Top five breakout stars for the 2019 Big Ten football season

These five could have breakout years as their careers come to close – or just get started.


Kyle Hatty, GA Reporter

The Big Ten football season is rapidly approaching and there are many names to watch.. Graduation and injuries present opportunities for players to step up and fill the shoes of their predecessors. Here are five names to watch this season as these players are primed to become breakout stars for their teams. 

5.  WR Darrell Stewart Jr., Michigan State

Stewart finished last year with 48 catches for 435 yards from scrimmage yards and a touchdown. Those numbers pale in comparison to the 641 total yards he racked up in 2017. On top of that, the Spartans’ offense was historically bad in 2018, including a major quarterback problem. Meaning that Stewart never knew which quarterback was going to throw him the ball from week to week. Michigan State has a reputation of wide receivers taking a major step up when they go from juniors to seniors: As Aaron Burbridge, Tony Lippett and Felton Davis all come to mind. Stewart has the tools to be that guy as he enters his senior year.

4.  TE Nate Wieting, Iowa

Weiting likely has the biggest shoes to fill on this list. The Hawkeyes lost their top two receiving leaders from last season in tight ends T.J. Hockenson and Noah Fant. Head coach Kirk Ferentz utilized the tight end talent he had last season and made the position a major factor of the offense. That ended up working well behind the arm of Iowa quarterback Nate Stanley, but the loss of both tight ends leaves a major gap for Weiting to step in. Weiting only had two catches for 51 yards, but due to the vacancy, he will have every opportunity to improve those numbers.

3.  WR K.J. Hill, Ohio State

The recipe for Hill to have a standout year in 2019 is lining up very well. Wide receivers Parris Campbell and Terry McLaurin did great for the Buckeyes last year, but both were selected in this year’s NFL draft. This leaves a slot open for someone to step up. Along with the arrival of transfer quarterback Justin Fields from Georgia, who will need a go-to reciever; that someone will be Hill. Hill played exceptionally well last year, reaching the end zone six times, and finishing with 70 receptions for 885 yards — which ranked fifth in the Big Ten. Hill did very well this season but not having to share receptions with two NFL receivers could let him shatter the numbers he put up last year.

2.  RB Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota

Minnesota is a sleeper to win the Big Ten West in 2019, that goal will be a lot easier to achieve if Ibrahim plays to the potential he flashed last year. Ibrahim finished last year with 1178 yards, which ranked fourth in the Big Ten. Ibrahim may have showed flashes of what is to come as last season was coming to an end: The final two games, Ibrahim ran for 121 yards in a win at Wisconsin as the Gophers. He then followed that up with an incredible outing in the bowl game where he ran for 224 yards and two touchdowns. Ibrahim was consistently at or above the century mark in rushing yards throughout the season; including rushing for over 120 yards four times. People should expect a tough task when they play Minnesota this year, and Ibrahim leading the charge as a big part of that.

1. QB Adrian Martinez, Nebraska

Scott Frost’s first year at Nebraska brought an almost immediate revival of the program. The record did not change. But there was a noticeable change in the culture and quality of the team on the field, largely due to the emergence of freshman quarterback Adrian Martinez. Martinez came in as an underclassmen and immediately impressed. He finished fourth in the conference in passing yards and had 17 touchdowns through the air.Westgate Las Vegas SuperBook has Martinez listed with the third highest odds to win the Heisman, tied with Jalen Hurts. Martinez has very high expectations heading into his sophomore year, but he retained great receivers such as JD Spielman and has head coach Frost at his back. All this taken into account, the sky’s the limit for Martinez heading into year two.

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