Welcome to the Big Ten West conference, devy breakdown. For this article, I will focus on the entire Big Ten West. Teams are listed in the order I expect them to finish for the 2020 college season. I will give a quick recap of the 2019 season. I will discuss any coaching changes or significant roster changes. The main focus of this article will be on the offensive devy relevant players on each team. As I discuss each player, I will place an (RK#) and (##) next to each one, and this will signify my devy ranking for them on dynsastynerds.com at the time I’m writing this article and their earliest possible chance to enter the NFL draft. I will also show their current ADP per Devywatch.com. Let’s check out a loaded Big Ten conference.
P.J. Fleck led Minnesota to its most successful season in 50 years, finishing 11-2 and as Big Ten West Co-Champions. Minnesota was a real championship contender all season under the third-year head coach. They capped off their season with a win against Auburn in the Outback Bowl. They finished the season with 11 wins, most since 1904, and finished ranked 10th, their first ranked season since 2003, and highest finish since 1962.
P.J. Fleck signed an extension with the Gophers keeping him there through 2026. Kirk Ciarrocca, the offensive coordinator, left Minnesota after three seasons; that job was filled by Utah State offensive coordinator Mike Sanford Jr., who brings 15 years of coaching experience. Sanford brings a balanced offense averaging 279.08 and 152.2 rushing yards a game; this should help the stars of this offense, especially if they can build off the play-action pass.
Due to the attitude and morale, he has built at the Minnesota program, they haven’t had anyone of significance enter the transfer portal.
Tyler Johnson, considered the best WR on this team, has entered the NFL draft. Minnesota has a deep and talented WR group, so losing Johnson will open up some competition.
Players to Watch
QB (RK145) (2021) Devywatch ADP- 113.50
Morgan broke out last season and had an impressive season. He showed pocket presence, with great touch on the ball, and incredible accuracy. Entering his redshirt junior season, he is draft eligible. Morgan will need to have another impressive season if he wants to be considered a viable QB at the NFL level.
RB (RK181)(2021) Devywatch ADP- 103.10
Ibrahim had been stuck behind upperclassmen but made the most of his opportunities last year. He runs with patience and vision, which led him to an average of five yards a carry. Ibrahim has excellent contact balance and easily runs through defenders and arm tackles. His biggest weakness is he brings you almost nothing in the receiving game. He will need to improve on that to be considered in the top group. Right now, he sits toward the bottom of tier two at RB for the 2021 class.
WR (RK3) (2021) Devywatch ADP- 6.86
Bateman does it all and is my top receiver in the 2021 class. Bateman has no weakness in his game. An excellent route runner, he as elite explosive traits. He can track the ball and win 50/50 balls. Everyone was talking about Tyler Johnson last year, and it was Bateman who was the best WR on the team. Bateman should have another excellent season and should secure his spot as the top WR in the draft. Bateman, as of August 4th, has opted out of the college season. Even with not giving us another incredible college year, he will as of now stand as my top WR prospect for 2021, as there are no holes in his game.
WR (RK128) (2021) Devywatch ADP- N/A
Autman-Bell is my pick to breakout on this roster. Bateman will get the top corner match-ups every week, and Bell is good enough to beat weaker competition. He’s been a great fit for Minnesota as the WR3 and has shown off his route running. He consistently finds holes in the coverage and has some of the surest hands in college. If he can produce an even better year as number two, he could significantly raise his draft stock.
RB (RK158) (2023) Devywatch ADP- N/A
Thomas was a three-star recruit out of high school. Thomas is the entire package. After putting up incredible numbers in high school, he joined the Gophers. Thomas is elusive, and versatile lining up at WR at times in high school. While he enters a loaded RB room, I think Thomas has the skill and ability to get on the field his true freshman season and make an impact.
WR (RKN/A) (2023) Devywatch ADP- N/A
Jackson put up some impressive numbers in high school and showed off some serious talent. He showed some decent speed and good hands. Jackson, a four-star prospect, was recruited by some top schools. Minnesota should help him refine his route running. He could be the guy with Douglas in 2021.
