What you need to know ... The
starters should be excellent with enough experience and talent
returning to put up big numbers on everyone in the Big Ten.
However, things could go in the tank in a big hurry if there's a
massive rash of injuries with no experienced depth anywhere. The
starting five on the offensive line, which allowed a mere nine
sacks last year, should be among the best in the Big Ten, Kory
Sheets is a great looking young back, and Dorien Bryant and Kyle
Ingraham (assuming he's back after being suspended due to
academic problems) will form one of the league's best 1-2
receiving punches. Curtis Painter is a great running quarterback
who needs to fine-tune his mechanics. New offensive coordinator
Ed Zaunbrecher, formerly of Florida and Illinois, will do
wonders with the quarterbacks.
Passing: Curtis Painter
89-170, 932 yds, 3 TD, 5 INT
Rushing: Kory Sheets
127 carries, 664 yds, 5 TD
Receiving: Dorien Bryant
80 catches, 960 yds, 4 TD
Star of the offense: Junior WR Dorein Bryant
Player that has to step up and become a star: Junior QB
Unsung star on the rise: Junior TE Dustin Keller
Best pro prospect: Bryant
Top three all-star candidates: 1) Bryant, 2) OG Jordan
Grimes, 3) OT Sean Sester
Strength of the offense: Offensive line, starting 11
Weakness of the offense:
No depth whatsoever
It's Curtis Painter and hope for the best. Brandon Kirsch
was supposed to be the team's leader coming into the season, at
least that's how things looked going into 2005, but he was
benched halfway through the season and decided to enter the NFL
draft early. Painter is a better fit for the attack with his
mobility, and now he has to show he can be a consistent passer
who can put points on the board. The backup situation is dicey
at best with no experience whatsoever. New quarterback coach Ed
Zaunbrecher should get the most out of the young talent.
The key to the unit: Curtis Painter has to stay
healthy enough to allow the backups time to get some meaningful
Quarterback Rating: 6
- Curtis Painter, Soph. - 89-170, 52%, 932 yds, 3 TD, 5
INT, 52 carries, 251 yds, 4.8 ypc, 4 TD
With the season quickly going down the tubes after a 2-4 start,
the coaching staff made the switch from Brandon Kirsch to
Painter to get more out of the running game. While the 6-4,
228-pounder looked like a redshirt freshman throwing the ball,
he accomplished what the coaching staff wanted and ran the
option effectively. He has a live arm along with the size and
skills to be the perfect fit for the Tiller offense, and he's a
tremendous runner finishing third on the team with 251 yards
averaging 4.8 yards per crack. Improving his accuracy will be
the key to his season needing to get around the 60% mark while
making more big plays with his arm.
- Joey Elliott, RFr.
Known as a clutch passer in high school throwing for 7,797 yards
and 80 touchdowns at Evansville High in Indiana, the 6-3 slinger
is more of a dropback passer than a running quarterback like
Curtis Painter. Considering the shots Painter takes, Elliott
will have to be ready at a moment's notice.
Jerod Void is gone after
carrying the offense over the second half of last season, but
Kory Sheets appears ready to take over the starring role. He has
a bit more speed than Void and is productive enough to average
5.5 yards per carry last season. Now he has to play like the
number one back and be a consistent all-around runner. Anthony Heygood is a big back who'll add some more power to the mix, and
then there are question marks with no other backs with any
experience. JUCO transfer Jaycen Taylor could be used as a speed
back or as a receiver.
The key to the unit: Kory Sheets has to stay healthy
and depth has to develop in a big hurry.
Running Back Rating: 7
- Kory Sheets, Soph. - 104 carries, 571 yds, 5.5 ypc, 10
TD, 13 carries, 132 yds
Sheets turned into the speedy home-run hitter the running game
needed. While his workload decreased as the Big Ten season wore
on, he closed out with a flourish rushing for 137 yard and three
touchdowns against Indiana. He's a tough 199 pounds with a nose
for the end zone and an excellent burst through the line. He'll
be used more in the passing game.
- Anthony Heygood, Soph. - 9 carries, 36 yds, 4.0 ypc
More of a fullback than a true tailback, the 221-pounder saw
most of his time on special teams after getting most of his
carries early on against Akron. He's a physical back who should
grow into a good between-the-tackles option behind the speedy
- Jaycen Taylor, Soph
The JUCO transfer will get work both as a running back and a
receiver. He's not all that huge, but his 4.5 speed makes him a
dangerous threat every time he has the ball in his hands. He can
also be used as a kick returner.
Dorien Bryant is one of the Big Ten's most
dangerous receivers with the ability to crank out ten-catch
games without a problem, but there are big questions with the
receiving corps. Can 6-9 Kyle Ingraham get his grades back up
and get back on the team? Can QB Curtis Painter start to get his
targets the ball? Will any depth quickly develop? There's work
enough for everyone to get involved in the attack with Bryant
the clear number one target and enough good prospects to get
more out of the passing game. The tight end situation is fine
even after the loss of Charles Davis. Dustin Keller and Jerry
Wasikowski should be solid targets, especially in the red zone.
