In 2020, the Big Ten boasted some of the top players in the nation despite playing a significantly shorter season. However, many of the conference's best opted for the NFL Draft this year, leaving a collection of younger talents to fill the gaps.
Pro Football Focus recently released a ranking of the top five players returning in the Big Ten this year. The player that claimed the No. 1 spot might come as a surprise to those that haven't been focused on the conference's offensive lineman.
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">According to Anthony Treash of PFF, Iowa center Tyler Linderbaum claims the title of the Big Ten's best player returning in 2021. The Hawkeyes upperclassmen was named an All-American in 2020 as well as a finalist for the Rimington Trophy.
Linderbaum is one of the most interesting stories in the conference, considering he arrived in Iowa City as a defensive lineman. However, he made the switch in 2019 over to center and has quickly become one of college football's most reliable offensive line leaders.
"The Iowa center checks the athleticism box with flying colors. There’s not an interior offensive lineman in the country with similar movement skills," Treash wrote about Linderbaum in February, per 247Sports. "His return to school instead of declaring for the 2021 NFL Draft is a huge win for a Hawkeyes offensive line that has two marquee members — Alaric Jackson and Cole Banwart — departing. The key thing to watch with Linderbaum in 2021 is if he can put on a little bit more mass and sustain that same elite-level athleticism."
Ohio State wide receivers Chris Olave and Garrett Wilson came in at No. 2 and No. 3 on PFF's list. Indiana quarterback Michael Penix Jr. was ranked as the conference's top quarterback at No. 4 and Michigan edge rusher Aiden Hutchinson rounded out the group in the fifth spot.