Big Ten Football: Russell Wilson Could Be Key to a BCS Run For Wisconsin

N.C. State transfer could be just what the Badgers need at the quarterback position to put them over the top.

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Big Ten Football: Can the Addition of Quarterback Russell Wilson Bring Wisconsin Among Nation's Elite?

Russell Wilson isn’t exactly Cam Newton, and maybe he’s not even Terrelle Pryor, but he’s a heck of a lot better than any quarterback to play for the Badgers in quite some time.

The former North Carolina State quarterback was one of the better quarterbacks in the ACC over the last three years, and he was selected in the MLB Draft to play for the Colorado Rockies. While baseball still might be part of Wilson’s future, he wanted the opportunity to play college football for one final year, and because he had already graduated from N.C. State, he decided to head up to Madison to play for the Badgers.

ESPN college football analyst Brian Bennett thinks that Wilson has a lot of boom or bust potential this season for the Badgers, being that he is in a new system.

“I believe he can add an extra playmaking dimension that will make that Badgers offense really dangerous. Of course, he’s also in a new system and learning all new teammates in a short time, and if he struggles it could damage Wisconsin’s title hopes.”

I feel like as a “veteran” at this point, Wilson will have little trouble adjusting to a relatively simple system, and there have already been reports that he’s built solid chemistry with his new teammates at Wisconsin.

This could be a huge year for Badger football coming off of a really tough loss to the TCU Horned Frogs in last year’s Rose Bowl after a Big Ten championship. This year it will be tougher with the Big Ten hosting a championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium, making their schedule a little bit tougher than you would ideally want.

Wilson is really the key to the Badgers’ 2011 season. Their running game will be strong as always, and Wilson is a dual threat quarterback who doesn’t have impressive accuracy numbers, but he has put up big numbers and has a very strong supporting cast in Madison.

If the Badgers can get one more big season out of Wilson, they could be headed for the BCS for the second straight year.

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Big Ten Football: ESPN's Top Ranked High School Quarterback Likes Hoosiers

Typically, when a big-name high school quarterback is being pursued by the Big Ten, the leading candidates are schools like Ohio State, Michigan, and maybe even Iowa or Wisconsin. It’s not so usual that the number one quarterback in the country is debating between Big Ten schools with the Indiana Hoosiers at the top of his list, but in the case of Gunner Kiel, the Hoosiers are right up there with the other schools on his wish list.

A six-foot-three prospect out of Columbus, Indiana, Kiel is ranked number one among all quarterbacks in the ESPN class of 2012, and he figures that the Hoosiers are going to come out and surprise some people. Perhaps a new face at the quarterback position is prompting his recent statements:

“They’re definitely going to come out and win football games,” he said. “Coach Wilson’s definitely a fiery guy. My brother is going to playing quarterback, so I’ll be at games watching him and cheering him on.”

With Ben Chappel moving on, the Hoosiers are now planning to start sophomore Dusty Kiel at the quarterback position. Dusty was certainly not as highly touted as his brother coming out of high school, but he could entice the four-star prospect to join forces with him and bring the Hoosiers up from the cellar of the Big Ten conference.

“I’ve heard people say, ‘Why Indiana?’ " Kiel told Kyle Neddenriep of the Indianapolis Star. "My answer is, ‘Why not Indiana?’ Coach (Kevin) Wilson (Indiana’s head coach) was very important in (former Oklahoma All-American) Sam Bradford’s development and he has top-notch assistants who have come in from other successful programs.

Kiel seems to be a bit more bright than most 17 or 18 year old high school recruits. The fact that he is taking into account the development of Sam Bradford at OU and the connection to coach Kevin Wilson is pretty exciting for college football fans, especially those in Indiana.

Of course, Kiel is also considering big-name schools like Tennessee, Notre Dame, Michigan, and Oklahoma, but Indiana has made it this far, so why can’t they go all the way?

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Big Ten Football: Is Safety the Worst Position in the Conference? ESPN's Adam Rittenberg Ranks the Best

When you think of great Big Ten safeties in recent years, you have to think about guys like Bob Sanders, players who make an impact on every down and players who make highlight reels week in and week out with their efforts. The Big Ten usually has a pretty consistent contingent of high-impact safeties, something that could be seriously lacking in 2011.

ESPN Big Ten blogger Adam Rittenberg recently ranked the top safeties in the Big Ten, and I was quite surprised to see who topped his list, and just how poor this group of players is as it relates to some of the recent safeties to come out of the conference.

According to Rittenberg, the best safety in the Big Ten is Michigan State’s Trenton Robinson. Robinson is a fine player who had four interceptions to go along with 76 stops last season, but he was only a 2nd Team All-Big Ten selection. You mean to tell me he is the best safety in the entire conference?

