Friday, August 1, 2014
B1G players in the Top 100: Part V
By Mitch Sherman
The final 20 is out in the ESPN.com’s weeklong #CFBrank project that charts the top 100 players in college football, based on expected contributions for 2014.
The Big Ten earned a respectable four entries among the top 20:
No. 20: Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
No. 5 (tie): Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
No. 5 (tie): Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
No. 4: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Let’s start at the top here. Calhoun is a great player, no doubt. But a clear difference of opinion exists between our national group of writers and editors and the five of us who cover the Big Ten. In the Big Ten-specific ratings, we slotted Calhoun at No. 6.
Calhoun made a huge splash to open his sophomore season a year ago by scoring three touchdowns in the Spartans' two opening games against Western Michigan and South Florida. From there, he was good -- dominant at times -- but surely, Calhoun benefited from the lock-down ability of cornerbacks Darqueze Dennard and Trae Waynes. A Big Ten coordinator told us last season that his team schemed to run at Calhoun and feared Marcus Rush more than fellow end Calhoun.
No argument with Miller or Gordon among the top five nationally. Miller finished atop the Big Ten survey after winning the league's offensive player of the year award each of the past two seasons. Gordon led the nation in per-carry rushing average last season and in 2012.
Interestingly, the Big Ten writers rated Nebraska back Ameer Abdullah ahead of his friend Gordon. Abdullah finished 21st in the national rankings.
No. 20 is a good spot for Gregory. The Nebraska defensive end has much room to grow after his first season at the FBS level. His moments of dominance as a sophomore tease at a season this fall that could earn Gregory a spot higher on a list like this in a few months.