Big Ten: 2010 postseason player countdown

The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings wrap up with ...

No. 1: Ryan Kerrigan, DE, Purdue, Sr., 6-4, 263

[+] EnlargeRyan Kerrigan
Chuck Rydlewski/Icon SMIRyan Kerrigan led the conference in tackles for loss, sacks and forced fumbles.
2010 numbers: Recorded 70 tackles, 26 tackles for loss, 12.5 sacks, five forced fumbles, one safety and two fumbles recovered; led the Big Ten in tackles for loss, sacks and forced fumbles; led nation in tackles for loss (2.17 per game), finished third in sacks (1.04 per game) and tied for second in forced fumbles (.42 per game); had at least one sack in nine of 12 games, one tackle for loss in 11 games and multiple TFLs in eight games; led FBS in tackles for loss during the regular season; set a Big Ten record and tied for the FBS all-time career record in forced fumbles with 14.

Preseason rank: No. 10 in the preseason Top 25 players

Why he's here: In a league loaded with elite defenders, Kerrigan rose above the rest with a dominant senior season. He impacted the game every time he took the field and spent a huge chunk of the season in opposing backfields making plays. The man nicknamed "Superman" did all he could for a star-crossed Purdue team, swarming ball-carriers and anchoring a strong Boilers defensive line. Some will ask how I can rank a guy No. 1 who played on a 4-8 team. Those folks didn't watch enough of Kerrigan, the consensus Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year. Much like last year's No. 1 player, former Michigan defensive end Brandon Graham, Kerrigan shined despite having a target on his back. Opposing teams knew what was coming from No. 94, and they still couldn't do anything to stop him.

Kerrigan became Purdue's first unanimous All-American since 1980 and was a semifinalist for the Chuck Bednarik Award, Rotary Lombardi Award and Ronnie Lott IMPACT Trophy. Unlike Graham, Kerrigan received the accolades he deserved and deserves to be in this spot before he moves onto the NFL. Purdue certainly will miss him. The rest of the Big Ten will not.

  • No. 2: Wisconsin DE J.J. Watt
  • No. 3: Michigan QB Denard Robinson
  • No. 4: Northwestern QB Dan Persa
  • No. 5: Illinois DT Corey Liuget
  • No. 6: Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi
  • No. 7: Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure
  • No. 8: Illinois LB Martez Wilson
  • No. 9: Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher
  • No. 10: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
  • No. 11: Michigan State LB Greg Jones
  • No. 12: Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
  • No. 13: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
  • No. 14: Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • No. 15: Michigan C David Molk
  • No. 16: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward:
  • No. 17: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 18: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 19: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 20: Ohio State C Mike Brewster
  • No. 21: Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • No. 22: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • No. 23: Wisconsin RB James White
  • No. 24: Ohio State LT Mike Adams
  • No. 25: Indiana QB Ben Chappell
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 2: J.J. Watt, DE, Wisconsin, Jr., 6-6, 292

[+] EnlargeWisconsin's J.J. Watt
AP Photo/Carlos OsorioBig plays at key moments were what J.J. Watt was all about his final season in Madison.
2010 numbers: 62 tackles, 21 tackles for loss, seven sacks, three forced fumbles, three fumbles recovered, one interception, eight passes defended, 10 quarterback hurries; finished second in the Big Ten in both sacks and tackles for loss (tied for seventh nationally in TFLs); tied for second in the Big Ten in forced fumbles; led Wisconsin in five categories (tackles for loss, sacks, quarterback hurries, forced fumbles and blocked kicks) and ranked second in three others (tackles, pass breakups, passes defended); recorded every defensive statistic except safety en route to earning consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors.

Preseason rank: No. 25 in the preseason top 25 players

Why he's here: I came very close to putting Watt in the top spot as no Big Ten defender made more impact plays than No. 99. Flip on pretty much any Wisconsin game from last season and you'll see Watt doing something -- sacking a quarterback, clogging a passing lane, forcing a fumble, blocking a kick -- to dramatically change the game. Watt had at least one tackle for loss in eight games, forced two fumbles in one contest and recovered two fumbles in another. Sometimes, his impressive numbers didn't even illustrate how much he affected a game, like in Wisconsin's victory against then-No. 1 Ohio State, a game where Watt was credited for two sacks and three tackles for loss.

