Big Ten

Big Ten preview: Will Morris or Rudock win Michigan's QB job?


Big Ten preview: Will Morris or Rudock win Michigan's QB job?

Shane Morris has paid his dues. Jake Rudock is college football's equivalent of a hired gun. One of them will be Michigan’s starting quarterback. But which one will it be?

New head coach Jim Harbaugh has a preseason quarterback competition on his hands between Morris, a junior who’s been with the Wolverines for three years, and Rudock, who transferred in from Iowa this offseason.

“The best way to be in that competition is a healthy competition,” Harbaugh said last week at the team’s media day. “It’s very competitive, but not self-centered. When you’re in one of those competitions, from past experience, the thing you’re most concerned about is yourself and making yourself better today than you were yesterday, better tomorrow than you were today. Always striving to be a better person, better quarterback, more knowledgeable about the game of football, and in doing so, maybe make everybody around you better just because you’re doing this.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Will Jim Harbaugh buzz equal wins for Michigan in 2015?]

Morris has struggled through his limited playing time since arriving in Ann Arbor, not impressing as a freshman in Michigan’s bowl game two seasons ago and being at the center of a concussion controversy as a sophomore last season, after which he barely saw the field the remainder of the season.

He’s thrown 87 passes in nine games over the past two seasons for 389 yards, no touchdowns and five interceptions. It’s a small sample size, but those numbers aren’t very good.

Rudock spent the past two seasons as the Hawkeyes’ starting quarterback, doing a serviceable job leading an unexciting offense before opting to depart Iowa City when Iowa coaches tabbed C.J. Beathard over him as the QB of the future. So he’s spending his final collegiate season at Michigan and could be the rare quarterback to start for multiple Big Ten teams in consecutive seasons.

In 25 games over the past two seasons, Rudock completed 60.3 percent of his passes for 4,819 yards, 34 touchdowns and 18 interceptions, with only five of those interceptions coming last season.

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: What to make of Michigan’s running back battle]

The reason for Rudock’s arrival is fairly obvious: If quarterbacking guru Harbaugh doesn’t like what he sees from Morris, he has a stopgap option that won’t involve sacrificing a season while searching for that QB he can groom. He’s made a similar move for the 2016 season already, as well, bringing in transfer John O’Korn from Houston, who has to sit out this season per NCAA transfer rules.

But Morris feels plenty of confidence heading into the position battle that will determine whether he’s a viable starting quarterback for a big-time college football team or destined to be a career backup.

“I’ve got a lot on the line this year, and I’ve got a lot riding on this year,” Morris said. “Bringing in all these guys really motivates me, makes me want to be the best that I can be, pushes me to be the best, doesn’t allow me to get complacent.

“I had a great summer. I worked my butt off every day in the film room, studying the playbook, working out hard, throwing, getting these guys together, receivers. I made a lot of progress this offseason, and I’m really excited to be able to get out there.”

[MORE BIG TEN: Big Ten preview: Can Michigan's Jabrill Peppers dominate three phases?]

Surely Rudock has the experience. He spent two seasons as a starting quarterback in this league, and though he rarely wowed or created offensive fireworks, he’s played the teams on Michigan’s schedule before, and experience is a valuable thing for a quarterback to have.

Morris, though, has the potential to be a bit more of a playmaker. He came out of high school as one of the top-ranked quarterbacks in the Class of 2013 for a reason. And though he hasn’t had much opportunity to show why in game action, this might be his chance to impress and lead a Big Ten offense.

Like much else involving Michigan this preseason, the quarterback situation is a question mark. But it’s one that for better or worse will have an answer by month’s end. Michigan’s first game is just 23 days away.

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


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


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.