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July 22, 2009

Top 10 footballers

Imagine if Casey Kasem's countdowns combined country, disco, rap and metal with the pop. That's what it's like trying to rate football players at all positions.

    First, if you missed it, check out an interesting feature Adam Rittenberg did on his blog last month, ranking the top 30 players in the Big Ten. That had to be difficult, because I had a heck of a time coming up with an MSU top 10. I made it slightly less complicated by confining it to non-freshmen. A lot of other younger players (Trenton Robinson, Jerel Worthy, Johnny Adams, etc.) may prove this fall that they belong in there. Prior game performance has to be a factor, though (well, except for quarterbacks, I guess).
1.    Greg Jones. OK, this one was easy. Jones is "Beat It," a hit on any chart. He seemed to get better with each week last year, it’ll be interesting to see if he can continue on that trajectory. Jones is a nice, soft-spoken kid, yet he has the I-might-just-cram-you-into-a-locker-if-you-look-at-me-wrong thing that all the good linebackers seem to have.
2.    Chris L. Rucker. It starts getting complicated right here. But a healthy Rucker is an elite cornerback in the Big Ten.
3.    Charlie Gantt. Crazy, you say? Watching Gantt in the spring, I could swear I was watching a future pro. He is a complete tight end, and those aren’t terribly common. Considering what Brian Linthicum showed, this position is suddenly loaded.
4.    Trevor Anderson. Can he improve against the run and be a 10-sack guy despite uncertainty on the other side? That’d be a great season, the kind MSU needs from Anderson after a good 2008.
5.    Kirk Cousins/Keith Nichol. Of course I’m copping out and lumping them together. I’ll stop when the coaches give us daily updates on who’s ahead and why. Both are essentially unproven, yet I can’t put them lower.
6.    Oren Wilson. Worthy may prove to be a star as a redshirt freshmen, but Wilson has been a consistent, reliable starter since arriving on campus. Probably the most underrated player on the team.
7.    Brett Swenson. Normally, I’d agree with those who say kickers shouldn’t be considered, but Swenson is just too good.
8.    Keshawn Martin. Some might count Martin as the team’s No. 4 receiver behind Mark Dell, Blair White and B.J. Cunningham. But his talent, versatility and performance as a true freshman (before getting hurt) set him apart. Expect him to become an essential weapon this season.
9.    Eric Gordon. Don’t forget, Gordon was just a sophomore last season. He still has improving to do, but he has 147 tackles in two seasons (after redshirting in 2006) and is usually around the ball.
10.    Rocco Cironi. It’s always good to have a big fifth-year senior at left tackle. Also considered for this spot were Ross Weaver, Dell, White, Joel Nitchman and Joel Foreman.

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Joe Rexrode
MSU Sports Reporter
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