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Penn State talk dominates Big Ten media day

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Wisconsin offensive tackle Ricky Wagner came to Madison as a 6-5, 235-pound walk-on tight end.

He moved to left tackle in 2011 and at 6-6, 322 pounds, enters 2012 on the Outland Trophy watch list with a chance to leave the Badgers with 38 career starts and a legitimate NFL future. assigns Wagner a first-round grade. He's ranked 32nd overall and the No. 6 offensive tackle with a chance to rise in part because he's listed behind five juniors who might not declare for the 2013 draft.

The two left tackles he followed, Joe Thomas and Gabe Carimi, were first-round draft picks.

"I told him he had big shoes to fill," said Bielema.

Wisconsin's offense retains running back Montee Ball, who gained over 2,200 total yards with an FBS record-tying 39 touchdowns in 2011, but is breaking in a new starting quarterback to replace Russell Wilson.

Wilson could be replaced by another ACC transfer, Maryland's Danny O'Brien, who made 17 career starts for the Terrapins.

"He fit into our program great," Bielema said. " ... You guys might remember Russell had a pretty good year a year ago."

BO SHOW: Nebraska's Big Ten championship chances rest on the arm and legs of quarterback Taylor Martinez, who has been a regular starter for his two seasons in Lincoln, surviving growing pains along the way.

"My expectations for Taylor are high," Pelini said. "He's just now become an upperclassman. I'm excited for Taylor and excited for our football team."

Running back Rex Burkhead is sure to share the burden on offense. Burkhead was third in the Big Ten with 15 rushing touchdowns last season and also recognized as one of Nebraska's top students.

"I wouldn't trade him for another player in the country," Pelini said. "That's how much I think of him."

ANOTHER 11: Michigan State has 22 wins the past two seasons -- tied for Wisconsin for most in the league -- with back-to-back 11-win seasons, and consecutive undefeated home seasons (14-0).

The pressing question for coach Mark Dantonio is how the team fills the major void left by losing three-year starter Kirk Cousins.

"We have a void in our leadership in terms of who's left, in terms of Kirk Cousins," Dantonio said.

It'll be Andrew Maxwell's huddle, but Dantonio expects several playmakers to emerge and mentioned Tennessee transfer DeAnthony Arnett has "star" potential.

Not surprisingly, Dantonio plans to let his defense do most of the talking, at least early in the season. The headliner is junior linebacker Max Bullough, a second-team All-Big Ten pick as a sophomore with a team-high 89 tackles.

He's one of 18 players back on the 22-spot defensive two-deep depth chart.

The Spartans have been to five straight bowl games and lost to Wisconsin in the Big Ten championship game.

"It's always been the conversation in our locker room to get to the Rose Bowl," Dantonio said. "If you're fortunate enough to get to the Rose Bowl, that's where the conversation and the national championship will come into play."

ENEMY LINES: Purdue head coach Danny Hope and Wisconsin coach Bret Bielema were the first two coaches at the podium Thursday and took vastly different angles when asked their thoughts on Big Ten coaches pursuing Penn State players.

Bielema wasn't not time Monday instructing his coaching staff to avoid all contact with Penn State players out of respect for coach Bill O'Brien and what the team is going through.

"We made a decision that we will not actively pursue any Penn State players," he said.

"I'm going to be their biggest fan every week of the year, for the guys that are staying there and sticking through," he said.

Hope said Purdue won't shy away from Penn State players.

"The NCAA has set the guidelines," Hope said. "As long as we're compliant -- we're going to pursue every avenue to make our team better."

When Ohio State's Urban Meyer was asked

"I don't know enough about the rules. I think if a player reaches out ... a player has a right to choose where he wants to go -- a young man has a right to play where he wants to play."

URBAN LEAGUE: Three-time national coach of the year and two time national champion Urban Meyer is starting anew at Ohio State.

"I like our players; I like our team," Meyer said. "The thing I don't understand or don't have a real grasp of is our competition."

Two of Meyer's players, quarterback Braxton Miller and defensive lineman John Simon were voted to the Big Ten preseason watch list. Meyer said both are on the team's leadership committee and said the offseason is going well, but he's struggling with having "so-called nothing at the end of the season" because of the team's bowl ban.

"There's no such thing as a buffer year in college football, certainly not at Ohio State," Meyer said.

Logistics Meyer isn't accustomed to -- dismissing players when the regular season ends and losing the 15 or so practices that come with bowl preparation -- have sent him scrambling to research the best end-of-season approach. The one constant on the schedule -- Ohio State ends the season with its rivalry game against Michigan, and Meyer's debut in that game comes at The Horseshoe.

"It is the biggest game of the year, and we'll be ready for it," Meyer said.

Tight end Jake Stoneburner is eligible to be reinstated and will report to training camp next week, but Meyer said he won't be allowed back on the team simply because charges of obstructing official business stemming from a June 2 incident in Delaware, Ohio.

Meyer stripped Stoneburner's scholarship in June.

"It was a very expensive mistake," Meyer said.

NEW VIEW: Energetic and self-described proactive head coach Tim Beckman opened his media session by wishing his mother happy birthday and then digging into reports that Illinois was actively recruiting Penn State players in State College. According to one published report, as many as six staff members identified with U of I garb were spotted on campus.

"We were in State College but we did not go on campus, we went to two establishments outside campus and called some individuals," Beckman said. "If they wanted to come by, it was their opportunity to come by.

"...We as a staff and myself as a head football coach talked about this. It was brought to my attention prior to sanctions that an opportunity might present itself."

Beckman, a first-year coach who spent three seasons at Toledo, said he had brief conversations with O'Brien and Penn State athletic director Dave Joyner Thursday in Chicago.

Illinois lost two all-conference juniors, defensive end Whitney Mercilus and wide receiver A.J. Jenkins, to the NFL draft. Both were first-round picks, but Beckman praised the dedication of the team's 19 seniors, including four players he didn't identify who asked the NFL to assess their draft status in January but opted to return to school.

MICHIGAN'S MAN: Brady Hoke won 11 games in his debut season at Michigan and guided the Wolverines to the BCS. That momentum pushed them to the top of the Big Ten preseason media poll. What's it all mean?

"Not much, to be honest with you," said Hoke.

The Wolverines haven't won the Big Ten since 2004. Hoke has 15 starters back from the 2011 team.

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