This was a lot easier to figure out last year. Of the seven players to receive first or second team All-B1G recognition at LB last year, a total of zero of them are returning. Moreover, most of the leaders in TFL, Sacks, Int., and tackles within the LB ranks have graduated, gone to the draft, or switched schools. When you're trying to rank the best five players at a position and that happens, you realize that it's about to get a little bit subjective up in here. However, I love the LB position. Some of my favorite players were dominant at the position, and so I am going to do my best to figure out who the best of the best are. I fully acknowledge that someone will tell me off, but whatever. I'll do what I want.
1. Jake Ryan - Michigan
If Jake Ryan doesn't get hurt last spring, there is a really good chance he would have been on the All-B1G team at the end of the season. Even so, he was able to come back last year and still land decent enough numbers. With a full offseason of strength and conditioning, I foresee Ryan being a household name this season. You know, that or I'm giving Spring plaudits to another Michigan player because it's tradition. (But seriously, I think he's pretty good)
2. Chi Chi Ariguzo - Northwestern
For his name, his uncanny ability to intercept the football by being at the right place at the right time (as Chad pointed out to me), and for stellar numbers across the board, I give you Chi Chi Ariguzo. But Jesse, a Northwestern player on this list? Yes, yes there is. Did you know Ariguzo finished sixth in total tackles last season and has the highest returning tackle numbers at LB in the B1G? Did you also know that he had 3 QBH, 3 PBU, and 4 INT? Numbers don't always tell the whole story, but it would be pretty hard to ignore what Chi Chi did on the field last year.
3. Steve Longa - Rutgers
Speaking of numbers, I would be remiss if I didn't include Steve Longa from Rutgers. He was the third leading tackler in whatever conference it is that Rutgers was in last season and logged 3 sacks and 7.5 TFL. I would say that's not too shabby of a line for a Sophomore. He also forced two fumbles and had 4 PBU. Again, I can't say that I've ever watched Longa play football specifically, but if I'm going strictly by numbers, the guy is good. This also earned him some mention on his All-conference team last year. If he can replicate those numbers in the B1G next season, he'll get a lot of talk nationally.
4. Taiwan Jones - MSU
Michigan State seemed to get hammered by Seniors graduating and such, but Jones could be pretty amazing for the Sparty defense. Last year, he logged 7 TFL and even being surrounded by absurdly good defenders, still managed to average just under 5 tackles per game. He's got some pretty big shoes to fill if he's going to put up numbers like Allen and Bullough did last year, but he's right in the mix and with the reputation of MSU's all-galaxy defense, I wouldn't be surprised to see him on some end-of-season awards list next year.
5. Cole Farrand - Maryland
It's really hard to figure out number five on this list, but then again, it's my list so it's not that hard I suppose. Anyhow, Farrand gets the nod because his numbers were good. Again, since it's not like I watch football or anything, I'm going by total tackles, TFL, etc. Farrand averaged 7.6 tackles per game last season and recorded 4.5 TFL. He also was an honorable mention on the ACC All-Conference team - which, I might add, is a much easier format to read than our own B1G All-conference lists. Similar to Longa, if Farrand can put up really good numbers this season in the B1G, he's going to get some love nationally.
Probably Deserve Mention
- Mike Hull, PSU - Looking to build on some solid tackles and TFL numbers from last year. Will most likely be the anchor for the Penn State LB corp next season.
- Joshua Perry, OSU - As a SO last year, Perry built some momentum to finish fourth on the team in tackles and had two TFL. He'll look to lead what the Buckeyes are hoping is a rebuilt defense
- Michael Rose, Neb - Husker fans are excited about the LB position and Rose will be the anchor of that group. While his overall tackle numbers aren't where some of the other guys are on this list, he still recorded 5 TFL and was a force towards the end of the year.