Spring practice has allowed some players to establish themselves as the new cream of the crop on rosters across the Big Ten. While summer might bring another shake-up with the arrival of more freshmen and transfers, it’s time to take a look at the best players on campus for each school right now.
After rolling through the top-10 lists for Big Ten East Division teams last week, now it's time for the West. Up next: Purdue.
1. RB Markell Jones: The Boilermakers appear to have a bonafide playmaker on their hands, and Jones isn’t just a threat as a rusher. The sophomore did lead the ground attack last season with 875 yards, but he also finished third on the team in receptions while finishing with 11 touchdowns -- more than double the total of anybody else on the roster.
2. DT Jake Replogle: The senior does a lot of thankless work in the trenches, and he also doesn’t get much acclaim around the league thanks in part to the rebuilding job going on defensively with the program. But Replogle quietly racked up 14 tackles for a loss last season, and with some veteran support around him this fall, he could top that in his final campaign with Purdue.
3. QB David Blough: Stability has been hard to come by for Purdue at the most important position on the field, but Blough has shown the kind of potential that could fix that problem moving forward. There were obviously some rough stretches during his freshman campaign, but in completing nearly 58 percent of his throws with 10 touchdown passes, Blough might just provide the building block the program needs offensively.
4. DB Leroy Clark: Nobody was in on more plays defensively than the steady veteran last season, with Clark piling up 88 tackles to complement his 11 passes defended. With Big Ten offenses increasingly trying to air the football out and test opposing secondaries, having a reliable defensive back like Clark could prove invaluable for the Boilermakers.
5. LB Danny Ezechukwu: The junior showed that he could stuff the stats sheet in just about every imaginable way a year ago, finishing second on the team in tackles, chipping in a sack, an interception, a forced fumble and a recovery along the way. Assuming those numbers across the board get a bump with an extra year of experience, Ezechukwu might find himself in line for all-conference honors.
6. WR DeAngelo Yancey: The offense needs a new primary target for the passing game with Danny Anthrop now gone, and Yancey appears to be at the head of the line. The senior has the size at 6-foot-2 and the athleticism to average double-digit yards per catch, and odds are Blough will be looking his way often this fall.
7. DE Evan Panfil: Purdue’s pass rush wasn’t all that terrifying a year ago, and nobody finished with more sacks than Panfil with four. But if Panfil can continue to improve and get a little more help around him up front, the 6-foot-5 senior should be able to build on that campaign and give the Boilermakers more teeth up front.
8. LB Ja'Whaun Bentley: If the junior is truly healthy and ready to anchor the defense again, there’s little doubt he’ll shoot up the rankings in a hurry thanks to his athleticism, football intelligence and maturity. One of the most productive freshmen in the league two seasons ago before an ACL tear limited him to five games last year, Bentley has the potential to be not only Purdue’s best defender, but also an all-conference contender.
9. DE Gelen Robinson: Even if sacks were somewhat hard to come by, Robinson was still an active presence in the opposing backfield and created some problems there with 9 tackles for loss to finish second on the team in that category. The Boilermakers could certainly use more of that as Robinson heads into his junior campaign.
10. RB D.J. Knox: Another dual-threat offensive weapon, Knox might be a bit undersized but his speed and versatility helps make up for it. The junior had more than 100 touches as a rusher, caught 26 passes and was also thrown in the mix on special teams, and Purdue will surely continue to find new ways to get him involved.