- Dan Murphy, College Football
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The Big Ten season featured its share of breakout stars and memorable performances. Throughout the week, we'll be counting down the top 25 players in the conference this season. Our second group revealed comes from the states of Michigan and Minnesota.
No. 16: Trae Waynes, CB, Michigan State
Continuing Michigan State's strong recent history at the cornerback position, Waynes regularly took away his opponent's top receiving threat. He intercepted three passes, broke up eight more and finished sixth on the team with 46 tackles as a junior. The Spartans, who often leave their corners to fend for themselves while stacking the box, were more susceptible to the big play this year without Darqueze Dennard, but Waynes did his part in patrolling the No Fly Zone.
No. 17: Maxx Williams, TE, Minnesota
The 6-foot-4, 250-pound Williams used his big frame to provide Minnesota with a reliable option in an otherwise limited passing attack this season. He declared for the draft after leading the Gophers with 36 catches (twice as many as anyone else on the roster) for 569 yards and eight touchdowns. His last score, a hurdling 54-yard run against Mizzou, showed the athleticism that made him the league's top tight end.
No. 18: Jake Ryan, LB, Michigan
The team captain and fifth-year senior was a bright spot in a disappointing year for the Wolverines. Ryan, in his first season as an inside linebacker, made 112 tackles to lead the Michigan defense. His nose for the ball and his speed helped him finish the year among the top five Big Ten players in tackles for loss (14). He won the Tillman Award at last week's East-West Shrine Game for his "intelligence, sportsmanship and service."
No. 19: Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Last season's Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year got off to a slow start in 2014, but found his stride and did just enough to edge himself past fellow end Marcus Rush on the stat sheet. Calhoun had eight sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss while providing a steady dose of pressure in the backfield for Michigan State this season. He returns to anchor the Spartans' front seven again in 2015.
No. 20: Briean Boddy-Calhoun, CB, Minnesota
Whenever Minnesota needed a big play on defense, Boddy-Calhoun seemed to find himself near the ball. He forced seven turnovers, including a long interception return in a close game against Ohio State and a win-clinching fumble near the goal line against Nebraska late in the season. Boddy-Calhoun started the season second on the Gophers' depth chart at cornerback, but ended as a first-team all-conference pick.
The Big Ten season featured its share of breakout stars and memorable performances. Throughout the week, we'll be counting down the top 25 players in the conference this season.