Josh Ferguson seems primed for a big season with the Illini, and people are starting to notice.
Ferguson was one of eight Big Ten running backs on the preseason watch list for the Doak Walker Award, which was released Thursday. The award is handed out each season to the nation's top running back.
Ferguson proved a solid offensive weapon for the Illini last season both in the running and passing game. He rushed the ball 141 times for 779 yards and caught 50 passes for 535 yards, totaling 11 touchdowns. He ranked in the top 10 in the Big Ten in receptions per game last season. With quarterback Nathan Scheelhaase departed and a depleted receiving corps, Ferguson figures to play an even bigger role this season in Champaign.
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The Illinois junior is one of a host of talented backs in the conference this season, and the Walker Award agrees, placing a total of eight Big Ten ball-carriers on their watch list. Here are the other seven:
— Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska
— Bill Belton, Penn State
— David Cobb, Minnesota
— Tevin Coleman, Indiana
— Melvin Gordon, Wisconsin
— Jeremy Langford, Michigan State
— Zach Zwinak, Penn State
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Notably absent from the list was Northwestern's Venric Mark, who missed most of last season with an injury but comes into this season with big expectations to return to his 2012 form.