Big Ten All-Decade Team: Our picks for the best players in conference from last decade

Evan Petzold
Detroit Free Press

Over the last decade, the Big Ten remained a national threat in college football by winning countless bowl games, producing All-Americans and generating an overwhelming number of NFL draftees.

To highlight the last 10 years of Big Ten football, the Free Press surveyed six conference writers from the USA TODAY Sports Network to select the Big Ten All-Decade team.

In the last decade, Ohio State has 117 wins, followed by Wisconsin (102), Michigan State (92), Penn State (87), Michigan (85) and Iowa (81). The Buckeyes have four Big Ten titles, Wisconsin and MSU each have three (sharing one in 2010) and Penn State one.

Former Michigan State defensive back Kurtis Drummond, left, and former Michigan defensive back Jabrill Peppers.

Ohio State and MSU have reached the College Football Playoff since the format began in 2014.

To be eligible for the all-decade team, a player had to be first-team All-Big Ten (media or coaches) at least once from 2010-19. Tiebreakers, when necessary, were determined by another round of votes.

[ Michigan 16-1 odds to win Big Ten; Michigan State listed at 100-1 ]

There were players from 10 teams represented on the all-decade squad: Ohio State (six), U-M (five), MSU (four), Penn State (three), Wisconsin (three), Iowa (three), Maryland (two), Minnesota (one), Indiana (one) and Purdue (one).

Here's the Big Ten All-Decade Team:


QB J.T. Barrett

Ohio State, 2014-17

The buzz: Barrett helped OSU reach the College Football Playoff in 2015, although he was injured for the end of the championship run. He was the Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2014, three-time first-team All-Big Ten and two-time Big Ten champion. Barrett was a four-year starter, completing 769 of 1,211 passes for 9,434 yards and 104 touchdowns against 30 interceptions. He added 3,263 rushing yards and 43 TDs.

Oct. 21: Penn State's Saquon Barkley gains control of a pass and takes it in for a touchdown against Michigan during the second half of U-M's 42-13 loss. Barkley compiled 161 yards from scrimmage and scored three times.

RB Saquon Barkley

Penn State, 2016-18

The buzz: Barkley won the Paul Hornung Award as the country's most versatile player in 2017. He was a two-time Big Ten Offensive Player of the Year and two-time first-team All-Big Ten. In 38 games for the Nittany Lions, Barkley carried the ball 672 times for 3,843 yards and 43 touchdowns. He had 1,195 receiving yards and eight TDs, along with 519 kickoff returns and two scores. He holds records at Penn State for career rushing touchdowns, most rushing yards by a freshman, most rushing yards by a sophomore and most total yards in a single game (385 yards).

[ How Mel Tucker and MSU football are empowering players to speak up ]

RB Jonathan Taylor

Wisconsin, 2017-19

The buzz: Taylor secured the Doak Walker Award, given to the top running back in the nation, twice. The two-time All-American was the 2017 Big Ten Freshman of the Year and a three-time first-team All-Big Ten member. In three seasons, Taylor ran 926 times for 6,174 yards and 50 touchdowns, with 407 receiving yards and five TDs. He has FBS records for most 200-yard rushing games (12), most rushing yards through junior season (6,174), most yards through sophomore year (4,171) and most by a freshman (1,977).

Penn State wide receiver Allen Robinson (8) catches a pass from Penn State quarterback Christian Hackenberg (14) over Michigan defensive back Channing Stribling (8) on Oct. 12, 2013.

WR Allen Robinson

Penn State, 2011-13

The buzz: The only player chosen unanimously, Robinson broke out as a sophomore: 77 receptions for 1,018 yards and 11 touchdowns. His senior year featured 97 catches for 1,432 yards and 6 TDs. He was a consensus All-American in 2013 and a two-time first-team All-Big Team member. At Penn State, he finished within the top five in program history for receptions (second), receiving yards (third) and touchdowns (fifth).

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WR Tyler Johnson

Minnesota, 2016-19

The buzz: Johnson was included as a first-team All-Big Ten selection twice. In four years, he had 213 catches for 3,305 yards and 33 touchdowns. He averaged 15.5 yards per reception. In the 2020 Outback Bowl, he made 12 receptions for 204 yards and two touchdowns to beat Auburn and the game's MVP.

