The mantra stating the B1G was back was quieted by Alabama and Stanford blowing out its two Big Ten title game participants. However, the league’s set of coaches – specifically in its east division – is impressive, and will result in some top-tier talent entering the league over the next few years. The league is on the upswing thanks in large part to its two premier programs returning to national prominence following Michigan’s funk and Ohio State’s sanctions.
[am4show have=’g1;’ guest_error=’sub_message’ user_error=’sub_message’ ]
Fulfilling Their 2015 Promise
L.J. Scott, RB Michigan State Spartans
The running back pipeline has been strong for the Spartans, with backs such as Javon Ringer, Le’Veon Bell, and Jeremy Langford emerging as some of the best in the Big Ten during Mark Dantonio’s tenure. Entering 2015, there were major questions as to who would carry the load for the Big Ten champions, and while a committee approach ruled it was Scott who stood out, highlighted by his tough run to clinch a victory in the Big Ten title game. Big and rugged with underrated receiving skills, Scott looks like the next Spartan feature back and is already a highly coveted devy asset.
Ezekiel Elliott, RB Ohio State Buckeyes
There were few things Ezekiel Elliott could have done to build on his epic 2014 finish. 2015 was just about avoiding serious injury or mysteriously poor play, and Elliott did both in establishing himself as a first round selection and high rookie pick. With an incredibly balanced skill-set and supreme effort in pass blocking, he should see the field and stuff the box score early in his NFL career.
Jake Butt, TE Michigan Wolverines
Say his name – giggle – then get back to watching the nation’s best tight end work, then sprinkle in more jokes about the sentence I just used. Jake Butt thrived in Jim Harbaugh’s first year and his array of skills portends a three down role at the next level. With prototype size and impressive ball skills, he could flirt with the first round in 2017.
Simmie Cobbs, WR Indiana Hoosiers
Despite some heinous drops in the bowl game against Duke, Simmie Cobbs emerged from obscurity to become one of the Big Ten’s better weapons for a program who has surprisingly produced some decent skill position talent over the past few years. A big receiver with room to fill out, Cobbs is a limited player at this juncture but the capacity to grow as a player is enormous. He will have to produce without Nate Sudfeld in 2017; if he does, he may prove to be the conference’s best receiver.
Shannon Brooks, RB Minnesota Golden Gophers
A three-star recruit embarking on his college journey with a middling Big Ten program, there was understandably little to no hype around Shannon Brooks. While the final numbers do not look gaudy and the performances against top programs were pedestrian, there is a lot to like about Brooks’ game. Compact with a physical running style conjuring memories of Marion Barber, he looks poised to become the lead back for the Gophers starting in 2016. While there’s not enough here yet to invest valuable devy resources, his development is worth monitoring.
Leonte Carroo, WR Rutgers Scarlet Knights
Leonte Carroo quietly battled Michael Thomas for the title of Big Ten’s best receiver, shaking off a midseason absence to close strong and cement himself as a day two pick. He could loiter around the first round fringe in upcoming rookie drafts.
Jehu Chesson, WR Michigan Wolverines
Some players blossom early in their careers, establishing themselves as NFL talents and the nation’s best before they’re even draft-eligible. Others take time to marinate at the college level, and Michigan wide receiver Jehu Chesson is one. Whether it be a vastly improved coaching staff or personal gains in his game, Chesson went from complementary receiver to main weapon and at 6-foot-3, 200+ pounds with big-time speed, he has become a very intriguing prospect. If he ties it all together in 2016, he has an opportunity to climb up boards in what is shaping up to be a very pedestrian 2017 receiver class.
New Year’s Resolutions Needed
Corey Clement, RB Wisconsin Badgers
Corey Clement entered 2015 with a golden opportunity for an All-American campaign and day two selection in the 2016 draft. He leaves it with a variety of question marks thanks to an injury-plagued season. He returns to a backfield in which he is clearly the best player, yet the depth of the 2017 class could lead to Clement being pushed down the board. You also lose a year at a position which is known for high turnover. Few things went right for Clement’s devy owners in 2015.
J.T. Barrett, QB Ohio State Buckeyes
Things just never materialized for J.T. Barrett this year. Despite an excellent Fiesta Bowl performance, he never found the rhythm he had in 2014, perhaps due to a prolonged off-season quarterback controversy which led to him being benched in favor of Cardale Jones. Still an efficient passer with plus running skills, 2016 should prove to be Barrett’s best yet despite massive personnel losses for the Buckeyes thanks to an off-season program in which he will be the guy. Despite not taking the large step forward this year, there’s still reason to be optimistic about Barrett.
Christian Hackenberg, QB Penn State Nittany Lions
Christian Hackenberg sans Bill O’Brien has not been a good thing. Penn State has admittedly been a mess around him, but at some point you need to stop referencing excuses if you’re discussing a top quarterback prospect. There’s still plenty here; he’s just slipped into the second tier of quarterback prospects and is not the slam dunk number one overall selection he was hailed as following his freshman season.
Shopping For Next Year
Miles Sanders, RB Penn State Nittany Lions
You could make the case Penn State will have the nation’s top running back recruit for the second straight year. Following the awesome freshman season of Saquon Barkley, the Nittany Lions bring in another elite runner in Miles Sanders. Incredible in the open field, Sanders also shows patience and avoids the temptation to get to the sidelines on each run. In a down year for backs, he is heads and shoulders above many.
Austin Mack, WR Ohio State Buckeyes
Tall like a receiver and with the lower body of a running back, it is no surprise Austin Mack is a versatile weapon with elite run after the catch ability. It has been pretty rare for true freshman to make a major impact under Urban Meyer in Columbus, but Mack looks physically ready to handle the grind and become part of the offense. Mack and Noah Brown may be the best fits to replace the departing Michael Thomas as Ohio State’s number one receiver.