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Tuesday, February 7, 2012
Which B1G receivers will break out this fall?

By Adam Rittenberg

The Big Ten had four 1,000-yard receivers in 2011, all of whom are graduating.

In fact, the league loses its top five receivers -- Iowa's Marvin McNutt, Illinois' A.J. Jenkins, Michigan State's B.J. Cunningham, Northwestern's Jeremy Ebert and Wisconsin's Nick Toon -- and returns just two of its top-10 pass catchers (Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis and Iowa's Keenan Davis). But the departures don't necessarily mean the Big Ten will be scrambling for elite wideouts in 2011.

Consider: of the league's top-10 receivers last fall, only four of them -- Ebert, McNutt, Penn State's Derek Moye and Minnesota's Da'Jon McKnight -- ranked in the top 10 the previous season. So there are receivers who take their game to the next level every season. Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis might have been the best example this past fall, as he caught 35 more passes and recorded 644 more receiving yards than he had in 2010.

Iowa's Keenan Davis
Iowa's Keenan Davis is one of two returning players from the Big Ten's top-10 receivers in 2011.
Who will break out in 2012? Again, we're talking wide receivers here, not tight ends, of which there are several talented ones in the Big Ten.

Colleague KC Joyner thinks the Hawkeyes' Davis will take the next step. Davis, pegged to be Iowa's No. 1 wideout following McNutt's departure, is among the players Joyner lists in a recent piece on breakout receivers.

He writes:
An optimist would note that McNutt really wasn't a dominant wideout (his 9.0 YPA was only slightly higher than Davis'), that [Ken] O'Keefe often called, as ESPN.com Big Ten blogger Brian Bennett noted, a "buttoned-down style of play" and that Iowa has a potential Big Ten first-team quarterback in James Vandenberg.

I recently mentioned Davis as one of the Hawkeyes who needs a big offseason to take the next step this fall.

Who are some other potential breakout receivers in the Big Ten?