B1G spring football: Top 3 players at each position

Iowa, Michigan State and Rutgers wrapped up the Big Ten spring football season with spring games on Saturday. After 13 games, one practice and an infamous cat leading Nebraska onto the field, it’s safe to say that this year’s spring was a success. Many Big Ten teams faced questions heading into the spring, and a number of those questions were answered. So now we ask: Who are the top players in the conference heading into the 2014 Big Ten football season?

Here is a breakdown of the top three Big Ten players at each position.

QUARTERBACK

1. Braxton Miller, Ohio State. He was a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate heading into last year, and after an outstanding 2013 campaign, he should earn that honor again.

2. Connor Cook, Michigan State. This guy wasn’t even a starter at the beginning of last season, and now, he has shown why he is one of the most complete signal-callers in the conference.

3. Christian Hackenberg, Penn State. After a standout freshman campaign, Hackenberg has all the tools to be an All-Big Ten performer in his second season in Happy Valley.

RUNNING BACK

1. Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska. He led the Big Ten in rushing last season with 1,690 yards and nine touchdowns. Could he pass the 2,000 yard mark this season? I wouldn’t put it past him.

2. Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin. Gordon was the top back in the conference during the first half of the season, and that was while he was sharing carries with James White. Now with White gone, it’s scary to think about how good this guy could be this season.

3. Jeremy Langford, Michigan State. This guy led the conference in rushing touchdowns and topped the 100-yard mark in the final eight games of the Big Ten season. He is as good as it gets.

WIDE RECEIVER

1. Stefon Diggs, Maryland. If Diggs can come back 100 percent healthy from knee surgery, he should be one of the elite playmakers throughout all of college football.

2. Shane Wynn, Indiana. Wynn put up big numbers last season (46 rec., 633 yards, 11 TD) while competing with Cody Latimer, Kofi Hughes and Ted Bolser for looks. All three of those guys are gone now, which means that Wynn should shine in this exciting offense.

3. Kenny Bell, Nebraska. He has put up solid numbers for three straight seasons and now he should be in store for a breakout senior campaign. A 70 catch, 1,000 yard season wouldn’t surprise anyone.

TIGHT END

1. Devin Funchess, Michigan*. This guy is one of the most physically-gifted pass-catching tight ends in the nation. With Jeremy Gallon off to the NFL, Funchess should be the go-to option in the Wolverines’ passing game this fall.

2. Maxx Williams, Minnesota. Williams is one of the top rising stars in this conference. He hauled in a team-best 25 catches for 417 yards and five touchdowns as a freshman last season.

3. Tyler Kroft, Rutgers. He led the Scarlet Knights in receptions (43) and receiving yards (573) and tied for second in receiving touchdowns (4). This is a name you will hear a lot this fall.

OFFENSIVE LINE

1. Brandon Scherff, Iowa. An All-Big Ten performer, Scherff passed on the NFL to come back to Iowa City for his senior season. The 6-5, 320 pound left tackle anchors an Iowa line that may be the best in the Big Ten this season.

2. Jack Allen, Michigan State. Allen was a second-team All-Big Tens selection last season by the media. He will be the rock of the Spartans’ offensive line unit this fall.

3. Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin. This guy will anchor the Badgers’ offensive line, which paved the way for two 1,400-plus yard rushers last season. He could be the next great offensive tackle to come out of Wisconsin.

DEFENSIVE LINE

1. Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State. Calhoun is arguably the top returning defensive end prospect in the nation. He was named a second-team All-American after recording 7.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries and a FBS-leading three defensive touchdowns.

2. Randy Gregory, Nebraska. Another returning All-Big Ten performer, Gregory led the Big Ten in sacks last season with 9.5. If he can built on that number, this guy could very well be an All-American this season.

3. Noah Spence, Ohio State. Spence had a standout sophomore season, totaling 51 tackles and eight sacks for a defense that allowed less than 23 points per game last season. What a talent.

LINEBACKER

1. Jake Ryan, Michigan. Ryan is the best defensive player on this Michigan team, and his move from the strong side to the middle could mean a 100-plus tackle season for this talented senior.

2. Chi Chi Ariguzo, Northwestern. This guy is a flat-out playmaker for Pat Fitzgerald’s defense. If Northwestern is going to have a bounce-back season, it starts on the defensive side of the ball with Chi Chi.

3. Mike Hull, Penn State. Hull will take over as the leader on this Penn State defense. He has the talent to be a stud linebacker and should be the vocal leader of this unit as well, according to former teammate Michael Mauti.

CORNERBACK

1. Blake Countess, Michigan. A second team All-Big Ten performer last season, Countess could be the next great lock-down corner to come out of Michigan.

2. Trae Waynes, Michigan State. Darqueze Dennard is off to the NFL, but the other starting corner in the No Fly Zone is back in 2014. Look for a breakout season from Waynes.

3. Sojourn Shelton, Wisconsin. Shelton was an All-Big Ten honorable mention as a true freshman, which is really impressive given how many good defensive backs played in the Big Ten this past season. This kid has a bright future in Madison.

SAFETY

1. Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State. The other returning member of the No Fly Zone was an All-Big Ten performer in 2013 and should be one of the top safeties in the nation next season.

2. Sean Davis, Maryland. Davis was a stud in Maryland’s defensive backfield last season, recording a team-high 102 tackles. Big Ten fans will get to know this guy’s name real quick this season.

3. Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern. This guy has been a three-year standout for the Wildcats and should be poised for a huge senior season. His career 262 tackles let’s you know just how productive Campbell has been throughout his college career.

– * Player is listed as TE on team page but is expected to spend time at receiver, too.

