Coming into the final weeks before opening kickoff of Big Ten play, the anticipation continues to grow.
Which teams will dominate and make their mark during the final year with 11 teams?
What team will surprise everyone to move up to the top of the conference standings?
And which teams will shock the masses and pull of the big upsets that mess up fans travel arrangements for bowl games?
All the anticipation and talk will be over and it will finally be time to let the pigskin fly.
And fly it will as their are extremely talented quarterbacks in the conference this season, as well as players on the receiving end that can get it done, and than some. The crop of receivers that you will see in the Big Ten Conference this season is as good as its been in some time. The play-making and touchdown scoring will most definitely be plentiful as each team has players that can slash and cut down the field towards pay dirt.
I have ranked these wide receivers based on the players that are going to be the No. 1 primary receiver. The ones who will demand most of the focus for the opposition's corners when they square off.
Obviously some teams have two or in some cases five or six dynamic young receivers that can get it done. That is something that any team would want, but for the sake of these rankings I went with the first guy for each team.
Overall, they will be catching bombs all Fall so keep an eye out for these players.
Dane Sanzenbacher - Ohio State Buckeyes
Not the biggest wide receiver in the conference, Dane Sanzenbacher makes up for it with big play ability, and a passion in his play for his home-state Buckeyes. He was there true No. 2 receiver last season when he caught 36 passes and finished the season with six touchdowns.
Also, Sanzenbacher in what may go down in the biggest game of his life (unless the Bucko's reach the Title Game this year) caught nine passes in the Rose Bowl Game against the Oregon Ducks.
Derek Moye - Penn State Nittany Lions
A player with tons of potential still has three seasons of eligibility left at Penn State. Derek Moye is a tall and talented receiver that will help young quarterback Kevin Newsome greatly. Moye had 48 receptions last season, and had a very good game against a tough LSU defense in the Capital One Bowl on New Year's Day. If Kevin Newsome gets flustered early in games he may run outside of the pocket alot. In that case look for Derek Moye to catch deep balls when he uses his height to his advantage.
Marvin McNutt- Iowa Hawkeyes
The converted quarterback is looking to have a monster year after a brilliant sophomore campaign at his new position. His size dwarfs many cornerbacks that he is matched up against, and his hands are some of the best in the league. Many will remember his clutch touchdown reception with no time left to beat the Spartans in East Lansing. Others will think of his strong contributions during the Orange Bowl victory versus Georgia Tech. All in all Marvin McNutt led the Hawkeyes in touchdowns last season with eight. It would be no shocker if he repeated.
Tandon Doss- Indiana Hoosiers
Playmaker- That is what you get from Tandon Doss as he is one of the best that the conference has to offer. He has already been on the Paul Hornung and Fred Biletnikoff Awards watch lists, and comes back to the Hoosiers after having a statistically marvelous season in 2009. Last year he was only two catches away from tieing the school record for receptions in a season. Doss is a versatile player who can bring different things to the table for Bill Lynch and the Hoosiers. With Ben Chappell coming into his senior season with Doss and the others, it should be a big time year in the stats column for the Hoosier offense. Wins is still to be seen.
Mark Dell- Michigan State Spartans
This should and most likely will be a rebound year for Mark Dell of the Michigan State Spartans. He has suffered from injuries in the past, but this season he looks to establish himself as a top-level receiver. He will have the quarterback to do it with Kirk Cousins behind center this year. Keshawn Martin will also be a top target of the Spartan attack. With Blair White moving on to the NFL, the Spartans will need leadership from their wideouts, and Dell will have to come up big in that department.
Isaac Anderson- Wisconsin Badgers
Along with Kyle Jefferson, Anderson is going to have to make big plays for the Badgers to accomplish the lofty goals of winning the Big Ten; which some people have them targeted at. John Clay is going to command a good deal of attention from the opposition so the receivers are going to have to be the game-breakers in a couple games this year. Anderson did not have any special performances last season except for a 100 yard performance against Northern Illinois, but this is a new year, and with it comes new and larger expectations.
