Tireless football previewer/prognosticator Phil Steele has come out with his preseason All-Big Ten teams, and when Steele gives predictions we usually lean forward in our chairs a little.
His eponymous preseason magazine claims to be the most accurate guide in the marketplace, and to his credit Steele did correctly forecast Nebraska and Wisconsin to make the Big Ten title game last season. You can find his preseason all-conference teams -- which go four deep on offense and defense -- on his blog here.
There are the obvious first-team choices, like Ohio State's Braxton Miller at quarterback, Northwestern running back Venric Mark, Penn State receiver Allen Robinson, Michigan offensive tackle Taylor Lewan and Nebraska guard Spencer Long on offense. (Steele goes with 12-man units on both offense and defense, with three receivers and two running backs on offense and four linebackers on defense). He chose Nebraska running back Ameer Abdullah for the first team, with Ohio State's Carlos Hyde and Wisconsin's Melvin Gordon as his second-team backs. Incoming Michigan true freshman Derrick Green makes an appearance on the fourth team.
Steele has Taylor Martinez as his second-team quarterback, followed by Michigan's Devin Gardner on the third team. I'm surprised to see Ohio State's Devin Smith at second-team receiver, ahead of teammate Corey Brown, who only made the third team but was more productive than Smith last year and much better this spring. Steele also puts Wisconsin's Jacob Pedersen and Iowa's C.J. Fiedorowicz as his first- and second-team tight ends, ahead of Penn State's Kyle Carter. I question that choice.
On defense, there are the no-brainer first-team selections you'd expect: Ohio State linebacker Ryan Shazier, Michigan State linebacker Max Bullough, Wisconsin linebacker Chris Borland, Ohio State cornerback Bradley Roby and Michigan State corner Darqueze Dennard. Steele's first-team defensive line is Michigan State's Marcus Rush, Northwestern's Tyler Scott, Minnesota's Ra'Shede Hageman and Purdue's Bruce Gaston, while Illinois' Jonathan Brown rounds out the four-man linebacker crew. The first-team defense includes four Michigan State players (safety Isaiah Lewis is the other) and three Buckeyes (safety Christian Bryant joins Shazier and Roby).
Penn State's Deion Barnes -- the reigning Big Ten freshman of the year -- only makes the second team at defensive end. I think I'd rather have him than the steady Rush. Steele also chooses Ohio State defensive end Adolphus Washington for the second team and fellow Buckeyes sophomore Noah Spence for the fourth team, though both have the potential to do more than that. Surprisingly, Steele also has Ohio State's Curtis Grant -- a guy with a lot to prove -- as a second-team linebacker.
Ohio State leads the way with six selections on the first-team offense and defense, followed by Michigan State with those four defenders. Nebraska, Northwestern and Wisconsin have three first-team picks each. Michigan has only two total players on Steele's first two teams, with Jeremy Gallon a second-teamer at receiver. Iowa and Indiana do not have any first-team selections on offense or defense, though the Hawkeyes' Jordan Cotton was named first-team kick returner.