morning News that "we have been very direct but have not had any conversations with Mike Slive I would describe as heated, ever." This appears to be more of a quibble over semantics than an outright rejection of the report.

Posted on: August 14, 2011 4:05 pm
Edited on: August 14, 2011 9:44 pm
 

SEC finishes meeting, doesn't invite Texas A&M

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The SEC has just finished its scheduled meeting of its presidents and chancellors, and unfortunately for secession-minded Texas A&M fans, the conference is staying put at 12 teams -- for now. Here's the full statement released by presidents and chancellors chair (and Florida president) Bernie Machen:

“The SEC Presidents and Chancellors met today and reaffirmed our satisfaction with the present 12 institutional alignment. We recognize, however, that future conditions may make it advantageous to expand the number of institutions in the league. We discussed criteria and process associated with expansion. No action was taken with respect to any institution including Texas A&M.”

What Machen didn't say is that Texas A&M won't be invited to the SEC; if the chancellors and presidents didn't want the Aggies to come, the statement would likely have been worded with a bit more finality. As it stands, the conference is clearly leaving the door open to expansion.

It's also worth pointing out that the Texas A&M Board of Regents has yet to authorize school president R. Bowen Loftin (who did not attend the SEC's meeting) to negotiate its conference standing; that action is set to take place Monday. Texas A&M is still a member of the Big 12, and it might not even be legal for the SEC to invite the Aggies at this point.  In other words, the "future conditions" Machen talks about may be as simple as Texas A&M applying to the SEC, or at the very least setting an end date to its affiliation to the Big 12. Either way, the metaphorical ball likely wasn't in the SEC's court to begin with.

Moreover, Texas state Rep. Dan Branch has called for a hearing before his Committee on Higher Education on Tuesday, with officials from the Big 12, SEC and Texas A&M invited. The Texas state legislation has been active in conference affiliation matters in the past; it pushed for Baylor's inclusion alongside Texas, Texas A&M and Texas Tech in the "Pac-16" plan that eventually fell through, for example. Branch has said it would be "inappropriate" for Texas A&M to go to the SEC before the Tuesday meeting, and Loftin said that he would be present at that meeting, and that the Regents.

Arkansas chancellor Dave Gearheart attended the meeting, and said that while no action was taken on Texas A&M, the school was certainly one of the topics of discussion. "It was really an open discussion, not just about A&M but about the future of the conference and the future of other conferences," Gearhart said. "We did talk about Texas A&M. It's a great university, a great place. But I think the decision was to make no decision at this particular time."

This issue isn't put to bed by any stretch. An unnamed SEC official told the New York Times' Pete Thamel that the meeting was to let Texas A&M "get its house in order." But for now, Texas A&M is stuck with the Big 12. Saturday, Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe issued a statement that the conference had "unanimous desires" for Texas A&M to remain a member, and that the conference "took actions [...] to adequately address those concerns" that Texas A&M had raised.

Texas A&M's main problem revolved around the upcoming Longhorn Network, the Texas-affiliated sports channel set to launch this fall. In particular, Texas A&M was among many Big 12 members who objected to the channel's plans to air an in-conference football game and high school games involving high-profile recruits. Both of those options have since been taken off the table, with the NCAA issuing a moratorium on all collegiate networks airing high school games.

Still, the mere suggestion that these ideas were planned by the network may have been enough to sour Texas A&M on the Big 12 for good, regardless of what the Longhorn Network actually does, and it probably didn't help matters when Beebe told the conference that it can survive without Texas A&M and speculated on candidates to replace the Aggies, namely Houston and Notre Dame

Members of the Texas A&M coaching staff and its players declined any comment that indicated any interest in the potential move. Head coach Mike Sherman said "I don't pay a lot of attention to [the SEC issue]" after an afternoon practice on Sunday. Senior safety Trent Hunter agreed, saying "it's not anything that's going to affect us playing SMU in that first week."

Loftin issued a statement through Texas A&M on Sunday on the issue.

"As we have seen over the past several days, there has been a considerable amount of misinformation regarding these discussions and any associated timelines. The chairman of our board has indicated that the regents will proceed with tomorrow's agenda item, which authorizes the president of Texas A&M to take all actions related to athletic conference alignment. I will also accept Chairman Branch's invitation to participate in his committee's hearing on Tuesday. These are extremely complex issues, and it is imperative that we proceed methodically and in the best interests of Texas A&M." 


RapidReporter Brent Zwenerman and the Associated Press contributed to this report.
Posted on: August 12, 2011 4:53 pm
 

Texas A&M moves Regents meeting to Monday

Posted by Adam Jacobi

In what's likely the most ominous sign for Texas A&M's future with the Big 12, a Texas A&M Regents meeting originally scheduled for August 22 has been rescheduled -- to next Monday, the next possible business day.