Although Watt seemed primed for a big 2010 campaign -- it's why I included him in the preseason rundown -- he took his game up several notches this fall. The former Central Michigan tight end and pizza delivery guy who walked on at Wisconsin transformed himself into a likely first-round NFL draft pick. His production and leadership proved invaluable for a Wisconsin defense that helped the Badgers reach their first Rose Bowl in 11 seasons. We likely won't see another player make a similar rise like Watt's for quite some time.

  • No. 3: Michigan QB Denard Robinson
  • No. 4: Northwestern QB Dan Persa
  • No. 5: Illinois DT Corey Liuget
  • No. 6: Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi
  • No. 7: Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure
  • No. 8: Illinois LB Martez Wilson
  • No. 9: Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher
  • No. 10: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
  • No. 11: Michigan State LB Greg Jones
  • No. 12: Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
  • No. 13: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
  • No. 14: Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • No. 15: Michigan C David Molk
  • No. 16: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward:
  • No. 17: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 18: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 19: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 20: Ohio State C Mike Brewster
  • No. 21: Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • No. 22: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • No. 23: Wisconsin RB James White
  • No. 24: Ohio State LT Mike Adams
  • No. 25: Indiana QB Ben Chappell
(Note to Nebraska fans: Many of you have written in asking about the absence of Huskers players in the top 25 rankings. These rankings only include Big Ten players from the 2010 season, so Nebraska standouts aren't eligible. Check out colleague David Ubben's postseason Big 12 rankings to see who made it from the Huskers. Nebraska players will be included in my 2011 preseason rundown.)

The Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

[+] EnlargeDenard Robinson
Leon Halip/Getty ImagesDenard Robinson was a legitimate threat throwing and running the ball for Michigan.
No. 3: Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan, So., 6-0, 193

2010 numbers: Completed 182 of 291 passes for 2,570 yards with 18 touchdowns and 11 interceptions; recorded 256 rushes for 1,702 yards and 14 touchdowns; broke FBS record for rushing yards by a quarterback and led the Big Ten and ranked fourth nationally in rushing average (130.9 ypg); led Big Ten and ranked second nationally in total offense (328.6 ypg); set Big Ten single-game quarterback rushing record (258 yards against Notre Dame) and became the first player in FBS history to record more than 2,000 pass yards and 1,500 rush yards in the same season.

Preseason rank: Unranked in the preseason top 25 players

Why he's here: Robinson was the nation's best player through the first month of the season and helped a flawed Michigan team end its bowl drought. These rankings are largely about impact, and no Big Ten offensive player made a more pronounced individual impact than Robinson. Without him, the Wolverines would have stayed home for the holidays once again. He claimed Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors and won the Chicago Tribune's Silver Football Award, among other accolades. The sophomore complemented his superb rushing skills with significantly improved passing, particularly in wins against Connecticut and Indiana. His big-play skills led a record-setting Michigan offense that had to be at its best as the team struggled mightily on defense and special teams.

Although Robinson got banged up at times and didn't dominate against the Big Ten's elite teams (why he isn't ranked higher), he maintained a major presence every time he took the field. He eclipsed 300 yards of offense in nine games and had 360 yards or more six times. Opposing defensive coaches had to shape their game plans around No. 16, who lacked a dynamic supporting cast and blossomed for the Wolverines in his second season.

  • No. 4: Northwestern QB Dan Persa
  • No. 5: Illinois DT Corey Liuget
  • No. 6: Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi
  • No. 7: Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure
  • No. 8: Illinois LB Martez Wilson
  • No. 9: Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher
  • No. 10: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
  • No. 11: Michigan State LB Greg Jones
  • No. 12: Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
  • No. 13: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
  • No. 14: Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • No. 15: Michigan C David Molk
  • No. 16: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward:
  • No. 17: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 18: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 19: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 20: Ohio State C Mike Brewster
  • No. 21: Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • No. 22: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • No. 23: Wisconsin RB James White
  • No. 24: Ohio State LT Mike Adams
  • No. 25: Indiana QB Ben Chappell
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 4: Dan Persa, QB, Northwestern, Jr., 6-1, 210

2010 numbers: Completed 222 of 302 pass attempts (73.5 percent) for 2,581 yards with 15 touchdowns and four interceptions; 164 carries for 519 rush yards and nine touchdowns; led the nation in completion percentage and set a Big Ten single-season record; finished ninth nationally in pass efficiency (159.04 rating); named first-team All-Big Ten by the coaches and second-team All-Big Ten by the media.

