Big Ten

A couple award-winners headline list of B1G undrafted free agents

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A couple award-winners headline list of B1G undrafted free agents

Being named the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year and the Big Ten Defensive Back of the Year apparently aren't enough to get you drafted in the seven rounds of the NFL Draft.

But have no fear, as Mike Hull and Kurtis Drummond each found an NFL home despite not being selected over the three-day event this past weekend in Chicago.

Hull, the Big Ten Linebacker of the Year and the latest product of Linebacker U at Penn State, was signed as an undrafted free agent by the Dolphins. Hull had 140 tackles during the 2014 season, also making 10.5 tackles for loss and two sacks to go along with an interception and a forced fumble. Hull's absence on many national linebacker of the year award finalist lists had many scratching their heads.

Drummond, who beat out teammate Trae Waynes for the conference's Defensive Back of Year honors, was signed by the Texans as an undrafted free agent. Waynes was the No. 11 overall pick in this year's draft, the second straight year a Michigan State cornerback has been drafted in the first round. But Drummond outdid Waynes on the collegiate field last season, leading the Spartans with 72 tackles and four interceptions.

[MORE BIG TEN: Complete list of Big Ten players selected in NFL Draft]

Hull and Drummond were the conference's biggest names to not get drafted and instead sign as undrafted free agents. But they were hardly the only ones.

Other interesting names included Iowa defensive lineman Louis Trinca-Pasat, the Lane Tech product who ended up signing with the Rams. Another Chicago-area Hawkeye, running back Mark Weisman out of Stevenson High School, signed with the Bengals.

Five Northwestern Wildcats found post-draft homes: Chi Chi Ariguzo signed with the Broncos, Jimmy Hall signed with the Raiders, Tony Jones signed with the Redskins, Brandon Vitabile signed with the Colts, and Kyle Prater, who went to Proviso West, signed with the Browns, who also drafted Northwestern safety Ibraheim Campbell.

Illinois had zero players drafted for the second straight season, though two tight ends, Matt LaCosse (out of Naperville North) and Jon Davis, signed with the Giants and Cowboys, respectively.

[MORE BIG TEN: Huskers' Randy Gregory out to prove doubters wrong after NFL Draft fall]

Michigan quarterback Devin Gardner will try to make it as a wide receiver, signing as one with the Super Bowl champion Patriots.

Both of Purdue's speed-demon running backs found NFL teams: Akeem Hunt signed with the Giants, and Raheem Mostert signed with the Eagles.

Minnesota offensive lineman Zac Epping signed with the Vikings. Wisconsin defensive lineman Warren Herring signed with the Falcons, as did Indiana wide receiver Shane Wynn. Ohio State linebacker Curtis Grant signed with the Chargers. Nebraska defensive back Josh Mitchell signed with the Colts. Michigan State linebacker Taiwan Jones signed with the Jets, while Spartans punter Mike Sadler signed with the Buccaneers and Spartans defensive lineman Marcus Rush signed with the 49ers.

[MORE BIG TEN: 2015 could be final year of Big Ten's first-round QB drought]

Here's a complete list of Big Ten players who signed as undrafted free agents (h/t to BTN.com):

Illinois Fighting Illini

Matt LaCosse, TE, Giants
Jon Davis, TE, Cowboys

Indiana Hoosiers

Collin Rahrig, OL, Steelers
Bobby Richardson, DL, Saints
Shane Wynn, WR, Falcons

Iowa Hawkeyes

Quinton Alston, LB, Buccaneers
Ray Hamilton, TE, Cowboys
John Lowdermilk, DB, Chargers
Kevonte Martin-Manley, WR, Browns
Louis Trinca-Pasat, DL, Rams
Mark Weisman, RB, Bengals

Maryland Terrapins

Yannik Cudjoe-Virgil, LB, Titans
Cole Farrand, LB, Giants
Deon Long, WR, Titans
Matt Robinson, LB, Jaguars

Michigan Wolverines

Brennen Beyer, DE, Ravens
Devin Gardner, WR, Patriots

Michigan State Spartans

Kurtis Drummond, DB, Texans
Andrew Gleichert, TE, Eagles
Taiwan Jones, LB, Jets
Marcus Rush, DE, 49ers
Mike Sadler, P, Buccaneers

Minnesota Golden Gophers

Cameron Botticelli, DE, Chargers
Zac Epping, OL, Vikings
Isaac Freuchte, WR, Vikings
Derrick Wells, DB, Buccaneers

Nebraska Cornhuskers

Zaire Anderson, LB, Broncos
Jake Cotton, OL, Texans
Josh Mitchell, DB, Colts
Trevor Roach, LB, Bengals