OTHER IMPACT WR's:
Roy Roundtree- Michigan Wolverines
Jeremy Ebert- Northwestern Wildcats
Terrance Turner- Indiana Hoosiers
Cortez Smith- Purdue Boilermakers
Keenan Davis- Iowa Hawkeyes
A.J. Jenkins- Illinois Fighting Illini
One year ago the Golden Gophers did in fact have someone who ranked towards the top of one of these lists with star wide receiver Eric Decker. This season it is clearly a bit of a different story for Tim Brewster's team that looks to turn things around in the second season in their new stadium.
Troy Stoudermire is a junior from Texas that has already established himself as a productive man in the return game with two straight seasons with 1,000+ yards in that category, but he needs to become a 'go-to' guy for Adam Weber.
Stoudermire, and the other receivers need to put the points on the board as the running game will scuffle against average and dominant defenses. Except Troy to break away on a few crossing patterns this season with his speed, and second gear, but by no means am I considering him a pro prospect.
NFL Comparison: Chris Davis- Former Tennessee Titans
When Jarred Fayson decided to make the move from the Florida Gators to Illinois he did not have to make to much of a change in terms of changing the colors on his uniform. But, what he did have to get used to was losing, which doesn't happen often in Gainesville, but these days does in Champaign.
He was a solid prospect when the Gators had him, and was compared to Percy Harvin by many Gator enthusiasts in his time there. But, eventually Jarred wanted more playing time, and transferred to play with Ron Zook. He got his chance last season and only recorded 16 catches and one touchdown all season. It can be expected that with his natural speed that Fayson will increase the numbers in both of these categories.
With a young quarterback in Nathan Scheelhaase, Fayson will and should tell him to get him the ball as a veteran. This should lead to a solid year for him, and perhaps an important in the passing game for the Illini.
NFL Comparison- Josh Morgan San Fransisco 49ers
One of the faster wide receivers that you will find anywhere in the country, Martavious Odoms looks to join the many past Michigan receivers that exploded in their upper-classmen years to become legends.
This will not be an easy task for the Florida-native as his production went down last season, mostly because of injuries that he sustained. But, with the spread offense integrated another year into the system, and the continuing development of Tate Forcier and Denard Robinson; it can be expected that things are looking up for Mr. Odoms.
I would put Martavious Odoms on a very short list of players that needs to have a productive and explosive season for Michigan to reach a bowl game.
NFL Comparison: Mike Thomas Jacksonville Jaguars
The talented core of Spartan wideouts seems to be lead by B.J. Cunningham. He was second on the team last season in receptions behind Blair White, and with White gone it seems that Cunningham could perhaps catch 30 more balls this season with the growth of the ever-talented Kirk Cousins.
B.J. should also catch the most touchdowns this season as he has extremely deceptive speed, and will get behind a couple corners this season for long touchdowns. He simply needs to avoid trouble this season as he was not allowed to play in the Alamo Bowl last season because of disciplinary measures.
If I was B.J., I would truly "Remember the Alamo."
NFL Comparison: Devin Thomas Washington Redskins
Outside of having a monster offensive line or a bruising running back there are not many things that can help a team in the red zone like having a tall and dominant wide receiver. That is exactly what the Hoosiers have in Damarlo Belcher with his 6'5 frame; which can box out players in the secondary from balls in a manner that even former Indiana coach Bobby Knight would love.
In the entire country there are not many receivers that are as underrated as Belcher as he could be poised to be one of the best in the conference if he can avoid getting double teamed. Ben Chappell has alot of weapons at his disposal this season, and he will need them as points are a must for the Hoosiers. Belcher and Doss in the end zone should be a common stat line occurrence this fall.
NFL Comparison: James Hardy Buffalo Bills
Graham Zug and Derek Moye will be looked upon to be big contributors for Joe Pa and the Penn State offense this season. They both have the ability, but they will need the quarterback situation to be stable after the departure of Daryll Clark if they want to have big years.
Zug was a big part of the Lions offensive attack last year as he had 46 catches, and came up big when the team needed him. He had a seven catch game in a disappointing loss to the Buckeyes as well as catching two touchdowns in East Lansing.
The 23 year old Big Ten vet knows how to get open at any time. He has big play ability because of how often he fools corners that play bump and run coverage.Zug is one of the few one mismatches that the Nittany Lions will have in their passing game in 2010.
Zug has come along way from being a walk-on who was light-years behind names like Butler, Williams, and Norwood. But, he has earned his spot among not only the team's best pass catchers, but also the conferences.
