Ranking the Big Ten’s Preseason “Players To Watch” List
Ranking Preseason "Players to Watch" List
On Wednesday, the Big Ten conference announced their preseason “Players to Watch” list. The list includes five players from each division.
This year, the states of Ohio and Michigan dominate this list. The Ohio State and the University of Michigan combine for half the list. Michigan State, Nebraska, Northwestern, Penn State and Wisconsin all have players on this list. Five schools - Illinois, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota and Purdue - don’t have any players on this list.
Ohio State leads all schools with three players - Braxton Miller, Bradley Roby and Ryan Shazier - on the list with Michigan in second with two players, Devin Gardner and Taylor Lewan, on the list. Michigan State is represented by Max Bullough, Nebraska by Taylor Martinez, Northwestern by Venric Mark, Penn State by Allen Robinson and Wisconsin by Chris Borland.
This past Monday, the Big Ten media members voted Braxton Miller as the preseason favorite for the offensive player of the year award. He picked up 24 first-place votes with Taylor Martinez and Devin Gardner as the only other players receiving votes.
Defensively, OSU’s Ryan Shazier was tabbed as the favorite to win the defensive player of the year award by receiving 16 first-place votes. Borland, Bullough, OSU cornerback Bradley Roby and Northwestern’s Tyler Scott also received votes for the award.
This countdown, however, is reserved for the players on the watch list. Over the next ten slides, I’ll rank these players based on who I think is the best overall player in the Big Ten.
No. 10: Devin Gardner - QB - Michigan
Devin Gardner is coming off of a season in which he and Denard Robinson were the focal points of the offense. This season, Gardner will receive all the attention. He’s a dual threat QB that can get it done with both his legs and his arm. Last season, he threw for 1,219 yards and 11 touchdowns while also running the ball 47 times for seven touchdowns.
No. 9: Venric Mark - RB - Northwestern
Venric Mark is poised for a breakout season at tailback for the Wildcats. In 2012, he was an All-American punt returner and was a semi-finalist for the Doak Walker Award. In 2013, he was named to the preseason Doak Walker watch list.
No. 8: Allen Robinson - WR - Penn State
Allen Robinson is coming off of a 1,108-yard season as a sophomore and could become on of the best wide receivers in college football when this season is over. As well as being named to the Biletnikoff Award watch list, he was named to Phil Steele’s Preseason All-Big Ten First Team.
No. 7: Max Bullough - LB - Michigan State
Max Bullough will be entering his third season as the Spartans' starting middle linebacker. In 2012, he racked up 111 tackles including 12.5 for loss. He’s also been named to the Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy, Butkus Award and Lombardi award watch lists.
No. 6: Chris Borland - LB - Wisconsin
Chris Borland was a First-Team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches in 2012 for a 104 tackle effort. Borland is expected to contend for the Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year.
No. 5: Taylor Martinez - QB - Nebraska
Taylor Martinez enters his senior season coming off of a First-Team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches in 2012. Martinez is another dual threat quarterback that can beat with his feet and his arm. Last season, he threw for 2,871 yards and 23 touchdowns as well as rushing for over 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. He’s also up for the Walter Camp Award.
No. 4: Bradley Roby - CB - Ohio State
Granted that he actually plays this fall, Bradley Roby is poised for standout season. He was a 2012 First-Team All-American by ESPN.com. Roby has gotten into a little bit of trouble off the field which has prompted Buckeyes head coach Urban Meyer to tell media members that Roby is on a “short-leash”. If he does play, he’ll be a shutdown corner for the Buckeyes in 2013.
No. 3: Ryan Shazier - LB - Ohio State
Ryan Shazier is ready to become on of the most notable linebackers in the Big Ten. After 57 tackles in 2011, Shazier doubled that number with 115 tackles, including 19 for loss, in 2012. He was an honorable mention All-American by SI.com and a first-team All-Ten honoree by the media in 2012.
No. 2: Taylor Lewan - OT - Michigan
Taylor Lewan is arguably the top offensive lineman in this year's upcoming draft class. At 6-foot-8 and 308 pounds, Lewan is a force to be reckoned with for opposing defensive ends. Along with being named to this list, Lewan is also a candidate for the Walter Camp Award, Outland Trophy and Maxwell Award.
No. 1: Braxton Miller - QB - Ohio State
If it weren’t for Johnny Manziel, Braxton Miller could be considered the best quarterback in all of college football. After leading the Buckeyes to an undefeated 12-0 season in 2012, Miller is poised for a run at the not only the Big Ten Player of the Year, but the Heisman Trophy, as well.