Big Ten Football: Northwestern's Vince Browne Tops This Year's Defensive Ends
It's Brown with an "e" at the end and Northwestern's Vince Browne is an awesome defensive end. He specializes in sacking opponents for a loss.
The Wildcat senior has registered 31 tackles for a loss and 16 sacks in his college career. He was a second-team All-Big Ten selection at defensive end last year and should be a first-team selection this year.
While Ohio State's football program has taken it on the chin (and in the gut) this year, their defense features the No. 2 and No. 4 defensive ends in our Big Ten list. The rest of the top 10 selections come from seven different Big Ten schools.
Illinois, Minnesota and Penn State failed to place a defensive end on the list, though also considered in the rankings were the Fighting Illini's Michael Buchanan and Penn State's Jack Crawford.
No. 10 Defensive End: Gerald Gooden, Purdue Boilermakers
When he's healthy, Purdue's Gerald Gooden is an effective defensive end. Unfortunately, injuries have hampered him from putting together a full season of significant statistics.
Gooden has played portions of each season for the last three years and recorded eight tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and two forced fumbles. He may be a projection for this list, but I'm hoping he plays every game in 2011 so we can see how talented this senior is.
No. 9 Defensive End: Craig Roh, Michigan Wolverines
Junior Craig Roh should benefit as Michigan returns to a 4-3 defensive front. Word is that he bulked up during the offseason to get his weight closer to 270 pounds.
Roh looks like a defensive end whose stock will climb after finishing his sophomore year with 43 tackles, two forced fumbles and 5.5 tackles for a loss. Expect the Wolverines' line to be their strength on defense with returning starters Roh, Mike Martin and Ryan Van Bergen.
No. 8 Defensive End: Darius Johnson, Indiana Hoosiers
The key to Indiana's defense is senior end Darius Johnson. When he's stellar, his teammates play better.
Johnson proved in 2010 that he is very productive on defense with 65 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss and 4.5 sacks. He is also credited with three quarterback hurries and a forced fumble.
New Indiana head coach Kevin Wilson may be recognized for his offensive expertise, but he'll need another strong year from Johnson to lift the Hoosier program out of the Big Ten depths.
No. 7 Defensive End; Broderick Binns, Iowa Hawkeyes
Hawkeye fans are hoping to see more of the 2009 version of Broderick Binns. In his sophomore year, he recorded six sacks, 10 tackles for a loss and led the team with nine pass breakups.
Last year Binns' statistics took a tumble, but he seems to be ready to finish strong as a senior. Given the Hawkeyes' schedule, a productive Binns could turn Iowa into a contender for a Leaders Division title and berth to the Big Ten championship game in Indianapolis.
No. 6 Defensive End: Louis Nzegwu, Wisconsin Badgers
Imagine being tutored by All-Big Ten defensive end J.J. Watts. While Watts moves on to the NFL, Nzegwu presents an awesome challenge to conference opponents hoping to generate a running game against the Badgers.
Louis Nwegwu finished 2010 with 46 tackles, 7.5 tackles for a loss, 4.5 sacks and a forced fumble. He played every game last year and was Wisconsin's top reserve lineman in 2009.
Nwegwu would like nothing better than to provide his Wisconsin teammates with a second consecutive Big Ten title.
No. 5 Defensive End: William Gholston, Michigan State Spartans
Is he a linebacker or a defensive end? Wherever he plays, sophomore William Gholston is going to create havoc for Spartan opponents.
He's 6'7" and 265 pounds and seems more comfortable at defensive end. He played in 10 games last year before injuring his shoulder in the Minnesota game.
Gholston was one of the stars in Michigan State's lopsided loss to Iowa in 2010. He was credited with five stops and a half-tackle for a loss against the 18th-ranked Hawkeyes.
Look for the tall sophomore defensive end to break up more passes and put constant pressure on opposing quarterbacks this year.
No. 4 Defensive End: Nathan Williams, Ohio State Buckeyes
The Buckeyes have an interesting combination of defensive ends. Senior Nathan Williams is a better pass rusher than teammate John Simon (No. 2 on this list), but Simon is the stronger run stopper.
Williams led Ohio State in 2010 with 4.5 sacks. He also has 89 career tackles, including 20.5 for losses. Like Gholston, he can slide into a linebacker's spot on the field and produce results. Just ask the Miami Hurricanes in the 2010 season opener. Williams picked off a pass and returned it 22 yards.
Williams is one of four defensive starters that is returning from a 2010 season that produced the No. 4 ranked defense in average yards allowed.
No.3 Defensive End: Cameron Meredith, Nebraska Cornhuskers
Junior defensive end Cameron Meredith had 64 tackles, eight tackles for a loss and 1.5 sacks in his first year as a starter in 2010. He also earned second-team All-Big 12 honors at defensive end last season.
Meredith is a 6'4" 260-pound defensive end capable of stopping the run and pressuring the quarterback. A shoulder injury caused him to miss part of spring practice, but he's anxious to provide the Cornhuskers with their first Big Ten title.
When Nebraska goes to three linemen, expect to see Meredith at one end and All-Americanteammate Jared Crick at the other end or in the middle of the defensive line.
No. 2 Defensive End: John Simon, Ohio State Buckeyes
Versatility seems to be the theme in this year's Big Ten defensive ends. Junior John Simon could split time at tackle or end, but he'll create havoc for opponents at either spot.
Simon is one of the most explosive defensive linemen in the Big Ten. Last year he recorded 41 tackles, had 8.5 tackles for a loss and three sacks. He also had two fumble recoveries. (I wonder if teammate Nathan Williams caused those fumbles?)
Opposing quarterbacks may want an extra blocker or two when considering that Simon is at one end and Williams is at the other end of the defensive line.
No. 1 Defensive End: Vince Browne, Northwestern Wildcats
We've already saluted Northwestern senior Vince Browne for his ability to sack opponents. Now let's recognize him for his tackling abilities.
Last year he had 58 tackles and forced two fumbles. Browne has tallied 73 unassisted tackles and 51 assists for a total of 123 in his three-year career. He has progressively gotten better each season, so it's conceivable that he'll finish his tenure at Northwestern with over 100 unassisted tackles and more than 75 assists.
Browne is a candidate for the Bronko Nagurski Trophy and the Chuck Bednarik Award. He is considered one of the top 10 college defensive ends going into the 2012 NFL draft.