Blogs > Lions Lowdown

One thing you can count on with the Detroit Lions is that they are never, ever boring. Follow the latest news including injuries, roster moves and more here daily from Oakland Press beat writer Paula Pasche. Plus you'll find regular commentary about the team.


Love, Adams demoted; Michigan No. 1

Just got my first look at Michigan State's media guide and there's a few changes. First, receiver T.J. Williams is not listed on the depth chart. Williams, you may remember, was suspended for the spring game and investigated by police over an alleged assault in Meridian Township. The sophomore is still listed on MSU's roster, but he'll have to earn his way back to the two-deep.

Two other projected starters, linebacker SirDarean Adams and receiver Terry Love are listed as reserves, with Love listed as a fourth-string receiver behind Devin Thomas, David Williams and Carl Grimes. Linebacker Andrew Hawken also has changed positions to defensive end.

I'll have more on Adams, Love and other news from out at Big Ten media day — including Michigan's no-surprise selection as the preseason conference favorite — later today and in tomorrow's paper.


The Big 10: Offensive linemen

We've covered the skill positions, here's my top-five list of the Big Ten's best offensive linemen. I'm headed to Chicago later this afternoon for the conference's media days and will have reports from there tomorrow.

1. Jake Long, Michigan: By now I'm starting to sound like a homer, right? Chad Henne, Mike Hart, Mario Manningham and now Jake Long. Well, Long is the best NFL prospect of the bunch, an Outland Trophy candidate who's scary good with Tayshaun arms and a pro wrestler's build. He's as dominating as they come.

2. Kirk Barton, Ohio State: The Buckeyes have one of the best tackle tandems in the country in Barton and Alex Boone (see below). Barton's a two-year starter at right tackle. Good thing because they're inexperienced at quarterback.

3. Jordan Grimes, Purdue: He overshadows a tackle who just missed my list in Sean Sester, but Grimes is as big a reason as any why the Boilermakers had two 650-yard rushers last year. He's an ox in the trenches and more nimble then you'd think.

4. Alex Boone, Ohio State: The Buckeyes lost plenty on offense, but for my money they have the best line in the Big Ten. I don't expect a big drop in performance and Boone is a big reason why. He fessed up to an alcohol addiction last year and had a great season interrupted by injury. There's a reason he wears Orlando Pace's old number.

5. Kraig Urbik, Wisconsin: With apologies to Michigan's Adam Kraus, Urbik is the second best guard in the Big Ten behind Grimes. He started as a freshman at tackle, moved inside last year, and spearheaded P.J. Hill's 1,500-yard season.


Bettor life

Just got done meeting with the four NFL officials in camp with the Lions this week and, inevitably, talk turned to Tim Donaghy and the NBA gambling scandal. For all the bettors wondering, the league takes every precaution to make sure it's officials don't get caught up in similar circumstances. Umpire Jim Quirk said background checks are updated every three years (he said his NFL check was more thorough than the one the National Security Agency performed when he was an Army police officer getting top-secret security clearance), and officials are never allowed to visit sports books of any kind. Even out-of-season trips to a casino, whether it's for gaming purposes or not, must be approved by the league ahead of time.

"It's perception but it's deeper than perception with us cause we're all pretty squeaky clean," linesman Paul Weidner said. "We are the integrity of the game and in order to add that you've got to have certain standards that we have to live up to."


Throwing Rice?

Lions coach Rod Marinelli said after morning practice Friday that he has no current plans to bring recently-released defensive end Simeon Rice in for a visit. That doesn't mean the Lions won't visit with the 33-year-old at some point, but Rice's dwindling production (two sacks last year), health (he failed a physical in Tampa) and the Lions' lack of available cap space could ultimately work against him.

"Right now it's not something we've really had a chance to talk through a lot in terms of our front office," Marinelli said. "Right now I feel very good (about our defensive line), but I have also great respect for him.

For now, the underachieving Kalimba Edwards is penciled in at right end opposite free-agent signee Dewayne White, Rice's former backup in Tampa. If he struggles in camp, Rice, the NFL's No. 2 active sack leader, should expect a call.