Preseason rank: Unranked in the preseason Top 25 players

Why he's here: Persa did it all for Northwestern, complementing record-setting precision passing with lightning quick feet that allowed him to extend plays and move the chains. The junior passed for 200 or more yards in nine of 10 games and topped 300 yards of total offense seven times. He was responsible for more than 75 percent of Northwestern's offensive production through the first 10 games, the second-highest total in the FBS. The co-captain took control as soon as he became a starter and helped an otherwise so-so team reach another bowl game.

The strongest endorsement for Persa came after he ruptured his Achilles' tendon while throwing the game-winning touchdown pass Nov. 13 against Iowa. At the time of the injury he ranked ninth nationally in total offense (310.0 ypg), second in the Big Ten in passing yards (258.1 ypg), tied for third in conference in points responsible for (14.4) and tied for third nationally in fewest interceptions (4). Without Persa, Northwestern dropped its final three games. If he can recapture his 2010 form following the injury, Northwestern could be a serious contender for a division title.
  • No. 5: Illinois DT Corey Liuget
  • No. 6: Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi
  • No. 7: Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure
  • No. 8: Illinois LB Martez Wilson
  • No. 9: Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher
  • No. 10: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
  • No. 11: Michigan State LB Greg Jones
  • No. 12: Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
  • No. 13: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
  • No. 14: Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • No. 15: Michigan C David Molk
  • No. 16: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward:
  • No. 17: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 18: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 19: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 21: Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • No. 22: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • No. 23: Wisconsin RB James White
  • No. 24: Ohio State LT Mike Adams
  • No. 25: Indiana QB Ben Chappell
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 5: Corey Liuget, DT, Illinois, Jr., 6-3, 300

[+] EnlargeCorey Liuget
Damen Jackson/Icon SMIIllinois defensive tackle Corey Liuget was a force to be reckoned with in 2010.
2010 numbers: Recorded 63 tackles and led team in tackles for loss (12.5), sacks (4.5) and quarterback hurries (10); added three pass breakups; finished eighth in the league in sacks and seventh in tackles for loss; earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from both the coaches and the media.

Preseason rank: Unranked in the preseason top 25 players

Why he's here: Liuget was the Big Ten's most disruptive interior defensive lineman, creating a ton of problems for opponents all year long. The Illinois junior was the closest thing to this season's Jared Odrick, the former Penn State star who won Big Ten co-Defensive Player of the Year honors in 2009. Illinois' defense made major strides under first-year coordinator Vic Koenning, and no player impacted games more than Liuget.

The Illini star got stronger as the year progressed, setting the tone for a huge second half with a career-high 11 tackles against Minnesota, the most for an Illinois defensive tackle since 1996. He recorded four or more tackles in seven of the final eight games and had at least one tackle for loss in 10 of Illinois' 13 games. Not surprisingly, Liuget declared for the NFL draft following the season and should be a first-round pick in April.

  • No. 6: Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi
  • No. 7: Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure
  • No. 8: Illinois LB Martez Wilson
  • No. 9: Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher
  • No. 10: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
  • No. 11: Michigan State LB Greg Jones
  • No. 12: Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
  • No. 13: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
  • No. 14: Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • No. 15: Michigan C David Molk
  • No. 16: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward:
  • No. 17: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 18: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 19: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 21: Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • No. 22: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • No. 23: Wisconsin RB James White
  • No. 24: Ohio State LT Mike Adams
  • No. 25: Indiana QB Ben Chappell
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 6: Gabe Carimi, LT, Wisconsin, Sr., 6-7, 327

[+] EnlargeWisconsin's Gabe Carimi
Kirby Lee/US PRESSWIREWisconsin offensive lineman Gabe Carimi won the Outland Trophy last season on a team the reached the Rose Bowl.
2010 numbers: Started all 13 games at left tackle; anchored the line for a record-setting Wisconsin offense that ranked fifth nationally in scoring (41.5 ppg) and 12th in rushing (245.7 ypg); won Outland Trophy as nation's top interior lineman; consensus All-American and the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year.

