Tag Archives: Penn State

Buckeyes look back at Penn State, ahead to Illinois

Ohio State’s preparation for its eighth game of the season began Monday with the typical press conferences at the Woody Hayes Athletics Center.

Coach Urban Meyer was asked about the release of the first College Football Playoff standings (to be released Tuesday night) and said he felt style points will count the same now as they did in the BCS (video).

There are bigger concerns after an undermanned Penn State squad pushed the Buckeyes to the brink of their first conference loss before Ohio State prevailed in double overtime, 31-24.

Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton
Ohio State running backs coach Stan Drayton

Meyer hopes that adversity — coming on the heels of four straight blowouts — will help his young Ohio State squad improve as the middle of the season turns into the stretch run.

“You just were in a street fight, and you’re winning,” Meyer said. “You started getting your tail kicked and you came back and won. That builds toughness.” (Read more)

Meanwhile, assistant coaches Stan Drayton and Kerry Coombs talked about their takeaways from the game after Meyer was finished. Drayton and Coombs both agreed they were proud of the way the Buckeyes responded to adversity in overtime, but Drayton admitted issues with execution were a factor in the struggles of the offense in the second half. For a full rundown of what they had to say, click here.

Cus Words Week In Review: Ohio State, Penn State, Cavaliers, etc.

So the blog was quiet this week, but I kept plenty busy. Here’s a rundown of writings in case you missed anything…

Ohio Stadium Sept. 8, 2012

From BuckeyeSports.com

Cus Words: Moving Along – After another blowout win, where do the Buckeyes stand?

OSU Assistant Coachspeak: Johnson and Smith – A rundown of what some of Urban Meyer’s assistants shared with the media this week

Second Thoughts: Ohio State-Rutgers – Observations and opinions after a review of the tape of Ohio State’s last game

Ohio State Football: Scouting Penn State – We take a look at how Ohio State’s next opponent looks on film

Over at FoxSportsOhio.com

Meyer more pleased with Buckeyes’ attitude than performance

Cavs big three put on show for Central Ohio

Devon Still jersey sales raise more than $1.25M for cancer research

Recent history hasn’t favored freshmen QBs in OSU-PSU series

Cleveland LB flips to Ohio State from Florida

2014 Big Ten football picks

I think this will be one of the better Big Tens we’ve seen in the past decade or so, but I’m not sure there is an elite team in the league. There should be depth, and that could set things up for a strong 2015, but let’s not get ahead of ourselves.

Ohio State is rebuilding on defense, but that unit could hardly be worse than it was when the ’13 season concluded, so it’s hard to count that as a negative. Michigan State’s offense was a sore spot early last season but finished on a high and returns almost everyone of consequence. They’ll have some new faces on the offensive line, but that unit wasn’t great anyway so they can probably get by with an average front again this season all things considered. Teams may play them differently now that Connor Cook is a known commodity, though. How he responds to that will tell a large part of the tale this season. Recent conference history is littered with quarterbacks who looked good early in their career but plateaued. Big Ten logo

Michigan State is, pardon the pun, green in some spots on defense, and it is unlikely the Spartans will be as tough there regardless of how good coaches Mark Dantonio and Pat Narduzzi have proven to be on that side of the ball. The same can be said of Ohio State’s offensive line, though, so it all could be a wash when the teams play Nov. 8. Continue reading

Big Ten East spring football review

I am going around the league recapping spring football around the Big Ten for BuckeyeSports.com. Big Ten logo

While we’re still rolling out the reviews from the new West, the East is complete.

The race for the first East division crown figures to be interesting as Michigan looks to pick up the pieces from a lost season, Michigan State tries to maintain its defensive strength while growing on offense and Penn State adjusts to another coaching change and the continued effects of scholarship reductions.

