Big Ten

Big Ten preview: Kicking machine Brad Craddock is Terps' greatest asset

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Big Ten preview: Kicking machine Brad Craddock is Terps' greatest asset

When your kicker is your best player, it either says something about your team or says something about your kicker.

If you get Maryland head coach Randy Edsall going, he’ll won’t stop talking about what is says about his kicker.

Terps kicker Brad Craddock is the reigning Groza Award winner, the best kicker in the country, so the award honors. Craddock missed just one of the 19 field goals he attempted last season. He nailed a 57-yarder at one point and went 11-for-12 from 40 yards out or more. He banged through all 44 extra points he tried. So, yeah he’s the best kicker in the country.

In fact, his accuracy is causing Edsall to think differently in situations, and the coach admits it’s not always for the best.

“It's great to have somebody like Brad who is consistent as he is,” Edsall said last month during Big Ten Media Days. “But then also … it could be a little bit of a crutch for the head coach in terms of making those decisions because you know you've got a guy that can put the ball through consistently. But you might have a feel that, hey, you can go for that two yards or three yards or one yard or whatever. And you might be able to get it. But gets you thinking sometimes because you've got Mr. Automatic on the sideline.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: How will Terps recover from wide receiver exodus?]

Kickers are regularly mocked for various reasons, but when you’ve got one the caliber of Craddock, it makes life a heck of a lot easier. It can be the difference between wins and losses, as the Terps found out when he converted a game-winning kick to beat Penn State by a point in the final minute. It was Maryland’s biggest win of 2014, and if Craddock doesn’t connect on the 43-yarder, the Terps lose that game.

So while it’s not getting knocked around by a 300-pound lineman on a regular basis, kicking is still a tough gig.

“I think if you look it a big picture it’s a little daunting. It’s definitely a hard job,” Craddock said Monday during the team’s media day. “If you go in to kick and you miss, then it’s a letdown for the whole team, and I get that. But that comes with the job. I like the pressure. For me, I look at it one kick at a time. Every kick, I’m 1-for-1, and then I look at the next kick like I’m 1-for-1. I keep everything small and condensed, and that’s how I approach it. Once something has happened you can’t dwell on it if you miss one kick, which happens because no one is perfect.”

Craddock’s already earned the best thing a college kicker can earn, but it’s not stopping him. Only one player ever — Florida State’s Sebastian Janikowski — has won the Groza Award twice. So there’s more to achieved, be it in award form or simply in helping Maryland be better than the 7-6 record it posted last season.

“I look at it like I have to be the best I can be, and I still have work to do,” Craddock said. “I’m still not quite satisfied with where I am, but I will get there.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Terps embark on three-way quarterback competition]

But if there’s one thing that’s impressed Edsall more than anything else, it’s Craddock’s attitude and behavior from a leadership perspective.

The head coach painted a lengthy picture at Big Ten Media Days about his offseason interactions with Craddock and what it means to him and this football team.

“The thing that's really interesting about him, the best leader that we have on our football team is Brad Craddock,” Edsall said. “And to share a little story with you because to me that's what it's all about, it's all about the student-athletes, but Brad came to me after last season and said to me — and we have a leadership council at the University of Maryland. And I take one player from each position and take a special team’s guy. And he came to me and he said, ‘Coach,’ he said, ‘I want to really head this leadership council up.’ And he said, ‘I know we can be a lot better.’ So we had sat down. And I told him, I said, ‘You come to me with who you feel can be leaders on our football team and get accomplished the things that we want to get accomplished.’ And we had a couple meetings. But, really, I mean, he and I agreed just about on every one except I think maybe one guy. And then I kind of put it in his control to take care of business and do those things. And I meet with them during the season once a week. Met with them in the offseason maybe every two weeks.

“But I tell you, in 17 years as a head coach, I've never had the leadership that we have right now on our team. And it's all because of Brad Craddock and what he's done. And last year he — we were talking what he was doing. And I went in front of our team and I said, ‘You know, some of you guys need to go and sit down with Brad and talk to him in terms of how he was able to transform himself the way he did. And he came all the way from Australia not knowing anybody.’ And Yannick Ngakoue, our outstanding defensive end, went and spent three hours with Brad and gained knowledge from Brad. And then that started to spread and to permeate to where we are now. So not only is he a great kicker, he's a great person, he’s a great leader. And I'll tell you one thing: He's a very, very special, special person.”

And he’s also one heck of a kicker. He’s the best kicker in the country. A pretty nice luxury for the Terps to have.

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

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USA TODAY

Northwestern running back Jeremy Larkin diagnosed with cervical stenosis, will retire immediately

Tough news out of Evanston this morning: Northwestern announced that running back Jeremy Larkin will retire immediately after being diagnosed with cervical stenosis.

Cervical stenois is the narrowing of the spinal canal in one's neck, according to Mayo Clinic. Larkin's condition is thankfully not life-threatening, though it does prevent him from continuing to participate in the game of football. 

"Football has been a lifelong passion and it has been a process to reconcile the fact I won't be on that field again, given I've played this game since I was five years old," Larkin said.

"I'm extremely appreciative of the Northwestern sports medicine and athletic training staffs for uncovering this condition, and for my coaches and the medical staff for always putting my health first.

"I came to this University to engage at the absolute highest level on the field and in the classroom, and I'm grateful for the opportunity to continue one of those while supporting my teammates from the sideline." 

Head Coach Pat Fitzgerald called the news "heartbreaking."

"This is heartbreaking because I see every day how much Jeremy loves the game, loves his teammates, and loves to compete," Fitzgerald said in a statement. "But this is the absolute best possible outcome for him.

"The discovery of this condition allowed Jeremy and his family to make an informed decision for his long-term health and well-being. For those of us who have known Jeremy Larkin since his high school days, his future is exceptionally bright. I can't wait to see the impact he makes in our world."

Larkin is a sophomore from Cincinnati. He finishes his Northwestern career with 156 carries for 849 yards and 10 rushing touchdowns.

Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

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Former Illini champion Kevin Anderson upsets Roger Federer in Wimbledon quarterfinal

Former University of Illinois tennis star Kevin Anderson completed a marathon upset against an all-time great on the highest stage of professional tennis.

Anderson came back from two sets down to beat Roger Federer in Wimbledon’s quarterfinals 2-6, 6-7, 7-6, 6-4, 13-11 on Wednesday morning. He will play in the semifinals of the tournament for the first time in his career.

As a native of South Africa, Anderson played three seasons with the Fighting Illini and won the NCAA doubles championship during the 2005-06 season as a sophomore. The 32-year-old was a three-time All-American in singles at Illinois.

Now, as the eighth ranked singles player on the ATP World Tour, Anderson is a force to be reckoned with at the professional level. He made it all the way to the US Open final in 2017.

The former Illini star will look to keep his recent success going when he represents Illinois in the semifinals of Wimbledon this Friday.