Preseason rank: No. 11 in the preseason Top 25 players

Why he's here: Carimi was the Big Ten's most dominant offensive lineman, sealing off Scott Tolzien's blind side and helping create huge holes for the Wisconsin running backs. The Big Ten boasted arguably the nation's deepest group of defensive ends, but Carimi won one-on-one battles against Cameron Heyward, Adrian Clayborn, Ryan Kerrigan. Those three combined for no sacks, 12 tackles and two tackles for loss.

Carimi became just the second Wisconsin player to win the Outland Trophy, the team's third Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year and the team's eighth unanimous All-American. He started all 49 games in his Wisconsin career and served as a co-captain this fall. Joe Thomas left some big shoes to fill, but Carimi certainly was up to the task.

  • No. 6: Wisconsin LT Gabe Carimi
  • No. 7: Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure
  • No. 8: Illinois LB Martez Wilson
  • No. 9: Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher
  • No. 10: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
  • No. 11: Michigan State LB Greg Jones
  • No. 12: Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
  • No. 13: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
  • No. 14: Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • No. 15: Michigan C David Molk
  • No. 16: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward:
  • No. 17: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 18: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 19: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 21: Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • No. 22: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • No. 23: Wisconsin RB James White
  • No. 24: Ohio State LT Mike Adams
  • No. 25: Indiana QB Ben Chappell
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 7: Mikel Leshoure, RB, Illinois, Jr., 6-0, 230

[+] EnlargeIllinois running back Mikel Leshoure
AP Photo/Nam Y. HuhIllinois running back Mikel Leshoure scored 122 points for the Illini this season.
2010 numbers: Ranked second in the Big Ten and fifth nationally in rushing average at 130.5 yards per game; led the Big Ten in touchdowns with 20 (17 rush, 3 receiving) and tied for the league lead in scoring with 122 points (9.4 ppg); averaged 6.04 yards a carry; tied for the national lead in rushes of 30 yards or longer (11); recorded 17 receptions for 196 yards and three scores; consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors.

Preseason rank: No. 24 in preseason Top 25 players

Why he's here: Leshoure was undoubtedly the Big Ten's best running back (Denard Robinson plays quarterback, people) and one of the league's most consistent performers. He eclipsed 100 rushing yards in nine games and led the Big Ten in rushing average during conference play (121.6 ypg). Leshoure earned All-America honors from five outlets, including second-team honors from the Associated Press.

The junior turned in an unforgettable performance Nov. 20 at Wrigley Field, rushing for a team-record 330 yards against Northwestern. It marked the highest rushing total in the nation since 2008, the fifth-highest total in Big Ten history and the fourth-highest in a Big Ten game. Leshoure finished strong for the second consecutive season, racking up 1,011 all-purpose yards and 13 touchdowns in Illinois' final five games.

  • No. 7: Illinois RB Mikel Leshoure
  • No. 8: Illinois LB Martez Wilson
  • No. 9: Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher
  • No. 10: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
  • No. 11: Michigan State LB Greg Jones
  • No. 12: Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
  • No. 13: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
  • No. 14: Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • No. 15: Michigan C David Molk
  • No. 16: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward:
  • No. 17: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 18: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 19: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 21: Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • No. 22: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • No. 23: Wisconsin RB James White
  • No. 24: Ohio State LT Mike Adams
  • No. 25: Indiana QB Ben Chappell
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 8: Martez Wilson, LB, Illinois, Jr., 6-4, 250

[+] EnlargeMartez Wilson
Mike DiNovo/US PresswireMartez Wilson put it all together this season, notching a team-high 112 tackles, including 11.5 tackles for loss.
2010 numbers: Recorded a team-high 112 tackles, including 11.5 tackles for loss and four sacks; had three forced fumbles, an interception, four pass breakups, four quarterback hurries, a blocked kick and a fumble recovery; tied for fourth in the league in tackles per game (8.6), ninth in tackles for loss and tied for second in forced fumbles; earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the media and second-team honors from the coaches.

Preseason rank: Unranked in the preseason Top 25 players

Why he's here: It took three-plus seasons, but Wilson finally showed why he came to Illinois as such a heralded prospect. There wasn't a more versatile linebacker in the Big Ten this season, as Wilson impacted the game nearly every time he took the field. He recorded at least one tackle for loss in eight games and made an impact on special teams with a blocked punt against Indiana and a blocked extra point against Ohio State that was nullified by a penalty.

