Big Ten: Antwaan Randle El

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. -- Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg hasn't even completed two weeks of spring practice, so it's still anybody's guess how the reigning Big Ten freshman of the year will perform in 2014.

But, over the last 25 years, five other Big Ten quarterbacks have found themselves in similar positions. Like Hackenberg, they impressed fans with memorable rookie campaigns, were named the Big Ten freshman of the year and raised expectations over the offseason.

[+] EnlargeChristian Hackenberg
MCT via Getty ImagesHow will Nittany Lions signal-caller Christian Hackenberg follow up his fantastic freshman season?
Hackenberg's sophomore season won't be in the books for quite some time. But here's a look at those other five QBs and how they fared in their sophomore seasons and in their careers:

Braxton Miller, Ohio State, won award in 2011

Sophomore stats (2012): 148-of-254 passing (58.3 percent); 2,039 yards, 15 TDs, 6 INTs; 227 carries, 1,271 yards, 13 TDs

Ohio State record (2012): 12-0, no postseason due to sanctions (2011: 6-7, lost to Florida in Gator Bowl)

Sophomore synopsis: It would've been difficult to ask Miller for a much better sophomore campaign. He was the Big Ten's offensive player of the year, finished fifth in the Heisman voting and even bested Carlos Hyde in both rushing yards (1,271 to, 970) and yards per carry (5.6 ypc to 5.2 ypc). Miller was more renowned for his legs than his arm, but he was still the second-most efficient passer in the conference. He also came up big when his team needed; the Buckeyes won six games that were decided by a touchdown or less.

His career: He could've opted to leave early for the NFL this offseason but instead decided to stay one last season. He's becoming more well-rounded with each season, and he's once again one of the favorites to win the Heisman.

Terrelle Pryor, Ohio State, won award in 2008

Sophomore stats (2009): 167-of-295 passing (56.6 percent); 2,094 yards, 18 TDs, 11 INTs; 162 carries, 779 yards, 7 TDs

Ohio State record (2009): 11-2, beat Oregon in Rose Bowl (2008: 10-3, lost Fiesta Bowl vs. Texas)

Sophomore synopsis: With the top tailback (Chris Wells) and wideout (Brian Robiskie) from 2008 both gone, Pryor put the offense on his back and carried it to an improved record. Pryor led the team in rushing yards and rushing touchdowns, and he was instrumental in the Buckeyes' Rose Bowl win. He threw for 266 yards, rushed for a game-high 72 yards and was named the MVP. Statistically, his sophomore campaign wasn't his best season -- but he had a lot to overcome.

His career: He led the Buckeyes to three straight BCS bowl berths, but his legacy was marred by an early exit. He was suspended for the first five games of his senior season -- due to Tattoo-Gate -- so he instead opted for the NFL's supplemental draft in 2011. The Oakland Raiders took him in exchange for a third-round pick, although reports this week have said Pryor is now seeking to cut ties with the Raiders because he hopes to be a starter somewhere.

Brooks Bollinger, Wisconsin, won award in 1999

Sophomore stats (2000): 110-of-209 passing (52.6 percent); 1,479 yards, 10 TDs, 7 INTs; 157 carries, 459 yards, 6 TDs

Wisconsin record (2000): 9-4, beat UCLA in Sun Bowl (1999: 10-2, beat Stanford in Rose Bowl)

Sophomore synopsis: The Badgers needed to fill the big shoes of Heisman Trophy winner Ron Dayne, so they leaned a little more on the passing game in 2000. But, make no mistake about it, this was a run-first team that lived and died on the ground while relying heavily on Michael Bennett. Still, Bollinger played a big role as an effective dual-threat quarterback -- and this Wisconsin team came close to equaling success from the year before. Three of the Badgers' four losses were decided by six points or less, and two of those losses came in overtime.

His career: Bollinger never put up big passing numbers -- he never ranked higher than third in a given Big Ten stat category -- but he was consistent and did what was asked of him. The Big Ten Network even chose him as one of the 10 best quarterbacks in the conference from 2000 to 2010. He played five seasons in the NFL and was the Pittsburgh Panthers' QB coach for two seasons.