Can someone play spoiler out of the group of Rutgers, Maryland and Indiana? The Hoosiers seem like the biggest possibility.  Continue reading

‘O’ has been optional for OSU to score against Penn State

By now you’re probably familiar with the pick-six tradition Ohio State has established with Penn State in the past decade, but that really only tells part of the story.

In the past 15 games against the Nittany Lions, the Buckeyes have 14 non-offensive touchdowns. That includes nine interceptions returned for touchdowns, three fumble recoveries for touchdowns, a punt return and a blocked punt return.

Continue reading

Overheard at Ohio State Football: Penn State Week

FICKELLISMS

(For personnel updates, check BuckeyeSports.com)

For about the 100th time, he said they know the offense needs balance and they have to figure out some more ways to move the ball through the air to keep pressure off the running game. The game situation compounded troubles last week as they had to go into the wind to start the game, but they have to deal with it, whether that means more short throws, screen passes or draws.

Youngsters are usually resilient and the team seemed upbeat Sunday after the loss. They showed passion to improve.

Asked about the tight end’s role in the offense, he seemed to be referring to the passing game as a whole when he said sometimes guys have to get open and other times the quarterback doesn’t see them when they are open.

He wouldn’t say if DeVier Posey will start this week with his suspension over, but he acknowledged they hope to get a mental boost from his presence in the same way Boom Herron brought something extra to the huddle. The team seems to respect the way he handled himself during his time out. He hopes the rest of the huddle can feed off his confidence.

Fickell can’t control how the crowd will react to the players who were in trouble with the NCAA when they are acknowledged on senior day, but he hopes they will praise them. They paid the price and handled themselves well, even if not all of that is seen by the public.

Ryan Shazier did a good job filling in for injured senior linebacker Andrew Sweat last week. He ran around and made some things happen even though he made some mistakes.

He said to judge the Ohio State seniors playing their last game at Ohio Stadium on Saturday by their body of work, not just their final season even though he told them earlier that everyone is remembered first by their senior year. There will be time to worry about legacies later. They have battled through a lot and he has a lot of respect for them. They have handled everything the coaching staff has asked of them in the past six months.

Asked about the coaching staff considering its own fate, he acknowledged it is not easy operating within such uncertainty but no one said life is fair. As an example, he pointed out former quarterbacks coach Joe Daniels is fighting cancer, something he certainly never did anything to deserve. Adversity is part of life and they have to continue to move forward.

He brushed aside a question about his thoughts on playing Penn State without Joe Paterno or Jim Tressel at the game.

He thinks since joining the Big Ten it has been a big bonus to play Penn State every year thanks to all the history and great fans and huge alumni associations of both schools. They are similar on the field, too.

Penn State’s defense excels against the pass and brings pressure with its front four. The whole front seven does a good job of setting the tone for the group. They are always sound and won’t do much to try to confuse anyone.

The Nittany Lion offense is based off being able to run the ball. He was later asked about what different looks each quarterback brings to the game and said they’ll prepare for both the same (PSU subsequently indicated Matt McGloin is the full-time guy for them).

The key for Ohio State to improve its third-down defense is to make plays, but it would help to make sure they can stay out of third-and-short. Tackling is still the No. 1 issue for the defense. They want to put their best 11 tacklers on the field regardless of what positions those guys play. Working on tackling does get tougher later in the season when they have less contact in practices. The staff has to continue to focus on having the defensive players do what they are comfortable with and not more. They have to play hard and be put into situations in which they are most likely to succeed.

He said he has never had the intention of putting his stamp on the program but just planned to stay true to what it has always been about and what is best for it.

PLAYERS SAYETH: 

Boom Herron said it is kind of sad he will be playing his last home game, but he always gets emotional when he plays at Ohio Stadium.

He said Posey is definitely a leader on the team. It will be good to get him back with the rest of the guys. He expects Posey to jump right into the mix and make plays. It will be hard for him to hold back everything he is feeling.