2020 Gopher Preview
Minnesota is a legitimate contender to win the Big Ten West and the Big Ten. I expect a small regression from Wisconsin leaving the west to Minnesota. A loaded team in 2020, the Gophers will compete with Ohio State and Penn State as the best team in the Big Ten and has a chance to play in the playoffs.
Wisconsin started 2019 on fire with six straight victories before losing to unranked Illinois and getting soundly beaten by Ohio State. In a must-win game, they were able to beat Minnesota for a chance to win the Big Ten. While up early on Ohio State, they couldn’t hold off the Buckeyes and lost a second time. Wisconsin was then invited to play in the Rose Bowl, where they lost to Oregon.
Wisconsin will not see any coaching changes in 2020 both Paul Chryst, head coach, and Joe Rudolph, offensive coordinator will return for a sixth season in their respective roles.
Wisconsin did not lose any of their top-tiered players to the transfer portal.
Wisconsin’s biggest loss came as RB Jonathan Taylor entered the NFL draft. He leaves behind a massive void the Badgers will need to fill with likely multiple running backs.
Players to Watch
QB (RK124) (2022) Devywatch ADP- 111.27
Mertz showed a ton of talent in high school and was one of the best QBs in his class. He will have to battle with Jack Coan for the starting job, but I believe he can win it. Mertz has great touch on his throws mixed with incredible accuracy. He showed good pocket presence and throws a beautiful ball. If he does lose out to Coan, be prepared for Mertz to be the guy, and showcase his talent in 2021.
RB (RKN/A) (2022) Devywatch ADP- N/A
Watson seems to be the starter for the 2020 season. He came in for mop-up duty last year for Jonathan Taylor. Watson is a decent looking prospect with good size and vision. He runs very much like Taylor, and I wouldn’t be surprised to see him put up similar numbers. He lacks some in the receiving game, which is where we will see Berger, but as a run-heavy team, Watson should see a bulk of the work.
TE (RKN/A) (2021) Devywatch ADP- 119.86
Ferguson is underrated as a TE prospect in this 2021 class. He is a precise route runner with really good hands. Ferguson displays an impressive catch radius and shows he’s a truly good blocker. His biggest knock will be he hasn’t produced much in college, though I think the biggest contribution to that is how heavily Wisconsin leans on the running game. Ferguson has the skill set to be a highly coveted TE.
RB (RK139) (2023) Devywatch ADP- 115.36
Berger was a four-star recruit out of high school. Berger put up good stats in high school but didn’t do anything overly impressive. He played some WR in college and can be a threat out of the backfield. While I don’t think Berger gets the starting job, he did put on some weight, and I think he could compete for some early work in his freshman season.
2020 Badgers Preview
Wisconsin takes a bit of a step back this season. While they still have one of the best offensive lines in college and a good defense, Minnesota is a bit more explosive on offense. Wisconsin will be in the fight for the Big Ten West again this year. They have an outside chance to win the Big Ten West, but I don’t think they have enough firepower to keep up with Ohio State and Penn State in the East.
Nebraska came in with high expectations in head coach Scott Frost’s second season. Adrian Martinez was getting some early Heisman hype as well. The season did not go as planned as they lost to the top tier teams in the Big Ten and ended the season 5-7.
Scott Frost will enter his third season as head coach for the Cornhuskers, but will no longer be the offensive coordinator. Matt Lubick has been tabbed as the new offensive coordinator. He has coached as an offensive coordinator at Oregon and Washington.
After another bad season, we saw a mass exodus from Nebraska. Four-star running back Maurice Washington entered the transfer portal, four-star prospect Jaevon McQuitty also entered the transfer portal neither have committed to a new school. The biggest transfer portal loss came in WR JD Spielman, who transferred to TCU.
Nebraska did not lose any offensive players to the NFL draft.
Players to Watch
QB (RK119) (2021) Devywatch ADP- 116.95
Martinez has been up and down in the past two years. When Martinez puts it all together, he is a very talented QB. Martinez is very accurate and has a nice touch on the ball, fitting it into some extremely tight windows. He shows good pocket presence and can get out of the pocket and throw dimes on the run. His biggest knock is his injury history and being efficient every week. This could be a big season for his draft stock.
