Save the “I don’t have to prove anything to anybody” cliché.
We all have things to prove, it’s just a matter of whether or not we’re willing to admit what exactly that is.
B1G players are no different. They might not admit it, but some B1G players should have a little extra motivation to accomplish their goals.
Here are the five B1G players with the most to prove in 2017:
DaeSean Hamilton, Penn State WR
On the surface, being the most-experienced receiver on a preseason top-five team usually means you’re in pretty good standing. But Hamilton’s career has been in reverse since his stellar redshirt freshman campaign.
He didn’t have a touchdown after the season opener, he exceeded three catches in a game just twice, and he didn’t have one reception for Penn State in the Rose Bowl. Even worse, his most notable play of the 2016 season was when he dropped the game-winning touchdown against Pitt.
This offense exploded in 2016, and Hamilton wasn’t a major part of it. Now, the guy who once caught 82 passes as a redshirt freshman will be be asked to get back to that kind of production with Chris Godwin off to the NFL.
And it would also be in Hamilton’s best interest to end on a higher note before he heads to the NFL, too.
De’Mornay Pierson-El, Nebraska WR
Speaking of senior receivers looking to return to their freshman selves, Pierson-El fits that description. The 2015 preseason All-American has been banged up for the better part of the last two years. That slowed his learning curve at receiver.
As a senior, Pierson-El is all of the sudden the veteran of a group that just lost a ton of production. Jordan Westerkamp, Brandon Reilly and Alonzo Moore are all gone, not to mention pass-catching tight end Cethan Carter.
Pierson-El will be surrounded by inexperienced skill players. Even after multiple foot injuries, he’s still Nebraska’s most electrifying playmaker.
The Huskers might not be able to sustain long scoring drives like they did with Tommy Armstrong Jr. and a talented group of wideouts. Nebraska needs a player with home-run ability like Pierson-El to take some of that pressure off.
L.J. Scott, Michigan State RB
Sorry if you’re already sick of hearing about Scott, but his name is going to be brought up often this offseason. He wasn’t to blame for Michigan State’s struggles. In fact, he almost led the Spartans to an upset of No. 2 Ohio State.
But Scott still needs to show that he can be a three-down back. His usage still wasn’t consistent in 2016 because he struggled in pass protection and he had ball-security issues. Scott can’t afford to end up in the doghouse for two or three-game stretches in 2017.
Mark Dantonio will ask a lot of the junior tailback, and rightfully so. Scott can become an All-B1G player, fuel a bounce-back season for MSU and set himself up for an early NFL payday.
But that can only happen if he makes that next step this offseason.
Chris Orr, Wisconsin LB
To be clear, Orr’s case is different than anyone else on this list. Orr emerged as a force for the Badgers as a true freshman in 2015, but he tore his anterior cruciate ligament in the 2016 season opener against LSU.
Orr has to prove that he’s still capable of being a full-time starter at one of the inside linebacker spots. Wisconsin, as per usual, is loaded at inside linebacker. Jack Cichy, T.J. Edwards and Ryan Connelly are all back for the Badgers after looking like All-B1G players — when healthy — in 2016.
The challenge for Orr is simply going to be earning snaps. Wisconsin has been “Linebacker U” the last few years, which means that it doesn’t take much to fall behind in the pecking order.
If Orr wants to get back on the trajectory he was on as a freshman, he’ll have to show that he’s 100 percent healthy and that he hasn’t skipped a beat.
Richard Lagow, Indiana QB
Lagow checks all the boxes of a guy with something to prove.
- Does he have a new head coach and a new coordinator that he needs to impress? Yep.
- Does he need to have a stellar camp to keep his job? Yep.
- Is he the veteran of a new-look offense? Yep.
- Does he need to have an improved season to give himself a shot at the NFL? Yep.
Perhaps the only thing missing from Lagow’s reasons to prove something is meeting expectations at a powerhouse program. Lagow’s mistakes won’t be on national TV every Saturday night, but that shouldn’t matter.
Lagow did not meet expectations in 2016. The former junior college transfer couldn’t quite figure out Kevin Wilson’s offense, and turnovers were an issue all year.
That won’t fly with Tom Allen. He’s not going to tolerate five-turnover games that wash away a banner performance from his defense. Lagow has plenty to prove in 2017.