Someone asked if the punishments the guys have gotten have been fair, and he just said they learned to make smarter decisions and think before they act. They learned from what they did and were man enough to take the penalties. The length of the penalties are what they are. They can’t be changed now.

He can’t imagine what it would be like to be out so long as Posey has been.

Defensive end Solomon Thomas said the players taped a video message Monday for fans to be respectful to the Penn State players and fans when they are here this weekend. He feels for them and does not wish adversity like that on anyone. He recalls a lot of the Ohio State players having a lot of respect for Joe Paterno and wanting to shake his hand on the field in 2009 when the Buckeyes were at Happy Valley.

PSU tailback Silas Redd is a shifty back who is good at seeing cut-back lanes. He’s patient and reminds Thomas of Evan Royster.

Senior Day is going to be amazing for him. His mother will be in from San Diego and it will be her first football game. She doesn’t know anything about the sport.

He is amazed by what Michael Bennett is able to do as a freshman considering how long he has personally had to wait to be a contributor. Bennett reminds him some of Cameron Heyward. He has a knack for rushing the passer and getting to the football.

If two freshmen are starting on defense – Bennett and Ryan Shazier – that won’t bother him. They can handle it.

Center Mike Brewster said his career has been a great journey even with the hard times this year. He would not do anything different.

He hopes to get J.B. Shugarts back on the field this week. He practiced some Tuesday. Jack Mewhort did a good job filling in for him at Purdue.

Running into a stacked box is a challenge but they have to grind and figure out how to make it work anyway.

Penn State is having a good year on defense, so the Buckeyes need to be on point.

His heart goes out to the people who have suffered in the Penn State situation.

He was asked if it would be easier to run from the spread and replied he wasn’t sure. (Odd question because they’ve run the ball fine in the power sets. It’s the passing game that’s been a problem…)

Purdue had a safety as the extra man in the box, something Penn State will probably do, and he hopes Posey can be a presence who helps them get that to change.

ASSISTANTS ADDED: 

Safeties coach and assistant defensive coordinator Paul Haynes said Penn State is always physical and wants to establish the run. They have good wide receivers and a quarterback who is playing well. The receivers are big and have good speed. The safeties have to maintain eye control to avoid giving up the big play to a guy like Derek Moye.

He thinks the Nittany Lions will feel comfortable once they get on the field and be ready to play, not overwhelmed by emotion from the scandal taking place there.

He is not worried the planned pregame handshake could take some of the juice out of the team like some think it did before they played Navy a couple of years ago. There should be plenty of emotion because the teams play regularly and have developed a rivalry. Penn State is always a big game, and the Buckeyes could be more focused coming off a loss.

The OSU players do not feel added pressure because of the unknown future the coaches face. Once they are in the football facility, it is all about work. The players might hear it outside the facilities, and that might be hard, but overall it’s not a big deal. They’ll play their best football regardless.

The loss of five scholarships over the next three years probably won’t change their general approach to recruiting. They’ll see down the road how they have to adjust things.

They will miss Andrew Sweat’s leadership on Saturday, but he has been helping Ryan Shazier, who will start in his place at linebacker. Shazier is a playmaker, and he flashes a lot when he’s out there. He is fast, but he needs to get bigger for the position. he is electric and they expect him to know what to do and be productive.

Haynes said Johnathan Hankins should be ready to go this week after suffering a knee injury last week at Purdue. Hankins is important to the defense because he is a playmaker like John Simon. They can dominate up front, and that’s where games like this one are won.

He thinks the presence of DeVier Posey could change the way Penn State approaches them defensively.

Penn State will try to lull a team to sleep with the running game then hit a big play over the top.

He is discouraged to see the pre-snap miscommunication that led to an open receiver on the third-and-12 that set up the Boilermakers’ game-winning touchdown in overtime last week. It was hard to take because he preaches about it all the time. Being young is no excuse. It is an unfortunate learning experience. They need to match up with the WRs when the quarterback scrambles.

