ESPN.com has taken on the herculean task of ranking the top 100 players in college football entering the 2014 season. These are based on expected contributions for the 2014 season, regardless of position. The list is released in 10-player increments, a countdown that started on Monday and continues today with Nos. 80-71 and 70-61.
Keep checking back to follow along with the rankings all week long since the Big Ten will be in the mix all five days. In the latest edition, the league has four representatives, all hailing from the same state.
T-76: Michigan State CB Trae Waynes T-72: Michigan WR/TE Devin Funchess
No. 71: Michigan State QB Connor Cook
T-61: Michigan State S Kurtis Drummond
Waynes might not have received that much attention last season as the de facto sidekick for Darqueze Dennard, but it was the combination of the two talented defensive backs that helped make the Spartans so difficult to throw on during their run to the Rose Bowl. Waynes is the main attraction in the secondary now, and Michigan State will be expecting him to add to the three interceptions he nabbed as a first-year starter last season.
Perhaps the uncertainty about his position might have held Funchess down, but regardless of where he lines up for the Wolverines, he must be accounted for by defenses — and he’s a matchup nightmare no matter what. His production jumped from 15 receptions in 2012 to 49 catches a year ago as his offensive role evolved, a process that should continue as Michigan tries to take the attack to another level with Funchess providing one of the team’s best tools in picking one-on-one battles to exploit.
Cook’s rise to national prominence is pretty staggering considering where he was at this time a year ago. Heading into training camp at this time in 2013, Cook was just one of three Spartans vying for the starting quarterback job, a far cry from being in the conversation with the best players in the nation. His breakout performances in wins over Ohio State in the Big Ten title game and Stanford in the Rose Bowl have raised the bar for Cook this season, and if he can continue his upward trend, even more attention figures to be heading his way.
As for Drummond, the combination of his skill and ability with Michigan State’s defensive system should give him the opportunity to add to an already impressive resume with the program. The senior tallied 91 tackles with four interceptions last season, and with even more experience and one more offseason of development to work with, Drummond could easily establish himself as one of the most lethal defensive backs in the nation before moving on to the NFL.
Coming Wednesday: No.
Continue reading this article at ESPN: B1G players in top 100: Part II