Big Ten: 2012 Potential Breakout Performers
The Big Ten will be loaded with offensive talent once again in 2012. There are many talented players, including Michigan QB Denard Robinson, Wisconsin RB Montee Ball, Nebraska QB Taylor Martine and Iowa QB James Vandenburg just to name a few.
The year of the quarterback is once again in play for the 2012 season, but who are the athletes on the offensive side of the ball that are on the verge of greatness and will join the list of the names mentioned above?
With the list narrowed down to only five players, it was tough to eliminate some key players such as Northwestern's Kain Colter, Indiana's Tre Roberson and Michigan State's Le'Veon Bell from the list.
Here are the five offensive players from the Big Ten who could be on the verge of a breakout year in 2012.
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
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An obvious choice, but one that can't be ignored. This year gave us a glimpse of freshman quarterback Braxton Miller, a player with tons of potential, but also someone with a lot of work to do this offseason.
Miller, who took over for Terrelle Pryor before the season began, demonstrated that he has unparalleled raw athleticism and speed, but he struggled to pass the ball consistently throughout the course of the season.
Miller is a dangerous runner who needs to continue to improve as a passer. But what he showed as a true freshman leads you to believe that superstardom is right around the corner. Miller's development under Urban Meyer in a system that seems to perfectly suit his talents will be one of the Big Ten's top storylines in the 2012 season.
Michigan RB Fitz Toussaint
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With 121 yards on 20 carries against Ohio State, Fitzgerald Toussaint recorded his fifth 100-yard game of the season. He's rushed for at least 120 yards in each of the last three games.
Toussaint is a bit like Mike Hart, but he might be a little bit more elusive. He’s a very hard runner that likes to hit between the tackles, but can break to the corner quickly. His emergence has taken a lot of pressure off of QB Denard Robinson, and he's definitely the real deal.
Toussaint ran for 1,041 yards, and more than 700 of those yards came after the first seven games. Imagine what he can do if Michigan commits to giving him carries as the No. 1 tailback for a full season. With Robinson and Toussaint in the backfield for 2012, offensive coordinator Al Borges will have two dangerous weapons to open up the passing game.
Wisconsin WR Jared Abbrederis
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Jared Abbrederis is a Wisconsin walk-on that came in and made a huge impact in 2011. He quickly became QB Russell Wilson’s favorite target, catching 55 passes for 933 yards and eight touchdowns last season.
His costly late fumble in the Rose Bowl loss to Oregon overshadowed a terrific all-around day up to that point. Abbrederis accumulated 346 all-purpose yards to set a Badgers bowl record. With Nick Toon gone, he'll become the clear No. 1 receiver in 2012, and he has already developed into one of the nation's top return specialists.
The only real question is: Who will be throwing him the ball next season?
Nebraska WR Kenny Bell
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Kenny Bell emerged as one of Nebraska’s primary playmakers. The Huskers freshman came on strong late in the season, and had a 30-yard touchdown catch in the Capital One Bowl loss to South Carolina.
He also had five catches for 93 yards against Iowa in the season finale, as he emerged as the team's top receiving target. Nebraska returns the vast majority of its offense so the passing game needs to become more reliable.
Bell ended his freshman year with 32 receptions with 461 yards receiving and three touchdowns. Expect Taylor Martinez and Bell to hook up often next season.
Minnesota QB MarQueis Gray
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Like Braxton Miller, Gray is an athlete. Once a wide receiver, Gray took on a new position at starting quarterback in 2011. Yes, he definitely had his ups and downs during 2011, but he managed to finally get it together down the stretch.
His arm highlight came when he threw for 295 yards and three touchdowns against Michigan State on Nov. 5. His ability to show off his dual threat came when he rushed for 327 total yards in the final two games of the season.
His stature compares to Tebow, Gray is 6'4", 240-pounds and is a beast to stop when he takes off on the ground. If Gray can improve his numbers through the air, he will be one of the guys we will be talking about this time next year.