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Tag:Ndamukong Suh
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: May 31, 2011 1:08 pm
Edited on: June 3, 2011 4:14 pm
 

CBSSports.com College Football 100: 70-61

By the Eye on College Football bloggers

To celebrate the (now fewer than) 100 days remaining until the first Saturday of the new college football season, this is the CBSSports.com College Football 100: our countdown of the 2011 season's 100 most influential players, coaches, administrators, venues, or any other related
things in college football. It's like that other "most influential" list, but, you know, more important. Also: it's supposed to be fun. Enjoy.

70. AGENT X, compliance disaster in-waiting, Potentially Everywhere. He's out there right now. Lurking. Ready to provide student-athletes with extra benefits at a moment's notice. "He" is Agent X, the person keeping compliance officers and athletic directors up at night. 2010 saw Agent X burst on the scene as infractions cases at USC, North Carolina and Auburn dominated the headlines. X could be a number of people, from a runner looking to steer kids to a school to an agent hoping to sign players when they eventually head to the NFL to an uncle looking to make a quick buck of the football talents of a kid.

From high school 7-on-7 tournaments to college campuses, the NCAA has taken notice of Agent X as well. They were out in the spring trying to learn more about runners' methods and a few of the major players. Compliance seminars have talked about ways to spot the tell-tale signs. USC, who was impacted by shady third parties as much as any school, hosted a summit designed to come up with way to combat the problem. Agent X is still out there though--and highly liable to pop up in a headline or two sometime, somewhere over the next few months. -- BF

69. DABO SWINNEY. head coach, Clemson.
One of the reasons Swinney was promoted to head coach after Tommy Bowden's mid-season exit in 2008 was his reputation as a stellar recruiter. We saw those skills in action this past February, as the Tigers brought in multiple huge late commitments on Signing Day--enough to bring their class rank all the way up into the Top 10. It always takes a few seasons for a new coach to make the program his own, and this upcoming season could be a pivotal one for Swinney. After 2010's 6-7 record, Swinney swiftly made changes on the coaching staff, most notably bringing in Tulsa offensive coordinator Chad Morris. Morris' fast-paced productive offense hopefully will alter last season's offensive struggles, but much of that will also depend on first-year starting quarterback Tajh Boyd.

The greatest challenge for Swinney in the upcoming season (or two) will be the personnel decisions with so much highly-rated talent coming into Death Valley. With so many players from the ACC being selected in the NFL Draft, the conference has come under fire in recent years for not being able to make the most of their talent while in school. Fans have drooled over Swinney's last two classes, and there will not be an acceptable excuse for another losing season. Swinney was fast to act after 2010 finished, now his decisions will either pay off or crash and burn. At 41, Swinney has a long career ahead of him in college football, but his length of time at Clemson could depend on how the next two to three seasons play out. -- CP

68. JARED CRICK, defensive tackle, Nebraska. It's pretty much impossible to win in a physical conference like the Big Ten without superior line play, so Jared Crick's decision to come back to Nebraska for his senior season bodes very well for the Huskers ... and very poorly for their opponents. Crick, a 6'6", 285-pound beast from Cozad, NE, was second in the Big 12 in sacks and fifth in tackles for loss--both ridiculous numbers for a defensive tackle. He's going to be drawing constant double-teams this season as a result, so look for his teammates up front to have even more opportunities to make plays than usual.

Of course, it's impossible to be a standout defensive tackle at Nebraska and not invite comparisons to Ndamukong Suh, Crick's former teammate. Both are terrifyingly powerful and athletic, and while Crick's production hasn't met Suh's level yet, Suh's junior stats (19 TFL, 7.5 sacks) are only marginally better than Crick's (14.5 TFL, 9.5 sacks). Crick may not meet Suh's senior-year level of performance this season, but that's really only another way of saying he probably won't be a Heisman finalist. Probably. He's a mortal lock for preseason first-team All-Big Ten, at least, and where he goes from there is up to him. -- AJ

67. CASEY PACHALL, quarterback, TCU. There was supposed to be a long, drawn-out battle to replace TCU's departiing quarterback and leader, Andy Dalton. After a few weeks of spring ball however, it was clear that the 6-foot-4, 210-pound Pachall would be the Horned Frogs signal-caller this season. With a strong arm and the ability to move around the pocket, the redshirt sophomore has more physical tools than Dalton did when he became the starter.