Antwaan Randle El, Indiana, won award in 1998

Sophomore stats (1999): 150-of-279 passing (53.8 percent); 2,277 yards, 17 TDs, 7 INTs; 224 carries, 788 yards, 13 TDs

Indiana record (1999): 4-7 (1998: 4-7)

Sophomore synopsis: Randle El's sophomore season was his best, by passing numbers, in his four years as a starter. He accounted for 69 percent of the entire offense that season and led the Big Ten with 30 combined touchdowns. The main reason Randle El couldn't lead Indiana to more wins? The defense allowed at least 30 points in nine of 11 contests. The highlight of the Randle El's season came against Illinois in October, when he overcame a 21-point deficit late in the third quarter to force overtime. Neil Rackers nailed a field goal to open up overtime for Illinois, but Randle El tossed a 25-yard TD pass on the very next play to seal the 34-31 win.

His career: The Hoosiers never won more than five games during his career, but he was clearly the team's best player. (And he was probably the most athletic person on campus -- he also played two years of basketball and one year of baseball.) He had a nine-year NFL career with the Pittsburgh Steelers and Washington Redskins.

Eric Hunter, Purdue, won award in 1989

Sophomore stats (1990): 200-of-366 passing (54.6 percent); 2,355 passing yards, 12 TDs, 14 INTs; 97 carries, 0 yards, 7 TDs

Purdue record (1990): 2-9 (1989: 3-8)

Sophomore synopsis: Hunter was looked upon as a young Randall Cunningham, but his career never lived up to those freshman expectations. He threw 11 TDs on 178 attempts as a freshman and just 12 TDs on 366 attempts as a sophomore. The main problem was an inexperienced offensive line, and it only got worse as the season wore on. In the last five games, Hunter had 11 picks.

His career: Those sophomore struggles led to the firing of Purdue's coach, which meant a new coach and a new system for Hunter. The line continued to struggle, Hunter never got back on track, and he saw less time on the field each season thereafter. He earned a reputation for his inability to read defenses, and the Boilermakers never won more than four games a season during his career.
The football world has descended on Mobile, Ala., this week as the top senior college prospects gear up for the Reese's Senior Bowl on Saturday. Be sure to follow's coverage of practices and the game itself as players audition before NFL coaches, general managers and other personnel types.

Here are a few takeaways after reading some of the Senior Bowl coverage:

  • [+] EnlargeRa'Shede Hageman
    Jesse Johnson/USA TODAY SportsMinnesota defensive lineman Ra'Shede Hageman has impressed scouts this week at the Senior Bowl practices.
    Minnesota defensive tackle Ra'Shede Hageman has impressed a lot of folks in Mobile and strengthened his case to be a first-round pick in May's draft. Hageman blossomed as a senior for the Gophers, earning first-team All-Big Ten honors, and has shined alongside other defensive linemen like Pitt's Aaron Donald (who won the Outland Trophy, Bednarik Award, Nagurski Trophy and Lombardi Award). At 6-foot-6 and 318 pounds, Hageman has a unique frame and unique abilities that are showing up right now.
  • Kain Colter played mostly quarterback at Northwestern, but his cameos at wide receiver underscored his ability to excel at the position. He's playing exclusively at wideout during Senior Bowl week and has caught the eye of the ESPN Scouts Inc. crewInsider, which sees him as a slot receiver who compares in some ways to another former Big Ten quarterback-turned-NFL-receiver, one-time Indiana star Antwaan Randle El.
  • Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland is another player generating buzz. Borland's height continues to be a topic of discussion, but as he did throughout a decorated Badgers career, he's getting it done on the field in impressive fashion. The Zach Thomas comparison is being made, and some also liken Borland to former Boston College standout Luke Kuechly, who has transitioned very well to the pro level with the Carolina Panthers.
  • While everyone continues to talk about Richard Sherman, another cornerback with a similar build to Sherman stood out at Monday's practice. Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste, who like Sherman began his college career at wide receiver, impressed onlookers with his length in press coverageInsider. NFL Media's Gil Brandt described Jean-Baptiste as "like a clone of Richard Sherman." At 6-3 and 215 pounds, Jean-Baptiste is part of the new wave of larger cornerbacks.
  • Iowa tight end C.J. Fiedorowicz has drawn praise from Senior Bowl executive director Phil Savage and others following some good practices. Fiedorowicz has told reporters in Mobile that there's more to his game than he displayed at Iowa, where he was used primarily as a blocker before emerging to record 75 receptions his final two seasons. His size has always jumped out, and he's showing how well he can catch passes this week.