About Sean Merriman BTN.com web editor Sean Merriman covers football and men’s basketball and provides original content for BTN.com. You can follow him on Twitter @BTNSean.

Originally from Farmington Hills, MI, I have worked at the Big Ten Network since 2012 and took over my role as web editor and blogger in August, 2013. Follow me on twitter for constant Big Ten updates @srmerriman. Thanks and enjoy!!

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Show Comments (23 Comments)
23 Post Your Comment
Jay Poole (@JayRutgers09) on 4/28/2014 @ 10:19am EDT Said:

No Steve Longa for LB? Oh boy, get ready for the fall then.

smokybandit on 4/28/2014 @ 10:42am EDT Said:

“3. Tyler Kroft, Rutgers. He led the Scarlet Knights in receptions (43), receiving yards (573) and receiving touchdowns (4). This is a name you will hear a lot this fall.”

The fact those numbers led the team suggest we won’t hear his name a lot this fall.

Scott on 4/28/2014 @ 10:56am EDT Said:

Funchess isn’t a tight end. He’s lining up outside, perhaps because he can’t block at the point of attack. Are you putting him there simply to get the Wolverines another player on your list?

Gurndogg on 4/28/2014 @ 12:41pm EDT Said:

You are totally dissing many buckeye that will come back to haunt you. Spence even isn’t the best DE/DL on the team behind Bosa & maybe even Bennett.

Will Edwards on 4/28/2014 @ 1:27pm EDT Said:

Countess lolllllllllllll

Kevin on 4/28/2014 @ 1:57pm EDT Said:

Smoky, wait to you see the name Carroo from RU. He will blow away the B1G WRs this year. If not hurt, he would have more yards than TE Kroft.

MSUDersh on 4/28/2014 @ 2:25pm EDT Said:

I can’t believe you didn’t mention Mike Sadler!

Ben on 4/28/2014 @ 3:52pm EDT Said:

MSUdersh,
There was no spot for punter, and he doesn’t play for michigan state anymore…

Kfab on 4/28/2014 @ 4:27pm EDT Said:

Taiwan Jones of MSU should be in LB top 3…And Connor Cook is better than Braxton Miller…see B1G championship game if you need proof

Dean on 4/28/2014 @ 5:10pm EDT Said:

“he doesn’t play for michigan state anymore”

Not true

Scott Ludwick on 4/28/2014 @ 9:03pm EDT Said:

Umm Funchess moved to SE didnt he?

Greg on 4/28/2014 @ 9:04pm EDT Said:

I wont cry about the list, many great players in the B1G. I do want to hive a shout out to Josh Ferguson. He will be the best dual threat out of the backfield, period.. :)

Josh on 4/28/2014 @ 9:10pm EDT Said:

Tevin Coleman is a top 3 RB. Tim Bennett led the country in pass breakups and hes not a top 3 CB? Bias. Pure Bias.

Sam on 4/28/2014 @ 11:42pm EDT Said:

Quarterback surprise goes to IU’s Tre’ Roberson, who has the moves himself,
has the support at running backs, and tremendous receiving corps.
Match that with IU’s improved line protection, and he is “going…all…the…way!”

spartyhearty on 4/29/2014 @ 12:28pm EDT Said:

ur missing out on MSU TE Josiah Price – he is going to have a big year – already one of Cook’s favorite targets at the spring game!

Huskerfan8888 on 4/29/2014 @ 1:13pm EDT Said:

Huge year for Abdullah in 2014…

Nick Casey (@NickCasey) on 4/29/2014 @ 1:53pm EDT Said:

As an OSU fan I can’t help but notice that only 2 OSU players are listed. I can’t argue with that too much although I think Joey Bosa is the best defensive lineman at OSU. His performances late in his true freshman season were incredible. I do think their will be more OSU players listed if they create a list like this after the season. I’m expecting big things from Vonn Bell and some of the other young playmakers on offense.

CHOPNationBoyz on 4/29/2014 @ 1:56pm EDT Said:

Dude Leonte Carroo led Rutgers in receiving touchdowns last season with 9 and that was only in 7 games before he got hurt. No Steve Longa who was a freshman all american and led all freshman linebackers in the country in tackles either……C’Mon Man

Corey on 4/29/2014 @ 2:03pm EDT Said:

Even though I want to agree with the IU fan, Josh, Tim Bennett definitely should not be on this list. However, Tevin Coleman is a dynamic RB who is going to get better and better. I see him being like Cody Latimer and coming out of nowhere to be a 2nd round draft pick in a couple of years. Also, another guy to keep your eye on for IU is OT Jason Spriggs. This kid was a TE in high school and IU immediately added weight and strength to him and have really turned him into an elite B10 offensive lineman

zacman83 on 4/29/2014 @ 2:21pm EDT Said:

Yeah, it does seem weird to see some Ohio State players missing. Doran Grant should be an all-conference CB as a senior. Jeff Heuerman is also a senior, and is a reliable blocker and a major receiving threat at TE. SDE Joey Bosa could go in place of Noah Spence.

billbrafsky on 4/30/2014 @ 12:47am EDT Said:

the whole d line list could (and should) be MSU. as well as Price for TEs. michigan and their fans call funchess a receiver, so should have left him off the list

Pat on 5/2/2014 @ 12:07pm EDT Said:

well put on Jack Allen, kid is as underrated as it gets. Huge swing and a miss on your part with Noah Spence. Joey Bosa is twice the player as Spence. Tre Waynes is the best Corner in the Big Ten.

hoplite69 on 5/5/2014 @ 9:20pm EDT Said:

As an MSU fan, even I recognize that Joey Bosa must be on this list. He and Gregory were by far the two best defensive linemen we faced last season.

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