Dave Thurman (3:20 pm)
July is nearly here which means it is only about a month until fall practice begins. I can hardly wait. In the meantime let's consider the best and worst the Big Ten has to offer in 2009:
Best Player (Offense): Arrelious Benn (Illinois) - Probably the most physically imposing receiver in the nation, he only needs to find the endzone more often to become a household name. Both Daryll Clark and Terelle Pryor are poised to give Benn a run for his money.
Best Player (Defense): Sean Lee (Penn State) - Although there are plenty of names to consider here including Brandon Graham, Corey Wootton and Kurt Coleman, I think Lee will return from his injury with a vengeance.
Most Overrated Player: Juice Williams (Illinois) - Maybe this is the year Juice puts it altogether, but so far in his career he has been erratic, possessing a touchdown to interception ratio of 44-37. He can run with the best of them, but needs to throw the ball like he did at OSU in '07 if he is to live up to the hype. Although he gets less ink I think Clark is a better qb.
Most Underrated Player: Jammie Kirlew (Indiana) - The Hoosiers are rotten but this defensive end can flat out play. Last year he posted 74 tackles, 19.5 tfl and 10.5 sacks.
Best Coach: Jim Tressel (Ohio State) - Ferentz gets a lot of love from the national media but this is a no-brainer in my opinion.
Worst Coach: Bill Lynch (Indiana): Lynch is a nice guy but he couldn't win at Ball State and he is in over his head at Indiana.
Coach on the Hot Seat: Bret Bielema - The wins have declined each year since he took over for Barry Alvarez, and if that trend continues this year he will be packing his bags.
Easiest Schedule: Wisconsin - Badgers don't have to play Penn State or Illinois and have non-conference creampuffs like Wofford (are you kidding me?) and Northern Illinois.
Toughest Schedule: Iowa - The non-conference slate is pretty easy but the Hawkeyes have Big Ten road games at Ohio State, Penn State, Wisconsin and Michigan State.
Best Offense: Illinois - They need more production from their running backs, but have the potential to be explosive.
Best Defense: Ohio State - The Silver Bullets are being retooled and should be very fast.
Most Stocked Position in Big 10: Quarterback - Daryll Clark, Terelle Pryor, Juice Williams, Adam Weber, Ricky Stanzi and Dustin Sherer all return promising an air show in '09.
Least Stocked Position in Big 10: Surprisngly it is Running Back, with the loss of Beanie Wells, Javon Ringer, Shonn Greene, PJ Hill, Tyrelle Sutton and Kory Sheets.
Fastest Ascending Team: Minnesota - Tim Brewster has the Gophers on the move, fueled by excellent recruiting.
Fastest Descending Team: Purdue - Basketball on grass was succesful as long as the Boilers had a good quarterback and receivers, but poor recruiting has left them quite pedestrian.
Biggest shoes to Fill:
Illinois - Vontae Davis (CB)
Indiana - Kellen Lewis (QB)
Iowa - Shonn Greene (RB)
Michigan - Terrance Taylor (DT)
Michigan State - Javon Ringer (RB)
Minnesota: Willie VanDeSteeg (DE)
Northwestern: Tyrelle Sutton (RB)
Ohio State: Malcolm Jenkins (CB)
Penn State: Derrick Williams (WR/KR)
Purdue: Kory Sheets (RB)
Wisconsin: Kraig Urbik (G)
That's how I see it. What do you think? Drop us a line and let us know.
Even though the conference may be down a little, it should be an interesting year with lots of young players getting their feet wet. Let's get the party started!