2011 Big Ten Spring Football Prospectus
April 11, 2011
Welcome to the Big Ten: Nebraska will officially join the Big Ten on July 1, becoming the conference's 12th member institution. The Cornhuskers bring a rich football history, boasting five national championships (1970, 1971, 1994, 1995, 1997), 107 All-Americans, three Heisman Trophy winners and numerous other national award winners. Nebraska won a share of its seventh Big 12 North Division title last season and ended the season ranked No. 19 in the USA Today coaches poll and No. 20 in the Associated Press rankings.
The Latest Addition: The last time the Big Ten added a university was when Penn State joined the conference in June of 1990. The Nittany Lions' first season of Big Ten football was in 1993, with PSU finishing third overall at 6-2, just a half game behind Big Ten Co-Champions Ohio State and Wisconsin (both 6-1-1). Penn State won its first Big Ten Championship the following season with a perfect 8-0 conference mark.
Legends and Leaders: A new era of Big Ten football starts this fall with divisional play leading up to the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game in Indianapolis on December 3. With the addition of Nebraska, the conference's 12 teams will now play in two different divisions. The Big Ten football division alignments include the Legends Division featuring Iowa, Michigan, Michigan State, Minnesota, Nebraska and Northwestern, and the Leaders Division featuring Illinois, Indiana, Ohio State, Penn State, Purdue and Wisconsin. Each school will play the other five schools within its division and will also face three teams from the other division, including one cross-division matchup guaranteed on an annual basis. The guaranteed cross-division matchups are Iowa-Purdue, Michigan-Ohio State, Michigan State-Indiana, Minnesota-Wisconsin, Nebraska-Penn State and Northwestern-Illinois.
Lucas Oil Stadium To Host First Big Ten Championship Game: The champions of the Legends Division and the Leaders Division will meet in the Big Ten Football Championship Game on the first Saturday of December, with the winner earning the Big Ten Championship and a chance to play in the Rose Bowl Game or Bowl Championship Series National Championship Game. The inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game will be played in prime time on December 3, 2011, at Lucas Oil Stadium in Indianapolis. FOX Sports will serve as the official broadcast partner of the 2011-16 Big Ten Football Championship Games.
New Big Ten Football Awards: The Big Ten will debut 18 awards at the conclusion of the 2011 season to honor its top football student-athletes and coaches. The new awards honor just a small sampling of the countless student-athletes and coaches who have contributed to the conference's rich and storied history. The Big Ten's biggest individual honors will now bear the names of two former standouts each. Fourteen of the honors will be awarded following the regular season, including awards for the best quarterback, running back, receiver, tight end, offensive lineman, defensive lineman, linebacker, defensive back, kicker and punter. In addition, the top offensive player will receive the Graham-George Offensive Player of the Year award, the best defensive player will be awarded the Nagurski-Woodson Defensive Player of the Year award, the top coach will earn the Hayes-Schembechler Coach of the Year award and the best first-year standout will receive the Thompson-Randle El Freshman of the Year award. The winner of the inaugural Big Ten Football Championship Game will receive the Stagg-Paterno Championship Trophy, while the most outstanding player in the game will be awarded the Grange-Griffin Championship Game MVP award. The conference also created two postgraduate awards - the Ford-Kinnick Leadership Award and the Dungy-Thompson Humanitarian Award. The full list of awards, along with a breakdown of the two former standouts appearing in each award's name, appears in the Big Ten spring football prospectus PDF.
Welcome Back: The 2011 Big Ten campaign will feature 29 All-Conference players from last season, with 13 first-team honorees and 16 second-team selections, including four Nebraska standouts that earned All-Big 12 accolades in 2010. The first-team returnees are comprised of eight offensive standouts, four defensive players and one special teams honoree. The second-team picks include five players on offense, 10 on defense and one on special teams. In addition, 42 honorable mention honorees also return to campus. Along with the all-conference honorees returning in 2011, four individual award winners from 2010 will hit the fields again this fall. Michigan's Denard Robinson won the Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year award, while Wisconsin's James White reeled in Freshman of the Year laurels. Nebraska's Lavonte David won Big 12 Newcomer of the Year honors, while teammate Taylor Martinez picked up Offensive Freshman of the Year accolades.
ALL-CONFERENCE FIRST-TEAM RETURNEES
ALL-CONFERENCE SECOND-TEAM RETURNEES
Familiar Faces Back in the Lineup in 2011: All 12 Big Ten teams will welcome back at least 11 players to their starting lineups in 2011. Michigan's lineup will feature 22 players returning to their starting roles, including 10 on offense and nine on defense. Purdue will have 21 starters from last season returning to the field in 2011, including 10 on offense and nine on defense. Northwestern welcomes back 17 starters and Ohio State returns 16 players to its starting lineup, with each team featuring nine returning starters on offense. Illinois, Indiana, Minnesota and Penn State each boast 15 players returning to their starting spots, while Michigan State and Nebraska each welcome back 14 starters. Thirteen players from Wisconsin's starting lineup return for the 2011 season, while Iowa will feature 11 returning starters.