The redshirt year is important as it allowed Pachall to learn for a year behind Dalton and then receive some game action as the backup last season. Pachall has just nine career pass attempts -- which has to give you pause if you're a TCU fan -- but head coach Gary Patterson has raved about his performance as much as the typically understated coach can. It will be tough to fill Dalton's shoes after he won 42 games, but TCU believes Pachall will be able to fill them admirably as the school transitions from the Mountain West to the Big East. -- BF

66. 10-YEAR ANNIVERSARY OF 9/11,  day of remembrance. The second Saturday of the 2011 season won't be just another college football Saturday. It will be the tenth anniversary of 9/11. Every generation has that one moment in their history they remember for the rest of their lives -- the Kennedy assassination, John Lennon's death, the Challenger explosion -- and while the players on the field this fall were anywhere between the ages of 8 and 13 on that day, they no doubt remember exactly where they were when they first found out about the World Trade Center or the Pentagon.

Much like in 2001, when sports like football and baseball helped restore a sense of normalcy to life in this country, this day's college football will help show how the United States has healed. Obviously much has changed since then, but on this particular Saturday, when we take the time to remember that tragic day and mourn all the lives that were lost, we'll also be able to turn on our televisions and watch a game -- together -- that was played long before 9/11 and will be played for a long time after. -- TF

More CFB 100
Related Links
65. BRYCE BROWN, running back, Kansas State. Bryce Brown is a name that has been known to college football fans for a few years now, even if he hasn't spent much time on the football field. The nation's No. 1 prospect out of high school in 2009, Brown spent a season in Tennessee before asking to leave and eventually making his way home to Kansas State, where he sat out the 2010 season. Now Brown will find himself in a feature role in Manhattan and will likely be a deciding factor in whether or not Kansas State returns to a bowl game in 2010.

While Daniel Thomas left some big shoes to fill, the Wildcats offense is one that should suit Brown. Bill Snyder loves to run the football and Brown will get plenty of chances to show the Big 12 why he was such a highly rated recruit out of high school. If he can live up to the stars that were attached to his name, Brown could be the difference between another seven-win season in Manhattan or a New Year's Day bowl. -- TF

64. ZACH COLLAROS, quarterback, Cincinnati. When Collaros was the backup quarterback behind Tony Pike, Bearcats fans got to see glimpses of a talented gun-slinger who they believed could continue the success they had experienced under Brian Kelly. And when Collaros finally got the starting job for himself in 2010 under first-year coach Butch Jones, he put together a 2,902-yard, 26-touchdown campaign--good enough to lead the Big East in both categories. Unfortunately for Collaros and Jones, those numbers will not be what is remembered from last season. Instead, Bearcats fans are still on edge from the 4-8 campaign that led to the program's first bowlless season since 2005.

But Collaros shoulders just as much of the blame for last season's struggles as anyone else on the roster. In addition to leading the conference in touchdowns, he also led the conference in interceptions. There was a lot of attention on the struggles of the Bearcats' defense (which allowed 28 points per game), but as the senior starting quarterback of this team the responsibility for Cincinnati's return to the top of the conference will fall on Collaros. He'll have the talent around him to put up big numbers once again (top receiver D.J. Woods returns, and former Tennessee commit Kenbrell Thompkins is now eligible), but a restless fan base will only care about the numbers in the win column in 2011. -- CP

63. STEVE KRAGTHORPE, offensive coordinator, LSU. The mind still boggles: in 2009, just two years removed from a national title and with an attack featuring multiple blue-chip recruits and future draft picks, the Bayou Bengal offense finished dead last in the SEC in total offense. Last. 12th. Sub-Vanderbilt. With his job (quite understandably) on the line, now ex-LSU coordinator Gary Crowton led a revival last year that took the team's total offense ranking in-conference all the way up to ... 11th.

Exit Crowton. And enter Kragthorpe, who arrives on the job with as tricky -- and as pressure-packed -- an assignment as any new assistant in the country. He must streamline Crowton's overstuffed playbook. He must finally produce some consistency out of quarterback Jordan Jefferson, or make the highly-combustible transition to JUCO transfer Zach Mettenberger. He must overhaul a two-minute offense that in recent years has given Chinese fire drills a bad name. In short, he must make the LSU offense something much, much closer to what the LSU offense ought to be ... and if he does, the Tigers' terrifyingly athletic defense should be capable of doing the rest on the road to Atlanta. -- JH

62. BYU'S TELEVISION CONTRACT, independence-driving document, BYU. Why did the Cougars make the unprecedented decision to go football-independent in the era of the superconference? Because whether it's in Portland, Oregon or Portland, Maine, there's one thing you'll be able to do in both cities next year: watch BYU. That's the promise of the school's new-found independence and a Mountain West-free media contract that allows unprecedented access to BYU sports across the country. Nearly 140 events will air in high definition on ESPN or the school's own channel BYUtv. The rest will be available online as well as iPads, Xboxes and cellphones.

