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The past, present and future of the Big Ten at each position

Each Power Five conference lost stars to the NFL Draft last month but plenty of talent returns and is on the horizon. We call this Past, Present and Future and it’s self explanatory. We start with the Big Ten.

Mark Pszonak contributed to this report.

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Justin Fields
Justin Fields (AP Images)

The past: Nathan Stanley, Iowa — Stanley wasn’t a superstar, but he was the first Big Ten quarterback selected in the 2020 NFL Draft.

The present: Justin Fields, Ohio State — Fields has the potential to help lead the Buckeyes to a national title and have his name called No. 1 overall in next year's NFL Draft.

The future: CJ Stroud, Ohio State — Stroud could continue Ohio State's recent success at quarterback and be the program's next great signal caller.


Jalen Berger
Jalen Berger (Nick Lucero/

The past: Jonathan Taylor, Wisconsin — Taylor was one of the best running backs in Big Ten history, so he has left big shoes to fill.

The present: Trey Sermon, Ohio State — Sermon might be a reach here but if he’s healthy and at his best he can dominate in the Buckeyes' offense.

The future: Jalen Berger, Wisconsin — The next great New Jersey running back at Wisconsin? Berger fits the bill.


K.J. Hamler
K.J. Hamler (AP Images)

The past: K.J. Hamler, Penn State — Hamler was a dynamic weapon who could make defensive backs look silly with his speed.

The present: Rashod Bateman, Minnesota — The Big Ten is loaded with wide receiver replacements, but Bateman is the best.

The future: Julian Fleming, Ohio State — The Buckeyes' haul of 2020 wide receivers is elite and Fleming leads the way.


Brycen Hopkins
Brycen Hopkins (AP Images)

The past: Brycen Hopkins, Purdue — Hopkins was a very solid target at Purdue and he should be a very good pro.

The present: Pat Freiermuth, Penn State — Freiermuth should have a monster season after hauling in 15 touchdowns over the last two seasons.

The future: Theo Johnson, Penn State — Johnson has the size and ability to stretch the field that could make him the best tight end in the conference down the line.


Paris Johnson
Paris Johnson (Nick Lucero/

The past: Tristan Wirfs, Iowa — Wirfs was elite and dominant and will be hard to replace but the Big Ten, as usual, is loaded with offensive line talent.

The present: Wyatt Davis, Ohio State — Davis is a mauler and leads a strong group in the conference. He will be one of the best offensive linemen in the country this season.

The future: Paris Johnson, Ohio State — Johnson is an elite tackle who should be ready to start and dominate by his second year on campus.


Aidan Hutchinson
Aidan Hutchinson (AP Images)

The past: Chase Young, Ohio State — Young is a rare talent who simply destroyed the conference.

The present: Aidan Hutchinson, Michigan — Hutchinson is a far cry from Young but his size, length and motor will make him special this season.

The future: Darrion Henry, Ohio State — The rich just get richer.


Cole Brevard
Cole Brevard (Josh Helmholdt /

The past: DaVon Hamilton, Ohio State — Hamilton could make plays in the backfield and chase the quarterback, which is what makes a difference at the position.

The present: Lorenzo Neal, Purdue — Neal needs to step up as a pass rusher, but he’s active and can run plays down.

The future: Cole Brevard, Penn State — The conference didn’t do a great job recruiting defensive tackles in 2020, but Brevard has elite athleticism and was a very nice get out of Indiana for Penn State.


Cody Simon
Cody Simon (

The past: Josh Uche, Michigan — Uche was well-developed at Michigan and did everything well, so his well-rounded play will be missed.

The present: Micah Parsons, Penn State — Parsons is an amazing athlete who can rush the passer and cover a ton of ground. He will be a top-10 pick next year.

The future: Cody Simon, Ohio State — Simon is an elite inside linebacker who will eventually be a leader for Ohio State.


Shaun Wade
Shaun Wade (AP Images)

The past: Jeff Okudah, Ohio State — It’s hard to find a better cornerback than Okudah and I don’t see another with his upside in the conference for awhile.

The present: Shaun Wade, Ohio State — Wade is expected to be a first-round draft pick next year and has great length and instincts. He’s one of the best in the country.

The future: Darrion Green-Warren, Michigan — Michigan had a great year recruiting cornerbacks and Green-Warren will pair well with Andre Seldon.


Eric Burrell
Eric Burrell (AP Images)

The past: Antoine Winfield Jr., Minnesota — Despite his NFL bloodlines, Winfield was a lightly recruited player, but he played bigger than his size at Minnesota.

The present: Eric Burrell, Wisconsin — Burrell is excellent in coverage and likes to hit, so he’s key to the Wisconsin defense.

The future: Enzo Jennings, Penn State — Jennings has length and is very good in coverage, so I expect him to be the Big Ten's next elite safety.