New Faces In New Places: The Big Ten will feature four new head coaches roaming the sidelines in 2011, including three in their first year at their respective schools. Indiana's Kevin Wilson, Michigan's Brady Hoke, Minnesota's Jerry Kill and Nebraska's Bo Pelini will all enter their first seasons as Big Ten head coaches. Wilson joins the Hoosiers after spending nine seasons as an assistant coach, most recently as the offensive coordinator at Oklahoma. Hoke returns to Ann Arbor after serving as an assistant coach for the Wolverines from 1995-2002. Hoke spent the last eight seasons as the head coach at Ball State (2003-08) and San Diego State (2009-10). Kill became the Gopher general after three seasons as the head coach at Northern Illinois and has 17 years of head coaching experience under his belt. Pelini, who played at Ohio State from 1987-90, enters his fourth season with the Huskers and first in the Big Ten. The four newcomers give the conference the most new head coaches since Indiana, Michigan State, Northwestern and Purdue each hired new coaches in 1973. The three new hires marks the highest total in the conference since 2007.
Seeking Number Seven: Ohio State has won at least a share of the last six Big Ten Championships, tying the Buckeyes for the longest title streak in conference history. The Scarlet and Gray will look to earn their seventh consecutive championship in 2011, which would break the record originally set by the Buckeyes from 1972-77. Ohio State has won the conference title outright three times during the streak, finishing the 2006, 2007 and 2009 seasons alone atop the standings. The Buckeyes also shared the championship with Michigan State and Wisconsin in 2010 and with Penn State in 2005 and 2008. Ohio State has compiled a Big Ten mark of 43-5 over the last six years.
Robinson Looks To Double Up: Michigan's Denard Robinson returns to Ann Arbor for his junior season after reeling in Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors in 2010. Robinson amassed 2,570 passing yards and a Big Ten-leading 1,702 rushing yards in 2010, making him the first quarterback in NCAA history to rush and pass for over 1,500 yards in a season. Along with earning top offensive honors in the conference, Robinson won the Chicago Tribune Silver Football Award as the conference's Most Valuable Player and was named an All-American. Robinson was the eighth Wolverine to be named Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and just the second Michigan quarterback to be selected. If he earns the honor again in 2011, he would be just the second offensive player to do so in back-to-back seasons, joining former Indiana tailback Anthony Thompson (1988-89). Including Thompson, just four players have successfully defended their Player of the Year award. Ohio State linebacker James Laurinaitis won consecutive Defensive Player of the Year awards in 2007 and 2008, while Northwestern linebacker Pat Fitzgerald earned the same honor in 1996 and 1997. Illinois linebacker Dana Howard was tabbed the conference's top defensive player in 1993 and 1994. Other two-time Big Ten Players of the Year include Michigan State running back Lorenzo White (1985, 1987) and Purdue quarterback Drew Brees (1998, 2000).
Eight Signal Callers Return For 2011: The majority of the 12 conference teams will have a familiar face running their offense in 2011, as eight teams welcome back their starting quarterbacks from 2010. In the Legends Division, reigning Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year Denard Robinson returns to lead Michigan's offense, while fellow first-team all-conference quarterback Dan Persa returns as Northwestern's signal caller. Michigan State's Kirk Cousins and Nebraska's Taylor Martinez are also among the conference's returning quarterbacks. In the Leaders Division, Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor returns for his senior season after topping the conference with 27 touchdown passes and leading the Buckeyes to a Sugar Bowl victory last season. Illinois sophomore Nathan Scheelhaase returns for his second year with the Illini, while Penn State returns sophomore Rob Bolden and junior Matt McGloin, who both started under center last year. Purdue returns a trio of quarterbacks in sophomore Rob Henry, senior Robert Marve and sophomore Sean Robinson, all of whom saw playing time in 2010.
Efficiency Experts: Four returning Big Ten quarterbacks finished in the national top 20 in passing efficiency last season. Northwestern's Dan Persa and Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor both cracked the top 10, as Persa finished with the ninth-highest rating in the country and second-highest in the Big Ten (159.0) and Pryor finished 10th in the nation and third in the conference (157.9). Michigan State's Kirk Cousins held the 18th-highest passer rating in the country and fifth-best rating in the Big Ten at 150.7, while Michigan's Denard Robinson owned the 20th-highest rating nationally at 149.6.