It's a new era for the school that is one of the few with a true national following. Every football game will be televised and the Cougars will see more exposure than they ever had in the MWC There's still work to be done as school officials responsible look to expand the reach of BYUtv but the promise of Cougar fans being able to finally watch their team without hunting around TV Guide is near. You might have heard about "TV everywhere," but be prepared for BYU everywhere with the new contract. -- BF

61. DENARD ROBINSON, quarterback, Michigan. Denard Robinson hardly needs an introduction. The man known by millions of fans as "Shoelace" set college football afire last year, leading the Big Ten in rushing yardage and rolling up a ridiculous 4,272 yards of total offense--good enough for second in the nation (only Bryant Moniz of pass-wacky Hawaii outpaced him). Robinson's one-man show was a delight to watch, but therein lies the problem: football is not a sport for one-man shows, especially when that man is just 193 pounds. Robinson got dinged up multiple times last season, enough to take him out of some games early, and that hammering's not going to stop any time soon.

Enter, then, incoming head coach Brady Hoke, who quickly named Robinson his starting quarterback but now must find a way to keep Robinson healthy for the span of the season. A tandem with Tate Forcier worked well at times last year, but Forcier has transferred after academic and personal issues. Devin Gardner is still around, but is he good enough to reliably spell Robinson for a few series every week? If not, Robinson's likely going to spend a lot more time in the pocket, and Atlanta Falcons fans who remember Jim Mora Jr.'s experiments in turning Michael Vick into a pocket passer probably have hair standing up on the back of their necks at the thought. No, nobody likes to see the fastest man on the field get the football only to stand still. But nobody likes to see the fastest man on the field get rocked 20 times a game and struggle to get back up, either, and that's the quandary Michigan faces in 2011. -- AJ

The 100 will return here to Eye on CFB tomorrow. Until then, check out Nos. 100-91, 90-81, and 80-71. You can also keep up with the 100 by following us on Twitter.



Posted on: May 3, 2011 12:31 pm
 

Eye on CFB Roundtable: Draft reaches and steals

By Eye on College Football Bloggers

Each week, the Eye on CFB team convenes Voltron- style to answer a pressing question regarding the wild, wide world of college football. This week's topic:

We're not NFL scouts. But we have watched most of the players taken in last weekend's draft for the past three or four years (or, in one particular high-profile case, one year). Based on what we saw during their college careers, which players do we believe were "steals" for the team that selected them? Which were "reaches" which went earlier than they should have?

Tom Fornelli: I'll start with the reach because this is an easy answer to me: the very first player taken, Cam Newton.

This is not a dig on Newton personally, or the player he was at Auburn last season. The fact of the matter is that there wasn't a single quarterback in this draft class that I felt was worth a first-round pick. Yes, there were a lot of quarterbacks in this class who were good college quarterbacks, but as we have seen through many examples before, being a good college quarterback doesn't make you an good NFL quarterback. And for me, with the first overall pick -- when I have the opportunity to pick anybody I want, and have that person help my team immediately -- Newton is not the player I'd pick. I'm not saying that I don't believe it's possible that Cam can develop into a good NFL quarterback one day, but I do feel the odds of Newton becoming a Hall of Fame NFL quarterback are pretty slim. And if I'm going to take a quarterback with the first pick of the draft, he needs to give me the impression that he has that kind of potential.

As for the steal, there were a few players who I thought were really good picks for teams in later rounds. There was Green Bay getting Randall Cobb with the final pick of the second round, Da'Quan Bowers slipping to Tampa Bay in the second, and Ahmad Black going to Tampa as well in the fifth round. The biggest steal to me of all, though, was Baltimore picking up Indiana wide receiver Tandon Doss late in the fourth round. In my opinion, Doss may turn out to be one of the most dependable receivers in what was a very deep class this season. He does not have the size and wow factor that guys like A.J. Green and Julio Jones have, nor is he a burner, but he's got great hands and he's a very polished route runner. He's the type of receiver who isn't going to end up in the Hall of Fame, but should pick up a lot of big first downs, make some plays and be dependable for a lot of years. I watch Doss, and I see a player that can be what Hines Ward has been to Pittsburgh for so many years. To get that kind of player in the fourth round is the definition of a steal.

