1-Paul Posluszny, Senior, Penn State
2-Dan Connor, Junior, Penn State
3-Prescott Burgess, Senior, Michigan
4-Edmond Miles, Senior, Iowa
5-Marcus Freeman, Sophomore, Ohio State
6-John Shevlin, Junior, Minnesota
7-SirDarean Adams, Junior, Michigan State
8-Mario Reese, Senior, Minnesota
9-Nick Roach, Senior, Northwestern
10-Shawn Crable, Junior, Michigan
11-James Laurinaitis, Sophomore, Ohio State
12-David Herron, Senior, Michigan State
13-Cliff Avril, Junior, Purdue
14-Brit Miller, Sophomore, Illinois
15-Sean Lee, Sophomore, Penn State
With AJ Hawk, Chad Greenway, and Bobby Carpenter gone, the outside linebacker talent in the Big Ten loses some serious talent. However, the conference does return one of the nation's best in Penn State standout Paul Posluszny. Posluszny considered leaving for the NFL after Butkus award winning season in which he collected 116 tackles, but a knee injury in the Orange Bowl swayed him to return. Expect him to better last year's performance at “linebacker U” as he continues to drop the hammer on opponents. Posluszny’s partner in crime in State College is Dan Connor. Connor isn’t as strong but he has more range.
Michigan’s Prescott Burgess gets a bad wrap, but he’s the team's most complete linebacker. Burgess is a bit inconsistent but he should be improved in a more aggressive scheme that has him playing closer to the line. Burgess tallied 81 tackles in 2005 and may move to inside linebacker if needed.
Edmond Miles must go without departed stalwarts Chad Greenway and Abdul Hodge, but he should have a fine senior year. He is the team's returning leader in tackles with 68, nine of which were for loss. Like Burgess at Michigan, he could end up moving to inside linebacker to replace Hodge if other options don’t pan out.
Slotting Marcus Freeman at number five is a projection pick, but there is no question the young man is talented. After redshirting last season due to injury, Freeman brings his excellent speed and range to replace AJ Hawk at weak side linebacker.
Minnesota’s John Shevlin was a nice surprise last year, collecting 74 tackles (9 TFL). He sat out the spring due to injury but expect him to continue his production on the weak side.
SirDarean Adams isn’t your ordinary linebacker but he’s a bandit hybrid in Michigan States system. He doesn’t take on blockers well, but he’s like a fifth defensive back on a team that needs coverage help. He’s a playmaker who is only getting better.
Minnesota’s Mario Reese made the transition from defensive end to outside linebacker last season and was solid despite some growing pains. If he can become more consistent and play up to potential he could compete for Big Ten honors.
Despite an injury-filled last season, Northwestern’s Nick Roach was able to tally 77 tackles. The coaching staff thinks he could be special if he can stay healthy.
I expect Michigan’s Shawn Crable to be on the field in a number of roles this year. He had a tremendous spring and is due for a big increase in playing time. Crable has the talent to be in the top three, and could be there by season's end, but he'll have to prove it on the field first.
James Laurinaitis got playing time unexpectedly last year when starter Bobby Carpenter went down. Laurinaitis played very well against Michigan and Notre Dame but will have to hold off a group of talented linebacking recruits to hold on to his job on the strong side.
David Herron returns for another year at Michigan State’s “whip” linebacker position. Herron has developed into a solid, productive linebacker who should be a leader on defense for the Spartans. Cliff Avril has the leg up on Stanford Keglar for the strong side job in West Lafayette. Avril is athletic for his size and could start developing into a fine linebacker.
Not many things go well on defense for Illinois, but burly Brit Miller could
be a player. Penn State's Sean Lee doesn't start for the Nittany Lions, but
he could for a good amount of teams in the Big Ten. Expect some possible scheme
mix ups to get him on the field.