Today Phil Steele, college football preview magazine guru and lover of the smallest fonts known to man, released his preseason All-Big Ten teams for the upcoming season. Since there's not much going on right now (outside of the Big Twelve realignment saga, which affects Michigan only tangentially, if at all), I'll take a look at Steele's picks and break down some of the choices:
|QB||Denard Robinson||Michigan||DE||John Simon||Ohio State|
|RB||Montee Ball||Wisconsin||DT||Jonathan Hankins||Ohio State|
|RB||Rex Burkhead||Nebraska||DT||Kawann Short||Purdue|
|WR||Roy Roundtree||Michigan||DE||William Gholston||Michigan State|
|WR||Keenan Davis||Iowa||LB||Mike Taylor||Wisconsin|
|WR||Jared Abbrederis||Wisconsin||LB||Gerald Hodges||Penn State|
|TE||Jake Stoneburner||Ohio State||LB||Jonathan Brown||Illinois|
|C||Travis Frederick||Wisconsin||LB||Chris Borland||Wisconsin|
|OG||Chris McDonald||Michigan State||CB||Johnny Adams||Michigan State|
|OG||Spencer Long||Nebraska||CB||Micah Hyde||Iowa|
|OT||Ricky Wagner||Wisconsin||S||Isaiah Lewis||Michigan State|
|OT||Taylor Lewan||Michigan||S||CJ Barnett||Ohio State|
|K||Brett Maher||Nebraska||KR||Raheem Mostert||Purdue|
|P||Brett Maher||Nebraska||PR||Jared Abbrederis||Wisconsin|
The Michigan players to make the cut are:
- 1st Team -- QB Denard Robinson, WR Roy Roundtree, OT Taylor Lewan
- 2nd Team -- RB Fitzgerald Toussaint, LB Kenny Demens, CB JT Floyd, S Jordan Kovacs
- 3rd Team -- OG Patrick Omameh, DE Craig Roh, PR Jeremy Gallon
- 4th Team -- WR Jeremy Gallon, S Thomas Gordon
In terms of who's on the list, Steele's assessment of Michigan's players is pretty fair (except for Roy Roundtree; it's impossible to justify putting him as one of the best receivers in the Big Ten after his drop in production last year). Denard, Lewan, Fitz, Demens, Floyd, and Kovacs are all deserving of being first or second team players, while Omameh, Roh, Gallon and Gordon are solid starters and are worthy of mention as a third or fourth team type player. As for who isn't on the list, Jake Ryan stands out to me as the biggest omission -- Ryan was one of the best players on Michigan's defense last year and is excellent at rushing the passer and stopping the run as the speedy SAM linebacker for the Wolverines. In my opinion, there's no way that there are 16 better linebackers in the Big Ten than Ryan, and there could be a case made that there are no better linebackers at Michigan (even Demens, who merited a second team selection). There are probably a few other guys that could make a case for a fourth team spot, but I can't think of any big snubs.
Other thought about the rest of the conference:
- The Big Ten is still a dual-threat quarterback league: all four selections to the All-Big Ten teams -- Denard Robinson, Braxton Miller, Taylor Martinez and Nathan Scheelhaase -- are mobile quarterbacks, and seven of the ten presumed starting quarterbacks are dual-threats (there are only ten because no one knows what's going to happen at Purdue or Penn State).
- Michigan State's defense already figured to be one of the best in the country, so it's no surprise that they placed a lot of players on this list, but six of the top 24 defensive players in the conference are Spartans according to Phil Steele -- Gholston, Adams, and Lewis are first-teamers and Max Bullough, Denicos Allen, and Marcus Rush are on the second team. I'm still mad that Texas A&M wasn't able to hire away Pat Narduzzi; he and Dantonio have built the best defense in the Big Ten.
- Wide receiver is probably the weakest position group in the Big Ten, as none of the guys on the first or second teams figure to be All-America potential. There were some elite talents in the conference last year: Marvin McNutt, BJ Cunningham, AJ Jenkins, DeVier Posey and Junior Hemingway were all excellent receivers, but their eligibility has expired. It's time for a new cast of receivers to step it up in the Big Ten, but there look to be few players with high potential.
- Wisconsin should lock down the Leaders Division -- the Badgers have seven first-team players, and as Ohio State is banned from postseason play, there are only three combined players from the other teams that can play in the Big Ten Championship, Illinois, Indiana, Purdue, and Penn State. There's plenty of talent for Danny O'Brien when he takes over as the Wisconsin quarterback, so even though he's no Russell Wilson, it will probably be an easy road to the Leaders crown.