Big Ten

First-team linemen pace Big Ten's dozen on Bednarik watch list


First-team linemen pace Big Ten's dozen on Bednarik watch list

Three of last year's All-Big Ten First Team defensive linemen are back for the 2015 season, and all three landed on the Chuck Bednarik Award watch list.

The 80-name watch list for the award — handed out annually to the nation's top defensive player — was released Tuesday and includes Ohio State's Joey Bosa, Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun and Penn State's Anthony Zettel among a total of 12 Big Ten players.

Bosa is the reigning Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year after a remarkable 2014 campaign that saw him rank among the country's leaders in sacks (13.5) and tackles for loss (21). He also forced four fumbles and recovered one.

Calhoun took Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2013. Over the past two seasons, he's been one of the Big Ten's best, earning all-conference First Team honors in both season. He totaled 15.5 sacks and 26.5 tackles for loss in his sophomore and junior seasons. He'll be back for his senior year this fall.

[MORE BIG TEN: All three Buckeyes QBs make Maxwell Award watch list]

Zettel, now more famous for tackling a tree, was terrific last season, as well. He posted eight sacks and 17 tackles for loss, and he made a remarkable three interceptions as a defensive tackle.

Joining this trio on the Bednarik Award watch list are nine more Big Ten defensive standouts: Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel, Minnesota defensive back Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Wisconsin defensive back Michael Caputo, Nebraska defensive lineman Maliek Collins, Michigan State linebacker Ed Davis, Rutgers defensive lineman Darius Hamilton, Maryland defensive back William Likely, Minnesota defensive back Eric Murray and Ohio State linebacker Joshua Perry.

No Big Ten player has won the award since 2007, when Dan Connor made it three in a row for Penn State linebackers. Nebraska's Ndamukong Suh won in 2009, though that was before the Huskers joined the Big Ten. Since 1995, the award has been given to a Big Ten player seven times.

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.