2006 Big Ten Football Spring Prospectus
April 13, 2006
Welcome Back: Returning to Big Ten fields in 2006 are 18 All-Conference players from last season, including six first team honorees and 12 second team selections. The first-team returnees are comprised of three offensive standouts, two defensive players and one punter. The second team picks include six players on offense, five on defense and one kicker. In addition, 22 honorable mention honorees from last season also return to campus.
ALL-BIG TEN FIRST-TEAM RETURNEES
Levi Brown, SR, OL, PSU (Coaches only)
Joe Thomas, SR, OL, WIS
Paul Posluszny, SR, LB, PSU
ALL-BIG TEN SECOND-TEAM RETURNEES
Albert Young, JR, RB, IOWA (Media only)
Tyrell Sutton, SO, RB, NU
Tony Hunt, SR, RB, PSU (Coaches only)
Dorien Bryant, JR, WR, PUR (Media only)
Jordan Grimes, JR, OL, PUR (Coaches only)
Marquice Cole, SR, DB, NU (Media only)
Quinn Pitcock, SR, DL, OSU (Coaches only)
Jay Alford, SR, DL, PSU (Media only)
Roderick Rogers, SR, DB, WIS (Media only)
Familiar Faces in Starting Lineup: Eight of the Big Ten's 11 teams return more than half of their starters from a season ago, as Illinois leads the way with an astounding 21 of its 24 starters back on the field in 2006. The Illini lead the conference with 10 of the 11 starters returning on both offense and defense along with a two-year starter at kicker. Northwestern ranks second with 17 starters back on campus while Iowa, Michigan and Minnesota each bring back 16 starters. The Wildcats rank second behind Illinois with eight starters returning on both offense and defense. Ohio State also has eight returning offensive starters but brings back only two starters on defense, the lowest number among league schools. The Wolverines and Wisconsin equal Northwestern with eight starters back on defense, although the Badgers return only three offensive starters, the least of any Big Ten team. The breakdown of starters returning and lost appears on the PDF version of this prospectus while a complete list is located on each team page.
The Year of the QB: For the first time in more than 20 years, the Big Ten will feature nine returning starters at the quarterback position entering the 2006 campaign. Since 1986, the Big Ten has returned eight starting signal callers on seven occasions, most recently entering the 2003 season. The following year in 2004, the conference was forced to replace six starting quarterbacks and the league is reaping the benefits in 2006. Of the current group of nine returnees, six signal callers feature two years of experience in the starting lineup including Iowa's Drew Tate, Michigan's Chad Henne, Michigan State's Drew Stanton, Minnesota's Bryan Cupito, Ohio State's Troy Smith and Wisconsin's John Stocco. The three returning quarterbacks entering their second year as starters are Illinois' Tim Brasic, Indiana's Blake Powers and Purdue's Curtis Painter. Northwestern and Penn State are the only schools breaking in new starters at quarterback after the Wildcats' Brett Basanez and the Nittany Lions' Michael Robinson concluded their careers by sharing Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year laurels last season.
The QB Class of 2006: Seven of the Big Ten's nine returning starters at quarterback broke the 2,000-yard mark last season, while five connected on 20 or more scoring strikes and five completed more than 60 percent of their passes. In addition, eight of the league's top 10 passers in both pass efficiency and yards per game will be back on the field in 2006. The conference's five-most efficient passers from last season will be back under center including Ohio State's Troy Smith, who led the Big Ten with a pass efficiency mark of 162.7, the second-highest rating for all games in the last decade behind the 166.4 produced by Michigan State's Jeff Smoker in 2001. The Spartans' Drew Stanton ranked second last season with a passer rating of 153.4, followed by Wisconsin's John Stocco (150.5), Iowa's Drew Tate (146.3) and Minnesota's Bryan Cupito (145.9). Departed NU quarterback Brett Basanez led the league with 301.8 passing yards per game last season while the next seven names on the final stats will be back in uniform, including Stanton (279.7), Tate (235.7), Cupito (230.0), Stocco (224.6), Michigan's Chad Henne (210.5), Indiana's Blake Powers (209.5) and Smith (207.5). A chart listing the statistics of the Big Ten starting quarterbacks returning to the field in 2006 is available on the PDF version of this prospectus.
