Michigan is hoping for a bounce-back season for tight end Jake Butt. And the folks at the John Mackey Award think Butt might be primed for a really good campaign.
Butt was one of 33 players named to the John Mackey Award watch list Wednesday. The award is handed out annually to the best tight end in college football.
Butt had an impressive freshman year in 2013, starting eight games and catching 20 passes for 235 yards and a pair of touchdowns. Last season as a sophomore, he battled injury issues but still appeared in 10 games, catching 21 passes for 211 yards and two more touchdowns. He's expected to be quite the asset for new head coach Jim Harbaugh in the Wolverines' passing game this season.
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There were four more Big Ten tight ends named to the watch list Wednesday: Penn State's Kyle Carter, Iowa's Jake Duzey, Michigan State's Josiah Price and Ohio State's Nick Vannett.
The Big Ten did have a finalist for last year's Mackey Award in Minnesota's Maxx Williams, who was also the conference's Tight End of the Year. Williams was the No. 55 overall pick in this spring's NFL Draft, a second-round selection of the Baltimore Ravens.
Big Ten players won three of the first seven Mackey Awards handed out between 2000 and 2006. But that 2006 win — by Minnesota's Matt Spaeth — is the conference's most recent.
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 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.