The top rated Ohio State safety in this group is Tyler Moeller, who is coming off of an injury. Moeller barely played at all last season, yet he is ranked as the third best safety in the conference. Again, this is not a roast of Rittenberg’s rankings, but it’s quite eye opening that an injured player ranks third in the conference among two separate positions.

One other surprising ranking was Micah Hyde, a player who started for the Iowa Hawkeyes at cornerback last season, and is simply being tried out at safety this offseason due to the Hawkeyes losing both starters to the NFL and graduation.

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Penn State QB Rob Bolden has a Renewed Attitude; Ready to Start

It doesn’t seem like it was all that long ago that former four-star quarterback prospect Rob Bolden had publicly stated his desire to leave Penn State and pursue other football options.

Head coach Joe Paterno wasn’t about to let this one get away, and six months later, Bolden’s attitude has completely taken a 180 degree turn. The sophomore had a very up and down freshman campaign, one that resulted in him riding the bench in Penn State’s loss to Florida in January.

Bolden seemed fed up, but Frank Bodani of the York Daily Report got Bolden to open up on his progress this offseason:

“I’m totally different,” said Bolden, who became the first true freshman quarterback to start a season opener under Joe Paterno last September. "I felt like I was good coming out of high school and right now I feel like I have an opportunity.

“I’m watching film and getting better with those things. I feel like I’ve gotten a lot smarter. I feel like my arm’s a lot stronger. I’m a completely different guy from last year.”

The Nittany Lions are going to need Bolden to emerge as the leader of this team if they are going to contend for the Big Ten title any time soon. With a promising young running back in Silas Redd taking over the reins from school legend Evan Royster, this could be the year of the sophomore backfield at Penn State.

Bolden is taking advantage of his first full offseason as a member of this program. Not only is he watching film, he is dissecting it, trying to get better every day:

“I’m in the film room just about every day. I’ve watched every game from last year three or four times, trying to pick everybody’s brain so I can be better in the future.”

Bolden feels like he can lead the Nittany Lions this season, and perhaps he’s right. His development this offseason could be absolutely key to their season.

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Former Ohio State WR Duron Carter Transfers to Alabama Crimson Tide

After being one of the most sought after recruits in the summer of 2009, former Ohio State wide receiver and son of Buckeyes legend Cris Carter, Duron Carter, has recovered academically and will transfer to Alabama after spending a year at a Kansas Community College.

Carter is a 6’5" 210 pound receiver who will likely see early playing time with the Tide after the departure of top 10 pick Julio Jones.

While playing for Coffeyville Community College, Carter caught 44 passes for 690 yards and 10 touchdowns after being declared academically ineligible for the Buckeyes’ football program.

“I want to win a national championship,” Duron Carter said in April, “I believe in what Coach Saban and the players are doing. This is a great program.”

Carter will be eligible to play immediately, and will have two years of eligibility with the Crimson Tide so long as he keeps his grades in line.

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Interview With Ohio Native and Iowa Hawkeyes Freshman TE Ray Hamilton

I have recently had the priviledge of talking to NFL players, college players, NFL Draft hopefuls, and high school players. None has impressed quite like Iowa Hawkeyes tight end Ray Hamilton. It’s easy to see why a coaching staff like the one in Iowa City went after this young man in the heart of Ohio State country, and it’s clear from talking to him a while back that he is ecstatic about the opportunity to join forces with Iowa, and fill the shoes left by great tight ends in years past.

I asked Ray, a four star tight end prospect out of Ohio, what the recruiting process was like. As you can imagine, the demand for a player with his size, intangibles, and work ethic was very great.

RH: Well, in my freshman year–I was fortunate enough to start as a freshman. I sat down with my coach, and it maybe was not as quick, but as time progressed I had a ridiculous amount of offers, and I was very humbled by it. When Iowa came in, they were undefeated at the time I think going into the Northwestern game. I met with coach [Ken] O’Keefe (Iowa offensive coordinator) and they were having a heck of a season, and it definitely caught my eye. In the end though, committing to Iowa was not a hard decision to make.

As Ray prepares for the college game, you can imagine that the workouts are different. With Iowa’s strength and conditioning program being among the most prominent in college football for developing players physically, I asked Ray how the process has changed for him in the recent weeks.

RH: I’m doing a pretty intense workout. A very intense workout actually. Iowa sent me the workouts, and there’s a lot to do right now. I work out with the trainers we have here, and I’m in really good shape. I’m ready to take on the Iowa workout program. I’m looking forward to it. There’s not a better strength program in the country, and I just want to be the best player I can be.