There's much more to come from Mobile, so be sure to follow all of our Senior Bowl coverage.
Tommie Frazier's unnecessarily long wait to enter the College Football Hall of Fame finally ended Tuesday when the Nebraska quarterback joined 11 other players and two coaches in the class of 2013.

Frazier, perhaps more than any other eligible player, was deemed deserving of a Hall of Fame spot but had been snubbed year after year. He no longer carries that label. So who does?

Today's poll asks which former player from the Big Ten, Nebraska or Penn State (before Penn State joined the Big Ten) most deserves to be in the College Football Hall of Fame. To be eligible for a Hall pass, a player must be:
  • A first-team All-American
  • Between 10-50 years removed from his final college season
  • Finished with his professional playing career
  • A good citizen off of the field following his college career

Let's look at five eligible candidates for Hall of Fame selection with some bio tidbits for each ...


Which Big Ten (or Nebraska) player isn't in the College Football Hall of Fame but should be?


Discuss (Total votes: 5,797)

Trev Alberts, LB, Nebraska, 1990-93: Named unanimous first-team All-America, Big Eight Defensive Player of the Year and Academic All-America in 1993, when he led the Huskers with 96 tackles, including 47 solo stops, and tied a school record with 15 sacks for 88 yards. He won the 1993 Butkus Award (still only Nebraska player to do so) and twice earned first-team all-conference honors. Alberts earned second-team All-America honors in 1992, when he had 73 tackles, including 11 for loss. He also was Big Eight Defensive Newcomer of the Year as a freshman in 1990 and had his number retired in 1994.

Eric Crouch, QB, Nebraska, 1997-2001: Crouch won the 2001 Heisman Trophy as well as the Walter Camp and Davey O'Brien awards. He was a first-team All-America selection and won Big 12 Offensive Player of the Year honors after recording 1,115 rush yards and 18 touchdowns to go along with 1,510 pass yards and seven scores. He also earned All-Big 12 honors in 1999 and 2000. Crouch set the NCAA record for career rushing touchdowns by a quarterback (59) as well as 32 Nebraska marks, including longest run (95 yards) and rushing yards by a quarterback (191 at Missouri). Crouch won Fiesta Bowl MVP honors after leading Nebraska past Tennessee in the 2000 game.

John "Jumbo" Elliott, OT, Michigan, 1984-87: Elliott earned first-team All-America honors in each of his final two seasons for the Wolverines, including a consensus selection as a senior in 1987. A two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, Elliott helped Michigan share the 1986 Big Ten title and cleared a path for standout running back Jamie Morris. He started four seasons for the Wolverines, finished his career as one of the biggest players in team history and was selected by the New York Giants in the second round of the 1988 NFL draft.

Antwaan Randle El, QB, Indiana, 1998-2001: A transformative figure in Big Ten quarterback play, Randle El was Big Ten MVP, a first-team All-American and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year as a senior in 2001. He earned All-Big Ten honors from 1999-2001. He was the first player in NCAA history to score 40 touchdowns (45) and throw for 40 TDs (42), the first to record over 2,500 total yards in four seasons, and the first to both pass for over 6,000 yards and rush for over 3,000 yards. Randle El also won Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors in 1998.

Lorenzo White, RB, Michigan State, 1984-87: White earned first-team All-America honors in both 1985 (unanimous) and 1987 (consensus), finishing fourth in the Heisman Trophy voting in both seasons. He led the nation in rushing as a sophomore in 1985 with 2,066 yards, which marked a Big Ten record at the time and remains the third-highest single-season total in team history. He was the first Spartan to lead the team in rushing in four consecutive seasons and helped Michigan State to a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl championship as a senior in 1987. White also started the bell-cow running back tradition in East Lansing, racking up 419 carries in 1985, which remains a league record.
It was often no contest when Ndamukong Suh lined up against an opposing offensive lineman while at Nebraska. And Suh also had little trouble dispatching former Indiana star Antwaan Randle El in our Big Ten players tournament semifinal.

Suh is looking like the favorite to win the tournament pitting Big Ten greats from the past 15 years. The No. 3 seed received a whopping 78 percent of the vote against the seventh-seeded Randle El in our most lopsided matchup yet. And he also dominated your responses:
Tim from Pasadena, Calif: "85 total tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and 10 pass breakups"... don't sleep on the 3 blocked kicks. When Suh was on the field, there is no way to convey the collective confidence in that stadium. In a game where the offense gave up 8 (EIGHT!!!) turnovers, the defense gave up 9 points; that year, 86,000 people just KNEW the other guys weren't scoring.Also, I'm pretty sure Colt McCoy still has PTSD from that championship game. I sort of doubt Randle El ever had quite that effect.

