Braylon Edwards told The Detroit News that his original tweet criticizing Michigan on Saturday night was “excessive” and it was a mistake to call out players by name, but said he stands by his message.
Edwards was criticized by Michigan coach Jim Harbaugh on Monday for his tweet and then suspended indefinitely by the Big Ten Network. Edwards tweeted an apology on Monday but went into further details in an interview with The Detroit News, including that he was drinking when he posted his original tweets, which were later deleted.
“I admit I was excessive and emotional and inebriated. Mix those together. But the focus of my tweets remains intact. I stand by that. I was over-excessive Saturday night at 10:29, but I don’t back down on my overall stance as an alum and a fan. I’ve always defended Michigan. Even this year, I was high on Michigan,” he told the newspaper.
In his tweets on Saturday night after the Wolverines lost 24-17 to Notre Dame, Edwards, a former All-America wide receiver at Michigan, criticized offensive lineman Cesar Ruiz, calling him “weak,” and said Michigan quarterback Shea Patterson is “scared.” Edwards went on to tweet, “f—ing Michigan offense so predictable … Michigan football is sadly one thing … Trash.”
Edwards told The Detroit News he plans to reach out to Ruiz and Patterson through his brother, Berkley Edwards, who is a running back on the Wolverines. He said former Wolverines coach Lloyd Carr “called me out in the media” and he realizes now he shouldn’t have done the same to Ruiz and Patterson.
“I’m a man. We make mistakes. I’m sorry. I should not have gone that way. I still agree with the overall message — what do we do now (as a program)? But I apologize — shouldn’t name individual players. They’re still kids. That’s what I apologize for,” he told the newspaper.
As the 2018 season gets underway in earnest this week, it’s time to break out the crystal ball and predict the College Football Playoff field and eventual champion. It’s no surprise that Alabama and Clemson dominate these lists from our 42 experts, but some picks are sure to surprise (hello, Michigan!).
University of Michigan men’s basketball coach John Beilein underwent successful double bypass surgery, according to a university release.
Beilein, 65, will be in the hospital for a few more days before returning home to recover. Assistant coach Saddi Washington will coach the team in place of Beilein during their upcoming trip to Italy.
“Coach Beilein underwent a two-vessel coronary bypass graft surgery Monday morning,” said Francis D. Pagani, M.D., Ph.D., the doctor who performed Beilein’s surgery, in a statement. “The procedure is designed to improve blood flow to the heart, by taking a healthy artery or vein from another part of the body and grafting it to the obstructed coronary artery. The operation went well, and we expect him to make a full recovery and be back to his usual activities within a few weeks.”
“I feel grateful and blessed that this surgery was performed at the University of Michigan,” Beilein said in the statement. “Kathleen, and our family appreciate all of the world-class care that was provided for us. Dr. Kim Eagle, Dr. Francis Pagani, Dr. Stanley Chetcuti and all of their staffs at the Frankel Cardiovascular Center are so talented and performed like champions over this past week. I am going to work very hard in my rehabilitation to be stronger than ever by the time practice begins for this upcoming season.”
Who will be the best college football players in 2018? Sure, there will be plenty of representation from Alabama and Clemson — a list-high five players apiece — and a load of quarterbacks.
But it all starts up front with a game-wrecking Group of 5 defensive tackle. Not only does Houston’s Ed Oliver top most NFL draft boards, he leads the way here.
And remember, this is about what players will do in 2018, not what they’ve done to this point. So you’ll find Tua Tagovailoa high on this list, as well as breakout candidates like Georgia RB D’Andre Swift and Clemson WR Tee Higgins.
No true freshmen made the list, so check out our list of instant-impact first-year players here. And what fun is a list like this without some heated debate? Check out our roundtable on snubs, who’s overrated and underrated and which Group of 5 players deserved more love.
To get the final ranking, we had our expert panel vote on pairs of players. Bryce Love vs. Christian Wilkins. Trace McSorley vs. Jonathan Taylor. We asked, “Which player will be better in 2018?” To decide, voters had to consider both the quality and the quantity of each player’s contributions to his team’s ability to win games.
1. ED OLIVER DT, Houston Class: Junior Key stat: Currently No. 1 on Mel Kiper’s 2019 Big Board
The last defensive lineman to finish in the top five of the Heisman voting was Nebraska’s Ndamukong Suh in 2009. The unblockable Oliver could replicate Suh’s feat on the way to potentially becoming the No. 1 overall pick in the 2019 NFL draft.
2. BRYCE LOVE RB, Stanford Class: Senior Key stat: 2,118 rushing yards in 2017
The speedster is just the third player in college football history to return to school after rushing for 2,000-plus yards and has a chance to become the first Heisman Trophy runner-up to win the award the following year since Georgia’s Herschel Walker in 1982.
3. WILL GRIER QB, West Virginia Class: Senior Key stat: Threw for 3,490 yards in 2017
Arguably the top returning quarterback in the country, Grier was second nationally in passing touchdowns and third in passing yards before breaking a finger last season. Armed with one of the top receiving corps in the country, Grier’s recently launched Heisman campaign could be a viable one.