Tight ends coach John Peterson said defensive linemen Devon Still and Jack Crawford are good players for them. Still is powerful and explosive, a bona fide Big Ten defensive lineman who can cause havoc inside.

OSU offensive tackle J.B. Shugarts has practiced this week, but his playing status remains unknown.

Braxton Miller has been very careful with the ball as a freshman starting quarterback, and they understand his game will expand as he understands more. Peterson recalled seeing Miller throw the ball all over the place in the state championship game last season in the snow in Canton.

He hopes the seniors have learned a lot in their time at Ohio State and can leave with a degree and some rings.

Big Ten Division Overview: What should be the East

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We might also call this the Division Formed To Accommodate Ohio State (DFTAOS), but I’m still working on proper titles for the new divisions. At any rate, here’s how I judge the teams on talent/experience/etc. without consideration of the schedule just yet:

Waning minutes of Wisconsin's last trip to Ohio Stadium
  1. Wisconsin
  2. Ohio State
  3. Penn State
  4. Purdue
  5. Illinois
  6. Indiana

As with the other division, I am pretty torn at the top. Ohio State and Wisconsin both have holes to fill but seem to be the most talented on paper in a division that should never have been allowed to take this form (but that’s for another time).

The Buckeyes have been outrecruiting the rest of the conference for years, but Wisconsin has done a nice job finding players who fit its specific needs as well as grabbing diamonds in the rough from recruiting hotbeds such as Ohio and Florida.

How crazy a year is it at the top in the Big Ten?

The favorites in this division might both be quarterback by players who have never taken a snap for their respective schools before this season. That means two drastically different things for Ohio State and Wisconsin, however. While the Buckeyes might turn to a youngster such as Braxton Miller or Taylor Graham if less-talented veterans Joe Bauserman and Kenny Guiton don’t impress in preseason practice, Badger fans are hoping N.C. State transfer Russell Wilson will give them reason to jump around all afternoon and into the night. He’s a great talent, but his time to work with his new teammates will be limited before the bullets start flying – and there will be a particular set of silver ones hoping to unleash hell in Columbus one evening in October.

Of course, both quarterback situations could turn out to be mediocre and both offenses might still be pretty good because both look like they could have stellar lines and deep backfields.

What either team gets out of its wide receivers is a question mark heading into the season, particularly with OSU senior DeVier Posey suspended for the first five games. Badger senior Nick Toon is the only other player from either unit to bring much name recognition into this campaign.

Defensively, there will be many new faces, but I am giving the nod to Ohio State at all three levels of the defense.

The OSU line got pushed around in Madison last season, but 3/4ths of Badgers’ defensive front wasn’t all that intimidating for the majority of the year. Without stud J.J. Watt this year, I am having a hard time anticipating this Wisconsin group being better. Ohio State lost an all-conference performer itself in the form of Cameron Heyward, but there is hope sophomore Johnathan Hankins can become a true force this year after brief flashes during his sophomore season, and Nathan Williams and Johnny Simon both look ready to break out in their second seasons as starters.

Linebacker is a push. Andrew Sweat of Ohio State should be one of the best in the conference, as is the case with Wisconsin’s Mike Taylor. Then we have both units figuring to depend heavily on getting big plays from players who missed most of last season with upper body injuries. Can Badger Chris Borland (shoulder) and Buckeye Tyler Moeller (pectoral) hold up this season? They will be crucial.

Both teams like to play bend-but-don’t-break in the secondary, but I’m giving the early nod to Ohio State based on the standout play of its new cornerbacks in spring ball (This is of course an example of some of the limitations of previewing an entire conference while specializing on one team, but this is all pretty much for fun anyway, right?).

Ultimately, I gave Wisconsin the overall nod in the preseason rankings because it’s probably better to rely on a new veteran quarterback than a new young one.

Moving on: Penn State could be a darkhorse here. The Nittany Lions have two quarterbacks with experience back, but they might end up confirming one of John Cooper’s favorite sayings: A coach who thinks he has two quarterbacks often has none.

