Connor Cook leads a group of three Michigan State players on our list of 10 Big Ten players to watch this upcoming college football season.
Ameer Abdullah, RB, Nebraska
The Buzz: Nebraska finished with the third-best rushing offense in the Big Ten last season and much of the Huskers success on the ground can be attributed to Abdullah (1,690 rushing yards), who accounted for more than 60 percent of the team’s ground game. He also wound up leading the league in all-purpose yards with 1,999 yards.
Chi Chi Ariguzo, LB, Northwestern
The Buzz: The redshirt junior started all 12 games for the Wildcats in 2013, finishing second on the team in total tackles (106) – fifth overall in the Big Ten – while leading Northwestern with four interceptions. His performance earned him an honorable mention for the All-Big Ten team.
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
The Buzz: Cook’s development as a starting quarterback in the Big Ten was a trial-by-fire basis as the sophomore led the Spartans to a 13-1 record including a Big Ten title and a Rose Bowl win. He finished the season by passing for 2,755 yards and 22 touchdowns while only throwing six interceptions.
Sean Davis, DB, Maryland
The Buzz: You can forgive Big Ten aficionados for not knowing much about the Maryland football program heading into its inaugural season in the league. That will change quickly if players like Sean Davis can continue their success. As a sophomore, Davis led the Terps in total tackles (102) and was second on the team in interceptions (2).
Kurtis Drummond, DB, Michigan State
The Buzz: It’s no surprise that Michigan State had the top defense in the Big Ten last season. Not with players like Kurtis Drummond on the roster. The Spartans ranked first in turnover margin thanks to recording 17 interceptions including a team-best four by Drummond. The junior also was second on the team in total tackles (91), all the while earning him first-team All-Big Ten honors.
Melvin Gordon, RB, Wisconsin
The Buzz: Despite sharing backfield duties with James White, Gordon finished the season ranked second in the Big Ten in total rushing yards with 1,609 yards behind Nebraska’s Ameer Abdullah. He finished with 12 rushing touchdowns and a staggering 7.8 yards per carry average. His decision to return to school for his senior season gives the Big Ten a handful of 1,000-plus yard rushers in 2014.
Randy Gregory, DE, Nebraska
The Buzz: The Nebraska defensive end burst onto the Big Ten scene last season when he led the conference with 10.5 sacks as a sophomore. A junior-college transfer, Gregory also finished with 60 total tackles including 19 tackles for loss. All in all, it earned him a spot on the All-Big Ten first team.
Jeremy Langford, RB, Michigan State
The Buzz: The third 1,000-plus yard rusher on this list, Langford was a workhorse for the Spartans in 2013. The junior carried the ball a league-high 292 times for 1,422 yards while finding the end zone a Big Ten-best 18 times. Eight times last season, he rushed for more than 100-yards in a game including a career-high 151 yards and three touchdowns in a win over Nebraska on Nov. 16.
Steve Longa, LB, Rutgers
The Buzz: Much like Maryland’s Sean Davis, Longa may not be a household name in Big Ten country, but that should change. Seven times last season Longa registered double-digits in tackles during a game including a season-high 14 tackles against SMU in a 55-52 overtime win. He finished the season ranked first on the team in total tackles (123) and was named to the second-team, All-AAC.
Braxton Miller, QB, Ohio State
The Buzz: Braxton Miller comes into this season as the league’s most-veteran quarterback with 34 career starts. Despite missing several games to injury, Miller had a career-year with the Buckeyes. He wound up third in the Big Ten in total offense (3,162 yards) including a career-high in passing (2,094). His development in the offseason could be critical if Ohio State hopes to compete for a Big Ten title.
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