Chicago Colleges: b1g 13 preseason player rankings

Big Ten rankings: No. 5, Venric Mark

August, 20, 2013
8/20/13
1:00
PM CT
We're counting down our rankings of the Top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2013 season. This list is based on past performance and potential for the upcoming season only. We do not consider NFL potential for purposes of these rankings.

Kicking off our Top 5 is a guy who wears No. 5 and is coming off an All-America season ...

No. 5: Venric Mark, RB, Northwestern, senior, 5-foot-8, 175 pounds

2012 postseason ranking: No. 9

2012 numbers: Rushed 226 times for 1,366 yards and 12 touchdowns and had 20 catches for 104 yards and a score. Also averaged 19.8 yards on 21 kickoff returns and 18.7 yards on 15 punt returns, with two touchdowns.

Why he's here: Was there a bigger breakout star in the Big Ten last year than Mark? Well, maybe we shouldn't use the word bigger, because size questions have always lingered about the 5-foot-8 dynamo. But here was a guy who had rushed for 167 total yards his first two seasons suddenly emerging as Northwestern's go-to offensive weapon, finishing third among Big Ten running backs with 1,366 rushing yards and averaging more than six yards per carry.

That alone would have made Mark one of the league's top players. Then you throw in his status as an All-American returner. He exploded right out of the gate, returning a punt 82 yards for a score at Syracuse in the opener and finishing that game with 281 all-purpose yards. He also had a 75-yard punt return touchdown versus Penn State.

Mark worked hard this offseason at adding strength to his body, hoping to avoid getting knocked out of games early as he was at times last year. Despite his size limitations, he took an average of 17 carries per game last year, in addition to his other duties. He'd like to do even more this season after finishing 29 yards shy of the school record for single-season total yardage. The only difference is, this year we'll know what to expect from him.

The countdown

No. 25: Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois
No. 24: Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa
No. 23: James White, RB, Wisconsin
No. 22: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
No. 21: John Urschel, G, Penn State
No. 20: Tyler Scott, DE, Northwestern
No. 19: Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State
No. 18: Deion Barnes, DE, Penn State
No. 17: Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska
No. 16: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
No. 15: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota
No. 14: Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern
No. 13: Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
No. 12: Spencer Long, G, Nebraska
No. 11: Devin Gardner, QB, Michigan
No. 10: Darqueze Dennard, CB, Michigan State
No. 9: Bradley Roby, CB, Ohio State
No. 8: Allen Robinson, WR, Penn State
No. 7: Max Bullough, LB, Michigan State
No. 6: Chris Borland, LB, Wisconsin

Big Ten rankings: No. 14, Kain Colter

August, 7, 2013
8/07/13
12:00
PM CT
We're counting down our rankings of the Top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2013 season. This list is based on past performance and potential for the upcoming season only. We do not consider NFL potential for purposes of these rankings.

Coming up next is the ultimate Swiss Army knife of a quarterback ...

No. 14: Kain Colter, QB, Northwestern, senior

2012 postseason ranking: No. 23

2012 numbers: Completed 67.8 percent of his passes for 872 yards, eight touchdowns and four interceptions. Carried 170 times for 894 yards and 12 touchdowns. Caught 16 passes for 169 yards.

Why he's here: Colter needs to start returning kicks.

OK, so it would be insane for Pat Fitzgerald to put his starting quarterback on the kickoff or punt return teams, but that's pretty much the last area where Colter could make an impact with the ball in his hands. He's done it everywhere else. There's no one in college football quite like Colter, and as I wrote on Tuesday, his lasting legacy for Northwestern might well be his utter unselfishness in giving up snaps at quarterback.

Colter could still improve as a passer and just might as he gets farther and farther away from his shoulder injury. He's already part of the most dangerous and versatile 1-2 backfield punch in the Big Ten with tailback Venric Mark. There's almost nothing that duo could do that would surprise us anymore. Well, unless Colter suddenly starts returning kicks.

The countdown

No. 25: Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois
No. 24: Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa
No. 23: James White, RB, Wisconsin
No. 22: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
No. 21: John Urschel, G, Penn State
No. 20: Tyler Scott, DE, Northwestern
No. 19: Jack Mewhort, OT, Ohio State
No. 18: Deion Barnes, DE, Penn State
No. 17: Kenny Bell, WR, Nebraska
No. 16: Jared Abbrederis, WR, Wisconsin
No. 15: Ra'Shede Hageman, DT, Minnesota

Big Ten rankings: No. 20, Tyler Scott

July, 30, 2013
7/30/13
9:00
AM CT
We're in the midst of our preseason countdown of the top 25 players in the Big Ten for the 2013 season. This list is based on past performance and potential for the upcoming season only. We do not consider NFL potential for purposes of these rankings.

Up next is the guy who had more sacks last season than any returning Big Ten player ...

No. 20: Tyler Scott, DE, Northwestern, senior, 6-foot-4, 265 pounds

2012 postseason ranking: Not ranked

2012 numbers: Collected 42 tackles, including nine sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss, and forced three fumbles.


Why he's here: Scott tied Ohio State's John Simon for the most sacks in the Big Ten last year. Like Simon, Scott is a high-effort player who excels in the weight room almost as much as on the field.

And on the field, he was pretty darn good. He had two sacks and three tackles for loss in the Gator Bowl win over Mississippi State, a key forced fumble late in the win over Vanderbilt, a pair of sacks and a forced fumble against Minnesota and a sack and pass breakup in the narrow win at Syracuse. He was named the Wildcats' defensive MVP for the season.

Scott needs eight more sacks to finish in the top 5 in school history in that category. He has made tremendous improvement throughout his career, thanks largely to a great motor, work ethic and physical strength. If that continues this year, he should once again be one of the toughest players to contain off the edge in the Big Ten.
The countdown

No. 25: Jonathan Brown, LB, Illinois
No. 24: Mark Weisman, RB, Iowa
No. 23: James White, RB, Wisconsin
No. 22: Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
No. 21: John Urschel, G, Penn State

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