There’s so much talent on Clemson’s roster, it’s hard to pick one player as the team’s best, but there’s no question about who the heart and soul of the locker room is. That’s Wilkins, a senior defensive tackle who does everything from rushing the passer to catching passes on special teams to ensuring the rest of the group is out on the field early for offseason workouts. Wilkins’ return to the defense this season was a surprise to many, but the truth is, the guy loves playing college football, and he has a chance to make his mark as one of the Tigers’ all-time greats.
5. DEXTER LAWRENCE DT, Clemson Class: Junior Key stat: No. 9 in Todd McShay’s way-too-early mock draft
You don’t need to watch much film to see how fearsome Lawrence is at blowing up the pocket or annihilating a run play. But the truly scary thing is, we’ve yet to really see Lawrence at his best. In 2016, he was a true freshman playing behind veterans on the line. He got a lot of work, but he was still refining his craft. Last year, injuries plagued Lawrence’s season, and while he did his best to stay on the field and make an impact, it was clear he wasn’t 100 percent. In 2018, we might finally get to see what a monster Lawrence can be when he’s clicking on all cylinders, and that’s bad news for the rest of the ACC.
6. NICK BOSA DE, Ohio State Class: Junior Key stat: 8.5 sacks in 2017
The younger Bosa’s first two seasons have been a step ahead of the trajectory his All-American brother, Joey, took before getting drafted in the first round after three years at Ohio State. That bodes well as Nick heads into a junior year where he’ll be the top pass-rusher on a reloaded defensive line. Bosa’s balance, technique, speed and tendency to never give up on a play make him nearly impossible to stop.
7. JONATHAN TAYLOR RB, Wisconsin Class: Sophomore Key stat: Averaged 6.6 yards per carry in 2017
By breaking Adrian Peterson’s FBS freshman rushing record with 1,977 yards, Taylor put himself on the national radar last year. Don’t be surprised if he tops his 2017 performance after a full season in the program and running behind arguably the nation’s best offensive line. He has speed, power and durability, recording 10 100-yard performances and three 200-yard performances on 299 carries.
8. RASHAN GARY DL, Michigan Class: Junior Key stat: No. 3 on Mel Kiper Jr.’s Big Board
One of several talented juniors on Michigan’s defense, Gary has great speed and impeccable footwork for a 285-pound pass-rusher. He approached offseason workouts with renewed focus, which should help him keep pace with the high expectations he created the past two seasons and as the No. 1-ranked prospect coming out of high school.
9. TRACE MCSORLEY QB, Penn State Class: Senior Key stat: Threw for 3,570 yards and 28 TDs in 2017
Those lamenting the departure of Saquon Barkley seem to forget the Heisman Trophy contender still in Happy Valley. McSorley has won big at every level of his career. He matured into an accurate, reliable field leader last year after filling the highlight reel in 2016. After throwing 59 touchdown passes, McSorley could become the best statistical quarterback in PSU history.
10. JARRETT STIDHAM QB, Auburn Class: Junior Key stat: Threw for 3,158 yards last season
After a somewhat slow start to his first season at Auburn, the former Baylor transfer still threw for 3,158 yards and 18 touchdowns. With a year under his belt and more control at the line of scrimmage, his numbers could climb.
11. TUA TAGOVAILOA QB, Alabama Class: Sophomore Key stat: Zero career college starts
It was a small sample size but a memorable one. After appearing only in mop-up duty during the regular season, Tagovailoa saved the day as a true freshman in the title game against Georgia, entering at halftime to throw three touchdowns, including the winner in a 26-23 overtime victory.
12. CLELIN FERRELL DE, Clemson Class: Junior Key stat: No. 3 on Mel Kiper Jr.’s DE underclassmen rankings
After a breakout finale to the 2016 season, Ferrell became a household name as a sophomore in 2017, finishing the year with 9.5 sacks, 18 tackles for loss, seven QB hurries and two forced fumbles. He’s a high-motor rusher off the edge, and his instincts for the position make him arguably the most dangerous pass-rusher on a line absolutely loaded with NFL talent.
13. DAMIEN HARRIS RB, Alabama Class: Senior Key stat: 7.4 yards per carry in 2017
He flies under the radar sometimes, but all Harris has done in each of the past two seasons is rush for 1,000 yards. During his senior season, he could climb up the chart for career rushing yards at Alabama.
When Herbert was on the field last season, Oregon was one of the most dangerous offenses in the country (the Ducks scored 49.1 points and averaged 516.5 yards per game in his eight starts). If he plays to his potential this year, an early departure to the NFL might loom.
15. JAKE BROWNING QB, Washington Class: Senior Key stat: Has thrown for 9,104 yards in three years
After finishing sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting and leading the Huskies to the playoff in 2016, Browning wasn’t nearly as productive in 2017, but the senior is a primary reason Washington is viewed as the best team on the West Coast.
16. NICK FITZGERALD QB, Mississippi State Class: Junior Key stat: Had both 100 rushing and passing yards in six 2017 games
One of the first things Joe Moorhead did when he got the job as head coach at Mississippi State was to call his starting quarterback to tell him to make room for a Heisman Trophy. While Fitzgerald might fly under the radar on Heisman lists, with 66 combined touchdowns (36 passing, 30 rushing) the past two seasons, he has some serious production already under his belt.
