With the college semesters winding down we inch closer and closer to Big Ten teams suiting up for summer camps. As those weeks move by, we are back again for another conference positional preview. This time we finally get to move over to the defensive side of the ball.
This week we’ll start with the defensive lineman of the Big Ten, an absolutely stacked position in the conference. The list will consist of some big names, and there will surely be some deserving that will get left off.
To make my life a little bit easier, those with injury and transfer concerns will be left off of the list. So, without further ado, here are my rankings for the top returning defensive lineman in the Big Ten.
1. Nick Bosa, Junior, Ohio State
The younger brother of the LA Chargers‘ star defensive end, Joey Bosa, the junior is as disruptive as they come in the trenches. Bosa has a relentless pass rush that notched him 8.5 sacks on a stacked defensive line.
He was just as successful against the run with 17 tackles for loss. Bosa can back up all the hype he brings and is not only one of the best prospects in the Big Ten but college football in general.
2. Rashan Gary, Junior, Michigan
Now let’s flip our attention over one of Bosa’s biggest rivals. Michigan‘s Rashan Gary can line up all across the line to wreak havoc on opposing offenses.
He’s an athletic marvel that can get down the line of scrimmage to chase down backend runs. The New Jersey native produced six sacks and 12 tackles for loss while often opening up opportunities for his teammates to make plays.
However high Nick Bosa goes in the draft you can bet that Gary won’t be too far behind. Heck, with a season still to play I wouldn’t be surprised if these two flip-flop on this list.
3. Joe Gaziano, Redshirt Junior, Northwestern
To me, it is absolutely wild that no one seems to talk about Joe Gaziano as one of the best defensive linemen in the Big Ten.
There are probably two reasons for this, one being the abundance of talent at his position throughout the conference and two being he plays for Northwestern.
Gaziano led the conference in sacks with nine and that’s playing with less talent around him (by conference standards, anyway). He also, just like his counterparts above him, lived in the opposing backfield.
Sleeper: Chase Young, Sophomore, Ohio State
For as great as Urban Meyer’s defensive line was, it says something that Chase Young was able to contribute as a true freshman. Young has grown man size at just 18 years old, standing in at 6-foot-5 with a 265-pound frame.
He showed ample promise with his pass rush in the limited action he played by notching 3.5 sacks. The Buckeyes lost a few bodies on the defensive line to the NFL draft making way for Young to have a breakout season, so I’m expecting just that.