The 2016 season is fast approaching, which means it’s time to start previewing players who could be in the discussion for college football’s most prestigious awards when the season is all said and done.
The preseason watch list for the Maxwell Award (given to the nation’s best offensive player) was revealed on Tuesday and plenty of Big Ten players made the list.
Here’s a look at the Big Ten players who were named to the Maxwell Award preseason watch list, along with a preview of what to expect from them this season.
Tommy Armstrong, quarterback, Nebraska: Armstrong is essentially a four-year starter and is poised for his best season yet after throwing for 3,030 yards and 22 touchdowns last season. He will have to cut down on his turnovers, but Armstrong will have a full repertoire of weapons to throw to.
Saquon Barkley, running back, Penn State: Barkley finished fourth in the Big Ten in rushing last season as a freshman with 1,076 yards. He should be in store for a better sophomore year with an improved offensive line blocking for him.
J.T. Barrett, quarterback, Ohio State: It’s finally Barrett’s time to shine in Columbus, Ohio after competing with Cardale Jones last season. The dual-threat quarterback will have to lead a Buckeyes offense that lost some serious star power from last season.
C.J. Beathard, quarterback, Iowa: Beathard played a supporting role behind Iowa’s powerful running game last season. He could assume a featured role in the offense this season. In fact, his offensive coordinator gave him some serious praise earlier in the summer.
Jake Butt, tight end, Michigan: Easily the best tight end in the Big Ten, Butt was the only tight end in the conference to catch more than 50 passes last season. He will serve as a reliable weapon for whoever Michigan places behind center.
Jehu Chesson, wide receiver, Michigan: Chesson came on the scene late in 2015, but his entrance was emphatic. Chesson caught 10 passes for 207 yards and four touchdowns during Michigan’s 48-41 victory over Indiana in mid-November. He catalyzed that game into a strong finish to the season and might enter 2016 as Michigan’s No. 1 target.
Corey Clement, running back, Wisconsin: Clement’s 2015 season didn’t go nearly as well as expected. Clement rushed for 949 yards in 2014 as Melvin Gordon’s backup, but suffered a sports hernia injury during Wisconsin’s season opener and only rushed for 221 yards in 2015. Clement will be a pivotal part of the Badgers offense, which hopes to regain its powerful ground game.
Simmie Cobbs, wide receiver, Indiana: Cobbs broke out during his sophomore season, catching 60 passes for 1,035 yards and four touchdowns. Quarterback Nate Sudfeld is gone, but Cobbs will remain a key piece of Indiana’s fast-paced aerial attack.
Chris Godwin, wide receiver, Penn State: Godwin enters his junior season as arguably the best wide receiver in the Big Ten after catching 69 passes for 1,101 yards and five touchdowns last season. Quarterback Christian Hackenberg is gone, but Godwin should see better numbers by play volume alone. The Nittany Lions are implementing a fast-paced offense that could propel Godwin to a tremendous season.
Justin Jackson, running back, Northwestern: Jackson practically carried Northwestern’s offense last season, finishing second in the Big Ten with 1,418 rushing yards. Jackson will likely be the focal point of the Wildcats offense once again and could break the 1,500-yard plateau this season.
Mitch Leidner, quarterback, Minnesota: Leidner was solid for the Golden Gophers a year ago, throwing for 2,701 yards and 14 touchdowns. Minnesota could be a dark horse in the Big Ten West with a strong season from Leidner.
Wes Lunt, quarterback, Illinois: Lunt will be the top player on the Illini offense this season with tailback Josh Ferguson out of the fold. He threw for 2,761 yards and 14 touchdowns last season.