The Big Ten will have plenty of experience, talent and
athleticism at the linebacker position this season, from the
statistical machine that is Ohio State's Ryan Shazier to the
aggresive, old-school stylings of Max Bullough of Michigan
1. Ryan Shazier, Jr.
- Ohio State
Shazier was all over the field last season. He
racked up 115 total tackles (second in the Big Ten), five
sacks (eighth in the Big Ten), 17 tackles for loss (first in
the Big Ten), 12 pass breakups (eighth in the Big Ten) and
three forces fumbles (third in the Big Ten), earning
first-team All-Big Ten honors and an honorable mention spot
on Sports Illustrated's All-American list. According
to Shazier's bio page on OhioStateBuckeyes.com, he was the
first OSU player since 2006 to record more than 100 total
tackles and the first Buckeye to record 70 or more solo
tackles in a decade.
2. Max Bullough, Sr. -
Bullough, entering his third season as a starter
for the Spartans, has put up some pretty impressive stats.
Since his first game in 2010, Bullough has appeared in 40
contests, tallied 223 tackles, 6.5 sacks, 21 tackles for
loss, three forced fumbles, six pass breakups and three
interceptions. Last year, he was elected captain by his
teammates and earned first-team All-Big Ten honors after
topping the 100-tackle plateau (111 total) and notching an
impressive 12.5 tackles for loss. Bullough will continue to
disprupt opposing offenses in 2013.
3. Chris Borland,
5th-Sr. - Wisconsin
Last year, Borland was,
statistically speaking, Wisconsin's Jake Ryan. He was one of
just nine Big Ten players to finsih with more than 100
tackles (104), recorded 4.5 sacks, 10 tackles for loss,
three forced fumbles and three fumble recoveries, earning
first-team All-Big Ten honors for the Big Ten Champions.
Borland has been wreaking havoc of Big Ten offenses since
winning the Big Ten Freshman Of The Year award and
honorable-mention All-Big Ten honors in 2009 (he missed the
2010 season with an injury). Borland has been an All-Big Ten
performer every year -- and there's no reason to expect
otherwise in '13.
4. Anthony Hitchens, Sr.
Hitchens is exactly what you've come to expect
from an Iowa linebacker: a no-frills, downhill tackle
machine. Hitchens led the Big Ten in total tackles (124),
finishing sixth nationally in that category. He was one of
just 21 players in the country who averaged double-digit
tackles per game last season, with 11.3 per game in 2012.
For his efforts, he was awarded honorable-mention All-Big
Ten honors. With two other seniors alongside him in the
linebacking corps - James Morris and Christian Kirksey -
Hitchens will be in a position to put up some big numbers
Jake Ryan, R-Jr., - Michigan
Ryan should be much high on
this list. As a sophomore last season, he was a force,
finishing 21st in the Big Ten in tackles (88), 15th in sacks
(4.5), third in tackles for loss (16) and first in forced
fumbles (four). He was everywhere the Wolverines needed him
to be. Unfortunately, Ryan will miss a significant chunk of
the 2013 season due to an ACL injury suffered during spring
practice. The good news? Ryan is recovering so quickly that
he should play most - if not all - of Michigan's games
against Big Ten opponents. If he picks up where he left off,
Ryan will shoot back toward the top of this list.
Others to Watch
Northwestern has two potentially explosive
linebackers in redshirt junior Chi Chi Ariguzo, who made
10.5 tackles for loss and three sacks, and fifth-year senior
Damien Proby, who finsihed with 112 total tackles. ...
Illinois senior Jonathan Brown has racked up 198 tackles and
30.5 tackles for loss in his career. He missed the last
three games of the 2012 season due to injury but is back at
100 percent. ... Michigan State fifth-year senior Denicos
Allen is poised to have another big year. He has 14 career
sacks and and 29.5 tackles for loss in his career. ...
Michigan junior Desmond Morgan and sophomore James Ross III
will be important, especially considering the injury to