Who's Catching All The Passes?: In addition to nine starting quarterbacks returning in 2006, the Big Ten also brings back some top wideouts. Among the pass catchers, underclassmen Dorien Bryant of Purdue and James Hardy of Indiana ended last season ranked atop the league stats in receptions and yardage per game, respectively. Bryant, who will be a junior in the fall, led the Big Ten with 7.27 catches per contest after hauling in 80 passes for 960 yards and four touchdowns. Hardy, who will be a sophomore in 2006, racked up 89.3 yards through the air in each game to top all league standouts. He finished his first season with 61 catches for 893 yards and 10 touchdowns, the second-highest total among all conference wideouts. Other wide receivers returning after ranking among the top 10 in those categories last season are Northwestern's Shaun Herbert (3rd with 6.58 rpg and 6th with 71.8 ypg), Michigan State's Jerramy Scott (8th with 4.45 rpg and 9th with 65.6 ypg) and Ohio State's Ted Ginn, Jr., (7th with 66.9 ypg).
Rushing Back to the Field: Despite the fact that the Big Ten's top two rushers last season (Minnesota's Laurence Maroney and Wisconsin's Brian Calhoun) left early for the NFL, five of the top eight ground-gainers will be toting the ball in the fall. That group of returnees will be led by Big Ten Freshman of the Year Tyrell Sutton of Northwestern, who ranked third in the league and eighth nationally with 122.8 yards per contest and third in the conference with 16 rushing touchdowns. Iowa's Albert Young, who topped the league in rushing in Big Ten games only, ended the year fourth in the conference for all games with 111.2 stripes per outing and was followed by Ohio State's Antonio Pittman (5th at 110.9 ypg), Penn State's Tony Hunt (7th at 87.2 ypg) and Michigan State's Javon Ringer (8th at 74.3 ypg).
Sophomore Sensations: Freshmen had a big impact on the football field for Big Ten teams in 2005 and those standouts will return for a second helping of league action in 2006. Northwestern running back Tyrell Sutton was named the National Offensive Freshman of the Year by The Sporting News and the Big Ten Freshman of the Year. He was also one of six first-year league standouts to be named to The Sporting News Freshman All-American first team, along with Iowa defensive tackle Mitch King, Minnesota defensive end Steven Davis, Ohio State cornerback Malcolm Jenkins, Penn State all-purpose player Justin King and Wisconsin defensive end Matt Shaughnessy. King was one of four Penn State freshmen to boost the Nittany Lions to a share of the Big Ten crown thanks to an improved offense, which led the conference at 35.2 points per game just one season after ranking last in 2004 with only 12.9 points per outing. Penn State's top three receivers last year were all in their first season on the field -- redshirt freshman Deon Butler (37-691 yards, 9 TDs) and true freshmen Jordan Norwood (32-422) and Derrick Williams (22-289, TD). Also on the receiving end, Indiana boasted one of the league's top wideouts in freshman James Hardy, who led the conference with 89.3 receiving yards per game and ranked second with 10 scoring catches, while hauling in 61 passes for 893 yards.
On the Defensive: The Big Ten also returns some impressive performers on the defensive side of the ball, headlined by Penn State linebacker Paul Posluszny. A first-team All-American and the winner of the Bednarik and Butkus Awards last season, Posluszny is the conference's leading returning tackler at 9.7 per game (116 total), good for fifth in the league last year. He is joined on the Nittany Lions by defensive tackle Jay Alford, a second-team All-Conference pick who is the league's leading returner in sacks with 8.5 last season (fourth in the conference). Iowa defensive end Ken Iwebema earned first-team All-Big Ten accolades from the media last season after collecting 48 tackles, 10.0 tackles for loss and 7.0 sacks. Michigan linebacker LaMarr Woodley racked up 14.0 TFLs in 2005, the fourth-highest total in the Big Ten and the top returning total for next season. In the defensive backfield, Northwestern's Marquice Cole picked off five passes to rank second among all league players last season and earn second-team All-League laurels. The Big Ten also returns three other standouts that earned second-team All-Conference honors in Wolverines defensive back Leon Hall, Ohio State defensive lineman Quinn Pitcock and Wisconsin defensive back Roderick Rogers.
