- Adam Rittenberg, ESPN Staff Writer
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Quarterback isn't the Big Ten's strongest position entering the 2012 season, but the league boasts several familiar faces who could take a significant step in their development this fall. Five Big Ten signal-callers appear on the preseason watch list for the Davey O'Brien Award, given to the nation's top quarterback.
Here's the Big Ten contingent:
Taylor Martinez, Nebraska, junior
Braxton Miller, Ohio State, sophomore
Denard Robinson, Michigan, senior
Nathan Scheelhaase, Illinois, junior
James Vandenberg, Iowa, senior
All five players are returning starters from 2011, and three -- Robinson, Martinez and Scheelhaase -- are entering their third seasons as starters. Robinson is one of seven O'Brien award semifinalists from 2011 who appear on the watch list. He certainly looks like the Big Ten's top quarterback candidate for national honors this year.
Judging by all the watch lists, there are high hopes for Miller in Year 1 under Urban Meyer, whose spread offense seems to be a good fit for the Buckeyes' dual-threat sophomore.
Any snubs here? While I'd expect strides from players like Minnesota's MarQueis Gray and Northwestern's Kain Colter, neither is a shoo-in for watch list inclusion. Wisconsin's Danny O'Brien, the Maryland transfer, also could work his way into contention but needs to bounce back from a lousy 2011.
The field is narrowed to 16 semifinalists Oct. 22 and three finalists Nov. 19. The winner will be announced Dec. 6 during the Home Depot College Football Awards in Florida. Ohio State's Troy Smith (2006) is the last Big Ten recipient of the O'Brien award.