17. RAEKWON DAVIS DL, Alabama Class: Junior Key stat: Projected first-round pick by Todd McShay
Da’Ron Payne was the anchor of the Alabama defense last season, but now it’s another 300-pounder’s turn. Davis, a lean 6-7 and 306 pounds, enters the spotlight after earning All-SEC honors last season by posting 69 tackles, 10 of which were for a loss.
18. DAVID SILLS V WR, West Virginia Class: Senior Key stat: Tied for FBS lead with 18 TD receptions
A finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, Sills led the country with 18 touchdown receptions in his first season as a full-time wide receiver. Because of added depth to West Virginia’s receiving corps, Sills might not replicate that gaudy touchdown number. But the former quarterback figures to be even better with a season of experience playing receiver behind him.
19. KHALIL TATE QB, Arizona Class: Junior Key stat: Set FBS QB single-game rushing record with 327 against Colorado
Arguably the most exciting player to watch in the country, Tate enters the season as a legitimate Heisman Trophy contender under new coach Kevin Sumlin. Though he’s known more as a runner, Tate’s ability as a passer should not go overlooked — he throws one of the best deep balls in the country.
20. MCKENZIE MILTON QB, UCF Class: Junior Key stat: Threw for 494 yards to 2OT win over Memphis
UCF has begun the Heisman pitch for its star quarterback, after a sophomore season in which he set single-season school records for passing yards (4,037), passing touchdowns (37) and rushing yards by a quarterback (613). Hopes are high for UCF to keep its forward momentum going with Milton back behind center.
21. CAM AKERS RB, Florida State Class: Sophomore Key stat: Ran for career-high 199 yards against Syracuse
Last season, Akers broke Florida State’s single-season freshman rushing record with 1,024 yards, but the expectations are even higher this season. And those expectations come from Akers himself. Already a preseason All-ACC selection, one of Akers’ goals this season is to rush for 2,000 yards. The other is to win a championship.
The new leader of Michigan’s stacked defense had a team-high 102 tackles and five sacks in his first season as a starter. Good instincts and a fearsome attitude will make Bush the tone-setting centerpiece for another fast, aggressive group in Ann Arbor.
23. J.K. DOBBINS RB, Ohio State Class: Sophomore Key stat: Rushed for 1,403 yards in 2017
Ohio State fans want to see more of Dobbins, who last fall averaged 7.2 yards a carry and 100.2 yards per game despite only 13.9 carries per game. Mike Weber is still in Columbus, but Dobbins should move into more of a featured role. He had a team-high 16 plays from scrimmage of 20 yards or longer last season.
24. AUSTIN BRYANT DE, Clemson Class: Senior Key stat: Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 4 senior DE
There was a play against Virginia Tech last season that perfectly illustrated why Bryant is the unsung hero of Clemson’s elite defensive line. He was lined up in coverage, split wide against the Hokies’ speedy receiver Sean Savoy on a fourth-down play. A swing pass to Savoy was caught and immediately blown up by Bryant, who converged with his 270-pound frame to drop Savoy for a 5-yard loss. That’s an astonishing amount of athleticism for a guy considered the fourth-best defensive lineman on his own team.
25. SHEA PATTERSON QB, Michigan Class: Junior Key stat: Threw for 2,259 yards before season-ending injury
The former Ole Miss starter is now the preordained savior in Ann Arbor. Patterson’s ability to extend and make plays will — provided he wins the starting job — give Jim Harbaugh’s staff a weapon it has not had under center at Michigan. Wolverine faithful are hoping he’s the missing piece to a Big Ten title run.
26. A.J. BROWN WR, Ole Miss Class: Junior Key stat: Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 1 underclass receiver
Arguably the best pro prospect at his position, Brown caught 72 passes for 1,252 yards and 11 touchdowns as a sophomore last year. Brown also eclipsed 100 receiving yards six times, with five of those resulting in him gaining at least 150 yards. At 6-foot-1, 225 pounds, Brown can outmuscle just about any defensive back.
White probably will be the first linebacker taken in next year’s NFL draft, and for good reason. In just his second season with the Tigers, he collected 133 tackles and 4.5 sacks in 2017. The sideline-to-sideline linebacker registered double-digit tackles in eight of 13 games last year.
28. MYLES GASKIN RB, Washington Class: Senior Key stat: 4,055 career rushing yards over three seasons
Gaskin is already the school’s all-time touchdowns leader (45) and has a chance to become the first Pac-12 player and 10th in FBS history to rush for 1,000 yards in four seasons. He enters the season with 4,055 rushing yards.
He’s 6-4 and 310 pounds, but he’s nimble, reportedly having just 15 percent body fat. He already has found the end zone twice, and last season racked up a whopping 41 quarterback pressures, earning first team All-SEC honors from the league’s coaches.
30. JAKE FROMM QB, GEORGIA Class: Sophomore Key stat: Threw for 2,699 yards in leading UGA to title game
He has been somewhat overshadowed by Tua Tagovailoa’s emergence in the title game and No. 1 recruit Justin Fields’ arrival on campus, but Fromm deserves to stand on his own. As a true freshman, all he did was throw 24 touchdowns and only seven interceptions, leading the Bulldogs to within an overtime of a national championship.
