Big Ten Football: Power Ranking Best B1G Defensive Lines in 2012
If you were to rank which conferences have the best defensive lines in the country, it would start with the SEC, and No. 2 would likely be the Big Ten. We already took a look at the South Eastern Conference, so now it is time to break down the conference with the second-best defensive lines.
In last year’s NFL draft, there were a total of seven defensive linemen from the Big Ten that were selected. This conference may get a bad rap for poor offensive play, but physicality and solid defensive performance is something you can't accuse the Big Ten of not having.
There are many future NFL stars on this side of the ball, so let's take a look at the best defensive lines in the Big Ten for the 2012 season.
The Rest of the Pack
6. Nebraska Cornhuskers
7. Wisconsin Badgers
8. Michigan Wolverines
9. Northwestern Wildcats
10. Iowa Hawkeyes
11. Minnesota Golden Gophers
12. Indiana Hoosiers
Starters: Ryan Isaac, Ryan Russell, Bruce Gaston and Kawann Short
Key Backups: Greg Latta, Michael Rouse, Brandon Taylor and Jalani Phillips
Purdue may not receive much attention nationally, but this defensive line has a chance to really wake people up in 2012.
The Boilermakers return three starters from this unit, including defensive tackle Kawann Short, who is a lock to be a first-round pick in next year’s NFL draft. He led Purdue last season with 6.5 sacks and finished tied for 17th in the country with 17.5 tackles for loss.
Also, with a year under Ryan Russell's belt, the sophomore defensive end has a chance to really have a productive season. He is a solid pass-rusher with a lot of potential and will likely turn a lot of heads this season.
There is nothing flashy about this defensive line, just players that simply get after it and deserve some credit.
4. Penn State
Starters: Sean Stanley, Jordan Hill, DaQuan Jones and Deion Barnes
Key Backups: Pete Massaro, C.J. Olaniyan, Kyle Baublitz and James Terry
Penn State may have lost the majority of its key players due to the NCAA sanctions, but the defensive line remains one of the strong points of this entire club. The two veterans in Sean Stanley and Jordan Hill return to help anchor this unit. Together, those two players combined for 89 tackles and eight sacks a season ago.
The Nittany Lions also get defensive end Pete Massaro back on the roster after he missed the entire 2011 season with a knee injury. Deion Barnes is listed as the starting defensive end, but Massaro is sure to receive plenty of playing time and provides experience to this young defense overall.
Penn State has a tough road ahead this season, but a solid defensive front is something that can really go a long way for head coach Bill O'Brien.
Starters: Tim Kynard, Glenn Foster, Akeem Spence and Michael Buchanan
Key Backups: Kenny Nelson, Austin Teitsma, Darrius Caldwell and Jake Howe
Believe it or not, Illinois had a defense that was ranked seventh in the country last season in total yards a allowed. It also finished the year with 41 sacks, which was good for second in the Big Ten and tied for sixth in the country.
Akeem Spence and Michael Buchanan are two players that you will soon see on Sundays, and they should be considered one of the best defensive end and defensive tackle combinations in the country. Together, they combined for 133 tackles and nine sacks last year.
All four of the starters on this line are upperclassmen, and with the production this defense had last year, it wouldn't be surprising if the Fighting Illini were even better this season.
2. Michigan State
Starters: Marcus Rush, Anthony White, Micajah Reynolds and William Gholston
Key Backups: Shilique Calhoun, Damon Knox, Joel Heath and James Kittredge
Michigan State had the sixth-best overall defense in the country last season, the ninth-best run defense and finished tied for third with 45 sacks.
Defensive end William Gholston is going to have a breakout season with his combination of size and athleticism. He finished last year with 70 tackles and 16 tackles for loss, but this is a future first-round pick that we expect much more from this time around.
Marcus Rush is also a true pass-rusher who will be on the other side of the line. He racked up four sacks and 12 tackles for loss as a freshman linebacker.
This line is experienced and deep, which makes it another scary unit this year and gives the Spartans a great chance to reach the Big Ten title game.
1. Ohio State
Starters: John Simon, Garrett Goebel, Johnathan Hankins and Michael Bennett
Backups: Steve Miller, Joel Hale, J.T. Moore and Adolphus Washington
Ohio State has all of the pieces in place; it just needs the players to play the way they are capable of playing.
Johnathan Hankins has trimmed down during the offseason and is considered one of the top defensive tackles in all of football.
John Simon is a playmaker coming off the edge. He led the Buckeyes with seven sacks and 16 tackles for loss last year.
And Michael Bennett will add some excitement to this defensive line, as he played in every game last season as a true-freshman.
Head coach Urban Meyer also added many top recruits from the 2012 class on the defensive line that will add some serious depth to this already talented unit. Expect this squad to be improved over last season, and it all starts up front with the defensive line.