|Great wide receivers dot the Big Ten this season|
|Wednesday, October 23, 2013 12:37 AM|
BY RUSTY MILLER
COLUMBUS — A lot of people are down on the Big Ten. But they certainly can’t be down on the receiving talent in the league.
Between Jared Abbrederis at Wisconsin, Allen Robinson at Penn State and Michigan’s Jeremy Gallon — along with several other standouts, including Ohio State’s Corey Brown and Devin Smith — this is a banner year for wide-outs in the Big Ten.
Gallon, overlooked by many heading into the season, set a conference record last week with 369 yards receiving (the second-most in Football Bowl Subdivision) on 14 receptions in the Wolverines’ win over Indiana.
Ohio State coach Urban Meyer had to plan around Abbrederis a few weeks back and now he must deal with Robinson heading into Saturday’s 8 p.m. start against the Nittany Lions at Ohio Stadium.
“I’ve seen the one we’re playing this week (Robinson). The game he had against our rivals was fantastic,” Meyer said Tuesday on the Big Ten coaches teleconference. “A very fast, talented guy who goes up and (catches) the ball.”
Robinson had five catches for 84 yards (and Gallon had seven for 95 with a touchdown) in Penn State’s 43-40 win over Michigan in a conference-record four overtimes two weeks ago.
Meyer said WR might have the best players in the conference.
“I nominated Abbrederis for a bunch of postseason awards. When I got to see him live and in color, he was a tremendous player,” he said. “I think those are future NFL players that we’re getting to face, really, almost every week. They’re very good players.”
SCOUTING THE NITS: Penn State (4-2, 1-1 Big Ten) enters Saturday night’s game as an enigma. The Nittany Lions have a couple of good wins, coming off the win over Michigan in the longest game ever played in the conference’s 118 seasons.
Then again, they were humiliated at Indiana the week before (Oct. 5), 44-24.
The running game has been sporadic, failing to total more than 85 yards in three of the six games. Freshman QB Christian Hackenberg has been a revelation, leading the Big Ten in completions (132) and passing yards per game (279). His favorite target, Robinson, already has 43 catches for 705 yards (16.4 per catch) and five TDs.
On defense, the Lions have been solid against the run (seventh in the nation at 92.4 yards a game) but leaky against the pass (241 yards a game, tied for 78th in the nation).
QUOTABLE: Ohio State CB Doran Grant on taking a risk by jumping a route to pick off a pass: “Our coach (Kerry Coombs) calls it the ‘backdoor slider.’ You’re waiting for the backdoor slider, then you’ve got to react and make a play.”
WORKING THE OFF WEEK: Penn State had a bye week last Saturday. In fact, the Nittany Lions have had two byes in the last four weeks.
Coach Bill O’Brien wasn’t crazy about having to start and stop so frequently in a short span.
“It is unusual to have two bye weeks (in four weeks). It’s not something at the end of the day that you’d like (because you want) to keep playing eventually,” he said.
He said a lot of planning went into what the team and staff would do last week.
“This bye week was used a little bit differently than the first one in the fact that the big goal of this bye week was to get our guys healthy, so we probably rested our first- and second-team guys a little bit more in this bye week and did a little bit more meeting time, a little bit more self-scouting,” O’Brien said. “We tried to fix some of the things that we need to get corrected in order to get into the second half of our season. That’s basically what we did.”
STILL THE SAME: Penn State joined the Big Ten in 1992, back when Ohio State DL coach Mike Vrabel was just a freshman for the Buckeyes.
He said not much has changed from then until now.
“They’re all big. When you’re at Ohio State, regardless of who you play, every game is big,” he said. “Ohio State hasn’t lost since coach Meyer started coaching here. Every game we play gets bigger and bigger.