With two players each ranked among the Big Ten's top-five
defensive backs, Ohio State and Michigan State should
feature terrific secondaries while Northwestern has a unit
on the rise and Michigan could be the league's best by the
end of the season.
1. Brad Roby, Jr.
- Ohio State
The fate of Roby remains a mystery after he was
arrested in late July on a battery charge, however, the
junior cornerback is practicing with the Buckeyes (albeit at
second strong, for now).
If he does suit up for Ohio State this fall, Roby is the
most accomplished DB in the league, earning first-team
All-American honors a year ago. Surprisingly, quarterbacks
threw his way, but they were usually unsuccessful, with Roby
recording 17 pass breakups and two interceptions. Blessed
with electric speed (4.3 40), a strong physical presence
(5-11, 192) and a knack for making plays, Roby probably
won't see much action this fall.
2. Isaiah Lewis, Sr. -
With the departure of Trenton Robinson after the
2011 season, much more was expected of Lewis last year as he
led a secondary that also included standout cornerbacks
Darqueze Dennard and Johnny Adams. Lewis' role changed and
he became less of a playmaker, but he did rack up a
career-high 80 tackles and eight combined passes defended
(six PBUs and two picks). This fall, with the departure of
Adams, Lewis will once again be asked to captain the
backfield, mentoring MSU's new cornerback (most likely Trae
3. Ibraheim Campbell,
Jr. - Northwestern
Perhaps one of the most
physically-impressive safeties the Wildcats have ever had,
the 5-11, 205-pound Campbell enters his third season a
starter for Northwestern with an accomplished resume. He's
racked up 189 tackles the past two years, including 100 in
2011, four interceptions and 16 pass breakups. After a rough
up-and-down campaign as a redshirt freshman, the
Philadelphian came into his own a year ago and he spearheads
a NU secondary that should be drastically improved.
4. C.J. Barnett, Sr.
- Ohio State
Since 2000, no program has had more first-team
All-Big Ten defensive backs than Ohio State, which has
accrued six honors for its safeties and five for its
cornerbacks. Barnett was honorable mention a year ago but
should be one of the league's best this fall. The 6-1, 203
pounder is a classic Buckeye safety in that he can attack
the football (16 passes defended over the past two years)
and is also a strong tackler, racking up 140 stops in
Others to Watch
Returning from injury, U-M's Blake Countess
should be among the top cover corners in the conference
while classmate Raymon Taylor possesses that potential also.
Michigan State's Dennard would have ranked fifth on this
list as he is already an accomplished cornerback for the
Spartans, earning all-league first-team honors in 2012.
Ricardo Allen returns for what feels like his seventh or
eighth year for Purdue, and is intent to have his best
season yet while Nebraska's Ciante Evans and Northwestern's
Nick VanHoose are rising prospects.