From the sick bay to the spotlight

July, 15, 2009
7/15/09
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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg

College football is a next-man-in type of sport, and we tend to forget injured players soon after they leave the field. But many Big Ten teams will get key pieces back in the mix this fall.

Here are players who could make a major impact in 2009 after missing major chunks or all of last season with injuries.

Sean Lee, LB, Penn State -- An obvious choice to lead off the group, Lee gives Penn State an All-America candidate at linebacker, a tackling machine and a tremendous team leader. He'll serve as a co-captain with quarterback Daryll Clark after missing all of last season with a torn ACL.

Lawrence Wilson DE, Ohio State -- The Buckeyes don't need to rely on Wilson, not with Thaddeus Gibson and Cameron Heyward in the fold, but the former starter could bolster an already strong front four. Leg injuries have ended Wilson's past two seasons, but he has shown some potential when healthy.

Jaycen Taylor, RB, Purdue -- Despite a promising spring from Purdue's running backs, Taylor brings by far the most experience to the position, even though he missed all of last season with a torn ACL. He shared time with Kory Sheets in 2006 and 2007, averaging more than 5 yards a carry each season.

Drake Dunsmore, TE, Northwestern -- Offensive coordinator Mick McCall really likes Dunsmore's skills, and the redshirt sophomore could bolster the little-used superback position this fall. After missing last season with a knee injury, the 6-foot-3, 235-pound Dunsmore is a big, athletic target for new starting quarterback Mike Kafka.

Aaron Henry, CB, Wisconsin -- Henry tried to return from a knee injury last year but couldn't get back on the field. The playmaking sophomore should be fine for the fall and hopes to fill the void left by All-Big Ten corner Allen Langford.

Junior Hemingway, WR, Michigan -- Hemingway came down with mono and sustained shoulder and ankle injuries that ended his 2008 season. He should play a big role at outside receiver after receiving a medical redshirt.

Austin Thomas, S, Indiana -- Thomas seemed to finally be hitting his stride when an ACL injury against Northwestern ended his 2008 season. He missed half of Indiana's games but still led the team with two interceptions. Though he sat out spring practice, Thomas should be fine for the fall and is expected to lead an improved Hoosiers secondary.

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