Big Ten

Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg declares for NFL Draft

christian-hackenberg-0102.png

Penn State QB Christian Hackenberg declares for NFL Draft

Christian Hackenberg didn't waste any time in letting the world know about his decision over his football future.

The junior quarterback announced to reporters his intention to forego his senior season at Penn State and declare for the NFL Draft in the moments following the Nittany Lions' loss to Georgia in Saturday's TaxSlayer Bowl.

[MORE BIG TEN: Penn State's Trace McSorley-led comeback falls short in TaxSlayer Bowl loss]

Hackenberg didn't even play half of Saturday's game, knocked out in the second quarter with a shoulder injury. Backup quarterback Trace McSorley finished the game and nearly led the Lions to a comeback.

Hackenberg had a strange career at Penn State. He was fantastic as a freshman under the tutelage of former Penn State head coach Bill O'Brien, completing 58.9 percent of his passes for 2,955 yards and 20 touchdowns with 10 interceptions.

But after O'Brien departed to become the head coach of the NFL's Houston Texans, Hackenberg struggled under new Penn State head coach James Franklin. As a sophomore last season, Hackenberg completed 55.8 percent of his passes for 2,977 yards, throwing 12 touchdown passes compared to 15 interceptions. Part of that can certainly be chalked up to what was going on around him. Allen Robinson was the Big Ten Wide Receiver of the Year in both 2012 and 2013 and left for the NFL, and the Lions' offensive line was atrocious last season, allowing Hackenberg to be sacked a whopping 44 times.

[SHOP BIG TEN: Get your Penn State gear right here]

This past season, Hackenberg completed 53.3 percent of his passes for 2,386 yards, throwing 16 touchdown passes and just five interceptions. Hackenberg had a great six-game stretch this season where he threw 12 touchdown passes and zero interceptions. But still, Penn State's offense failed to do much under his leadership, ranking second-to-last in the Big Ten with just 344 total yards a game.

As recently as this past summer, Hackenberg was still being talked up as a top quarterback prospect in the upcoming NFL Draft, but another unimpressive season negatively affected his stock, and he's no longer expected to be a first-round choice.

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

jeremy_larkin.jpg
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

anderson.jpg
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.