Big Ten All-Stars: Defense

By Sarah on July 3, 2012 at 3:00p
15 Comments
One is the exact number of All-Stars for Minnesota, and even coming up with one player was a struggle.Minnesota's lone defensive All-Star?

With Major League Baseball's All-Star Game just a week away, the lineups are more or less set. Per usual, the rosters are comprised of both worthy players and undeserving ones while a few snubs are noteworthy, particularly those that involve bad blood between one league's manager and his (former) rival team1

Last Friday, I explored which players would start on offense in a potential Big Ten Football All-Star Game based on the following criteria:

1. Talent, because when possible, the best players should be selected.

2. Popularity, because fans would get a vote.

3. Homerism, because the coaches, Bret Bielema and Mark Dantonio, would have input.

4. Every B1G team, even Indiana and Minnesota, is guaranteed at least one starter.

This week, I'll use those same rules to break down the defensive rosters for the Leaders and Legends squads. Whereas the Legends side was more evenly distributed on offense between the six teams, that's not the case on defense. Putting aside any bias that Dantonio would have for Michigan State, the Spartan D is clearly the class of that division, and the picks reflect as much.

On the other hand, the Leaders Division is the opposite of that and offers much more of a balance this time around.  

DEFENSIVE END

Leaders: Michael Buchanan, Illinois; John Simon, Ohio State

Even with former Illini teammate Whitney Mercilus in the NFL, Buchanan should continue to succeed at rushing the quarterback. Last season, the second-team All-Big Ten selection recorded 7.5 sacks, which placed him fourth in the conference in that category. 

The leader of the Buckeye defense, Simon is one of the biggest names in the B1G and he has the muscles to back that up. His unparalleled strength and work ethic helped him earn 2011 first-team All-Big Ten honors, along with the respect of the fans and his new head coach. Simon accounted for the most tackles for loss (16) and sacks (7) last season for the Buckeyes and will remain an intimidating presence on the conference's best defensive line.

Legends: William Gholston, Michigan State; Craig Roh, Michigan

Like Simon, Gholston totaled 16 TFL in 2011, though he outpaced him overall in tackles (70 to Simon's 53). He's a dominating force who's expected to produce an even better junior year. His reputation is not pristine, yet most, including his own coach, probably understand his excessive aggression toward Michigan players. 

Although it took him a few games to adjust to new defensive coordinator Greg Mattison2, Roh put together a solid season and ended up with the second-most sacks on his team. The senior will try to improve on that number this year when he slides over to the strongside DE position. I have no idea what kind of opinion Wolverine fans hold regarding Roh, but he seems like the sort they would laud, and if not, well then maybe they would gather votes in the chance that Gholston would punch him. 

DEFENSIVE TACKLE

Leaders: Johnathan Hankins, Ohio State; Kawann Short, Purdue

Even though this is a fairly loaded position in the Leaders Division, the choice was easy. Hankins and Short are huge talents who are future first-round draft picks. In fact, many experts believe Big Hank is the top NFL prospect in the entire Big Ten. The junior continues to progress, and he's poised for a monster year as he has managed to slim down without losing his power. It's also fun to yell "Big Hank!" after the deceptively quick Hankins bulldozes his way through some offensive linemen.

Apparently he had three sacks against Ohio State. I must have excised that from my brain.Short but not short

Similarly, Short is athletic for his size and and put up impressive numbers a year ago (54 tackles, 17 TFL, and 6.5 sacks).

Legends: Baker Steinkuhler, Nebraska; Ra'Shede Hageman, Minnesota

Now a senior, Steinkuhler has been a starter since his sophomore year and brings experience to the Nebraska defense. In 2011, the Academic All-Big Ten totaled 40 tackles, five TFL, two sacks, and two pass breakups. Also, if you abbreviate his name, it's close enough to "Baker Street" that fans of other schools might vote for him based entirely on how great that song is, especially the killer sax solo3

It wasn't easy finding a spot for a Golden Gopher, but the Legends isn't as stacked as the Leaders at DT, and Hageman has potential if he can get his act together. His disorderly conduct charge was recently dismissed, which would probably earn him a thumbs up from Dantonio.   

