The Ted Hendricks Award, given annually to the nation's top defensive end, announced its 2012 Watch List on Tuesday morning. Although there isn't an overwhelming presence from the Big Ten on the 40-man list—only five Big Ten ends are on the list—the conference still has good a shot as any to bring home the trophy in 2012.
The official announcement and full player list is here (.PDF warning), and a quick overview of the Big Ten's presence is chronicled below.
John Simon, Ohio State: It's one thing to have Simon's motor, which is utterly relentless. Combine that with his freakish strength and overall athleticism, and you have a dominant defensive end. Simon overwhelmed fellow Buckeyes in spring practice this year, which means he's going to be overwhelming nearly everybody placed in front of him this season. He's probably the Big Ten's best candidate to be a finalist come December.
William Gholston, Michigan State: There are few college football players who are so physically gifted that they can make a contact-heavy position like defensive end look easy. Gholston is one of those players, and that's both a gift and a curse. He's capable of such dominance that if he has a pedestrian performance, it feels like the only explanation is that he was dogging it.
That said, Gholston's production last season as a sophomore—70 tackles, 16 tackles-for-loss, five sacks—is high enough that even if it seems like he's coasting, he's still making a difference on the field. Nevertheless, if the most physically gifted defensive end in the conference isn't the most productive end in the conference, voters aren't going to be impressed.
Gholston needs 20 tackles-for-loss at a minimum to impress by the end of the year, and he's capable of making that happen as long as his head's on straight.
Craig Roh, Michigan: Michael Buchanan of Illinois and Nebraska's Cameron Meredith aren't much more than marginal contenders themselves, but Roh's inclusion seems more like a measure of the jersey he wears than his actual talent and track record. Roh has spent his Michigan career bouncing around the defensive front seven, and he's now installed at strongside defensive end for his senior year.
Roh's production doesn't fit the profile of someone who merits consideration here. Last year was his best from a "sexy stats" perspective, and even that just meant eight tackles-for-loss and four sacks; his overall tackles dipped to 32 from 43 in 2010, and he managed just five overall tackles (none for a loss) in the last four games of the season combined. Put him in an Indiana jersey, and the Hendricks Award doesn't even sniff him.
Sean Stanley, Penn State: There aren't a whole lot of elite defensive ends in the Big Ten this year, and Sean Stanley's 2011 season wasn't productive enough to merit much buzz. Thus, we're not mounting a serious argument that he or anyone was unjustly left off the Hendricks Watch List.
But 6.5 tackles-for-loss, 4.5 sacks and three forced fumbles give an indication of how disruptive Stanley can be at his peak, and he's absolutely capable of a strong senior campaign given that Penn State's high level of national attention could push him into semifinalist talk by the end of the year.