After addressing the defensive lineman last week, we are finally onto my favorite position on the football field. Let’s take a look at this year’s most promising Big Ten linebackers.
There aren’t many positions in the game of football where a player is asked to do more than at linebacker. It’s important that today’s linebackers are nimble like safeties to help in coverage but sturdy enough to take on blocks from opposing lineman. Mental toughness and discipline are also required to diagnose and react to plays as they happen.
We see in the NFL today that good linebackers (see the Jacksonville Jaguars) can turn a defense into a championship contender. It works the same way at the college level, especially in the Big Ten.
In this conference, run games dominate when teams aren’t spreading the field out. The Big Ten lost top linebackers Josey Jowell and Jerome Baker to the NFL draft, so today we rank those ready to replace them.
1. T.J. Edwards, Senior, Wisconsin
Edwards played the run just as well as you would want from any linebacker, notching 81 tackles with 11 behind the line of scrimmage. He also proved that he can be a three-down linebacker by looking more than comfortable in coverage, and picking off four passes.
Edwards returning for his senior year is a major boost to the Badger defense that looks to have great potential in 2018.
2. Joe Bachie, Junior, Michigan State
Bachie was a big reason why it was difficult to run down the middle against Michigan State, as he found and filled holes very often. He filled the stat sheet to the tune of 100 tackles, 8.5 tackles for loss (3.5 sacks), two forced fumbles, and three interceptions.
That’s really all that needs to be said, the kid lives around the ball.
3. Devin Bush, Junior, Michigan
You don’t have to travel too far from East Lancing to find our next guy, Devin Bush. Often playing in the shadow of fellow Michigan linebacker Mike McCray, it was Bush’s play that shined bright.
Bush excels at rushing the passer from the second level, bringing down opposing quarterbacks five and a half times in 2017. The junior was an all-around talent for the Wolverine defense, totaling 102 tackles, one interception, and nine passes defended.
With McCray gone, Bush has the potential to fly up this list.
Sleeper: Malik Harrison Sophomore Ohio State
There’s a pair of backers out of Rutgers that I would have loved to slot here because they are in fact pretty good. One reason I can’t is that both of these players ranked top five in tackles in the conference which means they technically aren’t sleepers. They also play on a Rutgers defense, which means they have 1000 opportunities per game to rack up plenty of tackles due to the nonexistent offense.
Anywho, Malik Harrison slides right in here after he showed an ample amount of potential as a true freshman. Harrison filled in for the injured Dante Booker last season and played the part for a true freshman. He actually never quite gave the job back as the season went on, which means he’s the favorite to start in 2018.
If that happens, look for the rising sophomore to improve as one of the better players at his position.