LINEBACKER

Leaders: Chris Borland and Mike Taylor, Wisconsin; Gerald Hodges, Penn State

Borland and Taylor are a dynamic duo that Bielema wouldn't want to split up, so Illinois' Jonathan Brown and OSU's rising star Ryan Shazier have to deal with being snubbed. Borland, who was second in the B1G to Taylor in tackles a year ago, has a knack for creating turnovers. Last season, he intercepted two passes and forced five fumbles, giving him 10 FF in his career thus far. He was also named to the All-Big Ten first team. Taylor joined him as media first-team selection while the coaches went with Hodges, who is good enough that Penn State fans will still try to hold on to that "Linebacker U" label.

Legends: Denicos Allen and Max Bullough, Michigan State; Kenny Demens, Michigan

Like Bielema, Dantonio would want to keep his Allen/Bullough tandem intact and not without reason. What the 5'10' Allen lacks in size, he makes up for in his ability to disrupt, as evidenced by his 11 sacks last season. Bullough is basically the opposite of that—bigger, but not a speedster—yet he's a tough, smart LB who led the Spartans in tackles in '11. Kenny Demens did the same for Michigan, and as he's entering his third year as a starter, the senior should be a steady presence in the middle.    

Cornerback

Leaders: Ricardo Allen, Purdue; Terry Hawthorne, Illinois

At 5'9", Allen is another player small in stature, but he's a hard hitter who racked up 79 tackles last season. In each of his first two seasons, he snagged three picks and is also an ace at NCAA Football 2012, which he hopes will carry over to the actual gridiron. Hawthorne matched him with three interceptions of his own in '11, and the senior is supposed to see time as a receiver, too. Whenever the ball hawk is on the field and the football heads his way, the announcers should refer to it as a "Journey to the Center of Hawkthorne" play4.

Six seasons and a movie!He wants to Hawthorne wipe the competition

Legends: Johnny Adams, Michigan State; Micah Hyde, Iowa

The preseason All-American Johnny Adams could be nicknamed "Nabby" like his ancestor Abigail Adams5 because to this point, he's already nabbed eight interceptions in his Spartan career. He's also quite proficient as a blitzer and could be the top cornerback taken in the 2013 NFL Draft.  

Hyde led the conference in pass breakups (11) last season and just as Allen, Hawthorne, and Adams did, he picked off three throws. While he may be Iowa's best defender, that doesn't give anyone permission to make "Hyde yo kids, Hyde yo wife" jokes, so don't do it.

SAFETY

Leaders: Shelton Johnson, Wisconsin; Mark Murphy, Indiana

Bielema would opt for one of his own guys instead of C.J. Barnett, if only because that would mean Wisconsin would boast the most starters in the Leaders camp. Because he hasn't always been consistent, even Ohio State fans can't quite decide how good Barnett is, and Johnson's coverage skills helped him grab four interceptions last season. As the required Hoosier representative, Murphy is looking to build on his breakout redshirt freshman season in which he amassed 76 tackles and a pick-six. Despite playing for Indiana, the linebacker turned safety has decent upside.

Legends: Ibraheim Campbell, Northwestern; Isaiah Lewis, Michigan State

Michigan fans love them some Jordan Kovacs and would desperately try to stuff the ballot box for him, but Dantonio would La Russa him, especially since he somehow manages to be overrated for a former walk-on. Nevertheless, Lewis is possibly the Big Ten's #1 safety. He can lay the wood and make big plays, such as returning two of his four interceptions for touchdowns last season. As just a freshman, Campbell's 100 tackles was the highest total for Northwestern, and even though the Wildcat secondary was often shredded, Campbell's emergence was a bright spot.

KICKER/PUNTER

Leaders: Anthony Fera, Penn State

Last season in the Big Ten, Fera was behind only Maher in punting with an average of 41.9 yards. He also connected on 14 of 17 field goals including a long of 46 yards.  

Legends: Brett Maher, Nebraska

Named to the All-Big Ten first team as both a kicker and as a punter, Maher has a reliably strong leg. He averaged 44.5 yards on his punts while hitting 19 of 23 field goals with a best of 51 yards. 

However, it's not unthinkable that voters would try to right the wrong of Mortified Michigan Punter losing the GIF championship, and in that case, who could argue against Will Hagerup as the punter for the Legends? Then, Brendan Gibbons would join him to take the kicking duties as well as battle Bielema in a blondes vs. brunettes debate, and that certainly sounds entertaining.

