There are a few possibilities here for the Buckeyes. Marcel
Frost and Rory Nicol are battling for the
starting tight end job and whoever wins it should be in for a productive year.
Nicol came in as a highly touted recruit but hasn’t seen the field very
much thanks in large part to a foot injury that knocked him out for the entire
2005 season. Frost has a nice combination of size and speed and was productive
when asked to play last year because of injuries. Also watch for wide receivers
Brian Robiskie and Brian
Hartline. Robiskie has a nice frame and has nice potential as a possession
type receiver and will likely see time in larger sets. Hartline has playmaker
speed and should start showing off his skill this year after making a full recovery
from a leg injury.
There aren’t many sleeper types here but there are several
experienced players that have the possibility of having breakout seasons. Wide
receiver Adrian Arrington is a player I think could play a big role in the offense
as the season progresses. He offers the offense a nice sized, possession type
receiver to help balance the deep threats of Mario
Manningham and Steve Breaston. Furthermore,
if reports of his increased speed are accurate, he may be able to stretch defenses
at times himself. This also may the year Breaston finally stays healthy all
year and becomes a consistent big play threat on offense. Tight end Tyler
Ecker is coming off a solid spring and could really shine under offensive
coordinator Mike DeBord (who loves to use the position). Also, the team is hoping
one of the interior lineman can emerge. Guard Adam
Kraus is a player I really think will take it to the next level this year
after getting his feet wet in 2005. Coach Carr had nothing but praise for center
Mark Bihl, who may be the key to the offensive
The Hawkeyes have to replace Ed Hinkel
and Clinton Solomon at wide receiver, so keep
an eye on this position. I expect Herb Grigsby
to emerge as one of the key receivers in the offense. Grigsby caught 25 passes
for 335 yards last year (three touchdowns) and may be the team's best deep threat.
Also keep an eye on red shirt freshman Trey Stross,
who was highly rated coming into Iowa. Speaking of stud recruits, tackle Dace
Richardson will take over at left tackle and could thrive early.
With the exception of quarterback, much is already known about
the skill positions for the Nittany Lions. They are exceptional. The Nits do,
however, have to replace four offensive lineman. Fortunately they have some
young talented players on the interior. Center A.Q.
Shipley and guard Greg Harrison figure
to be the rising stars of the unit. Shipley was moved from defense and all reports
are that he has fit like a glove at center. He has already claimed the starting
job and much is expected of him in 2006. Harrison is still fighting for a guard
spot but I anticipate at some point this year he will take over there. He may
not be a star right off the bat, but expect to see flashes of what is to come
in the future.
The Boilermakers have few players I think could breakout this year.
First and foremost, quarterback Curtis Painter
is poised to have a really good year.
After earning his experience the hard way in 2005, he looked very sharp in
the spring. He has mobility, a nice set of targets, and a system that he fits
well in. Wide receiver Greg Orton is a player
I have really liked since I saw him in high school. Everyone raves about teammate
Selwyn Lymon but I honestly think Orton isn’t
that far behind in terms of raw ability. He’s 6-4, has excellent body
control, and the athletic ability to make plays. The only thing holding him
back is consistently catching the football. Also watch for tight end Dustin
Keller, who is a big man with excellent athleticism.
Look for a breakout player at wide receiver with almost all of the production
from last season gone. Marcus Randle El and Paul
Hubbard are two top candidates though they have very different styles. The
5-10 Randle-El is lighting in a bottle, while the 6-4 Hubbard is bigger and
has a bit more polish. Also look for one of the interior lineman to really emerge.
Sophomore Andy Kemp has had the staff excited
since he stepped foot on campus last year and will start in 2006. Kraig
Urbik did a solid job at right tackle last season and will move inside to
handle the guard spot. At 6-6, 320 pounds, Urbik has the tools to be a mauler
in the run game. Also watch for true freshman wide receiver Lance
Most of the offense returns intact except for the critical
position of running back in the Gopher offense. Now that Gary
Russell will for sure not be back this year, a breakout player is needed
at that position. Expect Amir Pinnix to be
a 1,000 yard rusher after impressing last season. In the two springs prior to
this year's, two the Gopher back was named Outstanding Player of the Spring
Game. Injuries have prevented him from fulfilling the promise he has shown throughout
his career. Last year Pinnix rushed for 467 yards off 78 carries (6.0 average),
but he must show durability this year to provide the Gophers with the kind of
rushing attack that they've become accustomed to. In a system that usually likes
to use two backs, expect JUCO transfer Brylee Callender
to get his share of carries. Freshman Terrence
Sherrer could compete for carries as well. Sherrer was impressive every
time I watched Cincinnati Colerain last year and is tailor made to play in the
zone blocking scheme.
There are several players I think could have breakout years for
the Spartans. Two offensive lineman, Roland Martin and Jesse
Miller will be counted on to replace two departed starters on the right
side. Martin was a big time offensive line prospect the Spartans landed a few
years back, and he now gets his first chance to start at guard. He has all the
tools to be special. The staff is also excited about Miller at right tackle.
The 6-6, 300 pound Miller brings excellent mobility to a system that needs big
men that can move. Expect one of the receivers to step up for the loss of Kyle
Brown. JUCO transfer Devin Thomas is a
player to watch for the future. He has a knack for making plays and has really
polished his game at Coffeyville Junior College after playing in a run heavy
system in high school.
Wide Receiver Kim Thompson has
the natural ability to be a star but hadn’t quite put it together in prior
seasons. With the departure of starters Mark Philmore and Jonathan
Fields, it is now or never for Thompson to step up. At 6’4, he possesses
great size and is nimble for his height. The Wildcats also have another player
that could fit the bill as a breakout performer. Although Tyrell
Sutton is the star of the offense, many forget Terrell
Jordan was the penciled in as the starting running back for 2005. After
sustaining a hamstring injury, Jordan redshirted the 2005 season and is back
for a 5th year run. If he can return to pre-injury form, Sutton will have a
quality backup to help ease the burden in the backfield.
This is an offense in great need of some breakout players after
finishing 10th in the conference last season. There are some young players that
give the Illini hope. Wide receiver Derrick McPhearson
got his first taste of action last season and is now set to take on a starting
job. He will be expected to make big plays, something the young man is definitely
capable of. Left tackle Akim Millington was
set to be a starter at Oklahoma before
transferring to Illinois. Most do not know this young man, but by season's end,
they surely will. Also keep an eye on incoming freshman quarterback Isiah
Williams. If Tim Brasic slips up during
the year, the Illini won’t hesitate to try out “the future”
in his place.
The Hoosiers are searching for answers at running back, and there
are a few options capable of breaking out. Former wide receiver Marcus
Thigpen will get a crack at the job. He is very undersized, but is also
very explosive. The job might end up in the hands of Demetrius
McCray, who is also undersized but is equally electric. Notre
Dame transfer Chauncey Incarnato may be
the Hoosiers best lineman, but it is unclear where he will figure in at this
point. If he finds a starting job, he could blossom into a standout player.