Tuesday, March 6, 2012
Spring Football - Big Ten spring practice dates - 2011-12 All-Big Ten Men’s Basketball Team - NFL Top Free Agents -
NFL Top Free Agents
1. Defensive end Mario Williams — Has 53 career sacks and is only 27 years old. Williams will be the most aggressively pursued free agent once the signing period opens on March 13.
2. Wide receiver Vincent Jackson — Big-play receiver with rare size and vertical skills. Jackson averages 17.5 yards per reception for his career and is a legit No. 1 wideout. The Chicago Bears are expected to show interest.
3. Guard Carl Nicks — A mauler at 6-foot-5 and 343 pounds, Nicks is deceptively athletic for his size. He wants to be the NFL’s highest paid interior offensive lineman, which is reasonable because he’s only 27 years old and one of the top three guards in football.
4. Cornerback Cortland Finnegan — Finnegan is one of the top slot corners in the game, a playmaker (15 career interceptions), and an aggressive, efficient tackler. Versatile enough to hold his own outside against top NFL receivers, Finnegan is the premier cornerback on the market.
5. Tackle Jared Gaither — Gaither has a checkered history in terms of health and mental reliability, but he’s built like Jonathan Ogden with All-Pro caliber talent. The Chargers want him back, and their sense of urgency will increase if they’re forced to release longtime left tackle Marcus McNeill.
6. Guard Ben Grubbs — Grubbs is only a one-time Pro Bowler (2012), but he’s consistently played at a Pro Bowl-caliber level as a 70-game starter in Baltimore. Grubbs is fundamentally sound and athletic enough to appeal to both power- and zone-blocking teams.
7. Wide receiver Brandon Lloyd — Lloyd has been an NFL late bloomer and turns 31 before the season, but he’s amassed 2,414 receiving yards and scored 16 touchdowns over the past two seasons amid turbulent quarterback play.
8. Cornerback Brandon Carr — Carr is Finnegan’s primary competition to be the top-rated cornerback on the market. Though not a big playmaker in coverage (eight career picks), Carr has plus size (6-foot, 207) and experience as both a press-man and zone corner.
9. Wide receiver Marques Colston — Colston has been incredibly productive in New Orleans, but there are buyer-beware warnings. He turns 29 before the season, has undergone five career knee surgeries, and racked up stats as a single-covered slot receiver in the Saints’ spread offense. Colston is not a vertical threat.
10. Quarterback Matt Flynn — Flynn has started only two career games, but he engineered a Week Seventeen shootout win over the playoff-bound Lions and narrowly lost to the Patriots in 2010. He’s thrown nine career touchdown passes compared to five interceptions while averaging a robust 7.69 yards per attempt.
Spring football primer: Burning questions for each Big Ten team
Wisconsin edged Michigan State in a thrilling inaugural Big Ten championship game last December, and could well return to Indianapolis this season. But like most teams, the Badgers and Spartans have significant holes to fill beginning this spring.
The Badgers and Spartans are also rarities in their conference, simply by virtue of having well-entrenched coaches. Ohio State's Urban Meyer, Penn State's Bill O'Brien and Illinois' Tim Beckman will be conducting their first spring camps with their new teams, while Indiana's Kevin Wilson, Michigan's Brady Hoke and Minnesota's Jerry Kill are coming off their first seasons. That's half the conference.
To put in perspective just how much the Big Ten has changed in such a short time, consider that at this time a year ago Jim Tressel and the late Joe Paterno were preparing their teams for practice, Nebraska was still technically a member of the Big 12 and Jim Delany was still adamantly opposed to a plus-one. But with spring comes change, and questions.
Illinois: Is Beckman the right man for the Illini?