Just think about it, Jim Delany. A Big Ten All-Star Game? Ka-ching. 

  • 1 Tony La Russa is a stupid jerk. 
  • 2 Or, to put it another way, he had to adjust to a defensive coordinator who actually knows what he's doing.
  • 3 Lisa Simpson agrees.
  • 4 I didn't include him just so I could make that reference, but it was quite the added bonus.
  • 5 That, most likely, is not true.
15 Comments

Comments

GABuckeye's picture

It's very interesting that Ohio State is supposed to be better on defense this year, but they have less guys on this all-star team than the offensive team.  Weak Big 10 offenses, strong Big 10 defenses, maybe both??

Ethos's picture

Big 10 has always had really strong defenses, but I bet this had more to do with the rule of selecting 1 from each team then it had to do with less buckeyes named on the defensive side.

"What do you need water for, Sunshine?!" - Coach Coombs, if you don't love this man, you have no soul.

kareemabduljacobb's picture

Shazier should be one of the LBs.

Sarah's picture

He could wind up being better than all of them, but at this point, he hasn't accomplished as much as Borland, Taylor, and Hodges. He's only a sophomore, though, so he has time. 

buck-I.8's picture

Evidently no one remembers how Mark Murphy got juked out of his shoes by Braxton Miller. That alone is enough to tarnish his memory forever

Sarah's picture

Basically the only other spot for a somewhat deserving Indiana player would have been at DT, but there was no way I was leaving either Big Hank or Short off the list. 

CommandHead's picture

Will probably get banned for suggesting this, but Kovacs from Michigan should be considered for Safety.  Yes, not the best safety in the Big Ten... but will have been a starter for 3 and half years, over 250 career tackles going into his senior year, Academic All Big Ten, probably defensive captain this year of a very good defense.  All of this, and the kid is a walk-on (from Ohio, no less).

Sarah's picture

I did mention him, but he's not better than Lewis and Northwestern needed to be represented. I think in part because Kovacs was a walk-on, he's overpraised for anything he does. 

CommandHead's picture

Oops, maybe I should just get banned for not reading more than just the headers.  Thanks.

Irricoir's picture

Sarah or any other knowledgeable person, were we ever recruiting Chris Borland? I watched some of his recruiting videos, famous flip tackle, and watched him doing linebacker drills. The way he played against the running backs and receivers, the athleticism he displayed in coverage, I knew he was going to be a special player. I know we can't land every Ohio kid but did we even have him in our cross hairs?

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

Codeezy's picture

He committed to wisky early if I remember correctly. My high school team lost to Kettering Alter that year in the state semis, and my dad and I were asking around about why we didn't get a shot with him or Austin Boucher, who's at Miami of Ohio last I checked. The alter people told us he loved the school and always wanted to be there since he went to a camp there as a aophmore. Same thing happened with micah hyde, big school out of state, just wanted to go against the grain I guess. Only difference, we beat micah hydes team, and kettering won state that year.

Irricoir's picture

Thanks for the info man. I looked into a bit and saw he was only rated a three star and had some lowly offerings until Wisky laid their bid. After watching some tape and some drills, I was surprised that he wasn't listed as a four or better. I can't find it but I remember making comments about that kid three years ago.

I don't always take names when I kick ass but when I do, they most often belong to a Wolverine.

Codeezy's picture

Word. I am very into recruiting and everything, I used to drive to akron to watch beanie run, and guys locally like sanzenbacher I like to watch in high school, but Chris borland looked D1 ready in high school, is was rated low because he plays in division 3 in Ohio. But.I wasn't at all suprised to see him on the field as a true freshmen at wisky. That qb kid from Kent Ohio I saw play this year, he is a mizzou commit, he looks short at 6 even, but quick release, he's connection be good and we are all gonna wonder why we didnt recruit him harder. Can't remember his name right now.

buck-I.8's picture

Do you mean Maty Mauk from Kenton? Kid has an absolute cannon, everyone should watch his tape at least once. Not sure he'll be all that special at the next level, but holy crap, can he throw.
http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=YlneyfjPftA
 

45buckshot's picture

No mention of Roby feels like a snub....

Veni, vidi, vici

UM3