The 2016 season is fast approaching, which means it’s time to start previewing players who could be in the discussion for college football’s most prestigious awards when the season is all said and done.
The preseason watch list for the Butkus Award (given to the nation’s best linebacker) was revealed on Tuesday and plenty of Big Ten players made the list.
Here’s a look at the Big Ten players who were named to each the Butkus Award preseason watch list, along with a preview of what to expect from them this season.
Vince Biegel, Wisconsin: Biegel recorded 66 tackles, 14 tackles for loss and eight sacks during his junior season with the Badgers. Defensive coordinator Dave Aranda is gone, but Biegel will remain the anchor of this defense.
Dante Booker, Ohio State: Booker will be a first-year starter this season after recording 22 tackles and one tackle for loss during his sophomore season. He will be one of the crucial pieces for a retooling Buckeyes defense.
Riley Bullough, Michigan State: Bullough recorded 106 tackles and was named second-team All-Big Ten during a tremendous junior season. Oddly enough, he was the first Spartans player to record 100 tackles in a season since his brother Max accomplished the feat in in 2012. Bullough is the true definition of a front seven anchor and should be mentioned as one of the Big Ten’s top defensive players.
Jason Cabinda, Penn State: Cabinda racked up exactly 100 tackles a season ago and was named an honorable mention All-Big Ten. He should be poised for a run at a spot on an All-Big Ten team as a junior.
Jermaine Carter, Maryland: Carter was a beastly sophomore for the Terrapins, recording 103 total tackles and 14 tackles for loss. Carter is a tackling machine and is getting some deserved recognition as a member of this list.
Josey Jewell, Iowa: Jewell led the Hawkeyes with 126 tackles last season. He is one of the best linebackers in the Big Ten entering the 2016 season and was also mentioned on the Nagurski Trophy watch list.
Raekwon McMillan, Ohio State: McMillan should be in the running for this award until the very end. He recorded 119 tackles, four tackles for loss and 1.5 sacks last season. But with an abundance of Ohio State’s defensive talent moving on, McMillan is now the face of the unit. He’s already one of the best defensive players in the conference.
Hardy Nickerson Jr., Illinois: Nickerson transferred to Illinois from California in April to play for his father, who was hired as Lovie Smith’s defensive coordinator in March. The younger Nickerson racked up 111 tackles and one sack last season with the Golden Bears. He will be a much-needed addition to Illinois’ front seven.
Anthony Walker, Northwestern: He might get no love because of who he plays for, but Walker should not be forgotten as one of the country’s best defenders. He recorded 120 tackles and led the Big Ten with 20.5 tackles for loss last season.
Nyeem Wartman-White, Penn State: Warman-White sustained a season-ending knee injury during Penn State’s opener against Temple. During his redshirt sophomore season, Wartman-White recorded 75 tackles. Wartman-White will be a pivotal player along Penn State’s front seven if he can stay healthy.