Adam Jacobi: I think to a large degree, Tom's right. I wouldn't go so far as to say there were no first-round QBs in this class, because guys like Blaine Gabbert, Jake Locker, and even Newton have all shown a great deal of potential. But let's be honest: this wasn't really a great draft class to begin with. I thought there were only 15-20 first round-caliber guys on the board. But the first round is still 32 picks, no matter what, and I don't think there were 32 better draft picks to make before you got to Newton (or any other quarterback).

That said, yes, Cam Newton was a reach. Right now, Carolina is not a team that has the tools to let a quarterback succeed. They have needs all over the place, and if all they do is give up on Jimmy Clausen after one year so they can plug in Cam Newton instead ... well, they're still a team that doesn't have the tools to let the quarterback succeed. (It's like the Detroit Lions drafting Chuck Long and Andre Ware as first-rounders 20-25 years ago. You really think their failures had nothing to do with the crappy players surrounding them?) I'm of the philosophy that the No. 1 overall pick should be spent on a player with the best odds of making a high-level contribution immediately and repeatedly. That means wide receivers and all but the most experienced, productive quarterbacks are out, as are safeties, guards and centers. That's why I would have preferred to see a guy like Texas A&M's Von Miller go first.

As for steals, I'm going to say Nick Fairley dropping all the way to Detroit, where he can be paired with Ndamukong Suh on the interior defensive line. There isn't an NFC North team left that isn't going to have to dramatically retool its blocking strategy now because of that setup, and even that might not be enough to avoid a franchise quarterback getting broken in half this season. How in the world does Fairley fall to No. 13, past Christian Ponder, the real reach of the first round? Fairley didn't dominate the NFL combine, but you know what? Freakish combine measurements don't really matter for defensive tackles. It's whether they can shed blocks reliably and repeatedly at the next level, and based on the way Fairley performed not only during the season but especially in Auburn's biggest games, he's got the ability to do that. If there's a character concern, you know what? Let the rest of the locker room take care of that. That's where the veteran teammates are supposed to step in, not the scouts.

Outside of the first round, I really like the Sam Acho pick in the fourth round by the Cardinals. At 6'2" and 260, Acho's sort of an OLB/DE tweener as size goes, and he's going to be playing OLB in the Cards' 3-4 system after lining up at end at Texas. But he's fast and disruptive, and was plenty productive with the Longhorns, so he could definitely end up being a James Harrison- type terror for the Cardinals in a year or two.

TF: Not to get too far off the subject, but Adam brought up something that drives me crazy when it comes to the NFL and the way teams draft. All too often it seems like NFL teams become enamored with how a player performs in the combine while wearing shorts and a t-shirt. That's the reason Ponder got taken so early; without linemen closing in on him, he's really good at throwing a football. But it seems like they forget about what these players did while they were actually on a football field.

For instance, look at Acho. NFL teams see his size and they're not entirely sure what to do with him. They don't seem to pay as much attention to the fact that Acho was a kid that did his job on the field at Texas and did it well. He made plays. It's why I think Tampa got a steal in Florida's Black. For the last few years, Black was one of my favorite players to watch because he just had that knack for making things happen. However, all NFL scouts seemed to see was that he didn't have top-notch speed. Nevermind the fact that he played in the SEC -- which I believe is the home of that ESS EEE SEEE SPEEEED -- and played well.

Jerry Hinnen: I agree that the draft over-rewards potential and underrates production, which is why I never thought I'd see the day when an NFL team reached for the occasionally erratic run-first quarterback out of the gimmicky option offense, and stole the rifle-armed pocket statue with a former NFL play-caller for a coach. But as the draft day fates of Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Mallett illustrate, there's a first time for everything.

Let me first say this about Kaepernick: as a college quarterback, he was under appreciated, having accumulated an incredible 10,000 yards passing and 4,000 yards rushing over his four years at Nevada, the only quarterback in FBS history to do so. In 2011, he joined Tim Tebow and Newton as the only players in FBS history to run and pass for 20 touchdowns in a season. Kaepernick was, simply, one of the most exciting, most fun, best college football players of his era.

