Ohio State Buckeye Dane Sanzenbacher was the second best wide receiver in the Big Ten last year.
Eight of the top 10 wide receivers in the 2010 edition of the Big Ten are returning to play football this season. Only Buckeye Dane Sanzenbacher and Michigan State's Mark Dell have graduated and won't be back for the 2011 campaign.
This year's group of wide receivers features three players that should be back at the top and seven others who could have big years. The pass catchers with a veteran quarterback have a definite edge.
Here's an early look at the 10 best wide receivers in the Big Ten as we draw closer to the 2011 season.
It's not gloating. Jeremy Ebert of Northwestern was No. 1 last year abd should finish on top again, especially if quarterback Dan Persa stays healthy in 2011.
Potential Big Ten MVP Dan Persa has to have a favorite receiver, and he does in Jeremy Ebert. Ebert was No. 1 in the Big Ten and No. 1 for the Northwestern Wildcats in 2010 as he caught 62 passes for 953 yards and eight touchdowns.
If Northwestern quarterback Persa can avoid injury this year, Ebert could easily finish with over 1,000 receiving yards and more than 10 touchdown catches.
Ebert and the No. 2 receiver, Roy Roundtree of Michigan, face each other in an October 9th game at Northwestern.
Roy Roundtree was Michigan's top pass catcher in 2010.
Roy Roundtree emerged in 2010 as the Michigan Wolverines' top wide receiver. He caught more passes (72) than Northwestern's Ebert (62) but finished with fewer yards (935 versus 953) and touchdowns (seven versus eight). Ebert also averaged 14.5 yards per catch to Roundtree's 13.
Roundtree also has his quarterback, Denard Robinson, returning for the 2011 season. The biggest adjustment for the Robinson-to-Roundtree passing combo is adapting to new head coach Brady Hoke's offense.
I don't foresee a problem, and Roundtree could finish with 1,000 in receiving yards and hit double digits in touchdowns. Circle October 8th on your calender, because that's when the two premier receivers in the Big Ten face off at Northwestern.
Damarlo Belcher was the busiest wide receiver in the Big Ten last year, and it should be no different under new head coach Kevin Wilson.
Belcher caught a league-leading 78 passes in 2010. He had 832 receiving yards and four touchdowns. Since Wilson liked to throw the ball as Oklahoma's offensive coordinator, he will probably try to get Belcher more "touches" to better utilize his star wide receiver's height (6'5") and strength.
Look for Belcher to be the best wide receiver in the Leaders Division.
Derek Moye makes a spectacular catch agsinst Michigan State in 2010.
How many different ways can you explain that Penn State wide receiver Derek Moye is under pressure?
He is clearly the Nittany Lions' best pass catcher. He has the task of making whoever starts at quarterback look good. And he has to provide the senior leadership needed to get Penn State to improve on last year's 7-6 record.
The good news is Moye has the ability to have a great year in 2011. Last year, he caught 53 passes for 885 yards and eight touchdowns. The 16.7 yards-per-catch average was Moye's most impressive statistic.
Moye should exceed his 2010 stats, but he'll have a lot of work to do to compete with Indiana's Belcher.
Hawkeye wide receiver Marvin McNutt makes a great catch against Ohio State.
Iowa wide receiver Marvin McNutt will do his best to keep up with Northwestern's Ebert and Michigan's Roundtree. His 16.2 yard-per-catch average was second-best to Moye in the Big Ten last year.
McNutt, like a number of other top 10 candidates, has to work with a new quarterback. However, he should be able to match his 2010 totals of 53 catches for 861 yards and eight touchdowns.
Here is where having a returning quarterback really helps a receiver. Illinois quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase is going to be better in 2011 and so is his favorite target, wide receiver A.J. Jenkins.
Jenkins finished among the top 10 receivers last year with 56 catches for 746 yards and seven touchdowns. Though small in comparison with other wide receivers on this list, Jenkins found ways to free himself to catch Scheelhaase's passes.
Expect more of Jenkins this year as Illinois fights to get to the upper tier of the Leaders Division.
Minnesota wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight heads for the end zone.
Don't let the names confuse you, because wide receiver Da'Jon McKnight and quarterback MarQueis Gray want to put an end to Minnesota's losing ways.
McKnight led all Big Ten wide receivers in touchdown catches with10 last season. Amazingly, he only had 48 pass catches for 750 yards. He and Gray still have to adapt to new head coach Jerry Kill's playbook, but I'm sure jersey No. 6 is featured in Minnesota's offense.
Look for more pass catches for McKnight, but 10 touchdown receptions may be hard to duplicate.
Wide receiver Terrance Turner will help the Indiana offense move the ball.
Indiana wide receiver Terrance Turner finished out of the Top 10 in the Big Ten but is primed to move up this year. Only teammate Damarlo Belcher caught more passes, though 67 receptions is a very respectable number.
Tuner had 681 yards receiving and three touchdown catches. Expect both numbers to increase this year under the leadership of new head coach Kevin Wilson.
Ohio State wide receiver Devier Posey will be back in the Top 10 despite a five-game suspension.
This is supposed to be the year that seniors DeVier Posey and Terrelle Pryor would shine and help head coach Jim Tressel battle for a national title. Now only Posey will be able to wear the Buckeye crimson and gray after he serves a five-game suspension.
Somehow Posey will manage to finish among the top 10 receivers. Last year, he was the No. 2 wide receiver on the Buckeyes but still managed to catch 53 passes for 848 yards and seven touchdowns.
Interim head coach Luke Fickell will certainly plug Posey back into the game plan when returns in the sixth game of the season. If the Buckeyes are to do well this year, they'll need Posey to match his 2010 numbers.
B.J. Cunningham eludes some Nittany Lions.
Spartan wide receiver B.J. Cunningham has been playing in the background long enough. The 6'2", 223-pound pass catcher has to step up and help Michigan State repeat as Big Ten champions.
Last year, quarterback Kirk Cousins' favorite target was wide receiver Mark Dell. Dell is gone, which should translate into more catches for Cunningham and always dangerous Keshawn Martin. Cunningham had 50 catches for 611 yards and nine touchdowns.
I would expect the senior from Westerville, Ohio will need at least 60 catches, 800 yards and 10 touchdowns to give the Spartans a shot at the Legends Division and Big Ten titles.