1. QB Denard Robinson, Michigan
Is there any doubt that Robinson, who rushed for 1,702 yards and threw for 2,570 yards, won't be the biggest threat in the Big Ten come next season? Every defensive coordinator around the league will get little to no sleep the night before facing Michigan and their dual-threat quarterback.
It's a difficult task to conquer, and there weren't many defenses last season that were able to stop, let alone contain, Robinson. The scary aspect about Robinson's incredible 2011 campaign is the fact that he was just a freshman.
One can only imagine how effective he will be in 2012 now that he has a year under his belt and has faced nearly all of the Big Ten defenses. College football experts and fans alike are already dubbing the sophomore as a Heisman candidate, and deservingly so.
Mark my words: Robinson will put up similar, if not better, numbers than he did last season IF he can stay healthy.
Now that Russell Wilson is in the equation, the likelihood that both Ball and White will see the same amount of workload that was expected of them prior to Wilson's arrival is slim-to-none. But the two will still play a major role in an offense that is designed to establish the run early in the game and continue pounding the rock until the opposition finds a way to slow them down.
It will be no easy task for opposing defensive coordinators to find a solution to stopping the Badgers' running attack, especially with Wilson possessing skills with both his arm and legs.
Last season, White led the team in rushing yards with 1,052 while Ball led the team with 18 touchdowns and had more carries (163) than White on the season. The two eclipsed 2,000 yards combined last season -- a mark that they hope to exceed yet again in 2011.
3. QB Taylor Martinez, Nebraska
As Nebraska fans have noticed, Martinez is not your typical quarterback. He plays a very similar game to that of Denard Robinson, and if he did not go down with an injury in his freshman campaign, he would have put up similar numbers to those of the Michigan phenom.
There's a lot of "if's" that surround Martinez, but there's no other way around this cliché; if Martinez can stay healthy for his entire sophomore year, he will not only be one of the most exciting players in all of college football, he will put the Cornhuskers in a prime spot to contend for the national championship.
Martinez, who set nearly every freshman quarterback school record in 2010, will finish with over 1,000 rushing yards this upcoming season after nearly accomplishing that feat last season, falling just 35 yards shy of the mark. He's an absolute threat whenever the ball is in his hands, and that is why he will keep defensive coordinators up the night before their games. Now let's see what he can do in the new "Tim Beck offense." One where he will be expected to throw a little more.
Not many people talk about Ebert, but he put together an impressive season last year. He racked up 953 yards and eight touchdowns on 62 receptions, all of which were team-highs.
Ebert's a threat on first down, having caught 32 passes and three touchdowns, as well as the go-to target for quarterback Dan Persa on third down; he compiled 15 receptions and four touchdowns on third down.
After being selected as an All-Big Ten first team performer last season, there's no telling how much more he can improve from his junior year to senior year. But it's very likely that he will find himself topping the 1,000 yard mark and possibly double-digit touchdown totals.
5. RB Edwin Baker, Michigan State
There's no hiding behind 1,201 yards and 13 touchdowns, as well as being named to the All-Big Ten first team. Baker is, without a doubt, the most electrifying player on the Spartans offense. Because of his ability to gash through defenses, quarterback Kirk Cousins has a much easier time in the passing attack because the opposing defenses have to account for Baker on every play.
He will continue to put up ridiculous numbers as a junior next season, and it's a realistic thought that he might be able to lead the Big Ten in nearly every running category.
Last season, Baker did most of his damage on first down; rushing for 734 yards and seven touchdowns on 122 carries. But interestingly enough, he wound up being a key player fourth down after racking up two touchdowns on just four attempts.
- Josh Harvey -