Monthly Archives: August 2015

Top Current NFL Players From Each B1G Program 

The NFL preseason is underway…. thank goodness right? After the initial rush has worn off that football is back, I immediately calm down realizing it is meaningless football. But once the disappointment subsides, I began to enjoy watching the guys fighting to make the roster. I also enjoy listening for what school they hail from.

While the B1G has been much maligned for its lack of success against the likes of the SEC and Pac-12—before last season’s College Football Playoff—you can’t deny that the conference has produced some of the best Sunday players.

Here are the best NFL players from each B1G program.

Illinois – Vonte Davis (CB) Indianapolis Colts. Davis is the younger brother of San Francisco 49ers tight end and Maryland Alum Vernon Davis. The younger has stepped out of his big brother’s shadow and made a name for himself. In six seasons, the lockdown corner has picked off 17 passes and defended 70. He also has 289 tackles (256 solo). Vonte made his first pro bowl in 2014.

Indiana – Tracy Porter (CB) Chicago Bears. Porter was a Super Bowl 44 hero for the New Orleans Saints with a huge pick six on Peyton Manning. In his 8 year career he’s picked off 10 passes and scored on three of them. He adds 4 forced fumbles, recovering two of them, and collected 287 tackles (230 solo).

He’s bounced around the past few seasons. In 2015 he joined the Bears, his fifth team in as many seasons.

Iowa – Chad Greenway (LB) Minnesota Vikings. The former first round pick has 992 tackles (679 solo), 15.5 sacks, 8 forced fumbles, 11 fumble recoveries and 9 interceptions in his nine season since leaving the Hawkeye program.
Greenway has made two Pro Bowls (2011,2012) and was a Second-Team All-Pro in 2012.

Davis was the 6th pick of the ’06 Draft by the 49ers out of Maryland.

Maryland – Vernon Davis (TE) San Francisco 49ers. The older Davis brother on this list has hauled in 423 passes for 5,446 yards and 55 touchdowns in his nine season in the Bay. He’s a two-time Pro Bowler (2009,2013) and Second-Team All-Pro (2012). In 2009, his 13 touchdown catches tied for the NFL lead.

Brady was a backup on a National Champion and in an QB battle while in Ann Arbor.

Michigan – Tom Brady (QB) New England Patriots. Brady probably isn’t in the discussion for greatest quarterback in Wolverines history, which is probably why he was a sixth round pick. But, that’s ancient history now.

Brady’s the most accomplished player on this list. He’s four Super Bowl titles are tied with Joe Montana and Terry Bradshaw for most by a QB in NFL history.

He’s captured three Super Bowl MVPs, two NFL MVP, ten Pro Bowls, two-time First-Team All-Pro (2007,2010), Second-Team All-Pro (2005), and a selection on the NFL 2000s All-Decade team.

Coming into his sixteenth season, he has 53,258 passing yards, 392 touchdowns, with a passer rating of 95.9

Michigan State – Le’Veon Bell (RB) Pittsburgh Steelers. After only two seasons he’s already in the discussion of best running back in the NFL.

The dual threat made his first Pro Bowl and earned his first, First-Team All-Pro selection in 2014 as the key of the Steelers high-powered Killer B’s offense along with Big Ben and Antonio Brown. 2014 saw Bell also collect the AFC Offensive Player of the Year and the FedEx Ground Player of the Year. He finished 2014 second in rushing yards (1,361) and led all running backs in receiving yards (854).

Minnesota – Eric Decker (WR) New York Jets. Decker was a relatively unknown as a Denver Bronco until Peyton Manning showed up in the Mile High City. Before the “Sheriff”, Decker was known as the receiver who caught one of Tim Tebow’s two complete passes in a 17-10 victory over the Kansas City Chiefs in the 2011 season.

With Manning, Decker flourished and earned a five-year 36.25 million dollar contract with the Jets.
He has career totals of 296 catches, for 4,032 yards and 38 touchdowns in five seasons.

Nebraska – Ndamukong Suh (DT) Miami Dolphins. By far the most feared interior defensive player in pro football. Suh disrupts both the passing and running games of opposing offenses.

At Nebraska, Suh terrorized the Big 12 and never played in the B1G. The Huskers came into the conference in 2011.

In his five seasons in the NFL he has been selected to the Pro Bowl four times (2010, 2012-2014), a four-time First-team All-Pro (2010-2011, 2013-2014), once a Second-team All-Pro (2012), the 2010 AP NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year and the 2010 NFL Alumni Defensive Lineman of the Year.

Entering his sixth season he has 239 tackles (180 solo), 36 sacks, 1 safety, 1 interception, 2 forced fumbles and 15 passes defended.

Linebacker LaVonte David of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, is a Husker alum who definitely deserves some attention, but he’s hast reached the level yet to bump Suh as best current Nebraska alum in the League.

Northwestern – Let’s be honest, Northwestern is known more for their academics, specifically their journalism program, than their football program. But, they do have fifteen guys representing on Sundays. 8 of them rookies, 2 have only one season of experience
So it’s no surprise they don’t have a notable alum making a name for himself in the NFL.

