|BEST RETURNING QB||BEST RETURNING RB||BEST RETURNING WR|
|BEST RETURNING OL||BEST RETURNING DE|
Over the next few weeks, a panelist of Scout.com Big Ten reporters will be breaking down the conference position-by-position.
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.) Sr. Michael Bennett, Ohio State: 49 points (9-first place votes)
Bennett was a constant upfront for the Buckeyes last season, registering 44 tackles, 11.5 tackles for loss, and 7.5 sacks in 2013. His play earned him second-team All-Big Ten honors by both the coaches and the media. This spring, much of his focus shifted to becoming a leader up front, with a slew of talent around him: Jerry Bosa (No. 3 DE in series), Noah Spencer (No. 4 DE in series), and Adolphus Washington (received votes in series). In many NFL mock drafts, Bennett is the top senior defensive tackle on the board.
2.) Sr. Carl Davis, Iowa: 39 points (2-first place votes)
Davis went from part-timer in 2012 to second-team All-Big Ten in 2013. Davis recorded 42 tackles and 1.5 sacks last year, but made his teammates around him better as offensive lines focused in on him. Much like Bennett, Davis is appearing high on many NFL mock drafts, often ranked the second best senior defensive tackle in the country.
3.) Jr. Darius Hamilton, Rutgers: 20 points
Hamilton has the honor of being the first Rutgers play in the Big Ten returners series to make an appearance on the list. Last season, he recorded 48 tackles with 4.5 sacks, earning the team’s defensive line MVP award. An emerging leader, Hamilton was vocal about where he feels the Rutgers program is going in the spring. The former five-star prospect told fans to “get off” the fence if they didn’t feel the Scarlett Knights were on path to something special.
4.) Sr. Warren Herring, Wisconsin: 10 points
The upperclassmen only started one game for the Badgers at nose tackle in 2013, but recorded four sacks and six tackles for loss. His best game of the season came against Ohio State, where he got to Braxton Miller two times in the backfield. Behind seventh round NFL draft pick Beau Allen last year, Herring should see a spike in his game reps in 2014. He will also play some at defensive end after showing the Wisconsin coaching staff in the spring he’s got a knack for getting to signal-callers.
T5.) So. Vincent Valentine, Nebraska: 9 points
The sky is the limit for Valentine, who could be a legitimate NFL prospect down the road. What it really might come down to more than anything is how much the redshirt sophomore wants it. The Illinois native looked to be to a slimmed down version of himself in the spring, which appeared to help with his first step on the line. Starting six times last season as a freshman, Valentine registered 21 tackles and a sack.
T5.) Sr. Louis Trinca-Pasat, Iowa: 9 points
Trinca-Pasat was honorable all-mention Big Ten last season with 38 tackles and a sack in 13 starts. It’s very easy for blue-collar guys to sometimes go unnoticed and Trinca-Pasat fits the mold. The winner of the Iowa’s team hustle award last season, the Chicago native just goes to work everyday. He’s not going to be the best defensive tackle in the Big Ten, but he will never be a liability for Iowa.
Other players receiving votes: Maliek Collins – Nebraska, Andre Monroe – Maryland, Chris Wormley – Michigan, Damon Knox – Michigan State, Austin Johnson – Penn State, Cameron Bottecelli – Minnesota, Anthony Zettel – Penn State, Austin Teitsma – Illinois, and Adolphus Washington – Ohio 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, Fletcher Page of Illini Playbook, 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.