New Head Badger: The Big Ten will feature one new head coach in 2006 in Wisconsin's Bret Bielema. The Badgers' defensive coordinator the last two seasons will replace outgoing coach and current Director of Athletics Barry Alvarez. Bielema will be the youngest head football coach in the Division I-A ranks after helping the program win 19 games over the last two years. He was the co-defensive coordinator at Kansas State under head coach Bill Snyder from 2002-03 after spending nine seasons as an assistant coach at his alma mater, Iowa, where he worked for head coaches Hayden Fry and Kirk Ferentz. Head coaches for whom Bielema has worked - Alvarez, Snyder, Ferentz and Fry - have combined to win 547 games and guide their teams to 41 bowl games. Bielema will begin his head coaching career on Sept. 2 against Bowling Green.
Walker and Ferentz Near Landmark Wins: Northwestern's Randy Walker and Iowa's Kirk Ferentz will both be aiming for landmark victories at the start of the 2006 campaign. Walker, beginning his eighth year in Evanston, has produced a record of 96-81-5 in 16 seasons at Miami (Ohio) and NU and needs four more wins to crack the century mark. Ferentz, entering his eighth campaign in Iowa City, boasts a record of 49-36 with the Hawkeyes and is aiming to join Hayden Fry (143-89-6 from 1979-98) and Forest Evashevski (52-34-4 from 1952-60) as only the third Iowa coach to collect 50 triumphs.
Carr and Paterno Climbing Century Club Ladder: Penn State's Joe Paterno and Michigan's Lloyd Carr joined the Big Ten century club last season, becoming just the 11th and 12th head coaches to collect 100 victories at a conference institution. Paterno enters the 2006 campaign ranked 11th on the all-time list with a record of 107-50 since joining the league in 1993, just just a few victories behind Michigan State's Duffy Daugherty (10th with 109 wins) and Ohio State's John Cooper (9th with 111). Carr will being the 2006 season with a mark of 102-34 in 11 seasons in Ann Arbor.
Big Ten Coaches Among Nation's Best: Seven of the Big Ten's 11 football head coaches appear on the current list of top 30 active coaches in victories (five or more years as a head coach), more than any other conference in the country. The SEC boasts five coaches among the active victory leaders followed by the Big 12 and WAC with four a piece. The Big Ten features two of the top four coaches in active triumphs in Penn State's Joe Paterno (2nd with 354) and Ohio State's Jim Tressel (4th with 185). Other league mentors among the top 30 include Michigan State's John L. Smith (T13th at 128), Minnesota's Glen Mason (17th at 117), Purdue's Joe Tiller (19th with 106), Michigan's Lloyd Carr (T21st with 102) and Northwestern's Randy Walker (26th with 96). Three conference coaches also appear among the top 15 active coaches in winning percentage in Carr (11th at .756), Paterno (12th at .750) and Tressel (13th at .725).
Breaking Down the 2006 Schedule: The 2006 Big Ten non-conference schedule features 10 games against 2005-06 bowl opponents, as nine of the 11 league programs will face at least one bowl team. Penn State may face the most challenging schedule with two of its four non-conference foes playing in a bowl last season, including Notre Dame (Fiesta) and Akron (Motor City). Big Ten teams will actually take on the Fighting Irish in four consecutive weekends next season beginning with the Nittany Lions in South Bend on Sept. 9, followed by a road test for Michigan (Sept. 16), a home contest for Michigan State (Sept. 23) and a road game for Purdue (Sept. 30). Five other Big Ten squads will play one non-conference bowl opponent as Illinois will travel to Rutgers (Insight), Minnesota will face a road test at California (Las Vegas), Ohio State will take on defending national champion Texas (Rose) on the road, Iowa will host Iowa State (Houston) and Northwestern will battle Nevada (Hawaii) on the road.
No Plays for 2006: Each year, two Big Ten teams do not meet. Here is the breakdown of "no-plays" for 2006:
Team -- Does not play