Junior D.J. Moore is Maryland's top receiver with 44 catches for 624 yards and seven touchdowns.

WR D.J. Moore

Maryland, 2015-17

The buzz: Playing in 36 games across three seasons, Moore caught 146 passes for 2,027 yards and 17 touchdowns to go with 125 rushing yards and a touchdown. He was named first-team All-Big Ten in 2017 before forgoing his senior year to be a first-round pick in the 2018 NFL draft.

OT Brandon Scherff

Iowa, 2011-14

The buzz: Scherff won the Outland Trophy as the nation's best interior offensive lineman in 2014. That year, he also earned Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. He was the No. 5 pick in the 2015 NFL draft.

[ MSU football pauses ticket sales as school works on admission, tailgating ]

OG Pat Elflein

Ohio State, 2013-16

The buzz: Elflein redshirted in 2012 due to a foot injury before becoming a member of the first-team All-Big Ten in three of his four seasons. In 2016, he won the Rimington Trophy as the best center in college football, the Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year and was a finalist for the Outland Trophy. Elflein earned unanimous All-American status as a senior.

Michigan State offensive lineman Jack Allen runs for a touchdown against Penn State.

C Jack Allen

Michigan State, 2011-15

The buzz: Allen made 47 starts in his career (42 at center), the second-most among offensive linemen in school history. He was a two-time Rimington Trophy finalist, voted co-captain as a senior. During his final year, he helped the Spartans win the Big Ten championship game against Iowa, 16-13, to clinch a spot in the College Football Playoff. He also ran for a 9-yard touchdown against Penn State in 2015.

OG Kevin Zeitler

Wisconsin, 2008-11

The buzz: Zeitler started all 14 games of his senior season at right guard and built quite the resume. He went from honorable mention All-Big Ten to consensus first-team All-Big Ten in just one year, also earning invitations to the Senior Bowl and NFL combine as an All-American. He won Big Ten championships in 2010 and 2011.

OT Taylor Lewan

Michigan, 2010-13

The buzz: Noted as one of the best linemen to ever play for the Wolverines, Lewan strung together two first-team All-American selections, three first-team All-Big Ten picks and was a two-time Big Ten Offensive Lineman of the Year. He appeared in 50 games in his career with 48 starts. At one point, Lewan started 41 consecutive contests. He became the first U-M offensive lineman to score a touchdown since 1948 when he did so against Massachusetts in 2012. 

Jake Butt goes through drills during practice for the Orange Bowl against Florida State on Tuesday, Dec. 27, 2016 at Barry University in Miami Shores, Fla.

TE Jake Butt

Michigan, 2013-16

The buzz: Butt dealt with numerous injuries throughout his career, including a torn ACL in the 2016 Orange Bowl just months before the NFL draft. But when he was healthy, he was one of the most feared tight ends in the country. He made 138 career receptions for 1,646 yards and 11 touchdowns and was a first-team All-American and John Mackey Award winner in 2016. He was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten honoree.


DE Joey Bosa

Ohio State, 2013-15

The buzz: Bosa made his mark as a true freshman in 2013, starting 10 of 14 games and making 44 tackles and 7.5 sacks. In his three-year career, he played 38 games and logged 148 tackles, 51 for loss, 26 sacks, one interception and five forced fumbles. He won the national championship in 2015 and was a two-time All-American and two-time All-Big Ten first-teamer. He was selected No. 3 overall in the 2016 NFL draft. In 2014, he was a finalist for the Lombardi Award, given to the nation's best player.

Ohio State defensive end Chase Young before the game against Florida Atlantic at Ohio Stadium, Aug. 31, 2019.

DE Chase Young

Ohio State, 2017-19

The buzz: Young played 34 games in his three-year career, making 98 tackles, 40.5 tackles for loss, 30.5 sacks and nine forced fumbles. Last season, he recorded 21 tackles for loss and 16.5 sacks to earn various honors, including the Bronko Nagurski Trophy, Chuck Bednarik Award and Ted Hendricks Award. After making second-team All-Big Ten in 2018, he became a member of the first team along with a unanimous All-American selection in 2019. The 2020 Big Ten Male Athlete of the Year was picked No. 2 overall in the NFL draft.

