Pro Football Focus released its list of the 101 best players in college football Monday, and all the usual suspects were present: Michigan, Ohio State, Michigan State — the teams most believe will compete for a Big Ten title.
So when an Illinois player popped up in the top 20, there were plenty of eyebrows shooting up.
Now, just because the Illini likely won't challenge for a conference championship in Lovie Smith's first year at the helm doesn't mean that defensive end Dawuane Smoot isn't the 20th-best player in college football. Pro Football Focus is quite high on Smoot, with their intricate grading system rating him as one of the top-10 pass-rushers in the country last season, when he finished with eight sacks, good for sixth in the Big Ten. He was fifth in the conference with 15 tackles for loss, forced three fumbles and recovered two more. It all would indicate that a big 2016 campaign is on the way, and PFF is expecting that, too, putting him at No. 18 in its 2017 mock draft.
But PFF isn't alone in being high on Smoot. Smith feels the same way, saying earlier this offseason that he believed Smoot would be a first-round draft pick. And he should know after his many years in the NFL.
So is Smoot heading for a monster 2016, All-Big Ten honors and the NFL Draft? It seems like plenty think so, with Smoot placing higher in PFF's rankings than many other Big Ten stars.
Here's a look at who from the conference cracked PFF's top 101, and prepare yourself for a heaping helping of the Michigan defense.
7. Jourdan Lewis, DB, Michigan
9. Desmond King, DB, Iowa
16. Jabrill Peppers, DB, Michigan
20. Dawuane Smoot, DE, Illinois
23. Malik McDowell, DT, Michigan State
27. Maurice Hurst, DT, Michigan
29. Pat Elflein, OL, Ohio State
31. Chris Wormley, DE, Michigan
32. Saquon Barkley, RB, Penn State
34. Raekwon McMillan, LB, Ohio State
43. Vince Biegel, LB, Wisconsin
63. Jake Replogle, DT, Purdue
72. Ryan Glasgow, DT, Michigan
90. Nate Gerry, DB, Nebraska
99. Darius Hamilton, DT, Rutgers
100. Ed Davis, LB, Michigan State
Notably absent from the list were Ohio State quarterback J.T. Barrett and Northwestern linebacker Anthony Walker, who will be among the favorites for conference player of the year honors on their respective sides of the ball.
While Chris Sale doesn’t know if Mark Buehrle will pitch again, he’s certain about one thing — Buehrle should retire as a member of the White Sox.
His future plans still undeclared, the legendary pitcher made the rounds at U.S. Cellular Field this weekend to visit ex-teammates from two of the three clubs he played for during his 16-year career. Buehrle, who won a World Series title and 161 games and threw a perfect game and a no-hitter in 12 seasons with the White Sox, has yet to sign retirement papers. Whether or not Buehrle would pitch again was speculated upon often this spring even though he struggled down the stretch in 2015 and failed to eclipse 200 innings for only the second time in his career.
Were he to officially call it quits, Sale hopes Buerhle does it here.
“For me personally, I would like to see it,” Sale said. “When you think of Mark Buehrle, you think of him in a White Sox uniform, wearing the black jersey with the pinstripes on the bottom.
“I don’t think he could go out any other way. Especially it would be nice to see him in a White Sox hat when he goes to the Hall of Fame.”
Buehrle spent the first dozen years of his career with the White Sox before agreeing upon a four-year deal with the Miami Marlins in 2012. His stay in Miami lasted only one season before the club held a fire sale and dealt him and shortstop Jose Reyes among others to the Toronto Blue Jays. Buehrle played the last three seasons in Toronto and won 40 games. He won 15 games last season but finished four outs shy of a 15th straight 200-inning campaign.
Sale said he didn’t talk any business with Buehrle during their visit and doesn’t know if he still wants to pitch.
“It was definitely good to see him,” Sale said. “It gives you a little boost. Any time you see guys like that come back around, it’s always fun. He looks good. He looks like he could pitch again.
“We don’t talk about business when he comes around. It was good to see him and whatever unfolds, I think it will be fun regardless of what happens.”
The Bulls introduced their newest member on Monday at the Advocate Center.
Denzel Valentine, the Bulls' first-round draft pick, showed off his new No. 45 Bulls jersey for the first time in Chicago.
See what Gar Forman, Fred Hoiberg and Valentine had to say in the video above.