‘06 Big Ten Preview: Ranking the Conference's DE's

Josh Turel applies his NFL Draft knowledge to ranking the Big Ten's top performers at each position. This time: The Defensive Ends.

Defensive Ends

#1-Ray Edwards-Purdue-Junior
#2-Tamba Hali-Penn State-Senior
#3-Lamarr Woodley-Michigan-Junior
#4-Loren Howard-Northwestern-Senior
#5-Anthony Spencer-Purdue-Junior
#6-Mike Kudla-Ohio State-Junior
#7-Pierre Woods-Michigan-Senior
#8-Bryan Mattison-Iowa-Sophomore
#9-Jamal Cooper-Wisconsin-Sophomore
#10-Clifton Ryan-Michigan State-Junior
#11-Xavier Fulton-Illinois-Sophomore
#12-Rob Ninkovich-Purdue-Senior
#13-Keith Lipka-Minnesota-Senior
#14-Jay Richardson-Ohio State-Junior
#15-Matthew Rice-Penn State-Senior

The number one slot is a very tough call. Once again, it depends on what style of player your looking for. I think Ray Edwards is the more complete player but he's without a doubt the Big Ten's best pass rusher. Edwards logged in eight sacks last season, but more importantly he played a key role in a run defense that ranked 2nd in the conference, allowing only an average of 105.3 yards a game.

Tamba Hali is the other style of player, no one plays the run at end better than him but he doesn't necessarily dominate as a pass rusher. He plays with outstanding intensity and is a very physical player on the left side. Hali made 12 tackles for loss along with two sacks last season. LaMaar Woodley is in the same mold of Hali, however I think he has more upside as a pass rusher. I love to watch players like Woodley who play with such discipline and knowledge of the position. Woodley will play end more this year after working at outside linebacker in the 3-4 defense last season. He has the potential to dominate and he should be the defensive lines best player this year.

Loren Howard battled injuries all last season and has durability issues but when he's healthy, few are better. Howard is very athletic for his size and can dominate for stretches. If he's healthy, Howard is one of the leagues finest pass rushers. Anthony Spencer has put his name on the map as one of the better defensive ends in the Big Ten. The Purdue product registered 7.5 sacks and 8 tackles for loss last season. Spencer is very strong against the run, almost as if he's another defensive tackle out on the field. Both he and teammate Ray Edwards have NFL potential.

Mike Kudla of Ohio State is the team's best pass rusher and registered 5.5 sacks last season. Kudla came in as a linebacker and is pretty athletic for a defensive end, but will need another threat to arise at the other end position to increase his production. Pierre Woods will make the full time move to defensive end from strong side linebacker and could flourish there. There's no question Woods has the ability; he just needs to develop a mean streak and get comfortable at the position.

Iowa's Bryan Mattison replaces Matt Roth as the team's premier pass rusher and some have said the youngster has flashed resemblance of his former teammate. Watch for Wisconsin's Jamal Cooper, he is vastly under bulked at 6'4, 217 pounds but flashed excellent pass rushing potential last year in spot duty and he holds up against the run better than you would think.

Michigan State's Clifton Ryan has done a solid job as the call side stud end, and is the best pass rusher on the roster. Ryan could move to the weak side "whip" position where generally MSU likes to put its premium pass rusher. If that's the case, Michael Bazemore will take over for Ryan at stud end and fit's the mold there.

Xavier Fulton was a highly recruited kid with a jumbo frame and legit athletic ability. He is mostly a potential pick here, but he should be a good one. Rob Ninkovich is a reserve end for Purdue but registered eight sacks in backup duty. Ninkovich caught my eye while I was scouting Purdue last season before the Michigan game and I'm convinced he would start on most of the teams in the Big Ten. A true victim of circumstance.

Minnesota's Keith Lipka is an athletic guy who could emerge this year if he gets some help along the line. Jay Richardson has been battling for his end spot with David Patterson but Richardson should win out. Richardson is huge at 6'6, 270 and should have a solid year with Mike Kudla attracting most of the attention. Matthew Rice is an experienced starter for Penn State should register another good year.

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