Big Ten

Big Ten preview: Is Rutgers' Leonte Carroo the Big Ten's best wide receiver?

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Big Ten preview: Is Rutgers' Leonte Carroo the Big Ten's best wide receiver?

Sure, there’s some competition. But let’s be honest, Leonte Carroo is entering the 2015 season as the Big Ten’s best wide receiver.

Carroo caught 55 passes a season ago for 1,086 yards and 10 touchdowns, ranking second in the conference in receiving yardage only to Michigan State’s Tony Lippett — who was named the Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year — and ranking third in touchdown catches to Ohio State’s Devin Smith and Lippett.

He provided a terrific target for fourth-year starting quarterback Gary Nova, accounting for nearly half of Nova’s 22 touchdown passes, which ranked third in the conference. And Carroo had some just massive performances, too. He went for a season-high 151 yards in the season-opener against Washington State. He had 140 yards and three touchdowns against Tulane. And he had four triple-digit receiving-yard days during Big Ten play, including 127 yards and a touchdown against Nebraska, 125 yards and a pair of touchdowns against Indiana and 104 yards and two scores against Maryland.

Alongside Penn State’s DeSean Hamilton, Carroo is being viewed as a nearly unanimous pick on just about everyone’s preseason All-Big Ten team.

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Replacing Gary Nova not as easy as it seems for Rutgers]

But more important than his star rising in the league and as a potential NFL Draft prospect, Carroo’s return will prove huge for Rutgers. The Scarlet Knights have a new offensive coordinator and a new starting quarterback, and they lost their other top target in tight end Tyler Kroft. Carroo could’ve bolted for the NFL, too, but he opted to return, which has obviously made Rutgers very happy.

"I was really excited,” head coach Kyle Flood said last month at Big Ten Media Days. “The football coach in you is so excited when a player of his caliber comes back because you know what it does for your football team. Leonte is a great player in his own right. But by being on the field, he elevates everybody else around him because of the attention that he draws.

“But I was excited for him as well because I think it showed a maturity in him that he was able to look at his situation and say, 'There's things that I want to work on to be a better football player. There's things that I came to Rutgers to do that I haven't accomplished yet. And because of that, I'm going to come back.' And I think ultimately on the back end of this when he does make that transition to the next level, not only will he be more prepared, he'll be a better football player. And, ultimately, I think that's going to help him as he goes through his career."

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Can Rutgers' Paul James pick up where he left off?]

While Rutgers competing for a championship in a loaded Big Ten East division that features College Football Playoff contenders Ohio State and Michigan State might sound a tad unrealistic, Carroo is using that as a motivator and a reason for his decision to come back to the Knights for one more year.

“Coming into Rutgers as a freshman, me and (defensive lineman) Darius (Hamilton) made a lot of promises to people that we would win a championship and bring our first championship back home to Jersey,” Carroo told Big Ten Network during Media Days. “As I was thinking about leaving for the NFL, I talked to my closest friends and family members and also Darius, who’s a longtime friend of mine. And he told me, ‘Let’s finish this out the right way,’ so that’s what we’re going to do.”

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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USA TODAY

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.