31. JONAH WILLIAMS OL, Alabama Class: Junior Key stat: Crimson Tide rushed for 3,509 yards in 2017
There’s a reason he has started from day one. Already at 29 career starts, Williams won a spot on the SEC All-Freshman team in 2016 and followed that up with third team AP All-America honors last season. The right tackle has been one of the most consistent linemen on the roster, proficient in the run game as well as pass protection.
32. DWAYNE HASKINS QB, Ohio State Class: Sophomore Key stat: Completed 40 of 57 passes in 2017
J.T. Barrett’s 50-game run in Columbus is over, and the Haskins era begins this fall. Haskins impressed in relief of Barrett last year at Michigan Stadium, rallying the Buckeyes past their archrival. The strong-armed sophomore steps into the featured role for an offense loaded with options at the skill positions.
33. D’ANDRE SWIFT RB, Georgia Class: Sophomore Key stat: 618 rushing yards on only 81 carries in 2017
With longtime backs Sony Michel and Nick Chubb gone, it’s Swift’s turn in the spotlight. In a supporting role last season, the sophomore showed flashes of big-play ability, averaging 7.8 yards per touch (rushing and receiving).
34. LEVONTA TAYLOR CB, Florida State Class: Junior Key stat: Recorded two interceptions against rival Florida
Taylor came into his own last season in his first year as a starter, and goes into 2018 as one of the best cover cornerbacks in the ACC. Thanks to several key departures, including Derwin James, Taylor is now the veteran among the group and will be asked to anchor a unit that has the potential for a big year.
It went largely unnoticed as Missouri struggled to find its footing last season, but its quarterback shined throughout, finishing just 36 yards shy of 4,000 yards passing. He didn’t miss the mark, though, when he set an SEC record for passing touchdowns in a single season with 44.
36. A.J. DILLON RB, Boston College Class: Sophomore Key stat: Rushed for 895 yards in final five games of 2017
Here are the numbers for Dillon from his true freshman season: 1,589 yards, 14 touchdowns, five straight games with at least 149 yards to end the season. That’s all pretty good, but don’t forget he wasn’t even Boston College’s starting running back until Week 5. So when Dillon says he has a lot he can still improve upon, that’s a frightening thought, and he’s the biggest reason there’s real enthusiasm about Boston College’s chances for a big season in 2018.
37. GREEDY WILLIAMS CB, LSU Class: Sophomore Key stat: No. 6 pick in Todd McShay’s way-too-early draft
Williams’ nickname fits him perfectly. He’s coming off of a sophomore year in which he led the SEC with six interceptions and was second in the league with 17 passes defended. Arguably the best cover corner in the SEC — and maybe beyond — the first-team All-SEC member is getting tons of All-America attention this season. Williams is a rangy, big-bodied corner who absolutely sticks to receivers but isn’t afraid to lay the lumber.
Having signed with the Oakland Athletics for $4.7 million over the summer, Murray now faces the enormous task of replacing Heisman winner and No. 1 overall NFL draft pick Baker Mayfield. The Sooners, however, are loaded around the quarterback on offense again. And Murray, a former five-star recruit, has the talent to propel Oklahoma back into the CFP.
39. GREG LITTLE OL, Ole Miss Class: Junior Key stat: No. 4 pick in Todd McShay’s way-too-early mock draft
Perhaps the most talented offensive lineman in the SEC, Little has a chance to play his way into the first round of next year’s NFL draft. The former freshman All-America and Outland Trophy watch list member is tasked with protecting the blind side of Rebels QB Jordan Ta’amu.
40. TEE HIGGINS WR, Clemson Class: Sophomore Key stat: No. 18 prospect in 2017 recruiting class
Clemson’s sophomore receiver said he grew up idolizing former Georgia star A.J. Green, and that’s fitting. Higgins is a carbon copy. At 6-4, 200 pounds, Higgins is an imposing target, and his long strides and quick breaks make him nearly impossible to defend. He came on strong late last season before an injury derailed his Sugar Bowl, but he utterly owned the field during Clemson’s spring game and appears poised to become one of the ACC’s best players in 2018.
41. DERRICK BROWN DL, Auburn Class: Junior Key stat: No. 15 pick in Todd McShay’s way-too-early mock draft
Those at Auburn believe they have the most talented defensive line in the country, and it starts in the middle with Brown. The 6-5, 325-pound defensive tackle is a run-stuffer who can also get into the backfield, as evidenced by his four sacks and 9.5 tackles for loss.
42. DAVID EDWARDS OL, Wisconsin Class: Junior Key stat: No. 19 pick in Todd McShay’s way-too-early mock draft
This mainstay on Wisconsin’s offensive line during the past two seasons started his career as a tight end before bulking up to play tackle. He was as good of a blindside protector as anyone in the Big Ten last year and is part of the talented and massive group that paves the way for Heisman candidate Jonathan Taylor.
The Badgers are replacing seven starters on defense, which makes Edwards an essential player for their continued success. He was a Butkus Award finalist last year after making 81 tackles in the middle of one the nation’s most stingy defenses. He, Ryan Connelly and Chris Orr should make the linebacker spot a huge strength for Wisconsin.
