College Football Preview – Big Ten Defenses
David Funk, a good friend and writer of the Fantasy Sports Network blog, put together a ranking of the Big Ten college football defenses. He was kind enough allow me to post his breakdown on my site to pass the great information on to you. This is very useful info as you gear up for the college football season, especially if you play the Sporting News College Football Salary Cap game.
“Today, we finish up with Big Ten by ranking the defenses. Enjoy.
Big Ten Team Defensive Rankings:
1. Ohio State(Starters returning: 9
The loaded Buckeyes return three defensive lineman, two linebackers, and the entire starting secondary a from a year ago. The defense is led by last year’s Butkus Award Winner and middle linebacker James Laurinaitis. Marcus Freeman, who was second on the team in tackles last year, returns at his outside linebacker spot. The stellar secondary is led by cornerback Malcolm Jenkins.
2. Penn State(Starters returning: 9
The front seven will be the strength of the defense, but depth is a concern in the secondary. The defensive line returns all four starters led by end Maurice Evans. Linebacker Sean Lee is out for the year because of injury and Dan Connor is gone to the NFL. Tyrell Sales does return at outside linebacker and there’s depth, too. The secondary returns four starters, but should injuries occur, it could be a big problem for them this year in a offensive conference like the Big Ten.
3. Illinois(Starters returning: 6
The Fighting Illini return three defensive starting lineman from a year ago led by end Will Davis, who was the team’s leader in sacks a year ago with 9.5. Derek Walker is the other end, and there’s plenty of depth behind them. Brit Miller moves to middle linebacker from the outside spot. Vontae Davis, Dere Hicks, and Miami Thomas form a solid group of cornerbacks on defense.
4. Michigan(Starters returning: 8
This is the strength of the Wolverines defense this year. The entire defensive line returns with big nosetackle Terrance Taylor leading the way. Obi Ezeh is the only returning linebacker and John Thompson is solid there, too. Morgan Trent and Donovan Warren return at the cornerback spots, but they will be leaned on to force more turnovers than they did a year ago.
5. Wisconsin(Starters returning: 9
The Badgers return plenty of experience, but injuries in spring practices have caused five starters to be sidelined. Defensive tackles Jason Chapman and Mike Newkirk were two of those guys, and the others behind them have gained some experience. The team’s best corner, Allen Langford, was also hurt during the spring. The backups are getting much needed reps, but the defense needs the starters to return to form before their opener on August 30.
6. Iowa(Starters returning: 5
The two starting defensive tackles Mitch King and Matt Kroul are back. The defensive end spots will see two inexperienced players, likely Adrian Clayborn and Christian Ballard, starting on each side. A.J. Edds is the only returning linebacker and he started all their games a season ago. The secondary returns both safeties in Harold Dalton and Brett Greenwood, but the corners will see new faces starting this year.
7. Indiana(Starters returning: 7
The defensive line recorded 42 sacks last year, and return three of those starters. End Greg Middleton led the nation in sacks with 16 a year ago. Jammie Kirlew will start at the other end. Will Patterson and Geno Johnson return at the outside linebacker spots. Austin Thomas and Nick Polk return at both safety spots, but they lost both starting cornerbacks from a year ago.
8. Purdue(Starters returning: 6
Alex Magee and Ryan Barker return at the defensive tackle spots, and they have depth behind them. Keyon Brown returns at one end spot and the other end could see redshirt freshman Nickcaro Golding, a very quick pass-rusher on the other side. Anthony Heygood is the only returning linebacker. David Pender returns at cornerback and Brandon King is back at free safety.
9. Michigan State(Starters returning: 5
Experience may be an issue on defense, but talent is another story. Defensive tackle Justin Kershaw is the only returning lineman, but Antonio Jeremiah shows very good promise as does end Trevor Anderson. Eric Gordon returns at outside linebacker and Greg Jones has moved from the outside to middle linebacker. Strong safety Otis Wiley is a solid strong safety who returns to lead the secondary.
10. Northwestern(Starters returning: 7
The entire defensive line returns led by tackle John Gill, but they struggled getting pressure on the quarterback with only 18 sacks a year ago. Prince Kwateng returns at outside linebacker and new starter Malcolm Arrington moves to the middle from the outside. Brad Phillips returns at free safety and corner Sherrick McManis is also back. The defense has experience, but they still need to improve after giving up over 31 points a game last year.
11. Minnesota(Starters returning: 6
The defense was the worst in the nation a year ago in terms of yardage allowed, so there’s plenty to improve upon. The defensive line returns three starters, and they’re counting on Willie VanDeSteeg to provide pressure at defensive end. Steve Davis and Deon Hightower return in the linebacking corps. Ryan Collado is the only experiened player in the secondary returning, but the whole unit could see all new starters by the start of the season.
Stud defenses: Ohio State
Rising defense: Michigan
Falling defense: Iowa
Overall analysis: Ohio State is clearly the top defensive unit in this conference after a standout performance on that side of the ball a year ago and nearly everyone back. Penn State has plenty of experience returning, but will miss their two players from last year. Illinois should be good on defense, and they have a very formidable front that will carry them on that side of the ball. Wisconsin is hurting and will have to be watched carefully at this time to see how they play with the current situation they have. Iowa, Indiana, Purdue, and Michigan State show promise, but question marks in each unit so you should pay close attention to their schedule in a conference that appears to be plenty good offensively. Northwestern has experience returning, but with the numbers they gave up last year, it’s probably best to avoid them right now. The Golden Gophers were too bad on defense a year ago to improve to a point where you’d consider taking them at all during the season.”