A look at football players in the Big Ten West Division this spring who are poised to have standout seasons this fall:

ILLINOIS

WR Marquez Beason, sophomore. With Josh Imatorbhebhe leaving to enter the NFL draft, Illinois is short on depth at receiver. Beason, who started two games at cornerback last year, switched to receiver but was limitea d by injury this spring. Come fall, the former four-star recruit could play a major role for new coach Bret Bielema.

IOWA

DT Noah Shannon, junior. His task is to replace Big Ten defensive player of the year Daviyon Nixon. The 6-foot, 288-pounder played in all eight games last season, started one, and had 11 tackles and a shared sack. Iowa has had a run of standout defensive linemen, and this is Shannon’s opportunity to be the next one.

MINNESOTA

OT Daniel Faalele, junior. The Australian opted out in 2020 after starting at right tackle his first two years and has shed some weight from his listed frame of 6-foot-9 and 400 pounds. He’ll be a key cog on one of the most experienced FBS offensive lines with guard Connor Olson and tackle Sam Schlueter coming back and center John Michael Schmitz and tackle Blaise Andries also back.

NEBRASKA

WR Omar Manning, junior. The Huskers desperately need help at receiver, and they thought they would get it from Manning last season. An undisclosed injury kept him off the field except for a brief appearance against Northwestern. Manning has had a strong spring and shown flashes of 2019 when he was the top junior college receiver in the nation.

NORTHWESTERN

LB Chris Bergin, senior. He’s had a productive career and was the team’s third-leading tackler in 2020, but he’s been a bit overshadowed by Paddy Fisher and Blake Gallagher. With those two gone, Bergin’s role is going to be magnified.

PURDUE

WR Mershawn Rice, sophomore. Rivals.com rated Rice as a four-star recruit, but he appeared in only one game and didn’t have a catch last season. The Boilermakers were short on receivers this spring, and Rice took advantage of his opportunity. Coach Jeff Brohm mentioned Rice as an up-and-comer.

WISCONSIN

OG Jack Nelson, redshirt freshman: Rated by 247Sports as a five-star prospect and the nation’s No. 2 offensive tackle recruit in his class, Nelson has made a home for himself at guard this spring. He’s been getting first-team reps at right guard, an indication he could open the fall as a starter

Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission.

Recommended for you