Mike Kafka (QB) of the Minnesota Vikings is known as a career backup QB. He’s played in only 4 games in his career, throwing only 16 passes, completing 11 of them for 107 yards a two interceptions.

Ohio State – Nick Mangold (OL) New York Jets. Mangold has been a starter in the Big Apple since he entered the NFL in 2006. In his nine seasons, he’s started every game he’s played (141). The center of the O-line is a Six-time Pro Bowler (2008-2011, 2013-2014), two-time First-team All-Pro (2009,2010), one-time Second-team All-Pro (2011)

I could also make a case for Donte Whitner (DB) Cleveland Browns. One of the hardest hitting defensive players in the League, Whitner has 775 tackles (561 solo), 11 interceptions, 2 touchdowns and 10 forced fumbles.

Whiter has also made three Pro Bowls (2012,2013,2014), and was a member of the 2012 NFC Champion San Francisco 49ers.

Penn State – Tamba Hali (LB) Kansas City Chiefs. Hali is one of the most feared pass rushers in the NFL, much like the man’s who shadow he plays in with the Chiefs, the late Hall of Famer Derrick Thomas.

In nine seasons he has 512 tackles (392 solo), 79.5 sacks, 30 forced fumbles and 7 recoveries. Hali has made five Pro Bowls (2010-2014) and been a two-time Second-Team All Pro (2011,2013).

Purdue – Drew Brees (QB) New Orleans Saints. After an up and down start to his 14 year career—which included a nearly career ending shoulder injury—Brees has turned himself into one of premier quarterbacks in the League and a future sure-fire Hall of Famer.

Brees was All-B1G as a Boilermaker, and despite NFL scouts doubts, has become an HOF’er in New Orleans.

Brees has turned the New Orleans franchise from the Ain’ts to Champions winning Super Bowl 44 and the game’s MVP.
He’s made the Pro Bowl nine times, a First-Team All-Pro (2006), three-time Second-Team All-Pro (2008, 2009, 2011), two-time AP NFL Offensive Player of the Year (2008, 2011), and twice named NFC MVP (2008,2009).

Going into his fifteenth season in 2015, Brees has eight NFL records, passed for 56,033 yards, 396 touchdowns with a 95.4 passer rating.

Rutgers – Devin McCourty (DB) New England Patriots. McCourty was a key member of the Patriots secondary that helped New England win its fourth Lombardi Trophy.

McCourty was overshadowed by Darrell Revis and Brandon Browner last season, but he’s had a steadily productive career before teaming up with them for 2014. He has 388 tackles (296 solo), 17 interceptions, and 8 forced fumbles in his five-year career. He made the Pro Bowl as a rookie in 2010, and been a Second-Team All-Pro twice (2010, 2013).

Wisconsin – Joe Thomas (OL) Cleveland Browns. Arguably the best offensive lineman in the NFL Today. Thomas has never missed a game in his eight seasons, and has also played in over 7,100 consecutive snaps. Thomas has been a model of consistency and stability in a franchise that has been anything but.

He has been named to the Pro Bowl eight times (2007-2014), a five time First-Team All-Pro (2009-2011, 2013-2014), and a two-time Second-Team All-Pro (2008,2012).

With all do respect to notable Badger Alums, two-time AP Defensive Player of the Year J.J. Watt of the Texans and Super Bowl Champion Russell Wilson—who actually spent most of his collegiate career at NC State—of the Seahawks, Thomas has the most longevity and is the more accomplished Wisconsin alum, at this moment.

Top B1G Players to Watch in 2015 (Not Wearing Scarlet & Gray)

The B1G is filled with talent at more than just OSU.

We’re a month away (at the time of this post) from the start of the 2015 College Football Season. While most fans have checked their schedules several times over, received their tickets in the mail, set up their home theater’s, and caught up on nearly every preseason poll, there are several talented players around the conference you probably haven’t heard of yet (unless they’re on your team) that you also need to familiarize yourself with.

The B1G Conference has the defending National Champions in Ohio State, who may very well have the best collection of individual talent in America. But, the conference as a whole is loaded with guys who will be making a huge impact on college football this fall, and eventually playing for your favorite Sunday team very soon.

While most of the names are on the offensive side of the ball in this day and age where college football continues to look more like Arena Football, than the rugged game many of us grew up with. There are also several key players on the other side who are charged with stopping them.  So, here are the players (not playing for the Buckeyes) that you should store their name and jersey number into your memory bank.

Justin Jackson #21, SO, RB, Northwestern. A new season and new number for the Sophomore who ran for 1,187 yards at a 4.8 yard clip in twelve games during his freshman campaign in Evanston. Jackson finished the season eighth in the conference in all-purpose yards as he was also used out of the backfield in the passing game. The Wildcat program has hovered around the middle of the pack in the B1G for several seasons, a big season in 2015 from Jackson could vault them to the top of the pack in the West division.

