Tom Dienhart, Senior Writer, June 1, 2016

The National Football Foundation released its ballot of candidates for the 2017 College Football Hall of Fame ballot. And many Big Ten players dot the ballot.

A total of 21 former Big Ten players are on the ballot with 11 schools represented.

Here is a look at the candidates with Big Ten ties.

NT Moe Gardner
LB Dana Howard
LB Simeon Rice

QB Antwaan Randle El

RB/KR Tim Dwight
DE Andre Tippett

OT Jumbo Elliott
DT Mark Messner

Michigan State
K Morten Andersen
WR Kirk Gibson
RB Lorenzo White

DE Bob Stein

QB Eric Crouch
OT Zach Wiegert

Ohio State
RB Keith Byars
FB Jim Otis

Penn State
QB Kerry Collins
RB D.J. Dozier
G Steve Wisniewski

WR Larry Burton

DB Troy Vincent

I had the chance to see many of these players in action. All are worthy to an extent. But the players I am voting for are:

Keith Byars. The guy was a one-man wrecking crew in 1984 when he was the Heisman runner-up and nation?s top rusher en route to earning Big Ten MVP honors. Few have done it better.

Lorenzo White. The guy was dominating, leading the nation in rushing in 1985, earning first-team All-American honors two times and leading the Spartans to the Rose Bowl after the 1987 season. A prototype 1980s workhorse stud back.

Eric Crouch. The guy won the Heisman in 2001 and led the Cornhuskers to the national title game the same season. Good enough for me. Why isn?t he already in?

Antwaan Randle El. Like Eric Crouch, Randle El already should be enshrined. He set a new standard for QBs, becoming the first player in FBS history to pass for 6,000 yards and rush for 3,000 yards in career. Oh, and he rushed for more yards than any QB in FBS history upon conclusion of career.

Dana Howard. He was the face of some excellent Illini teams in the 1990s, winning the Butkus in 1994 in what was a run of top LB play in Champaign. A two-time first-team All-American, Howard is Illinois? all-time leading tackler. Time has forgotten his greatness. Too bad.

The announcement of the 2017 Class will be made Friday, Jan. 6, 2017, in Tampa. The city is serving as the host for the CFP National Championship, which will be played Jan. 9 at Raymond James Stadium.

The criteria for Hall of Fame consideration includes:
1. First and foremost, a player must have received First-Team All-America recognition by a selector organization that is recognized by the NCAA and utilized to comprise their consensus All-America teams.
2. A player becomes eligible for consideration by the Foundation's Honors Courts 10 full seasons after his final year of intercollegiate football played.
3. While each nominee's football achievements in college are of prime consideration, his post-football record as a citizen is also weighed. He must have proven himself worthy as a citizen, carrying the ideals of football forward into his relations with his community and his fellow man, with love of his country. Consideration may also be given for academic honors and whether or not the candidate earned a college degree.
4. Players must have played their last year of intercollegiate football within the last 50 years.* For example, to be eligible for the 2017 ballot, the player must have played his last year in 1967 or thereafter. In addition, players who are playing professionally and coaches who are coaching on the professional level are not eligible until after they retire.
5. A coach becomes eligible three full seasons after retirement or immediately following retirement provided he is at least 70 years of age. Active coaches become eligible at 75 years of age. He must have been a head coach for a minimum of 10 years and coached at least 100 games with a .600 winning percentage.