College Football: Ranking Denard Robinson and 10 Best Big Ten Offensive Players
Over the years, the Big Ten has gained a reputation as a physical conference that lacks speed, but that does not mean that its teams completely lack offensive talent, as evidenced by players like Denard Robinson and James White.
The Big Ten has turned a new leaf, adding the Nebraska Cornhuskers to the mix.
Finally, the myth that other conferences are faster than the Big Ten will be tested consistently, as the 'Huskers battle through a Big Ten schedule.
Let's take a look at the 10 best offensive talents in the conference going into the 2011 season.
10. Demarlo Belcher, WR, Indiana Hoosiers
Demarlo Belcher might be one the best unknown talents in the country, but he struggles to find the spotlight playing for the Indiana Hoosiers.
The 6'5'' physical phenom is entering his senior season at Indiana and will look to hang huge numbers on the Big Ten.
So far, Belcher has accumulated 1,939 receiving yards and 11 touchdowns on 164 receptions.
This year, he will look to build on a stellar junior year in which he hauled in 78 balls and racked up 832 receiving yards.
Belcher is one of the best athletes in the Big Ten, but he probably doesn't get the credit he deserves.
2011 may be the year that Belcher finally enters the Big Ten spotlight.
9. Mike Brewster, C, Ohio State Buckeyes
Many times, offensive linemen do not get the credit they deserve, but Ohio State Buckeyes center Mike Brewster is rightfully recognized as one of the most valuable offensive players in the country.
Brewster has been a stabilizing force for the Buckeyes in his three years at Ohio State.
He has been a three-year starter, and gained the highest recognition of his career by becoming a Rimington Trophy (which goes to the country's best center) finalist last season.
Brewster will likely be on everyone's preseason watch list for All-American honors and the Rimington Trophy as well.
He will be playing in a unique environment filled with controversy in 2011, but Brewster's talent will help the Buckeyes fight through the distractions.
8. Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern Wildcats
Dan Persa of the Northwestern Wildcats epitomizes the Big Ten.
He is Academic All-Big Ten, meaning that he works hard in the classroom, and he has worked hard to fight his way onto the playing field.
Persa did not play as a freshman, played a minor role as a sophomore, and erupted last year as a junior.
He threw for 2,581 yards and 15 touchdowns, and ran for 519 rushing yards and nine touchdowns.
Persa also received All-Big Ten honors as voted by the coaches, proving that he is one of the most respected players around the Big Ten.
7. Nathan Scheelhaase, QB, Illinois Fighting Illini
Nathan Scheelhaase, quarterback of the Illinois Fighting Illini, is a very similar player to Dan Persa, but brings a bit more of a physical presence.
He electrified the Big Ten as a redshirt freshman last season, receiving Big Ten Freshman of the Week honors six times.
He threw for 1,825 passing yards, including 17 touchdowns and only eight interceptions. His rushing stats were even more impressive, as he accumulated 868 yards and five touchdowns.
Scheelhaase might have thrown for bigger numbers if he had the opportunity to put the ball in the air more often. He made no more than 27 passing attempts in any game last season—a low, but expected number for a starting freshman.
This year, he will look to develop as a passer and continue to dazzle on the ground.
6. Kirk Cousins, QB, Michigan State Spartans
Kirk Cousins took the keys to the Michigan State Spartans automobile and drove them to a share of a Big Ten title in 2010.
He followed up an impressive sophomore season with an even more efficient junior campaign in which he completed 66.9 percent of his passes, throwing for a career-high 2,825 yards and 20 touchdowns.
He has proven to be one of the best pure passers in the Big Ten.
Last year, he was a semifinalist for the Davey O'Brien Award, which is awared to the nation's top quarterback.
This year, the senior will look to get even better and contend as a finalist for the award, while hopefully leading his team to another Big Ten title.
5. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin Badgers
Montee Ball was part of a potent three-headed rushing attack for the Wisconsin Badgers that ripped Big Ten defense in 2010.
Ball made huge strides last season after a disappointing freshman campaign.
In 2009, Ball only rushed for 391 yards on 4.0 yards per carry in a year that John Clay racked up over 1,500 rushing yards.
Last year, Ball proved his worth by boosting his yards per carry average to 6.1 while rushing for a total of 996 yards and 18 touchdowns.
Ball enters the 2011 season with only James White to compete with for carries.
He will have another great year and establish himself as one of the best backs in the Big Ten.
4. Dan Herron, RB, Ohio State Buckeyes
Dan Herron very well could be a product of his environment, excelling as part of an extremely talented Ohio State Buckeyes offense.
This year, he will have a shortened amount of time to prove that he can succeed without Terrelle Pryor due to a suspension.
Herron's statistics were worthy of recognition as one of the best backs in the Big Ten in 2010, when he accumulated 1,155 rushing yards and 16 touchdowns on an average of 5.3 yards per carry.
Herron will have to deal with some adversity this season, but his talent should get him on the field after the suspension.
Then, he will have the chance to show off his talent, which is worthy of recognition as the fourth-best offensive player in the Big Ten.
3. James White, RB, Wisconsin Badgers
James White had a phenomenal freshman campaign in 2010, racking up eye-popping numbers for the Wisconsin Badgers.
Along with Montee Ball, White shocked the college football world by rushing for yardage that would be acceptable for a featured running back. What makes these accomplishments so impressive is that they achieved them alongside John Clay, who was coming off of a career season.
This year, White will look to establish himself as a feature back and accumulate historic stats with his sidekick Ball.
White, based on his performance as a freshman compared to Ball's freshman campaign, gets the nod over his teammate.
He will establish himself as the best running back in the Big Ten in 2011.
2. Russell Wilson, QB, Wisconsin Badgers
Russell Wilson is going to tear apart the Big Ten as the quarterback of the Wisconsin Badgers.
Wilson dominated the ACC on mediocre teams at North Carolina State.
He somewhat single-handedly brought the team to relevance last season, racking up statistics that are almost completely unseen in the Big Ten.
Wilson, a three-year starter for the Wolfpack, accumulated 8,545 passing yards, 76 passing touchdowns and only 26 interceptions in his three years. Plus, he ran for 1,089 yards and 17 touchdowns, making him one of the top dual-threat quarterbacks in the country.
The Badgers were in need of a quarterback after losing their senior leader, Scott Tolzien.
In 2011, they will have the luxury of adding the best quarterback in the Big Ten.
1. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan Wolverines
Denard Robinson of the Michigan Wolverines is, without question, the most talented offensive player in the Big Ten.
Robinson finished sixth in Heisman Trophy voting in 2010 after providing scintillating offensive performances week in and week out.
His production wavered a bit toward the end of the season, but he still established himself as one of the most potent big-play threats in all of college football.
Robinson threw for 2,570 yards and added 1,702 rushing yards.
These numbers are truly outstanding, and Robinson is the clear-cut scariest offensive player for Big Ten defenses to prepare for in 2011.