The Big Ten as a conference will always be known for two things: Hard-nosed rushing and stingy defense.
However, the times, they are a-changin’, and young, elite coaches such as Urban Meyer at Ohio State, Bill O’Brien at Penn State and Kevin Wilson at Indiana are ushering in a new era for the league.
The game of football is expanding its horizons in terms of passing, and several wide receivers will have the opportunity to jump into the spotlight as a result.
The Big Ten’s lone 1,000-yard receiver from 2012, Allen Robinson of Penn State, is back for more. The 6-foot-3, 201-pounder hauled in 77 passes for 1,018 yards in 2012. However, he will not be catching passes from the conference’s leading signal-caller, as the Nittany Lions’ Matt McGloin graduated after tossing for a league-high 3,271 yards in 2012.
Thus, young stars such as Jared Abbrederis of Wisconsin and Kenny Bell of Nebraska may not only crack the 1,000-yard barrier themselves in 2013, but crack the top of the Big Ten receiving charts.
Abbrederis will be a 6-foot-2, 188-pound senior in the fall, and will be looking to improve upon his totals of 837 yards (good for third in the conference) and five touchdowns. Bell will be catching passes from one of the premier quarterbacks in the league in Taylor Martinez. After finishing second in the Big Ten with 863 yards as a sophomore, the 6-foot-1, 185-pound Colorado native has the chance to dominate the league’s receiving rankings.
But will they? Will Abbrederis, who may be catching passes from any one of four quarterbacks for the Badgers in 2013? Will Robinson be able to produce with an unproven gunslinger under center?
Indiana’s football program is on the rise, and in only 12 games in 2012, Cody Latimore compiled 806 receiving yards and six touchdowns as a sophomore. Another offseason to work on route-running and timing with fellow sophomore and quarterback, Cameron Coffman, may do wonders for Latimore’s numbers, his star power, and the Hoosiers’ win total.
The league’s two historical powers, bitter rivals Michigan and Ohio State each boast a great, soon-to-be senior gearing up for big-time final seasons. Jeremy Gallon led all Wolverines receivers with 829 receiving yards and only got better as the season wore on.
In Michigan’s last-gasp loss to South Carolina in the Outback Bowl, Gallon went off, collecting nine Devin Gardner passes for 145 yards and two scores. The duo has a chance to put a stamp on the powerhouse program’s record books, and it may be enough to make Gallon the best receiver in the conference in 2013.
But not if Corey Brown has anything to say about it. Ohio State’s leading receiver is not going to let a Michigan wideout best him in his final season. With quarterback Braxton Miller looking to improve his throwing numbers in 2013, Brown may not allow any Big Ten receiver to put up better numbers than he. However, he will have to make a substantial improvement upon the 60 receptions and 669 yards he piled up in 2012.
Can Brown do it? Or will Gallon steal the Big Ten spotlight?
What about the up-and-coming Hoosiers? Will Latimore help his program continue its rise from the league’s gutter?
Will the Badgers or Cornhuskers begin to move away from their trademark rushing attacks enough to allow their star wide receivers to put up elite numbers?
We have no idea as to the answers of any of these questions, but perhaps you do.
We’re just going to come right out and ask it …