DT Devon Still

Penn State, 2009-11

The buzz: In three seasons, Still had 113 tackles, 32.5 tackles for loss, 10.5 sacks and one forced fumble. In his final year, he registered 17 tackles for loss and became the conference's defensive player and lineman of the year. He made first-team All-Big Ten and was an All-American in 2011.  

Everett Golson #5 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish is sacked by Kawann Short #93 of the Purdue Boilermakers at Notre Dame Stadium on September 8, 2012 in South Bend, Indiana.

DT Kawann Short

Purdue, 2008-12

The buzz: Short was a second-team All-American in 2012, two-time first-team All-Big Ten member and second-team All-Big Ten selection in 2010. As a junior, he recorded 54 tackles, 17 tackles for loss and 6.5 sacks. As a senior, he made 43 tackles, 15.5 tackles for loss and seven sacks. His only FBS offer out of Central High School in East Chicago was from Purdue, and he went on to become a second-round pick in the 2013 NFL draft.

LB Chris Borland

Wisconsin, 2009-13

The buzz: Borland was named Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and an All-American in 2013, becoming just the fifth Badger to earn those honors. He also earned the conference's linebacker of the year award for a senior season that saw him made 111 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss, four sacks, two fumble recoveries and one forced fumble. In the 2011 season, Borland logged five of his nine career forced fumbles. He finished his five-year career with 420 tackles, 50 tackles for loss and 17 sacks. Borland was a three-time first-team All-Big Ten selection and three-time Big Ten champion. He won Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2009.

LB Josey Jewell

Iowa, 2014-17

The buzz: Jewell won the Lott Trophy, given to college football's defensive IMPACT player of the year, as a senior. IMPACT stands for: integrity, maturity, performance, academics, community and tenacity. In 2017, he was named a unanimous All-American, Big Ten Defensive Player of the Year and the league's linebacker of the year. In 50 games, he recorded 437 tackles, 28 for loss, 10 sacks, six interceptions, 26 passes defended, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Michigan's Devin Bush celebrates his sack vs. Indiana, Saturday, Nov. 17, 2018 at Michigan Stadium in Ann Arbor.

LB Devin Bush Jr.

Michigan, 2016-18

The buzz: Bush turned down Florida State, his father's alma mater, to play for U-M, where he appeared in all 13 games as a freshman. By 2017, he earned a starting spot and found immediate success. Bush was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection, a two-time All-American and the conference's defensive player and linebacker of the year in 2018. In three years, he made 172 tackles, 18.5 tackles for loss, 4.5 sacks, one interception and 11 passes defended.

LB/S Jabrill Peppers

Michigan, 2014-16

The buzz: Peppers won Big Ten Freshman of the Year in 2015, along with becoming a second-team All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection. His 2016 season was huge; he was a unanimous All-American, Heisman Trophy finalist, Big Ten Defensive Player, Linebacker and Return Specialist of the Year, Lott Trophy, Paul Hornung Award and, once again, first-team All-Big Ten. He played offense, defense and special teams for Michigan through 27 games, accumulating 125 tackles, 18.5 for loss, four sacks, one interception and once forced fumble.

CB Darqueze Dennard

Michigan State, 2010-13.

The buzz: In four seasons and 43 games played, Dennard made 165 tackles, 10 for loss, one sack, 10 interceptions, 13 passes defended, three forced fumbles and one fumble recovery with a defensive touchdown. He helped MSU to Big Ten championships in 2010 and 2013. Dennard was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection with a unanimous All-American and the conference's defensive player and defensive back of the year as a senior. He earned the Jim Thorpe Award, given to the nation's best defensive back, in 2013.

No. 2: Darqueze Dennard, cornerback, 2010-13. Size: 5-11, 197. Wore: No. 31. From: Jeffersonville, Ga. Stats: 44 games, 10 INT, 167 tackles, 20 break-ups. Honors: Senior captain, Jim Thorpe Award (best DB) (2013), Jack Tatum Award (best DB) (’13), consensus All-America (’13), Big Ten DB of year (’13), All-Big Ten (’12, ’13), MSU MVP (’13). The buzz: The only player in MSU history to win the Thorpe Award, presented to the nation’s top defensive back, Dennard’s play at cornerback as a senior started everything for one of the best defenses in school history. And his two picks as a sophomore in the Outback Bowl against Georgia turned that game around.