Doubly Dangerous: A bevy of dual-threat quarterbacks will take the field for Big Ten teams during the 2011 season. In the Legends Division, Michigan's Denard Robinson returns under center after setting Big Ten records with 4,072 yards of total offense, including a conference-best 1,702 rushing yards. Northwestern's Dan Persa set a Big Ten record by completing 73.5 percent of his passes last season while ranking second on the team with 519 rushing yards. Nebraska's Taylor Martinez was named the Big 12 Offensive Freshman of the Year after compiling 2,596 yards of total offense, including 965 on the ground. Minnesota's MarQueis Gray returns under center after catching 42 passes for 587 yards and five touchdowns as a wideout last season. In the Leaders Division, Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor ranks fourth among Big Ten quarterbacks with 2,164 career rushing yards, while sophomores Nathan Scheelhaase of Illinois and Rob Henry of Purdue return after producing 868 and 547 rushing yards, respectively.
Running Back For Another Year: Six of the Big Ten's top 10 in rushing yards from a season ago will be joined by two Nebraska players that exceeded 900 yards on the ground last season. Michigan's Denard Robinson led the Big Ten with 1,702 yards on the ground, while Michigan State's Edwin Baker picked up 1,201 rushing yards, good for third in the conference and Ohio State's Dan Herron rushed for 1,155 yards, the fourth most in the Big Ten. Wisconsin's backfield tandem of James White and Montee Ball enters 2011 after White recorded 1,052 yards and Ball added 996 on the ground, both top-10 totals. Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase also finished in the top 10 in rushing, totaling 868 yards. The Cornhuskers return a pair of standouts that surpassed 900 rushing yards last season in quarterback Taylor Martinez (965 yards) and running back Rex Burkhead (951 yards).
Let's Have A Catch: A talented corps of Big Ten wide receivers return to the fields in 2011, as all 12 conference squads welcome back at least one starting wideout. Nine players who ranked in the conference's top 10 in either receptions or receiving yards per game return for the 2011 season, including last year's leaders in receptions and receiving yards. Northwestern's Jeremy Ebert topped the conference in receiving yards, racking up 953. Indiana's Damarlo Belcher led the Big Ten in receptions per game last season, averaging 6.5 per contest. Joining Ebert among the best pass catchers in the Legends Division are Iowa's Marvin McNutt, who rated among the top 10 in catches and yardage in 2010, Michigan's Roy Roundtree, who ended last season among the top four in both categories, and Minnesota's Da'Jon McKnight, who ranked second in the conference with 10 receiving touchdowns. Other returning starters including Michigan State's B.J. Cunningham and Keith Nichol and Nebraska's Brandon Kinnie. Joining Belcher among the top receivers in the Leaders Division are Illinois' A.J. Jenkins, Ohio State's DeVier Posey and Penn State's Derek Moye, all of whom finished last season in the top 10 in yards or receptions. Purdue returns three receivers to the starting lineup, while Wisconsin's Nick Toon enters 2011 as the Badgers' top returning pass-catcher.
Tackling Machines: Five Big Ten defenders who racked up 90 or more tackles each are set to take the field this season. Nebraska's Lavonte David led the Big 12 with 152 tackles in 2011, while Michigan's Jordan Kovacs racked up 116 tackles, good for second in the Big Ten. Northwestern's Brian Peters collected 107 tackles, the fifth-most in the conference, while Purdue's Logan Link totaled 91 tackles and Minnesota's Gary Tinsley racked up 90. Also among the conference's top 20 last season were Purdue's Dwayne Beckford (84 tackles), Indiana's Jeff Thomas (82), Iowa's Micah Hyde (82) and Michigan's Kenny Demens (82).
Passers Beware: Eight defensive backs boasting first- or second-team all-conference honors from last season will be patrolling the field for Big Ten squads during the 2011 campaign. Iowa's Shaun Prater and Wisconsin's Antonio Fenelus were named first-team All-Big Ten, while Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard joined the Michigan State duo of Johnny Adams and Trenton Robinson, Northwestern's Brian Peters, Purdue's Ricardo Allen and Wisconsin's Aaron Henry in earning second-team accolades. In all, seven of the Big Ten's top 10 in interceptions return for the upcoming season. The Hawkeyes' Micah Hyde and Prater, the Spartans' Robinson and the Badgers' Fenelus each grabbed four interceptions in 2010, as did the Cornhuskers' Dennard. Minnesota's Mike Rallis, Nebraska's P.J. Smith, Northwestern's Peters and Purdue's Allen each notched three picks. Allen and Hyde each returned two interceptions for touchdowns, while Dennard, Fenelus, Peters and Prater each took one back for a score.
