B1G's top five returning DE

Over the next few weeks, a panelist of Scout.com Big Ten reporters will be breaking down the conference position-by-position. Today it's the defensive line, a position loaded in the conference.

Over the next few weeks, a panelist of Scout.com Big Ten reporters will be breaking down the conference position-by-position.

Today we look at the defensive end position, where Michigan State's Shilique Calhoun slightly edged out Nebraska's Randy Gregory for the top spot, receiving just one more point.

The reporters were asked to rank the top five, with five points going to the No. 1 spot, four to No. 2, three to No. 3, and so on.

1.) Jr. Shilique Calhoun, Michigan State: 40 points (6 first-place votes)
Just a junior, the New Jersey native already has 27 games under his belt. Last season, he was named 2013 Big Ten Defensive Lineman of the Year as a sophomore, helping MSU win the Big Ten and a Rose Bowl. He's been adamant in the past he wants to get a degree before turning pro, but could this be Calhoun's last season in East Lansing? Michigan State has to replace their starting two defensive tackles, but Calhoun will make the Spartans' front four tough again. As one Scout.com publisher put it on his vote, "he's the best player on the best defense in the conference."

2013 stats: 8.5 sacks and 16.5 tackles for loss on his way to a 43-tackle season.

2.) Randy Gregory, Nebraska: 39 points (3 first-place votes)
There might not be a better NFL prospect in the Big Ten than Gregory, who was named CollegeFootballNews.com's National Sophomore Defensive Player of the Year in 2013. A junior college transfer last season, Gregory was raw, but showed an ability to get to quarterbacks. Nebraska head coach Bo Pelini feels his ceiling is extremely high and says the Indiana native's game grew a lot in the spring.

2013 stats: 66 total tackles with 10.5 sacks and 19 tackles for loss. He also recorded 18 quarterback hurries.

3.) So. Joey Bosa, Ohio State: 25 points
Despite being an Under Armour All-American in high school, Bosa surprised many in the Big Ten in 2013. Just a true freshman, the Florida native was able to show he has what it takes to be a star in the conference down the road. In March, Ohio State head coach Urban Meyer told CBSSports.com's Jerry Fowler he "could be as good a defensive lineman I've ever coached." Bosa was named to CFN's 2013 All-American Freshman team last year.

2013 stats: 44 tackles with 7.5 sacks and 13.5 tackles for loss.

4.) Jr. Noah Spence, Ohio State: 20 points
The Pennsylvania native won't be on the field for the first two games of the season after failing a drug test administered at the Big Ten Championship last December, but should be able to come close to matching his production last season. Ohio State is loaded up front, but Spence already has a starting spot locked according to Meyer. He still has two years of eligibly left, but Spence is starting to pop up in 2015 NFL mock drafts.

2013 stats: 52 tackles with 8.0 sacks and 14.5 tackles for loss.

5.) Sr. Frank Clark, Michigan: 10 points
Clark was named to the All-Big Ten second team last season by the conference coaches. The Ohio native has made 38 appearances over the last three years and emerged as a leader up front this spring according to his teammates. Clark's senior season has a lot of potential and in most conferences, he would be a little higher up on the list.

2013 stats: 43 tackles for 4.5 sacks and 12 tackles for loss.

Other players receiving votes: Theiren Cockran- Minnesota, Ifeadi Odenigbo - Northwestern, and Marcus Rush - Michigan State.

The voter panel: Mark Brennan of FightOnState.com, Ben Worgull of BadgeNation.com, Brice Marich of GopherDigest.com, Josh Harvey of BigRedReport.com, Mike Wilson of SpartanDigest.com, Nicholas Medline of PurpleWildcats.com, Jeff Svoboda of BuckeyeSports.com, Kyle Bogenschutz of GoBlueWolverine.com, Sam Hellman of ScarletReport.com, Beth Long of Scout.com, and Rob Howe of HawkeyeInsider.com.

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