Stanton signs

Second-round pick Drew Stanton is on his way to sign a multi-year contract with the Lions this very minute. I don't have terms of the deal yet, but expect it to be somewhere around the four-year pact former BYU signal caller John Beck signed with the Dolphins earlier this week.

Stanton, a Michigan State and Farmington Hills Harrison product, progressed nicely during the Lions offseason workout program and should challenge Dan Orlovsky for second-string duties behind Jon Kitna at some point this year.

"The transformation is probably the biggest two months of growing in football that I've ever done," Stanton said last month. "It's just a matter of staying committed and getting out there and doing the things I need to work on to be successful."

I'll have more coverage of the Lions' draft-pick signings in tomorrow's paper and a preview of mini camp.


The Big 10 - Wide receivers

Hi everyone. My summer vacation is over so it's back to a regular blogging schedule. My third of 10 conference rankings continue today with the conference's top pass catchers. No tight end made my list, but a special mention to Wisconsin's Travis Beckum who's the best of a decent group at his position.

The plan is for regular blogs Monday and Thursday until the season starts, and as things warrant. I'll be out at Lions training camp this week and in Chicago next for the Big Ten's kick-off luncheon and media day. Now on to the rankings.

1. Mario Manningham, Michigan: The Wolverines get a clean sweep of the skill positions as Manningham's big-play ability (18.5 ypc) and nose for the end zone (nine TDs in 10 games last year) make him the clear choice. Things may be a little bumpier earlier in the season as Michigan breaks in new tight ends and settles in the rest of its receiving corps, but Manningham looks like a first-round pick next April assuming he's fully recovered from the knee injury that cost him three games as a sophomore.

2. James Hardy, Indiana: On Sheer talent, Hardy is Manningham's equal. The 6-foot-6 junior was slowed the second half of last season by injuries and has a history of off-field issues, but he's a guaranteed touchdown in the red zone. Only two Big Ten receivers have ever topped 100 passes in a season (Purdue's Chris Daniels in 1999 and Illinois' David Williams in '84). Hardy could be the third.

3. Dorien Bryant, Purdue: Bryant was actually the most prolific receiver in the conference last year and, despite the return of Purdue's top seven pass catchers, could lead the league again. At 5-foot-9, he's a product of Purdue's system in many ways. His hands aren't the best, but he's a rocket in and out of breaks and has the burners to beat anyone deep.

4. Derrick Williams, Penn State: Williams is still living a bit off reputation, but I expect a big season out of Penn State's most talented offensive player. Williams has had his problems with drops, but he's as athletic as anyone in the conference. With Tony Hunt off to the NFL, the Nittany Lions might think about using him in their thin backfield, too.

5. Brian Robiske, Ohio State: Robiske won't make anyone forget Ted Ginn and Anthony Gonzalez, but he's solid in his own right. The sure-handed junior had a key touchdown in the Michigan win, and should surpass last year's numbers (29 catches, 383 yards, 5 TDs) easily if sophomore teammate Raymond Small develops as everyone expects.


The Big 10: RBs

Last week we looked at the top quarterbacks in the conference. This week we take a peak at running backs, where a Michigan man takes top billing again. Check back next Monday for my wide receiver rankings.

1. Mike Hart, Michigan: Can't argue with production. Hart's rushed for nearly 3,700 yards in his first three seasons and it's not unreasonable to believe he can end his career third on the yardage chart. With a good season, he has all the makings of a Heisman finalist.

2. P.J. Hill, Wisconsin: The seventh freshman in NCAA history to top the 1,500-yard mark, Hill is the biggest reason to believe the Badgers can challenge Michigan for Big Ten supremacy. He's a 5-foot-11, 222-pound bowling ball who scored 16 touchdowns last year.

3. Chris Wells, Ohio State: Wells has 102 career carries, but anyone who saw him in the final month of the regular season knows what a beast he is. On talent alone, he'd be atop this list but let's make sure he can handle a season-long pounding before anointing him the second coming.

