Of all the recent player movement, these 3 announcements were most important in the B1G
There’s been a ton of activity in the Big Ten and the rest of college football this week — guys entering the transfer portal, declaring for the NFL Draft or announcing returns to their current teams.
Of all the B1G announcements, though, there are 3 that stand out: Jayden Reed coming back to Michigan State for 1 more season, Northwestern’s Brandon Joseph entering the transfer portal and Minnesota running back Ky Thomas entering the transfer portal.
Reed gives Michigan State a unique advantage
The Spartans’ leading receiver, Reed will probably be Preseason First Team All-B1G next season by all publications, as only Jaxon Smith-Njigba averaged more yards per game among returning receivers.
Reed’s return is a huge boost for a few reasons. For one, the Spartans already lost Kenneth Walker III and Jalen Nailor to the NFL, both of whom were huge weapons for an offense that was 4th in the B1G in yards per play. It’s especially big, though, because Reed is Payton Thorne’s guy.
You’ve probably heard by now, but the 2 played pop warner and high school ball together in suburban Chicago. They don’t call themselves friends, but brothers. It’s clear that Thorne trusts Reed, as some of this season’s biggest plays were Thorne-to-Reed connections. On the game-winning drive against Pitt in the Peach Bowl, Thorne found Reed for 11 yards on third-and-7, then later hit Reed for a 22-yard TD.
Jayden Reed climbed the ladder AND rocked the baby 👶 pic.twitter.com/s2vETumzPL
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) December 31, 2021
Basically, whenever Thorne sees Reed in single coverage, he’s going to take a chance because he knows Reed is likely going to come down with it.
— Sideline CFB (@SidelineCFB) October 30, 2021
This is a huge advantage for Michigan State going into next season. Ohio State is obviously in a category all by itself in terms of wideouts, but is there a better non-Ohio State combo in the Big Ten next season? With all of the roster shuffling, having continuity in an area where you absolutely need chemistry is a huge luxury.
I’m sure some Michigan State fans are a little nervous about what the offense will look like without Walker, but this should ease their minds, at least a little bit. When in doubt, Thorne can throw it up to Reed and expect good things to happen.
An All-American is likely leaving the B1G
One of the stars of Northwestern’s run to the Big Ten Championship Game in 2020 is all but gone. Joseph, an All-American as a redshirt freshman, hit the transfer portal before the New Year. He led the country in interceptions last year with 6, and he had 3 more this season. He had a down year according to PFF, earning just a 64.1 grade after an 83.4 last year.
Losing a player of Joseph’s caliber is tough for any program. When it’s Northwestern, which doesn’t have the depth of some other B1G programs, the loss is magnified. He will be one of the top players in the transfer portal regardless of position.
In case you forgot, he made one of the best plays in the Big Ten over the last few years.
— FOX College Football (@CFBONFOX) December 19, 2020
Thomas in the portal is a big loss
I know, it feels like Minnesota can throw anyone in the backfield and figure out a way to win. The 2 guys who started the season at No. 5 and No. 6 on the depth chart (Thomas and Mar’Keise Irving) wound up being the Golden Gophers’ 2 leading rushers. And Mohamed Ibrahim, who suffered a season-ending injury in the season opener, is reportedly coming back. So who cares about Thomas, right?
I’m not so sure. Maybe Minnesota winds up getting Thomas back, as he hasn’t committed anywhere yet. But running back is one of those positions where depth is essential. The Golden Gophers know that better than anyone. So to potentially lose a freshman who ran for 824 yards is a big blow. Especially one who proved durable, averaging over 18 carries per game.
Thomas was the MVP of Minnesota’s win over West Virginia in the Guaranteed Rate Bowl.
Few things I love more than watching Ky Thomas ball out at Minnesota. Top City, stand up! pic.twitter.com/MDkisbyzYg
— Sully Engels (@sullyengels) December 29, 2021
Minnesota can make due without him, because that’s what PJ Fleck’s program does, but you never want to lose a player as accomplished as Thomas who has 3 years of eligibility remaining. Especially if he winds up at Purdue.