Some of Big Ten's top players in 2015 see drop in numbers
It's that time in the football season when fans ask, ''Whatever happened to...?''
Whether because of injury, getting keyed on or avoided by the opponent, or just plain bad luck, some Big Ten players haven't been able to build on or repeat the big seasons they had in 2015.
Here's a look at some of them:
- Illinois RB Ke'Shawn Vaughn rushed for a team-high 723 yards with six touchdowns and was projected to be the featured back this season. He lost his job in the fourth game. Since then he's had a total of 11 carries while Reggie Corbin and Kendrick Foster have gotten most of the work.
- Illinois QB Wes Lunt started all 12 games last season and threw for 250 yards five times, and he looked like a lock to do the same under first-year coach Lovie Smith. He hurt his back against Purdue on Oct. 8 and hasn't played since, though he practiced in full pads this week.
- Indiana WR Simmie Cobbs was suspended for the opener and sustained a season-ending ankle injury on the first play of the second game. Last year, he caught just under five balls a game and was the Big Ten's third-leading receiver with 80 yards a game.
- Nebraska WR Jordan Westerkamp's numbers were running well behind last season even before a back injury kept him out of the last two games: 13 catches through five games compared with 27 in 2015.
- Rutgers QB Chris Laviano started 18 straight games before getting benched in the second half against Illinois two weeks ago. He completed only 48 percent of his passes in seven games. Giovanni Rescigno got the start in the narrow loss at Minnesota last week, and coach Chris Ash indicated Rescigno will be the guy the rest of the way.
- Iowa CB Desmond King won the Jim Thorpe Award last year with eight interceptions. He's still the Big Ten's best cover man. QBs, smartly, are staying away from him. He's intercepted just one pass and ran it back for a touchdown.
- Michigan State DL Malik McDowell has been banged up, missed half a game for a targeting penalty and has moved from tackle to end. It took until the seventh game for him to record his first sack.
- Minnesota LB Cody Poock was second on the team with 99 tackles in 2015. He's missed two games this because of injuries but still has only 18 tackles, seven coming in one game.
- Ohio State MLB Raekwon McMillan was by far his team's top tackler last season, with nine per game. His average has dropped to six, but that's largely because opponents aren't running up the middle as much.
- Purdue LB Andy James Garcia has just nine tackles in six games after ranking third on the team with 63. Garcia's role decreased because the Boilermarkers played a lot of nickel defense the first five games. But even now that the defense is playing more 4-3, Garcia has been the odd man out.
- Indiana K Griffin Oakes was Big Ten kicker of the year after making 24 of 29 field goals, including 6 of 8 from 40 yards or longer. He opened this season with misses on 4 of his first 9 attempts. He's made 5 of his last 6, though, with the miss coming from 53 yards.
- Maryland KR/PR William Likely, one of the nation's most electrifying players in 2015, is out for the season after tearing his ACL two weeks ago. His production had been nowhere near as prodigious. His punt return average was just 3.3 yards; last year it was 18.2 with two touchdowns. As a kick returner, he had been mostly held in check aside from a 64-yarder.
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