The more talented of the pair looks to me like Rob Bolden, but can he beat out Matt McGloin? We shall see. Signal-caller figures to be the key to success there because there is a lot to like about new starter Silas Redd at tailback and there are several receivers with the potential to be productive players. The offensive line has some questions but brings back three starters, and contributions from the tight ends should be improved this year with better health and more experience.

Defensively, there were few offseason signs a sub-par front will be better this year, but linebacker could improve thanks to the graduation of a pair of starting stiffs from last season and the potential of a healthy Michael Mauti. The secondary has solid corner D’Anton Lynn and a potential standout in young Malcolm Willis to build around.

I am willing to believe Purdue could be significantly better this year, but I don’t think the Boilermakers can overtake PSU. Head coach Danny Hope’s team has to be due for some better health, right? He says he feels good about all his quarterbacks, but they have to stay out of the training room before they can prove him right.  They should get help from a running game that welcomes back Ralph Bolden. Defensively, Purdue was surprisingly competent last year and despite the loss of super end Ryan Kerrigan has three good-looking players to build around in tackle Kawann Short, linebacker Joe Holland and cornerback Ricardo Allen.

Illinois had a nice comeback last season, and I like young quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase, but I’m not convinced the Fighting Illini can overcome the heavy losses they suffered to early entry into the NFL draft, especially on defense.

The future might be bright with Indiana under new head coach Kevin Wilson, but breaking in a new starting quarterback, finding a No. 1 running back who can stay out of trouble and rebuilding what was an awful defense last season is a lot to take care of in one year.

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Big Ten Football Pre-Fall Preview: Penn State Nittany Lions

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Known commodities: Four experienced players return in the secondary, including cornerback D’Anton Lynn, whose 75 tackles last season are the most of any holdover, and stud tackle Devon Still is back to anchor the middle of the defensive line.

Leading receiver Derek Moye is back after a 53-catch, 885-yard season that included eight touchdowns as is fellow starter Justin Brown (33 catches, 452 yards, one touchdown). Guard Johnnie Troutman is the only starter back on the interior of the offensive line, but he is a good one to build around.

 

Questions: Most folks look for sophomore Silas Redd to fill in nicely for graduated senior Evan Royster at tailback, but who will hand him the ball? Rob Bolden and Matt McGloin both started games last season, and they figure to battle in camp to see who will start the opener.

Quinn Barham and Chima Okoli are back at offensive tackle, but both have looked ill-suited for the outside. Can either improve or will someone else step up to take their place, letting one slide inside to replace All-Big Ten guard Stefen Wisniewski?

Four new starters are needed among the defensive front seven, including someone to replace linebacker Chris Colasanti, who led the team with 112 tackles last season. Several backups, including junior Michael Mauti, have shown potential in past spot duty.

A new defensive end will be needed opposite long-time starter Jack Crawford to replace Pete Massaro after he suffered a season-ending knee injury during spring drills

 

Spring game recap: The Blue led 10-0 when the game was called two plays after halftime because of a driving rain storm. McGloin hooked up with sophomore Brandon Moseby-Felder for a 17-yard touchdown pass and wide receiver Evan Lewis kicked a 20-yard field goal to account for the game’s points. McGloin completed 5 of 10 passes for 109 yards while Bolden threw an interception and four incompletions on his five attempts. For the White squad, junior Kevin Newsome was 3 for 7 for 22 yards, junior Shane McGregor was 2 for 3 for four yards and redshirt freshman Paul Jones was 0 for 1. Redd ran for 24 yards on nine carries for the Blue while junior Brandon Beachum had 24 yards on six attempts. Moseby-Felder was the game’s leading receiver with 31 yards on two catches, including the touchdown.

 

Issues addressed: Head coach Joe Paterno came out of spring ball sounding optimistic his squad will more resemble the 11-win clubs he headed in 2008 and ’09 rather than the 7-6 record of last season.

