ESPN names preseason All-Big Ten team
ESPN dished out its preseason All-Big Ten team on Monday. Like everything else this preseason, it’s Ohio State-heavy. A total of eight Buckeyes cracked the list, with Michigan State earning four spots.
Nothing appears too outlandish here, with perhaps the only bold choice coming at WR, where the Big Ten’s top returner in receptions, DaeSean Hamilton, was left off the list in favor of Ohio State’s Michael Thomas. ESPN also tabbed De’Mornay Pierson-El as its punt returner, despite the fact that he’ll be sidelined for up to the next two months.
Are there any snubs?
QB: Connor Cook, Michigan State: Cook might have a hard time holding off whomever wins the Ohio State starting job. But since we don’t yet know which Buckeye will take the most snaps, it’s hard to go wrong with the guy who’s 23-3 as a starter.
RB: Ezekiel Elliott, Ohio State: If his postseason rampage is a sign of things to come in his junior year, Elliott will be in the Heisman Trophy discussion.
RB: Corey Clement, Wisconsin: The latest product in the Badgers’ star tailback assembly line, Clement is ready to roll after running for nearly 1,000 yards as Melvin Gordon’s backup last season.
WR: Leonte Carroo, Rutgers: He’s the leading returning receiver in the league after a 1,086-yard season last year, and his 19.7 yard-per-catch average is even more impressive.
WR: Michael Thomas, Ohio State: A case could be made here for several others, including Penn State’s DaeSean Hamilton, but we think Thomas takes another major step forward as the Buckeyes’ new No. 1 wideout.
TE: Jake Butt, Michigan: Michigan State’s Josiah Price was also in contention, but Jim Harbaugh’s offense that features tight ends makes this a match made in heaven.
OT: Taylor Decker, Ohio State: The anchor on a unit that became dominant by the end of last year, this senior could be the best left tackle in America — unless it’s …
OT: Jack Conklin, Michigan State: Conklin also has a claim to being the nation’s top blindside protector after a stellar two years so far as a Spartan.
C: Jack Allen, Michigan State: A 2014 Rimington Trophy finalist, Allen gives no mercy to opponents and injects the necessary nasty streak to the Spartans’ offense.
G: Pat Elflein, Ohio State: A first-team All-Big Ten selection last year, Elflein is highly respected for his work ethic and toughness.
G: Dan Feeney, Indiana: The Hoosiers’ offensive line remains quietly one of the best in the league, and Feeney is a big reason why Tevin Coleman ran for more than 2,000 yards last season.
DE: Joey Bosa, Ohio State: He’s arguably the best player on the best team in the nation. ESPN would’ve required we all get PET Scans if we left this guy off the squad.
DE: Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State: The NFL draft advisory board gave Calhoun a second-round grade last winter. Unfortunately for the B1G’s offensive linemen, that meant he decided to return.
DT: Anthony Zettel, Penn State: One of the biggest personalities in the B1G, Zettel makes offenses pay with his quickness and athleticism. Even led his team with three interceptions last year.
DT: Maliek Collins, Nebraska: He broke out last year and only got better as the season wore on. We expect a lot out of him this time around; it’s scary to think what an offseason might’ve done.
LB: Darron Lee, Ohio State: You probably knew he was going to be something special when, in his first career game, he returned a fumble for a 61-yard touchdown. That’s Lee in a nutshell — he’s constantly making plays.
LB: Vince Biegel, Wisconsin: Born and bred in the Badger State, Biegel seems like the quintessential Wisconsin linebacker. You can’t beat his energy and, more than likely, you can’t beat him when he blitzes.
LB: Joshua Perry, Ohio State: We debated a few other linebackers here, but it’s difficult to argue against the guy who finished with 124 tackles last year, the second-most in the conference. He’s as consistent and solid as they come.
CB: Briean Boddy-Calhoun, Minnesota: Who’s the B1G’s best corner? We couldn’t decide but we had little doubt Minnesota had the best two. Boddy-Calhoun impressed with five picks last season.
CB: Eric Murray, Minnesota: Doesn’t have eye-popping numbers like his teammate, but that’s simply because defenses respect him and steer clear. Very underrated.
S: Michael Caputo, Wisconsin: Led the Badgers last year in tackles (106), the first time since 2003 that honor hasn’t gone to a linebacker. He’s smart, tough, versatile and a great leader.
S: Vonn Bell, Ohio State: Co-defensive coordinator Chris Ash called him “one of the best tacklers” he’s ever been around. Bell was quite the play-maker, too, with four picks in just his last six games.
PK: Brad Craddock, Maryland:The 2014 Lou Groza Award winner missed just one of his 19 attempts last year and is a team leader for the Terrapins.
P: Peter Mortell, Minnesota: The Big Ten’s 2014 punter of the year holds a career average of 44.3 yards, which is highest in school history.
KR: William Likely, Maryland: A candidate to make this team at cornerback as well. Likely makes our team here after finishing fourth in the FBS in kickoff return average (31.0) a year ago.
PR: De’Mornay Pierson-El, Nebraska: An unfortunate foot injury may keep the sophomore out for the first month, but he’s so dynamic and impactful on punt returns (17.5 yards per attempt, three touchdowns in 2014) that he can still earn this honor in an abbreviated campaign.