Top Returning Seniors In The Big Ten East
By Marco Scola
With spring practice starting, college campuses across the Big Ten East are looking for the next big "impact senior" to step up in six short months, in time for the new season. With the new alignment of the East — which is now Indiana, Maryland, Michigan, Michigan State, Ohio State, Penn State and Rutgers — it's going to take a lot of firepower from the returning seniors to win the division. (Or more accurately, to take down the Buckeyes and Spartans).
Ohio State QB Braxton Miller
Miller led the Big Ten in quarterback rating and touchdown passes in 2013 en route to an undefeated regular season for Ohio State. But a slip-up in the Big Ten championship game to in-division rival Michigan State and another in the Orange Bowl to Clemson set the table for Miller and the Buckeyes to redeem themselves in 2014. If they want to be the "Redeem Team" in 2014, it starts with Miller at the helm.
Michigan State RB Jeremy Langford
Ohio State is the lead dog in the Big Ten East, but 2013 belonged to Sparty. They took down Ohio State in the conference title game, then went into Pasadena and beat up Stanford to win the Rose Bowl all the while running back Jeremy Langford finished fifth in the Big Ten in rushing. Langford, along with now-blossoming quarterback Connor Cook and that nasty defense are lined up to have another big 2014 season and could knock OSU to second-rung status again.
Michigan State DE Marcus Rush
Speaking of Michigan State's nasty defense, Marcus Rush returns for his senior year after an already-impressive five-sack season in 2013. Rush, in addition to his appropriate surname, was a force to be reckoned with in the Big Ten last season. Sparty will need him yet again when they hook up with Michigan and Ohio State.
Michigan DE Frank Clark
Despite Clark's off-the-field issues, he's becoming a force on the Wolverines line, notching 6.5 career sacks and 3.5 fumble recoveries. Clark may be an eyebrow raiser, but he has the opportunity to make his presence felt in 2014.
Michigan LB Jake Ryan
Ryan will be playing middle linebacker for the first time this season. He's been referred to as the team's "most dynamic linebacker" by several Michigan-dedicated publications. Ryan was a force at outside linebacker for the Wolverines in 2013 and must be again this season if Michigan is going to hang with the Spartans, Nittany Lions, Terps, and most importantly, the Buckeyes.
Maryland LB Matt Robinson
Robinson is my dark-horse impact player in the Big Ten East in 2014. Maryland makes its Big Ten debut with a good defense led by Robinson, a former ACC Linebacker of the Week award winner. The senior racked up 73 tackles in 2013 despite missing two games with his signature performances coming against N.C. State (17 tackles) and a good performance in the Military Bowl against Marshall.
Way-Too-Early All-Big Ten East Team (Seniors Only)
QB: Braxton Miller, Ohio State
RB: Jeremy Langford, Michigan State
RB: Bill Belton, Penn State
WR: Devin Smith, Ohio State
WR: Tony Lippett, Michigan State
WR: Deon Long, Maryland
WR: DeAnthony Arnett, Michigan State
TE: Jeff Heuerman, Ohio State
TE: Andrew Gleichert, Michigan State
OT: Jake Wheeler, Maryland
OT: Bryan Leoni, Rutgers
C: Betim Bujari, Rutgers
G: Miles Dieffenbach, Penn State
G: Eric Kramer, Ohio State
DE: Frank Clark, Michigan
DE: Marcus Rush, Michigan State
DT: Michael Bennett, Ohio State
DT: Darius Kilgo, Maryland
LB: Jake Ryan, Michigan
LB: Matt Robinson, Maryland
LB: Curtis Grant, Ohio State
LB: L.A. Goree, Maryland
CB: Doran Grant, Ohio State
CB: Jeremiah Johnson, Maryland
CB: Raymon Taylor, Michigan
CB: Tim Bennett, Indiana
S: Kurtis Drummond, Michigan State
S: Adrian Amos, Penn State