Answering that will admittedly take longer than one spring. Still, the Illini's new coach, who spent the past three seasons at Toledo, is a bit of an enigma. He didn't come in and set the Big Ten on fire like Meyer or Hoke. He has a defensive background, but his Toledo teams were known for their prolific offenses. In Champaign, Beckman inherits talented junior quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, but faces an immediate challenge upgrading Illinois' rushing attack. Perhaps rising sophomore tailback Donovonn Young will benefit from Beckman's spread attack. Defensive coordinator Tim Banks, formerly of Cincinnati, takes over a unit that ranked in the top 10 nationally last season, but will have to find some playmakers to fill the void left by All-America defensive end Whitney Mercilus.
Indiana: Is the worst behind the Hoosiers?
First-year coach Wilson enjoyed a nice honeymoon last year -- until the Hoosiers began playing football games, at which point they regressed from 5-7 to a nightmarish 1-11, losing five of their last seven games by at least 21 points. However, they also played more freshmen (32) than any team in the country, including quarterback Tre Roberson, who looks to benefit from new offensive coordinator Seth Littrell, formerly of Arizona. Meanwhile, the coaches will get a look at six juco transfers who enrolled early to help plug some holes, particularly on defense. This spring will provide much-needed practice reps for all those first- and second-year players.
Iowa: What's with all this change?
For 13 years, you knew exactly what you were getting from Kirk Ferentz's program, which enjoyed rare coaching staff stability. This offseason, however, offensive boss Ken O'Keefe (now with the Miami Dolphins) and defensive boss Norm Parker (retired), the only two coordinators Ferentz ever had, both departed. Ferentz stayed in house on defensive, promoting secondary coach Phil Parker to replace Norm (no relation). But Ferentz made a newsworthy hire by landing longtime former Texas offensive coordinator Greg Davis, mentor to star quarterbacks Vince Young and Colt McCoy. Davis, 60, has run a variety of offenses, but primarily employed the shotgun-spread with Young and McCoy. It will be interesting to see whether the more traditional Ferentz has Davis incorporate that style, or whether the Hawkeyes will retain the largely pro-style approach that's helped Ferentz to a 96-66 record.
Michigan: Can the defensive line reload?
While Denard Robinson remains the focal point of all things Maize and Blue, Hoke's primary concern in his second spring should be the position he once coached as an assistant: defensive line. Michigan must replace three starters up front -- most notably stalwarts Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen -- who played a huge role in the Wolverines improving from 110th to 17th nationally in total defense. Former five-star recruit Will Campbell has yet to live up to the hype, but will be the most experienced tackle and needs to step up as a senior, as does junior Quinton Washington. And the coaches are keen on junior ends Jibreel Black and Nathan Brink, the latter a walk-on. They'll need to get ready quickly; Michigan opens against defending national champion Alabama.
Michigan State: Can the Spartans restock their passing attack?
For the first time in four years, the efficient Kirk Cousins will not be under center for Mark Dantonio's team this spring. His expected replacement, 6-foot-3 Andrew Maxwell, is a fourth-year junior well equipped to take the reins. But Maxwell still needs someone to throw to, and the Spartans have to replace career MSU receiving leader B.J. Cunningham, dependable Keith Nichol (the Hail Mary guy) and all-purpose threat Keshawn Martin. Two guys who figure to garner attention this spring are sophomore Tony Lippett, who impressed last preseason before briefly moving to defensive back, and DeAnthony Arnett, the Tennessee transfer who caught 24 passes as a true freshman last season with the Vols but wanted to play closer to home. It's not yet known whether Arnett will be granted a waiver to play this fall.
Minnesota: Is there a star in the Gophers' backfield?
Quarterback MarQueis Gray was Minnesota's leading rusher last season with 966 yards, and while he could well top that in 2012, second-year coach Kill would prefer to see someone emerge as a capable complement. The leading returning tailback, junior Donnell Kirkwood, ran for just 229 yards last season. Thus, expectations are high for James Gillum, one of five junior college transfers who enrolled in January. The former Louisiana prep standout (nearly 6,000 career yards at Pearl River High) gained 1,000-plus yards each of the last two seasons at Mississippi Gulf Coast Community College. While SEC schools shied away, he has a greater chance to make an immediate impact in Minneapolis, beginning this spring.
