Thursday, June 6, 2013
Poll: Big Ten's top offensive triple threat
By Adam Rittenberg
Brian Bennett has been projecting the Big Ten's top statistical performers in 2013, including 3,000-yard passers, 1,000-yard rushers and 1,000-yard receivers.
Now it's your turn to forecast the Big Ten's top offensive triumvirate in 2013. Which Big Ten team has the best chance of producing a 3,000-yard passer, a 1,000-yard rusher and a 1,000-yard receiver this season? Penn State was the only Big Ten squad to record the feat in 2012, as quarterback Matt McGloin led the league in pass yards (3,266), wide receiver Allen Robinson led in receiving yards (1,013) and running back Zach Zwinak finished with an even 1,000 rush yards.
Here are the candidates for the Big Ten's top offensive triple threat in 2013 ...
Indiana: The Hoosiers lose just one starter from an offense that finished second in the league and 34th nationally in yards. Indiana also has multiple candidates for the milestones, whether it's Cameron Coffman, Tre Roberson or Nate Sudfeld at quarterback; or Cody Latimer, Shane Wynn or Kofi Hughes at receiver. Coffman passed for 2,734 yards in 2012 after taking over for the injured Roberson, who is back from a broken leg. Latimer looks like a superstar after eclipsing 800 receiving yards as a sophomore. IU wants to be more explosive on the ground and Stephen Houston would be the best bet to reach 1,000 rush yards after finishing with 749 last season.
Michigan: Although the Wolverines lose a record-setting individual offensive performer in Denard Robinson, they could have a deeper arsenal of weapons this fall as they transition to a more traditional pro-style system. Devin Gardner averaged 243.8 pass yards as Michigan's starting quarterback for the final five games last season. If he keeps that up for an entire season, he could reach the 3,000-yard mark. The Wolverines receivers also benefited from Gardner's presence, and a guy like Jeremy Gallon could approach 1,000 receiving yards if things go well. The bigger question is running back and whether Fitzgerald Toussaint, coming off of a broken leg, or dynamic incoming freshman Derrick Green could approach 1,000 rush yards. Michigan hasn't hit all three statistical milestones in the same season since 2003.
Nebraska: Like Indiana, Nebraska returns familiar names from a powerful offense that led the Big Ten in yards and finished second in points last season. Senior quarterback Taylor Martinez enters his fourth year as the starter after making significant strides as a passer in 2012, when he passed for 2,871 yards. The Huskers also had two 1,000-yard rushers in Martinez (1,019) and Ameer Abdullah (1,137), who returns. Dynamic sophomore Imani Cross also is in the mix after averaging 5.9 yards per carry as a freshman. Nebraska never has had a 1,000-yard receiver, but Kenny Bell came fairly close in 2012 (863 yards) and Quincy Enunwa and Jamal Turner also return.
Ohio State: Quarterback Braxton Miller is the biggest name coming back for the Buckeyes, but he's also the biggest question mark in Ohio State's quest for these offensive milestones. Ohio State shouldn't have much trouble producing a 1,000-yard rusher with Miller (1,271 rush yards in 2012) and Carlos Hyde (970) back in the fold. But Miller has to upgrade his passing to get near 3,000 yards after completing just 58.3 percent of his attempts in 2012. The Buckeyes are building more depth at receiver as Corey Brown progresses alongside big-play threat Devin Smith. Ohio State has had just four 1,000-yard receiving seasons and none since Michael Jenkins in 2002.
Penn State: The good news is Penn State achieved the milestone in 2012 and returns two of the reasons why in Robinson and Zwinak. The Lions also have other options at running back in Bill Belton and Akeel Lynch, the redshirt freshman who stood out during the Blue-White Game, along with the Big Ten's best group of tight ends, led by Kyle Carter. The bad news is Penn State's quarterback will be taking his first snaps in an FBS game this season. Junior college transfer Tyler Ferguson passed for 2,650 yards and 26 touchdowns for College of the Sequoias in 2012, while decorated incoming freshman Christian Hackenberg threw for 2,144 yards and 24 touchdowns for Fork Union Military Academy. Whoever wins the job will have to ride the fast track to 3,000 pass yards, but Penn State's starter will be surrounded by one of the league's best pass-catching groups.
It's your turn to vote on the Big Ten's top offensive triple threat for 2013. Make yours count.