The Big Ten conference is staring down the barrel of yet another strong season, with four teams in Mark Schlabach’s Way-Too-Early Top 25. Despite a somewhat disappointing bowl season, the Big Ten will once again be amongst the toughest conferences in the country. While names like JT Barrett (QB, Ohio State), Trace McSorely (QB, Penn State), and Saquon Barkley (RB, Penn State) will be household names to even casual Big Ten fans, the conference is brimming with talent on both sides of the ball. Here is a quick look at three players on offense that may be under the radar in the preseason, but could become headline grabbers during the fall.
- Bradrick Shaw, RB, Wisconsin:
With Corey Clement and Dare Ogunbawale off to pursue NFL careers, Shaw should assume a larger role in the backfield for the Badgers this fall. Shaw ran for 395 yards and five touchdowns as a redshirt freshman, displaying explosive speed and power. He possesses great size and has the burst to run away from defenders. Shaw has plenty of competition within his own backfield, including transfer Chris James who had a strong spring practice. With that being said, Shaw is the leader in the clubhouse to get the bulk of the carries this season. If he can continue to build on a strong freshman campaign, Shaw could emerge as one of the leading rushers in the entire conference.
- Mike Weber, RB, Ohio State:
Weber was a productive player as a freshman, rushing for 1096 yards and nine touchdowns for a Buckeye team that made it to the College Football Playoff. A four-star recruit from the Detroit-area, Weber was expected to make an impact right away, and he certainly delivered. This season he could go from solid contributor to potential All-American. With all-purpose superstar Curtis Samuel departed for the NFL, Weber will be the focal point of an Ohio State offense that should be as high octane as any in the country. They will be at or near the top of every preseason ranking, and if he can stay healthy, there is an outside chance Weber could be making a trip to New York in December as a Heisman Finalist.
- Simmie Cobbs Jr. , WR, Indiana:
This choice is off the beaten path for sure, but Cobbs Jr. is a big-time talent coming off an injury. The redshirt junior was one of the most explosive receivers in the Big Ten two seasons ago, posting 60 receptions for 1035 yards despite an inconsistent quarterback situation. Listed at 6-4 and 220 pounds, Cobbs Jr. uses that frame to box out defensive backs and pull in long passes. One of his strongest performances came against Michigan State when he made his presence felt early and often. With his size and speed, Cobbs Jr. could be a name to watch not only in December during awards season, but next spring during the NFL Draft. Indiana could be one of the surprises in the Big Ten under newly promoted head coach Tom Allen. They have an uphill battle in the loaded Big Ten East, but with playmakers like Cobbs Jr. on the outside, they have a chance to sneak up on teams.