After a month hiatus I'm back with my first Road to the Rose Bowl blog of the summer.
Today I give my preseason All-Big Ten first team. This will be interesting to look back on come December/January, when I can come back and see how accurate my picks were, or face the far more likely scenario of seeing just how 'full of you know what' I am.
Anywho, without further ado:
2009 Preseason All-Big Ten 1st Team
QB: Juice Williams - Illinois
This was a hard choice, and a pick that could take some flack. It's either all or nothing for Illinois in 2009. Everyone knows the story on the Fighting Illini, they are loaded with talent on paper, but can't seem to translate that into on the field W's. I believe the 2009 Illini squad will more resemble the 07 squad (not quite that successful, however) than the freefall that was the 2008 team. Juice will be relieved of some of the pressure this year as he now has two experienced players in the backfield in Daniel Dufrene and Jason Ford. Juice also has the luxury of throwing to arguably one of the most talented returning wide receivers in the country in Arrelious Benn. I look for the Illini to return to having a winning record, and in the process Williams should put up lofty numbers in his senior year.
RB: Evan Royster - Penn State
RB: John Clay - Wisconsin
Running back was a major strength for the Big Ten in 2008 and although the conference loses the likes of Shonn Greene, Javon Ringer, Beanie Wells, and Tyrell Sutton----the cupboard is not bare. Amongst the aforementioned stars Evan Royster put up a quiet 1,236 yards and 12 touchdowns. Royster should put up similar or better numbers this year. Wisconsin's Clay had a strong first campaign in 2008 and will put up much better numbers in '09 as he becomes the feature back after RB P.J. Hill decided to forego a year of eligibility to enter the NFL Draft (reasons unknown).
OL: Bryan Bulaga - Iowa
OL: Justin Boren - Ohio State
OL: Stefen Wisniewski - Penn State
OL: Joel Foreman - Michigan State
OL: Kyle Calloway - Iowa
The Iowa offensive line should be one of the tops in the nation, anchored by Bulaga and Calloway. Wisniewski and Foreman should have solid years on the offensive front while former Michigan transfer Justin Boren should have an immediate impact for his new team the Ohio State Buckeyes.
TE: Garrett Graham - Wisconsin
Graham should have a good year if Wisconsin can find a reliable quarterback. But, watch out for the oft-injured Tony Moeaki who could finally have a breakout year---barring injury.
WR: Arrelious Benn - Illinois
WR: Eric Decker - Minnesota
These are really no brainer picks as Benn and Decker are not only the top two WRs in the Big Ten but also amongst the best in the country.
DL: Corey Wooten - Northwestern
DL: Jared Odrick - Penn State
DL: Jammie Kirlew - Indiana
DL: Thaddeus Gibson - Ohio State
Gibson is the Buckeye's returning sack man having registered five in 2008. He should increase the number in 2009 as he begins to maximize his potential during his junior campaign. Kirlew and teammate Greg Middleton could be bright spots on an Indiana team that should see its fair share of gloomy moments this season.
LB: Navorro Bowman - Penn State
LB: Pat Angerer - Iowa
LB: Sean Lee - Penn State
It feels weird not seeing James Laurinaitis on this list, but after his seemingly decade long run of dominating Big Ten offenses, Laurinaitis is finally in the NFL. Which opens up preseason and postseason accolades for other Big Ten linebackers. It is hard to leave Michigan State's Greg Jones off this list but he just barely gets bumped to the second team. Angerer led the Big Ten in interceptions (5) as a middle linebacker last season. Bowman was the conferences best tackler and his teammate Lee missed all of 08 after getting injured in the spring. Lee, the most hyped of all, should have a monster year if he can return to pre-injury form.
S: Tyler Sash - Iowa
S: Kurt Coleman - Ohio State
CB: Traye Simmons - Minnesota
CB: Amari Spievey - Iowa
Iowa's defensive backfield should be solid with two first team all-Big Ten'ers in Spievey and Sash. Sash tied teammate Pat Angerer for the Big Ten's lead in intereceptions with five. While Spievey (second team all-Big Ten last season) is set to break onto the national scene in 2009 after having four interceptions and improving every game in 08. Simmons returns to the Gophers after being a second team selection last year. While Ohio State's Coleman need to play an even bigger role on the OSU defense that loses plenty of stars to the NFL, including cornerback Malcolm Jenkins.
K: Brett Swenson - Michigan State
P: Zoltan Mesko - Michigan
KR: David Gilreath - Wisconsin
PR: Ray Small - Ohio State