44. RODNEY ANDERSON RB, Oklahoma Class: Junior Key stat: Rushed for more than 110 yards in 6 of last 8 games
After taking over Oklahoma’s starting running back job early last October, Anderson led the country in yards from scrimmage, culminating with more than 200 rushing yards in the Rose Bowl. Anderson and speedy quarterback Kyler Murray could form a devastating rushing combination out of the Sooners backfield.
45. MONTEZ SWEAT DE, Mississippi State Class: Senior Key stat: Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 3 senior DE
The second of Mississippi State’s two first team All-SEC defensive linemen, Sweat is as good a pass-rusher as there is in the conference. Last season, the 6-6, 241-pounder tied for the SEC lead in sacks and tackles for loss.
Winovich built on a solid 2016 season by boosting many of his key stats, from tackles for loss (9.5 to 18) to sacks (5 to 8) to forced fumbles (1 to 2). The first-team All-Big Ten selection bypassed the NFL draft for one more shot at a Big Ten title as he joins fellow All-America candidate Rashan Gary on Michigan’s line.
47. DEEBO SAMUEL WR, South Carolina Class: Senior Key stat: Mel Kiper Jr.’s No. 1 senior WR
Injuries cut Samuel’s 2017 season short, but according to coach Will Muschamp, he was one of the most explosive players in college football when healthy. A true all-purpose player, he can catch passes, rush the football and make a difference in the return game. In only three games last season, he scored six touchdowns.
Quarterman has started every game he has played at Miami (26). Going into his junior season, he has the potential for an All-America type season. The heart of the Hurricanes’ defense, Quarterman had 83 tackles a year ago and picked up the most votes among linebackers on the preseason All-ACC team.
Injuries have been an issue at times, but when he’s on the field he’s a productive playmaker, dating to his eye-popping hits on special teams as a freshman. Last season the gifted inside linebacker had 40 tackles, and despite being used mostly in a reserve role, he led the team with four interceptions.
Nobody really calls him Devin. They call him “Motor,” a nickname from his dad, but it is fitting given the way he plays. Singletary led all FBS players with 32 rushing touchdowns last year, and rushed for 1,920 yards — fourth in the nation. He needs 589 yards this season to set the school career rushing mark.
Writeups by Andrea Adelson, Edward Aschoff, Kyle Bonagura, David M. Hale, Dan Murphy, Adam Rittenberg, Alex Scarborough, Jake Trotter
Now that fall practice is starting and we’re less than a month away from real, live college football, it’s time to get riled up by preseason polls.
The Amway Coaches Poll was released Thursday afternoon and featured the usual suspects — Alabama, Clemson, Ohio State — at the top. Michigan State was voted No. 12 and Michigan came in two spots behind at No. 14.
The Spartans and Wolverines were two of the five Big Ten teams selected in the top 15, along with Ohio State (3), Wisconsin (7) and Penn State (9). Northwestern also received votes.
Looking ahead, Michigan State will play three ranked opponents this season and Michigan will face five, including the season opener in South Bend against No. 11 Notre Dame.
The Big Ten, SEC and Big 12 each had five teams voted into the poll, while the ACC had four and the PAC-12 had three. University of Central Florida, the self-proclaimed “national champions,” were ranked No. 23.
Others receiving votes: South Carolina 138, Florida 135, Oregon 105, Utah 81, Texas A&M 67, Northwestern 67, Kansas State 35, Florida Atlantic 27, Memphis 23, Boston College 23, NC State 22, Arkansas State 19, Troy 19, Appalachian State 16, San Diego State 15, Kentucky 8, Iowa State 8, Iowa 8, Washington State 7, South Florida 6, Duke 5, Fresno State 4, Louisville 3, Arizona 2, Houston 2, Army 1, Northern Illinois 1
Urban Meyer and the Buckeyes have reloaded and are our early pick to defend their title as Big Ten champions. Here are ESPN.com’s preseason Big Ten power rankings:
1. Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes finished atop the Big Ten last season and are returning 15 total starters from last season’s team. Quarterback Dwayne Haskins showed promise in his limited time, completing 40 of his 57 passes and throwing four touchdowns in the process. Haskins has an opportunity to shine this season and help lead Ohio State back to the conference championship game. Nick Bosa should help lead a defense that lost quite a bit to the NFL, but defensive backs Kendall Sheffield, Jeffrey Okudah and Jordan Fuller should all be poised to take on bigger roles and pick up the slack in the secondary.
2. Wisconsin Badgers
The Badgers lose some big contributors on defense, including Conor Sheehy, Derrick Tindal and Natrell Jamerson, but there is still a lot left to like. After finishing 13-1 last season, with the only loss to Ohio State in the conference championship game, quarterback Alex Hornibrook returns some of his bigger weapons, including running back Jonathan Taylor. The sophomore broke records last season and finished third in rushing yards behind only Rashaad Penny and Bryce Love. Taylor will have his entire offensive line returning to help propel his rushing stats even further this season, and potentially help launch the Badgers back to the league title game.
