A closer look: Big Ten's top 25 players


I'll admit it has been a while since the Big Ten preseason player rankings finished with Iowa's Adrian Clayborn, and yet there has been no breakdown on the blog. I went on vacation. Sue me.

Better late than never!

Thanks for all of your feedback -- positive, negative and bizarre -- on the rankings. Although I fully expect the postseason rundown to look different, this is a fun summer project that actually ends up on the radar screens of the schools I cover, making it worthwhile.

Let's take a closer look at the top 25.

By school:

  • Wisconsin: 6

  • Ohio State: 6

  • Iowa: 4

  • Penn State: 2

  • Purdue: 2

  • Michigan State: 2

  • Northwestern: 1

  • Illinois: 1

  • Indiana: 1

And now by position:

  • Linebacker: 5

  • Defensive end: 4

  • Quarterback: 4

  • Wide receiver: 3

  • Running back: 3

  • Guard: 3

  • Safety: 1

  • Defensive tackle: 1

  • Offensive tackle: 1

Offense: 14

Defense: 11

By class:

  • Seniors: 16

  • Juniors: 8

  • Sophomores: 1

While Ohio State and Wisconsin tied for the most players in the rankings, Iowa had two of the top five (Clayborn and Tyler Sash), and Penn State's only two selections (running back Evan Royster and guard Stefen Wisniewski) appeared in the top eight.

No Michigan players appeared in the rankings, although guard Stephen Schilling came close. I don't know what's more surprising: a top 25 without a Michigan player or the fact that most of the Michigan fans I heard from agreed that right now, few players merit consideration. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if players like Roy Roundtree, Denard Robinson, Tate Forcier, David Molk, Craig Roh and Troy Woolfolk make a good case for the postseason rankings.

Minnesota also got shut out, although safety Kim Royston might have made it if not for his health situation entering the 2010 season. The Gophers are replacing a ton of starters, but I'd be surprised if someone doesn't work his way into the postseason rankings.

For the second consecutive year, the defensive front seven dominated the preseason rankings. Last year, my preseason top 30 included 13 men who played defensive line or linebacker.

Two positions that could be stronger this fall are quarterback and wide receiver. Four quarterbacks made the rundown, and several other signal callers, including Indiana's Ben Chappell, Minnesota's Adam Weber and Michigan's tandem of Robinson and Forcier could contend for the postseason list. I only listed three wideouts in the rankings, but Iowa's Derrell Johnson-Koulianos, Wisconsin's Nick Toon and Michigan State's Keshawn Martin just missed the cut. A bunch of others, including Michigan's Roundtree, Iowa's Marvin McNutt, Penn State's Derek Moye and Indiana's Damarlo Belcher, also should be in the mix.

Don't fret if your favorite player didn't make the preseason rankings. Last year, nine players left off the preseason rundown made the final list, including Clayborn and Wisconsin defensive end O'Brien Schofield.

Here's a look at where the preseason top 25 attended high school:

  • Ohio: 6 (Greg Jones, Justin Boren, Ross Homan, Chris Borland, DeVier Posey, Ricky Stanzi)

  • Wisconsin: 3 (John Clay, J.J. Watt, Gabe Carimi)

  • Pennsylvania: 2 (Terrelle Pryor, Stefen Wisniewski)

  • Illinois: 2 (Scott Tolzien, Mikel LeShoure)

  • Missouri: 2 (Adrian Clayborn, Quentin Davie)

  • Indiana: 2 (Ryan Kerrigan, Tandon Doss)

  • Minnesota: 1 (Karl Klug)

  • Iowa: 1 (Tyler Sash)

  • Florida: 1 (Brian Rolle)

  • Georgia: 1 (Cameron Heyward)

  • Connecticut: 1 (John Moffitt)

  • Texas: 1 (Keith Smith)

  • Michigan: 1 (Kirk Cousins)

  • Virginia: 1 (Evan Royster)

Let's take one final look at the top 25:

  • No. 25: Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt

  • No. 24: Illinois RB Mikel LeShoure

  • No. 23: Iowa DT Karl Klug

  • No. 22: Northwestern LB Quentin Davie

  • No. 21: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins

  • No. 20: Ohio State LB Brian Rolle

  • No. 19: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien

  • No. 18: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi

  • No. 17: Ohio State WR DeVier Posey

  • No. 16: Wisconsin LB Chris Borland

  • No. 15: Wisconsin G/C John Moffitt

  • No. 14: Indiana WR Tandon Doss

  • No. 13: Purdue WR Keith Smith

  • No. 12: Ohio State LB Ross Homan

  • No. 11: Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi

  • No. 10: Purdue DE Ryan Kerrigan

  • No. 9: Ohio State G Justin Boren

  • No. 8: Penn State G/C Stefen Wisniewski

  • No. 7: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor

  • No. 6: Penn State RB Evan Royster

  • No. 5: Iowa S Tyler Sash

  • No. 4: Wisconsin RB John Clay

  • No. 3: Ohio State DL Cameron Heyward

  • No. 2: Michigan State LB Greg Jones

  • No. 1: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn