All this week Husker Corner.com will be breaking down each position in the Big 10 Conference. Today we talk the big play makers. The wide receivers. We will be ranking each position from 12 to 1. Twelve being the group that is lacking depth, doesn’t have any proven player, and/or needs to improve the most. One will be the strongest group of receivers.
12: Purdue: The Boilermakers finished in last in pass offense in the Big 10 with 1,809 yards through the air in 2010. The top receiver returning in 2011 is Justin Siller, who played in just 5 games last season, and finished with 12 catches on the year. Siller is a Detroit native has moved from quarterback, to running back, and now will be the number one option for the Boilermakers in 2011. Their number two option will be O.J. Ross. Ross finished 2010 with 11 catches for 149 yards and one touchdown.
11. Nebraska: One, that’s how many receivers the Huskers return with more than one catch from last season. That is senior wide-out Brandon Kinnie. The 6-foot-4, 225 lb Kansas City native finished the 2011 season with 44 catches, for 494 yards and 5 touchdowns. The biggest story line of the spring was the performance of freshman Jamal Turner in the annual Red and White Spring Game. Turner electrified Husker Nation with breath taking catches and kick returns. Turner, and fellow freshman Kenny Bell will be the two players behind Kinnie. The problem is neither have caught a pas at the collegiate level. The only player coming back with a catch last season other thank Kinnie is sophomore Quincy Enunwa.
10. Illinois: The Fighting Illini return one of the most up and coming quarterbacks in the conference in, Nathan Scheelhaase. The problem is, they lack weapons for him to throw to. A.J Jemkins is a 6-foot-1 target that has made big strides, but still has a ways to go. He will be Scheelhaase go to guy in 2011, but there is not much after Jenkins. The Jacksonville native hauled in 56 catches for 746 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2010. The number two spot will be a battle between juniors Darius Milliness and senior Jack Ramsey.
9. Wisconsin: With the loss of Lance Kendricks, the Badgers are very limited at wide-out. Insert 2009 sensation, Nick Toon. Toon finished 09 with 54 catches, and 806 yards, and 4 touchdowns. The 6-foot-3, 215 lb Wisconsin native’s performance dipped in 2010. He only caught 36 passes for 459 yards and 3 touchdowns. With the addition of former NC State quarterback Russell Wilson, look for Toon’s numbers to go up as the Badgers go to guy in 2011. Behind Toon will be sophomore Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Duckworth.
8: Minnesota: The Gophers return 6-foot-3, 209 lb stud, Da’Jon McKnight. The Dallas native hauled in 48 catches for 780 yards and 10 touchdowns. McKnight will be the key to the growth of young quarterback, MarQueis Gray who takes over as a first year quarterback. There is a very big lack of depth behind McKnight. After him the next leading receiver is sophomore Bryant Allen, who had 16 catches for 202 yards, and 1 touchdown last season.
7. Ohio State: The loss of, potential first round NFL Draft pick, DeVier Posey for the first 5 games is going to hurt this team, and whoever the quarterback may be this season. Posey hauled in 53 catches for 848 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2010. Not the end results most expected from the former 5 star player. In his senior year he has no where to go but up. The potential is there, but he will need some help to pull the work load off of him when he returns Oct. 8 in Lincoln. Former quarterback Verlon Reed will be an interesting story line this season. With out Posey this group would be even further back on this list.
6. Michigan: It will be interesting to see how the Wolverines passing game changes, with head coach Brady Hoke’s new pro style offense. More pressure will be placed on quarterback Denard Robinson to throw the ball. Junior Rory Roundtree will be Robinson’s main target. Roundtree is a 6-foot-1, 190 lb Ohio native who pulled in 72 catches for 935 yards and 7 touchdowns in 2010. If he eliminates some dropped balls he could have All-Big 10 potential. Junior Martavious Odoms will be behind Roundtree. He is a 5-foot-9 junior who averaged 15 yards a catch in 2010.
5. Indiana: This is maybe the strongest group on Indiana’s team. Damario Belcher is a returning 6-foot-5, 215 lb stud who caught six or more catches in 8 games in 2010. 78 catches total for 832 yards. With such a big frame he needs to be more of a red zone presence and he could be as complete of a wide receiver this Conference has to offer. The Hoosiers have a lot of, big, long targets for new quarterback Dusty Kiel to throw to. Duwyce Wilson will play opposite Belcher. He is 6-foot-4, 198 lbs. He caught 32 passes for 488 yards, and 3 touchdowns in 2010.
4. Iowa: Marvin McNutt had to have amazed even himself last season.He is a 6-foot-4 Kansas City, Missouri native who came to Iowa City to play quarterback. After switching to full time receiver in 2009 McNutt has done nothing but rack up 1,535 yards receiving, on 87 catches, and has put up back to back 8 touchdown seasons. He will be the Hawkeye’s number one target in 2011. Keenan Davis is an interesting story line. He was a very highly touted high school recruit. He enters his junior season at 6-foot-3, 215 lb, and with a lot left to prove. He has the potential to be Iowas number 2 guy this season.
3. Michigan State: The Spartans have a lot of depth, and potential at the receiver spot. The number one guy for Kirk Cousins to throw to in 2011 will be 6-foot-2, 225 lb B.J. Cunningham. He had 50 catches for 611 yards in 2010, and added 9 touchdowns for Sparty. Keshawn Martin will most likely be the number two option he is a 5-foot-11, 185 lb Michigan native whos’ blazing speed nabbed him 32 catches in 2010, and earned him a spot in the kick return game. Senior Kieth Nichol will be a sure handed contributor as well.
2. Penn State: Penn State struggled early and often last season on offense. With a mid-season quarterback change, that will happen. One of the few bright spots was Derek Moye. He is a 6-foot-5, 200 lb target that is a young quarterbacks dream. He caught 53 passes for 885 yards in 2010. For those of you keeping score at home, that is 16.7 yards a catch, with 8 touchdowns to boot. Look for 6-foot-3, 215 lb Justin Brown to be the guy on the other side of the field. He caught 33 passes for 452 yards last season.
1. Northwestern: When you look up dependable in the dictionary, there will be a picture of Northwestern senior, Jeremy Ebert. He is an Ohio native who stands 6-foot-0, and weighs 190 lbs. In 2010 he caught 62 passes for a Conference high 953 yards, and 8 touchdown passes. He also grabbed All-Big 10 honors. Other than Ebert, all world quarterback Dan Persa will have a cast of veterans to throw to in, junior Demetrius Fields, and Tony Jones.
-By Jimmie Allen