The Iowa strength and conditioning program has been painted with a negative brush of late, but it hasn’t seemed to bother the incoming players. Ray said he is no different, but also offered that he didn’t know enough to comment about it. Still, it’s nothing he’s worried about.

RH: I put 110 percent of my trust in the Iowa coaches. Coach Doyle–once I met him I knew how good of a guy he was, and personally I don’t know enough about the situation to comment on it. I am ready to take on any challenge, and it’s not something I’m worried about at all.

Being that Iowa has been a "factory" for tight ends of sorts, I asked the prep star what he thought about that, and how it factored into his decision to become a Hawkeye.

RH: It absolutely was a factor in my decision. Any smart and educated recruit wants to see how each school best utilizes his position, and who offers the best opportunity to get on the field and get to the next level, which I certainly dream of doing someday. I don’t want to get too far ahead of myself though, the next step is Iowa, and I’ll be playing special teams first, just working hard to get into the tight end rotation, which is a great group of players.

There are also other great tight ends coming with me in this class, and like you said, a place like Iowa is a tight end factory with a great tradition. I actually spoke to [former Iowa TE and current Kansas City Chiefs TE] Tony Moeaki yesterday, and we talked about carrying the torch. There is no program better than Iowa for tight ends. He told me going there was the best decision he ever made, and I’m convinced it’s the best decision I’ve ever made.

Iowa has a great tradition from the fans to the players, and I asked Ray what wearing the Tiger Hawk on his helmet meant to him.

RH: Oh man, I can’t wait to play for Iowa. If there’s another recruit out there that’s more excited than me, I’d like to meet him. I see Kinnick at night, representing the community–Iowa football goes deeper than on the field. It’s such a great tradition with great coaches, players, etc. The whole state of Iowa is behind it.

You go anywhere in the country and you will find some die hard Hawk fans. They want to know every detail all the way down to the individual players from every recruiting class, and that was big for me. I love to embrace the fans, and show them the utmost respect.

Being in the heart of Ohio, Ray was amidst a large population of Buckeyes fans. He offers these words to those who disapprove of his decision to leave the state and play for the Hawkeyes:

RH: I’ve said it before in interviews, and I’ll say it again–If you don’t like it, leave it. I love Iowa. It may be Buck country here, but in this house, all I know is Iowa. Once I did my research, it was not a hard choice. Iowa was my choice 110 percent.

Ray is part of one of the better recruiting classes in recent history for the Hawkeyes, possibly rivaling the class of 2005. I asked Ray if there were any other recruits and future Hawkeyes who stood out to him on his visits or whenever he may have had the chance to meet them this offseason:

RH: On my visit, I got to spend a lot of time with Rodney Coe and John Raymon. Rodney is a very talented football player, and you could tell he was very excited. I kind of knew he was leaning toward Iowa just by the way he was acting. John Raymon is also a great talent, and a hard worker. It was a lot of fun to spend time with those guys.

I also spent time with Austin Blythe and Jordan Walsh at an All-Star game, and they are excellent players. Sometimes the linemen get overlooked, but when you look at Iowa, the heart and soul of the team has always been in the trenches. They are great additions to the Iowa program, and I got to watch the bowl game with them in the hotel, and spend a lot of time with them.

Now that Hamilton is a Hawkeye, he will be the recipient of passes from a new starting quarterback. James Vandenberg, an Iowa high school football legend, is expected to take over Ricky Stanzi’s starting spot as the signal caller. I asked Ray if he had the chance to meet "JVB" and what he thinks about catching passes from him in the future:

RH: I got a chance to meet JVB last year, introduce myself, and I got to watch him throw the ball a little bit. If he does win the job, I can’t wait to catch passes from him.

Ray mentioned that he will be starting his career on special teams, which can be an interesting transition for a star high school player. I asked him what he thought that transition would be like, almost starting at the bottom, so to speak:

RH: Wherever the coaches give me an opportunity on the field I am going to work my butt off. With my size, strength, and abilities, I can contribute and I’m going to give a ton of effort. You know, my high school days are over, and I’m gonna make a name for myself at Iowa. There’s always somebody behind you that wants your job, and like my dad says, there’s always someone who is going to be better than you, but nobody can out-work you.

If I use those abilities and I work really hard, get everything right off the field. Everything else will come.

Ray isn’t much for trash talk, and for a high school kid going into college, he actually had some very mature insight on the topic:

RH: We’ll do our talking on the field. I don’t want to get involved in bulletin board material–talk is cheap, so I’ll let our business on the field do the talking.

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