Nebraska junior defensive tackle Maliek Collins and sophomore receiver/punt returner De’Mornay Pierson-El are among 11 Big Ten players named to the conference’s preseason Players to Watch list Thursday morning. A media panel voted for the top five players from both the East and West Division, with one additional honoree because of a tie.
Nebraska was one of four schools with two players on the list, including Wisconsin in the West Division and Ohio State and Michigan State in the East Division.
The 6-2, 300-pound Collins will man the interior of the Nebraska defensive front in 2015. Last season, Collins emerged as a dominant force at defensive tackle, leading the team with 14 tackles for loss, while adding 4.5 sacks. He was at his best against the toughest foes, with 12 of his 14 tackles for loss coming in Big Ten Conference games or the bowl game against USC. Collins was named co-Defensive MVP for the Huskers in 2014, and was a second-team All-Big Ten pick.
Pierson-El enters the 2015 season poised to be one of the conference’s top dual-threat options. He was one of the nation’s top punt returners last season and showed the ability to be an elite receiver late in the 2014 campaign. Pierson-El ranked second nationally in punt return average in 2014, and tied for the national lead with three punt return touchdowns. He was a second-team All-America selection by the Football Writers Association of Amercia and a freshman All-American by several organizations in 2014.
The complete list of Big Ten football preseason Players to Watch appears below:
Connor Cook, QB, Michigan State
Shilique Calhoun, DE, Michigan State
Joey Bosa, DE, Ohio State
Ezekiel Elliott, RB, Ohio State
Anthony Zettel, DT, Penn State
Drew Ott, DE, Iowa
Maliek Collins, DT, Nebraska
De’Mornay Pierson-El, WR, Nebraska
Justin Jackson, RB, Northwestern
Michael Caputo, S, Wisconsin
Corey Clement, RB, Wisconsin
*Additional honoree due to tie