Over the next few weeks, a panelist of Scout.com Big Ten reporters will be finishing our conference position-by-position breakdown.
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. Chi Chi Ariguzo, Northwestern: 28 points (4 first-place votes)
The Ohio native has almost 200 tackles over the last two seasons, playing his best football when the time matters the most. The Big Ten’s returning tackler, Ariguzo almost looks like a defensive end, with his long and athletic frame. Northwestern’s defense wasn’t exactly something to write home about last season, but turn on the tape. Ariguzo is always around the ball.
2013 stats: 106 tackles, five sacks, and 16.5 tackles for loss. Ariguzo also recorded seven pass deflections.
2.) Sr. Jake Ryan, Michigan: 23 points (2 first-place votes)
Ryan’s season got started a little last year after tearing his ACL in spring practices (2013), but it appears the Ohio native is fully recovered from the injury. A recent Big Ten Media Days attendee, Ryan was All-Big Ten in 2012, after recording 88 tackles, including 16 for loss. Those numbers could go up in 2014, after making a switch from OLB to the inside.
2013 stats: 30 tackles, including 4.5 for loss, over the final eight games of the season.
3.) So. Steve Longa, Rutgers: 19 points
A first-team Freshman All-American by the Sporting News last season, it would be very easy for Longa to take the Big Ten by storm in 2013 – the fact he plays for the conference newcomer might be the reason he was third in the voting. While the competition is definitely going to be taking a step forward, the sophomore (who looks 35), has taken a leadership role for the Scarlet Knights’ defense this season.
2013 stats: 123 total tackles, thee sacks, and 7.5 tackles for loss.
4.) Sr. Taiwan Jones, Michigan State: 18 points
Jones, who was an outside linebacker last year, will be making the switch to the MIKE spot. This means an increase to his numbers will be coming and he will be running the Spartans’ defense – not an easy task. Recently named to the Butkus Watch List, Jones is the only holdover at the linebacker spot from last season, when MSU won the Rose Bowl.
2013 stats: 67 tackles with 13 of them coming for loss.
5.) So. Michael Rose, Nebraska: 10 points (1 first-place vote)
It took a few games for the Huskers to get settled at the linebacker spot in 2013, but Rose burst on to the scene, setting a Nebraska freshman record for tackles in seven starts. A MIKE linebacker, Rose made the Big Ten All-Freshman Team voted on by the BTN.
2013 stats: 66 tackles, two quarterback hurries, and six tackles for loss.