|BEST RETURNING QB||BEST RETURNING RB||BEST RETURNING WR|
Over the next few weeks, a panelist of Scout.com Big Ten reporters will be breaking down the conference position-by-position.
The reporters were asked to rank the top five, with five points going to the No. 1 spot, four to No. 2, three to No. 3, and so on.
1.) Sr. Brandon Scherff, Iowa: 49 points (9 first-place votes)
The Iowa native was a three-star prospect coming out of high school, but will likely be a first-round pick in next year's NFL Draft. A second team All-American last year by the Football Writers Association, Scherff has 20 career starts in his first three seasons. The Hawkeye would be the first to tell anyone he has room to grow in the passing game, but as a run blocker there aren't many better. A former high school quarterback, Scherff has drawn comparisons to former Iowa offensive tackle Robert Gallery, an Outland Trophy winner.
2.) Sr. Rob Havenstein, Wisconsin: 34 points
A second team All-Big Ten offensive tackle in 2013, Havenstein passed on the NFL to "refine" his skills. The senior has 40 career appearances and 28 starts to his name. At 6-foot-8, 330-pounds, his friends have given him the nickname, "Big Rob." If Melvin Gordon (voted the top RB in the B1G by the Scout.com publishers) even sniffs the Heisman, Havenstein will be a large part of his success. The senior has more game experience than any of colleagues up front and will be relied upon to lead the front-five. Havenstein held Jadeveon Cloweny – the top pick in this year's NFL draft – to only five tackles and one tackle for loss in the Capital One Bowl.
3.) Jr. Jack Allen, Michigan State: 19 points (1 first-place vote)
Entering just his junior season, Allen already has 24 starts to his name and was named second team All-Big Ten by the media in 2013. The only person not named Scherff to get a first-place vote by the Scout.com B1G media, Allen has tremendous potential. The center will likely be the best at the position in the Big Ten this season and could compete for the Rimington Trophy next year.
4.) Jr. Jason Spriggs, Indiana: 10 points
Just 24 games into his career, Spriggs has 24 starts for the Hoosiers. Last year he received honorable mention All-Big Ten honors from the league's coaches and media. Indiana led the Big Ten in passing last season and was 16th nationally in scoring – Spriggs was a big part of it. As the Hoosiers offense continues to improve, Spriggs stock should continue to climb.
5.) Sr. Brandon Vitabile, Northwestern – 7 points
A co-captain last season, Vitabile has a streak of 38 consecutive starts for the Wildcats. Last season he was honorable mention All-Big Ten by both the media and the coaches. A center, Vitabile has been named to the Rimington Trophy Watch List for 2014. This spring, the New Jersey native took even more of a leadership role on, urging the Northwestern offensive line to become more aggressive.
Other offensive lineman receiving votes: Kaleb Johnson – Rutgers, Taylor Decker – Ohio State, Jake Cotton – Nebraska, Miles Dieffenbach - Penn State, Mark Pelini – Nebraska, Zac Epping – Minnesota, Donovan Smith - Penn State, Dan Voltz – Wisconsin, Pat Elflein - Ohio State.
The voter panel: Mark Brennan of FightOnState.com, Ben Worgull of BadgeNation.com, Brice Marich of GopherDigest.com, Josh Harvey of BigRedReport.com, Mike Wilson of SpartanDigest.com, Nicholas Medline of PurpleWildcats.com, Jeff Svoboda of BuckeyeSports.com, Fletcher Page of IlliniPlaybook.com, Sam Hellman of ScarletReport.com, Beth Long of Scout.com, and Rob Howe of HawkeyeInsider.com.