Northwestern Wildcats

Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB, Chargers
Jimmy Hall, LB, Raiders
Tony Jones, WR, Redskins
Kyle Prater, WR, Browns
Brandon Viatbile, C, Colts

Ohio State Buckeyes

Darryl Baldwin, OL, Ravens
Curtis Grant, LB, Chargers

Penn State Nittany Lions

Deion Barnes, DE, Jets
Bill Belton, RB, Jets
Miles Dieffenbach, C, Steelers
Mike Hull, LB, Dolphins

Purdue Boilermakers

Gabe Holmes, TE, Raiders
Akeem Hunt, RB, Giants
Raheem Mostert, RB, Eagles
Justin Sinz, TE, Colts

Rutgers Scarlet Knights

Kaleb Johnson, OL, Ravens
Kevin Snyder, LB, Lions
Andrew Turzilli, WR, Titans

Wisconsin Badgers

Warren Herring, DL, Falcons

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Pat Fitzgerald, Lovie Smith in top 10 of an intriguing college coach list

Northwestern and Illinois’ college football programs are ranked in the top 10 this year.

Kind of.

One esteemed name in the college football ranks has placed Wildcats head coach Pat Fitzgerald atop the list of the all-time greatest college coaches…ranked as players. Illini coach Lovie Smith ranks at No. 10.

Rich Cirminiello, Director of College Awards for the Maxwell Football Club, compiled the list and he is an excellent follow on Twitter. He has several other noteworthy lists of interest, including the top college football players who are now coaches in the NFL. Psst…spoiler alert: several local connections are on that particular list as well, including Saints head coach Sean Payton (QB, Eastern Illinois) and Ron Rivera (LB, California).

But back to Coach Fitz, who bleeds purple and has emphatically put the NU football program on the map since the mid-90s. He was a two-time All-American in addition to receiving consecutive Bronco Nagurski, Chuck Bednarik and Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors as a linebacker (1995-96). He helped guide the Wildcats to the ’96 Rose Bowl. Since becoming the team’s head coach in 2006, he has led the program to nine bowl games (four wins).

We all know Lovie Smith’s coaching legacy with the Bears and his rebuilding of the Illinois football program, but did you know how much he dominated as a college player? He played for Tulsa from 1976-79, racking up 367 career tackles primarily as a safety. He was a three-time All-Missouri Valley Conference award winner and earned a second-team All-America mention in 1978. He was also named MVC Newcomer of the Year after he tallied 90 tackles as a freshman.

[MORE: Lovie Smith, Mike Tirico discuss systemic racism 

Michigan head coach Jim Harbaugh, who passed for over 11,000 yards in seven seasons as a Chicago Bear, ranked No. 2 on Cirminiello’s list. In a follow-up tweet, Minnesota’s P.J. Fleck, who dominated as a wide receiver at NIU and at nearby Kaneland High School, came in at No. 20. Western Michigan’s Tim Lester —a star player at Wheaton Warrenville South HS— is in at No. 7.

Who said that the Land of Lincoln didn’t have top college football talent?

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Northwestern Wildcats athletic department begins phased return to campus

Professional, collegiate and prep sports have been on hold in Illinois since mid-March but it looks like there may be more light at the end of the tunnel. This time, in Evanston.

Northwestern University announced Thursday that a phased reopening of the athletic department, in tandem with NU’s overall policy for a return to campus, will include student athlete workouts on Monday June 22.

The relaunch of athletics at Northwestern during the COVID-19 pandemic comes as the state of Illinois is progressing in its own planned reopening, as dictated by Gov. J.B. Pritzker.

The sports medicine staff, athletic trainers and student-athletes with post-injury needs were welcomed back earlier this month and other select groups will be admitted back to campus next week.

Athletes will be required to complete a full physical upon arrival in Evanston on June 22. They will be screened before entering on-site facilities by means of a wellness check and a no-touch temperature scan.

Facility access will be managed through one entrance and exit. Locker facilities and lounges will remain closed, though, along with dining centers.

[MORE: Shortened NFL preseason puts big group of players at a disadvantage]

The Wildcats football team, along with both the men’s and women’s basketball programs, are penciled in to begin those voluntary workouts a week from Monday. Each unit should have plenty of motivation once they hit the playing surface.

Head coach Pat Fitzgerald and company are eager to put last year’s 3-9 mark behind them. On the hardwood, Chris Collins’ group needs a quick bounce-back after an 8-23 mark last season while the women’s team, under the tutelage of Big Ten Coach of the Year Joe McKeown, are looking to build off a stellar 2019-20 campaign. They won the their first conference championship since 1989-90 and boasted a school record 26 wins.

 

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