No. 106: Chris Norman, #10, LB, Michigan State
2011 Stats: 76 tackles, 6.5 tackles-for-loss, 2 sacks
On nearly every other Big Ten defense, Norman would not only start, he'd probably be one of the three or four best defenders on the team. He's fast, sturdy at 6'1" and 230 pounds and a sure and aggressive hitter.
Norman isn't nearly the dynamic playmaker that fellow linebackers Denicos Allen and Max Bullough are, and although his speed is more than serviceable on the edge, he can be outmaneuvered by quicker backs and slot receivers when he's forced to operate in space. He's really one of two weak links in the defensive front seven (the other being nose tackle), but that's more a comparative fault than an objective one.
With playmakers all over the place on the Spartan defense, there isn't an easy way to plan an offensive attack. If anything, Norman's going to face some tests and targets more based on who he isn't than who he is. That's going to mean lots of opportunities to make plays, and considering the relatively low level of talent at slot receiver and past the top five tailbacks this season, Norman's probably got the ability to rise to most of those challenges.
In fact, we'll predict a rise in tackles made—maybe even as high as 90 on the year—but also a commensurate rise in plays given up and negative highlights. Another Honorable Mention All-Big Ten performance is probably in the making for 2012.