- Brian Bennett, ESPN Staff Writer
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It's that time of year again. Time when we rank our preseason top 25 players in the Big Ten, based on past performance and future potential.
Paring the list to 25 is a difficult task. Think about it: The All-Big Ten first team, including specialists is exactly 25 players. Only we're not bound by positions here. So these are the best of the best, in our view.
Our first batch of players will be revealed shortly, but we wanted to recognize some of the guys who just missed the cut. Here were the toughest 10 omissions, in alphabetical order:
Wisconsin S Michael Caputo: A difficult omission here for the All-Big Ten safety, and one we may end up regretting. We decided to go with another Badgers defensive player instead (foreshadowing alert).
Maryland K Brad Craddock: Sure, he's a kicker, but Craddock did win the Lou Groza Award last year and is an immense weapon for the Terps. Plus, Randy Edsall raves about his leadership. Seriously.
Michigan State LB Ed Davis: Spartans coaches talk about Davis as one of the best linebackers in recent program history. He doesn't put up huge numbers, which hurts his case for awards and rankings like these.
Ohio State G Pat Elflein: Nothing wrong with this All-Big Ten performer's game. Guards tend to be devalued compared to tackles and centers, but Urban Meyer wouldn't trade this guy for just about anybody.
Rutgers DT Darius Hamilton: A playmaker on the interior, Hamilton had six sacks and 11.5 tackles for loss last year. Rutgers had some trouble stopping the run against top-shelf Big Ten teams last year, though that's certainly not all on his shoulders.
Indiana RB Jordan Howard: He ran for nearly 1,600 yards at UAB last year and now will tote it behind a talented Hoosiers offensive line. Howard may challenge for the league rushing title, but we want to see how his game translates to better competition first.
Penn State DT Austin Johnson: The 325-pounder is already an elite run stuffer and could be ready to really blow up this year in State College. NFL scouts are drooling over him.
Iowa DE Drew Ott: He was a tough guy to leave off, not only because of his eight sacks last year but also because of his outsized personality (I love it when players, uh, come out of their shell). But Ott tailed off at the end of last year, and the defensive linemen in this league are stout.
Ohio State LB Joshua Perry: He led the national champs in tackles last year and is a terrific team leader. We could have put about 20 Buckeyes on the top 25 list if we wanted to go that route.
Nebraska WR/PR De'Mornay Pierson-El: He's already an all-world punt returner and perhaps deserves a spot in the Top 25 for that skill alone. If he develops as a wide receiver, he'll make his absence here look silly.
18dMitch Sherman and Brian Bennett