Tom Dienhart, BTN.com Senior Writer, February 11, 2016
Spring practices aren?t that far away from starting.
In fact, Northwestern will be the first Big Ten school to begin, kicking off drills on Feb. 23. Michigan soon follows with a Feb. 29 beginning.
Here is a look at the 10 biggest shoes to fill around the conference.
1. DE Joey Bosa, Ohio State. He declared for the draft after winning Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year honors. Bosa had just five sacks but was fourth in the Big Ten in tackles for loss with 16. His numbers were modest, but his presence created opportunities for teammates to make plays, as Bosa helped OSU have the No. 2 scoring defense in the Big Ten (15.1 ppg).
2. RB Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State. Elliott led the Big Ten in rushing and earned Big Ten Running Back of the Year accolades. He led the Big Ten in rushing each of the last two years, rambling for 1,821 yards and 23 TDs in 2015. Elliott leaves campus with 3,961 yards and 43 carries in just three seasons.
3. OT Jack Conklin, Michigan State. He enjoyed an amazing career that saw him arrive in East Lansing as a walk-on and leave a year early for the NFL after garnering All-American honors. Conklin allowed only four sacks in 38 career games and recorded more than 235 career knockdowns.
4. QB Connor Cook, Michigan State. Arguably the greatest quarterback in school history, Cook leaves with almost every significant passing record-and lots of big wins; the most ever for a Spartan signal-caller (34). The 2015 Big Ten QB of the Year and Unitas Award winner, Cook won two Big Ten titles and guided the program to its first playoff appearance to go along with 71 career TD passes and 9,217 yards passing.
5. DE Carl Nassib, Penn State. An amazing story, Nassib arrived at Penn State as a preferred walk-on. He left as an All-American who earned 2015 Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year honors and won the Lombardi and Hendricks Awards. Nassib led the nation in sacks (15.5) and was 11th in tackles for loss (19.5). He was a true difference maker off the edge.
6. LB Joe Schobert, Wisconsin. A true playmaker with a nose for the ball, Schobert earned Big Ten Linebacker of the Year honors. He led the team with 9.5 sacks and 19.5 tackles for loss, second in the Big Ten. A former walk-on, Schobert was a whirling dervish who had a nose for the ball and often was unblockable.
7. DE Yannick Ngakoue, Maryland. A lightning-quick pass rusher off the edge, Ngakoue ranked second in the Big Ten in sacks with 13.5, which set a school single-season standard. He also had 15 tackles for loss and earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors. Ngakoue opted to turn pro early.
8. DE Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State. He concluded a stellar career with second-team All-American honors in addition to consensus first-team All-Big Ten accolades. Calhoun was one of only eight Spartans in program history and the first defensive lineman to earn first-team All-Big Ten honors three times (2013-15). He had 127 career tackles, including 43.5 for losses (267 yards) with 27 sacks (211 yards).
9. WR Aaron Burbridge, Michigan State. He enjoyed a monster 2015, earning Big Ten Receiver of the Year accolades. Burbridge led the Big Ten with 85 catches for 1,258 yards and seven TDs. He had 160 catches for 2,135 yards (13.3 avg.) and 10 touchdowns in 50 career games and ranks among MSU?s all-time leaders in receptions (second with 160).
10. QB Nate Sudfeld, Indiana. In addition to leading the Hoosiers in all-time passing yardage and touchdowns, he is first in 200-yard (19), 300-yard (10) and 350-yard (5) games, tied for first in three-touchdown games (9), tied for second in completions (565) and 250-yard games (12), is third in total offense (7,602) and is fifth in attempts (932). Few have done it better than Sudfeld, an all-time IU great. He was consensus third-team All-Big Ten after leading the conference in passing yards (3,573) and TD tosses (27), as well as passing efficiency. Oh, and he led the program to its first bowl since 2007 last season.