1-Jay Alford, Senior, Penn State
2-Quinn Pitcock, Senior, Ohio State
3-Alan Branch, Junior, Michigan
4-Nick Hayden, Junior, Wisconsin
5-David Patterson, Senior, Ohio State
6-Clifton Ryan, Senior, Michigan State
7-Chris Norwell, Junior, Illinois
8-Mitch King, Sophomore, Iowa
9-Jason Chapman, Sophomore, Wisconsin
10-Ed Johnson, Senior, Penn State
11-Justin Ostrowski, Junior, Wisconsin
12-Alex Magee, Sophomore, Purdue
13-Matt Kroul, Sophomore, Iowa
14-Greg Brown, Sophomore, Indiana
15-Terrence Taylor, Sophomore, Michigan
Surprise, surprise! Although many consider Ohio State’s Quinn Pitcock the top defensive tackle in the league, I’ll go with Jay Alford. There is no question Pitcock is better against the run but I love how Alford can rush the passer. He tallied eight and half sacks last season along with 11.5 tackles for loss. Alford is the only returning starter to the defensive trench and is expected to lead this group after a strong 2005.
Even though Pitcock came in second this time, he could very well be in the top slot by the end of the year. In past years Pitcock was mostly in a space eating role and his penetration skills weren’t on full display. Will the Buckeye coaches turn him loose this year? Expect big things from the three year starter.
Just up the road at Michigan, Alan Branch played well at defensive end last year but will move inside to his more natural position to shore up the rotation. He looked somewhat out of place on the interior last season but the 6-6, 310 pound Branch has all the tools to succeed. He tallied 31 tackles, 7 for loss, and five sacks in 05‘.
Wisconsin's Nick Hayden was a rock in the middle last year despite the fact that most of his d-line teammates fell to injury. Hayden had 56 tackles, nine for loss and 5.5 sacks in 2005 and will anchor a very talented Badger front in 2006.
A very talented player that is often overlooked is Ohio State’s David Patterson. Patterson played end last year where he recorded 24 tackles, 7.5 for loss, and four sacks. He has the ability to stop like the run much like the now departed Marcus Green did, but Patterson is a much more active pass rusher.
Putting Clifton Ryan at number six may be a bit of a reach but I like his potential inside. Ryan played several games at defensive tackle last year for the Spartans and looked like a natural. He moved back to strong side defensive end later in the 2005 season but will return to defensive tackle full time 2006. Ryan has ideal size and can move well for 300-pounder.
Illinois defensive tackle Chris Norwell is the team's star up front. Norwell has excellent size at 6-6 and has athletic ability uncommon for his size. His motor needs to go a little more consistently, but when his effort is up he is hard to stop.
Iowa’s Mitch King is not your average defensive tackle at 265 pounds, but he makes up for it with excellent quickness and heart. King and fellow starter Matt Kroul are great penetrating type tackles but struggle anchoring against the run at times.
Wisconsin’s Jason Chapman was thrust into the spotlight last year as a freshman when injuries knocked out several of the defensive tackles. Chapman had a strong 2005 and has so far held off Justin Ostrowski (who is returning from injury). Chapman’s athletic ability is what makes him effective inside. He is so versatile that he can play defensive end as well. Expect to see Chapman play at end from time to time to get Ostrowski on the field with him and Hayden.
Keep an eye on Penn State’s Ed Johnson. He was a mainstay on the PSU line in years past but was suspended for the 2005 season. All indications are that he was back to his old self in spring ball and could rise up this list.
Purdue’s Alex Magee is still young but the sophomore has the tools needed to develop into a special player.
Indiana’s Greg Brown and Michigan’s Terrence Taylor are both compact, strong players who’s best days are ahead of them.