It’s been one heck of a season in the Big 10. The conference has fallen short of lofty expectations, seeing promising schools like Wisconsin and Michigan State stumble throughout the year. Let’s not forget an anti-climatic edition of ‘The Game’, which saw Ohio State pound Michigan into submission.
What did we learn in the Big 10 this year? A lot. So let’s dig in.
5 Best Prospects
1. Nick Bosa, EDGE, Ohio State
The football gods were cruel to take Nick Bosa from us in September…imagine what this Buckeye defensive line would look like down the stretch with him playing next to second-year DE Chase Young. Bosa is the best player not just in the Big 10, but in the entire country.
2. Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
A dynamic receiving threat who is tailor-made for today’s NFL, Fant has all the makings of an impact receiver. If only the Hawkeyes would use him more.
3. Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
Oruwariye is a twitchy, lengthy cornerback who has the physicality and body control to play you with either strength or finesse. Oruwariye is an experienced defender at Penn State, but this is his first year as a full time starter. He hasn’t disappointed.
4. Dwayne Haskins, QB, Ohio State
Haskins exploded onto the scene as a first year starter and has crushed just about every passing record the Buckeyes have. Haskins doesn’t get as many downfield targets as scouts would like to see, but he flashes the requisite arm talent to be a high ceiling starting QB in the NFL.
5. David Edwards, OT, Wisconsin
Edwards is a bully up front, abnormally athletic and an absolute chore to stack in the run game. His pass sets have improved from last year, meaning he’s more proficient in getting depth off the line of scrimmage and protecting the edge.
5 Most Over-Hyped Prospects (From The Pre-season)
1. Brian Lewerke, QB, Michigan State
Whoops. My bad, folks. I entered the year quite high on Lewerke’s promise and ceiling as a passer, but he regressed in just about every way imaginable after the first few weeks. The linemen couldn’t block, the receivers couldn’t separate and Lewerke didn’t trust anyone to do their job. It was a bad mix and a colossal failure of a season.
2. Juwan Johnson, WR, Penn State
Johnson entered the year as the only high producing skill player back from last year’s team. You’d never guess it, watching him play. Johnson is maddeningly inconsistent. His hands are a major question mark and he’s not been able to create separation on the outside.
3. L.J. Scott, RB, Michigan State
Lewereke was a big miss for me, but y’all can’t blame me for the fizzle of L.J. Scott. Scott had his fair share of fans entering the season, but he’s continued to show he’s a plodding back that simply doesn’t have the quickness to cut it as an every down back.
4. Beau Benzschawel, OL, Wisconsin
I didn’t take the cheese on Benzschawel either this summer, mostly because his feet looked slow and his hands were pretty inconsistent and didn’t show a lot of grip strength. Not much has changed on either front.
5. Tuf Borland, LB, Ohio State
I *DID* take the cheese on Borland this summer and while he hasn’t necessarily been bad, he hasn’t seen the field on all three downs to the degree that I would have hoped. Borland is coming off an Achilles injury this spring, which may be a factor in why he’s been limited in his play.
5 Most Improved Prospects
1. Devin Bush, LB, Michigan
I was skeptical of Bush’s mental processing and ability to stack blocks coming into 2018. Not anymore. Bush still misreads a play every now and again but his speed is so elite, he can make up ground in no time. And he’s gotten better at banging blockers between the tackles this year, too.
2. Chase Winovich, EDGE, Michigan
Winovich took his play to another level this season, becoming the headliner of the Michigan defense thanks to his hustle plays and more deliberate approach to attacking blocks.
3. T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa
Hockenson has blossomed in an expanded role with the Hawkeyes this season. Heck, he may have a more immediate impact in the NFL than Fant, given his impressive blocking skills. The redshirt sophomore will have a tough decision regarding his NFL future this winter, he’s red-hot as a prospect.
4. K.J. Hill, WR, Ohio State
With J.T. Barrett at the helm, it was difficult for any of these wide receivers to really shine. That’s no longer the case with Haskins slinging the ball all over the field. Hill has impressed with his physical play and run after the catch efforts.
5. Antoine Brooks Jr, DB, Maryland
A bit undersized, Brooks made an immediate impact in Week 1 against the Texas Longhorns as a D-gap defender. Brooks has shown ample versatility this season and has value as a 5th defensive back.
5 Least Improved Prospects
1. Paddy Fisher, LB, Northwestern
I wouldn’t even say Fisher was bad this season…he did look half a step slower but he largely looked to be the same player he was in 2017 as a redshirt freshman. So now Fisher will need to answer questions about his range before he’s able to maximize his value.
2. Lavert Hill, CB, Michigan
Like Fisher, I still like Lavert Hill quite a bit. But I was hoping to see some more stickiness than I got when watching Hill in action this season. Hill is undersized, so his ability to stay firm in the hip pocket of receivers is going to be paramount.
3. Trace McSorley, QB, Penn State
You can count me out on this one. McSorely is a pretty lackluster player in every possible way and he regressed notably without Coach Moorhead, Saquon Barkley and Mike Gesicki in Happy Valley.
4. Rashan Gary, DL, Michigan
Injury played a big part in Gary’s disappointing junior season, but it’s also worth noting that Gary didn’t really show a lot of upside as a pass rusher this season off the edge either. That was a big bugaboo on film for Gary and he hasn’t answered those questions at all.
