<
>

Proving ground: Legends Division

Yesterday, we took a look at five players from the Leaders Division who have a lot to prove in the 2013 season. That can only mean one thing for today: it's time to turn our attention to those who have something to prove this fall in the Legends Division.

And it goes a little something like this ...

1. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska: What does Martinez have to prove after earning All-Big Ten first-team honors (from the coaches) and leading the league in total offense last season? Well, it's true that he will likely end his career owning every major Nebraska quarterback record. But he still must prove that he can win big games on the road, that he can avoid the fumbling problems that have plagued him and that he can deliver a long-awaited championship to Lincoln. That's a whole lot to put on one player, especially considering that the Huskers' defense will probably have a bigger say in the outcome of the season. But we know this: Martinez's tenure will be viewed much differently if he could finish it with a conference title or at least a BCS bowl.

2. Andrew Maxwell, QB, Michigan State: Here's another Legends quarterback, albeit one who's far less accomplished than Martinez and isn't even guaranteed to start in 2013. Maxwell is now a fifth-year senior, but the last time we saw the Spartans, he was benched for their two-minute drill against TCU in the Buffalo Wild Wings Bowl for Connor Cook. Mark Dantonio has said that Maxwell retains the edge -- for now -- in the quarterback race heading into fall camp. But he'll get lots of competition from Cook and possibly incoming freshman Damion Terry. If he keeps the job, Maxwell will have to win over a disgruntled fan base by completing better than 52.5 percent of his passes, as he did a year ago.

3. Fitz Toussaint, RB, Michigan: The Wolverines senior had seemingly proved himself with a 1,000-yard season in 2011. But he followed that up with just 514 yards last year (on a career-low 4.0 yards per carry) before breaking his leg late in the season. So if you're scoring at home, Toussaint has to prove that last year was an aberration, that he's fully healthy and also that he's good enough to hold off top recruit Derrick Green for the Michigan starting tailback job. And he'll have to do all of that with a mostly inexperienced offensive line and without Denard Robinson as a fellow rushing threat in the backfield.

4. Kyle Prater, WR, Northwestern: Prater arrived in Evanston backed by a ton of hype, given his recruiting rankings and his transfer from USC. Teammates started calling him "Megatron" because of his 6-foot-5 frame. Yet Prater didn't make a huge impact last season, catching just 10 balls for 54 yards. He's had trouble staying healthy and missed spring practice because of an injury. The Wildcats could use a true No. 1 receiver this year, and they would love to see Prater start fulfilling his immense potential.

5. Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota: Hageman has attracted a lot of positive attention this offseason for his work in the weight room and in spring practice. That's a great sign, but the senior must deliver on that promise. He had a very good year in 2012 as he started to figure out the defensive tackle position, finishing with six sacks. For the Gophers to take the next step, Hageman has to elevate his performance to great. He's got all the tools to be the top interior defensive lineman in the Big Ten and a potential high-round NFL draft pick.