Wilson adjusted well to Vic Koenning's defense and truly embraced his role as middle linebacker and unit leader. He was named one of Illinois four co-captains nine times, including each of the three contests. "People are just happy," Wilson told me in October. "They're like, 'This is the Tez we've been expecting to see from the time you came in.'" Unfortunately for Illini fans, they won't see Wilson in Champaign in 2011 as he entered the NFL draft a year early.

  • No. 8: Illinois LB Martez Wilson
  • No. 9: Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher
  • No. 10: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
  • No. 11: Michigan State LB Greg Jones
  • No. 12: Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
  • No. 13: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
  • No. 14: Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • No. 15: Michigan C David Molk
  • No. 16: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward:
  • No. 17: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 18: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 19: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 21: Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • No. 22: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • No. 23: Wisconsin RB James White
  • No. 24: Ohio State LT Mike Adams
  • No. 25: Indiana QB Ben Chappell
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 9: Dane Sanzenbacher, WR, Ohio State, Sr., 5-11, 180

[+] EnlargeDane Sanzenbacher
AP Photo/Seth PerlmanOhio State receiver Dane Sanzenbacher led the Big Ten with 11 touchdown receptions.
2010 numbers: Led the Big Ten with 11 receiving touchdowns; ranked second in the league in receiving yards per game (72.9 ypg) and had the highest yards-per-reception average (17.2) among the league's top 10 pass-catchers; caught 55 passed for 948 yards; finished ninth in the league in touchdowns with 12 (11 receiving, 1 rushing); earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors.

Preseason rank: Unranked in the preseason Top 25 players

Why he's here: As you know by now, these rankings are all about impact, and arguably no Ohio State offensive player made a more significant impact than Sanzenbacher. He went from moderate unknown to part of the college football lexicon. He caught touchdowns in eight separate games -- he hauled in a team record-tying four in a rout of Eastern Michigan -- and recorded three or more receptions in 12 of Ohio State's 13 games.

Arguably his most valuable contribution came in the Sugar Bowl as he recovered a Terrelle Pryor fumble in the end zone to give Ohio State a 6-0 lead and cap the game's opening drive. Known as a fearless player prepared to make tough catches over the middle, Sanzenbacher elevated his game to become without question the Big Ten's top receiver this fall. It's no surprise Sanzenbacher's teammates voted him as Ohio State's MVP in 2010. The Buckeyes went 36-5 when he recorded at least one reception.

  • No. 9: Ohio State WR Dane Sanzenbacher
  • No. 10: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
  • No. 11: Michigan State LB Greg Jones
  • No. 12: Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
  • No. 13: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
  • No. 14: Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • No. 15: Michigan C David Molk
  • No. 16: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward:
  • No. 17: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 18: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 19: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 21: Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • No. 22: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • No. 23: Wisconsin RB James White
  • No. 24: Ohio State LT Mike Adams
  • No. 25: Indiana QB Ben Chappell
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 10: Scott Tolzien, QB, Wisconsin, Sr., 6-3, 205

2010 numbers: Completed 194 of 266 passes for 2,459 yards with 16 touchdowns and six interceptions; ranked second nationally and set a team record for completion percentage (72.9); also led Big Ten, set a team record and ranked sixth nationally in pass efficiency (165.9 rating); earned second-team All-Big Ten honors from the league's coaches.

[+] EnlargeScott Tolzien
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallScott Tolzien's efficiency helped lead Wisconsin to the Rose Bowl this past season.
Preseason rank: No. 19 in the preseason top 25 players

Why he's here: It would be a good idea for Wisconsin to clone Tolzien every four years. Simply put, he's the perfect quarterback for the Badgers' system and showed why as he led Wisconsin to its first Big Ten championship in 11 seasons. Tolzien displayed incredible efficiency and executed the play-action passes to complement Wisconsin's dominant rushing attack. The senior had a span of four-plus games without throwing an interception.

He was brilliant in a win against top-ranked Ohio State, completing 13 of 16 passes, and completed his first 14 pass attempts in a rout of Michigan. Tolzien threw only 29 incomplete passes during Wisconsin's seven-game win streak to close the regular season. He won the Johnny Unitas Award as the nation's top senior quarterback and displayed tremendous leadership for a record-setting Badgers offense.