Nebraska: How will Bo restore the Blackshirts?
The Huskers' once-dominant defense took a step back in 2011, ranking just 64th nationally against the run and enduring blowouts to Wisconsin, Michigan and South Carolina. And that was before losing its three best players, linebacker Lavonte David, cornerback Alfonzo Dennard and defensive tackle Jared Crick (who missed most of last season to injury) -- not to mention coordinator Carl Pelini, now the head coach at FAU. Bo Pelini promoted defensive line coach John Papuchis, 33, who brings a new energy to the position but will likely maintain much the same system. His main chore will be to identify and develop a new set of dominant performers. Veterans like defensive end Cameron Meredith and linebacker Will Compton have the best shot, but spring is a good time for new faces to emerge.
Northwestern: Can the 'Cats shore up their secondary?
Northwestern's pass-happy offense is exciting to watch, but its defense could not contain opposing passers last year despite the presence of two veteran starters, safety Brian Peters and cornerback Jordan Mabin. Freshman safety Ibraheim Campbell endured inevitable growing pains, converted running back Jeravin Matthews struggled at corner and the unit never got on the same page. Now, Pat Fitzgerald must find replacements for Peters, Mabin and Matthews (rising sophomore Daniel Jones started for an injured Mabin in the bowl game) while hoping Campbell, who finished as NU's leading tackler, makes significant strides this spring. It would also help the defensive backs quite a bit of if their teammates up front could generate a more formidable pass rush.
Ohio State: Who will surround Braxton Miller?
New coach Meyer is thrilled to inherit Miller, the dual-threat quarterback who took over as starter shortly into his freshman season and made considerable progress. Miller is a natural fit for Meyer's preferred offense, but the spread requires ample skill players, a notable shortcoming for Ohio State last season. No receiver had more than 14 catches, and star DeVier Posey is now gone for good. "Where's the Ted Ginns of the world?" Meyer said last month. "Were they hiding [last] year? I hope we have those guys. That's a big concern of mine right now." Devin Smith showed big-play potential as a true freshman and will get more chances this spring along with rising sophomore T.Y. Williams. Meanwhile, running backs Jordan Hall and Carlos Hyde should prepare for more zone-read rushing.
Penn State: Can O'Brien make up for lost time?
It's hard to imagine any set of players being happier to get back on the practice field than the Nittany Lions. Once there, they'll get acquainted with Penn State's first new permanent coach since 1966. O'Brien, who didn't arrive on campus until after the New England Patriots' Feb. 5 Super Bowl loss, takes over a team that won nine games last year but struggled woefully on offense. Tom Brady's former position coach will attempt to do what his predecessors couldn't and turn either Matt McGloin or Rob Bolden into a consistent quarterback. But O'Brien's bigger mission will be to win over a roster of players still hurt by Paterno's passing and the departure of Tom Bradley and to mesh his imported assistants with the few holdovers from JoePa's staff.
Purdue: Will the quarterback picture ever clear up?
Injuries have so thoroughly ravaged the Boilers during Danny Hope's tenure that their roster includes four different quarterbacks with starting experience. Incumbent Caleb TerBush is one of them, but he's hardly got a lock on the job. Robert Marve, who saw action in 10 games last season, was granted a sixth year of eligibility. And Rob Henry, who took over for an injured Marve four games into the 2010 season, has been cleared to return for non-contact drills after tearing his ACL last August. (The fourth quarterback, Sean Robinson, started one game as a true freshman two years ago.) "We always have a plan to play two," said Hope, which means he'll need to start divvying up reps accordingly this spring.
Wisconsin: Who's coaching these guys?