Paul T. from La Crosse, Wis.: I caught glimpses of Suh his Junior year. He would make plays that truly gave credence to the term: "Men among boys." Suh was just that. Physically he was so far beyond most lineman that he lined up against (And not everyone was a scrub in the BIG XII). Suh played in a defense that was not conducive for D-Tackles to succeed. His senior year was phenomenal, and the BIG XII championship game was evidence of how much he could change a game on his own. People are going to complain about Suh and how he never played a B1G snap, but they should be glad he didn't! I have very little doubt that Suh is going to win this, the Husker faithful love their Huskers no matter where they are at (even in the heart of Wisconsin).

Todd S. from Wheaton, Ill.: Anyone who had the opportunity to watch Antwaan Randle El play as a collegiate was amazed by his versatility, passion for the game, and creativity. There were a number of instances every game he played in which he would do something that would cause everyone to say, "Are you kidding me?" As mentioned in the article, he was one of the first true dual-threat players and helped begin a revolution that has forever changed college football.

Rob from Russellville, Ark.: While I am obviously biased, this match up has to go to Suh. Pitting Suh against any QB, even one as talented as Randel El is almost unfair. Throughout his final two seasons at Nebraska, Suh terrorized QB's, even dual threat QB's such as Longhorn's McCoy and Missouri's Gabbert. Even future superstar RGIII couldn't lead Baylor to a victory over Suh and Nebraska in 2008 (RGIII was injured and didn't play against NU in 2009).

Josh J. from Lincoln: Nebraska homer here.I acknowledge that Randle El was a talented player and had a solid tenure in the NFL, but I think this is no question: N'Damukong Suh is the better choice. Suh's numbers were absolutely unmatched by anybody in the country. He was the best player on one of the country's best defenses. His performance in the Big XII championship game is one of the best individual performances of all time, not to mention the obliteration of Arizona's high-powered offense in the Holiday Bowl. It's a shame that Manti Te'o finished higher in the Heisman voting than Suh did because I think Suh is by far the better player.

So our final is set: Ron Dayne vs. Suh. That's a whole lot of beef, and it should be a great one. We'll open the voting on our final soon.
The first of our two semifinals in the Big Ten players tournament is in the midst of a heated battle (make sure to vote in that one before Wednesday morning). Now, it's time to tip off the other half of our Final Four.

The tournament began with eight Big Ten standouts from the past 15 seasons. As a reminder, each league team was limited to one entry, and candidates must either have won Big Ten MVP honors or a major national award.

This matchup features a very strong No. 3 seed and the only player to pull off an upset in Round 1. Voting for this game will take place until 9 a.m. ET Thursday.


Who would win this Round 2 matchup?


Discuss (Total votes: 7,229)

And here it is ...

No. 3 seed Ndamukong Suh (Nebraska DT, 2006-09) vs. No. 7 seed Antwaan Randle El (Indiana QB, 1998-2001)

These are two players whose names are hard to spell and who were even harder to slow down on the football field during their college careers.

Randle El pulled off the shocker of the first round, toppling former Heisman Trophy winner and No. 2 seed Troy Smith of Ohio State. But it's understandable why the ex-Indiana star would receive so much fan support. He was a dual-threat quarterback at a time when such players were still a rarity in the Big Ten, and had he played for a more high-profile program, he would have been an even bigger name. He started all four years for the Hoosiers, becoming the first player in NCAA history to score 40 touchdowns (45) and to throw for 40 TDs (42), the first to record more than 2,500 total yards in four different seasons, and the first to both pass for more than 6,000 yards and rush for more than 3,000 yards. He was the 2001 Big Ten MVP, a year in which he finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting -- remarkable on an Indiana team that did not go bowling.

Suh crushed just about everything in his path during his time in Lincoln and did the same in the first round of our tournament, dominating Michigan receiver Braylon Edwards. Yes, the strong Nebraska voting bloc helped, but there's no denying Suh's sheer dominance. His numbers in 2009 -- 85 total tackles, 24 tackles for loss, 12 sacks and 10 pass breakups -- are like something out of a video game, if video games actually made defensive tackles the stars of the show. He won a slew of major trophies his senior year and nearly took the Heisman as well. Don't sleep on Suh's chances of winning it all in this tourney.