  • No. 10: Wisconsin QB Scott Tolzien
  • No. 11: Michigan State LB Greg Jones
  • No. 12: Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
  • No. 13: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
  • No. 14: Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • No. 15: Michigan C David Molk
  • No. 16: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward:
  • No. 17: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 18: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 19: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 21: Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • No. 22: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • No. 23: Wisconsin RB James White
  • No. 24: Ohio State LT Mike Adams
  • No. 25: Indiana QB Ben Chappell
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 11: Greg Jones, LB, Michigan State, Sr., 6-1, 240

[+] EnlargeGreg Jones
AP Photo/Al GoldisMichigan State linebacker Greg Jones was a semifinalist for the Butkus Award.
2010 numbers: Led the Big Ten and ranked third nationally in tackles with 152; recorded 10 tackles for loss, one sack, two interceptions, three forced fumbles and six quarterback hurries; tied for second in the league in forced fumbles; consensus first-team All-Big Ten selection.

Preseason rank: No. 2 in the preseason top 25 player countdown

Why he's here: One of the most productive defenders in Michigan State history ended his career with another solid season. Jones maintained a constant presence around the ball and improved a bit in pass coverage with the first two interceptions of his career. He was one of only 10 FBS players to earn unanimous All-America honors, and was named a semifinalist for the Butkus Award (nation's top linebacker), Bednarik Award (Defensive Player of the Year) and the Lombardi Award (Defensive Player of the Year). Jones had 10 or more tackles in 20 games and started the final 40 games of his career. He finished his career ranked among Michigan State's all-time leaders in tackles for loss (second with 46.5), tackles (third with 465) and sacks (tied for sixth with 16.5). Although several other Big Ten defenders had more eye-popping seasons, Jones maintained the steadiness he displayed throughout his time in East Lansing.

  • No. 11: Michigan State LB Greg Jones
  • No. 12: Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
  • No. 13: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
  • No. 14: Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • No. 15: Michigan C David Molk
  • No. 16: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward:
  • No. 17: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 18: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 19: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 21: Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • No. 22: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • No. 23: Wisconsin RB James White
  • No. 24: Ohio State LT Mike Adams
  • No. 25: Indiana QB Ben Chappell
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 12: Chimdi Chekwa, CB, Ohio State, Sr., 6-0, 190

2010 numbers: Led Ohio State in interceptions (3), pass breakups (9) and passes defended (12); recorded 42 tackles, including four for loss and a sack; tied for second in the Big Ten and 41st nationally in passes defended; earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors.

[+] EnlargeOhio State Buckeyes defensive back Chimdi Chekwa
Andrew Weber/US PresswireOhio State defensive back Chimdi Chekwa led the Buckeyes in interceptions, pass breakups and passes defended.
Preseason rank: Unranked in preseason Top 25 players

Why he's here: The Big Ten lacked a ton of truly elite defensive backs in 2010, but Chekwa certainly fit the description following an outstanding senior season. His ability to make plays and take away a side of the field proved invaluable for a Buckeyes secondary that endured several season-ending injuries but still ranked 15th nationally in pass defense (179.3 ypg) and tied for 12th in takeaways (30). Chekwa's 2010 honors included: consensus first-team All-Big Ten, first-team FWAA All-American and semifinalist for both the Thorpe Award (nation's top defensive back) and the Bednarik Award (Defensive Player of the Year). He was named National Defensive Player of the Week following a two-interception performance against Miami. Often overshadowed by other top cornerbacks, Chekwa gets his due in these rankings and should go on to have a strong NFL career.

  • No. 12: Ohio State CB Chimdi Chekwa
  • No. 13: Ohio State QB Terrelle Pryor
  • No. 14: Wisconsin G John Moffitt
  • No. 15: Michigan C David Molk
  • No. 16: Ohio State DE Cameron Heyward:
  • No. 17: Iowa QB Ricky Stanzi
  • No. 18: Michigan State QB Kirk Cousins
  • No. 19: Indiana WR Tandon Doss
  • No. 21: Penn State G Stefen Wisniewski
  • No. 22: Iowa DE Adrian Clayborn
  • No. 23: Wisconsin RB James White
  • No. 24: Ohio State LT Mike Adams
  • No. 25: Indiana QB Ben Chappell
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 13: Terrelle Pryor, QB, Ohio State, Jr., 6-6, 233

[+] EnlargeTerrelle Pryor
AP Photo/Charlie NeibergallTerrelle Pryor took some big strides as a quarterback in 2010.
2010 numbers: Started all 13 games at quarterback; completed 210 of 323 passes for 2,772 yards with 27 touchdowns and 11 interceptions; had 135 carries for 754 rush yards with four touchdowns; recorded two receptions, including a 20-yard touchdown; ranked 10th nationally in pass efficiency (157.9 rating) and 25th in total offense (271.2 ypg); led Big Ten with 27 passing touchdowns.

