Despite the evolution of the spread offense, the Big Ten’s true mantra has been defense. The 2016 season should be no exception.
Four Big Ten linebackers were mentioned in NFL.com Lance Zierlein’s linebackers to watch list for the upcoming season.
Leading the group was Ohio State linebacker Raekwon McMillan, who could be the best defensive player in the Big Ten. McMillan came in second on Zierlein’s list after recording 119 total tackles and four tackles for loss for the Buckeyes during his sophomore season. McMillan moved inside last season, but is extremely versatile because of his ability to cover in space.
Next on Zierlein’s list was Northwestern’s Anthony Walker, who was ranked third. The junior linebacker recorded a whopping 122 tackles for the Wildcats and was one of the anchors on a unit that finished fourth in the Big Ten in total defense (318.9 yards allowed per game).
Versatile Michigan defender Jabrill Peppers was No. 7 on Zierlein’s list. Although he might not truly be a linebacker, Peppers will move from safety to the strong-side position this season. He recorded 45 tackles last season while playing both ways and is one of the most intriguing players in college football.
Rounding out the list was Iowa linebacker Josey Jewell at No. 10. The junior racked up 126 tackles, in part due to his incredible work ethic. He should be one of the most important players on the Hawkeyes front seven this season.