NFL Comparison: Bernard Berrien Minnesota Vikings
Over the years the Wildcats have had wide receivers that have quietly gotten the job done. Awards and NFL glory was not in the cards for them, but many of these possession receivers under Randy Walker and now Pat Fitzgerald were the key to making the spread offense run effectively against the Big Ten defenses.
This year is no different as the Cats' have wide outs that fit the system well along with a tight end that ranks among the tops in the conference. But, Northwestern also features Sidney Stewart who is the leader of the WR corp this season.
The senior Stewart had a solid season last year with 42 receptions along with two touchdowns. He did not have a TD until the last game of the season in the thrilling 33-31 victory over the Wisconsin Badgers. The other touchdown game in an impressive performance in the Outback Bowl against Auburn. He should be a top possession receiver this year.
NFL Comparison: Harry Douglas Atlanta Falcons
One of the best going in the conference Keith Smith very well could end up at No.1 by years end when it comes to the best among the Big Ten. It will all count on the success of new quarterback Robert Marve who transferred from Miami.
Smith had six different games last season where he reached the 100+ yard plateau, and was the best of anyone in the conference in receptions and yards per game. He is "the man" on his offense, and with running back issues going into the beginning of the season it only adds to the fact that Keith Smith will have a big season.
Keith Smith has enough speed to scare opposing safeties where there will be continuous double teams. Look for QB Robert Marve and Smith to be the most productive QB-WR combo in the Big Ten. Imagine if the Boilermakers did in fact have a running game, and a feared defense. This could be a real contender in 2010 if that were so.
NFL Comparison: Kevin Walter Houston Texans
DJK is a player that has been getting it done for the Hawkeyes for what seems like ages.
There is alot of anticipation for Johnson-Koulianos this year as he could possibly become the all-time leading receiver in school history. Yes, the thrills for DJK have been great over the years with a sparkling one handed grab against Wisconsin a couple of years ago, or his numerous punt returns that he has taken to the house.
With memories of the MSU game in many defenses minds, DJK could also get more action in the red zone this season with team's trying to lock down on the taller Marvin McNutt or up and comer Keenan Davis.
He has underrated speed and has shown it off in crucial games. A game in which they had no business winning against Indiana last year, DJK broke a few tackles on his way to a 66 yard TD which gave the Hawkeyes the lead for good.
When healthy, DJK is among the top WR’s in the Big Ten and his talent level is good enough to start on any SEC team as well.
NFL Comparison: Austin Collie Indianapolis Colts
If all things are relative, and I think they are than DeVier Posey and the Buckeyes wide receivers will have great seasons.
But, if Pryor performs below my expectations, so will Posey as these projections are based on my rankings of players.
Yes the Buckeyes are looking to take the one move up from a Rose Bowl victory, and that involves seeing "the sweatervest" Jim Tressel once again raise the crystal football. To do this they will need the efforts of extraordinary talent DeVier Posey.
Posey came on the national scene in the Rose Bowl last year. He had a spectacular catch in the corner of the endzone. He has made strides and is still just a junior. This could be a year where he could remind people in Columbus of Ted Ginn or Ken-Yon-Rambo this season.
He runs solid routes and is a lanky wideout who can make tough catches look quite easy. Most expect him to become a future All-American in the near future with his best bud T-Pryor getting the majority of the hype. But, it could be an instance of both of them being in that spotlight, as it probably will not be one without the other.
NFL Comparison: Kenny Britt Tennessee Titans
The son of an NFL great in Al Toon, Nick is looking to be the top receiver in the entire conference this season for a Badger squad that has big aspirations after a strong season in '09.
He battled through a concussion all season long after he suffered one in the Spring of 2009. He is unstoppable in the redzone with freakish ability to out jump any defender in the Big Ten. At 6’3, he is a nightmare matchup in single coverage. Expected to receive more double teams, he will still find ways to get open with his exceptional speed for a kid his size.
With the focus on big Clay, it could come down to Toon against Chimdi Chewka (Ohio State) and Shaun Prater (Iowa). If Toon can show that he can get the best of these corners than it will go a long way in determining if the Badgers will prevail in these games.
NFL Comparison: Vincent Jackson San Diego Chargers (Contract Holdout)
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