While Bret Bielema is still squarely in charge of the back-to-back Rose Bowl participants, he had to replace a staggering six assistants this offseason. Former offensive coordinator Paul Chryst is now the head coach at Pittsburgh, where his staff includes two other Wisconsin imports. Respected offensive line coach Bob Bostad initially joined Chryst, too, but has since left for the Tampa Bay Bucs' staff. The replacements aren't all unfamiliar. New offensive coordinator Matt Canada spent last season at Northern Illinois and new offensive line coach Mike Markuson spent the past 14 years on Houston Nutt's SEC staffs. One thing that hasn't changed: Montee Ball's presence in the backfield. Ball will be the workhorse once again, though the new coaches must now find a replacement for one-and-done quarterback Russell Wilson.
Big Ten spring practice dates
School First practice Spring game
Illinois March 7 April 14
Indiana March 3 April 14
Iowa March 24 April 14
Michigan March 28 April 14
Michigan State March 27 April 28
Minnesota March 24 April 21
Nebraska March 6 April 14
Northwestern March 3 April 14
Ohio State March 28 April 21
Penn State March 26 April 21
Purdue March 6 April 14
Wisconsin March 17 April 28
2011-12 All-Big Ten Men’s Basketball Team
DRAYMOND GREEN, Michigan State John Shurna, Northwestern Jared Sullinger, Ohio State Robbie Hummel, Purdue Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin
Cody Zeller, Indiana Trey Burke, Michigan William Buford, Ohio State Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State Tim Frazier, Penn State
Brandon Paul, Illinois Matt Gatens, Iowa Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan Keith Appling, Michigan State Drew Crawford, Northwestern
As selected by Big Ten coaches
Meyers Leonard, Illinois Christian Watford, Indiana Aaron Craft, Ohio State Lewis Jackson, Purdue Jared Berggren, Wisconsin Ryan Evans, Wisconsin
CODY ZELLER, Indiana Aaron White, Iowa TREY BURKE, Michigan Branden Dawson, Michigan State Dave Sobolewski, Northwestern
Victor Oladipo, Indiana Draymond Green, Michigan State AARON CRAFT, Ohio State Tim Frazier, Penn State Josh Gasser, Wisconsin
PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Draymond Green, Michigan State
DEFENSIVE PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Aaron Craft, Ohio State
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR:
Cody Zeller, Indiana
SIXTH MAN OF THE YEAR:
D.J. Byrd, Purdue
COACH OF THE YEAR:
Tom Izzo, Michigan State
UNANIMOUS SELECTIONS IN ALL CAPS
As selected by Media Voting Panel
DRAYMOND GREEN, Michigan State John Shurna, Northwestern Jared Sullinger, Ohio State Tim Frazier, Penn State Robbie Hummel, Purdue
Cody Zeller, Indiana Matt Gatens, Iowa Trey Burke, Michigan William Buford, Ohio State Jordan Taylor, Wisconsin
Tim Hardaway Jr., Michigan Keith Appling, Michigan State Drew Crawford, Northwestern Aaron Craft, Ohio State Deshaun Thomas, Ohio State
Meyers Leonard, Illinois Brandon Paul, Illinois Jordan Hulls, Indiana Victor Oladipo, Indiana Christian Watford, Indiana Aaron White, Iowa Zack Novak, Michigan Branden Dawson, Michigan State
D.J. Byrd, Purdue Lewis Jackson, Purdue Jared Berggren, Wisconsin Ryan Evans, Wisconsin
PLAYER OF THE YEAR:
Draymond Green, Michigan State
FRESHMAN OF THE YEAR:
Trey Burke, Michigan
COACH OF THE YEAR:
Tom Izzo, Michigan State
UNANIMOUS SELECTIONS IN ALL CAPS
Big Ten Sportsmanship Award Honorees
Sam Maniscalco, Illinois; Jordan Hulls, Indiana; Matt Gatens, Iowa; Stu Douglass, Michigan; Austin Thornton, Michigan State; Ralph Sampson III, Minnesota; Brandon Richardson, Nebraska; Nick Fruendt, Northwestern; Aaron Craft, Ohio State; Billy Oliver, Penn State; Robbie Hummel, Purdue; Rob Wilson, Wisconsin.
Posted by just BS at 5:42 AM