Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Big Ten rankings: No. 1, Adrian Clayborn
By ESPN.com staff ESPN.com
The Big Ten preseason player rankings, based on past performance and 2010 potential, wrap up with ...
No. 1: Adrian Clayborn, DE, Iowa, Sr., 6-4, 285
2009 numbers: Finished third in the Big Ten and tied for ninth nationally in sacks (11.5, .88 per game); finished third in the Big Ten and tied for 10th nationally in tackles for loss (20, 1.54 per game); tied for fifth in the league and tied for 23rd nationally in forced fumbles with four; recorded a blocked punt that he returned for a touchdown; nine quarterback hurries and a fumble recovery.
Adrian Clayborn spent a lot of time in the offensive backfield last season.
Making the case for Clayborn: The best player in a league makes the most memorable plays, and no Big Ten returning star made more than Clayborn in 2009. He set the tone for Iowa's entertaining surge by blocking a punt and returning it for a touchdown at Beaver Stadium to rally the Hawkeyes past Penn State in the Big Ten opener. Clayborn recorded three tackles for loss, two sacks and a forced fumble against Michigan State in a 15-13 win that Iowa claimed on the final play of the game. He was all over the field against Ohio State, recording a career-high 12 tackles, including three for loss and a sack. He did his best work in Big Ten play, ranking second in tackles for loss (1.8 per game) and tying for third in QB sacks (.81). And Clayborn arguably saved his best for last, racking up a career-high nine solo tackles, including two sacks, against Georgia Tech in Iowa's Orange Bowl victory to earn game MVP honors. He earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors and appeared on several All-America squads. Is Clayborn the most decorated player in the league? Michigan State's Greg Jones probably receives more honors. But Clayborn separates himself with game-defining plays and truly dominant performances. Even though Clayborn declared in December he would return to Iowa for his senior season, coaches around the Big Ten were stunned that he didn't make the jump to the NFL. His return is huge for Iowa and bad news for the rest of the league.