WR (RK23) (2022) Devywatch ADP- 62.55
Robinson has a ton of talent and can play both WR and RB. Robinson has the speed and hands to work anywhere on the field. As an RB, he can hit holes and make defenders miss. His biggest knock will be that he isn’t refined as WR. Nebraska uses him in so many ways he lacks the nuances of the WR position. Regardless he is a dangerous weapon with the ball in his hands.
RB (RKN/A) (2023) Devywatch ADP- N/A
Morrison’s speed and explosiveness jumps off the tape. His ability to make defenders miss not only in the open field but in a crowd is elite. He also has the speed to hit a hole and take it to the house. Morrison has a shot to be the day one starter and could be a real sleeper in 2020.
2020 Cornhuskers Preview
Nebraska has some talent on offense, and Scott Frost is a highly regarded coach. I believe Martinez turns it around this year and lives up to the hype he earned before last year. Martinez and Wandale will be good but not good enough to compete with the top of this conference.
Purdue struggled in its 2019 season. Under third-year head coach Jeff Brohm they finished the season 4-8 and 3-6 in Big Ten play, finishing tied for fifth in the west division.
Jeff Brohm will be returning for his fourth year as the head coach. Brian Brohm will be returning for his fourth season as co-offensive coordinator while sharing duties with third-year co-offensive coordinator JaMarcus Shepard.
As for the transfer portal, Purdue did not have any big name offensive players to enter.
Purdue did lose a key offensive weapon in tight end Brycen Hopkins to the NFL draft.
Players to Watch
WR (RK5) (2021) Devywatch ADP- 5.79
Rondale Moore is an absolute stud. He showed the world what he could be two years ago when he had a standout game against Ohio State. He won the Paul Hornung Award, a prestigious award given to the most versatile high-level performers in college. Moore has elite quickness and speed. His ability to score exist every time he touches the ball. Moore is in the conversation as the best WR in college right now. * Rondale Moore has decided to opt-out of the 2020 season. This is a great move for Moore as he doesn’t have anything else to prove. It would have been great to get some more tape on him, but regardless he should be a first-round pick next year.*
WR (RK25) (2022) Devywatch ADP- 24.04
Bell stepped up big last year when Rondale Moore went down with an injury. Bell is a phenomenal route runner with elite speed. He is one of the better contested-catch players in college. His hands and body control will stand out on film. Bell will have another chance to stand out this year with Moore electing to opt-out. If Bell can have another dominant season, he should move toward the top of the 2022 draft class.
RB (RKN/A) (2023) Devywatch ADP- N/A
Murphy comes to Purdue as a versatile weapon. At times he was used as a receiver in high school and can be productive in the receiving game. He had a dominant high school career that landed him 30 college offers. When running the ball, Murphy shows good visions and contact balance but lacks some speed and explosiveness. He could see some early playing time, but current RB King Doerue did have a breakout season last year and could be the lead back for 2020.
WR/TE (RKN/A) (2023) Devywatch ADP- N/A
Carr is an intriguing prospect and profiles to be a true offensive weapon at TE. He played WR in high school and was listed as a WR for some colleges that recruited him. He was also a standout basketball player as well. His athleticism is off the charts, and he showed that at the opening with great scores. Carr has great ball tracking skills and hands as well. There has been talk of being moved to TE. If this does or doesn’t happen, he is a fascinating offensive weapon moving forward.
2020 Boilermakers Preview
Purdue’s offensive will still be fun to watch. They have some intriguing second-year players and freshmen on the roster. With Moore opting out, we can focus on the rest of the roster, which could have three to four guys added to this list with a good year. However, that’s about all we can hope for. I think Purdue improves some this season, and I could see them pulling off a big upset, but they don’t have the firepower or defense to compete with the top teams.
Iowa had a surprisingly good season in 2019. They began the year with four straight wins before losing three games to ranked conference opponents. Their biggest win came against at the time unbeaten Minnesota. They finished off the season with a Holiday Bowl victory against a surging USC team. The final record of 10-3 for Iowa gave the Hawkeyes their sixth season with 10+ wins Ferentz coaching tenure.
There are no real changes to the Iowa Hawkeyes coaching staff. Kirk Ferentz will return for the 22nd season as head coach, and Brian Ferentz will return as the offensive coordinator for his fourth season.