5. Montre Hartage, CB, Northwestern
Hartage isn’t a bad football player. I’d like him a lot in Cover-2 or in press situations. But his hips aren’t especially loose and his turn and run speed limit his ceiling as a player. Those limitations are going to be difficult to overcome without it showing on film.
5 Best Developmental Prospects
1. Parris Campbell, WR, Ohio State
If you can teach Parris Campbell how to run his routes with speed at the top of his routes, look out. Campbell is still limited as a route runner but he’s an explosive athlete in the open field and a big play waiting to happen with the ball in his hands.
2. Byron Cowart, DL, Maryland
Formerly of Auburn, Cowart illustrated terrific traits this season. He’s big, physical and fairly explosive in straight line situations. He’s not there as a pass rusher yet but he’s shown some good lean and lower body tilt to turn the corner on blockers.
3. Zach Gentry, TE, Michigan
Go ahead and throw the Ohio State film away. It was far and away Gentry’s worst game of the season and it’s not even close. I’m not sure what caused the drops to settle in but Gentry showed this season he’s got some viable upside as a seam receiver and red zone target thanks to his size and vertical speed.
4. Ryan Connelly, LB, Wisconsin
Connelly is a smart football player. He’s quick to process, he just struggles when he’s tasked with sorting through trash. He’ll have to address that at the next level, but developing hand pop to play off contact is much easier to coach than teaching someone how to read his keys.
5. David Blough, QB, Purdue
Blough lacks top end passer traits, but he’s got a nifty arm and he’s a fun player. His play took off after he wrestled away the starting quarterback gig and helped kickstart the Boilermakers’ offense.
5 Prospects I Still Question
1. Clayton Thorson, QB, Northwestern
At the end of the day, Thorson makes things look hard as a quarterback. Identifying pressure, moving off of his spot, throwing with accuracy…these are all problem areas for Thorson. He’s going to get some play at the Senior Bowl but I’m not a fan of his game at all.
2. Dre’Mont Jones, DL, Ohio State
Can Dre’Mont play the run? I haven’t seen it yet. And too many plays end with Jones blown 5-yards off the football, which concerns me as well. He’s a splash defender but I’d very much prefer a more well-rounded skillset to prevent liabilities against the run.
3. T.J. Edwards, LB, Wisconsin
Edwards, like his teammate Ryan Connelly, is a smart football player. I’m just not certain he has the needed athleticism to play at a high level in the NFL.
4. Khaleke Hudson, LB, Michigan
What position does Khaleke Hudson play? He bulked up to play linebacker but his role in this defense is primarily to roam around and hunt the football. He’s going to be a difficult projection when the time comes to make the jump.
5. Isaiah Prince, OT, Ohio State
Prince is an experienced player who seems to struggle with the fundamentals and techniques of his position. He’s a promising functional athlete but his polish is nowhere near where it needs to be if he’s going to stick at the NFL. Can he learn technique?
5 Biggest Sleepers
1. Robert Landers, DT, Ohio State
*Whispers* Landers is the best defensive tackle on the Buckeyes roster this year. Yeah, he’s a little stocky…but he stacks up blocks great and has shown an ability to play into gaps.
2. Jerome Washington, TE, Rutgers
I guarantee you’d have heard more about him if he didn’t play at Rutgers. Washington is a former big time recruit who transferred from Miami to come play in Rutgers.
3. Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State
Shadowed by a younger running back in J.K. Dobbins, Weber is flying under the radar after finally looking like his old self from 2016. Weber can be a valuable member of an NFL running back stable going forward, I don’t question that for one second.
4. Stanley Morgan Jr, WR, Nebraska
The Huskers have been quiet for a few seasons now, but what if I told you Morgan has caught 131 passes for 1990 yards and 17 touchdowns in the last two seasons? He’s an accomplished route runner who has starter upside in the NFL.
5. Devine Ozigbo, RB, Nebraska
Speaking of quiet Huskers, I have liked my fleeting glimpses at Ozigbo, who set a career high in rushing yards this season.
5 Prospects I’d Pound The Table For
1. Tyler Biadasz, C, Wisconsin
Biadasz’ value may get tempered as a center, but he’s a powerful blocker who plays with masterful body control on the interior. This is a plug and play starter for the next decade. Better yet? He’s only a redshirt sophomore and he’s already technically polished.
2. Darnell Savage, S, Maryland
Savage is an absolutely brutal hitter in the secondary. His ball skills have developed over the past few seasons as well, giving him the ability to impact the game from zone coverage or as a fill defender stepping down into the box.
3. Joe Bachie Jr, LB, Michigan State
One of the smartest football players I’ve scouted this season, Bachie has a rare nose for the football that comes as a by-product of his quick reactions and intelligent play. Bachie is big, physical and can pound you between the tackles in addition to his ability to play zone coverage.
4. Anthony Nelson, EDGE, Iowa
Nelson has been overshadowed by some of his teammates this season but he’s quietly logged 9.5 sacks, giving him a tie with teammate A.J. Epenesa (remember the name for 2020) and Minnesota’s Carter Coughlin. Nelson is pretty developed in his hands and can surprise with his cornering ability.
These two had terrific seasons, Sanders rushing for 1223 yards and Higdon rushing for 1178. Both are jittery backs who can beat you with finesse but also run with some surprising power.