As we should see in next month’s NFL draft, the Big Ten is losing some serious talent. From the offensive side of the ball to the defensive side, there are plenty of All-Big Ten honorees and superlative winners to replace. Which NFL-bound players will be missed the most? See my top candidates, listed in alphabetical order, in this post.
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Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin. It’s been talked about at length, that the Wisconsin passing game wasn’t exactly stellar in 2013. In fact, the unit’s 2,562 passing yards ranked 82nd in FBS. Now, consider this: Abbrederis (78 receptions, 1,081 yards and seven TD) is gone, as are TE Jacob Pedersen, RB James White and WR Jeff Duckworth, the team’s next three leading pass-catchers. The Badgers need someone to emerge to stretch the field a la Abbrederis, otherwise defenses will be able to stack the box and make running room harder to come by for stud running backs Melvin Gordon and Corey Clement.
Ra’Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota. As cohort Sean Merriman pointed out here, it isn’t every day that the Gophers boast a sure-fire NFL talent, let alone a likely first-rounder. Hageman is just that, and the Gophers are certain to miss their massive defensive lineman. More important than Hageman’s production (38 tackles, 12 TFL, 8 BU, 1 INT), the Minnesota defense will miss his presence, which opened up opportunities and made life easier on his teammates.
Iowa linebackers. How does a defense go about replacing three stud linebackers (Anthony Hitchens, Christian Kirksey and James Morris) at the same time? Who knows. It isn’t going to be easy to replace the trio’s 322 tackles, 35.5 tackles for loss, 11.5 sacks, six interceptions, four fumble recoveries and six forced fumbles from last season. These guys were special, and it’s going to take a committee approach. The good news: Quinton Alston is drawing rave reviews.
Taylor Lewan, OT, Michigan. Yes, Devin Gardner spent a lot of time picking himself up after a sack last year – even with Lewan anchoring the line. It happened 35 times, to be exact, and 36 if you count the bowl game (Shane Morris). What kind of pressure will Gardner face this season sans one of the draft’s top offensive linemen? That’s a question that has to frighten Gardner, the Michigan staff and its fanbase. Maybe new OC Doug Nussmeier will remedy the issue, or maybe the running backs will produce and keep defenses honest. Either way, Gardner and the Wolverines are going to miss big No. 77.
Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State. Everybody knew Robinson’s importance to the Penn State offense. As a breakout sophomore, he helped turn Matt McGloin into a record-breaking quarterback; and as a junior, he aided in freshman quarterback Christian Hackenberg living up to the massive hype. All together, in the two seasons, Robinson hauled in 174 passes for 2,445 yards and 17 touchdowns en route to winning Big Ten Receiver of the Year twice. No doubt, Hackenberg will sorely miss Robinson as he transitions to James Franklin’s offense, with Geno Lewis’ 18 receptions leading the way among returning wideouts.
|About Brent Yarina||BTN.com senior editor Brent Yarina covers football and men’s basketball for BTN.com. He writes the popular uniform feature “Clothes Call,” which also focuses on the latest cosmetic changes across Big Ten arenas and stadiums. Read all of his work here. You can subscribe to Yarina’s RSS feed and follow him on Twitter @BTNBrentYarina.|