The most notable player to enter the transfer portal for Iowa was running back Samson Evans, a player some thought highly of, but with the emergence of Tyler Goodson, he completed his transfer to Eastern Michigan.
Nate Stanley, the starting QB for the Hawkeyes for the past three seasons, entered the NFL draft.
Players to Watch
RB (RK107) (2022) Devywatch ADP- 114.73
Goodson can do it all. He has speed, vision, and can catch passes. He’s fun to watch as he is extremely elusive, making defenders miss with quick moves. His feet continually stay moving, and he can change direction without losing any speed and has the breakaway speed to score on any play.
TE (RKN/A) (2023) Devywatch ADP- N/A
Lachey was a three-sport athlete in high school. He uses his basketball skill set to win most of his contested 50-50 situations. Lachey has good speed with his relay background and shows good ball tracking skills. He will need to improve his blocking and add weight. However, he was recruited highly by Iowa, and they have a proven track record of becoming TE University.
2020 Hawkeye Preview
Iowa has been able to finish with ten wins in the past six seasons, but I see that coming to an end in 2020. For starters, they will only have a conference only schedule and will only play ten games. They have some serious questions on offense, the defense is still stout. They have the ability to cause a big upset but don’t have the offensive power to compete with the best in the Big Ten.
Illinois Fighting Illini
Illinois had an up and down 2019 season. While they struggled to get much going and finished with a losing record, they did manage a huge win against Wisconsin and a big comeback win against Michigan State. They tried to ride that momentum into bowl season but fell short and lost to Cal in the Redbox bowl.
There are no significant coaching changes for the Fighting Illini this year, as Lovie Smith will stay on in his fifth season as head coach. Rod Smith will stay on going into his third season as the offensive coordinator.
Illinois did not lose any significant devy players to the transfer portal or NFL draft last season.
Players to Watch
WR (RKN/A) (2021) Devywatch ADP- N/A
Transfer from USC put up some impressive numbers last year with Illinois. Josh has good hands and excels in contested catches. Big body and he’s not afraid to use it to go up and get the ball. A very smart route runner, he consistently does a good job finding holes in the coverage. He doesn’t have the speed to be a deep threat, but his hands and route-running could lead to a possible NFL future.
RB (RKN/A) (2021) Devywatch ADP- N/A
Epstein has a ton of talent running and catching the ball. At the same time, he has shown to be a quick and elusive runner. He has shown good vision at times and has the speed to take any touch to the house. However, Epstein has yet to play a full season. Back to back years with season-ending injuries, he’ll need to stay healthy this year and prove he can handle the workload to be considered an NFL RB.
Unfortunately, Illinois doesn’t have any standout freshman in their 2020 recruiting class.
2020 Fighting Illini Preview
Illinois is not a team I expect to make much noise in the 2020 season. While Lovie Smith has gotten some impressive wins with the Fighting Illini, he has yet to turn the program around. They’ll likely finish at the bottom of the Big Ten West.
Just a year removed from a phenomenal season which saw Northwestern play Ohio State in the Big Ten Championship game, they seemed to fall apart in 2019. They went 1-8 in Big Ten play and finished the season 3-9 overall.
Pat Fitzgerald will be entering his 15th year as the head coach of the Wildcats. Mike Bajakian will be taking over as offensive coordinator his first season. He has been an offensive coordinator for Tennessee, Cincinnati, and Boston College while also being a quarterbacks coach for the Tamp Bay Buccaneers. Bajakian will run an up-tempo offense that will balance the run and pass. This should boost the entire offense after a horrible 2019 season.
Three-star WR recruit Ben Skowronek entered the transfer portal and left to join Notre Dame.
Northwestern did not lose any players to the NFL draft.
Players to Watch
Unfortunately, when it comes to the offense, Northwestern doesn’t have any devy players to watch. With the struggles on offense, these players aren’t even being targeted in Campus to Canton leagues.
Much like their returning class, Northwestern doesn’t have any standout offensive freshmen in their recruiting class.
2020 Wildcats Preview
It seems strange the dip this team has taken over a year. Yet I don’t see much of an improvement this year compared to 2019. While they have some good defensive players that should be able to make plays, their offense isn’t up to par with the rest of this conference and will struggle to win games.
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