Earlier this week, the National Football Foundation revealed the names of the stars who were included on the 2021 College Football Hall of Fame ballot. That list contained 21 names of players from current B1G programs.

While you could easily make that case that all 21 deserve to be enshrined this year, that likely will not be the case. So, instead of talking about every player on the ballot, I’m taking a look at five players who should get the nod as a member of the 2021 Hall of Fame Class.

One caveat to this list, however, is that a few players were not considered because they didn’t actually play in the B1G. A few nominees from Nebraska and Penn State didn’t actually play while the two schools were members of the league, so they weren’t included in this top five.

Before diving into the top five, a few names that deserve some recognition as honorable mentions:

  • Taylor Stubblefield, WR, Purdue
  • Steve Hutchinson, OL, Michigan
  • Antwaan Randle El, QB, Indiana
  • Bobby Engram, WR, Penn State

Let’s dive into the top five — and you might notice that it’s awfully defensive:

Jared DeVries, DL, Iowa

Do you know what’s incredibly difficult? Setting a career B1G record. What’s even more challenging than that? Owning that record for over two decades.

But that’s the case for former Iowa defensive lineman Jared DeVries. From 1995-98, the Hawkeyes caused havoc in opposing backfields, collecting 78 tackles for loss during his four years in Iowa City. That record still stands as the most in Iowa and B1G history. Considering all the outstanding defenders that have played in the conference, that’s quite the achievement.

The former Iowa lineman also totaled 42 quarterback sacks in four seasons, which ranks second in the B1G.

DeVries played on Iowa teams that reached bowl games three times in four seasons (1995-97). He earned All-B1G honors each of his final three years with the program, was named the B1G Defensive Lineman of the Year in 1997 and was a consensus All-American in 1998.

Mike Doss, DB, Ohio State

One of the first players to come to mind when you think of Ohio State’s 2002 national championship squad is Mike Doss. The defensive back was an All-American selection and the B1G Defensive Player of the Year on a Buckeye team that allowed just over 13 points per game and held seven of their 14 opponents to two touchdowns or less.

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Doss saved one of his top performances for the biggest stage — Ohio State’s 31-24 victory over Miami in a double-overtime contest in the Fiesta Bowl, He recorded a key interception early in the game and made six tackles as the Buckeyes claimed their eighth national championship.

That performance landed Doss MVP honors for the Fiesta Bowl.

Though Doss’s senior season was probably his most memorable, he was a star in Columbus throughout his career. He was a three-time first-team All-B1G selection and a three-time first-team All-America pick. Doss ended his career with the Buckeyes with 331 total tackles, eight interceptions, eight fumble recoveries, six sacks and four touchdowns.

Oh, and he was a high school state champion, a BCS national champion and a Super Bowl champion. Just in case you needed more evidence that Doss is a proven winner.

James Laurinaitis, LB, Ohio State

If you ever attended an Ohio State game when James Laurinaitis was suited up, you might’ve thought there were 11 guys on the field with the same name. The former Buckeye linebacker was one of the most alert and intelligent players on the field during his three years as a starter.

Laurinaitis had his best statistical season in 2006, his first year as a starter. He racked up 115 tackles, 8.5 for loss, intercepted five pass, broke up another four throws forced three fumbles and recovered another. That’s a hell of a stat line for a sophomore.

His production didn’t slow down. Over the next two seasons, Laurinaitis was credited with 251 tackles, nine sacks, five pass break-ups, four interceptions, a forced fumble and a fumble recovery. He earned B1G Defensive Player of the Year honors both seasons and ended his career as a three-time consensus All-American and three-time first-team All-B1G selection.

Laurinaitis also played in two national championship games (2006, 2007), won the Bronko Nagurski Trophy in 2006, was named the winner of the Butkus Award in 2007 and was presented the Lott Trophy in 2008.

Wonder if his trophy case at home was big enough for all the awards and accolades?

Mark Messner, DT, Michigan

Mark Messner made B1G history during his career at Michigan in the mid-1980s. The defensive tackle started 49-straight games from 1985-88 and resulted in him earning All-B1G honors every single season. He became the first position player in B1G history to accomplish that feat.

Messner wasn’t just an iron man on the field, though. During his four seasons in Ann Arbor, the defensive lineman was extremely productive. He is credited with 70 tackles for loss and 36 sacks in his career with the Wolverines, both of which remain program records. Messner also accounted for 248 career tackles and five fumble recoveries.

During his four years on the field, Michigan won 38 games and claimed a pair of B1G regular season championships. Messner was a key member of a defense that allowed an incredible 8.1 points per game and pitched three shutouts in 1985. In his senior season (1988), Michigan allowed just 13.9 points per contest and finished 7-0-1 in B1G play to claim a conference title.

Messner was named the B1G Defensive Lineman of the Year in 1988 and was also a consensus All-American. Perhaps most importantly, Messner helped lead Michigan to a 3-1 record over rival Ohio State in four seasons, as well as a 3-1 mark in bowl games.

In 2014, Messner was inducted into the University of Michigan Athletics Hall of Honor. The next logical stop is the College Football Hall of Fame.

Simeon Rice, LB, Illinois

If you’d like to know how dominant of a player Simeon Rice was at Illinois, look no further than the B1G’s all-time sack leaders. The former Illini linebacker still owns the record for career sacks, taking down the quarterback 44.5 times during four seasons in Champaign.

Even though the Illini didn’t field the best teams during that time, opposing quarterbacks really hated having to see Rice at the linebacker spot.

One of Rice’s best performances at the college level came in 1994 against Washington State. In the non-conference matchup in September, the linebacker registered five sacks in the game, tied for the second-highest total in conference history.

Rice was named the B1G Freshman of the Year in 1992 after tallying nine sacks in his first season. That really set the tone for his college career and later an incredible run in the NFL. By the end of his time at Illinois, Rice set the program record for tackles for loss (69), single-season sacks (16) and total sacks.

He also had a knack for creating turnovers, forcing 13 fumbles during his time with the Illini.

One of the most physically intimidating and smartest linebackers in Illinois history, Rice was a three-time All-B1G selection and was a two-time All-American. Doing that for a program that finished 23-21-2 and appeared in just two bowl games during that four-year stretch is pretty remarkable.