Last year, the Big Ten created the Butkus-Fitzgerald Linebacker of the Year Award, an honor that will annually be bestowed upon the top linebacker in the conference.
The inaugural winner, Nebraska's Lavonte David, won't be back to defend his award, as he's now gearing up for the NFL. However, the league will have no shortage of contenders in 2012, as many of the Big Ten's top linebackers will be returning for next season.
Teams like Wisconsin, Michigan State, Michigan, Penn State and Iowa will feature some of the best linebacker corps that college football has to offer next season, and there are plenty of other 'backers from around the conference who will be looking to garner accolades and honors as well.
So who are the must-watch players at the position?
Here's a look at how the Big Ten's top 15 linebackers stack up for the 2012 season.