The start of the college football season is just a few short weeks away and it promises to be an entertaining race in the Big Ten. Now, if you are an Ohio State fan, you are hoping it is not too interesting, especially after coming up short last season. But the other 13 teams have scholarships and uniforms too and there is no denying that there is plenty of talent spread out around this conference.
It got us to thinking about the top players at specific positions going into the season. Ohio State fans are always well-aware of who their favorite team has but what about the rest of the teams in the league?
We stick with the offensive line and slide one position into offensive guard. As said before, most people only know the name of their offensive linemen when it comes time to complain about doing something wrong instead of celebrating them for doing something right.
Last season the Buckeyes went with the four offensive tackle and a center configuration for the line. This year we will see a return to two tackles, two guards and a center. Do any Buckeyes make the cut for top players going into the 2022 season? Let’s go.
5. Tyler Beach – Wisconsin
The Badgers are a program that are known for being able to put some quality offensive linemen on the field, especially from home. Enter Tyler Beach.
Beach likely did not have the year that he had hoped last year but the good news is that we are on to the next year and while you have to look back to get an idea of what a player is all about, you have a blank slate ahead of you and we are expecting big things from Beach.
His pass protection was not really up to par last year, but the Wisconsin pass game was a mess in general and we are not going to put it just at the feet of one offensive guard when the whole thing was off to start with.
The run blocking on the other hand was much better and we know the Badgers like to run the ball, they were 21st in the nation in rushing offense and Beach played a big role there.
4. Trevor Keegan – Michigan
Much to the chagrin of Ohio State fans, this is the first of two Michigan tackles to make the list and while everyone who roots for the Scarlet and Gray may find faults with the Michigan offense of 2022, you can’t deny that there are still some pretty solid offensive linemen in Ann Arbor (Mich.).
Keegan, like Beach, didn’t have it all put together last year but when you have 14 teams moving players in and out of the system, sometimes you have to bet on potential and Keegan has the potential to have a solid season in the Jim Harbaugh-led offense.
If you want to find a place to fault Keegan, it is in the passing game, he gave up too much pressure and some missed assignments led to quarterback hurries and sacks, but another year in the program will do Keegan well.
3. Connor Colby – Iowa
For as bad as Iowa’s offense was last season, here we are again with another offensive player from the Hawkeyes.
Colby is just really starting his career, going into his second season. Year one saw him named to various All-Freshman teams from across the nation and the expectations are high here.
Now, he won’t be eligible to catch passes or run the ball, so his impact can only carry things so far, but he has already risen to being one of the top players on the Iowa offense even if he is very far from being a finished product.
2. J.D. Duplain – Michigan State
Let’s just get this out of the way, we are not the only ones who feel highly about Duplain as he was named a second-team All-B1G by several publications.
The Buckeyes really tried to kick the tires on this Strongsville (Ohio) product, but it wasn’t meant to be as he stayed with Michigan State and has flourished in his first three seasons in East Lansing (Mich.).
There is still room for improvement has he gave up a pair of sacks last season but when it comes to returning guards, he is among the top players.
1. Zak Zinter – Michigan
The Michigan guard has already been mentioned as either a first-team or second-team All-B1G player by various publications. He has great size at 6-foot-6, 320-pounds and draft experts are already starting to talk up Zinter as one of the top players at his position from across the nation.
Now, not everything was perfect for Zinter last season but if he were playing his best football, he may not be in this position this year and could have opted to try his hand at the next level.
His PFF (Pro Football Focus) numbers are a little underwhelming when you think of a top player at his position, but the upside is easy to see, and it is hard to find anyone else to put in the top slot at this point of the preseason.