Big Ten Football: Every Team's Best Returning Player in 2013
The Big Ten saw a resurgence of traditional powers this year, with Ohio State surging to an undefeated record and Wisconsin trotting to its second straight Big Ten title.
As the conference heads into the new year, each team will look for a playmaker and leader to guide them to victory.
The 2013 season could see the rise of a Big Ten team back into the national championship discussion. For that to happen, one of these 12 players will have to become a household name.
Here is a look at the top returning player for each team in the Big Ten for the 2013 season.
Ohio State Buckeyes: Braxton Miller, QB
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Braxton Miller became a name affiliated with the Heisman Trophy conversation under the leadership of Urban Meyer last year. Heading into 2013, he is expected to be a frontrunner for the award, as he is one of the bet dual-threat signal-callers in the country.
Miller passed for 2,039 yards and rushed for 1,271 yards in his sophomore season. He tallied 28 touchdowns as well.
The Buckeyes played really well on defense all season, but the offense led by Miller is what caught the fans' attention. This Ohio State team is now ready to run at a championship, and Miller is the player that will take them there.
Penn State Nittany Lions: Allen Robinson, WR
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Penn State needed to have players step up this year in order to make the season special, and Allen Robinson answered the call.
He led the Nittany Lions in receiving, pulling down 77 catches for 1,018 yards. He also scored 11 touchdowns. He had four games with nine or more catches, and two games with over 100 yards receiving.
There is no easy path to success for this team in the future, but they have to continue to rely on big plays from guys like Robinson in order to bring along unexpected wins.
Without Robinson in this offense, the Nittany Lions are a five win squad in 2012.
Michigan Wolverines: Jake Ryan, LB
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Michigan put together a very strong defensive effort this fall, stopping the run and playing well against the pass. This team relied on the powerful play of its linebacking corps to give them an edge in a number of ballgames.
A leader for the defense this past season was Jake Ryan. Ryan finished the year second in the Big Ten in tackles for loss, and tallied 88 total tackles. He also had five sacks.
Ryan will be a rising junior and will be entering his second year as a starter for the Wolverines. Look for the Michigan defense to play well under his leadership. Ryan is as good as they get at the position in the conference.
Indiana Hoosiers: Greg Heban, CB
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Indiana is trying to find a way to climb into the Big Ten discussion every year, but the football team has not been a consistent winner for the Hoosiers. With guys like Greg Heban, they can be winners in 2013, though.
Heban is one of the best cover corners in the conference and will be a leader for the Hoosiers defense. He pulled in three interceptions last season and racked up 91 total tackles, seven of which went for a loss.
This Hoosiers team has to find a way to lean on its defense heading into 2013. To compete in the Big Ten, they have to stop its offenses. Winning football games will come from guys like Heban stepping up.
Purdue Boilermakers: Landon Feichter, S
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Purdue struggled at the beginning of 2012 to find consistent play from both sides of the football. By mid-season, the hopes of a bowl game appeared lost, and the Boilermakers were tumbling.
Against Iowa things turned around. The Boilermakers pulled out a masterful win and put three games in a row away, and Landon Feichter was a big part of those wins.
Feichter finished tied for first in the Big Ten in interceptions with four, and he tallied 80 total tackles. The Boilermakers need this type of enforcer to roam the secondary and continue to make plays in 2013.
He is the best player on the field for Purdue and will be a leader in the conference again next fall.
Wisconsin Badgers: Jared Abbrederis, WR
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The Wisconsin Badgers won their second Big Ten title in a row with the help of Jared Abbrederis this past year. Abbrederis has been a consistent performer over the past two seasons, and he will be a leader for the Badgers offense in 2013.
Wisconsin struggled to find a playmaker at quarterback, but having a receiver like Abbrederis in the fold helped the transition. He finished with 49 catches for 837 yards and five touchdowns in 2012.
He also had three games with over 100 yards, and four games with over six catches. Wisconsin can challenge for a Big Ten title again this year, and Abbrederis will ensure it happens.
Minnesota Golden Gophers: Ra’Shede Hageman, DE
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Ra’Shede Hageman is a stud along the Golden Gophers defensive line. He helped this Minnesota team finish with the No. 33 total defense in the country, and helped create backfield havoc, week after week.
Hageman finished the year with 35 tackles, 7.5 tackles for loss and six sacks. He also had two pass breakups.
The Golden Gophers have been on a rise in the Big Ten over the past few years, but they always seem to be a few players away from being special. Hageman can help usher in a new era in Minnesota. The rising senior will be ready to make his final year special.
Nebraska Cornhuskers: Taylor Martinez, QB
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Taylor Martinez has been an inconsistent player in his three years with Nebraska, but the guy knows how to win football games.
He has been one of the most impressive quarterbacks in the country when he is on, but when he is off, it can get straight nasty. Martinez will get it squared away for his senior year.
Martinez finished the 2012 season with 2,871 yards passing, 1,019 yards rushing, 23 passing touchdowns and 10 rushing touchdowns. He averaged 277.9 yards per game.
For the Cornhuskers to make another title run, Martinez has to continue to play at this high level.
Iowa Hawkeyes: Mark Weisman, RB
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The Hawkeyes struggled to find anything good to take away from a 4-8 record this season. Mark Weisman may be the only thing that actually proved to be a positive.
The rising junior fullback/running back arrived onto the scene this year and rushed for 815 yards on 159 carries. Listed as a fullback, he averaged 5.1 yards per carry and caught 15 passes out of the backfield.
The Hawkeyes were searching for playmakers entering the year, but no one saw Weisman becoming a leading rusher for the team. Heading into 2013, he should be the lead back for the Hawkeyes.
Illinois Fighting Illini: Jonathan Brown, LB
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The Fighting Illini struggled to find much good after the 2012 season, but one obvious positive was the play of Jonathan Brown. Brown only appeared in nine games because of injury, but he still managed to tally 59 total tackles, 9.5 tackles for loss and 3.5 sacks.
Heading into the fall, Brown will be expected to be the leader of the defense. The Illini haven’t been on a winning tear as of late, but the defense has been able to keep them in games they shouldn’t be.
Look for Brown to stay on the field for his senior season and help bring the Illinois program back into the Big Ten discussion. Brown is one of the most talented linebackers in the country heading into 2013.
Michigan State Spartans: Denicos Allen, LB
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The Spartans were expected to be good in 2012 because of their defense. Denicos Allen was a big part of that hype and the success that followed.
Allen is a leader for Michigan State and has been a steady performer for the Spartans for the past two seasons. Entering his senior year, he is considered to be a leader in the conference at the linebacker position.
He finished the 2012 season with 79 total tackles, 10 tackles for loss and three sacks. He also finished with three pass breakups and three quarterback hurries.
For Michigan State to climb back into the Big Ten title discussion they have to lean on defense. Allen will be a player that helps pave the way.
Northwestern Wildcats: Kain Colter, QB
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Kain Colter is the rising senior leader for the Northwestern Wildcats. He is one-half of a dangerous quarterback tandem that helped the Wildcats finish with a 10-win season, which earned them their first bowl win since the 1940’s.
As a junior, Colter passed for 872 yards and eight touchdowns, and rushed for 894 yards and 12 touchdowns.
He is not the sole signal-caller, but he is the leader and gel that keeps the offense together. Without Colter, this offense is not nearly as potent.
Look for Colter to continue to make defenders look silly as they try and bring him down in the open field next year.