3. Penn State Nittany Lions
This was an interesting offseason for head coach James Franklin as he saw star running back Saquon Barkley get drafted No. 2 overall, his offensive coordinator and running backs coach leave for Mississippi State and his wide receivers coach leave for Alabama. On top of that, the Nittany Lions lose eight defensive starters, including linebacker Jason Cabinda and defensive backs Grant Haley, Marcus Allen and Troy Apke. But Franklin and staff have recruited so well the past few years that there is talent on the depth chart that should be able to come in and fill those gaps. Young stars such as Miles Sanders, Justin Shorter and Micah Parsons can rise fast and help keep Penn State among the Big Ten’s best programs.
4. Michigan State Spartans
This one might cause some debate between Spartans and Wolverines, but Michigan State loses only four total starters from last season. That team had 10 wins and brings back one of the more important pieces in quarterback Brian Lewerke. All of Lewerke’s offensive weapons are coming back, and the Spartans are really only replacing center Brian Allen on the offensive side. Defensively, linebacker Joe Bachie and defensive back Josiah Scott should be able to build off strong 2017 campaigns, which will make Michigan State tough to beat in 2018.
5. Michigan Wolverines
The Wolverines once again have the talent to contend for a Big Ten title, but four years into the Jim Harbaugh era they have to start proving it on the field before they climb any higher in the rankings. The defense returns bona fide NFL prospects at all three levels and should once again be good enough to keep any game close. Ole Miss transfer Shea Patterson — the front-runner to take over at quarterback — and some new blood on the coaching staff will be tasked with jump-starting an offense that struggled in 2017.
6. Northwestern Wildcats
Clayton Thorson returns as the Big Ten’s most experienced quarterback, but he’ll have to up his game without his old backfield partner and the Wildcats’ all-time leading rusher, Justin Jackson. If the coaching staff finds a way to replace a couple of big losses in the secondary, Northwestern’s defense should have the strength to dictate field position and the pace of many of its games. Pat Fitzgerald’s program has averaged nine wins in each of the past three seasons and should remain a team to be wary of in 2018.
7. Iowa Hawkeyes
The steady Hawkeyes finished last season in third place in the West, and that’s where they start 2018. Leading rusher Akrum Wadley is gone, as are three fast, veteran linebackers, headlined by All-American Josey Jewell. This season’s Iowa team will have to lean more on its deep defensive line and its passing game. Nathan Stanley returns at quarterback and has a pair of sturdy tight ends (Noah Fant and T.J. Hockenson) to serve as a good foundation for moving the ball through the air.
8. Nebraska Cornhuskers
Scott Frost’s arrival makes the Cornhuskers one of the country’s most interesting teams to watch at the start of the season. With a first-year starter at quarterback (redshirt freshman Tristan Gebbia and freshman Adrian Martinez are front-runners in the upcoming training-camp battle), it might take some time for the talent level and the understanding of Frost’s new offense to match the level of excitement in Lincoln. Not to mention that the new staff got saddled with having to play Ohio State, Michigan State and Michigan from the East this fall. Playmakers like Stanley Morgan Jr. and JD Spielman make Nebraska a dangerous opponent for schools with title hopes.
9. Purdue Boilermakers
Jeff Brohm did a remarkable job getting Purdue to a bowl game — and a bowl victory — in Year 1. Momentum is building in Boiler Country, and Brohm’s offense once again should be fun and productive. Quarterbacks Elijah Sindelar and David Blough both return from major injuries, along with a deep running backs group and wideout Jackson Anthrop. But Purdue lost almost all of its top contributors on defense, a vastly underrated unit that became stingy in Big Ten play and helped the team to bowl eligibility. Purdue will score a lot, but it also probably will give up a lot unless it can build around lineman Lorenzo Neal Jr. and linebacker Markus Bailey.
10. Indiana Hoosiers
Tom Allen’s first season as Hoosiers coach featured four single-digit losses and no bowl game. To close the gap, Allen will rely on young players, particularly with a defense returning only four starters and just one in the front seven. Allen is a terrific defensive coach, but the personnel situation will test him. Indiana has some nice pieces on offense with running back Morgan Ellison and wide receivers Luke Timian and Nick Westbrook, who returns from an ACL tear after a 54-catch season in 2016. The immediate question is quarterback as Peyton Ramsey, who started four games last season and will compete with Arizona graduate transfer Brandon Dawkins and others for the starting job.
11. Minnesota Golden Gophers
The Gophers probably will get younger this season, as P.J. Fleck wants to get an upgraded recruiting class into the mix sooner than later. Fleck is playing the long game at Minnesota, which was exposed for much of Big Ten play last fall. The Gophers need to build their passing game behind a yet-to-be-determined new quarterback (Tanner Morgan or Zack Annexstad) after finishing 121st nationally in pass offense last fall. Senior running back Rodney Smith is a reliable producer, and the defensive backfield should be a strength with Antoine Winfield Jr. returning from a hamstring issue. But Minnesota might be a year away from a substantial step forward.
12. Maryland Terrapins
A promising start disintegrated in coach D.J. Durkin’s second season last fall as injuries at quarterback took a huge toll — first with the loss of Tyrrell Pigrome in the season-opening victory over Texas and then when Kasim Hill went down in Week 4. They’re both back, as is Max Bortenschlager, who started eight games in 2017. Much-traveled Matt Canada is in as offensive coordinator. Defensively, the Terps might get a boost from high-profile transfers Byron Cowart and Marcus Lewis, formerly of Auburn and Florida State, respectively.
