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The Big Ten's Best Lists Archives

The Big Ten's Best 11: No. 6 Sean Lee, Penn State Linebacker

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Kristofer Green

Sean Lee's 2008 season came to end before it even got started when he suffered a torn ligament in his right knee during spring practice.

Now--after spending the 2008 season "coaching" from the sidelines--the senior linebacker and All America candidate spends his days immersed in the Penn State defense and his nights are filled with the thoughts of the first meaningful snap since the 2007 Valero Alamo Bowl.

"That first game hit--I hope it's set up nicely," Lee told USA Today. "A wide receiver coming across the middle, or a running back making a cut right into me ... or the quarterback setting up and I'm coming on a blitz. I've thought of different scenarios."

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The Big Ten's Best 11: No. 7 Darryl Clark, Penn State Quarterback

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Kristofer Green

Darryl Clark is back and his goal is clear.

Pasadena or bust.

Clark's MVP-caliber 2008 season--he completed 60% of his passes for 2,592 yards with 19 touchdowns with just six interceptions and ran for 282 yards and ten touchdowns--is in the rear view mirror and the sixth-year senior has Rose Bowl aspirations.

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The Big Ten's Best 11: No. 8 Bryan Bulaga, Iowa Offensive Tackle

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Kristofer Green

If the Hawkeyes are going to contend for the Big Ten title this season, the offense has got to be clicking like the well-oiled machine that took the field in January and delivered the Big Ten's only bowl victory.

An integral piece of that machine is offensive tackle Bryan Bulaga.

The 6-6, 315-pound junior has started 18 games for the Hawkeyes and now is being mentioned in the same breath as the country's top NFL offensive lineman prospects. 

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The Big Ten's Best 11: Ranking the Coaches

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Kristofer Green

The Big Ten is home to "The Vest" and "The Moustache".

JoePa and RichRod call the Big Ten home, as well.

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Will 2009 be better for RichRod and the Wolverines?

Then there is "The Zooker", Fitz, and Brew.

But, what to call Michigan State's Mark Dantonio or Wisconsin's Bret Bielema? My vote is for "The Stare" and "The Windbreaker".

The Big Ten has experienced a "youth movement" in the coaching department over the last few seasons. The retirements of Joe Tiller, Lloyd Carr, and Barry Alvarez gave way to Danny Hope, Rich Rodriguez, and Bret Bielema and the untimely deaths of former Big Ten favorites Randy Walker and Terry Hoeppner gave way to Pat Fitzgerald and Bill Lynch.

All in all, seven of the conference's coaches have been on the job have been on the job for three years or less. But, don't fret Big Ten fans, in most cases these young coaches are doing wonders for their respective universities.

And the others... well they won't be around much longer anyway. Now if I could only figure out what to call Kirk Ferentz.

"The Gum Chewer"? Nah...
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The Big Ten's Best 11: No. 9 Juice Williams, Illinois Quarterback

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Kristofer Green

No one, save for the most die-hard of Illini fans, would have thought Isiah "Juice" Williams would be where he is today.

In his first season as a starter, as a true freshman, Williams completed only 39% of his passes. It just didn't seem possible that he would ever be in the position to even be in the discussion of the greatest Illinois quarterbacks.

But, Williams is only 2,321 yards away from becoming the all-time leader in passing yards at Illinois and now he is in the discussion.

Oh, and he can run too.

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The Big Ten's Best 11: No. 10 Brandon Graham, Michigan Defensive End

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Kristofer Green

Rich Rodriguez must have done a back flip when Brandon Graham gave him the news that he would be returning for his senior season.

The situation on the line was looking rather bleak with Terrence Taylor, Tim Jamison, and Will Johnson all graduating, but Graham, who could have been on an NFL roster in 2009, decided to stay.

Graham, who has 18.5 sacks in the last two seasons, automatically gives the Wolverines a terrifying presence up front, but it is his leadership and experience that is most invaluable to new defensive coordinator Greg Robinson.

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The Big Ten's Best 11: No. 11 Thaddeus Gibson, Ohio State Defensive End

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Kristofer Green

The Ohio State defense is full of very good, very solid players who will make routine play after routine play. They are sound, but not too flashy.

Thaddeus Gibson is the exception.

Last season the junior led the team in sacks with five, but didn't really start to kick it into gear until late October. Now that he knows what he's doing, he's a legitimate threat for double-digit sacks.

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