Top five returning football players in the Big Ten
RB Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin
You can’t talk Wisconsin without talking about Taylor, a running back who is a preseason Heisman Trophy candidate. Taylor is the biggest reason the Badgers’ run game is always a threat, but he can’t do it all without a strong offensive line. He was the Big Ten’s Running Back of the Year in 2018 and became the fourth Badgers running back to win the Doak Walker Award as the top back in the nation. He was also the program’s 10th unanimous All-American after leading the nation with 2,194 rushing yards for an average of 168.8 a game. Taylor averaged 7.5 yards a carry and scored 16 touchdowns as a sophomore.
WR Rondale Moore, Purdue
There might not be a more exciting player in the Big Ten than Moore. He led the nation in receiving last year and had 103 catches, second-most by a Big Ten player, and a conference-leading 1,164 yards. He also rushed for 203 yards on 18 carries and returned punts and kicks. Moore was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year and Receiver of the Year and he also received the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player.
DE Chase Young, Ohio State
Young is No. 2 on ESPN NFL Draft analyst Mel Kiper’s 2020 Big Board. The 6-foot-5, 265-pound Young is that good. He led the Buckeyes last season in both sacks (10.0) and tackles for loss (15.5) and over the final four games of the season, including against No. 4 Michigan, No. 21 Northwestern and No. 9 Washington, he had seven TFLs for minus-47 yards. If he can replicate that output, he’d become just the second player in Ohio State history with double-digit sacks in multiple seasons — Mike Vrabel set the bar in 1994 and 1995.
DE A.J. Epenesa, Iowa
For the Hawkeyes, Epenesa, the 6-6, 280-pound defensive end, is indispensable. He led the Big Ten and ranked 12th nationally with 10.5 sacks last season as a sophomore, despite being used in more of a half-time role. He backed up Parker Hesse and Anthony Nelson and averaged close to 35 snaps a game, mostly third down. His 10.5 sacks were the most by an Iowa player since Adrian Clayborn in 2009. He also had eight quarterback hurries and four forced fumbles and was first-team All-Big Ten last year.
RB Stevie Scott, Indiana
Scott set freshman records at Indiana last season with 1,137 yards, 228 attempts, 10 touchdowns and six 100-yard games while averaging 94.8 yards per game and 5 yards a carry. He became the 13th Hoosier to run for 1,000 yards and his 1,137 yards rank 14th in IU history. Scott ranked second in the nation in rushing yardage and 100-yard games among true freshmen.
Angelique S. Chengelis