So there you have it. I'd pay to watch these two go head to head on the football field, but we'll settle for this theoretical matchup for now. Get your votes in, and send your rationale here. We'll post some of the best responses when we announce the winner on Thursday.
On a sports day made famous for incredible upsets in the NCAA basketball tournament, we have a surprise to share in our own Big Ten players tournament.

Indiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El, the No. 7 seed, knocked off No. 2 seed Troy Smith, the Ohio State star signal-caller and 2006 Heisman Trophy winner. Randle El, the 2001 Big Ten MVP and a transformational dual-threat quarterback in the league, earned 53 percent of the votes to Smith's 47 percent. Some blog loyalists often wonder where the Indiana fans are, but they evidently showed up for this vote. Perhaps Smith is still paying the price for his poor performance in the BCS title game against Florida, or, as one commenter suggests, it could simply be Buckeye bashing.

Here are some comments from those who voted:
Rich from San Antonio: Randle El, easy. I look at it like this, Randle El achieved so much on Indiana. Smith did his on OSU. At no point in my lifetime has Indiana matched the talent on OSU's roster. Even in OSU down years, they still outmatch Indiana at almost every position. I just don't think Smith would have accomplished what he did if he played for Indiana.

Dillon from Ubana, Ohio: I'm having a tough time narrowing my argument down to a comment in regards to the Troy Smith/Antwaan Randle El vote. So I'll keep it very short and sweet. If one player wins a Heisman, and the other's crowning achievment is the tribune's silver football, the argument is over there. Not to say that the silver football isnt important. It's not the Heisman. It's just not. Nevermind the rest of the one sided bodies of work.

Nathaniel from Champaign, Ill.: I voted for Antwaan Randle El over Troy smith because Antwaan Randle El is the only player I have seen that made Indiana a consistently tough team to play against, while just about every QB does that at Ohio State.

Justin from Atlanta: Hey Adam your blogs are awesome. I wanted to ask what your thoughts were regarding the increasing hate that teams seem to have against Ohio State (Most notably BIG teams). This has been show true even most recent ESPN match up between Troy Smith and Randle El. Grant it, Randle El was a great player in his own right, his college career did not compare with Troy Smith and all of the accomplishments that he received while at Ohio State. At the end of the day Indiana was still Indiana and Randle El did not transform Indiana football into a good team. Great players have the ability to to take mediocre players and make them better simply by their hard work and presence. Troy Smith did this where Randle El failed to some degree. If we were comparing NFL careers He beats Smith by a long shot, but we are discussing the college resume's of two great players, who smith clearly beats by a longshot.

So Randle El marches on to the semifinals, and the tournament field has only one Heisman Trophy winner left (Wisconsin RB Ron Dayne). Randle El will face the winner of No. 3 seed Nebraska DT Ndamukong Suh and No. 6 seed Michigan WR Braylon Edwards.
The NCAA men's basketball tournament tips off tonight in Dayton, Ohio, but the Big Ten players tournament is already off and running. It's time to look at the second of four first-round matchups between Big Ten standouts from the past 15 seasons. As a reminder, each Big Ten member is limited to one entry, and candidates must either have won Big Ten MVP honors or a major national award.

Voting for this matchup will take place until 9 a.m. ET Thursday.

Let's get to it ...


Who would win this Round 1 matchup?


Discuss (Total votes: 5,891)

No. 2 seed Troy Smith (Ohio State QB, 2003-06) vs. No. 7 seed Antwaan Randle El (Indiana QB, 1998-2001)

One blazed the trail for dual-threat quarterbacks in the Big Ten. The other is the last Big Ten player to win the Heisman Trophy. Two strong choices here.

Smith went 26-4 as Ohio State's starting quarterback and haunted the Buckeyes' archrival Michigan, leading the Scarlet and Gray to three victories to start a long win streak in the series. He was among the nation's most efficient passers his final two seasons, finishing fourth nationally in 2005 and seventh in 2006. Smith led Ohio State to a Fiesta Bowl championship following the 2005 season and then took his game to the next level in 2006. He passed for 2,542 yards with 30 touchdowns and six interceptions as a senior, claiming the Heisman, the Walter Camp Award, the Davey O'Brien Award, Big Ten MVP honors and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year honors. Smith became the first Ohio State starting quarterback to lead the team to three straight wins against Michigan, racking up 1,151 yards of offense and nine touchdowns (seven pass, two rush) against the Wolverines. Although his career ended on a down note in the national title game against Florida, Smith is considered by many to be the top quarterback in Ohio State history.

