College Football 2011 Predictions: Dan Persa and Top 10 Weapons in the Big Ten

Kevin TrahanAnalyst IJune 8, 2011

College Football 2011 Predictions: Dan Persa and Top 10 Weapons in the Big Ten

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    EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Dan Persa #7 of the Northwestern Wildcats escapes a tackle attempt by Eric Gordon #43 of the Michigan State Spartans at Ryan Field on October 23, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan State defeated Northwestern 35-27.  (Photo by
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    With a lot of top talent departing last season, especially at the skill positions, 2011 could be a down year for Big Ten football.

    However, there are still a number of game-changers in the league that could make All-American teams.

    One of those players is Northwestern's Dan Persa, who was voted first team All-Big Ten last season despite missing the final two games of the year. He can make plays both through the air and on his feet and carried the Northwestern offense in 2010.

    In addition, check out nine of the other top weapons in the Big Ten this season.

Dan Persa, Northwestern

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    EVANSTON, IL - OCTOBER 23: Dan Persa #7 of the Northwestern Wildcats throws a pass against the Michigan State Spartans at Ryan Field on October 23, 2010 in Evanston, Illinois. Michigan State defeated Northwestern 35-27. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Ima
    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Dan Persa was the glue that held Northwestern together last season, and the Wildcats learned that the hard way, as they were blown out by both Illinois and Wisconsin after losing Persa to injury in a 21-17 victory over Iowa.

    Despite not even finishing the season, Persa was awarded first team All-Big Ten quarterback honors and will be a leader for the Wildcats next season as they continue their quest for a bowl win.

    Persa is an extremely accurate passer—his 73.5 percent completion percentage was the best in the FBS last season—but is also very good at scrambling out of the pocket. His dual-threat abilities make him one of the top players in the Big Ten, and he could lead Northwestern to its second January bowl in three years.

Denard Robinson, Michigan

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    JACKSONVILLE, FL - JANUARY 01:  Quarterback Denard Robinson #16 of the Michigan Wolverines rushes against the Mississippi State Bulldogs during the Gator Bowl at EverBank Field on January 1, 2011 in Jacksonville, Florida  (Photo by Rick Dole/Getty Images)
    Rick Dole/Getty Images

    After gaining control of quarterbacking duties for Michigan last season, Denard Robinson took control of the Wolverines offense, breaking record after record for the historic program.

    He is only an average passer but is outstanding with his feet. He always has the ability to make big plays happen and is one of the quickest quarterbacks in the game.

    Like Persa, Robinson is a game-changer for his offense, and much of Michigan's postseason hopes will ride on his shoulders, especially in the midst of a coaching change.

James White, Wisconsin

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    IOWA CITY, IA - OCTOBER 23: Defensive back Tyler Sash #9 of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes closes in on running back James White #20 of the Wisconsin Badgers as he rushes for yards during the first half of play at Kinnick Stadium on October 23, 2010 in I
    David Purdy/Getty Images

    White burst onto the scene as a freshman last season, rushing for over 1,000 yards for the Badgers in their Big Ten championship season.

    This year, with quarterback Scott Tolzien gone, White will be asked to shoulder even more of the load in 2011, along with fellow running back Montee Ball.

    Unlike most Wisconsin backs, White is very quick and isn't as physically intimidating as his predecessors. However, he has proven to be a big, bruising back but also has speed on the edges.

    The Badgers offense will be almost entirely based on the running game this year, and White will be a key piece of their success.

Jared Crick, Nebraska

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    LINCOLN, NE - NOVEMBER 13: Jared Crick #94 of the Nebraska Cornhuskers runs down D.J. Beshears #20 of the Kansas Jayhawks during first half action of their game at Memorial Stadium on November 13, 2010 in Lincoln, Nebraska.  (Photo by Eric Francis/Getty I
    Eric Francis/Getty Images

    Typically, linemen aren't considered "weapons" because they don't have the ability to make big plays at any given time. However, Crick has the ability to be a game-changer.

    Following in the footsteps of former Husker Ndamukong Suh, Crick exploded onto the scene and has become one of the top players in college football.

    He recorded 70 tackles in each of the past two seasons and is a constant disruption in the backfield. Expect him to be an All-American candidate this season.