The key to the unit: Kyle Ingraham needs to come back
and be more of a threat around the goal line, Dorien Bryant has
to equal his 2005 production, and the backups have to prove they
can do more.
Receiver Rating: 8.5 (assuming Ingraham will return)
- Dorien Bryant, Jr. - 80 catches, 960 yds, 12 ypc, 4 TD
While there have been some tremendously productive receivers in
the Joe Tiller era, Bryant was the most heralded recruit and
arguably has the most talent. He had a better season than he got
credit for considering the shaky play of the quarterbacks, and
there wasn't a more dominant receiver in America over a three
game stretch when Bryant caught 40 passes for 421 yards and
three touchdowns against Notre Dame, Iowa and Northwestern. His
production tailed off once Curtis Painter took over, but he
was still a producer. While he's not huge, he's too quick to cover one on
- Kyle Ingraham, Sr. - 41 catches, 500 yds, 12.2 ypc
He wasn't technically on the team in spring ball having a
problem with his grades, and he still needs to get back in the
mix academically. He's expected to be back this fall to be one
of the Big Ten's toughest targets at 6-9 and 228 pounds with
enough speed to make big plays. He inexplicably didn't catch a
touchdown pass last season and did next to nothing once Curtis
Painter took over. Now he has to be used more around the goal
- Andre Chattams, Sr. - 17 catches, 178 yds, 10.5 ypc, 1
Chattams has been a steady reserve and spot starter throughout
his career coming through with his best season yet as a steady
third receiver. With Kyle Ingraham out due to his academic
issues, Chattams has gotten a chance to try to grow into the
number two job. He's a great athlete with the skills to be far
- Tight end Dustin Keller, Jr. - 13 catches, 128 yds, 9.8
ypc, 3 TD
Keller started to come on over the second half of last season as
a backup tight end behind Charles Davis as well as a good
special teamer. He's a former wide receiver with the hands and
moves to be one of the team's top targets and quickly replace
Davis's lost production. He should be especially strong in the
- Greg Orton, Soph. - 9 catches, 94 yds, 10.4 ypc
Orton showed good promise in his freshman season with steady
production over the back half of the year. He's 6-4 with good
deep speed and big-time upside. If Kyle Ingraham isn't able to
get back on the team, Orton will be a key starter.
- Desmond Tardy, Soph.
It's time to live up to the hype. He was a top high school
recruit who didn't do anything in his first season. He has the
size and the move to be a dangerous playmaker behind Dorien
- Byron Williams, Sr.
Williams has the size and the athleticism, but he hasn't done
anything so far in his career failing to catch a pass in four
appearances. Even so, the 6-3 senior will start out pushing for
time behind Andre Chattams.
- Tight end Jerry Wasikowski, Soph.
The former walk-on has mostly been used on special teams. He's a
high school quarterback and safety who bulked up and should be a
strong blocker behind Dustin Keller. He has the hands and enough
speed to make plays on midrange passes.
The starting five will be one of the best in the Big Ten,
but there's little to no experienced depth for a line that likes to
rotate players. The return of Uche Nwaneri from a year-long suspension
gives the line five returning starters from a group that allowed a mere
nine sacks and paved the way for 187 rushing yards per game. There are
three All-Big Ten candidates with tackles Mike Otto and Sean Sester and
guard Jordan Grimes forming the nucleus and center Robbie Powell moving
to center to provide even more stability.
The key to the unit: Get the same production as last
year from the starting five and quickly develop some depth.
Offensive Line Rating: 8.5
- OT Mike Otto, Sr.
The main veteran on the line with 36 straight starts, the 6-5, 304-pound
tackle had one of his best seasons yet turning into a rock in pass
protection. He should be in the mix for All-Big Ten honors.
- OG Uche Nwaneri, Sr.
Suspended all of last year, the 300-pound senior returns to his starting
spot on the left side where the former defensive line should be strong
now that he's in great shape. He'll be a crusher of a run blocker.
- C Robbie Powell, Jr.
The 6-5, 297-pound junior turned into one of the surprises of last
season starting every game at left guard and turning into a rock of a
pass blocker. With the return of Uche Nwaneri, Powell will move to
center where he appears to be more comfortable.
- OG Jordan Grimes, Jr.
One of the Big Ten's best run blockers, the 334-pound junior is a mauler
who earned All-Big Ten honors last season. He has good feet, but his
real strength is, well, his strength. He's too strong for most smaller
- OT Sean Sester, Soph.
One of the team's rising stars, the 6-8, 309-pound sophomore uses his
great reach and excellent athleticism to be a top pass blocker. He got
better as last year went on and should become something special now that
he knows what he's doing.
- OT Garret Miller, Soph.
The 6-8 Miller still has room to fill out his frame to get up to around
300 pounds, but the 279-pounder should still be a quality reserve at
left tackle behind Mike Otto.
- OT Eric Hedstrom, RFr.
One of the team's most talented prospects on the line, the 6-7,
295-pound redshirt freshman was a top recruit who needs playing time
behind Sean Sester to grow into a potential starter for next year.