Connor Cook #18, SR, QB, Michigan State. Aside from Cardale Jones and J.T. Barrett in Columbus, Cook could very well be the best at the position in the Conference. In 2014, the two-time 2nd Team All-Big Ten (2013,2014) QB passed for 3,214 yards and 24 touchdowns. He needs to improve on his 58 percent completion rating and losing his top target Tony Lippett to graduation won’t help. But, with a 24-3 record at the helm of Sparty, it’s likely he will find a way.

The Nittnany Lions return to glory rest on Mackerberg’s right arm. Photo Courtesy: Post-Gazette

Christian Hackenberg #14, JR, QB, Penn State. Many scouts at the Pro level say he has number one pick talent, but if you look at stats—2,977 yards with 12 touchdowns, 15 interceptions on 56 percent—wouldn’t suggest that, but another year in Head Coach James Franklin’s system should do wonders for his development and confidence. He also has his top target returning, more on him below.

Hamilton led the B1G in receptions in 2014. Photo Courtesy: Collegian.PSU.edu

DaeSean Hamilton #5, SO, WR, Penn State. As a freshman in 2014, he lead the Big Ten in receptions and another season of chemistry building with his quarterback Hackenberg should only add to his targets in 2015.

Clemet won’t be in anyone’s shadow in 2014. Photo Courtesy: Foxsports.com

Corey Clemet #6, JR, RB, Wisconsin. The Badgers lost all-time rusher Melvin Gordon to the NFL, and only return two starters on that offensive line that lead him to a historic season in Madison. But, Clemet should benefit from the extras carries he won’t share with Gordon. His 6.5 yards per carry average is second among returning running backs (Elliot 6.9 ypc). Clement rushed for 949 yards on 147 carries and 9 touchdowns in 2014.

Shilique Calhoun #89, SR, DE, Michigan State. The 2013 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of The Year registered 8 sacks and 12.5 tackles for loss in 2014 while being the focal point of attention for opposing offenses to stop. His 15.5 sacks in the past three seasons is the third highest total in the B1G, proving he’s stout against the run and pass.

Tommy Armstrong #4, JR, QB, Nebraska. The most athletic of dual threats in the conference not named Braxton Miller or J.T. Barrett. Armstrong passed for 2,695 yards and 22 touchdowns while rushing for 705 yards and another 6 touchdowns. He will be counted on the carry a bigger load in 2015 if the Cornhuskers are going to shake up the conference and bring the program back to National prominence.

Carroo should be one of the top WR’s drafted by the NFL in 2016. Photo Courtesy: Northjersey.com

Leonte Carroo #4, SR, WR, Rutgers. The 2014 1st Team All-Big Ten (by the media, ESPN.com & BTN.com) standout would’ve been one of the top WR’s drafted by the NFL in 2015, instead he opted to improve his stock at Rutgers while terrorizing the B1G for one more year. He led the Big Ten with 21 receptions for over twenty yards last season while amassing 1,086 total receiving yards and 10 touchdowns on 55 catches. His overall numbers may suffer from playing with a first year QB at starter in 2015, but he’s a special talent NFL scouts have eyes on and he will make standout plays.

Adam Breneman #81, SO, TE, Penn State. Returning from missing all of 2015 with a torn ACL. He caught 15 passes for 186 yards as a true freshman. But, the former top 100 national recruit will serve as an added weapon for QB Christian Hackenberg, who will likely need one with his top tight end from 2014 in Jesse James suiting up in West PA for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and top target Sophomore WR DeSean Hamilton drawing double teams and maximum attention from opponents.

Jake Butt #88, JR, Michigan, TE. Butt only caught 21 passes for 211 yards and 2 touchdowns in 2014, but is on the Mackey Award (Nation’s top TE) watch list and figures to play a major role in new Head Coach Jim Harbaugh’s passing attack. “The Khakis” is known for heavily utilizing the TE in his systems in both college and the pros, see Koby Fleener at Stanford and Vernon Davis with the San Francisco 49ers.

Joe Bolden #35, SR, LB, Michigan. The three-year Letterman for the Wolverines is on several preseason awards watch lists. The leading returning tackler for the Wolverines with 102, leads a defense returning five starters. New Defensive Coordinator D.J. Durkin plans to use his linebackers more to create a better pass rush hoping to get #35 in more QBs faces.

De’Vondre Campbell #26, SR, LB, Minnesota. Campbell leads a defense returning seven starters from 2014. His 75 tackles last season, was third on the Gophers and he added 6.5 tackles for loss with 2.5 sacks. At 6’5″, 241 pounds with exceptional speed, he’ll jump off your screens Saturday after Saturday. You’ll see why he’s an attractive future Sunday player.

Darien Harris #45, SR, LB, Michigan State. Harris will benefit from playing with Shilique Calhoun drawing double teams from opposing offensive lines. This will be his first season as the starter right out of the gate. In three seasons he has collected 64 tackles–48 of which game last season–(4 tackles for loss) in 40 games.

Anthony Zettel #98, SR, DT, Penn State. Zettel is the Nittany Lions leading returner in sacks (8) and interceptions (3), one of which was returned for touchdown in that instant classic against the Buckeyes in Happy Valley last season. He also added 17 tackles for loss in his breakout Junior season for a defense that was number one overall in the Big Ten.