Five to watch from Big Ten

Editor's note: ESPN.com's Mel Kiper Jr. begins his look at the most important players on each Division I-A team with his lists of the five most important players on five teams from the Big Ten (schools listed in alphabetical order).

Northwestern Wildcats
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1. Brett Basanez, QB, sr. -- Has started since his freshman year and should be primed for a good senior season if he can stay healthy. Needs to improve his consistency but has impressive toughness.
2. Zach Strief, RT, sr. -- Goes 6-foot-7, 335 pounds and is a great athlete who should be one of the top right tackles in the nation.
3. Mark Philmore, WR, sr. -- An aggressive, tough receiver who will be the go-to guy for Basanez. Had 54 catches last season despite playing only eight games due to a knee injury.
4. Barry Cofield, DT, sr. -- Will be counted on to fill the void left by first-round pick Luis Castillo and transfer Loren Howard, who would have been Northwestern's best defensive player. Cofield moves over from end and brings great toughness and physical ability to the middle of the line.
5. Nick Roach, OLB, jr. -- A gifted athlete who is a star in the making for the Wildcats.