4. Tyrell Sutton, Northwestern: The Big Ten Freshmen of the Year two years ago, Sutton had a disappointing 2006. He rushed for only 1,000 yards and five touchdowns, and did not crack the 100-yard mark until an October loss to Michigan State. Things are more settled around him this year, and Sutton will be back to his unstoppable self.

5. Javon Ringer, Michigan State: There's worthy No. 5 candidates in just about every Big Ten backfield. Kory Sheets, Amir Pinnix, Albert Young. Ringer has more upside than all of them and should get a chance to shine in MSU's new pro-style offense. As long as he's healthy, he's a good bet for 20 carries a game and perhaps 1,200 yards.


The Big 10: QBs

Each Monday now til the start of the football season I'll blog my list of the top Big Ten football players by position. Feel free to share your thoughts and debate mine. We'll start with quarterbacks, where the conference's top pick is an easy call.

1. Chad Henne, Michigan: A no-brainer with so few returning starters under center, Henne is a four-year starter and potential first-round draft pick. He can be a little inconsistent for all the weapons he has, but there's no one else I'd want leading my team in the Big Ten.

2. Curtis Painter, Purdue: I bought Painter stock last year and was disappointed in the results, especially those 19 interceptions. But he's a dual threat (expect more than 107 net rushing yards this year) and he's only a junior.

3. Kellen Lewis, Indiana: Illinois' Juice Williams got the hype last year among rookie QBs, but Lewis was better. He's a heck of an athlete — he led the Hoosiers with 441 yards rushing — and a more accurate passer (54.9 percent).

4. Anthony Morelli, Penn State: Played well in a 20-10 Outback Bowl win over Tennessee, but was inconsistent overall in 2006. With Tony Hunt gone, maybe Joe Pa will showcase Morelli's rocket arm a little more this year.

5. C.J. Bacher, Northwestern: A little out on a limb here, but I'm not a Williams fan (all legs, no arm) and the rest of the conference's unproven cast hasn't played enough to warrant preseason top-five billing. Bacher led Northwestern to two wins in its final three games and completed 59 percent of his passes for the year. He's no Brett Basanez, and Michigan State's Brian Hoyer may surpass him by Week 6, but Bacher will finish with solid all-around numbers and a legitimate chance to go bowling.


Judging Raymar

The competition at the Global Games isn't the greatest — Team USA smoked Team Africa, 102-51, Thursday — but Raymar Morgan is drawing rave reviews for his play with the Men's U19 World Championship Team.

DePaul and Team USA coach Jerry Wainwright praised three players in particular for their work with the team. Kansas' Darrell Arthur, Ohio State's David Lighty and MSU's Morgan.

"They have a seriousness and urgency to everything that they do that I think a lot of other guys don't have right now," Wainwright said in a press release. "Those three guys physically, their bodies, how they talk on the floor, their composure, I think they really stand out and I'm glad they're on this team because they give us a sense of order that we really need."

Morgan, a 6-foot-7 wing, is primed for a breakout year at MSU. He was slowed by foot problems last year, but was easily the Spartans' second-best player - and only one who could create his own shot going to the basket. Assuming he stays healthy and with MSU's more up-tempo pace, there's no reason Morgan can't average 14 and six as a sophomore. If you read my last blog you know I think that, coupled with another fine season from Drew Neitzel and the addition of three impact freshmen, could be enough to win the Big Ten.

It's interesting Wainwright listed Lighty among his top three players, too. Lighty was the freshman lost in the shuffle between Greg Oden, Mike Conley and Daequan Cook last year, but anyone who saw him play in the tournament knows he's primed for a breakout season. The Buckeyes lost a ton of talent, and if Cook had stayed they might be my No. 1 pick in the Big Ten, not No. 3 (behind MSU and Indiana). But Lighty is the type of players coaches love because of his defensive presence, steady floor game and snapshot offense. By the end of next season, he'll be the Buckeyes' best player.