The Big 10 has had a lot of makeover in one year. Nebraska after being with the Big 12 for so many years, applied and was approved for membership to become the 12th team in the Big 10 conference. September 1st 2010, Big 10 Commissioner Jim Delany announced that the 12 teams will be split into two divisions: Leaders and Legends. The conference should be very competitive this year with newly Nebraska in the mix to go along the always competitive Ohio State, Michigan, Michigan State, and Wisconsin *waits for the darts from Northwestern fans*.
The Bears have plenty of former Big 10 players, and today we catch up on these players.
Anthony Adams DT
The former Nittany Lion was brought back on a two-year deal to anchor the NT position in HC Lovie Smith Tampa-2 DL. Ask any Bears defensive player (specifically the linebackers) and they will tell you the importance Adams is to that defense. Adams is also very popular in the locker room mainly due to his goofy and sometimes sarcastic personality. As one of the few veterans on this line, Adams will be counted on to be a leader especially with his fellow young Defensive interior line mates.
Robbie Gould K
Gould has been Mr. Reliable for the Bears since he arrived in Chicago in 2005. He's the most accurate kicker in team history and third most accurate in NFL history. I expect Gould to continue being reliable even with a new place holder in P Adam Podlesh who replaces his longtime place holder Brad Maynard.
Kyle Adams (Purdue) TE
Adams is an undrafted free agent TE who is mainly known as more of a blocking TE. He has been getting positive reports from beat writers so far in camp.
Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin) OT
The Bears drafted the 2010 Outland Trophy winner and Big 10 offensive lineman of the year with the 29th pick in this past April's draft. Carimi spent all of his career at Wisconsin playing LT, but scouts and draft experts felt his position at the next level was at RT. Seems like Tice share the same idea of Carimi as he has been lining up with the first team at RT. Earlier reports out of camp has said he's been struggling, but recent reports has said he has gotten better.
Kellen Davis (Michigan State) TE
Davis hasn't gotten much of an opportunity since being drafted by the Bears in the 5th round of the 2008 draft, and when he has been used it mostly has just been as a blocker. I'm sure Davis was sadden by the departure of TE Greg Olsen, but at the same time thrilled because now he will get much more opportunities. Davis is not the caliber receiving TE as Greg Olsen is, but at 6-7 267 pounds he's another big target for Jay Cutler in the passing offense. Davis is an ideal TE for Martz offense because he can double as a receiving threat and blocker.
Vernon Gholston DE
Gholston didn't come close to living up to expectation with the Jets, and is now trying to save his career under DC Rod Maranelli watch. Many fans and experts believe that he flamed out in New York because he didn't fit as a rush OLB in their 3-4. He now is back in a 4-3 for the first time since his days back in Buckeye country. If he makes the team he will most likely be used as a situational pass rusher for both starting DE's Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije.
Dane Sanzenbacher WR
Every year there's a camp hero on the Chicago Bears roster. In many fan circles Dane Sanzenbacher has been tabbed as that guy before the start of camp. So far in camp, Dane has been more than a camp hero, and lately he has been cutting into Bennett reps with the 1's in the slot. Sanzenbacher runs very good routes, has great hands, and showed at Ohio State that he can be more than a possession WR. If he keeps performing well in practice and puts together great tape in the preseason, he might force the Bears to keep 6 WR's on the roster.
Marion Barber RB
Barber had significant drop off in 2010 only rushing for 374 yards and 4 touchdowns for the Cowboys. The Cowboys decided to move on with Felix Jones and Tashard Choice as their top 2 backs when they released Barber a couple weeks ago. Knowing that the Bears struggle a lot in short yardage situations, Angelo wasted no time signing the former Gopher to a two-year contract for 5 million dollars. Barber wasted no time making his mark as Lovie was quoted saying "Barber's attacking style set the tone" for the 1st practice with all the UFA's.
Matt Spaeth TE
The former Pittsburg Steeler signed with the Bears and will be taking the place of the now released Brandon Manumaleuna. Martz feels that he now has two TE's in Spaeth and Davis that are capable of blocking DE's one on one.
Corey Wootton DE
Wootton fell behind last season because he was still recovering from an injury, but he caught on towards the end of the season. He has picked up where he left off getting this recent praise from DC Rod Maranelli
‘‘I like what Wootton has done in camp,'' Marinelli said. ‘‘He looks quick [and] fast. . . . He's smart. He's got great tempo. He's trimmed down.''
Wootton this year might be primed to cut into starting LE Idonije snaps if he continues impressing the coaches.
Nick Roach LB
Roach comes into the 2011 season as the starting SAM linebacker for the Bears after previous seasons taking a back seat to Pisa Tinoisamoa (no longer with team). Roach is your ideal SAM linebacker in the tampa-2 because he has athletic ability and quickness to be solid in run support and stay with opposing offenses TE's.
Zackary Bowman CB
Both Bowman and Tim Jennings are breathing a sigh of relief that the Bears passed on Kelvin Hayden who most likely would have been the starter at LCB. Bowman most likely will continue going to battle with Jennings for the LCB position. The way Jennings is getting beat by Hester in camp; Bowman still has a chance to regain his starting spot back.
Ricky Henry OG
Henry is a big strong OG who has to put together great tape to stick on the Bears practice squad.