Last year's crop of top Big Ten talent is now heading off to the National Football League to live out their biggest hopes and dreams. But the work on replacing them is never done. Across the Big Ten, coaches are already spending the offseason figuring out how to best replace some of their top players, whether those players are going to the NFL or not.
Here is a look at some of the toughest acts to follow around the Big Ten, starting with the defending conference champions and their search for their next starting quarterback.
Justin Fields, QB, Ohio State
Fields was just what the Buckeyes needed to elevate their game back to serious national title contention, and he delivered. Replacing the Big Ten's top quarterback falls on youth in Columbus.
Micah Parsons, LB, Penn State
He didn't play last season but may still be the top defensive player on the board in the 2021 NFL Draft. Penn State's top linebacker of the James Franklin Era left a massive void on the Penn State defense, but a crop of stable linebackers can hold the fort down.
Rashod Bateman, WR, Minnesota
Bateman was one of the Big Ten's top wide receivers the past couple of seasons, and it is no coincidence the Golden Gophers had the success they did with him catching passes. He will be a big target to replace for P.J. Fleck's program.
Daviyon Nixon, DL, Iowa
With Micah Parsons out of the picture, Nixon was an easy pick to be the Big Ten's top defensive player in 2020. Iowa will have a couple of big holes to plug on the defensive line, but none bigger than Nixon will leave behind.
Tommy Togiai, DL, Ohio State
Ohio State saw in the national championship game what the absence of Togiai can have on the defense. It wasn't particularly great. But Ohio State has been in this position of having to replace talented defensive linemen before, and they always seem to have someone ready to step in and blossom.
Rondale Moore, WR, Purdue
Moore's 2020 season was, unfortunately, not one to remember. But there is no mistaking the impact Moore had on Purdue. David Bell is still around, but the lack of Moore leaves a Purdue offense without one of the Big Ten's most dynamic receivers to rely on.
Wyatt Davis, OL, Ohio State
Davis was a big key to protecting Justin Fields and opening up room for the running game in Columbus. Losing an offensive lineman that is nearly impossible to get around is always tough, even for the Buckeyes.
Kwity Paye, DL, Michigan
Michigan has gone through some tough times, but Paye had been one of the few bright spots in recent years. He should be a force at the next level once he gets going, and that will leave Michigan's defense with a big hole to fill moving forward.
Jayson Oweh, DL, Penn State
Penn State's entire defensive line should look pretty new next season. Among the notable departures is Oweh, who made a big name for himself in 2020 with a terrific year leading the push up front.
Jack Sanborn, LB, Wisconsin
Wisconsin's defense has been anchored by strong linebacker play in recent years. Last year, there were few better than Sanborn, a player capable of reading the play and putting himself in a position to make a tackle on every snap.