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Big Ten Football: 10 Toughest Players to Replace in 2023

Athlon Sports 2/3/2023 Kevin McGuire
© Provided by Athlon Sports

These Big Ten players leave the biggest shoes for their respective teams to fill for the upcoming 2023 college football season.

It has become a bit of a spring ritual to see Big Ten players scattered throughout the NFL draft. The Big Ten has always been ripe with NFL talent that leaves behind some big spots to fill at the college level on a regular basis. Such will be the case this season when the Big Ten's latest draft class moves on to the next level and competition to replace them begins in spring football practices.

Related: Every Big Ten Team's Most Important Transfer Portal Additions on Offense and Defense for 2023

Some of the key players that will be replaced in 2023 can be found on the line of scrimmage, especially on the offensive line. Ohio State and Northwestern could be home to two of the highest-drafted offensive linemen come late April, and the Buckeyes could see their former quarterback go first overall if the right team comes looking to trade up for a franchise signal-caller.

Here is a look at 10 of the most difficult players (in alphabetical order) for Big Ten teams to replace in 2023. 

Sydney Brown, S, Illinois

How do you replace the Big Ten's leader in interceptions? Illinois is about to try and find out. Brown recorded six interceptions in 12 games for the Illini last season, with one of those picks being returned for a touchdown.

Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa

A key defensive player to replace on the Iowa defense is Campbell, who arguably was the nation's top linebacker this past season. Campbell is coming off a season with 128 total tackles, including 62 solo stops. Those numbers were part of the reason why he was the recipient of the Butkus Award, which recognizes the nation's top linebacker. That's a lot of production, playmaking, and leadership for head coach Kirk Ferentz to replace in 2023.

Paris Johnson Jr., OT, Ohio State

Ohio State has shown a decent ability to bulk up on the offensive line year after year, but Johnson is another big body to replace on the line of scrimmage in 2023. He could be one of the top offensive linemen taken in the upcoming draft, which leaves a big spot to fill up front for a Buckeyes team that is breaking in a new starting quarterback.

Mike Morris, Edge, Michigan

Michigan will hope to find a new threat off the edge after losing Morris to the NFL. He was among the Big Ten leaders in tackles for a loss last season and led the Wolverines in that category (11.5) and sacks (7.5).

Joey Porter Jr., CB, Penn State

Penn State's secondary could be in decent shape, but losing a talent like Porter at cornerback is a big hole given the talent at the receiver position around the Big Ten. Some teams tested Porter last season with some success, but he has big-play potential that will be missed in State College.

Peter Skoronski, OT, Northwestern

Northwestern also has one of the top offensive lineman prospects in this year's NFL draft, which leaves Pat Fitzgerald in need of replacing a big body on the line. The Wildcats have had a couple of down seasons, but Skoronski has continued to be viewed as one of the best linemen in the conference. Replacing him is no easy task.

Mazi Smith, DT, Michigan

Although Smith may not have racked up huge defensive numbers in 2022, his absence will be difficult to compensate for the Wolverines this fall. Smith had 48 tackles (2.5 for a loss), but more importantly, he helped solidify the line of scrimmage for another solid Michigan defense a year after losing some big names up front.

C.J. Stroud, QB, Ohio State

Ohio State once again must find a way to replace a quarterback who racked up tons of passing yards and touchdowns. Stroud could potentially be the top player chosen in the 2023 NFL Draft, which leaves big shoes to fill in Columbus. But the Buckeyes have gotten somewhat familiar with this cycle, it seems. Stroud's likely successor is Kyle McCord, yet another highly regarded quarterback prospect full of potential who could put up big numbers in Ryan Day's offense and with such a talented supporting cast around him.

Lukas Van Ness, Edge, Iowa

Iowa's defense was the glue that held the 2022 season together, and Van Ness was a big part of that success. He recorded 10.5 tackles for a loss and six sacks last season. Van Ness has positioned himself as a potential first-round pick in late April.

Parker Washington, WR, Penn State

A year after sending Jahan Dotson to the NFL in the first round, Penn State is once again about to replace its leading receiver. Washington had a slow start to the 2022 campaign but showed plenty of ability to make some big plays as the year went on. He should hear his name called at some point during the upcoming draft. Head coach James Franklin has already tapped the transfer portal to help fill the void left by Washington.

— Written by Kevin McGuire, who is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. Follow him on Twitter @KevinOnCFB, on Instagram, on TikTok, and Like him on Facebook.

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