Spring-ing to the Top: The Very Early Best of the Best Defensive Linemen in the B1G

USA TODAY Sports

So about finishing this running feature sometime before next fall... At the rate of every two weeks, we might eventually get to the specialists in August. With that in mind, I'm going to keep plugging away because while I may not watch football, I can at least pretend to be a real football blogger. So uh, good for me? Good for me.

More Best of the Best B1G Players: QB RB WR TE OL K LB

In preparing this piece, Graham pointed out something interesting to me. As you look at the 2012 All-B1G Defensive Line, there are no returning players. Not from the B1G Media first or second team, not from the B1G Coaches first or second team. No one. Taking that one step further, Kawann Short, Johnathan Hankins, Jordan Hill, John Simon, William Campbell, and Michael Buchanan were drafted this month with many other defensive linemen signing UDFA contracts.

Bottom line? We are definitely going to see a brand new identity across the conference's finest when it comes to the D-line. Is that a bad thing? It's hard to say. You have schools like Nebraska, Indiana, Illinois, Iowa, Minnesota, and Purdue who really liked to give up rushing yards to their opponents - to the tune of 4+ yards per carry - who probably are excited about rotating in some new talent. On the flipside, Short, Hankins, et al were not guys who should be seen as anything less than a loss of talent conference wide.

With that in mind, please be nice to this list. It was actually a lot more difficult to compile than one might think considering the moves and the wide variances in how a person might actually judge a defensive linemen - you know, with two different positions and about forty different ways to play each. So here are the best of the best Defensive Linemen in the B1G going into 2013:

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1. Tyler Scott DE

First off, let me start off by expressing my confusion regarding a Northwestern defensive player on top of one of the most storied position groups in the Big Ten. It's just plain weird. WIth that in mind, as far as guys who are returning, this guy deserves this spot. I didn't want to make him the top because I know I'm going to get some flack from some commenter who will say something like, "Dude, you just like stats and obviously didn't see [insert other Northwestern lineman who will be better because of one play the guy made this game against Illinois]. Do you even watch football?" But then Chad chimed in with some love:

I'll give some love to Tyler Scott of Northwestern here. B1G returning leader in sacks, very disruptive off the end, had three tackles for loss (including 2 sacks) against Mississippi State in the Gator Bowl.

So yeah, we're blaming this all on Chad. Of course, that's ignoring a pretty decent line, and the dirty little secret that Northwestern's defense - especially rushing defense - was fairly good last year. Scott's 9 sacks were disruptive and should prove to be a big asset to the much improved and much scarier Northwestern defense. Will they manage to not have breakdowns at the end of games? That's up for debate.

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2. Ra'Shede Hagemen DE

Let's start out with the obvious. This is a large scary man who at 6' 6" and 300 lbs is pretty intimidating at end. Our very own MNWildcat had this to say about him:

That honor [best Minnesota linemen] will go to Ra'Shede Hageman, who I had the honor of almost getting crushed by during my days as a high school punter. Hageman is going to hear his name called next April with a good performance in 2013. Guy just has the frame and skill it takes on the D-line, but Minnesota's results, especially run D, need to start matching that.

I don't know MNWildcat personally - in that non-bloggy face-to-face versus the internet way, that is - but I can only imagine that he was ill equipped as high school punter to not be terrified of a guy like Hagemen. Seriously, I think this guy is going to have a monster year if anyone - literally any able body at Minnesota - can take a little pressure off him bull-rushing Quarterbacks. He threw down last year with 7.5 TFL, 5 6 sacks, 2 PBU, and a forced fumble. I foresee more damage done this year. If anything, he will demand a lot of attention this year.

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3. Deion Barnes DE

This kid is only a Sophomore, but his Freshman year was pretty impressive. He was a Freshman All-American, had 10 TFL, 5 sacks, 3 FF, and 1 PBU. He has a ridiculous wingspan, plays smart and fast, and is only going to get better. It would not surprise me to see him as the best Defensive Lineman in the Big Ten this year when all the dust has settled. In our discussions on the line, Graham mentioned that not only was Barnes an All-American, he was also the Big Ten Freshman of the year. Needless to say, we expect great things from him and Penn State will need him to be a core leader as they transition a bit this year.

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4. Beau Allen DT

Beau Allen was an anchor for the Wisconsin line last year, and with the move to a 3-4 defense, he will need to be even better this year. I listed him as a DT but he will be showing off his skills to NFL Scouts next year as a NT. At 6' 3" 333, he's a big guy who does what a NT is supposed to do - take up space. Even so, he knows how to get to the ball and finished up last year with 7.5 TFL, 2.5 sacks, 1 FF, 1 QBH, and he broke up a pass. So long as the transition from 4-3 to 3-4 goes as well as everyone from Madison seems to think it will, Allen will find himself on quite a few All-B1G teams next year.

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5. Quinton Washington DT

This was actually a really hard slot to choose for, but Washington makes the grade for his consistency on a pretty fierce Michigan D-line. His stat line is only so-so with only 3 TFL, 1 Sack, 1 PBU, and 1 FF. They aren't the stats you would need to be a Heisman contender or anything. Still, he takes up space, makes room for the talented group of DEs at Michigan to make plays and considering he is fairly new to the position, has the ability to make quite a splash this year. With a lot of transition going on across the entire conference, he exemplifies the need for someone with a little bit of experience to usher in the next group of difference makers.

Next Man Up: Ohio State Defensive Line

Alert: Copout coming in 3... 2... 1... Okay, I honestly think Ohio State has the scariest defensive line in the conference. With that said, I cannot tell you one of their fifty thousand players who will be THE playmaker going into 2013. Noah Spence and Adolphous Washington are young and scary good, a deep DT rotation, and more recruits than any one team should have unless you have a payroll, let's just say that all we can do is step back and wait for someone from this group to emerge. Of course, if you need to read about every single talented player they have, go over to Land Grant Holy Land and read about it here. Scary stuff my friends...

Meyer wasn't even close to done, though. To compete with the big boys of the SEC, elite caliber depth must be added every single year at the defensive line spot. To that end, Fickell, Dr. Professor Vrabro and recruiting whiz Everett Withers hit the trail hard during this past season. Joey Bosa, a four-to-five star DE (who not unlike Washington might even be able to play some DT too) from the heart of Florida and SEC territory, was the first to commit. Tracy Sprinkle, a three-star pure hybrid who showed flashes of high-caliber talent, was the next domino to fall and enrolled early. Billy Price is the second-highest rated defensive line prospect, a consensus four-star from Youngstown. Another player from the SEC country committed in South Carolina's Michael Hill, a four-star in his own right. Tyquan Lewis, from Tarboro, NC, eschewed the ACC in favor of the scarlet and gray. Lastly, Donovan Munger flipped from Florida State to stay in-state and can play along either offensive or defensive line. The repeated addition of this type of talent, year after year, will make Ohio State a player on the national championship sooner rather than later.

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