13. Rutgers Scarlet Knights
The Scarlet Knights enter camp after the recent dismissal of two key players on defense amid a potential scandal involving a reported credit-card scam that could derail this season before it starts. Third-year coach Chris Ash brings back some talent on defense, led by senior linebacker Deonte Roberts, and might start a true freshman at QB in Artur Sitkowski, once pledged to Miami (Fla.). Aside from a Week 2 visit to Ohio State, the early schedule is manageable ahead of a brutal stretch in November.
14. Illinois Fighting Illini
Things went from bad in coach Lovie Smith’s first season to worse in his second year with the Illini. That is the nature of a complete rebuild, but patience will wear thin if Illinois fails to show notable improvement this fall with a youthful roster that features promising skill at running back with Mike Epstein and the return from multiple injuries of veteran wideout Mike Dudek. Defensive end Bobby Roundtree and safety Bennett Williams are back as talented sophomores.
The University of Michigan just locked up the best coach in program history for a very long time.
John Beilein signed a new rollover extension today that runs through the 2022-23 seasons, according to the university. With the rollover, the contract will automatically be extended every year until Beilein or the university decide not to exercise the option. Essentially, Beilein has a lifetime contract.
“I am grateful for the opportunity the University of Michigan has given to me over the past 11 years,” said Beilein in a statement. “Kathleen and I love Ann Arbor, our University, our fans and the state of Michigan. We will continue to work very hard in the future to have our basketball team reflect the greatness of this University. I thank Mark Schlissel and Warde Manuel for their faith and commitment to our coaching staff and basketball program. The future of men’s basketball is bright and I am excited to be a part of it.”
Beilein, 65, recently flirted with the idea of leaving Ann Arbor for the Detroit Pistons, but ultimately pulled his name out of consideration when the news went public.
“I am thrilled to ensure John’s leadership of our basketball program today and into the future,” said Michigan athletic director Warde Manuel. “I am very pleased with our shared dialog throughout the process, and I am extremely happy that one of the game’s great coaches is representing the University of Michigan.”
The Wolverines are fresh off their second National Championship appearance in the last six seasons and have the No. 16 ranked recruiting class according to ESPN. Michigan also returns Charles Matthews, who was the team’s second-leading scorer last season. Beilein is the winningest coach in program history.
Robinson, 24, was limited to 23 games for the Indiana Pacers last season after he suffered an injury to the medial and lateral ligaments in his left ankle during a Sept. 29 practice. He underwent surgery in October and didn’t make his season debut until late February.
The 2017 NBA Slam Dunk champion, he blossomed into a solid contributor the previous season for Indiana when he averaged a career-high 6.1 points and 3.6 rebounds in 20 minutes per game. Robinson shot .392 from the 3-point line, converting 49 of his 125 attempts.
At the time of his injury last season, he was shooting .412 from 3-point range, making 14 of his 34 attempts.
ANN ARBOR, Mich. — John Beilein said he was never offered the Detroit Pistons’ coaching job.
“I never really had to make the decision,” the Michigan coach said. “That would have been a tough one.”
Beilein is now looking ahead to another season of college basketball after briefly emerging as a candidate for the Pistons. Not long after the news broke about Beilein’s talks with Detroit, he said he would be back at Michigan. The Pistons eventually hired Dwane Casey earlier this month.
On Tuesday, Beilein held a news conference to talk about the offseason. He led Michigan to the national title game this year before falling to Villanova, so the possibility of losing Beilein to the NBA was a jolt to Wolverines fans.
“I was not offered the job by the Pistons,” Beilein said. “We certainly had some mutual interest. I think they had a great candidate in Dwane Casey.”
Beilein said he was intrigued by the possibility of coaching in the game’s top league.
“I love coaching basketball a lot, and you’re watching the NBA playoffs, and you’re seeing what guys are doing, and you’re looking, like, they’re running stuff that we run,” Beilein said. “I don’t know if they watched us or I watched them. You can see, boy, if you have really highly skilled players — [Boston Celtics coach] Brad Stevens kept telling me, ‘I’m having a blast.’ When you hear those words, and your season’s over — so that was appealing.”
With the Pistons’ search behind him, Beilein can prepare for the 2018-19 season with the Wolverines. Michigan announced Tuesday that the team will go on a tour of Spain from Aug. 17 to Aug. 26 that will include exhibition games.
The Wolverines lost star big man Moe Wagner early to the NBA, but some key players return from what was one of the best defensive teams in the nation. Charles Matthews, Zavier Simpson, Jordan Poole and Isaiah Livers will be joined by what is expected to be a strong group of new recruits.
So Beilein has plenty to look forward to at the college level, and he indicated there might not be any more flirtations with the NBA.
“I think that I ran that race, and you can’t run that race too many times,” he said. “I don’t know what I would have done, but I was really impressed with everybody in that organization, and I’ll be rooting for them like I always have.”
The other intriguing bit of recent news that at least partially involved the Michigan basketball program was Chris Webber’s appearance with Wolverines football coach Jim Harbaugh on Ann Arbor’s WTKA radio last week. Harbaugh asked Webber to be an honorary captain for the football team next season, and Webber sounded amenable to the idea.
