In 2010, the Big Ten had a lot of talent across the defensive line. However, most of the top talent has left for the NFL, including five defensive linemen that were drafted in the first round. Looking forward to 2011 the strength of the Big Ten defensive line will come from the defensive tackles, which has more depth in experienced players than the defensive end position heading into the season. At the linebacker position the BIg Ten boasts several players who have been good in the past, but there are not too many players who have had great seasons in the past. In fact, none of the Big Ten’s first and second team linebackers are returing for the 2011 season. Let’s take a look at some of the best players at these positions.
- Vince Browne (Northwestern)
- Nathan Williams (Ohio State)
- Cameron Meredith (Nebraska)
Vince Browne lead Northwestern in tackles for loss (15.5) and sacks (seven) last season, which earned him a spot on the media’s Big Ten Second Team. The Wildcat senior has recorded over 30 TFL and 16 sacks in his career. Browne’s pass rushing ability will be a big part of Northwestern’s defense in 2011.
Nathan Williams led Ohio State in sacks last season with four and a half, one more than star Cameron Heyward. Williams has been an active part of the Buckeye’s pass rush the past three seasons and is ready to be the top player on Ohio State’s line. Williams’ athletic ability is one of his biggest assets and allows him to be a force in multiple ways. In 2010 Williams recorded one interception, three pass breakups, one forced fumble, and two fumble recoveries.
Cameron Meredith accumulated 64 tackles, including eight TFL during the 2010 campaign. Meredith was named to the BIg 12 second team by the league’s coaches for his efforts. Meredith also finished second for the Cornhuskers with 10 quarterback hurries. Meredith has played in every game during his two years at Nebraska, showing steady improvement along the way. Playing with Jared Crick allows for Meredith to play fast off the edge. With Cricks presence in the middle look for a good statistical season for Meredith as he has more freedom to rush the quarterback.
- Jared Crick (Nebraska)
- Kawann Short (Purdue)
- Jerel Worthy (Michigan State)
Jared Crick has been a fixture on the Nebraska defensive line for the past two seasons as he has developed into one of the best defensive linemen in the country. Last season Crick was named to multiple second team All-American rosters while being a unanimous First Team Big 12 performer. He recorded 70 tackles, 17 TFL, and nine and a half sacks last season. In 2009 Crick was named to the Big 12 First team (coaches) while recording over 70 tackles and nearly 10 sacks. Crick will see a lot of double teams this season, so it wouldn’t be surprising to see his stats go down.
Purdue’s Kawann Short was named to the Big Ten Second Team (media) las season while recording 12.5 TFL and six sacks. Both of those numbers were good for second on the Boilermakers defense behind standout Ryan Kerrigan. The big man is a solid run stopper in the middle, which helped land him on the Freshman All-American team two seasons ago. Short will be clogging running lanes all season long for the Boilermakers.
Michigan State’s Jerel Worthy has been developing into a force in the middle of the Spartan line. Last season Worthy lead the Spartans in sacks with four and was third in TFL with eight. Worthy was named to the Big Ten Honorable Mention team last fall. As a freshman Worthy was second on Michigan State’s defense in both TFL and sacks while earning Freshman All-American honors. At 305 pounds the junior has great size to stuff the run game, but is also quick enough to get in the backfield to make stops behind the line of scrimage. Expect Worthy to continue to improve and be a leader on Michigan State’s defense in 2011.
- Lavonte David (Nebraska)
- Chris Borland (Wisconsin)
- Michael Mauti (Penn State)
Lavonte David was fantastic in his first season in Lincoln last fall. David led the Big 12 in tackles with 152, and also recorded six sacks on the season. David was named to the Big 12 First Team and was also the Big 12 Newcomer of the Year. You can expect to see David all over the field this fall as he will most likely lead the Big Ten in tackles. He is one of those guys who is “always around the ball”.
Wisconsin’s Chris Borland missed most of last season with a shoulder injury. The injury limited Borland to only playing in two games, but based off of his great freshman season in 2009 Borland has the tools to be one of the best linebackers in the league. During Borland’s fresman campaign he had a solid season, recording 54 tackles, 10.5 TFL, and five sacks. his performances led him to receive many post season honors, including Freshman All-American, Big Ten Honorable Mention, and Big Ten Freshman of the Year. As long as he can stay healthy, Borland will be one of the most consistent performers on defense in the Big Ten this season.
Coming in at third on the list is Penn State’s Michael Mauti. Mauti recorded 67 tackles last year, good for fifth on the Penn State squad. Mauti is a high energy player who brings it on every play. Look for his stats to increase this year as he has matured and become the leader in the middle at Linebacker U. Mauti is another player who has had a major injury in the past. During the 2009 season he tore his ACL, causing him to miss the whole season. He looked to be healthy most of last season, but having a prior ACL tear is always something to be thinking about.
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