Our preseason position rankings have reached the end of the line. We've looked at the entire offensive and defensive sides of the ball. Now it's time to focus on that often neglected one-third of the game: special teams.
First, we'll examine the top returning individual specialists in the league. Later on, we'll take on the more difficult task of ranking special-teams units, many of which will have new names few of us know.
But for now, these guys are pretty special:
1. Brett Maher, P/K, Nebraska, senior: Maher led the Big Ten in punting average (44.5 yards per attempt) and tied for first in most field goals made (19, out of 23 attempts). He was named the Big Ten's punter and kicker of the year. Yeah, he's pretty good.
2. Raheem Mostert, KR, Purdue, sophomore: Mostert led the FBS in kick return average at 33.5 yards per try and had a touchdown in the Little Caesars Bowl. Purdue hopes it can put his speed to work on offense as well this season.
3. Jared Abbrederis, KR/PR, Wisconsin, junior: He ranked third nationally in punt return average (15.8 yards per attempt) and was sixth in the Big Ten in kickoff returns. Abbrederis set a school record with 201 return yards in the Rose Bowl loss to Oregon.
4. Ameer Abdullah, KR/PR, Nebraska, sophomore: Abdullah finished ninth nationally in kickoff return average (29.3), including a 100-yarder against Fresno State. His 211 return yards in that game set a Huskers record.
5. Drew Basil, K, Ohio State, junior: Basil led the Big Ten in field goal percentage (16 of 19, 84.2 percent), including a streak of 12 straight at one point last season. Six of his makes came from 40 yards out or longer.
6. Jordan Hall, KR/PR, Ohio State, senior: Knocked down this list a peg or two because of his foot injury, Hall is a dynamic return man when healthy. He ranked fifth in the Big Ten in kickoff returns (26.3 ypa) and sixth in punt returns (5.8 ypa) a year ago.
7. Dan Conroy, K, Michigan State, senior: Conroy ranked third in the league in field goals made last year with 17, out of 23 attempts. He showed he was good under pressure by knocking home two tries in overtime of the Outback Bowl win over Georgia.
8. Cody Webster, P, Purdue, junior: Webster ranked just behind Maher in punting average (42.9 ypa), including a 66-yarder versus Minnesota. The big-legged Boilermaker had 13 punts sail over 50 yards.
9. Venric Mark, KR/PR, Northwestern, junior: Mark averaged 22.9 yards per kickoff return and 15.9 yards on punt returns, the latter of which would have ranked him ahead of Abbrederis had he made enough returns to qualify. He'll try to use his playmaking skills as a running back as well this year.
10. Nick Hill, KR, Michigan State, sophomore: Hill ranked fourth in the Big Ten in kickoff return average (26.3 ypa). He had five returns of 40 or more yards and a long of 67 against Indiana.