When a reporter on a Big Ten teleconference suggested the players have seen him more active on the field this year and he replied, “I don’t think I did a particularly good job last year, to be frank with you. Part of it was I didn’t want to push some of the younger kids. We were a very, very young football team last year, probably the youngest team I’ve had. And we had a lot of kids bumped up.

“I have not knowingly gone out and said I’m going to do more, but I have been aware of the fact that I think we’ve got to do one heck of a coaching job, starting with the head coach. I’ve enjoyed this team. I still enjoy coaching and thank God the Good Lord’s kept me healthy. I can run around a little bit out there, get involved in it the drills and different things. If it appears to the kids I’m working harder, good. I’m glad to hear that. I don’t know whether I’m really working harder at it. I hope I’m doing a better job than I did last year, let’s put it that way.”

He said developing the offensive line is vital this year but the group that will include at least two new starters still has a ways to go.

“We’re not a domineering bunch of kids up front,” he said. “We’ve had troubles with people that are stronger, maybe a little quicker. But technique-wise we’re getting better. The camaraderie that you have to have on the offensive line, the pride that goes with a really good offensive line, we don’t have that yet. But we’re working on it.”

The Nittany Lion defense was dealt a blow when Massaro suffered a season-ending knee injury, but there is hope an injection of youth up front and at linebacker can help a unit that lacked athleticism last season.

 

Advanced statistical revelations:

The excellent SBNation preview series using Football Outsiders unique stats had not reached Penn State by the time I needed to get these out (prior to the Big Ten Kickoff Luncheon), but I hope to be able to update it when that happens. I think this could be one of the more interesting of Bill Connelly’s pieces based on the up-and-down season the Nittany Lions had last year.

 

Pro prospects*: Moye has good speed and average athleticism for a big guy, and his 6-5 frame looks like it could hold more weight so he could add more strength. He’s a productive guy who could have a big year.

Troutman is a muscular guy who exhibits good power and strength but some issues with balance hurt him at times. He moves well and can really bury people when blocking down.

The NFP sees the skills that made Still a big-time recruit but also perceives some issues  with effort/motor (That’s the first I’ve heard of that. I’ve always liked what I see from him). Possesses the strength to overwhelm people at the point of attack and athleticism to make plays.

Crawford has good size but is only a so-so athlete. He displayed only one pass-rush move in the film the NFP saw, and he doesn’t appear quick enough to be a pass rusher at the next level. He’s good against the run.

Lynn brings good measurables (6-1, 210, long arms) to the party. Plays the ball well and is a willing tackler. Best in a zone scheme.

 

Issues remaining/other thoughts: I view the return of Bolden as key because I think he’s the better choice at quarterback, but it remains to be seen what Paterno will decide. The running backs bring a lot of potential, and the line might struggle in pass protection but seems to have the pieces in place to make some running room. If a couple of highly rated young players step up, that could be a big boon to the line’s production. The front seven was surprisingly sub-par last year, but I’m curious to see if that can change with more time if guys like Michael Mauti and Gerald Hodges seeing more time.

 

*These are drawn from evaluations published by Wes Bunting of The National Football Post. He goes in-depth on a handful of draft-eligible players on every team, and I have significantly boiled them down, so I recommend you read the whole thing. 

Overheard from Big Ten coaches: Ohio State Division

The Big Ten coaches from The Division With Michigan (T-DWM) spoke Tuesday (link) with the coaches from The Division With Ohio State (T-DWOS) set to follow Wednesday. Here’s a summary of what the latter group had to say.

Ohio State head coach Jim Tressel first said he was surprised to hear the Big Ten’s director of communication say his team has 16 starters coming back this fall.

Then he said he’s been pleased with the work his young people have put in despite the bad weather that has plagued practice.

