Seven most crucial B1G decisions to return
Underclassmen every year are dealt with the decision to stay in school another year or declare for the NFL draft. Some guys elect to come back to get themselves more physically ready for the next level. Others want one more crack at a national title.
Whatever the reason, their returns are huge for their respective teams. This isn’t a list saying which players are best, nor is it a list for which player has the best NFL future.
The following returning players are ranked based on how valuable their decision to return was to their respective teams.
Here’s how they came in:
7. Vince Biegel, Wisconsin LB
Biegel was one of the league’s best playmaking linebackers in 2015. The Badgers lost All-American Joe Schobert, All-B1G safety Michael Caputo and defensive coordinator Dave Aranda left for LSU. The loss of Biegel would’ve left the new DC without their three best defensive players from the year before. Biegel’s return means that Wisconsin will still boast one of the best linebacker groups in the country.
6. Jake Butt, Michigan TE
The Wolverine tight end easily could’ve left and been selected in the second round. Instead, he elected to get another year in Jim Harbaugh’s system — one of the few in college football that features a pass-catching tight end — and lead Michigan one more time. Butt, as he was for Jake Rudock, can be a safety valve. The combination of Butt, Jehu Chesson and Amara Darboh will give the Wolverines the best returning group of pass-catchers in the B1G.
5. Pat Elflein, Ohio State OL
Forgotten in the nine Buckeye underclassmen declaring for the draft was the fact that Elflein held off on the NFL to return to Columbus. He’ll take over the center position, which will be critical for an offense that returns just three starters. As one of the few links left from the national championship squad, Urban Meyer already declared Elflein a captain for 2016. That’s saying something.
4. Corey Clement, Wisconsin RB
The 2015 season was one to forget for the junior tailback. But we can’t forget how valuable Clement was coming into the season. He was supposed to compete with Ezekiel Elliott for the rushing title but injuries and off-the-field issues prevented that from happening. Behind a young offensive line that got some needed experience, Clement could form into the B1G’s most lethal backfield threat in 2016. Lord knows the Badgers will need him to be with that brutal schedule.
3. Jourdan Lewis, Michigan CB/KR
Rarely does an All-American turn down the NFL to come back to school. Lewis might not have the size or breakaway speed that make him a highly coveted NFL cornerback, but you’d be hard-pressed to find a college defensive back in coverage as good in coverage as Lewis is. He set a Michigan record with 21 pass breakups in 2015 and he was the team’s primary kick returner. If Lewis wasn’t surrounded by a loaded returning secondary, he’d be even higher on this list.
2. Will Likely, Maryland CB/KR/PR/WR
Likely took nearly six weeks after the season ended to make his decision. But lucky for first-year coach D.J. Durkin, it was to return to College Park. Likely, as he did at the end of the season, might start for the Terps in all three phases. He’s already the most dangerous return man in the conference, and he’s an All-B1G cornerback. The fact that Maryland’s new coaching staff is going to have one of the nation’s most versatile — and dangerous — players back is incredibly important.
1. Desmond King, Iowa CB/KR/PR
King’s decision to return was bigger than any other B1G player because of what his reputation will carry in 2016. The Jim Thorpe Award winner set an Iowa record with eight interceptions in 2015. Instead of just being a player that could break up a pass, King became a guy that could completely turn a game around. Even though he’ll likely be a preseason All-American, it would be tough to imagine him posting similar numbers in 2016 because quarterbacks won’t throw his way. But for the Hawkeyes, that means that he’ll shrink the field for the defense. His presence will be crucial in helping Iowa not take a step back after a historic season.