Look at all the dual-threat quarterbacks starting for Big Ten teams these days and then remember Randle El. He transfomed the game in a league wedded to traditional drop-back quarterbacks with big arms and limited mobility. Randle El burst on the scene as a freshman in 1998, racking up 1,745 pass yards, 873 rush yards and 16 touchdowns (10 rush, 6 pass), earning Big Ten Freshman of the Year honors. He became the first player in NCAA history to score 40 touchdowns (45) and throw for 40 TDs (42), the first to record more than 2,500 total yards in four seasons, and the first to both pass for more than 6,000 yards and rush for more than 3,000 yards. Despite playing for teams that never made bowls or had winning records, Randle El earned All-Big Ten honors in 1999, 2000 and 2001. As a senior he was named Big Ten MVP and a first-team All-American, and he finished sixth in the Heisman Trophy voting.

Don't forget to vote, and send me your rationale, as I'll include some of the responses in a post announcing who advances to the semifinals.
Drew Brees, Ron Dayne, Braylon Edwards USA TODAY Sports, Getty Images, AP PhotoDrew Brees, Ron Dayne and Braylon Edwards are among the most decorated players in recent Big Ten history.
We're all about Big Ten football on this blog -- 24/7/365 -- but we're not na´ve about the fact that hoops is dominating he college sports landscape right now. After all, I typed this post from the United Center in Chicago, where I spent late last week watching some excellent Big Ten basketball tournament action.

March Madness is upon us, and it is glorious.

To get in the spirit, we're once again putting our own spin on the brackets to have a little fun (and, naturally, stir the pot). If you recall last year, we staged the Big Ten champions tournament, which featured an eight-team field of championship teams from the previous 15 years. Teams were seeded and faced off against one another, and you voted on who should advance. Nebraska's 1997 team prevailed as the champion of champions.

This year, the field will include eight Big Ten players from the past 15 years (Nebraska's representative played in the Big 12, but like last year, we can't exclude the Huskers from the fun). As Brian Bennett pointed out last year, 15 years gives us a time frame that is fairly fresh in our memories. It's difficult enough to identify eight representatives for this list, and we don't want to start comparing players from completely different eras. We realize the game has changed in the past 15 years, but not as much as it has in the past 40. So we're looking at players from 1998-2012.

It's impossible to come up with a list that pleases everyone, and while we're ready for your abuse, we had to put some parameters on the selections. For starters, we want to involve as many fan bases as we can, so we've capped the selections at one per program. Although four programs won't be represented, it's better than six or seven.

Also, to narrow things down, a selection must be a winner of the Silver Football as Big Ten MVP or win at least one major national award (Heisman, Maxwell, Walter Camp, Bednarik, Biletnikoff, Butkus, Rotary-Lombardi, Mackey, Outland, Rimington, Thorpe, Doak Walker). Take issue with this if you'd like, but we had to reduce the candidate pool. We could forever debate Braylon Edwards vs. Jake Long as Michigan's representative, but the bottom line is Edwards won Big Ten MVP and the Biletnikoff Award in 2004. Long, as great as he was, never won the Outland Trophy.

We also looked for representatives who had special/iconic careers, so one-year stars like Iowa RB Shonn Greene (2008) weren't in the mix. And while a candidate had to play at least one season during the 15-year window, multiple seasons was a plus.

OK, long-winded intro over.

We'll get started later today with the matchups and polls, but now it's finally time to introduce the field (in alphabetical order):

Drew Brees, QB, Purdue, 1997-2000: Maxwell Award winner and Big Ten MVP in 2000, while finishing third in Heisman Trophy voting; Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2000 and 1998 (co); All-Big Ten selection from 1998-2000; runner-up for Maxwell Award in 1999; Big Ten career leader in passing attempts (1,678), passing completions (1,026), passing yards (11,792), passing touchdowns (90) and total offense (12,692); owns NCAA record for pass attempts in a game (83) and tied for third in single-game completions (55).