A return to Ann Arbor by Webber — even if it’s for football — would be a big deal. He led the Michigan basketball team to the Final Four in 1992 and 1993, but a federal investigation revealed that a booster gave Webber and three other players more than $600,000 while they were student-athletes, and the NCAA forced the school to dissociate from them until 2013.
“There was five or six years where I was limited what I could say about that era. Since the ban’s been off, I’ve reached out to Chris several times,” Beilein said. “I continue to do that, and we’re going to continue to try and build bridges and just really work at making sure there’s a lot of healing going forward.
“I want every player that ever played here to feel like he’s a part of that building, including Chris and anyone else.”
EL SEGUNDO, Calif. — The Los Angeles Lakers added some size, rebounding and shooting Thursday night by drafting Michigan big man Moritz Wagner with the 25th pick of the first round.
Lakers team president Magic Johnson and general manager Rob Pelinka hope they were able to find another late first-round gem in Wagner, a 6-foot-11 forward who helped lead the Wolverines to the national title game last season. Last year during their first draft together, Johnson and Pelinka found Kyle Kuzma and Josh Hart with the 27th and 30th overall picks.
The Lakers were impressed by Wagner during their interview with him at the Chicago pre-draft camp. Head coach Luke Walton said Wagner’s personality electrified the room.
“Selecting Moe Wagner was a big target for Magic,” Pelinka said. “When you build a team, you have to have pillars that you build on. For us we are sticking to those core principles, which are guys that are high IQ basketball player that play the game the right way and can shoot and have length and have versatility and play with toughness.
“The game, as you know, requires bigs that can spread the floor. What we noticed in all the games we went to in person is, he is a tremendous passer and great screener in pick-and-roll situations, coached by John Beilein, who is a terrific coach. And Luke felt that when we had him in our building that he had off-the-charts basketball IQ. Magic had to get over a Spartan drafting a Wolverine but once we got over that, he was our guy.”
The Lakers went all international with their draft this year. After tabbing the German Wagner, the Lakers used the 39th pick (acquired from the Philadelphia 76ers in exchange for their 2019 second-round pick via the Chicago Bulls and cash) on another German, 6-9 forward Isaac Bonga. And with the 47th pick, the Lakers tabbed 6-8 shooting guard Sviatoslav Mykhailiuk, a Ukrainian native who set a Kansas single-season record with 115 made 3-point field goals.
Wagner said he grew up influenced by Germany’s greatest NBA product, Dirk Nowitzki, but that he also liked Kevin Garnett’s game. He said he considers another player of that generation, Kobe Bryant, to be the greatest Laker of all time.
“I am a big Kobe fan,” Wagner said when asked who he considers to be the greatest Laker in the storied franchise history. “I think I got to go with Kobe, especially since he stayed there for his entire career. Magic is up there, of course. This is a question where I can’t win.”
The Michigan product, though, likes how the current Lakers are trying to play as fast as the Showtime Lakers did.
“They obviously are a flashy franchise, they like to play fast,” Wagner said. “Coach [Luke] Walton used to play, he is a player’s coach, he wants his players to play and be confident, and they focus on playing fast, and that is something I am very excited to prove.”
Thursday night’s draft came a little more than a week before what could be the Lakers’ most important free agency period since Shaquille O’Neal signed in 1996.
With Julius Randle about to hit restricted free agency, the Lakers’ selection of Wagner gives them some depth inside. Wagner, 21, averaged 14.6 points and 7.1 rebounds and shot 52.8 percent from the field last season while earning second-team All Big-Ten honors. He joined Larry Bird and Hakeem Olajuwon as the only players to have 20 points and 15 rebounds in a national semifinal.
The Lakers, in need of perimeter shooting, now have a fiery big who shot 39.4 percent from 3-point range over the past two seasons, draining 108 3s during that span.
“I’m speechless,” said Wagner, who fought back tears after being selected. “I am just going to give it all, my 100 percent every day. … I am going to love it and leave it all out there [for the Lakers].”
This was the first time in five years that the Lakers were not drafting in the lottery. After taking Randle with the seventh overall pick in 2014 and D’Angelo Russell (2015), Brandon Ingram (2016) and Lonzo Ball (2017) with the second overall picks in the past three drafts, the Lakers had to wait until near the end of the first round to pick this year.
The Lakers’ own pick, No. 10 overall, belonged to Philadelphia as part of the Steve Nash trade in 2012. The Sixers used the pick on Villanova’s Mikal Bridges before trading him to Phoenix for Texas Tech’s Zhaire Smith, who was selected 16th, and a 2021 first-round pick via Miami.
But Johnson and Pelinka acquired the 25th pick from the Cleveland Cavaliers during a February trade-deadline deal that sent Larry Nance Jr. and Jordan Clarkson to the Cavs for Isaiah Thomas and Channing Frye.
That deal helped the Lakers clear cap space and put them in position to pursue two max free agents in July when Los Angeles will be in the running for LeBron James and Paul George. With Kawhi Leonard reportedly hoping to play in Los Angeles, the Lakers will be busy exhausting all avenues to significantly improve their roster.
The Lakers worked out 125 players over the past few months.