Wednesday, June 13, 2012
Take Two: B1G's leading receiver in 2012?
By Brian Bennett and Adam Rittenberg
Big Ten bloggers Adam Rittenberg and Brian Bennett will occasionally give their takes on a burning question facing the league. We'll both have strong opinions, but not necessarily the same view. We'll let you decide which blogger is right.
Of all the positions in the Big Ten this year, none has bigger questions marks than receiver. Eight of the league's top 10 pass catchers from 2011 exhausted their eligibility So today's Take Two topic is this: Which player will lead the Big Ten in receiving yards in 2012?
Take 1: Brian Bennett
There are a whole lot of mostly unproven wideouts in this conference this year, and I suspect some names we don't know much about right now will be making some noise in the fall. But I'm going to go with the guy who I think has the best combination of talent, opportunity and system: Iowa's Keenan Davis. He had 50 catches for 713 yards last year, and that was with star Marvin McNutt serving as the first -- and often second and third -- option in the Hawkeyes' passing game. Like McNutt, Davis could be poised to make a leap his senior season. He's got the league's most experienced pocket passer in James Vandenberg and will play in an offense that likely will need to air it out while it tries to find a reliable running back. Davis has been inconsistent throughout his career and has struggled at times with drops. But at least he recognizes this fact and is working to fix those issues. He's got the physical tools to be an all-Big Ten performer, and my bet is he'll take the next step and lead the league in receiving yards in 2012, just as McNutt did in 2011.
Take 2: Adam Rittenberg
Davis is a good pick, BB, although he'll need to become more consistent and limit drops. My pick simply needs to keep making the strides we've seen from him the past two seasons. Jared Abbrederis has been one of the better stories for Wisconsin since making a name for himself in the spring of 2010. The former walk-on had a terrific 2011 season, recording 53 catches for 933 yards and eight touchdowns. With Nick Toon gone to the NFL, Abbrederis clearly steps into the No. 1 role this season. The concern isn't so much whether Abbrederis is capable of leading the Big Ten, but whether he'll get the opportunity to do so. Arguably no Wisconsin player benefited more from Russell Wilson's arrival than Abbrederis, who became a favorite target of Wilson's down the field. Wilson is gone, and Wisconsin enters preseason camp with big questions at quarterback. While Maryland transfer Danny O'Brien has shown he can pass the ball well and identify a capable target -- Torrey Smith had 67 catches for 1,055 yards and 12 scores for the Terrapins in 2010 -- he's learning a new system and needs to rebound from a poor 2011 season. If O'Brien isn't the answer, I don't expect Wisconsin to be throwing the ball as much as it did last season. If Wisconsin can establish a viable passing attack, expect Abbrederis to easily eclipse the 1,000-yard mark as the team's top option. Both Allen and O'Brien make sense right now, but given the league-wide turnover at receiver, it wouldn't surprise me to see a less-established player end up atop the receiving chart.