But having watched him ever since he exploded onto the scene against Boise State in 2007's overtime classic, I can't say I ever saw him as a blue-chip NFL prospect. Kaepernick was always a substantially greater threat on the hoof than in the pocket, where his awkward throwing motion and come-and-go accuracy led to outings like his 12-for-23, 149-yard, two-interception clunker to open the 2009 season at Notre Dame, or the 14-for-26, 159-yard, four-turnover debacle at Hawaii that led to the Wolf Pack's only loss of 2011. The greatest strengths of Kaepernick's unique skill set -- his ball-fake jujitsu within the pistol, his surprising speed and agility as a ball-carrier, his ability to throw outside the pocket -- won't do much to make an already difficult transition from the pistol to an NFL offense any easier. Jim Harbaugh's right pinky knows more about quarterbacking in the NFL than I ever will, obviously, but I remain stunned Kaepernick went as a high second-rounder rather than a late-round flyer. (Which brings me to an aside in response to Tom: we can debate Newton all day, but if Kaepernick is the 36th overall pick, Newton -- in a different class athletically, more polished as a passer, proven in SEC competition -- is something akin to the negative-17th pick.)

But where Kaepernick never struck me as meant for NFL stardom (or even starterdom), Mallett is the sort of prospect whose very double-helixes probably unwind to spell out "PROFESSIONAL QUARTERBACK" under the microscope. 6'7", possessor of likely the strongest arm in college football, with his two years under former NFL head coach Bobby Petrino yielding better than 7,400 passing yards, better than 9 yards an attempt, and a 62-to-19 touchdown-to-interception ratio, Mallett couldn't have looked the part of a future NFL signal-caller any better either on the field or on paper. But of course he looked like something else in the headlines and gossip factories, thanks to those pesky drug admissions and work ethic rumors. But the facts are that Mallett was arrested just once at Arkansas (for public intoxication), was never suspended, and by all accounts enjoyed the respect of his teammates. Yes, he's a character risk, but so were plenty of players who went in the first and second rounds.

Were I in a quarterback-needy NFL team's shoes, I'd worry more about his penchant for forcing the spectacular throw when the easy one would do--but that's not the kind of worry that would have caused me to pass him up twice.

AJ: I can't say New England taking Mallett is a steal. He's on a spectrum where the high end is Drew Bledsoe and the low is Ryan Leaf, and nowhere in-between is a Super Bowl ring.

Chip Patterson: I'm not sure if it was one of the biggest "steals" of the draft, but seeing how highly rated Robert Quinn was on many boards, the Rams had to have been happy to grab him at No. 14. Quinn just got things going at North Carolina before he was suspended for his junior season during the NCAA investigation of the football program; he'd finished second in the ACC Defensive Player of the Year voting as a sophomore in 2009, just two years after battling back from brain surgery to remove a tumor. Quinn continued to impress throughout different stages of the process, but according to reports he was not cleared by several team doctors. Many teams were likely on the edge about Quinn because of the off-field activity at North Carolina, and may have just needed one more reason to bypass the budding defensive end. Battling back from brain surgery to all-conference honors seems more like a positive intangible than a negative one to me, but I'm not the one making the million dollar moves. (Yet.)

My colleagues have covered a fair share of the quarterbacks, so I'll point out the very next pick in the draft: Mike Pouncey. The Dolphins didn't want this pick, and in fact they tried desperately to trade down. Pouncey addresses a need and will likely be an immediate starter, but there's little about Pouncey's performance at Florida that makes him seem like a No. 15 pick. He was the highest drafted center since 1993, the kind of accolade that's usually placed on a uniquely talented individual. Pouncey will help the Dolphins' running game, especially with his experience as a pulling guard, but he does not stand out to me as a "unique talent." The Dolphins didn't make a huge mistake by drafting him, but it just doesn't seem like the best talent for the pick.

JH: See, I tend to think the point of a mid-first-round pick is to simply not make that "huge mistake," so I thought drafting a solid future pro (if not a future Pro Bowler) like Pouncey was a smart move. But looking back over this discussion, we're clearly all haters of one stripe or another.

Posted on: February 22, 2011 2:19 pm
 

Heisman talk should talk about defense

Posted by Jerry Hinnen

Pop quiz, hotshot: who had the higher (public )* vote total in the 2010 Heisman Trophy balloting, Stanford fullback/linebacker Owen Marecic or DaQuan Bowers, Nick Fairley and Patrick Peterson ... combined?

Since we're asking the question in the first place, you can probably guess that the answer is Marecic, who collected three first-place votes and 16 points, while arguably the three best defenders in the country totaled just one confirmed second-place nod and a smattering of third-place votes. This post isn't about Marecic (though we would like to take a moment to condemn his attention-seeking supporters like David Whitley , who decided that thanks to Cam Newton, they were justified turning the voting for "most outstanding" into a holier-than-thou morality play), since the question that needs answering isn't Why did Marecic get so much support? but Why do even the best defenders in college football get so little Heisman love?