Rewriting The Records: Numerous Big Ten single-season records were broken in 2010, including multiple marks set by returning players. Michigan's Denard Robinson capped a record-breaking season with 4,272 yards of total offense, breaking a conference record of 4,189 set by Purdue quarterback Drew Brees in 2000. Robinson also shattered the single-season record for rushing yards by a quarterback, racking up 1,702 to break Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle-El's record of 1,270 also set in 2000. Northwestern's Dan Persa set a new conference mark in completion percentage, completing 73.5 percent of his passes to shatter the previous record of 67.8 percent set by Wisconsin signal-caller Darrell Bevell in 1993. Badger kicker Philip Welch set a record for extra points, converting on 67 to break the previous mark of 66 set by Penn State's Brett Conway in 1994. Multiple career records could also be rewritten in 2011. Ohio State's Terrelle Pryor and Robinson both rank in the career top 10 for rushing yards by a quarterback, as Pryor sits in fourth (2,164) and Robinson holds seventh (2,053). The pair looks to break Randle-El's record of 3,895 yards. Minnesota's Troy Stoudermire also holds career top-10 marks in kickoff returns (second; 115), kick return yards (second; 2,929) and kick return average (T-sixth; 25.5). Welch stands 10th all-time in kicking points (315), while Penn State kicker Collin Wagner currently holds a streak of 85 consecutive PAT attempts made, good for sixth all-time.
New Territory: Penn State’s Joe Paterno became the first Football Bowl Subdivision coach to reach 400 career wins last season, reaching the milestone with a win over Northwestern on Nov. 6. Paterno has built a record of 401-135-3 in his 45 seasons leading the Nittany Lions. Paterno is the longest serving head coach at one school in major college football history. Amos Alonzo Stagg served as head coach at Chicago for 41 years (1892-1932) during his 57-year tenure as a head coach.
Paterno and Tressel in Big Ten Century Club: Penn State's Joe Paterno and Ohio State's Jim Tressel are two of only 13 mentors to collect 100 or more wins while at a Big Ten school. Paterno enters the 2011 campaign ranked fourth with a record of 154-68 in the Nittany Lions' 18 years in the Big Ten. Tressel earned his 100th victory with the Buckeyes on Oct. 9 and ended last season with a record of 106-22, just three wins shy of Michigan State's Duffy Daugherty (109-69-5) for 12th place on the list. Tressel has won 82.8 percent of his games at OSU, which ranks second in conference history among coaches with 10 or more years on the sidelines behind only Michigan's Fielding Yost (88.8 percent).
Big Ten, Big Bowls: The Big Ten bowl lineup will once again consist of eight different bowl games in December and January based in the states of Arizona, California, Florida, Michigan and Texas. Conference schools will have the opportunity to take part in the Rose Bowl Game, Capital One Bowl, Outback Bowl, Gator Bowl, Insight Bowl, Meineke Car Care Bowl of Texas, TicketCity Bowl and Little Caesars Pizza Bowl. The current Big Ten bowl lineup will run through the 2013 college football season.
Big Ten Takes on Bowl Teams: Ten Big Ten teams will square off against at least one non-conference team that participated in a bowl game last season. Michigan, Nebraska, Northwestern, Ohio State and Purdue will face two non-conference bowl teams in 2011, while Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota, Penn State and Wisconsin will each play one bowl opponent outside the conference schedule. The Wolverines take on Notre Dame (Sun) on Sept. 10 and face San Diego State (Poinsettia) on Sept. 24. Michigan State and Purdue are also set to take on the Fighting Irish, as the Spartans head to South Bend on Sept. 17 and the Boilermakers host Notre Dame in their final non-conference tilt on Oct. 1. Purdue opens the season on Sept. 3 against Middle Tennessee State (GoDaddy.com). Nebraska will host Fresno State (Humanitarian) on Sept. 10 and will battle Washington a week later in a rematch of the 2010 Holiday Bowl. Northwestern opens the season at Boston College (Kraft Fight Hunger) on Sept. 3 and also visits Army (Armed Forces) on Sept. 17. Ohio State hosts in-state foe Toledo (Little Caesars) on Sept. 10 before visiting Miami (Fla.) (Sun) a week later. Iowa will play against Pittsburgh (Compass) on Sept. 17 while Minnesota will host Miami (Ohio) (GoDaddy.com) on the same date. Penn State hosts Alabama (Capital One) on Sept. 10, while Wisconsin takes on Northern Illinois (Humanitarian) on Sept. 17 at Soldier Field in Chicago.
No Plays for 2011: With the new divisional format, each Big Ten team will not play against three conference teams each season. The "no-plays" for the 2011 season are listed below.
LEGENDS DIVISION -- Does not play
LEADERS DIVISION -- Does not play