Big Ten 2019 Pre-Spring Rankings, Depth Chart Projections, Biggest Issues

Big Ten 2019 Pre-Spring Rankings, Depth Chart Projections, Biggest Issues

Big Ten

Big Ten 2019 Pre-Spring Rankings, Depth Chart Projections, Biggest Issues

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BIG TEN WEST

7. Illinois

Step One is figuring out the quarterback situation, hoping for MJ Rivers to be the man right away, but star recruit Isaiah Williams should get every shot. Getting Miami star WR Jeff Thomas was going to be a big deal, right up until he decided to be a Cane again. Even so, the Illini corps isn’t bad. The backs are fine, and four starters return up front to go along with Alabama transfer Ritchie Petitbon.

The defensive front returns intact, and in all, only one of the top 20 tacklers – second-leading tackler LB Del’Shawn Phillips – is done. This is where the youth movement over the last few seasons under Lovie Smith has to kick in.

Final 2018 Record: 4-8 (2-7)
2018 Big Ten West Finish: 7
2018 Prespring Big Ten Conference Ranking: 14
Biggest Issue To Fix: Total Defense
Biggest Depth Chart Positive: Defensive Line
Biggest Depth Chart Negative: Quarterback
– Illinois Schedule Analysis

6. Purdue

There’s work to do. QB Elijah Sindelar has to rise up and be a steady star, and WR Rondale Moore is a special talent, but the running backs have to be replaced and more receives have to step up. The tackles are fine, but the rest of the O line needs reworking.

The hope is for the defense to rebound quickly from the bowl game disaster with experience making up for several issues. Markus Bailey leads a deep linebacking corps, and the young defensive line should grow into more of a plus. 12 of the top 14 tacklers are back.

Final 2018 Record: 6-7 (5-4)
2018 Big Ten West Finish
: T2
2018 Prespring Big Ten Conference Ranking
: 9
Biggest Issue To Fix: Pass Defense
Biggest Depth Chart Positive: Linebacker
Biggest Depth Chart Negative: Running Back
– Purdue Schedule Analysis

5. Iowa

This is where the program and the style have to come through and plug in the producers. The strong Hawkeye defensive line loses everyone – with DE Anthony Nelson turning pro early – and with star S Amani Hooker taking off early, too. The corners are back, and the linebackers should be fine, but overall, the top four tacklers are gone.

The running game that struggled at least returns all of the young backs for a solid rotation. The O line gets the tackles back, but has to rework the interior to help protect Nate Stanley. Now the star quarterback needs his targets, with NFL tight ends TJ Hockenson and Noah Fant gone along with top wide receiver Nick Easley.

Final 2018 Record: 9-4 (5-4)
2018 Big Ten West Finish: T2
2018 Prespring Big Ten Conference Ranking: 6
Biggest Issue To Fix: Rushing Offense
Biggest Depth Chart Positive: Running Back
Biggest Depth Chart Negative: Defensive Line
– Iowa Schedule Analysis

4. Nebraska

Adrian Martinez has to take the next step up and become one of the Big Ten’s three best quarterbacks. Stanley Morgan is gone from the receiving corps, but JD Spielman is back, and there are several nice-looking young targets ready to rise up. The line could use some reworking in the interior, and leading rusher Devine Ozigbo is done, but there’s an interesting group of backs to form a decent rotation.

The defense needs to be a whole lot better, and it has to get there without five of the top six tacklers. LB Mohamed Barry is a good one to work around, but the safeties need to rise up and the pass rushers have to emerge from the line. The kicking game should be among the Big Ten’s best.

Final 2018 Record: 3-8 (3-6)
2018 Big Ten West Finish
: T5
2018 Prespring Big Ten Conference Ranking
: 7
Biggest Issue To Fix: Run Defense
Biggest Depth Chart Positive: Cornerback
Biggest Depth Chart Negative: Safety
– Nebraska Schedule Analysis

3. Minnesota

The Gophers might be one decent grad transfer quarterback away from being a real player. Tanner Morgan and Zack Annexstad are okay, but … Minnesota needs a better option. However, all of the top receivers are back, and the running game should be outstanding with breakthrough star Mo Ibrahim working behind a solid-looking line.

The defense will do some shuffling, but there’s experience. If star DE Carter Coughlin moves to linebacker, the loss of Blake Cashman won’t matter. Three bowl starters are back in a young secondary, but second-leading tackler Jacob Huff is done. Losing steady veteran PK Emmit Carpenter hurts.

Final 2018 Record: 7-6 (3-6)
2018 Big Ten West Finish
: T5
2018 Prespring Big Ten Conference Ranking
: 3
Biggest Issue To Fix: Turnover Margin
Biggest Depth Chart Positive: Wide Receiver
Biggest Depth Chart Negative: Kicker
– Minnesota Schedule Analysis

2. Northwestern

Northwestern lost an NFL-caliber quarterback in Clayton Thorson and likely will upgrade with Clemson transfer Hunter Johnson. There needs to be more of a running game with the line undergoing an overhaul, but RB Isaiah Bowser is a keeper. The receiving corps doesn’t have any household names, but it’ll be solid.

The defense a great core to build around, but the depth needs to rise up fast. The top five tacklers from last year are now juniors, starting around the 1-2 linebacking punch of Blake Gallagher and Paddy Fisher. However, after the top five, five of the next seven top tacklers have to be replaced.

Final 2018 Record: 9-5 (8-1)
2018 Big Ten West Finish
: 1
2018 Prespring Big Ten Conference Ranking
: 8
Biggest Issue To Fix: Rushing Offense
Biggest Depth Chart Positive: Wide Receiver
Biggest Depth Chart Negative: Offensive Guard
– Northwestern Schedule Analysis

1. Wisconsin

It all comes down to the quarterback situation. If Alex Hornibrook is fine and past his concussion issues, look out. The receiving corps is the best the Badgers have had in a long, long time, Jonathan Taylor is the nation’s best running back, and it’s Wisconsin – the line will be fine despite the early departure of OT David Edwards and with just two starters back.

The defensive side has to replace the irreplaceable TJ Edwards at linebacker, but the combination of Chris Orr and Zack Baun will be terrific, and the defensive front three will be a killer. S D’Cota Dixon is done, but the other three starters return.

Final 2018 Record: 8-5 (5-4)
2018 Big Ten West Finish: T2
2018 Prespring Big Ten Conference Ranking: 2
Biggest Issue To Fix: Pass Rush
Biggest Depth Chart Positive: Cornerback
Biggest Depth Chart Negative: Offensive Guard
– Wisconsin Schedule Analysis

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