CB Desmond King

Iowa, 2013-16

The buzz: From East English Village Prep in Detroit, King decided to attend Iowa under coach Kirk Ferentz. He won the Jim Thorpe Award in 2015, as well as the conference's defensive back of the year honors. He was a unanimous first-team All-American in 2015 and a second-team member the following year. The two-time first-team All-Big Ten selection made 263 tackles, 9.5 for loss, 33 passes defended, 14 interceptions and one forced fumble in his four-year career.

S Kurtis Drummond

Michigan State, 2011-14

The buzz: Drummond was with the Spartans for two Big Ten championships (redshirted in 2010) and became the conference's defensive back of the year as a senior in 2014. He was twice named as a first-team All-Big Ten member. As a four-year starter, Drummond put together 223 tackles, 14 for loss, one sack, 12 interceptions, 17 passes defended two forced fumbles, one fumble recovery and one defensive touchdown. 

S Malik Hooker

Ohio State, 2014-16

The buzz: Hooker redshirted his first year at Ohio State in 2014 but played the next season. But it wasn't until his redshirt sophomore campaign that Hooker began to show the nation just what he was able to accomplish. In 2016, he made 74 tackles, 5.5 for loss, seven interceptions and three defensive touchdowns. He became an All-American and first-team All-Big Ten selection before getting picked in the 2017 NFL draft's first round.

Michigan State punter Mike Sadler watches his kick against the Penn State on Nov. 29, 2014.

Special teams

P Mike Sadler

Michigan State, 2011-14

The buzz: Sadler was a four-year starter at punter, finishing at the top of MSU's all-time leaders: second in punts (268), second in punting yards (11,307) and sixth in punting average (42.2 yards per punt. He put 39% of his punts inside the 20-yard line and 21% inside the 10. He was a four-time academic All-American, two-time first-team academic All-American (2013, 2014) and was honored as a 2014 William V. Campbell Trophy finalist, given to the top student-athlete.  In 2016, Sadler died in a car crash in Wisconsin. He was 24 years old.

K Griffin Oakes

Indiana, 2014-17

The buzz: Oakes was a two-time first-team All-Big Ten member and earned the conference's kicker of the year award twice. He ended his career as Indiana's leader in field goals (69), second in extra points (147) and second in total points (354). He made 69 of 90 field goals in his career and 147 of 154 extra points. He was a Lou Groza Award semifinalist as a senior in 2017. 

PR Jabrill Peppers

Michigan, 2014-16

The buzz: While Peppers was known for his two-way abilities in college, he also had a third dimension to his game as a returner. He returned 39 punts for 510 yards (13.1 yards per return) and one touchdown. He took 19 kickoffs, as well, going for 483 yards –– good for 25.4 yards per return. He was a Heisman Trophy finalist in 2016 and won the Big Ten's specialist of the year.

KR William Likely

Maryland, 2013-16

The buzz: Likely was named first-team All-Big Ten and the conference's specialist of the year in 2015. Even though he was successful as a defensive back, he found a nitch for kick returns. He brought back 87 kicks in his career, going for 2,233 yards and two touchdowns. He returned 67 punts for 874 yards and four TDs.

Ohio State coach Urban Meyer (left) addresses members of the media to announce his intentions to step down from coaching after the Rose Bowl game. New head coach Ryan Day is at right, during the news conference Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2018, in Columbus, Ohio.


Urban Meyer

Ohio State, 2012-18

The buzz: The only other unanimous selection, Meyer won a national championship in the 2014 season, along with three Big Ten conference titles and seven division titles. He held an 82-9 overall record (54-4 in the Big Ten) during seven seasons with the Buckeyes.  

This poll included six Big Ten writers from the USA Today Sports Network: Chris Solari, Orion Sang and Rainer Sabin of the Detroit Free Press, Graham Couch of the Lansing State Journal, Mark Emmert of the Des Moines Register and Mike Carmin of the Lafayette Journal & Courier.

Evan Petzold is a sports reporting intern at the Detroit Free Press. Contact him at or follow him on Twitter @EvanPetzold