Predicting The 2018 Defensive Statistical Leaders in the Big Ten

By James Grega on July 29, 2018 at 12:54 pm
Chase Young

Yesterday, we took a stab at predicting the statistical leaders on offense in the Big Ten at the end of the upcoming season. 

Today, we move to the other side of the ball and give you predictions for the defensive side of the ball. Although there are a number of stats up for debate, we will stick to the top three defensive stats: tackles, sacks and interceptions. 

We start with tackles, which features a player from a team that you wouldn't normally expect to be on this list. 

Tackles: Trevor Morris, Rutgers

Last season, Trevor Morris was one of the lone bright spots on a Rutgers defense that ranked 11th in the Big Ten in total yards allowed. 

Trevor Morris
Trevor Morris collected eight tackles in a 56-0 loss to Ohio State last season, but finished the year as the Big Ten's second leading tackler. Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports

Morris finished second in the conference in tackles in 2017, tallying 118 total stops, including a career-high 19 in a season-ending loss to Michigan State. During his sophomore season, he tallied 102 total tackles, which ranked ninth in the Big Ten and first on his team. 

Morris returns for his senior season as the top returning tackler in the conference and because of his consistency, he should have no problem putting up similar or better numbers in 2018. 

Sacks: Chase Young, Ohio State

He isn't the best defensive lineman on his own team, but if history is any indication, that could make him the top sack man in Columbus, and perhaps the entire Big Ten. 

During Joey Bosa's junior year, the eventual third overall NFL draft pick was double- and triple-teamed throughout the 2015 season, opening the door for the likes of Tyquan Lewis to lead the team in sacks with eight. Nick Bosa is likely to catch the attention of offensive coordinators all season, leaving the door open for the man nicknamed "The Predator" to relentlessly get after opposing quarterbacks. 

Young is a physical specimen and perhaps one of the more athletic players in the conference. With his combined strength and speed, in addition to the fact that the younger Bosa brother will be lined up on the other side of the line, Young could very well lead the league in sacks by the end of the season. Since Ohio State sent three defensive ends to the draft following last season, Young will be asked to play more reps, giving him more chances to pad his stat sheet. 

Interceptions: David Dowell, Michigan State

The Spartans have had a knack in recent years for shutting down opposing passing games, and a big part of that has been their stellar play in the secondary. 

Last season, safety David Dowell recorded five interceptions for Michigan State and returns for his senior season as a possible Thorpe Award candidate. With the Spartans playing in a division with a number of new quarterbacks, Dowell could be poised for another big year. 

Ohio State's Jordan Fuller could also be a candidate to lead the conference in picks, as could cornerback Kendall Sheffield, who returns as the Buckeyes' top corner in 2018. 

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