Terrelle Pryor has had an interesting spring because he can’t do much as he recovers from offseason surgery so he’s helping guide the youngsters competing to take his spot as starting quarterback for the first five games of the season. (Pryor is hoping to be cleared to run May 1).

He has been proud of the progress Pryor has made every year since he became the starter earlier than anyone expected him to in 2008. They need him to make another significant improvement this year in order to come close to meeting his potential.

(Then he said something contradictory about the importance or lack thereof spring football has in the grand scheme of things)

Asked about one the NFL draft’s talking heads declaring Pryor is more likely to be drafted as a tight end than a quarterback (or something like that), Tressel said he doesn’t put much stock in opinions good or bad but that he heard from NFL coaches and personnel people who were in town recently for Cameron Heyward’s pro day that they were impressed with the quantum leap Pryor made from year two to year three as a starter. He showed a much greater understanding of the game and ability to manage it.

Those NFL people said they aren’t too worried with how many games he plays next year so long as they see more progress like he’s already made.

He expects Pryor to be selected as a QB in the 2012 draft.

As for picking someone to start the first five games, he said he’s nowhere near ready to do that.

The best quarterback Tuesday was Kenny Guiton, but since there is no game tomorrow, he’s not going to pretend like there is one and give a hypothetical starter. The key thing he’s looking for is consistency, and that takes time to develop. He will try to have a pecking order established for the fall because there will not be as many repetitions to go around when Pryor returns to health.

He revealed junior linebacker Jonathan Newsome is in his doghouse but they are optimistic he can find his way out of it soon. Newsome has not carried out all the duties they expect of him…

Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson thinks the talent level is reasonable and the team has been competitive the past couple of seasons but needs a better mindset to win more games. (I agree with this – I don’t think the Hoosiers are that far away)

He’s taking his quarterback selection slowly, too, and is looking for a leader to emerge. Teddy Schell, Adam Follett, Andre Kates and Edward Wright-Baker are all splitting reps, and he looks for them to continue to lead during summer workouts and seven-on-sevens, etc.

He’s happy with his team’s work so far but he is nowhere near formulating a depth chart, and he expects some freshmen to be a part of it.

They have 15 starters back from team that couldn’t close out games because of various reasons, including foolish errors, in the past.

“We’ve been competitive but we haven’t been winning.”

They are working on upgrading talent but also working the seniors hard on not being satisfied or complacent…

Wisconsin head coach Bret Bielema is excited for the opportunity to play in a conference championship game and the way the league has formed two divisions.

In rebuilding an offensive line that lost three starters, he has moved Ricky Wagner from right tackle, where he started for the first time last season, to left tackle and told him no pressure but the only other two left tackles they’ve had since he became coach both won the Outland Trophy. He’s also really happy with Kevin Zeitler, the other returning starter. He has not allowed a sack in three years at right guard.

Bielema looks at it as having six guys with starting experience vying for five spots. That includes center Peter Konz, tackle Josh Oglesby, guard Travis Frederick and tackle Casey Dehn.

On defense, they need to replace a lot of producting, a.k.a., big plays, with the loss of defensive end J.J. Watt.

He’s happy to have senior tackle Patrick Butrym back, and he is showing great leadership.

Mike Taylor has done a nice job at linebacker, and they are looking forward to the return of Chris Borland, who missed most of last season with a shoulder injury after being named Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2009.

Safety Aaron Henry is the leader in the secondary, and the defense got the better of the most recent scrimmage the team had.

Being able to tell recruits play Ohio State and Penn State every year is a big deal in recruiting. It helps them in recruiting Ohio and elsewhere against other people in their division, who they are already competing against for local recruits (Parents get to see them more often if they play those schools every year)

Sophomore Jon Budmayr is running No. 1 at quarterback and junior Curt Phillips will provide some competition in the fall but he’s still recovering from a torn ACL.

Replacing Scott Tolzien’s game managing skills will be a challenge. He really grew last year from the losses the team suffered in 2009. He learned how to deal with adversity.

