Big Ten Football Q&A: 2013 Skill Position Leaders, Unceasing Futility and More

Adam JacobiBig Ten Football Lead WriterNovember 28, 2012

Allen Robinson leads a talented group of returning skill position players for Penn State.
Allen Robinson leads a talented group of returning skill position players for Penn State.Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Every week (or so) on The Big Ten Blog, we will feature questions from the B/R inbox, Twitter and email. Do you have questions for next week's Q&A? Send them to Big Ten lead blogger Adam Jacobi via the B/R inbox, on Twitter @Adam_Jacobi or at

Hello again, friends. Let's talk Big Ten football, shall we?

@adam_jacobi Psu returning best skill position players?

— Will Lloyd (@Willll5013) November 28, 2012


This is a fine question, and I'm glad you asked. Penn State has a dynamic core of returning talent that is going to help it fight through the next few years of sanctions. Bill Belton has a ton of promise as a running back, Allen Robinson is the best wideout in the Big Ten by any conceivable metric (and was only a sophomore this year), Kyle Carter was dynamite at tight end, and there might even be a little bit of depth in the backfield next season.

On defense, we really like Adrian Amos, who can play anywhere in the secondary. It'd be nice if Stephon Morris were coming back at corner, but he's not.

All in all, we're going to put Penn State at No. 2 in the conference in terms of returning skill position talent, in fact, ever so slightly ahead of Nebraska (thanks to TEs Kyler Reed and Ben Cotton finally graduating). Second place is really good! Penn State fans should be happy about that. 

But if you want to know which team has the best returning skill position players for 2013, it's Ohio State. You name a skill position on offense, and Ohio State is bringing back high levels of talent, production and depth. Running back shapes up beautifully, especially with Jordan Hall set to return after redshirting this year—to say nothing of Carlos Hyde's return. Wideout features Corey Brown and Devin Smith back in action with plenty of depth behind them. The tight end spot, if you want to consider it a skill position (I do), features a pair of sure-handed bruisers in Jeff Heuerman and Nick Vannett.

On defense, we'll have to see whether safeties C.J. Barnett and Christian Bryant return for their senior seasons. They're fast and physical enough to play at the next level, but their football IQ in space sometimes leaves plenty to be desired. Bradley Roby looks NFL-ready now at corner; as a sophomore he probably won't leave early unless someone tells him he's going in the top five in the draft or something.

Michigan's also got a strong set of skill position players back. We'd like to like Purdue (but we don't). Michigan State also has serious potential to compete for the league's best, but there's plenty of uncertainty with the NFL draft there. So it's Ohio State as the best in the Big Ten, Penn State second, then a host of Big Ten teams mashed up right below.


@adam_jacobi Greg Davis?

— NDEddieMac (@NDEddieMac) November 28, 2012


So, uh...

@adam_jacobi to add to @ndeddiemac's question: Really? REALLY?

— FLENKER (@rod_leviathan) November 28, 2012


— Kevin M. James (@drealkevinjames) November 28, 2012 things are going just great in Iowa City these days, huh?

We'll just say this and then move on: Those coaches in Iowa City are only doing what Kirk Ferentz wants them to do. That's not a Ferentz-specific jab, that's just how it works with assistants and head coaches.


@adam_jacobi on a scale from 1-1G, how #B1G is Ohio State missing their shot at the BCSCG for the 2011 Gator Bowl?

— Caitlyn Shepard (@bramenoodle) November 28, 2012


First of all, "How #B1G on a scale of 1 to 1G" is beyond stellar and you deserve all the good things in life for that, so I'm glad you asked.

Past that, my initial response is that it's one of the most #B1G things imaginable. It's as #B1G as a fumble in the mud on a game-winning drive. It's as #B1G as losing to a MAC team. 

That all said, it's worth remembering that there's a prevailing school of thought among Ohio State fans (always a dangerous way to open a sentence, but hear me out) that the NCAA was going to draw blood in 2012 regardless of whether Ohio State self-imposed in 2011. Here's more on that from Eleven Warriors:

 If Ohio State had self-imposed a bowl ban on the football program a season ago, it wasn’t guaranteed to be ineligible this season. In fact, opinions on the matter are split.

The NCAA has refused to comment on the subject, saying the association doesn’t deal with hypotheticals. Experts on the inner workings of intercollegiate athletics have said it is nearly impossible to conceive how the NCAA would have ruled.

One part about the case that is often forgotten is Ohio State’s status as a repeat violator due to the violations committed under former men’s basketball coach Jim O’Brien. Combined with the severity of the football program’s violations and a look back at history – Alabama and USC both received multi-year bans – one can make the case for the NCAA giving the Buckeyes a ban in 2012 even with a self-ban in 2011. 

Now, that seems to strain plausibility. It certainly shouldn't have acted as a deterrent for self-imposing in 2011; "well, they might punish in 2012 anyway, so YOLO!" is not sound administrative policy. But it's absolutely worth noting that yes, the NCAA is horribly unpredictable.

Thus it is not the most #B1G thing ever that Ohio State is sitting at home this year. It's #B1G though. It's very, very #B1G.