- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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The Big Ten preseason position rankings are coming soon, but today the spotlight is on you and your knowledge of the entire league, not just your team. Expanding the focus beyond one beloved team is a challenge for many college football fans, but you're up to it.
Today's debate: Name the Big Ten's strongest position group.
Several options immediately come to mind. The Big Ten returns three of its top four running backs -- Wisconsin's Montee Ball, Nebraska's Rex Burkhead and Penn State's Silas Redd -- and six of its top 10 from the 2011 season. It wouldn't shock me if running back ran away (pun intended) with this poll question, but before making your selection, consider ...
The cornerback spot. After several so-so years at cornerback, the Big Ten could be very strong in 2011. Although Nebraska's Alfonzo Dennard is gone, the league returns talented players like Michigan State's Johnny Adams, Purdue's Ricardo Allen, Iowa's Micah Hyde, Michigan's Blake Countess, Ohio State's Bradley Roby and Illinois' Terry Hawthorne. Don't forget about guys like Wisconsin's Devin Smith and Minnesota's Troy Stoudermire. There's a lot of depth at corner.
Three other positions that merit consideration are tight end, defensive end and linebacker. In May, Brian Bennett wrote that tight end could be a strength for the Big Ten this year, as players like Wisconsin's Jacob Pedersen return and pro-tight end offenses arrive at both Penn State and Ohio State. Defensive end has been the Big Ten's strongest position in recent years, and it has two national headliners this year in Ohio State's John Simon and Michigan State's William Gholston. Linebacker also could be strong with standout tandems at Wisconsin (Mike Taylor, Chris Borland), Michigan State (Max Bullough, Denicos Allen), Penn State (Gerald Hodges, Michael Mauti) and Iowa (James Morris, Christian Kirksey) as well as other notables like Illinois' Jonathan Brown.
Now it's your turn to pick the Big Ten's strongest position group. Later this week, you'll be asked to name the league's weakest position group, so study up.