Here's the link to the official meeting notice. There are 15 items, and the first 14 aren't related to athletics. Oh, but Item 15:

15) Authorization for the President to Take All Actions Relating to Texas A&M University's Athletic Conference Alignment, The Texas A&M University System

That is not a discussion. That is not a consideration. That is allowing school president R. Bowen Loftin to send A&M to the SEC, something that wouldn't be authorized for the heck of it.

This doesn't appear to be a major concern to Dan Beebe or the rest of the Big 12 anymore, however. Texas A&M RapidReporter Brent Zwerneman posted that the conference is ready to move on without the Aggies:

There appears to be no turning back for the Aggies to the SEC. Big 12 commissioner Dan Beebe has told Texas A&M the Big 12 will survive without the Aggies, and that Texas holds the key to the conference’s future, according to an A&M official. The Big 12 also said Houston will be a viable replacement for the Aggies, according to the A&M official.

In other words, the split is basically done, and neither side is interested in stopping it. Now the only question is who else the SEC takes -- and whether any any other Big 12 teams are on the way out as well. According to RedRaiderSports.com's Chris Level, a "high ranking Texas Tech official" (and for the record, TTU athletic director Kirby Hocutt was previously Miami's AD) says the SEC is "in talks with Texas A&M and an ACC school," but once the SEC acquisitions begin, what's to stop SEC head honcho Mike Slive from going past 14 teams?

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: August 10, 2011 7:43 pm
 

Who called Indiana the dirtiest team in Big Ten?

Posted by Adam Jacobi

At Big Ten Media Days, one enterprising reporter for AnnArbor.com conducted an informal survey of 10 football players who were present for interviews. The players were anonymous, so as to ensure honesty in the answers. The entire survey is worth reading, and there are some entertaining points -- especially when one unnamed player said of embattled Illinois coach Ron Zook, "I've heard he's just kind of funny, and not in a good way."

One question stuck out, however: the dirtiest team of all the Legends and Leaders.

Which is the dirtiest team in the Big Ten?

Indiana - 3 “I was out that game, but I saw what went on and our guys were saying it was bad out there.” Ohio State - 3 Wisconsin - 1 N/A 3

That's not really great news for Indiana or Ohio State, although the fact that three players didn't think there was a dirty team in the conference means we're probably not dealing with an epidemic of unsportsmanlike conduct on the Big Ten gridirons or anything. Moreover, both OSU and the Hoosiers have new head coaches this year, neither of whom should be asked to answer for accusations of dirty play under coaches past. That wouldn't be fair. However, the reporter might have given up a little too much information with that quote.

Out of the 36 players there, nine were on teams that didn't play Indiana last year, and three more were from Indiana. Of the remaining 24 players, only two -- Iowa LB Tyler Nielsen and Penn State LB Michael Mauti -- were out of action in their games against Indiana. Nielsen had just suffered a broken neck (a relatively mild one, obviously; his spinal cord was fine and he's back atop the depth chart), and Mauti was dealing with an injured shoulder from the previous week's contest against Ohio State.

We're not going to press the respective athletic departments about who said what or demand any more definitive answers than this; the survey was anonymous for a reason, and we'll respect that. However, we would like to hear from Iowa and Penn State fans as to whether the Indiana games last year seemed especially dirty. Did knees get wrenched, eyes gouged, hits enlatened? Help us solve the mystery once and for all.

(For the record, the jersey-pulling depicted above is considered legal.) 

Posted on: August 10, 2011 5:37 pm
Edited on: August 10, 2011 6:14 pm
 

Report: NCAA still investigating Ohio State

Posted by Adam Jacobi

The specter of NCAA scrutiny is, apparently, still hanging over Ohio State. As the school prepares to meet with the NCAA Committee on Infractions on Friday, a report has surfaced that the NCAA is still investigating OSU, and has let the school know thusly.

According to ESPN, the NCAA has sent Ohio State another letter, this one informing the school that its investigation is still ongoing. This would make sense, as most of the accusations against Terrelle Pryor have come after the NCAA's original notice of allegations, which focused almost exclusively on the actions of since-departed head coach Jim Tressel

For as much as this reported letter is, it's also important to emphasize what it isn't: another notice of allegations. As Ohio State announced, there have been no new allegations brought against the school, and ESPN's report doesn't make clear what's in the actual letter sent from the NCAA to OSU. So from a material standpoint, Ohio State is in no worse shape right now than it was before it received the letter.

Still, it's reasonable to believe that the NCAA's investigation is still continuing, and that it won't be time to exhale in Columbus even after Friday's COI meeting. For a school that's already spent $800,000 and counting on this probe, that's hardly welcome news.
 
 
 
 
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