Over the past few weeks, readers have seen the top quarterbacks, running backs, wide receivers and linebackers ranked in the Big Ten by Midway Madness. As each story has gained popularity, the players who have been ranked have gained much more notoriety as well.
Take for instance the three players ranked No. 1 at their respective positions all attending Wisconsin (Montee Ball, Jared Abbrederis, and Mike Taylor). Other than those three players, you also have some sleepers at other programs such as Michigan State and Northwestern.
As the upcoming 2012 season approaches, its time for Midway Madness to rank the top five defensive lineman in the Big Ten. Last season, these players took great leaps to become recognized not only within the conference, but around the country as well.
1. John Simon-Senior/Ohio State
While the Buckeyes didn’t have an impressive season in 2011, Simon was one of the team’s few bright spots last year. Simon ranked fifth in the conference with seven sacks for Ohio State and was named a third-team Associated Press All-American in 2011. Simon was also named to the first-team All-Big Ten Conference by coaches within the conference. Simon in his senior season could possibly lead the Big Ten in sacks and possibly help Ohio State’s defense become one of the best in the conference.
2. William Gholston-Junior/Michigan State
Gholston, a second-team All-Big Ten member last season, has the ability to not only improve on his numbers from 2011, but he has the size as well at 6-feet 7-inches and 275 pounds. The Spartans reaped the benefits from starting Gholston as a sophomore last season, as he led Michigan State defensive linemen with 70 tackles and had five sacks on the year. Gholston was equally more impressive in the Spartans’ Outback Bowl victory over Georgia with two sacks and five tackles for a loss of yards. If Gholston can become a major contributor for the Spartans this season, this could be another special year for Michigan State.
3. Michael Buchanan-Senior/Illinois
Buchanan ranked fourth in the Big Ten with 7.5 sacks and was named to the second-team All-Big Ten team in 2011. As Illinois transitions with a new head coach this season, Buchanan should continue his dominance on the defensive line. Buchanan finished his 2011 season with 64 tackles, and 13.5 of those were tackles for a loss of yards, in which ranked second on the team.
4. Kawann Short-Senior/Purdue
While Purdue earned a trip to the Little Caesar’s Bowl last season, their efforts on defense shouldn’t go unnoticed. Short, a native of East Chicago, Indiana, had 6.5 sacks on the season, which ranked sixth in the Big Ten. The senior defensive tackle ranked fifth in the conference with 17 tackles for a loss of yards. With another season under his belt, he could possibly help the Boilermakers make it to their second consecutive bowl game.
5. Cameron Meredith-Senior/Nebraska
Meredith started all 13 games for the Cornhuskers in 2011 and had 58 tackles with five sacks. Meredith was an honorable mention for All-Big Ten team last season by the media. With Nebraska’s defense struggling last year, Meredith could help this team stabilize their efforts in 2012.
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