Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson gets some love from NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.

Northwestern quarterback Clayton Thorson gets some love from NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr.

Is Northwestern becoming QB U?

Trevor Siemian and Mike Kafka have already been drafted this decade, and Clayton Thorson — the team's current signal-caller — could be next.

ESPN's noted NFL Draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. ranked Thorson as one of his top five underclassman quarterbacks ahead of the 2018 draft.

Now that doesn't mean much right now. Kiper himself dubbed his position-by-position rankings as "way too early." Thorson's stock could soar or fall depending on what happens next season. And Thorson will still have one season of NCAA eligibility remaining after the upcoming 2017 campaign, meaning he might not even be in the 2018 NFL Draft.

But it's solid praise for a quarterback who looked much better in his second season as the Wildcats' starter than he did as a redshirt freshman the year prior.

As a redshirt sophomore, Thorson completed 58.6 percent of his passes for 3,182 yards and 22 touchdowns (fourth in the Big Ten in both of those categories) compared to nine interceptions. Thorson also rushed in for five touchdowns on the ground.

His quarterback rating skied from 95.9 as a freshman to 125.9 as a sophomore.

Now, there's little telling where Kiper might rank Thorson among all quarterbacks for the 2018 draft. He ranked five seniors and five underclassmen, with Thorson ranked fifth among underclassmen, behind Southern California's Sam Darnold, Wyoming's Josh Allen, UCLA's Josh Rosen and Louisville's Lamar Jackson, the reigning Heisman Trophy winner.

But certainly the Northwestern quarterback has captured the attention of draft evaluators and could follow Siemian and Kafka as recent Wildcats signal-callers to hear their name during the draft.

Lovie Smith announces dismissals for three arrested, suspended Illini football players

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Lovie Smith announces dismissals for three arrested, suspended Illini football players

The three Illinois football players suspended after being arrested earlier this month have been dismissed from the team, head coach Lovie Smith announced Wednesday.

Offensive lineman Darta Lee, tight end Zarrian Holcombe and offensive lineman HoJo Watkins Jr. were all indefinitely suspended and now are no longer with the program.

According to details from the Champaign News-Gazette, the three players were charged with residential burglary and aggravated robbery after what they claimed was a prank on a fellow dorm resident.

After the arrests on May 10, Smith announced Lee and Holcombe had previously been suspended and that a new suspension was put in place for Watkins.

"These allegations, if true, fail to live up to the standards we expect of our student-athletes," Smith said, his statement published by the Champaign News-Gazette. "We continue to gather information and will take appropriate steps based upon what we learn."

Lee and Holcombe were freshmen last season. Lee played in six games last season, starting two. Holcombe played in seven games.

Watkins was set to play in his freshman season this fall after enrolling early and working out with the team this spring.

Big Ten Player of the Year Caleb Swanigan leaving for NBA Draft, but Vincent Edwards returning to Purdue

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Big Ten Player of the Year Caleb Swanigan leaving for NBA Draft, but Vincent Edwards returning to Purdue

The Big Ten Player of the Year is heading to the NBA.

Purdue announced Wednesday that big man Caleb Swanigan will keep his name in the upcoming NBA Draft, forgoing the rest of his NCAA eligibility.

Matt Painter and the Boilermakers will keep the services of Vincent Edwards, the senior-to-be opting to return to West Lafayette for his senior season.

Both players took advantage of rules allowing underclassmen to test the NBA Draft process, gather information from NBA teams and decide whether to return to college with their NCAA eligibility intact.

"These were very difficult decisions for both Vince and Caleb to make, and we are happy for both of them," Painter said in the school's announcement. "Vince has the potential to be one of the best players in the Big Ten. He is one of the most versatile players in the country and will use what he learned from this process to improve in all phases of his game.

"We are also happy that Caleb will be able to achieve his goal of getting drafted by an NBA franchise. He has set forth on this path for a long time, and we are thrilled that he will be able to realize his dream. We wish him the best of luck as he moves forward in the process."

Swanigan was one of the best college players in the country last season, averaging 18.5 points and 12.5 rebounds a game. He registered a whopping 28 double-doubles on the season, helping lead the Boilers to the Sweet Sixteen.

Swanigan, who spent two seasons in West Lafayette, is being projected as a second-round pick. Draft Express' most recent mock draft has Swanigan as one of the first 10 picks in the second round.

Edwards averaged 12.6 points, 4.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists a game as a junior last season. He cranked it up at the end of the year after a slowish stretch in the middle of the campaign, scoring 21 or more points in three of the Boilers' final five games.

Losing Swanigan will obviously have a massive effect on Purdue's chances to win the Big Ten title next season, and his departure figures to dramatically alter the Big Ten landscape in general. The Boilers will likely remain a contender, but Swanigan's exit, albeit an expected one, could clear the way for Michigan State as the standalone preseason favorite for the league crown.