It appeared things might be changing in 2009, when Ndamukong Suh finished fourth , coming as close as any defensive player since Charles Woodson to claiming the award. But after a year in which even a Lombardi Award- winner playing for the national champions couldn't get more than a few token mentions, it appears that defenders aren't actually any closer to full Heisman citizenship.

That point was driven home by the 2011 Heisman watch list released today by popular Heisman-tracking site Heisman Pundit. No one will argue that superstars like Andrew Luck or LaMichael James don't deserve their status as front-runners, or that superb skill-position talents like Alabama tailback Trent Richardson and Oklahoma State wideout Justin Blackmon haven't earned their spots on the list. But of the 22 players mentioned by Heisman Pundit, every one is a running back, quarterback, or wide receiver. Given the Heisman's track record, yes, those are probably the 22 most likely candidates for the coming season, but shouldn't the conversation surrounding the game's "most outstanding" player at least consider those guys on the other side of the ball?

So in that spirit, we offer five defensive players that deserve to enter 2011 as part of the Heisman talk, our own defense-only "Watch List":

Jared Crick, DT, Nebraska: The senior ably filled Suh's shoes as the central anchor for one of the nation's best defenses in 2010, and will likely begin this fall bearing "the country's best defensive tackle" billing.

Mark Barron, S, Alabama: Barron's already been dotting All-American teams for two seasons, and as the highest-profile player on a loaded Tide defense that should keep Nick Saban and Co. in national title contention throughout the season, he'll have plenty of opportunity to put his name in the Heisman hat.

Tank Carder, LB, TCU: Like Barron, Carder (pictured) should benefit from being the best, most-recognized player on a defense itself widely recognized as one of the nation's best; his MVP performance in the Rose Bowl defeat of Wisconsin won't hurt him, either.

Cliff Harris, CB, Oregon: The only defender to ever win the Heisman did so not only blanketing receivers at corner, but returning punts and kickoffs for highlight reel-touchdowns; if Harris can continue doing the same for Oregon as the Ducks win a third straight Pac-12 title, he'll draw his fair share of attention.

Manti Te'o, LB, Notre Dame: A wildcard, but if the Fighting Irish (and specifically, the Fighting Irish defense) take the quantum leap forward many expect, the former five-star recruit and budding star could find himself the media-friendly face of the Irish's latest "Return to Glory."

Honorable mention: Brandon Jenkins, DE, Florida State; Quinton Carter, S, Oklahoma; Vinny Curry, DE, Marshall; Luke Kuechly, LB, Boston College.

*The Heisman only makes official the ballot totals for the top 10 vote-getters, but the site StiffArmTrophy.com compiles all available public votes, including (in this case) those few cast for Peterson, Bowers, or Fairley.
Posted on: November 22, 2010 1:46 pm
Edited on: November 22, 2010 1:47 pm
 

Bo Pelini is sorry, everybody

Posted by Tom Fornelli



If you watched the game between Nebraska and Texas A&M on Saturday night, you had a front row seat to a special viewing of Bo Pelini bursting any ear drums that dared get within five feet of him.  Pelini wasn't very happy with the officials on Saturday night, as his team was called for sixteen penalties in the game, compared to the two that were called on the Aggies.  

Still, Pelini's rage and spittle weren't reserved solely for the officials.  The cameras caught him tearing into quarterback Taylor Martinez on the sidelines after Martinez had returned from having his ankle looked at in the locker room.  That incident led to some rumors that Martinez had quit the team on Sunday, which were refuted on Sunday night, and also led to Nebraska chancellor Harvey Perlman publically reprimanding the head coach about his behavior.

Now, unsurprisingly, Pelini is apologizing for the way he behaved on Saturday night.  Pelini said that while he doesn't think it's wrong for a head coach to yell at officials during a game, he did believe it was wrong to "make it personal" and that on Saturday night he "let it get personal."

Personally, I don't find any of this to be that big of a deal. Football coaches have a tendency to yell at players and officials all the time, as I know I've been on the receiving end of such tirades myself.  Plus, it's not like this is anything new from Pelini.  I recall seeing him chew out Ndamukong Suh during a game against Virginia Tech in 2008, and Suh turned out just fine.  Frankly, I think the only problem with any of this is the fact that it had been caught by cameras in a nationally televised game.
 
 
 
 
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