Tight end continues to be a position of strength as senior Jake Byrne is back and he likes the look of youngsters Brian Wozniak and Jacob Pedersen. Wozniak has had some injuries but impresses them as an athlete and could be on Byrne’s level as a blocker…

Penn State head coach Joe Paterno was asked if college football seems to be out of control.

“I don’t know whether it’s out of control and to be frank with you we have some problems but i’m not the kind of guy who likes to throw rocks at the other guy because there are so many little things that can happen to you without you having control of them.”

He has been around the game for 65 years and seen good and bad and reactions to different situations. He thinks the game of college football is as good as it’s ever been in terms of caliber of play and interest of fans. The media gets credit for a lot of that but some problems get blown up because the press competes with television so sometimes they make things look worse than they are. His gut feeling without being completely sure is there have always been problems in college football and he doesn’t know if there are more than 30 years ago.

He said developing the offensive line is vital this year. They are trying to get a group of kids together who can play together. Overall they’ve made some progress but there’s still a long way to go. They don’t have a group that is going to dominate people up front, but technique is improving. They also need to develop the type of camaraderie that makes good lines.

He hasn’t thought about who will be the starting quarterback but likes what he’s seen out of both Matt McGloin and Rob Bolden. They know both can do the job.

Bolden is big strong kid who can really throw the ball.

Someone suggested the players have seen him more active on the field this year and he said, “I don’t think I did a particularly good job last year to be frank with you.”

That is partly because of how young they were. He didn’t want to push them too much.

He thinks the coaches need to do a better job than last year, but any increased activity on his part has not been intentional.

Purdue head coach Danny Hope saw improvements in all three phases of the game.

Last spring they had a lot of new faces on the team and then a lot of injuries. Seventeen freshmen played last year, so this year it was like they started further ahead with more experienced players.

Guys are stepping up on both lines and they got better in a lot of areas, including quarterback and linebacker.

Rob Henry entered spring as the No. 1 quarterback and remains there, although Robert Marve will challenge him in the fall when he is fully recovered from a knee injury. Marve was limited in the spring, meaning Caleb TerBush got good reps.

There will be competition there in the fall, just like at many positions.

Running back Rob Bolden should be 100 percent his fall. He did some noncontact stuff this spring but was held back for precautionary reasons…

Illinois head coach Ron Zook was asked about replacing stud running back Mikel Leshoure and instead talked about Akeem Spence taking over at defensive tackle for Corey Liuget.

Quarterbach Nathan Scheelhaase made great strides last year down the stretch and has improved in offseason.

The Fighting Illini are working this spring to improve passing game in all facets, including protection and yards after the catch. He’s pleased with what they’ve accomplished.

Scheelhaase probably threw more passes last year counting whole year than he had in any other year of his life. He has a stronger and more accurate arm now, and he’s working on knowing where to go with the ball. Football is a reaction game so more times you do something the better you are at it and the quicker you get.

To increase YAC, they worked on getting the ball to the receivers quicker and in place they can make some moves and go with it.

It’s been a lot more fun this spring building off bowl-winning season and not having to deal with installing a new offense and defense.

Martez Wilson, Liuget and linebacker Nate Bussey are big losses but that gives other guys the chance to step up.

Ian Thomas moved back to Mike linebacker to replace Wilson while Ashante Williams is at Thomas’ old Sam spot. He’s happy with what he’s seen from Jonathan Brown and Houston Bates as outside linebacker, too.

Getting back to replacing Leshoure, he said Jason Ford doing well although he’s dealing with a minor knee injury. He has lost some weight and still needs to lose more, but when he does, he can be a heck of a player. This time last year they thought he could have beaten out Leshoure, then Leshoure went on to have an All-Big Ten season.

Behind Ford, they’re impressed with Troy Pollard and Bud Golden. Golden had a sprained toe but has had an opportunity to step up and run the ball.