My apologies for posting this late, but five Big Ten returners are on the preseason watch list for the Johnny "The Jet" Rodgers Return Specialist Award. The award, named after former Nebraska star Johnny Rodgers, is in its second year and will be passed out to the nation's top return man.
The Big Ten players on the preseason watch list are:
Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin, Jr.
Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska, So.
Jordan Hall, Ohio State, Sr.
Venric Mark, Northwestern, Jr.
Raheem Mostert, Purdue, So.
To be eligible, a player must be a primary return specialist (punt and/or kickoff), be ranked among the national leaders in return and display "leadership, courage, desire, respect for authority and discipline." A list of 12 semifinalists will be selected in late October, and four finalists will be announced in November. The winner will be selected in December.
Arkansas' Joe Adams was the inaugural recipient of the award. Adams, Rodgers and a media voting panel, which includes yours truly, will select the winner.
Here's the full watch list.
Abbrederis is the Big Ten's top return man entering 2012 after leading the league in punt return average (15.8 ypr) and ranking third nationally. He also finished sixth in the league in kick return average (24.6 ypg).
Mostert led the nation in kick return average (33.5 ypr) and Abdullah ranked ninth (29.4). The big question is how effective they'll be with the new kickoff rules, which will undoubtedly limit return opportunities. Mostert only handled kick returns for Purdue in 2011, and it'll be interesting to see if the Boilers can increase his role this fall.
The best candidate for this award likely will be a player who handles returns on both punts and kickoffs. Abbrederis, Hall, Abdullah and Mark all did in 2011. Hall has shown flashes on kick returns, while Mark had a very strong freshman year in 2010, and while his numbers dipped a bit last fall, he averaged 15.9 yards on punt returns in limited work (eight attempts).