Originally Published: August 3, 2010

Defensive Standouts Ready To Dominate

By Mark Schlabach

CHICAGO -- Iowa's Adrian Clayborn and Ohio State's Cameron Heyward weren't invited to New York for last year's Heisman Trophy presentation.

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Gregory Shamus/Getty ImagesCameron Heyward picked up 6½ sacks in 2009.

Former Nebraska star Ndamukong Suh was the only defensive player among the Heisman Trophy finalists in 2009.

But Clayborn and Heyward might be the most likely defensive linemen to make a Suh-like impact this coming season.

Both Big Ten stars passed up entering last spring's NFL draft to return to college for their senior seasons. Each might have been a first-round pick in the draft.

"My mom told me how much of a business the NFL is," said Heyward, the son of late NFL fullback Craig "Ironhead" Heyward, who played for the New Orleans Saints and Atlanta Falcons. "She told me, 'You're only in college once. You better enjoy it.'"

Heyward, from Suwanee, Ga., said it's humbling to be compared to Suh, who was one of the sport's most dominant defensive players during his three seasons with the Cornhuskers.

But Heyward said he's hoping to make even more of an impact than Suh did.

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Don McPeak/US PresswireAdrian Clayborn made 11½ sacks last season.

"You can't be known as a player who was just as good as Suh," Heyward said. "You want to be remembered as a guy who was better than Suh."

Last season, Heyward had 46 tackles, 10 tackles for loss, 6½ sacks and 20 quarterback hurries while helping lead the Buckeyes to another Big Ten championship.

Heyward said he came back to Ohio State to lead the Buckeyes to a BCS national championship.

"A lot of guys want it," Heyward said. "It's never guaranteed to anyone. I think we're hungry and up to the challenge."

Clayborn, a senior from St. Louis, was just as productive as Suh a year ago. Clayborn, a defensive end, had 70 tackles, 20 tackles for loss, 11½ sacks, four forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and nine quarterback hurries.

"I feel like Suh did his thing and made a name for himself," Clayborn said. "Let his name shine. I don't see the comparisons. We play two different positions."

Royster Running Toward Record

By Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- Last week, Evan Royster found himself sitting on the steps of Penn State's student bookstore in State College as a photographer snapped pictures.

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Randy Litzinger/Icon SMIEvan Royster needs 481 yards to become Penn State's all-time leading rusher.

"It was pretty ridiculous," the Nittany Lions senior running back said. "They've got steps that have all the rushing leaders. I think I'm the seventh or eighth guy down."

Eighth, to be exact. Royster has 2,918 career rushing yards entering his senior season at Penn State, but he needs only 481 more to pass Curt Warner for the all-time record.

Barring a snag, Royster will reach the top step before he hangs up his white helmet and black shoes. In anticipation of a more featured role, he added about 15 pounds during the offseason and expects to play at 218 or 219 this fall.

Royster is growing tired of all the talk about his pursuit of the record, but he fully grasps what it'll mean.

"It's brought up so much now that I can't stop thinking about it," he said. "I'm not going to lie and say I don't think about it and don't want it, 'cause I want it. It's something that any person in my position would be setting their goals for."

Royster nearly took himself out of the running by turning pro after the 2009 season. He sent his paperwork to the NFL draft advisory board on time but never received a draft evaluation, even after several follow-up requests.

Eventually, Royster returned to Penn State, where he can gain something more valuable than a paycheck.

"If I get that record, I think that will take me further than any NFL career will," he said. "I'll cherish that way more than playing a couple years in the NFL."

Healthy Clay Primed For Big Season

By Mark Schlabach

CHICAGO -- Few running backs were more productive last season than Wisconsin's John Clay, who ran for 1,517 yards with 18 touchdowns.

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David Stluka/Icon SMIJohn Clay has rushed for 2,401 yards and 27 TDs at Wisconsin.

But Badgers coach Bret Bielema says Clay might be even better this coming season, after Clay underwent surgery to clean up bone chips in both his ankles.

"He's healthy," Bielema said. "He's as healthy as he's ever been. He made a huge leap from Year 1 to Year 2."

Clay didn't participate in spring practice, but will be ready to go when the Badgers open preseason camp later this week. Clay said he gained 10 pounds after surgery, but lost the weight and tipped the scales at 255 pounds last week. He hopes to lose at least five more pounds.

"John's a big guy," Bielema said. "You can't change who he is. He's a large individual."

But Clay said he'd like to change a couple of things about his game in 2010. He hopes to become a more consistent runner and rid himself of the fumbling problems of the past.

"I need to play big in the big games," Clay said. "I need to stay away from not running hard. I feel good about our team. We have all the ingredients to be a special team."

Royston Aims To Wield Ax For Gophers

By Adam Rittenberg

CHICAGO -- Kim Royston lifted Paul Bunyan's Axe with the rest of his Wisconsin teammates in 2006 and 2007. Now he wants to get his hands on the trophy again.

But this time, he plans to do so as a Minnesota Golden Gopher.

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AP Photo/Paul BattagliaKim Royston wants the Golden Gophers to be celebrating with Paul Bunyan's Axe in 2010.

Royston, a safety who transferred from Wisconsin to Minnesota following the 2007 season, already has a unique perspective on college football's oldest rivalry. He plans to make history Oct. 9 in Madison, Wis.

"It would mean the world to me," Royston said. "Not only knowing how much that ax means to Minnesota and the Minnesota fans, but also my predicament. I came from [Wisconsin], I broke my leg [this spring], I've been through a lot to get this point.

"When we win that game and I'm the first one running across the field to grab that ax, it's going to be so surreal. I think about it almost every day."

There's only one problem with Royston's plan.

"I'll clothesline him before he gets there," Wisconsin safety Jay Valai said with a wicked grin.

Royston and Valai are actually great friends to this day and used to call themselves the "Bashing Brothers" in Madison.

"We used to come in for second-team defense and see how many people we could hurt," said Valai, recalling a vicious hit Royston put on offensive lineman Josh Oglesby. "It's good seeing him here."

Royston had a chance to reunite with his former Wisconsin teammates this week at Big Ten media days. He went out for deep-dish pizza Monday with Valai, Wisconsin quarterback Scott Tolzien, Wisconsin running back John Clay and Minnesota defensive tackle Brandon Kirksey.

"It was a little awkward seeing [Wisconsin] coach [Bret] Bielema at first, but he wished me good luck," Royston said. "We definitely have no hard feelings right now -- until we get out there at Camp Randall and I'm running across the field to get that ax."

Jones Seeking Wins, Interception

By Adam Rittenberg
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Chuck Rydlewski/Icon SMIGreg Jones is still looking for his first career interception.

CHICAGO -- Few defenders in college football have a more complete résumé than Michigan State linebacker Greg Jones.

There's really only one thing missing: an interception.

"I'm very disappointed I don't have any in my career," said Jones, who has been named back-to-back preseason Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. "I was close a few times. When you watch those plays, it's like two feet here or if I dove here."

Jones has made pass coverage a priority in his senior season. The only problem? He's also Michigan State's best blitzer and led Big Ten linebackers in sacks with nine last season (fifth overall in the league).

Defensive coordinator Pat Narduzzi doesn't want to lose Jones' presence on blitzes. Then again, Michigan State's transition to a 3-4 set should help the All-American be a bigger factor in coverage since the outside linebackers can rush the passer.

"I want to drop back a little bit more, it would help me out a little bit," he said. "But I want to win. If I have to drop back more, if I have to blitz more, or if I have to do a little bit of both, whatever it takes to win."


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