Guard Kevin Zeitler will be pass blocking for Wisconsin's new starting quarterback (Russell Wilson?).
Wisconsin right guard Kevin Zeitler and Michigan State's Joel Foreman are considered the best guards in the Big Ten. Zeitler is a potential 2012 NFL draft pick and left guard Foreman was All-Big Ten in 2010.
The remaining guards on the top 10 list will undergo a learning curve this year. Some will step up to the challenge and others will falter during the season.
Here's a look at the guards of interest in the Big Ten for 2011.
Michigan State has the best guard tandem in the Big Ten. If All-Big Ten guard Joel Foreman is peanut butter, then teammate Chris McDonald is jelly. (I am fighting the urge to write the two guards like to "sandwich" opponents.)
McDonald is a 6' 5, 290-pound guard who missed only the Minnesota game last year due to injury. Spartan statistics show he did not give up a sack as a starter in 2010. McDonald and Foreman need to be the leaders this year as they will be surrounded by first-year starters on the offensive line.
Brian Mulroe is smaller than the other guards on this list at 6' 4" and 295 pounds, but he uses speed, technique and intelligence to succeed on the football field. He played well in all 13 Wildcat games in 2010.
Mulroe is part of the most experienced offensive line in the Big Ten. The junior guard will work extremely hard to protect potential Big Ten MVP, quarterback Dan Persa. at6'$6-4 / 2956-4 / 295
Hugh Thornton plays weak-side guard for Illinois, but "weak" is no way to describe him. He's a 6' 5", 310-pound junior who played for an Illnni offense that set new school records for points in a season (423) and points per game (32.54).
Thornton plays next to talented center Graham Pocic. The two linemen plan to continue Illinois' offensive success by protecting quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase and opening running lanes for Jason Ford.
Minnesota left guard Chris Bunders is the only returning starter from Minnesota's 2010 offensive line. He is surrounded by a mixture of veteran substitutes and young lineman as the Gophers prepare for the 2011 season.
He is a 6' 4", 304-pound senior who has made 28 starts over the last three years. Bunders arrived at Minnesota as a tackle in 2008, but was permanently moved to guard during his freshman year. He needs to provide some leadership to guide his inexperienced teammates to a successful 2011 season.
Senior guard Johnnie Troutman is positioned right next to talented junior center Matt Stankiewitch. The two of them are expected to help the Nittany Lion's overcome their disappointing offensive output in 2010.
Troutman took a spot on the offensive line as a freshman. He is a 6' '4, 323-pound guard who wants Penn State to finish with more than seven wins in 2011.
Justin Boren transferred from Michigan just in time to become a dominant force as an offensive guard at Ohio State in 2010. He uses his 6' 3", 320-pound body to pancake opponents and protect the quarterback.
The senior guard expects teammates to ignore the Buckeyes' off-the-field problems and concentrate on beating Wisconsin for the Leaders Division title. With All-Big Ten center Mike Brewster's help, the Buckeye might just make it to the first Big Ten championship game under the conference's new configuration.
At 6' 7" and 371 pounds, Ken Plue is the largest guard on the top 10 list. He and returning tackle Nick Mondek can literally crush the left side of opposing defenses, so the Boilermakers can run the ball.
Plue has had some run-ins with head coach Danny Hope that relegated him to the second unit during spring practice. When the season starts, expect him to be back at his usual right guard spot to give as much assistance as possible to the Purdue offense.
Right guard Patrick Omameh is shown celebrating with his teammates after another Michigan touchdown as he and center David Molk are trying to reestablish the fine rushing tradition of the Wolverines.
Omameh is 6' 4" and 299 pounds. He has appeared in the last 20 games for Michigan and started 16 at guard. Last year he helped the Michigan line allow a league low of 11 sacks. The Wolverine offensive line should be able to repeat this feat in 2011.
As mentioned in the "Introduction" slide, Joel Foreman earned league honors as a starting guard last year.. He is a solid 6' 4", 310-pound juggernaut.
Foreman is the player must likely to lead sweeps for running backs Edwin Baker, LeVeon Bell and Larry Caper. He is also a very intelligent young man, having earned an Academic All-Big Ten award for three consecutive years as an MSU student year.
Look for the senior guard to "school" younger teammates, so Michigan State can make a push for the Legends Division title and the Big Ten championship.
Right guard Kevin Zeitler is projected to be a second or third-round pick in the 2012 NFL draft, but first he wants to lead Wisconsin to the Leaders Division title and the Big Ten championship.
The 6'4", 320-pound senior is determined to clear the path for running backs James White and Montee Ball. He also has the assignment of providing pass protection for Wisconsin's new quarterback.
Like Michigan State's Foreman, Zeitler was recognized on the All-Big Ten offense for his superior play at guard last year.
Expect Wisconsin to maintain and possibly increase its reputation for running the football in 2011 with Zeitler leading the blocking.