Ron Dayne, RB, Wisconsin 1996-99: Won Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Doak Walker Ward, Big Ten MVP and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 1999; consensus All-American in 1999 and first-team All-Big Ten in 1996, 1998 and 1999; Set NCAA career rushing record with 6,397 yards (not including bowl games) and ranks sixth in both career rushing touchdowns (63) and rushing yards per game (148.8); became just the fourth player in FBS history to eclipse 1,000 rush yards in all four seasons; first player to lead the Big Ten in rushing for three consecutive seasons; only Big Ten player to win back-to-back Rose Bowl MVP awards (1999 and 2000); left Wisconsin with 48 team records and had his No. 33 retired in 2007.

Braylon Edwards, WR, Michigan, 2001-04: Big Ten MVP, Biletnikoff Award winner, unanimous consensus first-team All-American and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2004; only wide receiver in Big Ten history to eclipse 1,000 receiving yards in three consecutive seasons; first-team All-Big Ten in 2003 and 2004; holds Big Ten record for career touchdown receptions (39), ranks fourth in career receiving yards (3,541) and fifth in career receptions (97); set Michigan records for career receptions (252), receiving yards and receiving touchdowns; last player to wear the coveted No. 1 jersey for the Wolverines.

Robert Gallery, OT, Iowa, 2000-03: Won the Outland Trophy in 2003 and earned consensus first-team All-America honors; named Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year in 2003; earned first-team All-Big Ten honors in 2002 and 2003; started final 44 games of his career and didn't allow a sack in 36 straight games for the Hawkeyes.

[+] EnlargeAntwaan Randle El
AP Photo/Darron CummingsIndiana quarterback Antwaan Randle El was the first player to both pass for over 6,000 yards and rush for over 3,000 yards.
Antwaan Randle El, QB, Indiana, 1998-2001: Big Ten MVP, first-team All-American and Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2001; All-Big Ten selection from 1999-2001; first player in NCAA history to score 40 touchdowns (45) and throw for 40 TDs (42), the first to record over 2,500 total yards in four seasons, and the first to both pass for over 6,000 yards and rush for over 3,000 yards; Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 1998, transformative figure for Big Ten quarterbacks as a dual threat.

Paul Posluszny, LB, Penn State, 2003-06: Became just the second player to win the Bednarik Award (nation's top defender) in consecutive seasons, doing so in 2005 and 2006; won the Butkus Award in 2005 and was a finalist for the Butkus in 2006 and twice for the Rotary Lombardi Award; first-team All-American in 2005 and 2006; started the final 37 games of his career and became the first Nittany Lions player to lead the team in tackles three times and to post three 100-tackle seasons; was a two-time captain.

Troy Smith, QB, Ohio State, 2003-06: Won Heisman Trophy, Maxwell Award, Walter Camp Award, Big Ten MVP, Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year in 2006; unanimous consensus first-team All-American in 2006 and also earned first-team All-Big Ten honors that year; finished fourth and seventh nationally in pass efficiency in 2005 and 2006, respectively; set a team record with 30 touchdown passes in 2006, finished with 54 touchdown strikes against only 13 interceptions and led Ohio State to consecutive BCS bowl appearances (the latter in the national title game).

Ndamukong Suh, DT, Nebraska, 2006-09: Named AP Player of the Year in 2009 and also won Bednarik Award, Rotary Lombardi Award, Nagurski Trophy and Outland Trophy; Heisman Trophy finalist (finished fourth in voting, first defensive tackle invited to New York since Warren Sapp in 1994); named Big 12 Defensive Player of the Year and Defensive Lineman of the Year; consensus first-team All-American in 2009; first-team All-Big 12 in 2008; led Nebraska in tackles in his final two seasons, racking up 43 tackles for loss and 19.5 sacks; his 57 career tackles for loss ranks second in team history.
Denard Robinson played quarterback for three and a half seasons at Michigan. After an elbow injury sidelined him late this season, he logged time in more of a running back role.

But Robinson won't be playing primarily quarterback or running back later this month at the Senior Bowl. He's heading to Mobile, Ala., as a wide receiver.

The Senior Bowl confirmed Robinson's attendance late Wednesday afternoon and classified the Michigan star as a wide receiver. Robinson recorded just three receptions for 31 yards with the Wolverines -- all this season. He set the NCAA record for career rush yards by a quarterback with 4,495 and had 6,250 career pass yards with 49 touchdowns and 39 interceptions. There has been some recent talk about Robinson playing cornerback at the next level, but wide receiver always looked like the most likely landing spot for "Shoelace." This announcement hardly comes as a surprise.

ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper has projected Robinson as a pro wide receiver for months and currently has Robinson as the nation's No. 5 senior wide receiver . Kiper likens Robinson to former Indiana star quarterback Antwaan Randle El, who played wide receiver in the NFL.

Robinson is the first Michigan player confirmed to be attending the Senior Bowl, although full rosters haven't been announced.

Big Ten lunch links

November, 2, 2012
You two can talk about America all you want. But I'm not going to listen, because there's no "i" or "me" in America.

Big Ten lunch links

September, 18, 2012
Served daily at high noon ...

Big Ten lunch links

July, 13, 2012
For columns on the release of the Freeh report, see our earlier post.

Link time.

Big Ten lunchtime links

July, 12, 2012
Guess who's back?

Big Ten lunch links

July, 6, 2012
Anyone else itching for football weather? Can't stand this heat.
In 2001, the Big Ten presented its MVP award to a quarterback whose unique skill set made him somewhat of an athletic wonder at the time.

He had become the first player in FBS (then Division I-A) history to record 40 passing touchdowns and 40 rushing touchdowns in his career. He had recorded the top three single-season rushing performances by a quarterback in Big Ten history. He had recorded three of the top four single-game quarterback rushing performances in league history.

He had set the Big Ten career quarterback rushing record with 3,895 yards, eclipsing the previous mark, set by Michigan's Rich Leach, by 1,719 yards.

The Big Ten hadn't seen anyone quite like Indiana's Antwaan Randle El.

But if Randle El played today, he'd have plenty of company.

A year after Michigan's Denard Robinson set several NCAA records, including single-season rushing yards by a quarterback (1,702), the Big Ten is a league filled with quarterbacks who can scoot.

Three weeks into the 2011 season, here's how the Big Ten's rushing chart looks.

1. Taylor Martinez, QB, Nebraska: 384 yards (128 ypg)
2. Denard Robinson, QB, Michigan: 352 yards (117.3 ypg)*
3. MarQueis Gray, QB, Minnesota: 328 yards (109.3 ypg)
4. Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin: 272 yards (90.7 ypg)
*-includes stats from opener against Western Michigan

The league's top three rushers are quarterbacks, and all of them rank among the nation's top 25 rushers. In fact, the nation's top three quarterback rushers all come from the Big Ten.

While the season remains very young and the rushing chart likely will change in the coming weeks, the Big Ten has become a haven for dual-threat quarterbacks.

Six of the league's top single-game quarterback rushing performances have taken place in the past four seasons (four by Robinson, one by former Northwestern quarterback Mike Kafka and one by former Indiana quarterback Kellen Lewis). Robinson set the Big Ten single-season quarterback rushing record in 2010, and Illinois' Nathan Scheelhaase finished fifth -- behind Randle El's three seasons -- with 868 yards.

Gray set a Minnesota single-game quarterback rushing record last Saturday by racking up 171 yards in a win against Miami (Ohio). The junior is the first Gophers quarterback to record consecutive 100-yard rushing performances since Billy Cockerham in 1999.

"We're seeing it week in and week out," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz said. "This is our fourth straight week of playing quarterbacks that have a lot of designed runs. That just seems to be the direction college football is going in right now."

Although the Big Ten has never seen rushing numbers quite like these from its quarterbacks, the league has gone through similar waves.

"Back when I played, it was more option-based," said Nebraska coach Bo Pelini, who played safety at Ohio State from 1987-90. "Now it's a little bit more the spread, zone-read, zone-option type thing. Everybody's a little bit different, but either way, that quarterback can put some pressure on you pretty quick."

Minnesota coach Jerry Kill made it clear he hopes the Big Ten rushing chart looks dramatically different in a few weeks.

His worry is valid. The more quarterbacks carry the football, the more hits they absorb and the greater their injury risk will be.

Martinez wasn't the same player -- nor Nebraska the same team -- after getting banged up midway through last season. Robinson missed time in most of Michigan's games last season after being shaken up.

"You'd rather have your tailback [leading the league in rushing]," Kill said. "... We all worry when a quarterback's running that much [about] the health of that quarterback when it comes to Game 9, 10, 11 and 12. It's a concern."