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Handpicked Highlights: August 3

Tim Cary

It's been a busy day in Big Ten news, and with that, we introduce Handpicked Highlights, a roundup of the biggest and best stories around the conference.

1.  O'Brien Watch List released.  The 2009 Davey O'Brien National Quarterback Award honors the nation's best quarterback, and the selection committee has released 33 names of players to watch for "quarterback skills and athletic ability, academics, reputation as a team player, character, leadership, and sportsmanship."
NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Ohio State vs Texas
As you see below, Big Ten quarterbacks Daryll Clark, Terrelle Pryor, Adam Weber, and Juice Williams are all featured on the list.  Although Pryor was the media pick as Preseason Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year, I'd probably go with Juice Williams as the league's most likely O'Brien winner. 
Northwestern vs. Illinois
He has the potential to put numbers up both in the air and on the ground, and when the dust settles, a lot of these awards come down to best (or sometimes even "most gaudy") numbers.

My darkhorse candidate from the Big Ten would have to be Clark, who doesn't get enough credit for the Lions sharing the 2008 conference title.  The Penn State signal-caller threw for 2,592 yards and 19 touchdowns a year ago.
NCAA FOOTBALL: 95th Rose Bowl JAN 01

2.  Michigan State snags a pair of recruits.  Spartan fans are abuzz over Dantonio picking up verbal commitments from defensive end Marcus Rush (Cincinnati, OH) and punter Mike Sadler (Grand Rapids, MI).  According to the Detroit Free Press, that brings Dantonio's 2010 class to an even dozen.

Sadler has been referred to as possibly "the best left-footed punter in the country" according to ESPN's website, (hat tip,, while Marcus Rush hails from current Spartan standout Greg Jones' high school, Cincinnati Moeller (not an all-bad sign for the future Green and White defense!).

The good news for Michigan State is bad news for fellow conference rivals: sounds like at the least, Sadler had offers from Purdue and Northwestern while Rush was considering Michigan.

3.  Mixed news in Buckeye roster-land.  While freshman Jamaal Berry appears to be getting his drug possession charges dropped, things don't look quite as sunny for wide receiver Ray Small and defensive end Rob Rose. reported today that both players' scholarship aid has been pulled due to apparent academic issues.  However, ESPN's Adam Rittenberg quotes an OSU spokeswoman as saying that "Small's status has not changed" and "[he] is expected to report with the rest of the team Sunday for camp."
NCAA Football: Ohio State vs. Michigan NOV 22
The potential loss of Small could be crucial for an Ohio State squad already thin at receiver.  Big plays on offense have become commonplace for the Bucks as they've dominated the conference over the past few years, but those big-names (Santonio Holmes, Ted Ginn, Brian Hartline, Brian Robiskie, etc.) are all gone.  Small looked to have every opportunity to become one of the home-run hitters for Terrelle Pryor, but Buckeye fans will now have to wait anxiously to see if he's even part of the 2009 squad.

4.  Pizza is taking over the world.  According to the Detroit Free Press, Little Caesars may be the new title sponsor of the Motor City Bowl.  The paper even quotes bowl CEO George Perles as suggesting "Little Caesars Pizza, Pizza Bowl" as a possible (if unlikely name).

Sometimes the punch lines just write themselves, don't they?  As if something like the Orange Orange Bowl or the Cotton Cotton Bowl would be taken seriously.  (Then again, I guess we beg the question of whether the Motor City Bowl was taken all that seriously before.)  Bottom line, Little Caesars can sponsor whatever bowl game they want, but let's make them pay twice as much money if they're going to stick pizza in the title twice, alright?

5.  Chris "Beanie" Wells is injured.  The former Ohio State tailback sprained his right ankle in the Arizona Cardinals' first training camp practice of the year.  Wait, never mind, Beanie Wells being injured isn't even news anymore.  My mistake...

That's it for the first edition of "Handpicked Highlights".  Don't forget to follow us on Twitter at @FirstandBigTen for all the latest news from the Big Ten football world.




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