Preseason rank: No. 7 in the preseason top 25 player countdown

Why he's here: Pryor remains the most polarizing player in the Big Ten, and he might never fully meet the expectations placed on him from the moment he arrived in Columbus. But make no mistake: he was a much better quarterback in 2010 than 2009 and once again stepped up on the biggest stage in a BCS bowl game. Pryor improved his completion ratio from 56.6 percent in 2009 to 65 percent last season, increased his touchdown pass total from 18 to 27 and saw his passer rating climb into the top 10 nationally. He had his share of hiccups but generally looked more comfortable in the pocket while maintaining a presence as a runner.

Pryor made a season-saving play at Iowa -- and picked up teammate DeVier Posey in the process -- by sprinting for a first down on fourth-and-10 and leading the Buckeyes to the game-winning touchdown. While his participation in the Sugar Bowl following NCAA violations certainly could be debated, Pryor blocked out the controversy and won his second consecutive BCS bowl MVP as Ohio State ended its bowl losing streak to the SEC and beat Arkansas. Pryor still has areas he must clean up as a senior, but he's making strides.
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 14: John Moffitt, G, Wisconsin, Sr., 6-5, 323

[+] EnlargeJohn Moffitt
Kirby Lee/Image of Sport-US PresswireJohn Moffitt earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second consecutive season.
2010 numbers: Started all 13 games at left guard after splitting time between guard and center in 2009 and starting the entire 2008 season at center; named a first-team AP All-American and a first-team All-Big Ten selection by both the coaches and the media; named Wisconsin's co-Offensive Player of the Week against Michigan after the Badgers' dominant rushing performance.

Preseason rank: No. 15 in the preseason Top 25 players

Why he's here: Moffitt and classmates Gabe Carimi and Bill Nagy anchored a dominant Wisconsin line that helped the offense set record-setting numbers in 2010. The Badgers ranked 12th nationally in rushing, fifth in scoring, 21st in total offense and 18th in sacks allowed. Moffitt played a significant role in opening up-the-middle rushing lanes for backs John Clay, James White and Montee Ball. He delivered one of his best performances Oct. 16 against then-No. 1 Ohio State, as Wisconsin manhandled a formidable Buckeyes defensive front en route to a historic victory that led to the program's first Big Ten title in 11 seasons. Moffitt earned first-team All-America honors from the AP, CBSSports.com and Rivals.com and earned consensus first-team All-Big Ten honors for the second consecutive season. His 42 starts for Wisconsin and his versatility at both guard and center should serve him well at the next level.
The 2010 Big Ten postseason player rankings continue with ...

No. 15: David Molk, C, Michigan, Jr., 6-2, 288

2010 numbers: Started all 13 games at center after being slowed by knee and foot injuries in 2009; finalist for Rimington Trophy (nation's top center); earned first-team All-Big Ten honors from the coaches and second-team honors from the media; shared Rader Memorial Award as Michigan's top offensive lineman with teammate Stephen Schilling.

Preseason rank: Unranked in the preseason Top 25 players

[+] EnlargeDavid Molk
Jamie Sabau/Getty ImagesDavid Molk showed in the 2010 why he's one of conference's elite offensive linemen.
Why he's here: Molk showed in 2010 that when healthy, he's one of the Big Ten's premier offensive linemen. The junior anchored a Michigan offensive line that helped Denard Robinson and the unit set record-setting numbers. Michigan ranked eighth nationally in total offense, 13th in rushing offense, 25th in scoring offense and 10th in sacks allowed. Although Ohio State's Mike Brewster, Wisconsin's John Moffitt, Penn State's Stefen Wisniewski and other Big Ten interior linemen seemed to generate more national buzz, Molk's first-team All-Big Ten selection by the coaches is significant. I also named him to my All-Big Ten squad. Anyone who watched Michigan saw the difference he made in the middle of the offensive line. Molk is a weight-room standout whose strength translates to the field. He'll enter 2011 as one of the leading candidates for the Rimington Trophy and possibly the Rotary Lombardi Award.

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