Turel's Big 10 Position Rankings: FS

In an upcoming issue of GoBlueWolverine the magazine, Josh Turel ranks the top players at each position in the Big Ten conference. These preseason forecasts are subject to change, but here is his outlook in things heading into the 2006 season. In this segment, Turel breaks down the free safeties. Iowa's Marcus Paschal leads the way.

Free Safety:
1-Marcus Paschal, Senior, Iowa
2-Roderick Rogers, Senior, Wisconsin
3-Willis Barringer, Senior, Michigan
4-Will Meyers, Senior, Indiana
5-Donnie Johnson, Senior, Penn State
6-Ryan Mundy, Junior, Michigan
7-Nick Patterson, Sophomore, Ohio State
8-Brendan Smith, Sophomore, Northwestern
9-Brandon Mitchell, Senior, Ohio State
10-Justin Sanders, Junior, Illinois

Also watch for:
Justin Harrison, Illinois
Trumaine Banks, Minnesota
Brandon Harrison, Michigan
Reggie McPherson, Northwestern

Four returning starters top the Big Ten’s 2006 free safety crop, which is headlined by Marcus Paschal from Iowa. Paschal recorded 62 tackles last season and is solid in the Hawkeyes' zone heavy defense. Paschal doesn‘t have elite speed but his instincts and run stopping ability make him a presence on the field.

Coming in second is Wisconsin’s Roderick Rogers. The Badgers center fielder is more of a coverage oriented safety, having picked off three passes last season. He is the point man for the leagues top secondary.

Michigan’s Willis Barringer played above expectations in 2005, collecting 43 tackles despite being injured for several games. The Toledo, Ohio native is coming off a solid spring and should be a leader in the Wolverine secondary.

Indiana senior Will Meyers is the Hoosiers returning leader in tackles with 84, seven of which were for loss. The Hoosiers defense will be using a three safety scheme that will capitalize on Meyers run stopping ability.

Penn State’s Donnie Johnson saw playing time in the Nittany Lions’ nickel packages last year, which should help ease his transition to a starting role. Johnson is a former receiver that is rangy and athletic.

Michigan’s Ryan Mundy was one of the top recruits at the position when he came to Ann Arbor three years ago, but hasn’t yet reached his potential. His 2005 season was cut short by a nerve injury but he was in for spring practice this year. It is unknown whether he will hold up but he will be an asset to the Wolverines if he is healthy. Mundy could rise up this list by season’s end.

Ohio State’s Nick Patterson has a leg up on Brandon Mitchell for the starting free safety job vacated by former Buckeye standout Nate Salley. Patterson is still learning the ropes but would inject size and speed to the Scarlet and Grey secondary.

Northwestern’s Brenden Smith started in place of Bryan Heinz last season and will now tag team with him this year at the safety spots. Smith pleased the staff with his progress last season and will be counted on to help turn around a pass defense that ranked 101st in the nation.

Senior Brandon Mitchell should be able to be a contributor to the Ohio State secondary even if he doesn’t win the starting job. The lack of depth at cornerback will likely allow Mitchell to see more playing time in larger defensive packages.

One of the players to watch at this position is Illinois safety Justin Sanders. Sanders is a JUCO transfer that quickly established himself in spring ball and will likely take over the starting free safety spot from Justin Harrison.

Minnesota's Trumaine Banks is being experimented with at free safety after playing cornerback in previous seasons. If Banks is able to transition over and win the starting job, he could end up high on this list by seasons end.

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