Who are the best players in college football?
It’s a question that is often debated, but Sports Illustrated decided to go a step further and rank the top 100 players at the college level heading into the 2016 season. The publication states that the rankings are “not just an assessment of what the players have done so far but how they’ll perform this fall.” Basically, if a team was started from scratch, which players would be the most coveted?
Among the 100 players on the list, 15 hail from the Big Ten. The conference’s selections are peppered throughout the ranking but give an accurate representation of the type of talent in the Big Ten.
Here are the 15 players chosen by SI, along with some excerpts about select players.
No. 5 – DB/LB Jabrill Peppers, Michigan
“How many teams can claim the fastest player on their team is a linebacker? The better question is, how many shutdown defensive backs can step in at linebacker and immediately fill a gapping (sic) void? The answer to both questions is one.”
No. 7 – DB Desmond King, Iowa
No. 14 – DB Jourdan Lewis, Michigan
No. 20 – QB J.T. Barrett, Ohio State
“Barrett has proved himself a dynamic operator of coach Urban Meyer’s offense over two seasons, but he’ll need to assume more responsibility in 2016.”
No. 32 – DT Malik McDowell, Michigan State
“McDowell will become the focus of opposing blocking schemes this fall. He’s ready for the challenge; the 6’6”, 280-pounder finished behind only Calhoun with 13 tackles for loss and also notched 4.5 sacks last season.”
No. 33 – LB Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State
No. 38 – OL Pat Elflein, Ohio State
No. 39 – LB Anthony Walker, Northwestern
“The All-America linebacker played a key role in that improvement, leading Northwestern’s fifth-ranked defense in defensive S&P+ with 20.5 tackles for loss along with 122 tackles, four sacks, a forced fumble and an interception.”
No. 61 – OL Dan Feeney, Indiana
No. 63 – TE Jake Butt, Michigan
No. 66 – RB Saquan Barkley, Penn State
“It’s nearly impossible to condense Barkley’s 2015 season down to a highlight reel simply because he did something spectacular on just about every carry. Barkley forced 60 missed tackles last season, according to Pro Football Focus, a number made even more ridiculous when considering he only carried the ball 182 times.”
No. 70 – LB Riley Bullough, Michigan State
No. 76 – LB Josey Jewell, Iowa
No. 78 – OL Dan Voltz, Wisconsin
No. 96 – DB Will Likely, Maryland
The players on this list have earned their spot, but it’s likely that a few more Big Ten stars prove they belong among the top 100 by season’s end.