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Posted by ESPN.com's Adam Rittenberg
Only one Big Ten team (Illinois) ranked in the top 25 nationally in pass offense, so this was anything but an explosive year for the league's wide receivers and tight ends. Subpar quarterback play had a role, as did injuries (Travis Beckum). Here's a look at the best of an average bunch, as well as my preseason rankings for wide receivers/tight ends.
|Bruce Kluckhohn/US Presswire|
|Eric Decker led the Big Ten in receptions in 2008.|
1. Eric Decker, Minnesota -- The junior turned in an excellent season that would have looked even more impressive if not for an ankle injury Nov. 1 against Northwestern. Decker, who will play slot receiver in the NFL next season or in 2009, led the Big Ten and ranked 16th nationally in receptions. His blocking ability makes him even more attractive to pro teams.
2. Arrelious Benn, Illinois -- Benn came on strong in Big Ten play, racking up 45 receptions for 794 yards and three touchdowns in eight league games. A likely candidate to turn pro after the 2009 season, Benn averaged 17.6 yards per catch in conference games and solidified himself as Juice Williams' top option.
3. Deon Butler, Penn State -- The former walk-on finished his college career with a flourish, leading Penn State in receptions (43), receiving yards (713) and touchdowns (7). Butler became Penn State's all-time receptions leader (175) and ranks second in career receiving yards (2,674) and third in touchdown receptions (22).
4. Derrick Williams, Penn State -- Williams' value went far beyond what he did as a wide receiver. Though he contributed to Penn State's passing attack with 40 receptions and 451 yards, his impact on returns, as a ball carrier and as a part-time quarterback in the "Wild Lion" offense was even greater. The former nation's No. 1 recruit played his best football in the twilight of his career.
5. Desmond Tardy, Purdue -- It wasn't a banner year for the Purdue offense, but Tardy did his part, particularly in Big Ten play. The senior finished third in receiving yards in league games (510). He eclipsed 100 receiving yards in four games, including each of the final two.
6. Greg Orton, Purdue -- Orton helped fill the void left by Dorien Bryant with a team-high 69 catches, which ranked second in the Big Ten behind Decker. He was reliable if not overly flashy and settled into the possession-receiver role in the Boilermakers' offense.7. Blair White, Michigan State -- Wide receiver was a major concern for Michigan State entering the season, and White came out of nowhere to become Brian Hoyer's top option in Big Ten play. Only Benn had more receiving yards in Big Ten play than White (568), who averaged a blistering 17.1 yards per reception.
8. Eric Peterman, Northwestern -- Peterman led Northwestern in receiving for the second consecutive season and recorded all five of his touchdown receptions in Big Ten play. He made big plays at key points and seemed to finish the season playing his best football.
9. Garrett Graham, Wisconsin -- Beckum's injury really hurt the Wisconsin passing game, but Graham did a nice job of stepping up. He was the Badgers' only reliable option and led Big Ten tight ends with 37 receptions for 478 yards and five touchdowns.
T-10 Brandon Myers, Iowa -- The Hawkeyes had the nation's best running back (Shonn Greene) and didn't need to pass much, but Myers made his mark with 30 receptions and four touchdowns. The senior tight end earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the league's coaches and helped Iowa reach a New Year's Day bowl.
T-10. Brian Robiskie, Ohio State -- He certainly had higher expectations for his senior year and probably thought Todd Boeckman, not Terrelle Pryor, would be throwing him the ball. But under the circumstances, Robiskie performed adequately and grabbed a league-high eight touchdown receptions.