Marvin McNutt, Iowa

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    IOWA CITY, IA - OCTOBER 30- Wide receiver Marvin McNutt #7 of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes drives the ball into the end zone for a touch down during the second half of play against the Michigan State Spartans at Kinnick Stadium on October 30, 2010 in I
    David Purdy/Getty Images

    Ever since converting from quarterback to wide receiver, McNutt has become a very productive player for the Hawkeyes.

    He is big and very fast and has big-play ability—he's known for his acrobatic catches and clutch plays down the stretch.

    For the last two years, McNutt has played in the shadow of Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, but with DJK gone, he will be the go-to target for Iowa this year. As the Hawkeyes break in a new quarterback, he will be an asset in the passing game.

DeVier Posey, Ohio State

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    COLUMBUS, OH - NOVEMBER 27:  DeVier Posey #8 of the Ohio State Buckeyes heads for the endzone on a 33-yard touchdown reception in the second quarter as Adam Patterson #99 of the Michigan Wolverines pursues at Ohio Stadium on November 27, 2010 in Columbus,
    Jamie Sabau/Getty Images

    Yes, Posey can't play for the first five games of the season, and yes, Ohio State is in trouble. However, Posey is still an outstanding talent and will be a great weapon for OSU when his suspension is up.

    Posey was one of Terrelle Pryor's top targets throughout his career and should keep his spot as the Buckeyes' No. 1 receiver in Week 6.

    He's athletic and quick and may find his way onto an All-Big Ten team despite the suspension.

Jake Stoneburner, Ohio State

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    NEW ORLEANS, LA - JANUARY 04:  Jake Stoneburner #11 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs after a catch against the Arkansas Razorbacks in the first quarter in the Allstate Sugar Bowl at the Louisiana Superdome on January 4, 2011 in New Orleans, Louisiana.  (Ph
    Matthew Stockman/Getty Images

    With Posey gone for the first five games, Stoneburner could become Ohio State's top receiving target early in the season.

    He is already an accomplished tight end but will play a much bigger role in the Buckeyes offense this year.

    Stoneburner will also be a major asset to have while OSU breaks in a new quarterback, as he will be the most experienced and reliable player the Buckeyes have in the receiving game.

Marcus Coker, Iowa

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    IOWA CITY, IA - NOVEMBER 20:  Running back Marcus Coker #34 of the University of Iowa Hawkeyes drives the ball past linebacker Ross Homan #51 of the Ohio State Buckeyes during the second half of play at Kinnick Stadium on November 20, 2010 in Iowa City, I
    David Purdy/Getty Images

    Coker burst onto the scene last season in the Insight Bowl, rushing for 219 yards and two touchdowns in a 27-24 win over Missouri.

    He's a big, bruising back that has drawn comparisons to former Hawkeye great Shonn Greene and will only be a sophomore in the fall.

    This year, as the clear No. 1 back, he will be forced to carry a majority of the load of the Iowa offense as the Hawkeyes break in new quarterback James Vandenberg.

    With plenty of carries and an experienced offensive line, expect Coker to have a big year.

Damarlo Belcher, Indiana

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    Damarlo Belcher has quietly put together a solid career at Indiana despite the Hoosiers' continued struggles.

    He is a reliable receiver and continuously racks up big numbers in Indiana's pass-oriented offense.

    While the Hoosiers likely won't be very good this season, Belcher gives them a chance to have a decent offense and a chance to sneak up on some teams in Big Ten play.

Derek Moye, Penn State

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    STATE COLLEGE, PA - NOVEMBER 27: Wide receiver Derek Moye #6 of the Penn State Nittany Lions catches a pass in the end zone during a game against the Michigan State Spartans on November 27, 2010 at Beaver Stadium in State College, Pennsylvania. The Sparta
    Hunter Martin/Getty Images

    Penn State's passing offense sputtered last season after the departure of quarterback Daryll Clark the year before. However, Moye provided some consistency, even if the quarterbacks couldn't.

    Moye will be the clear No. 1 target for PSU this year and will help take some of the load off the quarterback, be it Matt McGloin or Rob Bolden.

    He could be the key to the Penn State offense's success in 2011.